Group 15! The Connection During Covid group!

Wow. Let’s talk about the shitshow this year has been. Enforced lockdowns, quarantining, restrictions in social and family gathering, suspension of group activities, fear of contracting the virus, lifestyle changes, relationship changes, homeschooling, temporary and permanent layoffs, loneliness, loss, boredom, grief…I don’t even want to go on because we all know it, have experienced it, and have been affected in one way or another by all of the Covid-related “symptoms”. And all of it has led to differing levels of stress and detrimental effects on our mental health, some of us more than others. Without the ability to process these things in actual face-to-face conversation with our friends/family/peers, we have found this sort of subject matter as an increasingly burdensome weight. Rates of mental illnesses, such as depression, have escalated worldwide, so much so that doctors have referred to it as a “second pandemic.”

At the same time that we’ve been separated from true social connection, here in the United States we’ve been dealing with political adversity, with racially motivated hate, with watching children being separated from parents, with mass shootings AGAIN, with distrust in authority/those who are supposed to keep us safe, the list goes on and on. We’ve been struggling through these events and attempting to “tread water” all while these things rip apart our sense of safety – these events feel real to us and like real trauma even if we aren’t directly involved. This all ends up feeling like some very real PTSD – we’re experiencing all of this and, rather than being able to come together and heal, we are instead scared and angry and tearing each other apart. Social media, what has been most of our only form of social connection this past year, has become such an intensely hateful, confusing pit of disgusting, vitriolic comments and messages.

Remember what it’s like to hug a loved one? To feel that energy between you? To sit across from a friend and tell them a story and watch their facial expressions in response? To have them hold your hand in comfort? To look at their face and know simply from their expression that they care for you? To share a meal and laugh and feel that high from authentic engagement with people you enjoy?

Yeah, it’s been A LOT to have ripped away, especially during such despairing events around us. Technology definitely does not replace human interaction. Truly connecting with others is basic to our psychology as humans – it is the lifeblood of community.

Even if we didn’t have all of these outside struggles bearing down on us, we all have our own personal and intricate demons that hold us back. The main insecurity that comes up as an ongoing theme throughout the years of facilitating this project is simply this: Not Enough. I can’t tell you how often that is the underlying theme and/or so often the blatant one that screams out from the chalkboard. You can peruse the photos from the 109 different participants so far and you will see exactly what I mean. There are enough of us struggling with this issue of worthiness that it’s shaping the culture. It has created this fierce, merciless, dog-eat-dog mentality.  

Contrary to this is what happens when we experience shared vulnerability – we create light in these scary and dark spaces. When we reach out and share ourselves – all the grit, the struggles, the fears, along with the wonders, the hopes and joy – we create little sparks of connection. Being vulnerable like this is definitely not always easy. We generally appreciate vulnerability in others but are so hesitant to practice it ourselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had strangers write in to me after reading participants’ stories in a blog post and them saying “(So-and-so)’s story resonated so much with me! Thank you for doing this! I could never participate in something like this myself, but I really loved being able to relate to his/her words.” Which is understandable. We’re most often afraid that our own truth isn’t enough. Someone else’s is admirable, but somehow ours is different. The change comes when you realize that valuing and sharing your own vulnerability is going to allow you to move forward in a way that may have seemed impossible prior. If we can share our story with others who show understanding and empathy and hold this safe space for us, the shame of our vulnerability cannot survive. When we realize that we’re not alone, that our experience is HUMAN, the impact is huge. However, it takes a first step – realizing that nothing else we’ve been doing has been working. Realizing that we’ve been doing things in the same pattern, the same loop, and getting the same disappointing results. Then comes the time to give ourselves the permission to take off the proverbial mask and own our story. As my hero/mentor, Brene Brown, says, “We must remember that our worthiness, that core belief that we are enough, comes only when we live inside our story. We either own our stories (even the messy ones), or we stand outside of them – denying our vulnerabilities and imperfections, orphaning the parts of us that don’t fit in with who/what we think we’re supposed to be, and hustling for other people’s approval of our worthiness. Perfectionism is exhausting because hustling is exhausting. It’s a never-ending performance.” 

This project cannot happen without people who are willing to do the work. It is dependent on people desiring different results than what they’ve been getting. It requires courage and bravery to bare one’s soul not only to the strangers in front of them during the group, but also knowing that other strangers will also have access to their stories/their vulnerability and can choose to act on that how they will. On that note, as I’ve said a million times before, criticism and negative responses to the stories these participants have shared will simply not be allowed. As Brene Brown once again says, “If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

Now, Group 15. Let’s rewind back to February of 2020, when I was so very excited to get back to this project and get down to some real discussion and connection again – we had planned this group to take place at the end of March 2020. And then, BAM! #THANKSCOVID
I had had to put this project on hold for the 3 ½ years prior due to relationship/work/life changes, but my soul was experiencing a huge void with its absence . I was falling further and further into a hole of murkiness watching the world collapse around me and mourning the fact that we had a supposed “leader” of our country who was so quick to incite others to bitterness and hatred. Looking back, I really regret the fact that I wasn’t able to provide this platform DURING that mess, when connection, compassion, and relatability was really needed most. Living life as a single mother wasn’t lending itself well to making the return of the project happen, though, unfortunately. At the end of 2019, however, I experienced a newfound motivation and determination to make it happen again. Covid may have delayed it a bit, but here we are.

Group 15 felt…different. In the most magical, inspiring, bonding, loving, connecting way that “different” can be. Not to say that prior groups haven’t experienced those things, but it was as if the stresses of this year prior and the anticipation of this group FINALLY convening really made the coming together even that much more impactful. I knew instantly that these six participants, along with the three of us facilitating, would be absolutely bonded for life. There was already a harmony and connection between everyone upon sitting down. It was palpable. It was beautiful. 


This is also the first group (besides our intentional “Couples” group, Group 10) that took place with a cis male joining an all cis female group. That, in itself is admirable. Think about that – the sad truth is that the societal expectation is for men not to be vulnerable. Rather, they are expected to stuff those feelings and remain “strong” for the rest of us…”Man up!” “Don’t be a pussy!” Even when we think we want them to be vulnerable, even when we ask for such vulnerability, the unfortunate truth is that most of us as women actually recoil in fear when it happens. Which manifests itself in distaste and disappointment. It’s an unfortunate cycle of a stereotype that needs to be obliterated. We were honored to have Eric join us and we embraced his courageousness in being vulnerable with us and trusting us and the process.

We discussed so many things in this group. One permeating theme was of loss. Loss of community when leaving a marriage, loss of community when leaving a religious organization or cult, loss of humans we love, loss of self-identity, and more. So much discussion surrounding community and what that means to each of us. What it’s like to feel abandoned by the only sense of community we may have ever known. What that does to our psyche. What it’s like to essentially “rebuild.” What it feels like to have to set boundaries in these new settings so as not to repeat old patterns. The ickiness and discomfort when realizing relationships we’ve held true for many, many years just don’t actually work for us anymore. The comprehension that growth and change often reveal themselves in stark awareness that what we thought was working for us, WHO we thought was working for us, are actually the things holding us back. Nichole at one point used the term “gaslighting our own intuition” and it stuck with me. Not only can others manipulate us to question our own intuition/gut feelings, but we can do this with ourselves. Both are so harmful. And it’s likely we’ve been sitting in both for a long time. When leaving a community, as Chelsey did with marriage and leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, and as the rest of the participants did in different aspects, whether marriage/work/religion/relationships/friendships, there is initially such a profound sense of loss and failure and guilt. It can take so much to work through those defeating feelings and find a place of self-identity again. And trying to build community through new relationships can be just as challenging, as discussed with Jessica in regard to embracing cultural differences in new relationship/familial settings. We each have such unique challenges, and yet we can relate to each other in aspects of all of them. The heartfelt discussion that went on in this group and the reciprocity of emotion and understanding – there’s nothing like it. It was so inspiring and motivating and I can’t wait to continue to have like discussions in thousands of groups to come.

And the love and positivity that comes from all of you who wrote in for these participants – there are no words to describe the effects they have in reinforcing these participants’ strengths. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it with each group: I get to know a participant a little bit when they send me their write-up about their insecurity, but you know when I really get to know them? When I receive the things that you, their friends and family, have written in about them. THAT is the person that I meet. ALWAYS. They are not their insecurity. They are everything beautiful that you have written. And they shine when they hear these messages and realize that this is true. So, a million times THANK YOU. This project doesn’t work without your love for them and your willingness to share that love with the rest of us.

And now, please meet Eric, Lilly, Devonna, Chelsey, Jessica, and Nichole. Dive into their stories and please leave notes as to how their story speaks to you – let them know if you were moved by their courage in sharing. When these blogs come out, it feels very revealing for them, as if they’ve just lived that nightmare of showing up naked to school. So, be kind. Anything else simply is not allowed. Thank you.

Eric

That I’m not good enough and not worthy of, or deserve, love and acceptance. My brain wants me to believe that I will fail before I even try and that I don’t have the qualities of someone worth loving. These subconscious thoughts have prevented me from even attempting a lot of things in my life that I want.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

Love who you are and don’t try to be anyone else. Loving yourself will attract others that love you in your life. Believe in yourself and TRY even if you’re afraid you won’t succeed. Be vulnerable, because that opens the door to true connection.

Eric’s friends and family:

Dear Eric my Kweesan, there are so many things I appreciate and love about you and I am happy you asked, you deserve to hear this information from family and friends. Where do I start? One of the things I love most about you is you are spontaneous and joyful. Whenever I have given you an invitation you have jumped at the chance for adventure. Even if it is an invitation to come to Portland, share a hotel room and spend the days tying hundreds of knots to hand build a kayak you are down. I am not sure what that time meant to you, but for me, I cherish it. Time spent on a simple activity, basically just hanging out is so special to me. We had laughs, we had quiet times and we just got the joy of being in each other’s presence. That is truly one of my life’s special memories and you were a part of it. You are an open, thoughtful and caring man. You are willing to look at yourself and be vulnerable. You are empathetic and know when you can offer kindness to someone else and you are self-caring and know when you need it back. You are dedicated to your personal growth and when you show up, you really show up. I know you have faced some challenging times in your lifetime and you have shown the strength to make it through them and I am impressed by you for that. If your ability to withstand what you have is any indicator of your future, you are destined for great things and I am excited to be a witness in that journey. I hope you know from the bottom of my heart that I love you, as a cousin, as a key swan and as the human you are. Knowing you makes my life more rich, period. I love you.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

I want you to remember you are loved. You are family. I sense sometimes you are not sure how you fit in, but trust me, that is only a story you tell yourself and hopefully an old one. We all love you deeply. You are blood. You are my cousin and a part of our family unit. I hope you truly know that at the depth of your soul. You are not alone.

~Andrew

Eric has an amazing way with children. His joy of interaction is truly obvious. He seems to understand a child’s fragile issues and is sensitive to their insecurities. He loves to bring them out and help them blossom, often finding fun and silly ways to make them laugh and feel special. 

When Eric has the opportunity to engage with family he is attentive and caring. He has shared personal feelings openly and is pleased to applaud the talents of others. He can be enormously fun, often initiating activities and brightening the group with his laughter and charm. 

When Eric’s mother went through an extended emotionally challenging time Eric was committed one hundred percent to her improvement and care. He took charge of a second home renovation in order to put it on the market. His handyman skills enabled the home to sell in a very short amount of time. He remained in constant contact with me as the out-of-state person in charge to keep me informed. I will always admire his commitment to her needs and well-being for this effort. I know Eric continues to help out his mom whether it is moving boxes or taking her to an appointment. 

Even though Eric and his wife had divorced, he remained concerned and connected with her during her long bout with cancer. When she passed away Eric went to the funeral even though he was not sure how the family would receive him as his ex-wife had married a second time. Naturally, they opened their arms to welcome him back to the family.

Caretaking seems to be a very large part of how Eric identifies himself as he has demonstrated these traits so often.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

His heart is larger than life.

~Katrina


Dearest Eric,
  
You came into this world a bundle of light and that light has continued to grow as the years pass by.  Even as far back as 1st grade you were kind to your family members and all your classmates,  both male and female and everyone loved being around you. Your smile is infectious, your humor over the top funny!  You have kept me in stitches doing impressions and accents and goofing around with people and sometimes it’s hard to catch my breath.

You are bold and experimental. You are open to change and curious about yourself and others.  You can start conversations with perfect strangers as if it was the most natural thing in the world for you,  even though in the past you would have not done so.  You are an excellent listener.  I feel heard by you.  This is such a gift you have to give to others!  Along with that of course you are loving, caring, honest, and give great feedback, helpful feedback, and encouraging feedback.  I always think you would make the ideal counselor or some profession involving helping people  struggling to see things in a better light.  You are an encourager, and a cheerleader for people and your ability to learn new things has always boggled my mind, and always will!  You are highly creative, artsy, gifted with your hands and whether it is a fun project or a work project you bring things to life, and the results are proof of your many talents.  If I wanted to learn something I would want you to teach me….well, most of the time at least.  You can occasionally be short on patience teaching me the computer, but everyone is, so that doesn’t really count! In times of need you have been there for me throughout the years and I would trust you with my life.You have been an emotionally supportive paramedic when I’ve needed it and you are the calm in the midst of the storm.  As a leader and a pioneer for change…you recognize the need for self-awareness and self-knowledge and understand that thoughts and beliefs matter in how we live our lives, and through work we can change them and become happier.  This is something some people never understand or even care to.  You are humble enough to seek help when you need it, and so many people in the world aren’t…trust me, it is one of the qualities I most admire in you!

I just realized as I am typing this, that I could write for a long, long time about you, and it brings up gratitude in me. The universe was kind to me to send me someone like you for a son. I am being truthful and honest here, and not “just because you are my son, or that you might say I’m just biased here.”  I believe others see these things in you too, so I know I have backup that I trust.

You may not take it seriously, but I am being thoughtful when I am reflecting on your character.  I want the best for you in life Er-Bear, Earz, ETO or whatever name you want to go by.  Of all the things I can think of that I want to encourage you, included is to seek to know and love yourself because it all starts with that and goes out from there and have fun while doing it, so you can inspire others to do so too!  Ask yourself the big questions in life and never be too proud to ask for help along the way! 

I love you!  Mom

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Your insight and ability to express yourself in a genuine way.

~Francesca


I’m blessed enough to not only know Eric but to share a home with him. While normally that might make someone assume it lessens the love and appreciation I have for him, it does the exact opposite. I get to see his brightest sides all throughout the day. His laugh, his wit, his humor (he laughs at me even when I’m not very funny 😂) his gentle nature with our pets and plants. His dedication to his work, his hobbies and his family. He is generous and kind. He has a protective nature that I don’t often see in others. 

And have you looked at him? Those eyes, that smile, those BROWS and that glorious beard. 

Those of us who are lucky enough to know him are truly grateful.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are incredibly talented. Incredibly.

~Bre

You are a smart and witty conversationalist, always ready to dive into an unnecessary hypothetical for the sake of humor. You catch the absurdities and inconsistencies of the people and world around you in a particularly nonjudgmental way.  You laugh at yourself, as or more readily than you do at others, and can enjoy and forgive others’ flaws. You are a genuinely good guy who usually tries to do the right thing but are honest about those times when you fail in that effort. In short Bub, you are just a cool chap that’s easy and enjoyable to be around.

I also admire your entrepreneurial spirit and dedication. When you take on a new job or hobby, you do so with commitment.  That is true of business: I am thinking here of the time and energy you spent learning about clocks and forming your own business fixing them.  It is also true of play: I am thinking here of your adoption of and passion for softball and baseball over the past years. One of these days, maybe Longshots will get off the ground and benefit from these qualities.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Life always has its ups and downs, and as much as we all enjoy the highs, we must also expect and prepare for the lows. You are every bit as loved and valued when in the troughs of life’s ocean as when you are riding the crests.

~Tad


You are a charming, intelligent young man with an infectious smile. You can meet and engage with the most interesting strangers. They seem to just open up to you. I think you have made several good friends this way, too.

As long as I have known you, you have always been quick to learn, curious about how things work, and you seem to have an intuitive mechanical understanding.
And kind. Did I mention kind?

You are easy to talk to. People can come to you with a question or an issue and you are always ready to listen. You are a good problem solver. You use your wisdom, intuition, and common sense to look right through a problem and see solutions. You are quite creative and can “look outside the box”.

Your enthusiasm is bottomless. You get an idea, something interesting catches your attention and you will run with it. Research the heck out of it, seek out people with more experience; totally immerse yourself in it. Clocks, golf, pool, fishing, photography, artwork, softball, volleyball: these all came out of your initial interest in them and now are part of your life because of your enthusiasm. You’ve learned to do well in all these areas because of your desire to enrich yourself and your life.

I am most proud of your clock repair business. You put in a lot of work and effort to get to what you have now. Wow.

By the way, your sense of humor, along with your smile,  always keeps people laughing. I really appreciate your eye for beauty in nature; I see that in your photography.  

Dad.



If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved, cared about, and respected by a lot of people.

~Tom

Eric is exceptionally creative, talented and passionate! 

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

That he is on this planet for a reason! 

~Robert

Lilly

The majority of my insecurities come from feeling just too weird and not worthy (of a good job, a loving partner, stable relationships, being treated respectfully) because of it. I feel awkward in social situations and don’t know what to say, and then sound foolish when I do contribute. I feel difficult for people to understand or relate to and I wonder if I am making sense or speaking in alien tongues? It’s hard to make friends and maintain relationships sometimes. This extends into my professional life too- I worry that I am not hire-able, and not worth making a living wage (even though I went to school and am articulate, professional and experienced) because of the way I look and dress. It’s hard for me to tell and I ask for outside feedback often- “Is This Too Weird?” can apply to an outfit, a conversation, a reaction, an idea, a cooked meal, anything. I feel irrational and jumbled up in my thought process and doubt myself. I smoke a lot of pot and have for most of 20 years, I think it contributes to my distorted sense of reality and feelings of being a worthless weirdo.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

Prioritize school and career over everything else. There will always be plenty of boys and time to party wherever you go. Value and regularly practice your artistic endeavors, they feed your soul. Learn about boundaries and how to say no, don’t do it if it hurts. Protect your body and heart because they are your silent companions in this life.


Lilly’s friends and family:

I have known Lilly for over 14 years as both a friend and coworker. I know Lilly to be a fierce defender and spokesperson of people who are marginalized and silent. Her wit and sense of humor coupled with extreme intelligence make her a sought-after friend and companion.

Her smile sparkles with warmth and her presence can light a room. She is a tenacious fighter with a brave spirit. I am honored that she calls me a friend.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Inner Strength.

~John


Dearest Lilly,

I’m so proud of the person you have become.  As always, you are kind and generous, always giving even when you may not have the resources to share.  You truly make a difference in people’s lives, and you certainly have in mine.  Your smile lights up a room, and brings joy to the people around you, especially your loved ones.  You mean a lot to your family and friends, probably more than you even realize.  You’re often there for those that need a friendly ear to which they can pour out their heart and deep feelings.  In a bit of a role reversal, you’ve been there for me.  I love you so very much and can’t imagine my life without you!

Hugs and Love!!!  

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved by many!

~Ed



She’s a ride or die friend. A true gem.  A wonderful and accepting listener. Love her to pieces. We have been through some shit together and I am so fortunate to still count her among my friends.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Your love and acceptance is inspiring.

~Emily



Dearest friend,

Your heart is pure, and extends far beyond the hearts of others I have encountered in this world.  While at times you are reserved, I admire how much you protect yourself from things you know you do not deserve.  Your wisdom is inspiring, as is your passion.  One of my favorite things is watching you exist within your garden, that you have given life to, and witnessing the glow of love that emanates out of you.  You approach delicate things with such care and ease.  You are not afraid to speak up for what you want, need, and deserve.  You don’t take shit from anyone.  You stand tall and strong.  You are confident.  You are beautiful.  You are understanding.  You are appreciative.  I find myself wanting to write this forever, just to truly share with you how special you are.  There are so many words to choose from, so many aspects of you that I love.  I cherish your friendship, and your hugs.  You put all of yourself into things, and I admire that.  I know, without a doubt, that as my friend you will be there, you will care, you will love, you will understand.  Your heart holds me when I need it the most, and there are not enough words to share how grateful I am for you.  I am honored to call you my friend.  You, Lilly, are extraordinary.

With all the love I have,

erin.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are seen, you are loved, you are cherished.

~Erin


You’re one of the most genuine people I know.  Your realness helps validate some of my more alien feelings about life.  Your groundedness helps ground me.  Your frankness and honesty is a refreshing inspiration.  I’m honored and grateful to know you and I’m lucky to call you my friend.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You brighten the world up even when things are dark for you

~Bo

Devonna

Not enough.

I wrestle with speaking to myself with kindness and have trouble practicing offering myself grace. The same kindness and grace I offer my children, my friends and the cashier I have never met before at the market. As I move throughout my day, I observe myself keeping records. I tally up what I have done and it doesn’t add up to enough. I can’t seem to earn a moment in a cozy chair with a cup of tea or the walk along the waterfront that makes me come alive. As I often fail myself, acting with a lack of self respect, I turn on myself and bully myself in self-hatred and shame. This Devonna, she is the one I despise. I send her away and sometimes, she respects my boundaries. This Devonna doesn’t long for death. She longs for life and acceptance as she is. She wants to know, to feel, to believe, she is enough.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

Devonna, you are an empath. You take on and carry the feelings and experiences of others. You love deeply from your heart, abundantly overflowing Love. It is a gift that you are sensitive, there is nothing wrong with you. You are doing a good job and you are going to make it. You are strong. I am proud of you. You hold within you the power to speak life and love over yourself. This can be your practice each day and one day you will rest in it. And you will believe you are enough because you are more than enough.

Devonna’s friends and family:

Devonna is a woman of uncommon beauty & compassion. She radiates a light of acceptance, warmth, and love that draws people toward her. She has a fierce truth seeking spirit that I deeply admire.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Trust your truth

~Holly

I admire the way you see things Devonna. Pieces of art in a pile of shattered glass. The way you can build a beautiful mosaic of intricately intersecting lines and colors out of chaos. Sculpting something from nothing. Carrying an idea from inception to completion. And it’s not just your work ethic Devo, it’s your passion. I’ve always envied your ability to compel some concept to life out of thin air. It takes vision and it takes diligence. You’re one of the hardest working people I’ve ever gotten to know Sis. I love you Devo.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

YOU ARE LOVED.

~Damien

Devonna, 

You are one of the hardest working and most driven people I have yet known. Your passion and diligence in creating beauty are inspiring to me. You have eyes that seem uniquely keen in seeing the beauty in everything and especially in everyONE around you, and your creativity in conveying this beauty is powerfully enlightening for those who encounter your art.

You are bold in expressing the truth and genuine in your relationships, providing your friends with a trustworthy ally. And you are tender, compassionate and nurturing. You feed us. 

It’s not always easy to love one’s loved ones. As a devoted wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend you are a special treasure. You routinely put our needs ahead of your own (possibly to a fault!) 

Your fierce, vehement love secures a safe harbor in the cosmos for those of us who are so blessed to receive it. 

Thank you,

Your Buddy

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are treasured!

~Dusty

Devo,

You have been my best and most loyal friend for 32 years! From the moment I met you, I knew ours was a friendship that would go deep and last the test of time. You are the deepest and most caring person I have ever had the privilege of knowing. If I could create a list of your super-powers, it would look something like this:

– CONNECTABILITY. You CONNECT deeper and faster with others in a way I’ve never seen before, allowing you to explore the depths of relationships.

– CARING. You CARE about others in a way that makes everyone feel like you are their best friend.

– LOVE. You LOVE more deeply than I had previously thought humanly possible, yet here you are loving those around you more and more every day.

– DEPTH. You go DEEP… deeper than anyone I’ve ever known, conversationally, emotionally, spiritually … even your hugs are deep!

– EMPATHY. You have EMPATHY beyond that of ordinary mortals! You literally give the clothing off your back to the homeless, you invite strangers into your home, you are a shoulder for others to lean on, and you champion the down-trodden! People recognize this and tell you things that they have never trusted anyone else with!

In a nutshell, you make people feel important, special, and loved. The moment you show an interest in someone, they feel like the most important person on the planet! Your interest in others is not superficial or opportunistic, it is genuine!

In all my years, I’ve never known anyone so loving, caring, kind, empathetic, deep, and connecting as you! For 32 years, whenever I have thought about the qualities of a good friend (or human), I have immediately thought of you. Because of this, you are loved by far more people than you can possibly realize. People genuinely desire to be around you and know you. You are an amazing, loving, strong, powerful, bad-ass woman! 

You have been the greatest friend, never judging or abandoning me… you make me feel loved and important. In return, I will always have your back, never judge you, never abandon you, never stop pursuing a deeper friendship with you, and will strive to be the best friend you’ve ever had! You truly are one of the most amazing people to walk this planet and almost certainly the best friend that anyone has ever had. I, along with many others, love you forever.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are LOVED and DESIRED by God and by many more people than you could possibly know and this makes you truly SPECIAL.

~Bobby


Devonna,

There really isn’t enough time or space to contain the words necessary to convey all of what I love and appreciate about you throughout almost 30 years of being loved and loving you. You are the most incredible person I’ve ever known.   I enjoy spending time with you because your curiosity about the world is contagious and you collect beauty and cultivate loveliness in every aspect of your life. Your musical and artistic talents are awe inspiring. Your fierce devotion and limitless energy for building and maintaining your family relationships encourages anyone honored enough to have the chance to observe. You are creative in a way that is intricately and intimately connected with our Creator so that all is rightly subjected to His perfect order. Your life is a fragrant offering to our Father, prayer inextricable from your essence. I believe you love well because you understand how thoroughly and perfectly loved you are. 

I experience this love from you. Although I caused you deep pain in the choices I made in planning my wedding, you were there for me and sang over us, the one thing you didn’t think you could do even under the best circumstances. That act of selfless love is an enduring and transforming testament to an omnipotent God.

I’m honored to enjoy living this finite life with you as we await the glory to be revealed in eternal life together. 

I love you Devonna, 

Alicia 


If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are eternally and perfectly loved.

~Alicia

Bursting with alive, healing, loving authenticity and such a powerful creator of beauty.  Filled with the unique noetic wisdom; head & heart wisdom, in every beat – Devonna lives up to the name of honor she has been blessed with; Heavenly Warrior.  One of the most fierce warriors of LOVE – for our maker and redeemer, Holy Trinity. Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Heavenly Warrior

~Anne

Devonna is like that first warm spring day after a long, dark winter. She is refreshment, light, warmth, and soothing. Her energy radiates love like hydrangea in full bloom. She is sensual and bold like fresh fig and honey.  She is abundant, giving her gifts in the same way she sows seeds in the earth, naturally, patiently. Devonna is deeply intuitive and free. She dances with abandon in her truest self. She creates beauty wherever she goes. Devonna sees people, really sees them and brings them closer to their light by sharing hers. Her smile and laugh are like fireworks, explosions of the most fascinating joy. She is the hardest working and most badass person I’ve ever known. She inspires me to push past fear and love wide open. She deserves the deepest love and the truest, most freeing joy. Her art and her creative spirit drips of wisdom and connection to something beyond herself. I love you DevonnaI You are brave and fierce and I will forever think of you as the grower of Eden.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are the embodiment of love.

~Sayde

Dearest Devonna,

    You know that one, girl? The one that gives you inspiration because she’s such a bad-ass? She can take control of a situation. Makes the earth shake around her while she gets things done. Gets things done that the rest of us only dream about. And, it’s OK. She makes our dreams more real. “I saw her do it, so maybe I can do it.” That is what she does to us. 

She is living proof of many kinds of hope. Her kids even give us hope. Hope that kids can be amazing. She spreads the kind of hope that causes the rest of us to get up. We get up, we step up to the plate. We step up to the challenge, because we saw that girl do it – so now, we know that impossible things are possible. We won’t, wouldn’t, ever. let go of the inspiration that girl planted in us. 

Ya, she’s the best. And you already know – That girl is you.

Devonna, YOU are a bad-ass. YOU are inspirational. YOU get things done. YOU make our dreams real. YOU bring more hope into the world than some whole communities do. Thank you for being one of the greatest influences of my entire life!

Number-One Fan of  Devonna 


If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are seen and adored by your Creator


Dearest Devonna,

You are a beautiful princess. Your presence spreads love. You can’t help it. You love others deeply from the heart, and you bury our sorrows beneath your own feet. But not before you bear those sorrows. It’s part of the way you love all of us – everyone lucky enough to meet you, to know you. you share your loyalty freely. For as long as I’ve known you, I’ve watched people come into your life, and they leave feeling loved and valued by you. This is a gift from Heaven. It is what makes you tick and makes us sigh as we languish in being comfortable in our own glass slippers. Please don’t ever change that you shy away from that about yourself. I love you so dearly, my princess. I want to dance with you!

Number-One Fan of  Devonna


If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are the star-performer in the all play of life


Dearest Devonna,

    When I think of you, I think of a tree. A beautiful tree that you, yourself don’t often see. It is lavished in lights, glitter, large beautiful antique golden and silver, red and blue ornaments. You are a Christmas tree. You blink and shine and bring so much joy to everyone around you. You even have an amazing majestic holy angel attached to you, overseeing your every blink and flash. You are so brilliant in your colors, that it’s easy to forget that you, yourself don’t always see the amazing beautiful lights emanating from you. You almost never do see them, I fear.. You bring so much joy to people without even realizing it. And, you’re so beautiful. You, Devonna Are the epitome of joy to the world.

Number-One Fan of  Devonna

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

you are most loved, most valued, and most treasured


Dearest Devonna,

I know that you are going through a difficult time right now. I wish I could take on all of your sadness. You’ve taken on so many burdens for so many people for so long. In this time, please remember: Your weakness is made strong when you feel like you are at the end of yourself. You have given so much, that anything else you give now, is a bonus. 

Remember this too, please, because you may not be aware of this: You can’t help but smile at people, genuinely. And your generous beautiful smile is worth the hugs and kisses of 100 mothers doting on 300 cute lovable kids. It is an infectious smile. It spreads. It brings relief to people. I’m afraid that you may think I’m exaggerating, but it’s the truth. Your smile is second to none, and it is a blessing to the world.                           

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Your smile brings hope. It was intentionally created that way on purpose.


Dearest Devonna,

Thank you for being a faithful friend to me. You have helped me out of many a pit in my life – I think most of the time you aren’t even aware of it. Sometimes it happens when you walk into the room, you bring life with you, and it falls on me. Covers my whole heart. I hope you know that you are that very same person for hundreds of people. They are drawn to you, because you love them so very well. You are a great lover of people, a gift.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You always bring life with you.

everything

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are so much more than enough!

~Brad

Chelsey

I think my biggest insecurity would be lack of self-confidence. The idea of being able to accomplish something and being successful at it is completely shrouded in fear for me. I absolutely buckle at the idea of rejection and being criticized and embarrassed for the rest of my given life for the one little thing I stuck out my pinky toe into the water for and made a mistake due to lack of experience or knowledge or whatever it was I should have prepared myself over 10x for before I even tried…but, I figure why try since you aren’t smart enough or strong enough or good enough in the first place.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

Do the hard things. Don’t worry about what others think because they are too busy worrying about what everyone else thinks also. Failing is how you learn and you won’t ever grow and learn without trying. Your parents are already way worse off than you will ever be and their religion is a way to keep you down. Continue to be observant and listen and learn from the good and bad in your world. It will help you escape it later. The people who want to stay will fight for you. You will never be left completely abandoned.

Chelsey’s friends and family:

Chelsey loves unconditionally. She accepts people how they are and allows them to be themselves without so much of the expectation society puts on us. She is kind and generous and very thoughtful, making her an excellent gift giver because she really pays attention to you as an individual. She has many endearing qualities but unconditional love is so hard to find, that is what stands out to me the most.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this:

YOU ARE WORTH IT. You are valuable beyond measure and so very worthy of love.

~Ehmey


Chelsey! 

We’ve known each other for so long it’s such an honor to be asked to write all the things I love about you. 

I love how incredibly patient you are

I love how loyal you are to the people you love

I love all the amazing baked goods you make! 

I love how creative you are 

I love how naturally amazing you are with kids 

I admire your resilience 

I admire your courage, breaking away from the life-long community that just didn’t fit into your life healthily anymore, despite what it cost you

I appreciate your willingness to express your emotions 


If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

YOU ARE CAPABLE OF EVERYTHING YOU DREAM OF!

~Shalako


Chelsey, Even though we knew each other best when we were much younger, I’m super grateful and impressed that you were willing to reconnect after so long. The Chelsey I remember was never pushing to be in front or needing the spotlight. Instead, you brought a level of calmness to things. Thinking on it seriously these last few days, that’s what I remember in my mind and body about you. You are a heart-centered being, which is such a challenge in these times. It’s soooo important, like “change the world” type important that we spread this kind of mentality, but sadly it is often seen as weak, and is preyed upon by those rooted in greed. But guess what, sis!? We survive, we get deeper, we get stronger, and all without having to broadcast it. I absolutely love that you are showing up for yourself, that you have made a decision to be an agent of growth and truth. You have been through so much, but I feel like you are just getting started and that inspires me; you inspire me.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

OMG! Where to start! 

All the answers, all the peace, all the purpose…It’s already inside you. On the deepest level you know this to be true. Keep listening, be open to receive that which you are deserving to have and to be.

~Kevin

Chelsey is a loyal, sweet, honest, exceedingly generous individual. I love that she is empathetic and most always positive. She is an incredible cook and bread baker. She is real… the antithesis of the typical duplicitous humans of the world only looking out for their agenda. She inspires hope when it seems there is none, and to say that she is extremely brave is a vast understatement. She also likes cool words like “abscond” 🙂 but best of all she is my friend.  

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved

~Brannen

I’ve looked up to Chelsey my entire life, and whether she realizes it or not, she’s always been my barometer for cool, stylish, hip, and chic. Growing up with Chelsey, I got to see an adventurous spirit, full of kindness and joy, and also beautiful darkness. I realize I have always wanted to impress her and make her proud, and I value her opinion so highly that I’ve reconsidered my actions and belief systems as a result. Chelsey continues to introduce me to music, art, experiences that I might not have found on my own, and she’s the only one I’ve traveled across the country to go look at rocks with. 

I know we both came from trying and at times turbulent families, but the struggles we faced in each other’s proximity felt easier to bear. Whether writing epic teenage angst poetry or dressing up as Renaissance-era archers and playing in the trees or covering ourselves in mud to embarrass Tammy when she was trying to flirt with a boy, we’ve always found ways to be silly and revel in it. It doesn’t matter if I’m up or down, hearing Chelsey’s laugh in my head or in real life makes my spirit soar. She is easy to be with; even after years of not speaking or seeing each other, we picked back up and found ourselves again, granted this time with more swearing and booze and boy stories, but it only keeps getting better.

Another thing about this beautiful woman, she always sees good in people. Especially those who struggle with pain, depression, trauma…her compassionate soul finds the good in them and helps them to normalize in ways that she may not see. Chelsey is generous, she is amazing with children, loves animals (even those she’s mildly allergic to), and she has the hugest heart for her grandma (which is a rare trait anymore). She takes excellent care of herself and her home, keeping the madness at bay with admirable/enviable cleaning habits. Her artistic flair shines through her personal style, the cool antiques she finds, her passion for flowers. I will always go to a show with Chelsey, even if I don’t know the band, because getting to be alongside her to experience something that she loves is ridiculously wonderful.

Chelsey is beautiful, inside and out. She somehow takes THE BEST pictures of her insanely gorgeous face (I know, because I look at the one on my fridge door every day and grin). She has an amazing hug that radiates joy and comfort through my whole body, and she loves love in a way that gives me hope for the world. My life is better with Chelsey in it, and she makes me want to be my best self.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Chelsey, you are a true gem, you glow from within, and no one or nothing can tarnish your beautiful shine ❤

~Hannah

Chelsey, YOU ARE LIKELY THE STRONGEST PERSON I KNOW… for these reasons:

 You fill the world with so much beauty, kindness, quiet caring, detailed adjustments that make everyone’s life better….. you give love, support, show appreciation…. while at the same time aching for love, kindness, support, and appreciation. You never quit. You have bled yourself dry giving to others for decades… family, marriage, professionally, as a member of several communities…… so it has been an honor to watch you set boundaries and show me how you’re doing it. 

You maintain being the most beautifully open-minded and feminine creature, and yet you face all your insecurities or anxieties HEAD ON.  

Your strength comes from the biggest heart and such deep empathy…. you feel the world. You carry the heavy gift of understanding most people and things before they have even tried to understand themselves.  

How you have the patience to watch us all be so confused with who we are and what we want, while you’ve seen it all along, must be so exhausting- and yet you lovingly lollygag around this life with us….. 

With all sorts of curve balls life throws you’ve remained a woman who loves adventure, is open for anything, and who is gentle in a harsh world. 

☝️ that is the biggest test of strength. 

You, my dear woman, are the living, breathing personification of my favorite poet’s words below…

“Anyone can slay a dragon …but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” ~Brian Andreas

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Chelsey, you have all the answers. You’ve always been capable of more than you have ever imagined….. and YOU KNOW THAT IS TRUE. 

And just because you are the strongest person, the woman who examines all the angles of everything before, during, and after an experience, doesn’t mean that life requires you to be strong for everything and all the time. All those tears, all those feelings, all those insightful bits you notice, the details…. they don’t have to weigh you down… you can share them with others… letting us grow stronger WITH YOU, alongside you, proudly as your dearest friends and family. 

I love you, Mallory

~Mallory


Chelsea is very funny. I appreciate that we share a dark sense of humor. She’s willing to venture into the gritty with me to make a laugh. It’s rare that people are so open. I feel so comfortable joking around and looking for satire in things.

She’s shy and can seem quiet, I think it’s hard to read. I can see that she’s really deep in thought. She’s observant and taking everything in. Being respectful.

I admire her courage. She braved a new life. She chose to be strong in so many ways and has grown so much since I first met her. She explores the world freely. I wish I had her courage and motivation. 

She’s kind and has always been open to me despite my resting bitch face. 

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You’re beautiful and funny and strong.

~Danny

Jessica

I have always felt like my personality is too much for people to handle- too loud, too obnoxious, too big, too needy, too involved. It gives me a lot of stress that I overwhelm the people in my life because I come on too strong. This generally makes me less close with the people I care about because I let this insecurity hold me back from giving all my love. The more personal battle I have is that I tend to feel inadequate or not enough for my own standards. I compare other’s successes to my own and I am often left feeling “less than” physically, academically, socially, and emotionally. I am hard on myself and strive for the best version of me but I want to be better at accepting and loving myself where I’m at.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

It is not selfish to take care of yourself and you will be a better friend to others if you cover your needs first


Jessica’s friends and family:

Samantha Turner
sturner5869@hotmail.com

Jess,

I don’t even know where to start with this, because there are so many things to choose from. You are truly one of the most inspirational people I know. You have such raw talent and your passion for music astounds me. If I could even come close to following in your footsteps I would be thrilled. You are also such a loving person, and getting to be a recipient of that love is one of the most fulfilling things I know. I love that you are always willing to talk, or listen, and be there for me. You’re an amazing sister, an amazing daughter, an amazing artist, and an amazing person. I love you so much.

Love,

Sammy

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved

~Samantha


Jessica,

I am so lucky that you are in my life. Never have I met anyone so adoring, curious, genuine, brave, spirited, and bright as you. You have an amazing power to talk and relate to anyone, which never fails to get people to love who you are. Everyone goes to you with their problems only because you really are the best person anyone knows that can help out. You are a joyous gift to everyone you meet. What a warm soul. Not only this, you’re as beautiful outside as you are inside! There’s a twinkle in your eyes, a glowing smile, and that infectious laugh you have that lift’s everyone’s spirits. You’re drop-dead gorgeous. Every single inch of you, and every single feature you have is thoughtful, generous, and stunning. Simply beautiful. There is no other way I’d rather have you.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are worthy of being loved. You should allow yourself to be, by yourself! Yes, you can laugh and kind of joke around about how awesome or how pretty you are, but you should really let that soak in genuinely, you know? You of all people deserve that.

~Alex

Dear Jessica, 

I am so lucky to have someone like you in my life. You are so thoughtful, loving and selfless. You would do anything for the people you love and I feel so blessed to be your friend. I am so impressed with your work ethic and your passion for what you do. Every day I see you and get to hang out with you, you bring so much sunshine and joy to my life. I appreciate how you are always there for your friends and will always support them. You always know how to make me feel better and just brighten up my day. I love laughing and goofing off with you. You have become one of my best friends and someone I know that I will be friends for the rest of my life. 

I love you so much Jessica!!

Camille

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are beautiful inside and out- don’t change a thing

~Camille

My dearest most wonderful Jessica,

You are my woman. 

You light up every room you enter, even if you’re having a bad day, when you walk in, the room feels better, happier, brighter. The second I see your beautiful face I am overwhelmed with so much love and a sense of peace. Sometimes so much so that I can’t stop staring. That is the effect you have on people. I can’t take my eyes off of you, and never for a single negative reason. When I look at you I see the most effervescent smile, the most luscious curly hair, the most stunning eyes, the most perfect eyelashes, the most banging bod in the WORLD with moves that ROCK, and the biggest heart anyone could ever have. Although you may not always feel it, the confidence you exude is unmatched. You carry yourself with such ease and grace and joy. And your laugh, I can’t get enough of it. Laughing with you is by far one of the best things in my life. 

If I didn’t have you in my life I honestly don’t know where I’d be. Somehow, magically, you always have the right things to say. You get beyond excited with me when there’s good news and you hold me and help pick me back up when I’m down. You’re always there when I need to spill my heart out, and that is something I can’t ever take for granted. I cannot get over how lucky I am to have you and I will never be able to fully explain how much your unconditional love and support means to me. 

You’re so unbelievably strong, loved, powerful, generous, caring, dedicated, helpful, accepting, committed, compassionate, motivated, dependable, kind-hearted, and simply dazzling. Your inward beauty makes your outward beauty shine that much brighter and vice versa, it’s a wonderful circle. You inspire me. 

I admire your ease and effortlessness in social situations and your ability to make anyone feel welcome. I admire your selflessness and willingness to help. I admire how much you care to improve yourself and work to be the best version of you. I admire how deeply you feel and how deeply you love. 

You are my woman. 

I love you.

Raleigh

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Love yourself as fiercely as you love others; you are always enough.

~Raleigh


Jessica – you are one of the most amazing people in my life. You are lively and vibrant and fun and real. The minute you walk into the apartment, everyone’s day just got a whole lot better. You listen genuinely and care about what other people have to say. You know that relationships are a give and a take, but still choose to give with all your heart, endlessly and non-selfishly. I knew right when I met you freshman year of college that you were a friend worth having, but I had no idea what a friendship with Jessica could mean. It turned out to mean joyful, stupid, shared laughter at any hour of the day. It means having any tune I’m singing beautifully harmonized by your incredible voice. It means knowing there will be someone who will give me a hug when my day has been miserable, and who never forgets to ask how my day went. Being friends with you Jessica has made me a better person. You’re a reminder that being kind and reaching out is cool,  and that showing love to people is worth it.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Your body is bangin’, your dreams are attainable, and you are ALWAYS going to be worth it. Anyone who doesn’t think so is just silly. (Sorry that’s three things couldn’t pick one)

~Katherine


Jess,

I cannot express to you how much your friendship has shaped me into the person I am. Watching you become the beautiful woman you are over the past 10 years has been an absolute privilege, and your growth is inspiring. I have watched you face major and difficult changes. This often meant learning to cope with disappointment, or redefine your expectations of yourself and others. You have done this with grace and love, both for yourself and for the people in your life who needed you. I have watched you question who you were and who you were becoming. Sometimes, this has meant being suspicious of what you were raised to believe, or what you were told by those you love. This is something that some people never learn, and that you have done with an intelligent sense of perspective and admirable reflection. I have watched you hurt, and come out the other side more positive and inspiring than ever, and I have watched you do all of these things with your head held high.

You continue to amaze me, and I am so thankful for the friendship you have given me. You have seen me at some of my lowest points, and you have healed me with laughter, friendship and conversations that I wouldn’t have traded for the world. You have been here for me when I needed you most, and you have taught me love, compassion, strength, and positivity. You are a personal role model and someone that I am lucky to call a best friend. I look forward to seeing the woman you become, and I take comfort in knowing that I will always have a loving friend in you when I need you. 

Thank you so much for the confidence you have given me and the happiness you radiate.

Love, 

your best friend, sister, and biggest fan,

Jaden

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

There are so many people in the world who would not be who they are without having known you.

~Jaden


Dude. You’re hot as fuck.  I admire the way you hold yourself with such confidence. You really are beautiful inside and out. You’re also so freaking wise. I admire the way you can learn about people so deeply and affirm who they are. You build people up. You’re not afraid to get real. You’ve helped me, and so many other people, grow into better people. It takes a special kind of person to do that. I admire how you see everyone around you so highly. You’re really something special. Please never stop singing while you walk around the house, or saying hi to people mid-conversation. It’s little things like that that you do that make the world a brighter, happier place. I love you so, so much. Thank you for being you, never change.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are a beautiful woman who radiates God’s love

~Austyn


Dear Jessica,

What an amazing woman you are!   Your compassion, creativity, and humor bring love and joy to all of us that are lucky to be around you.  I love the way you find joy in all the simple things – in a story we tell or a song our family sings.  I love the way you look out for your friends and for anyone hurting or in need.  I love the strength of your faith and how you draw from that strength to help others.  I appreciate how you always see the best in us.  I am so proud of you — it fills my heart!

Love, Dad

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved

~Jerry

My sweet Jessica,

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the amazing person I think you are.  I am so proud of the woman you are becoming, just as I’ve always been proud of the young girl you were, the silly middle school girl you were, and the fun, smart, and talented high school girl you were.  I will always be proud of the person you are.

You’ve always been an old soul, in tune with other people’s feelings and needs.  You were constantly amazed when other people wouldn’t be as thoughtful and sensitive as you would expect or hope they would be.  I often tried to explain to you that you were mature that way well beyond your years, and that someday those friends might catch up to you.  

You are honestly one of the best people I know.  Even if you weren’t my daughter, you’d be someone I was drawn to and would want to know.  You light up a room and make people feel good about themselves.  I hope the people in your life will always know what a gift they have in you.  

My greatest wish for you is that you could see yourself as I do.  You are an immensely wonderful person.  You are kind, funny, thoughtful, loving, and even more beautiful on the inside as you are on the outside.  And that’s saying something.  

You deserve all the best that life has to offer.  You are such a gift to the world. I love you with everything in me!  

Love, 

Mom (your lelephant)

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are worthy of every good thing life has to offer.

~Susie

Nichole

My biggest insecurity is about my TOO MUCHNESS. That I am too big, too loud, too sexual, too much of everything…that my needs are too much and that I always cause harm because of the containers people want to place on me I can’t be held in for too long before I BREAK OUT. So naturally that brings up abandonment and neglect from my childhood. I’ve had a lot of people abandon ship each time I grew into the next version of myself or expanded my capacity – spiritually, sexually, intellectually ect… It’s as if my changing or becoming MORE of me was threatening to them. So it’s been many a death cycle of relationship roulette in every form. Mostly friendship.

What advice would you give your 10 year old self? *

You are pure magic and you can create out of thin air anything you can possibly imagine! Never let your light dim, dear one. You are needed in this world to demonstrate to others the capacity of their own love and power. You ARE Rainbow Bright! No matter what anyone else thinks or says. Believe in your knowing and never give into belief that you cannot be ALL of what you are. My precious one, remember to be gentle with yourself and get as many hugs as you can for your whole life. I love you. You can move the waters, you can dance the fire, you can conduct the winds, and you can move mountains. You’ll see.

Nichole’s friends and family:

Nichole is the most loving, kind hearted, unselfish person I know. She makes you feel loved and safe in her presence. Nichole is always on the look out for more knowledge, how to grow, learn, new ways of teaching. Her mind amazes me on how much she applies her knowledge in her daily life and how she touches others’ lives in the process! She heals, she’s present, she’s simply amazing.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

How much I look up to her and admire her.

~Deanna


Dear Nichole:

You are my beautiful, paradoxical friend:

Teacher and Learner
Gentle and Strong
Grounded and Whimsical
Magical and Scientific
Hot and Cool
Cuddly and Pushy (in a good way)
Comfortable and Uncomfortable
Funny and Serious
Independent and Group-oriented

You make me more courageous and confident in my own magic. You are one of my most trusted friends and I always feel safe with you and with the guidance you give me — even if I sometimes give you the side-eye when I’m on your massage table!

I’m so grateful for you and your forever friendship.

Sending you so much love,

Fisher

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are held in love by so many.

~Fisher

Nicole is a true blue genuine lover. She is gentle, compassionate, kind, warm, graceful, open, honest, and forgiving. There are not many people in life that I would describe as being like a warm blanket to my soul, but she is. 

Nicole is the kind of person that I may not see for over a year, but as soon as I am in her presence, it is just as if I had never left it from the time before. She is intuitive; the moment I think about her, she will message me unprompted which leads me to speak of her power; she is a healer of both body and soul in the highest order of power, rarely seen except for in other ancient parts of the world. She is a mystic, full of mystique, a friend, and a mother to a community of people whose world would be made a little dimmer without the light that her power and presence shines.

Lastly, Nicole is one of the most naturally sensual people I’ve ever known. Her prowess in this transcends outward beauty. Although attractive she is, her ability to radiate sensuality and intimacy, deep from within a secret place behind her eyes is profoundly unmatched by any other human I’ve encountered. She is gorgeous inside and out, and her incandescent beauty attracts men and women from all walks towards her center. Nicole is contagious; always leaving you wanting more of her spirit and presence.   

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

YOU ARE POWERFUL. YOU ARE A LEADER.

~Spencey

You are intentional, compassionate, responsible, and honest. You do everything with the best intentions and even when you are out of your comfort zone you know how to navigate the unknown with inquiry instead of judgement. It is one of your best characteristics and I try to model after it in my own way. With this modeled inquiry and through you, I have been able to experience such joy and love and fun that I never even knew existed in this world. 

You are a light in my darkness. You are a friend in my solitude. You are a seer in my mystery.

You have been beside me at my lowest and at my highest. I will always be thankful for you.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You inspire love and joy.

~Cassandra

Nichole came into my life about 12 years ago, at this time I was a lost lil pup, with a shattered heart and a lonely soul. She instantly saw me, like no one had ever seen me before. She took me under her wing, and with her guidance, her support, and her love she has allowed me to find and believe in my true potential, to understand the power of my own wings and because of her I have not just learned to fly but I have learned to trust in myself, learned to believe in myself, and learned to love myself. This is what Nichole does. She was born to lead, born to pave new pathways for humankind, to light raging fires from the dull sparks inside of people, to inspire every human she comes in contact with to want to rise up and conquer whatever obstacle they are facing or will face. She challenges those around her as well as herself to continue to grow to their full potential, and then some. To say she is a healer is such an understatement, to say she is of this world is even an understatement. Her love is beyond love, her wisdom beyond wisdom, her powers, passion, emotions and talent are unparalleled. 

Nichole changed my life, she has been my biggest inspiration and motivation since the day I met her. The absolute best sister I could have been given in this world and I am beyond grateful that our paths led us to each other. It is because of her that I continue to push through even the hardest of days. We do not talk often or even see each other often but she is in so many of the decisions and life choices I make, she has become a part of my inner voice, my inner “what would Nichole want for me” at times of weakness. She is my big sister. My rock. My safe place. My friend. My strength.


Nichole has suffered. Nichole has lost. She has been hurt, abandoned, let down, walked on, lied to. Nichole has had to step up when she wasn’t ready to, take on much more than she should have at times but she has never given up, she has never allowed anything to stop her from being her. We all have weaknesses and trials in life but it’s the way she smiles at these challenges in life and gets through every single one of them that makes her the most incredible human I have ever met. 

I have watched you go through so much and I am so proud of you, so proud of the woman you have become, the sister you are, the aunt, the wife, the friend, the business guru, the healer, the passionate leader, the lover. I hope you truly know inside what you bring to this world, what you bring to those around you, what you have done to improve so many lives you have touched. Thank you for always being there for me, for being the sister I always dreamed of, for believing in me, for pushing me, for standing up for me, for never giving up on me during my weak times, for leading me to my career and my passion, for picking me up when I am down and dusting me off over and over. It is so hard to put into words how much I love you girl, and how much you have personally done for me and my life. I can’t thank you enough.

I love you. 

-Cupcake

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You’re a motha fuckin’ badass and I love you.

~Jessica

She sparkles with loving energy. She is profoundly generous. She creates family out of a group of strangers. She is a healer of the highest level, a healer of healers. She is open-hearted and not afraid of intimacy, working on tough stuff, entering the shadow and coming out with jewels. She is always working to evolve her own consciousness so she can be of better service to others.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

She is here in this present moment to be a model of a vulnerable, courageous, and loving leader.

~Beverly

Nichole is a powerhouse of a human being. She demands each person to see how powerful they are and to know themselves better each and every day. She demands these with an edge that is always tempered with a deep love and listening that few people I have met can manage. She encourages and inspires me to do my healing work and to reflect and grow. She does this with her words and her gentle encouragement, but also by doing the very same things herself. She allows her rawness to be seen just as easily as her power. She expects of herself and others only to find out for themselves what makes them truly shine more brightly in a world sorely in need of light. I think that’s a goddamn beautiful thing.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are never too much, and always enough.

~Sean

She lives her life so artfully! I could visit all the museums and art galleries in the world and I’d never see anything quite as beautiful as the way Nichole lives her life. 

Her unwavering strength and courage to gently, but at the same time very passionately, stand in her power. That type of authenticity is hard to find and it’s even harder to practice. Whether she’s leading a group in ceremony or having a coffee with a friend, Nichole is going to show up fully and completely. There isn’t a fake bone in this Goddesses body, she is the genuine article, and it inspires me to be brave enough to show up in the same way. 

I love the way she loves! Her love is like a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning sitting in front of a fireplace! Welcoming, warm, safe, and you never want to leave it!

She is a dancing queen! Have you seen her dance? If you haven’t already, go set up a dance date with her and watch her tear up the floor. If you’re shy about dancing I promise you won’t be when you’re with Nichole. You’ll learn some new moves!

She is a Goddess, a witchy witch, a dragon, but she’s also a human who trips up and makes mistakes like the rest of us. She knows that too.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You don’t have to find yourself, you just have to remember who you are. You ARE love and your love has transformed not only your life, but the lives of all those around you. Thank you.

~Patrick

Your presence and your ability to be present in the moment. To make me feel special and loved.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

Your capacity to love, to give but to remember to save some for yourself 🙂

~Avery

I feel that you are a wonderful, powerful and strong human.  Your intuitive connection to the needs of those around you is inspiring.  I love your laugh.  The work you do and the intentions you set help me look deeper into my own self work and self connection.  I appreciate how you draw the type of community close to you that is comprised of people who are in their own focus of growth, self realization and connection.  You help bring me groundedness. 

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

I would like you to remind yourself that although your work for the community is critically important, your own self-care and healing needs its own space.

~Daniel

Nichole, 

Thank you for asking me to participate in this. When describing the gifts that you bring to the world, it is hard to know where to start. I know I won’t be able to cover them all. 

What first comes to mind is your ability to be 100% present with people where they are — being a loving, open space where it is okay to be vulnerable. I have watched countless times as you have made people feel seen, heard, and understood. You don’t even have to be with someone in person to make this happen. When I asked many people to all send cards for Kye’s birthday, I believe about a hundred arrived! Among them all, what stands out to me is watching him read your words. Despite his tendency to feel misunderstood and apart from others, how seen and loved he truly felt while reading your words. It visibly relaxed him and comforted him deeply. This is just one example of how you have impacted others in this way. 

You are also a powerful convener. You bring people together, build community, and support their well-being. You create connectedness among others… So. Many. Others! You have been doing this in one form or another since I first met you years ago. The form and places have evolved over time, yet you continue to use this superpower for great good. 

You do not just bring people together, you encourage them to explore themselves and their relationships with one another and the universe. You do this in many ways. Yes, when you bring people together, it often touches this purpose — whether moon circles or dinners for discussing non-violent communication or community-wide women’s history events. You also do this in individual conversation, your healing work, and your willingness to share parts of your own journey to greater understanding. 

You are a deeply beautiful, radiant human being that I am grateful to have in my life. You are someone we are all grateful for… even if I have only captured the tiniest sliver of all the reasons we feel that way here! 

Big hugs and love to your gorgeous self. 

Xo,

Melanie 

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You shine brightly, and it warms those around you. It is a great gift.

~Melanie

Nichole is full of a fight that most people don’t have. She is relentless in whatever she does- she wants to be who she fully is in this world and make a difference. She’s overcome a lot of adversity and broken family trauma in her own life that takes grit and a lot of hard work. She’s torn down false lenses and has worked her ass off to find her true self. She is the friend who I call when I need someone to talk to who truly knows me. She gives more than she receives, she is talented at knowing the body and how to help people heal. Nichole is the glue for a lot of people and that can be a burden often. She lives to make change and that can be exhausting and lonely, but she is helping heal the world and who she is in it is needed. She is the person you want on your side. She is strong in her mind and body. She allows feelings in her to be deeply felt and for that she is brave. She is a beautiful writer and creator. Her life is artful and full of a community that loves her. She is a safe person for me, and someone who I can’t imagine life without. She’s full of the real stuff that is hard to find- she’s honest and transparent, vulnerable and also tough as hell. I love navigating this world with her.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are loved just the way you are. You are wanted and seen.

~Holly

Nichole is a beacon of light! She shines on and beyond the darkness and helps people embrace who they truly are with love, gentleness, and kindness (maybe with a tiny kick to the ass as needed). She is playful and available for spontaneity and laughter even when she is busy carving out a business and doing the hard work of helping people open up and heal. She is a healer. She is enigmatic and compelling – a leader and a seeker.  She is thirsty for knowledge and open to welcoming the unknown in a way I greatly admire. I love her.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You deserve good things – right now, with no edits to who you are or what makes you you.

~Jennifer

I love your ability to take charge in large situations. How do you do that? It’s like you’re fearless.. However, not a fan of you bossing me around in those situations. I like to hold my own. I do think it’s sexy how you own your body, no matter what shape it’s in. Nothing seems to really get in your way, not even you. That’s super hot. I appreciate that I can always come to you when I need to process through what’s on my mind. You’re great at taking me outside of my one-sided spectrum. Though I’ll never admit that I’m actually one-sided 😉 I love the beauty of the home you have created – it’s soft, it’s colorful, it’s feminine, it’s you. I admire the fight you have in you for justice and change. I’m pretty positive that there is an actual dragon inside you. You’re basically a goddess and a warrioress just waiting for her moment to set ablaze not only the patriarchy, but the abuse of all life that you see as sacred.

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

The love in your heart that you see as too big, is actually well received by your community.

~Jaymes


First of all, the idea of trying to write a letter to capture what I love about Nichole is a daunting task. I am fairly certain I could put War and Peace to shame with the time it would take me to adequately express what I love about Nichole; how she has changed me, how she inspires every human she comes into contact with, how she calls people to be better versions of themselves just by living and loving her way through life.  I could go on about how she wields super powers and shapes worlds.  I could give a lecture on how to love well and support the community with what I have learned from Nichole.  Instead of fumbling my way through trying to do her any sort of justice with my words, I will simply describe her to you, as if you, the reader, have not had the pleasure of meeting Nichole, and why you should immediately go and befriend her.

Nichole walks through life with a peaceful joy around her, but there is also a sort of electricity surrounding her, that I imagine is what “spidey sense” tingling feels like in the comics. Notice this sensation.  It’s her energy somehow reaching through space and time asking you to wake up.  “Wake up to what?” you might ask.  Well, get to know Nichole, you’ll see.

When I first met Nichole she came into my coffee shop and she was funny and happy and beautiful (and continues to become more so by the day) and she welcomed me to Tacoma in a way that made me feel like I actually belonged.  Since that day, my life has never been the same.  I am so so blessed to call her my friend, my family.  My experience with Nichole has been one that can only be expressed as divinely appointed.  Actually, I would wager a guess that every person who has ever met Nichole would use the descriptive phrase “divinely appointed” in assessing their own experience with her.  She has this way of listening that makes you feel like you are the only person that has ever spoken.  This deep listening that she practices isn’t just with her ears.  It’s the kind of listening that happens with the heart, with every fiber of being that is attentive to what is being spoken.  And then once the words are spoken, whether painful or joyful, she can internalize them, transmute them, and reflect them back as love, as healing.  This access to another realm of being that she consistently seems to be operating in, brings with it an honesty, a power, and a beauty to the world that is singular to her.  If love and attention have any ethereal correlation, she is the proof in the pudding. 

If you are the lucky recipient of her attention, you will remember and you will be changed.  Oh, and that’s just her listening.  I can’t even begin to cover what happens when she speaks her truth into existence.  Or dances. Lord, don’t get me started on her dancing.  This embodied divine feminine could convince a granite mountain to become a river of silly putty with her dancing if she chose.

I have watched Nichole move things with her mind. I have watched her control rooms with the lift of an eyebrow.  I have scratched the surface of what it means to understand my own infinity when she’s laid her hand on my chest.  We all know Game of Thrones.  I’m just sayin, I wouldn’t leave her near a fire with any dragon eggs, cuz she’s got that kind of magic.

If the reader is near Nichole right now, know that you are being blessed.  If you get the chance to become closer to Nichole, take it.  Also, full disclaimer, get ready for a reality roller coaster.  Nichole, if you are hearing this, you were like taking the red pill in The Matrix and damn I wish I could dose the whole world with a little bit of you.  I love you.  Thank you for being my friend.  Thank you for being in this world.  Thank you for continuing to create this world.  That’s all I got cuz I’m all misty-eyed thinking about how wonderful you are.

The End.  

This message has been brought to you by Benjamin Black, (real cool guy I hear).


If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are so hot.  Oh wait I mean the most magical being I’ve ever encountered.  No, wait, yeah both.

~Benjamin

Since I waited until the last day to do this, as I tend to do, I am writing this from the time of pandemic. Everyone’s anxiety is high, who even knows what’s going on,  but you’re out there posting ideas for showing up for each other. And what I cannot shake is that if you, Nichole, had not shown up in my life, I would not be who I am to today. My ability to handle all of those would be very different. I would not have the calm I have. I would not be the mother I am. I remember being at the aquarium, and really sort of bashfully saying, “I think I’m a healer?” And you laughed, said duh, and then proceeded to hypnotize all the fish or whatever it is you did, haha. I remember saying to you, I just want to dig into your brain and all your wisdom, and you said, “what if it’s already all within you?” You asked me to draw for you and I reconnected with my art too! I don’t think there is any other one single woman, other than my mother, I can point to in my life that has had such an incredibly profound impact on helping me to see who I am. You said it yourself, you’re a healer of healers. You are that because you dig so deeply and consistently into your work, your shadows, your love, all of it. You are remarkably driven, and committed over and over to the woman you are always becoming. You healed yourself, and in doing that healed all of the women around you. You radically show the fuck up for life, and for your people. *Thank. You.* Love you forever!

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You are so held & supported!

~Kristina

Nichole, my magical beautiful friend. Thank you for your brilliance, your mama-magic, your wisdom, guidance, all things woo woo, and your ability to help so many people navigate this rough and wild journey that is life. You don’t only have a gift, you ARE a gift. You own your being, your wholeness, and you are authentically you, unashamed of the unique and beautiful gifts that take us deeper into compassion and understanding. Your way of being allows the rest of us to shine too. You have forever impacted me and are someone who I can and will never forget. I love you dear friend and feel so lucky to have you in my life. 

If there was absolutely ONE thing you would want this person to remember about themselves, it is this: *

You, Nichole, are perfect and pure magic and I will forever feel your impact on my life.

~Dana

One comment

  1. Chelsey Dawn · 21 Days Ago

    Thank you Alana-for all your energy you have poured into this project that so many have benefitted from and so many more will be able to! I am deeply grateful and honored for the opportunity.

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