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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.  


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.


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! 



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.


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!


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.


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,


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.


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



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


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 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!



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.



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, 


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

You are eternally and perfectly loved.


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


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.


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.


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!



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.



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: *



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.


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


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 ❤



 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


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.



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


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.



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

You are loved



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.


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!!


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


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.


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.


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)



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.


your best friend, sister, and biggest fan,


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.


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


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


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!  


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.



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.


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,


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.


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 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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 🙂


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.



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. 



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


Group 13 – Men!


Everyday we seem to hear of another shooting.
Mass shootings in schools, in clubs, in theaters, in malls, in places too numerous to count. Individual shootings over petty matters, whether by everyday citizens or by those whom we’re supposed to trust with our security and safety.
It’s no longer a matter of if a next one is going to happen, but a matter of when the next one is going to happen.
Without going into all of the politics behind why these things happen, I am reminded of one key element here: male aggression. Men are so often taught from the time they are small children that it is not okay to express their feelings.

It is not okay to feel sad…it is okay to be mad.
It is not okay to cry…it is okay to throw a punch.
It is not okay to show affection…it is okay to show rage.
It is not okay to be insecure…it is okay to bully others for things we see “wrong” with them.

This theme of being “masculine” and how it is essential to combat anything even slightly detected to be “feminine” in order to be such, it seems to permeate society right now. There is something completely wrong with this picture.
That is why I absolutely love when men agree to participate in this project. A project with the main focus of showing vulnerability. Not holding back, but, diving in. I am constantly reminded that there are so many men out there who are comfortable enough with themselves, with their feelings, that they can have a conversation about them. They can be brave enough to discuss their insecurities and their fears, not just with me, not just with each other, but, even be brave enough to put them out there for you, the public, to read.
This is the second exclusively male group I have conducted in the 3 1/2 years since I began this project. I look forward to conducting many more, as the conversation with these men always blows me away. Their openness, their vulnerability, their compassion for each other, their introspection, their positive and encouraging words for each other and themselves…it is all so beautiful to watch unfold.

I always seem to write incredibly long introductions to these blog posts concerning each group, but, I’m stopping myself here this time. Instead, I’ve put my focus into including videos from this night, so that you can get a taste of what we experienced and what these men shared. How they were affected by hearing these things from each other. How they were affected by hearing the words of their friends and family (if you are reading this and are someone who wrote in for them, a million thank yous to you. This project doesn’t work without you. I appreciate you so much.) I encourage you all to watch these videos, especially to see how these guys (who previously either did not know each other, or only knew each other slightly) showed empathy toward encouraged one another. And how they each reacted, not only when others’ words were read for them, but for each other.

Please do comment and share anything that may have touched you after reading their stories and seeing a bit of our night. A caution for you, however…I will NOT accept anything other than kindness and positivity directed at these men. I frequently quote Brené Brown regarding this, and I’ll do it again: “If you are not also in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in your feedback.”

(Thank you to Ian for filming the night {and all of these nights} for me, to Jennifer, for taking behind-the-scenes photos for us {to be found at the bottom of this post}, and to Steve, for providing a venue in which we could meet!)

Previous groups can be found here:
Why this project began
Group 1, Part 1
Group 1, Part 2
Group 2, Teens!
Group 3, 55+!
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7, Men!
Group 8
Group 9, Moms & Daughters! (featuring Melissa & Lily)
Group 9, Moms & Daughters! (featuring Liz & Caitie)
Group 10 – Couples!
Group 11 – Decorah, IA teens!
Group 12 – Reunion Group!


Dgroup13men_shepinswavid (Shep!) – Insecurity ~

“My body, it’s hard to look at myself and feel good sometimes. My weight has drastically fluctuated my whole life and that sort messes with my head a little bit.”

(Video: discussion about Shep’s insecurity)

What do you find is the biggest challenge for men these days?

“The need to be strong and invincible. The fact that you shouldn’t be vulnerable because that would be weak…”

If there is one thing women should know about men, it is…

“That we are so different than you…..”

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

“Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end…”
group13men_shepschoicewShep’s friends & family ~

“Hey buddy, you’re probably going through some tough emotions right now and I’m supposed to be all nice and gushy right? Well, in the infamous words of my wife and mother-in-law, buck up, buttercup. People love you, in case you didn’t know. Who wouldn’t love my jolly ginger friend? The thing you have to realize about yourself is that you actually care when people tell you their life story. And that’s why they come to you. Anyone that looks in your eyes can immediately see one of the most genuine souls the world has encountered. See, you do have a soul!! People will do anything for you because of that. Hell, I drove all the way across the country in 4 days with you because of it. Time for an experiment, just because I’m at work writing this and I’m a nerd. Will Alana actually read this part? Whoa, did I just break the fourth wall? Can you do that in a letter like this? Look Shep, I can make her say anything right now from my desk at work. Like Briar Cliff sucks! Or, I love the wieners you cook! Haha, she just said she loves your wiener. Simon says stand up and hop on one foot (wait for him to do it then go rustle that ginger hair of his) ….. I guess back to the real point. I love you, brother, gimme a call after this and let me know how it went! I’ll be waiting to hear from you.” -Lefty

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

“Batter up”
“Oh, my dear friend Shep. Shep has been such a solid and wonderful friend to me for so many years; it’s crazy to wrap my brain around the fact that we have known each other since junior high! I would have never imagined way back then that he would end up being like family to me! Shep is one of the most easygoing and hardest-working guys I have met. There are days that he has worked long crazy hours and still manages to keep a positive attitude and a smile on his face. But, even when he puts in long hours, he always finds the time to be a supportive and loyal friend. Shep is that ear to listen, that helping hand at the drop of a hat, or just a big ol’ Sheppy hug if someone needs it. I mean, with all the weird, negative shit that goes on in the world, it’s so great to know there are people like Shep. With the willingness to spread love and positivity to the people he cares about and even to the people he has just met, giving all of this kindness while asking for nothing in return, that is truly inspiring! My buddy Shep, he is a rare flower in a bed of weeds and I couldn’t be more stoked to call him one of my best friends!” – Erika

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

“Please, always remember you’re loved, and that you should only accept people into your life that are willing to love you as much as you do!”


“Shep, you have never failed me. Not once. You have never judged me for anything I have ever said or done. You have never turned your back on me even when there was 10 miles of reasons to do so. When I am around you I know I’m safe. You continue to offer me love, respect, and your knowledge of the world. I can’t picture my life without you in it.” – Jack

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

“You inspire the people around you to become better people themselves. That is a FACT.”

(Video: Shep hearing some of what his friends/family wrote)

group13men_jasoninsw Jason – Insecurity ~

“Authenticity. Honesty. Truth. These are the things that I think about. Worry about and try to live by each day.

In 1985 I was in a small Pierce County town. 7th grade awkwardness, and a whole slew of new faces. 9th graders seem like adults and one wants to fit in. I began skateboarding, along with several other friends. Our crew was small, but included kids from each grade. One 9th grader, a kid I looked up to, as he was my sensei’s right hand, was super stylish, talked about surfing (who surfs in Sumner in ‘85?) and was a decent skater. We all want to impress, especially as a 12 year old, and I was no different. I worked hard to learn. To fall. To develop my style. I never heard Chad (the stylish kid) say it, but he apparently called me a poseur to our friends, our crew, repeatedly.

That stuck with me. Me, an awkward kid growing more gangly each week. A kid that wants to fit in. I saw Chad twice a week at Kung Fu, where I was learning how to use my new, growing body, as well as each day at school and when we skated. I never said anything about it to Chad, he wasn’t too kind to me, deciding instead to prove him wrong, to outlive his perception of me.

Later that year, it seemed that Chad skated less and less, high school rapidly approaching for him and involvement in a sport that was more likely to get a “skate or die faggot!” than a high five. I kept skating along with the rest of the crew, the lot of us getting better each week and pushing each other further. I still thought about the poseur comment daily. Shit, I still do.

I transferred schools in the middle of 9th grade so I never had the opportunity to see Chad through high school, though he hung up his skate, went to UW and became a police officer. Definitely the opposite of what we all were working towards as young kids. Was Chad authentic? Was he a poseur? Am I a poseur?

To this day I strive to be as real as I can. To be as honest with myself as I can. A number of years ago I wasn’t being honest with myself, ergo I was not honest with my family. It cost me a friendship, a marriage, an alternate reality. I was a drunk. I was lost. I lived my life with youthful abandon, which culminated in a mild stroke. It took a horrible relationship to knock some sense into me. Then, I met Jayme. Early on she said to me “I want you to be the best YOU you can be”. That really stuck. It was the beginning of Posi Vibes for me. Each day I strive to be real. To be as authentic and as honest as I can be. To be positive and supportive as much as I can. If that’s a poseur, I’m a proud poseur.”

(Video: discussion about Jason’s insecurity)
What do you find is the biggest challenge for men these days?

“I think it’s the same for everyone: being the best you you can be.”

If there is one thing women should know about men, it is…

“Right or wrong, most men work from a “logical” mind-set. They can also certainly manufacture “logic”.”

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

“Be yourself and try to avoid situations where apologies are required.”
group13men_jasonschoicewJason’s friends and family ~

“I love Jason’s passion for music and cooking. I love how Jason is not afraid to voice his opinion, even if it may not be popular. I admire Jason’s courage to fight a disease that tried to take him down once before and was unsuccessful.” – Gretchen

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

“You are beautiful and strong. You are loved.”
“First off, Jason is a passionate participant in most all things he involves himself in. He occasionally gets carried away by his passions, even, but there is something very magnetic about a person who immerses themselves so deep into a culture or process that they cannot fathom your facile appreciation. Secondly, he is one funny motherfucker. I have laughed hard, until tears stream, more than once while in his company. We share a similar gallows humor, and when times have been abysmal for me, he knows how to tap into that to lift me up, and I see him draw from that same well to bolster his own spirit now when he needs it most. Thirdly, he is an unflinchingly honest friend. His critiques can be hard to take sometimes – he does not mince words, and does not often suffer fools – but he is patient with those he values and unafraid to let them know when they aren’t living up to their own potential. On top of all of that the guy has always just had raw talent and taste to spare; he’s sharp and his abilities are mutable to the task at hand.” – Sean

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

“While not everyone “gets” you…the ones that do count you among their most loved and cherished friends, and even those who don’t get you know there’s something special going on wherever you happen to be.”
“When I first met Jason he was a banker. Literally, Jason was a guy with a suit and tie, sitting behind a desk, helping kids understand overdraft fees. The more I got to know him the less his job made sense. He loved local music. He went to shows all the time. He played in several bands. He was a former snowboard salesman who even had his own campaign, “Trust Jason Locking”. And he loved cooking. I think one of my favorite first memories of Jason was when he cut me off a chunk of perfectly roasted pork; He broke into a huge smile when he saw my face light up. Working at the bank was what most people consider a good job, but Jason hated it. So, he quit and went to work for Boeing. For many people a Boeing job is a life sentence. You get in, you do your job, you make money, you buy a boat, you get married, you have kids, you get divorced, you buy a jet ski, you buy cars, and you do all that over and over again until you’re 65 and you retire. There aren’t many people in the world that would quit a Boeing job to become a line cook at a local bar. But Jason fucking hated Boeing. Hated the monotony of a joyless work life. And so, he decided to quit and become a cook. That was a dark time. One thing people love about Jason is his easy smile and his hearty laugh. That stuff all seemed to have blown away as the storm clouds gathered. Deep changes force us to reconcile ourselves. Force us to face our demons. You can only run and hide inside a bottle of whiskey for so long before the demons crawl in there with you. I saw so many angry people around him at that time. People pissed off that he wasn’t living up to their expectations. Their expectations. That’s all he had done for so long was live up to other people’s expectations.
It was at his most depressed that he had a stroke. He was a young man, too young for those sorts of medical problems. But it was a reminder that life is short. I think more than most of us Jason knows that we only have one life. That it’s short and sometimes bitter and that we need to find joy in what we do. Maybe it was the stroke or maybe it was the fact that he had cancer when he was a teenager. It made him confront the fact that we are all ephemeral. And most important, that we need to express ourselves. To be ourselves. And what Jason wanted to be was a chef. So, he did that. I don’t know how you just decide you want to do something and just go do it. I should ask him! But he got a job at Hotel Murano, learned how to cook for hundreds of people, and when a sous chef job opened up a few months ago, he applied and got it. I’ve never seen Jason happier than when he was cooking. He made beautiful food. And he loved it. So, of course, he had to go and get cancer again. It’s like the universe telling us “fuck you, you’re not allowed to be happy.” Maybe that snowboard campaign all those years ago was prescient. Maybe they just knew that no matter what happens in life you just keep going. You just keep following your dreams. Maybe all we get is that one moment of joy in an otherwise somewhat boring and bleak existence. And that what we need to do is follow his example. We need to Trust Jason Locking.” – Tim

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

“I love that you’re an iconoclast.”
“Jason, you’re a fantastically intelligent person, and what I most enjoy about you is the way your mind works. Every time I have a conversation with you, whether we are talking about music, politics, sci-fi books, getting dumped, music, food, aliens, comedy or even music, I invariably walk away from the encounter feeling enlightened, with my mind grinding away on new ideas and perspectives that I didn’t have before. I also really like that you’re the kind of guy that – no matter how many friends you have around you (tons! every time!) – you always give me a hearty shout and a hug whenever I run into you. It isn’t easy for me to get out and be social, but when I see you on the invite list for some gathering, it gets a lot easier. I’m sure you remember the conversation that we had when you got that job at BOKA. I was feeling stuck in place in my job, and I sent you a note telling you how inspiring it was to see you step off the career path that wasn’t making you happy, and achieve something that you’d worked so hard for, that you loved doing. You told me that you had been similarly inspired by a big career change that I’d made many years ago. I had to laugh. And so the wheel goes around, sometimes you’re up and sometimes down. People come and go in your life, but I’m glad you’ve been a constant in mine and I want you to know how much I love and appreciate your friendship.” – Chad

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

“You burn bright, my friend. You’re the best of the best. The realest.”
“His determination, his outlook and his wanting to not let anyone down because of what he’s going through is baffling to me and inspires me. He is at times in pain and not able to play music with us and do what he loves to do. This is hard to watch and we yearn for a way to help and make him feel better. Instead he turns around and keeps US positive every time. He cares for people immensely and has been a good friend, often going out of his way to include others when they are having a hard time. All of this while having to deal with cancer and feeling the horrible effects of chemotherapy. I have been inspired to look at my life differently and change my outlook to a more positive one, thanks to Jason. I love his love for music and the electricity and spark that resonates when he talks about it or plays music. I am privileged to have that connection and watch his eyes light up when we are hella shredding so hard. I also enjoy his laughter and his really really crappy jokes.” – Justin

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

“Your compassion for others and your push to keep your friends positive has touched me personally many times. You have helped me up when I’m down even though you are having a hard time yourself. The world would be a better place if others were as giving in this regard. I’m so appreciative of this and grateful to call you a friend and bandmate. ❤”
“Hi, My name is Luke. I have known Jason for what seems like a lifetime. But, in fact, it has been a decade of love and loss that has cemented our foundation. I was a boy when Jason and I first started playing music together, following his reply to a cardboard advert looking for a bassist. What followed was a harsh but true career in music and life. We both found that no matter how hard life, love, and the pursuit of both led one to the present tense; blood runs deep. Blood works in strange ways. It keeps us alive and it kills us. Those of us with a heart pumping too much blood go in two directions; one kills and one survives. Jason taught me that I could be a boy lost in a city with a home. He brought a familiarity to my life I thought was a bullshit vibe only found through iPhone apps. God made dirt, and dirt fills the holes. I don’t believe, but I believe in this: Jason was there for me when I was a piece of gravel in the yard, and I landed myself in his tire for a while. That was the best journey of my life. Life will kill us all, but I hope I lived like Jason.” – Luke

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

“Through the garrulous waves of life, vexed and debated, this is the hour for which we waited.”
“At your core you are a decent man with fierce loyalties to your friends that have really become your extended family. I admire your ability to connect with people on such a deep level and proud that you are such a wonderful friend to many, including me. You have endured the lumps and bumps life has offered up with a sarcastic comment and a clenched fist to the sky; you are a warrior and you are my hero. Also you are handsome, talented, funny and smart.” – Marilyn

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

“Sometimes you question your strength, you are incredibly strong never doubt that.”
“Jason is the strongest person I have ever met. Let me repeat: Jason is the STRONGEST person I have ever met. In his lifetime, he has been through more hardships and struggles than any one soul should have to endure, and somehow he still has it in him to be the kind, thoughtful and charming man he is today. He is a true renaissance man; changing paths several times in his life, he always follows his heart- something I think we could all stand to do a little more. He finds a way to achieve in all of his endeavors, and I believe that is a true testament to his strength as well. Whatever new challenge is placed before him (or he places in front of himself), Jason works so hard to not only overcome it, but to be the very best he can be. He is so naturally talented, and I admire his will to constantly grow, change and learn.
Jason’s positivity and seemingly bottomless sense of humor are things I most appreciate and love about him. Even through the low times, and there have been some seriously low times, his ability to bring levity through laughter has saved us both from the edge on more than one occasion. Jason makes those around him feel at ease, and he is so engaging… it’s impossible to ignore his energy in a room. It’s no wonder why he has an endless list of good friends and people who hold him in high regard. The guy knows A LOT of people in a lot of different walks of life, and all of them have great stories and a kind word to say about him. I love Jason, with my whole heart. I can’t imagine where I would be without him. He challenges me to be a better ‘me’ every day, and he makes me feel good about the woman that I am. He is my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader and often times, my voice of reason. He is truly my partner in life. We’ve been on many adventures together, but with each one I learn more and more about the enigmatic Jason. He’s not perfect, and I’m glad he’s not. He’s real. He makes mistakes and owns them (most of the time). He doesn’t hide behind his past, but rather embraces it and uses it for fuel to become better than he was yesterday and that’s what I think I love about him best. I’m so grateful for his presence in my life, and I look forward to many more good times by each others’ side.” – Jayme

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

“YOU ARE AMAZING. You are strong and brave and I am so proud of you. We all are.”

(Video: Jason hearing some of what his friends/family wrote)

(I recently did a shoot with Jason, documenting a day-in-the-life of his current fight against Stage 4 pancreatic cancer – you can see just how kickass he really is here: Fuck Cancer)


Tyler – Insecurity ~

“My dad has never shown any interest in my life, unless it benefits him. Since I never got into football, dressed weird, and ended up w/ a lot of tattoos, he’s decided to focus on my younger brother. The star child. This is something that eats away at me daily. I find myself constantly questioning, “am I good enough?” That, on top of extreme abandonment issues. My dad has always been cold, emotionless & crude. I find these narcissistic traits surface in me from time to time, which makes me feel even worse about myself. Seeing the qualities in myself from a man who emotionally abandoned me. I have been estranged from my dad for 4 years now & he has given up all attempts to contact me. My hope is that his lack of pretense in my life will rectify these feelings of abandonment.”

(Video: discussion about Tyler’s insecurity)

What do you find is the biggest challenge for men these days?

“Keeping up w/ the status quo of what a man should be. Continuously judging one’s self on their own & other’s manhood.”

 If there is one thing women should know about men, it is…

“We are not all pigs & misogynists. Most of us look at you the same as we would anyone else. We are all equal & strive to make that evident.”

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

“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t let anything or anyone change you. You will be loved by those worth loving back.”


group13men_tylerschoicewTyler’s friends and family ~

“Pratt is always someone who will make someone feel apart of the group. If you’re an outsider he will make you feel welcome.” – Jack

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

“No matter how many times you fall down the stairs you always get back up and laugh it off. You aren’t going to let some stairs get in your way of having a good time.”

“Tyler has had to overcome adversity since he was a very small boy. He has overcome many obstacles and challenges to get to where he is today. He is a problem-solver and he is resilient. He has integrity, is an independent thinker, always sticks up for the underdog and is not afraid to take a stand against social injustice. Tyler is creative, talented and a gifted writer. I am so proud to be is mother.” – Jennifer

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

“That you matter, you are loved, you make a difference, and you deserve the very best.”

“Tyler is GIVER. A NURTURER. The STRONG, SUPPORTIVE backbone to all that he has PASSION for; whether it is someone, or something. He has such a strong DRIVE and DEDICATION to anything that he puts his head towards, a GO-GETTER. A hard worker who puts his all into everything he does. Whenever you’re around him, regardless if it’s your first time meeting him, or your millionth – he is so PERSONABLE, BONDING, JOYFUL, GOOFY, it’s hard not to smile. He’s the most PASSIONATE and ENTHUSIASTIC person I’ve ever had the pleasure to have in my life. That boy has a spot in a lot of hearts.” – Brittany

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

“Passion. He shows such drive, dedication in everything he does. He never half-asses anything, always giving his all. In work, hobbies, love, goals, ANYTHING. Gotta love him.”

(Video: Tyler hearing some of what his friends/family wrote)
group13men_chrisinswChris – Insecurity ~

“One of my main insecurities is that I don’t believe I am good enough at anything I do to be considered good enough. I do not think I am good enough at being a friend, since most birthdays I have I am lucky if I have anyone besides my husband to celebrate with – that includes parties/meet-ups that I have tried to throw. Nor do I receive messages from people who want to hang out, which itself makes me feel like I am uninteresting or people just feel meh around me. I don’t think I am smart enough with regards to my job – I feel that I don’t retain all the information in my head that I should, despite studying for it in college. I am not good enough at making financial plans, so putting off buying a house and having a family seems all too distant. I am not good enough at making sure I diet and exercise right and won’t be at my ideal body ever (especially doesn’t help now that I found I have genes that increase obesity likelihood). I am just not good enough and I am so lucky that I had someone marry me despite this. To quote/paraphrase Jean Luc Picard from Star Trek – The Next Generation, “you can do everything right and still lose” – which is basically what everyday feels like.”

(Video: discussion about Chris’s insecurity)

What do you find is the biggest challenge for men these days?

“I don’t think there is a single biggest challenge, but, one of the biggest challenges I see for men these days is critical thinking regarding their own conditioning. After having society (or even some families) telling you how you are supposed to be or act in life – it has to be asked why something makes sense and what actual evidence is provided for that determination. Questioning conditioning isn’t always something that increases productivity – but, it certainly keeps you from accepting what you are told.”

 If there is one thing women should know about men, it is…

“That men and women both have insecurities, many of which are similar in nature.”

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something, including being too tall to be a gymnast, as you are really good. Also, learn now how to invest.”


Chris’s friends and family ~

“His intellect, his sense of humor, his compassion. His love for food, music and art. His love of the Golden Girls.” – Del

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

“You are loved.”

“Chris and his big, beautiful brain always make me smile. He’s got mathematical tattoos and understands so much about the natural world. I’m so encouraged by his love for the world and fellow humankind, and his fierce adherence to the greater good in all things.” – Tom

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

 He had the best wedding in the world. Everything and everyone was perfect.”

“Chris is super intense – he’s really an intelligent and analytical person, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of being a really deeply loving guy. He is just a kind person. It just comes to him naturally- I’ve always admired that about him. He makes being a truly good person look easy- and to be honest I have always felt that was something I personally have to try at more times than not.” – Calli

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

“That he is loved by so many because he truly is “that friend”, one of the special ones❤”

“Chris Mooredrall is a very dear friend of mine. We met while I was married to a man and we hung out. We clicked right away! Chris and his husband were also some of my first art patrons, so they have a special place in my heart. I would describe Chris as sarcastically funny. I particularly value his sense of human consideration. Very kind-hearted and amiable. Sometimes he opens his mouth too much when he’s drunk, but it’s always a party during social occasions.” – Julian

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

“He should always remember to keep collecting gemstones and minerals, and to come opal hunting with me.”

“Chris has a beautiful heart… it draws him to the beautiful things in life and he gets so much joy from sharing these things with others… whether its food, a beautiful jazz song or the love for his husband. I’m always so inspired by him. He is incredibly smart and so confident and a hard worker…. those are things I admire above many other things in my friend. He always has an encouraging word and always seems to know when someone needs a compliment and his heart again is so open and so giving… but, don’t cross him…he will tell you about your life…but, in the most politely stern way, lol.” – Najamoniq

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

“People see you…and admire the way you’ve constructed a life of wonder, beauty and love.”

“Chris is fucking awesome. He can sing, he can dance, he can recite pi to fifty digits and solve physics equations in his underpants. He makes me giddy and misty eyed with handwritten notes expressing his love for me in cosmic analogies. When he holds me, I know I am safe in this world. Thoughtful and sensitive, strong and compassionate, he is my handsome husband, and one day, coming to a future near you, a proud father. How he acts with our younger nieces and nephews, and our friend’s children, only confirms my suspicion that when ours arrives, he will be the greatest dad in all of the universes. There is so much about Chris that I love, I just want him to know that I see all of this, I know all of this, and that I feel all of this. A brilliant romantic, his laughter fantastic, a bit quirky and spastic: he is perfect as is, but I know! He will continue to grow at an easy flow – a slow burn of eternal beauty and power, and Chris, I hope you see what I see, foreverly I love you” – Nick

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

“You are strange and beautiful. Embrace it all.”

(Video: Chris hearing some of what his friends/family wrote)

group13men_steveinswSteve – Insecurity ~

“I have sporadic, yet, constant flashes of self-doubt/paralyzing fear about not being “enough”; that I’m not good enough of a father, boyfriend, friend, brother, son, writer, photographer, historian, lodge brother, Cub Scout leader or bearer of the family name. Thank goodness, I am not the eldest son. I’m just the spare heir. These flashes come at odd times and range from shocks like I Iicked a battery to downright lightning bolts of terror. They then disappear and I continue with my day. But, sometimes they linger, like a bad haircut or nose zit before prom. I fear I don’t measure up, ever, anywhere, randomly. Most of all, that I don’t measure up to my family heritage and honor. My parents are proud of me, sure. They get a kick out of area notables asking if they are related to “The Steve Dunkelberger.” But in the end, I feel it is not enough. I don’t want to be memorialized in bronze, but I do want someone to say at my deathbed, “Steve was a good man. He mattered. He upheld the family name.”

(Video: Steve elaborating on insecurity)

What do you find is the biggest challenge for men these days?

“Not being “allowed” to be real, with each other or with their relationships. Women have the cultural acceptance to some degree of pampering themselves (retreats, spa days, girls night outs) and self-exploration and reflection. Men do not. So we don’t, and the world suffers from that.”

If there is one thing women should know about men, it is…

“We are all vulnerable and just like to snuggle on the couch. Some just don’t want to admit it.”

What advice would you give your 10 year old self?

“Making friends is easy, keeping them close is hard, but, well worth the effort. It is not how much time spent with them, it’s how real and rooted you are during that time that counts.”


Steve’s friends and family ~

“Dear Steve:
You are not afraid to be who you are. You are you. No matter what people say, or think, you know the person’s opinion that matters most is yours.

You are quirky.
You are a nerd.
You do an amazing Hot Dog Dance.
You are Captain America.
You are an awesome Dad.
You are my brother.

Love you, poohbear!


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

“When someone tell you you’re weird say, “Thank you!””


You are a man of amazing intellect, talents, and gifts! Your incredible wit and wisdom make you one of the most engaging people to talk with that I have ever met (a trait that I am extremely envious of). I truly enjoy hearing your insightful perspective on our world and the people in it. You see the goodness and the goofiness in everything around you and while you certainly see the bad (e.g. greed, power/fear mongering, and hatred), you don’t dwell on that; you instead share with others the beauty and humanity that you see around you. You are a fantastic human being! The world could use a lot more Steve Dunkelbergers!” – James


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

“You see the things that others don’t!”

“What I admire most is Steve’s integrity. I love his sense of humor even when some of it is beyond my real understanding. He is a walking book of trivia and some useful knowledge, too.” – Constance

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

“To believe in himself and be true to himself.”

“I admire his positivity and ability to be in a cheerful mood even when it’s difficult. I love his generous nature, always helping out a friend or loved one. I love the way he supports me, never tears me down, always lifting me up. I love how I can talk about anything with him.” – Kathleen

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

He is worthy of love. He is the one I choose to be with.”

(Video: Steve hearing some of what his friends/family wrote)


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group 7! – MEN!!! (nope, not women) men: raw. honest. loved.


My eyes have been opened.
As I was prepping to leave for this particular group, my boyfriend’s words to me were this: “The only advice I have for you tonight is, don’t be surprised.” I didn’t quite know how to respond to this, except to admit that I actually had no expectations. In all honesty, with each group that has taken place, I have learned to have no expectations. Things seem to go along the same, and things seem to go along different. I learn things with every group and I was MORE than ready to learn things with this one…and learn, I did.

When I started this project, it was with the primary intention that women discuss insecurities, stop with the trash-talking and tearing each other down, and instead, start building one another up.
Soon after the first group, I began to receive inquiries from both men and women as to when I would be holding a men’s group.
A men’s group? Why would I do a men’s group? Men aren’t known for trash-talking and tearing one another down, right? Men solve their problems, generally physically, right?? Honestly, that’s where my ignorant brain naturally went.

Well, as the project continued, I really began to appreciate what so many participants have mentioned as being beneficial: that it is liberating. That it promotes discussion among families and friends. That we are reminded that we are not alone. That our insecurities lose their power.

So, my thought then became, why NOT do a men’s group? Even as I was unaware of entirely what it would achieve, it was worth a try. As I began to think about it more and more, I began seeing the topic of “manliness”, what it means to “Be A Man” appear around me more and more. I found myself watching the trailer for the new documentary from the team behind MissRepresentation – a new film called “The Mask You Live In” , which addresses societal pressures put on young boys and, in turn, carried into adulthood…pressures to “MAN UP!”, to not be sensitive (“What a pussy!”), to not be emotional (“Men don’t cry! Get over it!”), to BE A MAN.

After viewing that trailer, I was sold. This needed to be addressed. And so, I began to seek out the men that had inquired about the potential of a men’s group, along with a few men whom I just saw as being brave, honest humans.

Group 7 was born. I knew that a men’s group would be received well in general, especially since the majority following this project are women, and what woman doesn’t want to know what the men are thinking? But, I also didn’t want any potential for negativity about men being vulnerable before we even started. So, we tried to keep the eventuality of this group really quiet.

One thing I can tell you after this group…men are more sensitive, emotional, and introspective than society seems to give them credit for. They often desire to express themselves as gentle and caring, but this is pretty much beat out of them by our culture…leaving us with a world of violence and anger. Because that’s what is acceptable. That sort of machismo and swaggering arrogance ends up being mistaken for bravery. To me, and to most, I think, that sort of braggadocio is equal to douchebaggery (it is a word in its own right and serves a purpose here, so, it is staying).

True bravery is honesty.

True bravery is these five men.

These men admitted, as the majority of the women participants have, that their participation in this project initially had them anxious, “really fucking nervous”, and apprehensive. Not knowing what to expect. But, in their words, they found the project bold and daring. They felt it challenged the preconceived notion that it’s not acceptable for men to be vulnerable, open, and honest.

Here are some of their words on that topic of being vulnerable:

“The expectation is to “Nut up. Walk it off.” – Why can’t it be, “Let’s talk about why you feel this way. Let’s have a conversation’?”

When a man appears emotional, the response is, “Look at that pussy.” “Let’s continue to tear him down because that’s not what a man is. You’re not supposed to be weak.”

The resulting “lashing out in violence and the increasing suicide rate is because men don’t really talk about things…’I’m gonna be quiet about it. I’m gonna MAN UP.’ We’re supposed to internalize…just don’t talk about it…we don’t talk about it.”

They wanted to participate because they felt it would be “an interesting switch – it might change the context of what the original project was. Men are so different from women in regards to how they look at each other, how they treat other, how they expect behavior from each other. It’s entirely different. I thought the possibility for the unexpected was really, really interesting and I wanted to be a part of that.”

“Once you put something like this out there, it’s easier to diminish its power. Maybe it will be easier to not dwell on what is dissatisfying about myself.”

“I think it is a wonderful outlet…thought I could help shed some light on the male perspective. Wanted to be able to share that we are sensitive, we are caring, and that we can love each other just as much as anyone else.”

“I thought the men’s group would be really interesting – a different take on the whole thing…a completely different perspective. This broadened the horizons in a really interesting way – a more global perspective.”

And, so, they jumped in. And they were ready for discussion.
And discuss, we definitely did.

In preparation for these groups, I always do some online research.
According to the many articles on the internet, many of men’s insecurities have to do with the physical, just like women. Their hair, their bodies, how they perform sexually. Let me just mention that none of these things were mentioned in our discussions on this night. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they’re not an issue with these five guys? Maybe what they mentioned as their insecurities are much deeper and effecting than the physical self-image? Or maybe, as I suspected with the teen group that we did, these are still things that they don’t want to put out there for others to nitpick? Those are questions for these men. And ones that I didn’t broach…not because I am not interested…merely because I forgot, and there were so many other interesting things we were discussing.

* societal views about providing for a family
* feelings of disgust at one’s seemingly innate character
* feelings of inadequate intelligence
* feeling that one has made no impact on others
* feeling a failure

All of this discussion brought some seriousness, a lot of laughter, a lot of relating and understanding, and, yes, even tears. And when there were tears, there was no “Man Up!” spoken. There was no name-calling. There weren’t even expressions that conveyed anything close to those things. Rather, there were hugs. There was compassion. There were words spoken in reassurance. It was beautiful to witness and to be a part of.

And when these men heard the words that their loved ones wrote in about them, their expressions cracked. There was some lip-biting, some nervous laughter, some big smiles. There was vulnerability and there was appreciation.

I am indebted to these men for being so vulnerable and so open. You also will likely feel the same after reading all of this.

(Thank you, you five. I love each of you and I appreciate you so very much.)

Before you get into their stories, I leave you with some words from them about the evening in general…

“Nobody gives a shit about what makes you feel bad about you in your normal life, and quite justifiably, being a white male. But, in a room with people who are supporting you and who are interested in why you are feeling that way and interested in how you can move past it, I think that’s a major advantage in niche projects like this.”

“What surprised me was the openness – how willing people were to be personable and vulnerable and speak on terms with people we’ve never met before in a very open forum, as well as in a compassionate and caring way. I think it says a lot about what we are capable of as people.”

“This project was a really inspiring process. A way to connect with people in a very different way, and a very easy way. I would definitely recommend it for others – it was very liberating and definitely cool to be a part of.”

“Now I feel relieved. It’s nice to just get that out into space, about how I feel about myself, as I don’t always say exactly what I mean. I can give great advice, but sometimes I don’t listen to myself.”

“I think everyone should do this project. Any preconception you had about this project will probably be shattered and blown up into just the most amazing thing. It’s a really great experience. Tonight was a lot of fun…It brought a lot of perspective to everything as to what I can do and what I should do, as well as the fact that there are others, friends and family, who are supportive.”

“It’s good to get this out there, and if it can help other people, that’s good. Now, knowing how other people think about me, maybe I can bring that into my own self-identity.”

“I would recommend that others participate. It’s a great occasion to think about yourself and your place in the world. You realize that you’re not alone and that people love you…that’s it. Everything you think about yourself is really just you thinking it about yourself, getting too much into your own head.”

“I would like to see men more open and honest with each other…if you’re having trouble, your friends should be there for you. You should value your friendships on something deeper and not so vacuous. You should really mean it when you say that you are someone’s friend and that you love them…and it’s not just the beer talking.”

And now, meet Ash, Allen, Nick, Ian, and Josh…(and know that I am incredibly excited about the idea of more men’s groups…so, bring it on!)

Here is a video clip of some of the men’s responses to Josh succumbing to a little emotion…

ashinswAshley ~

“Since perhaps my mid-teens, and even more-so during my adulthood as I stumble across increasing self-awareness, I have considered myself to be a mostly dishonest, larcenous, opportunistic coward, and I fear that the people I love will at some point see through the curtain of practiced, semi-decent behavior that I have learned to use to distract them with. Being good is not reflexive for me. I still have to consider what “the right thing” is. During an extremely candid conversation with one of my oldest friends, we agreed that I was a rat-person – my natural state, without the positive influence of my loved ones, is one of running, hiding, stealing and raw self-preservation. These are not traits I admire in anyone.”

Ash’s friends and family:

“Ashley is a swell fellow… the swellest of fellows you’ll meet in this meadow. Ahead though, I will say that he is well put-together.
Ashley is a gentleman, a loving husband and father to his beautiful wife and children.
He is passionate of his artistries…his music. From Can to A.C… UK RnB… Completely unpredictable, however, and it will be researched and catalogued. Cliff Notes available after the session along with refreshments.
Have you seen any of his tattoo work?
I also just like to just hear Ash talk. It’s hypnotizing. Like a bass line to a Tricky song. Or a devil in Helsinki. Hypnotic and frenetic, calm and fantastic… and he can always make me laugh, and laugh fucking hard.
I love Ashley, for he is a great man, and my friend.” – Nick

“I met Ash years ago when he answered the door of Jamey’s house, looking like he just woke up from a nap. He was immediately friendly and lovable. Ash is one of the most enthusiastic, loyal, and devoted people I have ever met. He lights up a room with his joie de vivre. I am proud to be in the Hand Panther Fan Club. My husband has carried on a love-fest bromance with him for years, and it is nice to see how well Ash gets along with everyone in Jamey’s life. It’s not every man that can abide living with his wife’s ex, much less fully integrate that person into the family. He is ‘effing awesome. And you can take that to the bank! Hearts!” – Diana


1. Ashley loves…wife, stepchildren, family members & extended family, friends, & Orr. A special love was his late maternal grandmother, Rose. They had a special bond.
2. Ashley loves music of the alternative type. He collects albums & is very knowledgeable about music of this genre.
3. Ashley is extremely artistic & is learning the art of the tattoo.
4. Ashley most likely has a genius I-Q & an exceptional emotional I-Q.
5. Ashley has always liked to read. He retains what he reads.
6. Ashley once was an elementary school spelling champion!
7. Ashley (& Jamey) chose a wedding date that includes the numbers 666…
8. Ashley very much resembles his late maternal uncle Eddie A. Pettit.
9. Ashley gives great hugs!
10. Ashley once went by the nickname of “Deed”.
11. Ash’s middle name is Dean.
12. Ashley raises chickens in his back yard.” – Zella

“I don’t see Ashley often enough. He may not know it, but he has been one of my best friends since I met him in 2004 when he worked at a record store on 6th Avenue. My memory of that time is a little blurry, but what I remember is he accepted me coming into the store routinely, picking his brain about music and hanging out for WAY too long. I found him easily approachable, but I remember trying not to overstep my boundaries, so I would consciously spend a bunch of time looking through the racks and let him do his thing. I realize now that maybe I didn’t really need to do that – I think he probably enjoyed the fact that I asked him so much about music, and what was good, and what wasn’t, and what he recommended this week and why and what kind of music is THAT and wow they did WHAT for this record by the ocean lining up a bunch of microphones along the shore? Because Ash likes sharing his abundant enthusiasm. That is one of the many things I love about him. He has such an enthusiasm for life and art and music and fun and finding meaning in things, people, situations. I have often repeated to him something he said to me once: “Enthusiasm is important. It makes the world shiny.”

Like many of my friendships, music is more or less an entry point and common bond that translates into something much deeper. Ash has always been someone I’ve looked up to, but it never made for an uneven friendship even as I went through a lot of formative years, my twenties, with him and Jamey and the whole family. He always treated me with respect and kindness as I was kind of awkward and probably really obviously looking for direction in life and seeking new things, whatever they were, while figuring myself out. Ash has had enormous patience with me over the years.

Ash is a critical thinker – so intelligent and creative, good-humored and funny, gentle but no pushover, responsible but never a bore. Despite all of this, he is not at all arrogant or prideful. Rather, he seems humorously self-deprecating more often than not. I see most of these characteristics in his family life. From what I can tell, I think he loves his family more than anything. I mean, that’s as it should be, right? But, it is so clear with Ash. I remember shortly after he and Jamey got married, I was hanging out at the record store with him ’til he closed up shop. He got his bike and we parted ways outside. He said, “See ya, dude, I’m gonna go home and hang out with my wife!!” He was super excited. Pretty sure he still is.

Ash has taught me so much about how to be a loving, responsible, interesting, interested, thoughtful adult that isn’t afraid to be himself, but also isn’t afraid to change himself when he really should. He probably doesn’t realize that he taught me so many of these things but that’s because he doesn’t try to force others around, and all I had to do was be his friend and observe. Though we may not see each other often (lately), I can always count on him to be my friend. Ain’t nothin’ change.” – Joshua

“Hi Alana,

What is there to write about Ash? Well, first let this be said. He possesses a wonderful child like spirit and a loving heart. There are few who are as inclusive without some unseen or recognizable motive. Ash possesses a passion for music and creativity that is only challenged by the love he holds for his wife and family. He is an inspiring guy!


“Every time I go out for Chinese food and look at the Chinese Zodiac placemat I am reminded of my friend Ash when I look at his birth year in the sign of the Monkey. Of course the positive traits of his Chinese Zodiac sign fit him to a “T”- intelligent, dignified, romantic, optimistic, quick-witted, sociable, and he has always been a motivator in the various projects we have undertaken together. And it’s only fitting that the year he was born the governing elemental sign was METAL!! He, too, has been like a brother to me, and I love him sincerely and dearly…” – Anthony

“To Ashley whom I love,

You are the most amazing person I have ever met. ferreals. You are the only person I have ever wanted to be around all the fucking time. Or even some of the time. Or any of the time ever. You have my favorite brain, my favorite laugh, my favorite dumb jokes, my favorite hands, my favorite…um…eyes.

Hey! I think you’re the best.

I miss you when you’re gone! Every morning I consider myself lucky to be waking up with you. Every day I consider myself lucky to be having lunch with you. Every evening I consider myself lucky to be climbing into our delightful bed with you. (The fact that you let me have the remote isn’t lucky; it’s just a testament to your sweet and giving nature.)

You are one of the most self-reflective, self-aware people I have ever known. (Despite your constant insistence it’s not true…) I see you looking into you, trying to consider things from all sides, genuinely trying to resolve issues within yourself and with others. It’s something I wish I consciously did more often.

You are an amazing dad. I see you with our kids. That is love. That is compassion. That is a desire to see someone do what you never could, and to have what you never had. You never wanted kids, then at 23 you were sucked into a ready-made family – you jumped in feet first and never looked back. They never doubted you for a second and you can see it when they tell you they love you.

You are brave. What? You don’t know how to do something? You just teach yourself or find someone else to teach you and then, bam. You do it. (It’s one of those talents that I am in awe of and always selfishly wish you would use it for things that would benefit me. Didn’t you say you were going to learn how to sew me dresses??) Your ability to be happy as the center of attention is an act of bravery I can never imagine accomplishing. Singing. Talking. Playing. You don’t even care. As long as you are having a good time, it’s on and awesome.

You are gallant. For someone who so brazenly insisted he was a misogynist at every turn all those year ago, you have never, ever, been anything but the best kind of feminist. You have given the kids an excellent example of how someone should treat other humans. Fairly… with decency and courtesy… not like meat…(for the record, I don’t think that getting a boner when I cry makes you a misogynist, I think it makes you a husband.)

You are pretty funny. Now…don’t get too excited about this one. While you may be the funniest person I have ever known…you are still not as funny as you think you are. And I love you anyway.

I worry about how you see yourself. I remember the first time I saw you naked. Kinda…it may have been the second time…we were pretty drunk the first time. You were perfect. 10 years later, still perfect. Your giant calves and scary warrior thighs. Your lil cuppy bottoms. Your hair shirt. Your long torso. The best forearms ever. The hands you touch with completely. You are my perfectly man-shaped man who can pick me up whether I want you to or not. You are strong and amazing to me. Your body is strong and amazing to me. I just John Mayered and then deleted it. I’m kind of regretting it. I’m gonna try and keep moving so I don’t go and put it back in…damn.

This letter is going on too long and not saying everything the way I want it said. I love you. More than anything. You are the brilliant, hilarious, beautiful, and brave man I never knew I needed. I couldn’t imagine a world without you.

Wife” – Jamey

alleninswAllen ~

“Initially sitting down and thinking about insecurity, or the insecurities that riddle through my daily life all the way to the grand scheme of things – I was hard pressed to find a few that really screamed out at me. It’s been my experience that these insecurities – or defects, rather – tend to snowball together. However, I was able to file it down exceptionally.

The insecurity that I feel in every crick, every step, and seem to see everywhere, is whether I have the ability or aptitude to provide. It seems to have some foothold in my life and dare say some of my personality. The notion of being able to provide, to take care of, to create security. Growing up in a traditional home where my father made most of the money and provided for nearly all that we as a family were able to do financially; paired with social standards and a community that flaunted a bravado of the haves and have-nots, seem to have hammered this idea that I must be able to live up to these unreasonable social expectations.

I think there’s an incredible difference between doing what you have to do in order to survive, for yourself, your family, whatever the reason. But there is an entirely different connotation I feel with this notion of failing to provide; that I’m not at a point professionally where I can afford a house, or the accommodations that a family would call for. I’m single; I don’t have kids or a wife…no one to provide for except myself. With that said, I still seem to attribute this lack of ability to some, if not most, of my confidence, attitude, emotional responses, and more prevalent in most of my failed relationships…that’s not to say it’s the majoring factor or the absolute reason. But I can’t seem to help but feel that my monetary prowess has a significant role in what the opposite sex finds attractive about me. Logically, I know this not to be true in all cases, but, emotionally, the thought definitely has weight.

At the core of the matter, rationally, I believe that at this point in society, households call for dual income. I know that if a time comes where I’m involved with someone, it will undoubtedly be both of us contributing so we can provide for each other. I also think that couples should do whatever is in their best interest as a unit. Whether that means he stays home to take care of the kids and daily duties while she goes off and makes that coin, or if it’s in a more “traditional” sense. We can mix and match roles in a family unit any which way, it all boils down to what a family unit decides is acceptable for them – not society or its expectations.”

Allen’s friends and family:

“I’ve know Allen for a little bit over two years now; in that time I have had the great pleasure to watch him grow from an on-edge, frustrated, fearful, and angry young man into the person he is today. I would characterize Allen as thoughtful to the point of insightful, honest and courageous to the point of being vulnerable, and, though I know he has fears, I have watched him be fearless.
Allen is also a talented musician, which he claims is a blessing and a curse. I have had the pleasure to sneak in and listen to him play when he thinks he is alone and the passion he has for music carries into all other aspects of his life. He is also tremendously supportive and loyal. I would never have guessed that I would have forged a friendship with the young man I first met, but am glad that today I can count him as such.

My apologies for the tardiness of this letter, his request deserved a much more prompt response.

Good luck on your ambitious project,

Allen tells it like it is, really. Whenever I ask him for advice, it always makes sense in a very simple way. I think that brings out a lot of his own honesty and reflects on his moral character because I can trust him.

Creates bromance!
The first couple times I met Allen I was hesitant to ask another guy for his phone number because it might have been perceived in a different way. It started there and now it has matured into something only “true bros” can understand.

Positive Influence and Feedback
All Heart.

Allen is very good at learning new things. His mind tends to pick up activities/hobbies easily and during discussion, it can be easy for me to follow.

He’s a go-getter! We all have our bumps in the road, but Allen handles situations with such class that his mindset is always committed to succeed.” – Austin

“Allen has made a lot of really positive changes in his life over the last few years. He is introspective and examines his motivations and intentions. He is always trying to improve himself, his relationships, and his life. While his sobriety is important, he will not settle on just being sober, but puts a lot of thought and effort into being the best human being he can be. He has overcome a lot and managed to come out on the other side stronger than ever.

Allen is a no bullshit kind of person. He calls it as he sees it. You never have to wonder what he’s thinking, or what his true intentions are…he’ll tell you. 🙂 While he may be brutally honest at times, he has a heart of gold and would never purposefully hurt anyone. He might seem like a tough guy on the outside, but you could never call him unemotional. In fact, he probably experiences emotions more deeply than most. He can be found at the gym lifting weights, or at home working on a craft project. He will talk openly about his feelings, which is (unfortunately) not common enough with men. He is empathetic and gives loves freely and easily, whether to his friends, romantic relationships, or his bitchy cat. I can’t believe he hasn’t strangled that cat yet.

Allen is tenacious. He doesn’t easily give up on anything he wants. He puts more thought, time and effort into accomplishing his goals than probably anyone else I know.

And, most importantly, Allen is one of the most loyal people I know. He’ll do anything for his friends and family. He’s one of those people you can call anytime or anywhere when you need help and he’ll drop everything to help you…even if it’s an annoying, terrible task you need help with. He greatly values relationships in his life and accepts others for who they are. He is the kind of person you know will be your friend for life. Never in my life have I experienced men who will call and chat on the phone for an hour talking about nothing in particular, and I am very thankful that James has that kind of friendship with Allen. His friendship means so much to James and I and we are very grateful to have him in our lives.” – Jenn

nickinswNick ~

“I feel dumb. Everyone talks me out of thinking like this. Oh you know about music. Not like all my music-minded friends! (nearly all of you!) … I’m not book-smart. And I am barely street-smart. Conversations are fleeting and daft… full of jokes and one-liners. Deep inside, it can become paralyzing. Ignorance is bliss? Yes. And dumb.”

Nick’s friends and family:

“Nick is one of the most beautiful people I have the privilege of knowing, inside and out. He is a shining example of what a human being should be- kind, generous, warm, humorous, and above all, caring. And to top it all off, he’s devilishly handsome! I love this man like a brother and will continue to for the rest of my days…” – Anthony

“When Nick shared that he would be doing this project, I wondered what in the hell kind of insecurities he could possibly have.
Nick is brilliant, strong, kind and gentle. He is the kind of person you want to have on your side. He is an example, a leader, an overwhelming warm sun on a cold day.
There is so much strength within him and I’m not sure if he realizes that. He has faced down societal and personal adversity throughout much of his life with quiet fortitude. I admire this about him and have been grateful for the opportunity to learn this from him because I have been one to piss and moan about the isolation society has placed on me as a person.
He is a most amazing musician with an unmatched strange creative capacity like this world has not yet known. I hope that he will be able to share this with the whole world and they will love his music and ability as much as I do.
Nick is my love. Nick is my miracle. He is what I needed at the right time. He is someone to look up to.
“Clouds disappear when they see you…” darling. And I know that those aren’t just my sentiments.” – Melinda

“Nick has been my friend, probably my closest friend, for almost twenty years. I could say my favorite thing about him is just how much he is able to make me feel loved, because he is so fucking good at that – I can plummet down the deepest oceanic canyon of terrible darkness and there at the bottom would be Nick, waiting to give me a hug and let me know he’s got me. That wouldn’t be enough explanation, however, and that’s more about me than him anyway. No, what is wonderful about Nick is his fearlessness, and his confidence. Regardless of where he is, whom he’s around, or what the situation is, Nick doesn’t alter or dilute who he is for anyone’s sake. To everyone’s great benefit, Nick is unfailingly honest and hilarious; he’s genuine and kind and unwilling to take any shit from any assholes. He’s the example of how we should all hope to be – willing to be good people by just being ourselves.” – Ashley

“Nick has been in my life 4 years now. He is tall, handsome, sexy, has a sense of humor, is thoughtful, kind, caring, easygoing, empathetic, sensitive, selfless, and loving. The universe has somehow allowed our meeting together so that I may share a life with him. He has so much talent writing words to me, and brings me flowers just because. He knows me so well he sometimes anticipates what my wants are. He is a great father to our kitties- and will thus be a great father to our human children one day. He has the best smile in the world – even more so when he shrugs his shoulders, and his humor is in touch with mine. He can see the art and beauty in things that others may look past, with a childlike wonder. He is much more knowledgeable about music than anyone I know, and remembers minute details in things I never would have. He is intelligent and has some of the most brilliant epiphanies that make you wonder why something had never been thought of. He listens to me when I ramble on about anything. He is open-minded to new things and brave. He makes sure he compliments those who deserve it, though he is modest himself. He wants everyone to be happy. How can I not love him? I cannot say enough good things that will do him justice!” – Chris

ianinswIan ~

“My insecurities are like everyone else’s. Being alone, being in a bad relationship. Being hated, or worse, not being loved. I so want to be in love but I find that I don’t really leave room in my life for those opportunities. I’ve been in so many unsuccessful relationships that I have fire-walled myself and I shy away from true intimacy. It’s easier to be alone than to have to accommodate another person’s feelings, insecurities and mannerisms.
My biggest fear is not leaving a mark on the world after I’m gone. Not having any impact at all, good or bad. I just don’t want to be easily forgotten by the people I value.”

Ian’s friends and family:

Understated. If I had one word, understated is the one I would use for you. I used to think you were quiet, but over the years I’ve come to realize that you are contemplative. Some thoughts escape your lips, but most escape in music, photo, video, and story. Creative and skillful, you are able to select a medium that delivers the particular message you want to convey. And, once delivered, you are careful to weigh whether it had the intended impact.
It took many more years for me to understand the balance of your will and heart. Do you remember when you asked me to give a blanket to a transient? Do you recall recording a friend’s wedding vows, and later, a dying man’s memories? I remember these things about you.
Your heart is generous and tender, and a vigorous will protects it against thieves and misfortunes. You may just as easily lend your hand to a stranger as you would decline an invite from a friend, if each serves the greater purpose that you have in mind. Your peace with that state of being is formidable and brave. I respect you deeply for having something to protect, and for protecting it fiercely.
I cannot omit the trust I enjoy when I count on you as a confidant. Never a gossip and always a friend, the secrets spoken to you are harbored for safekeeping. It may seem like a small thing that all people can manage, but it is a rare gift.
You are a respected man and a cherished friend.” – Rachel

“I call Ian my dark MacGyver because he can fix anything with a piece of tinfoil, a penny and a wooden peg. The dark part of my loving nickname doesn’t come from the shade of his soul but instead, his slick fashion sense. Ian’s soul is most likely a shimmery gold color due to his propensity to help as many people as he can, in whatever way he can. He loves his mother and tells her every day. He is always kind and respectful to everyone he meets. He is distinguished and handsome which makes him popular with the ladies, even if he doesn’t realize it. He is a thoughtful and wise father who always makes time for his son. And he is an extremely talented filmmaker and computer genius. We have been friends so long and have been through so many things that I can honestly say we have made it to sibling status. I can go to sleep every night knowing that if anyone ever hurt me, that they would be murdered within 24 hours.” – Rhi

Bigger than life
Big smile

My wonderful friendship with Ian began in high school, over twenty years ago. Out of the many people that I have been in contact with from high school over the years, he is probably the only person from that time period who has retained their awesome character traits and intriguing personality that made me love him so much to begin with. Because of this, I have much respect for him. He has always been a kind human being. He is warm and attentive when engaged in conversation. He is creative and articulate, which has only gotten better with age. To be cliché, Ian is like a fine, complex wine whose character and intricacy have developed into a richer and truer human being over time. I love his logical mind, his creative enthusiasm and curiosity for everything in life, and his respect for all people. On top of all of this, he has a beautiful smile and a smart sense of humor. Definitely a keeper!

P.S. Ian, If you ever need me to write you a ad again, just ask! ;-P

P.S.S. Just kidding and I love you!” – Trish


I have been following this project and have been moved to tears several times. I “sort of” know Rhi and Rachel, and think they are connectors and magic makers – I include you in this magic making. Thank you for such a powerful project.

I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to submit a testament of love for Ian Price. He’s a parade and a fist full of wildflowers and a whirlwind of warm vanilla smells and all kinds of sunbursts and favorite sweaters all rolled into one blue-eyed package.

Here is my testament:

I’m pretty crazy about Ian. I get a little swoony when I see him, but not for the reasons you may think. Yes, he is tall and mysterious seeming. Yes, he has extremely sexy body language. Yes, his voice is enough to send your heart end over end.

But I am crazy about Ian for so many more reasons:

I am crazy about Ian because he is so gentle. He will hug you and mean it with his entire self. When he speaks to you his voice is so full of kindness and compassion that you are overwhelmed with gratitude. His words are always honest and loving and they feed you. Ian is always generous with his words. He gracious with his praise. He means it when he says your art meant something to him. He is sincere when he gives a compliment.

Ian is fiercely loyal. I have no question that Ian would lay down his life for his friends/family. Ian is admirable. Ian’s son Sage has had the benefit of having a father figure in his life that leads by incredible example. Ian has been a man of integrity and compassion and strength. I think it’s beautiful that Ian has shown Sage what family means and that family cannot be defined by others. Ian has built a family through his character and because of this his family loves him deeply and truly.

I am crazy about the way Ian treats women. I know Ian considers women equal to him. Still, Ian has a way of making women feel adored, revered, and a little magical. Ian will open every door for you but still consider your contribution to be very valid. It’s a delicate balance that only Ian seems to manage so sensitively.

I am crazy about Ian’s sincerity. He is sincere and kind and intensely thoughtful. Ian is thoughtful. If you have ever received a mixed tape or birthday present or hell, a cigarette from Ian, you know what I mean. It’s a thoughtful exchange meant to make you happy in a very personal way. That’s another of Ian’s gifts – making you feel special to him.

Ian loves to share – if he loves something, he can’t help tell you about it, show it to you or introduce you to it somehow. Ian is a person who wants everyone to feel that amazing feeling he has discovered. It might be a song or a movie; it might be a type of coffee or a piece of art. Whatever it is, it’s a thrill to see his face when he shares this discovery with you. Ian isn’t about ‘being first’ or having ‘finder’s rights’ – he genuinely wants to see you giddy and excited. My favorite way Ian shares is through his talents. Sure he will fix your computer, but he’ll do a little extra because that’s his style. His talents are never wasted. His talents are shared, taught, gifted and always humble. Ian is humble in the most beautiful way.

To me, Ian is profoundly experimental. Ian might want to touch you in a way that you’ve never been touched, kiss you slowly to an entire Deftones album or let you cook him some crazy vegan pepita dip to eat with gluten free crackers. I love this about him.

It looks like I’ve already filled a page and I have so much more to share about Ian’s incredible qualities. If there was one thing I would want Ian to know about himself, it’s that he has impacted my life greatly. I trust him. We may not see each other as often as I might like, but I think of him often and it’s always a gorgeous daydream. I don’t know anyone else whom I could phone up and share a personal pain or joy and have the person on the other end embrace me with the sort of kindness and ease as Ian.
Any time I get to spend with him is remembered in my mind as a sort of suspended scene in a film or piece of music – seductive and powerful. Ian makes me feel like the time we shared was completely given into. I am ever so grateful that there is a man out there who can find and embrace the beauty in me that I haven’t discovered in myself.

These are some words that came to mind when I first thought of this project and what I might say about Ian:

Surprise inside!!

Submitted with pounding affection,
Miss Rucker”

Joshua ~

“I often consider myself a failure. Incredibly unreliable. The most fitting words I can come up with to describe the feeling are “extreme underachiever.” I have been given every opportunity in the world, had every advantage…to be successful, stable, self-actualized, all that goodness…and I seem to have botched it at nearly every turn for most of my life. I have had so many chances, so many great opportunities to run with, and I have routinely come up short. It has improved in the last couple of years, but I still manage to not live up to all of my responsibilities and create a lot more work cleaning up after myself or playing catch-up – whether it’s as a friend, a son, or brother, or in creative projects, or, fill-in-the-blank, whatever aspect of life.
Why do I feel that way? Well, I feel like if I look at what I’ve achieved in life as an adult, or even going back into middle school days, it just doesn’t feel like nearly as much as it should have been. And it’s become this weird self-fulfilling prophecy thing. Feeling like such an underachiever has led to self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns over the years that have affected relationships, jobs, my self-image, and caused high anxiety and depression.
At this point I don’t know – it’s a chicken or the egg thing, I don’t know if the anxiety and depression that came first, or what. It’s hard to make a logical narrative of it, but these things have been feeding into each other. I compare myself to others and what I see others have achieved. I look at what is needed to simply survive in the world, what is considered a worthwhile skill set, and I’m just scared of whether or not I can make it, if I’ve come far enough yet and how I’m going to keep myself afloat and whether I have worked hard enough, and of course thinking I should have worked harder in the past.
Looking at the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve felt compelled to reassess my identity and I make what is, of course, ANOTHER mistake of abusing myself and basing my identity on my screw-ups, my shortcomings, the things I didn’t accomplish. Essentially I’m refusing to forgive myself for how I’ve upset other people’s lives and my own, and these things overshadow whatever other qualities I have…they, in turn, become the focus of my anxious mind and start to define me to myself.

I think I might be getting redundant. In my case, I’m not so sure I feel the way I feel because of much societal pressure necessarily, though I do believe it has affected me somehow. How could it not? We want to respect ourselves innately, to believe we are good enough, but depending on where you look or who you listen to, there are measures and guidelines and ideas that “if you really respected yourself, you wouldn’t do this, and you would have done this and achieved this,” etc etc. I guess.
But for me, I think I am just battling myself. I don’t have very many negative people in my life, and, to my recollection, I’ve never kept company with many people who have torn me down. I’ve done an excellent job of that all on my own.
Since I was a little kid, at least as early as 4th grade, I’ve gotten extremely frustrated with myself, anxiety building over time, leading to failure, ignoring the problems, throwing myself into something that will distract me (books, video games, music, movies, whatever), and I couldn’t keep pace with what was expected of me in school. I’m not stupid, I know that, and that makes it all the more frustrating.
I didn’t understand what it seemed like everybody else understood and it made me very angry with myself and ashamed. Years of poor grades and not having much to show for myself didn’t do much for my self-esteem. And that has kind of carried over into my adult life, I suppose. I don’t feel like I have a lot to show for myself.
But I’m beginning to realize that I’ve been looking in the wrong places and have been using a really screwed up way to measure my value and self-worth. It’s safe to say that I have spent a good portion of the past ten or fifteen years hating myself and fighting with anxiety and depression, and I’m working on undoing a lot of that.
This is all a huge bummer to write and probably to read, though it feels good to get out, in a way. I really don’t want to leave this on a sad note so I want to mention that I know I have a lot of people that love and care about me, and if I’ve got all these good people in my life, I must be doing something right, and I’m trying really hard to turn all this crap around in my head. I’ve made a lot of progress in the past few years and I work on it more every day…it’s a lot of work because I’ve spent a long time with this idea of me being a failure, a huge underachiever, my own brain chemistry seeming to fuel this process – it’s only been more recently I’ve put what seems to be the appropriate work into turning it around.
This letter is a lot more disjointed and messy than I hoped it would be, but that somehow seems appropriate, too. Well, anyway. Didn’t I say I would wrap it up hundreds of words ago? Okay, I’m done!”

Josh’s friends and family:

“Josh is:
Deep thinker
Quick thinker
Always makes me laugh and smile

Josh is intelligent and thoughtful. Josh is a person I proudly call my brother. Josh has been my friend since 1984 and has a very special place in my heart and my life. Josh is just plain awesome! :-)” – Susan

“Josh is a very loyal friend, and is always there to support or help anyone in need of it. His human form carries one of the most gentle and generous souls I’ve met in this lifetime. Simply put, Josh is one of the good guys, and one of the best people I’ve known, and I am more than proud to share a birthday with this man.” – Tyler

A Dissertation

Everything I wish I could say positively about myself is contained in Joshua. He is due north in our internal GPS, as he is the destination of goodwill when we ourselves need direction in how to treat another.
Need we a soul to relate, he is that part of the human cloud – the giver of hugs that seem as if they should be costly, as they are warm as any you could wish for, but he distributes them freely as though the silo of affection resides in creative commons.
He may not realize at times how valued and effective he is as a friend, mental colleague, and fellow occupant of this Pacific Northwest. As I write this, I try to separate our good times from our bad, to focus on each, and note the differences. This proves folly, as I have not a single memory involving Josh that has ended in anger, or confusion of what emotion I am supposed to convey in response to our time together.
Anyone familiar with Josh knows that any amount of time spent around him leaves them rejuvenated in some fashion. He affects myself with intoxicating conversation, resulting in altered ways of viewing our ever-changing surroundings.
The modern human condition, which I believe to affect both Josh and myself, is what I like to think draws us to each other. He is one that takes his auditory surroundings and bends them to his will. This has left a profound imprint on myself.
What others see as noise, he has taught me to hear as those beautiful rejections of what few care to hear, themselves pushing it off as unfashionable. Being regarded as undesired overflow is what many may hear, but they are the ones inflicting borders on themselves with rules on what dictates art. Josh has no such boundaries in his creativity, and this is one of the great many reasons I so highly hold him in admiration. I’ve met many that I view as dust in the human eye, but he is the spark. Had we more sparks like him, many things that plague us as a species would cease to be, such as violence, a tendency toward rudeness, and lack of compassion. I am a better person for meeting, and having spent so much time with Joshua.” – Jacob

“If there was a legitimate way to measure it, I believe wholeheartedly that Joshua would top the list of the most empathetic people I have ever met. He has a picture of a heart tattooed underneath his forearm that I assume is meant to be symbolic, but anyone who has spent more than a moment’s time with Joshua understands that he genuinely wears his own heart on his sleeve. It is his willingness to listen and take on ANY emotion of a friend or stranger alike that is proof of how strong he is and how much he is willing to carry for another human being.
He’s also incredibly talented. His penchant for creating unique sound has left me inspired since I first witnessed it. His writing skills, both creative and academic, are off the charts. I like to think of myself as an avid proponent of diversity, but I sincerely believe we would be living in a better place if there were more Joshua’s in the world.” – Kurtis

“Kind, Courteous, Sensitive, Smart, Loving, Sharing and a good heart.” – Donna

“Oh, sweet Joshua.
You worry just enough. Your heart is just soft enough. And your mind is perfectly open. I am so very glad to know you. I wish you could see yourself the way others do.
You’re pretty great. ❤


(I thought it would be super funny if I wrote something really long and verbose…but I couldn’t get it to say what I wanted. So I didn’t do it. Obviously)”

“The world is a hard, terrible place and is filled with horrible people spending their days being awful to one another in a seemingly unceasing cycle of dismal abuse. Amidst all of this, Josh dares to be sensitive and enthusiastic, sweet and supportive, and perpetually interested in making things better for himself and the people he cares about, sometimes at a cost. Josh remains vulnerable and accepting and willing to find wonder in the world around him.” – Ashley

Previous project groups can be found here:
Group 1, Part 1
Group 1, Part 2
Group 2 – TEENS!
Group 3 – 55+!
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 8
Group 9, Moms & Daughters:
Melissa & Lily 
Liz & Caitie