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group 10 – Couples!

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“People say, “You’ve been together 25 years, what’s the secret?” Honestly, some of it’s just dumb luck. Some of it is that maybe we happened to step right when we should’ve, instead of stepping left…” – Daniel
“We didn’t give up at the same time.” – Summer
“Yeah, we could have given up at the same time, but, when one of us was down, the other picked them up.” – Daniel

This group was the same as the groups before it, dealing with personal insecurities, but, for the first time, we were dealing with the dynamic of how insecurities affect the intimate relationship of an individual and the person they’ve chosen to spend their life with.
It’s a pretty interesting dynamic.
How much do our personal insecurities play into our relationship with our partner?

Every time I put a new group together, one that is specific (teens, 55+, moms & daughters), my boyfriend mentions that I’m conducting some sort of social experiment. He’s right, I guess, although I hate the word “experiment” when it comes to dealing with people. But, all in all, that is essentially what is happening.
I’m wanting to see how this particular group changes the dynamic of the conversation.
How being in a specific group of peers influences how we view insecurities, how we talk about them, how we handle them.

Having a couples group seemed like the next obvious choice.
It was to be the first group where we were including both men and women.
We’ve had multiple women’s groups…we know it’s generally easy to open up in a group of women.
We had our men’s group (yes, there will be more), and we saw how awesome that was and how the men relate to and support one another just like the women do.
Now, how would they do together?

Seeing that they are in a partnership, it seemed obvious that they should communicate well together, but, it also threw in some anxiety for me.
I’ve said this a million times, but, I’ll say it again: I am not a counselor, not a therapist, not a psychiatrist, not a psychologist…I am none of those things.

These groups are not counseling sessions.

I am a photographer who sees the value in communication. Plainly that.

So, I was worried that the couples here could possibly see this as some counseling session and maybe start hashing out some issues. Thank goodness, that did not happen.
Kyle did mention in his post-interview that he hadn’t known what to expect and assumed it would be something like counseling, but, was surprised when it wasn’t. Instead, he found it was much more than he expected – in his words, “it leaves you with something. It feels like we have something to work for now, something to help each other out with, knowing we’re not alone. Now we know where each other is coming from, see each other’s perspective, know more about how we can help them grow, help build their confidence.”

There was something important that these participants took away – mainly, the knowledge that they are not alone.
That other individuals feel the same way that they do.
That other couples, no matter how long they’ve been together, struggle with the same things at different phases of their relationship, to different degrees each time.

Jessica mentioned, “It’s so crazy to me that, of all of the people who could be in this group, the three men and the three women are so similar. That we all ended up in this group together.”
It does seem crazy, like some sort of kizmet.
The crazier thing is…this happens in every group.
Everyone in each group is amazed that these are the people who ended up in the group with them – that these people feel so similar to how they feel. Why? Because we all feel this way to some degree or another.
As I told Jessica, we could have had three more couples added to this group and they would have felt the same way about all of them.
They would all feel like they’re not measuring up how they should.
They would all feel like they’re not enough.

“I’m not enough.”
“I’m inadequate.”
That was the theme of the night.
Honestly, it’s the theme of nearly all of the groups.
Have you seen how many boards from this project say something to the effect of being “not enough”?
In a total of 86 participants so far, I can tell you that at least half of them are directly about something to the effect of not being enough, being undeserving of love, being some sort of lost cause.
And that’s just those that chose that particular insecurity to directly write about…that’s not counting the things that the other half agreed with and proceeded to share their own doubts about themselves in their particular groups.
I’ve been at each group. I can tell you that out of 86 people, 86 people can relate to feeling like they are not enough.

Having people surround you that understand and can relate to how you feel is a very powerful thing.

The ladies in this group reflected on the fact that even if there’s just one other person that feels what you’re going through, it’s already better, already easier.
They spoke about the onset of overwhelming days of sadness. Summer is used to people seeing her as a generally happy person, but says, “The really good happy stuff gets lost sometimes and feels like it’s not enough to overcome even a couple of sad things. The happy stuff is so much bigger than these small sad things, but, those sad things can knock you on your knees some days. I can’t explain why I’m sad sometimes, it just is…it just is.

Tracy speaks about how it’s similar and, yet, different for her: “Sometimes I shut myself off so much that I’m not even recognizable. I may be happy, but the sadness sneaks up on me and that’s what I portray. It’s too hard to portray happiness.” She talks about how that’s what people view her as – as hard and cold. Because that comes easier for her.

The men discuss how they are portrayed.
Daniel is seen as being always on guard. People have told him that he projects a tough image. They say, “I was always scared of you.” It became easier for him to be the ‘tough guy’, to push others away, not because he wanted to, but, because it was easier than letting them see that he was insecure – as he said, “I don’t let you get close enough because I don’t want you to see that I actually don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”

Shawn and Kyle agree, “I’m not this guy that you portrayed me as…I was standoff-ish and just came off as that because of my insecurities, my feelings, how I was raised. You just have to get past that first layer… Men – we’re supposed to be tough, but we need this kind of encouragement. My dad shut everything away his whole life…I’m trying to do the opposite.”

As I shared with them, it’s funny to me with every group how this works: all of the new participants are mostly strangers to me upon arranging the groups. People who have written to me about wanting to be a part. People whom I add to a list. I don’t know them. I start to get to know them by what they write in to me about their insecurity. But, I REALLY get to know them through the things their loved ones write in for them. I first develop an image based on the things they dislike about themselves and then that image changes when I am flooded with these amazing things about them that other people want to share with me.
Guess which person I meet?
I meet the one described by the friends and family.
I meet the one who displays those awesome traits and qualities.
Always.
We are so in our own heads that we are overwhelmed by these feelings of inadequacy and such, but, we are outwardly SO MUCH MORE than that. If only we can get that point across to ourselves. That’s what this project is about.

In speaking about couples, we naturally talked about how hard it is to live up to the other’s expectations…and yet, how much harder it is to live up to our OWN expectations.

We talked about how we expect one another to be mind-readers. They should know we feel a certain way, right?
They should know that, in our head, we are getting pissed off every time we see that sock in the middle of the floor that they still haven’t picked up…
Summer phrased it well when she said that she just takes care of whatever she’s finding an issue with “without him losing a fight he’s not even aware he’s in.”
Isn’t this the case most of the time? We’re steaming, wrapped up in our own brain, festering about some little thing they’ve done that is aggravating to us…meanwhile, they’re clueless.
It’s the same with the positive things that we love about each other.
We assume they know.
But, as Kyle said, “that’s not the case. You have to get that stuff out…you’re helping build that person up so that there’s less fears, less insecurities. This group is different because what we feel for each other drives us to be better people and better for each other. We’re pushing each other to be the best person each other can be for the other. Now, voicing this stuff will push us to the next level to fulfilling that for the other person.”

Daniel also said, “The thing I find the most weird, even when I went to write it and now hearing us all talk tonight – this is the person you love the most, so, those feelings, you feel ‘em everyday, you live ‘em everyday – but, you go to say the words out loud and it…it catches you…what if you put them out and they don’t come back?

Insecurities.
We have them individually, we have them in relation to each other.
We learn as we go. We learn every day. We adjust. We adapt.

Thank you to everyone who wrote in for these lovely couples – this would not work without you. Through you, I got to know them.
Thank you, Daniel & Summer, Kyle & Jessica, Shawn & Tracy, for being so open and so honest. Here are your stories.

danielinsDaniel ~ That I won’t measure up. Whether it’s love, friendship, work, family, etc. I always have this nagging feeling that I’m not good enough, not strong enough, not smart enough, not worthy of this.”

Daniel’s friends and family:

“He is a loyal loving husband. He likes the spirit of freedom and working for himself. Likes to debate on more than surface issues. He is quiet unless you get to know him, sort of an introvert. He does like the opportunity to coach football and teach the fundamentals of the game.” – Gene

“Daniel is like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or the Cinderella Man.  His kindness in actions speaks louder than words and his Neil Young Heart of Gold is a beat that influences anybody who can hear it.  His imagination and love for art and design is of the most striking outlet of creativity I have ever seen, and I’m an art major.  He also has this passionate love for all things raw, which the world needs more of.  I’m not sure I could ever stop with the wonderful things to say about Daniel.  Bottom line, his simple breath makes people want to be better.  He is light.  He is a breath of fresh air.  He is one of the greatest men I will ever know.” – Lindsey

“Dan is one person in my life who I know I can count on to be 100 percent honest with me. Throughout my whole life he has always been there when I’ve needed advice, and I always know he will give me his honest opinion. He is one of the most intelligent people I know. I used to really enjoy our car rides from school to my house because he and I would talk about anything and everything. Whether it was school, work, politics, or music, he and I usually expressed mutual opinions. I really appreciate him and I know my life would not be the same without him in it.” – Kaylee

“Dearest Dan,

I appreciate your honesty. It is so refreshing to have a conversation with you and feel a common bond and enjoy a laugh about the state of our world at large. Your sense of humor is something I admire in my day-to-day hustle and bustle. I love your tolerance for your fellow humans. I have heard and shared your frustration at times when we have chatted at an event but you always have a smile for just about everyone. You also tolerate my love for the Steelers even with your loyalty to the Raiders. For that I thank you, my friend!” – Christy

“Dan,

We don’t normally do this “feely” stuff, but, maybe we should. You have been the best big brother a girl could ask for. You were the first man in my life that protected me. There are no words for how much that has meant to me. You are honest and real. I know I can always count on you to give it to me straight. I respect your opinion. You love people with your whole heart. You sacrifice for those around you. You tell the best stories! Your laughter and smile are contagious. You know who you are and you don’t allow other’s thoughts or opinions to sway your confidence. You know who you are and what you believe in. You are compassionate and caring, kind and loving. You are intelligent, one of the most intelligent people I know!
I love you brother!
Kirsten”

“Dear Dan,

It seems as though you have been a part of this family always. I am forever thankful that Summer chose you to be her life mate. You came into our lives at a time when my girls needed a big brother to help them understand that there are good men in life.

Over the years I have grown to love you as my son-in-law. I respect the person you are. I appreciate the way your mind thinks, the knowledge you possess and share. I like how you think of others. You are always there to lend a hand, to family, to homeless people, to children and the old. There is a gentle giant with an enormous heart inside of you.

You have always loved my daughter with your whole heart; of this I have always been certain. The relationship you have with my daughter shows in so many little ways to this Mother’s heart. It shows in the way your eyes light up when you look at her; in the gentleness you treat her with, in the caring you give her when she is sick. You carry the heaviest package, and give her the smaller one. You play with her and show her that her joys are yours also; you share the burden of her sorrows and let her know she is not alone in her pain. You are there for her emotionally. You are her best friend. I am so grateful to you for being a good and kind man, and for loving Summer with your whole heart.

The example that you and Summer have set as a married couple helped the rest of my daughters make wise choices of life mates, I truly believe without you in our lives, things could have turned out much differently.

I love your sense of adventure, and your playfulness. I appreciate how gentle you have always been with the grandchildren, and that you have been there for them with great “Uncle” advice.

I like the fact that you have belief in your dreams, and motivation, and persistence in accomplishing your goals. I like that you think outside the box, and that you do not color life inside the lines.

I am proud to call you mine. You are a wonderful person and I appreciate who you are.

Love,
Mom, (aka Ginnie)”

“Daniel defines growth to me. He is worlds away from the outer persona he portrayed when I first met him and has moved closer and closer to sharing with the world who he is at his core. He continues to learn, explore and apply all knowledge in his life. Internally he’s pushing himself to explore who he is and what he wants in his life and what he can give with his life. Externally he is learning how to read emotion and relate to people in new ways. When we were first dating we would take black and white photo booth pictures on our dates. In each one he looks so different over the years. Facial hair, weight, clothing. So much so that on our wedding cake I had 4 of these images on our cake and someone commented that he must be really understanding to have pictures of other men with me on our cake. Now though that same internal growth and change is happening. Knowing him for almost 25 years I can look back and see how very differently he’s evolved and become and grown. It’s almost like the wedding cake topper, the difference in who he was and who he is has become. I can’t wait to see how he grows and changes in the next 25 years.

He is protective. There are inner circles in his heart and once you’ve entered, even the outermost ring of his heart, he will be there for you. He will fight to the death for you. He will honor you. He will hold you close. He will not always know to ask, what you need but if you ask for help, come hell or high water he will drop everything else and find a way to be there for you. There are no limits to what he would be willing to sacrifice for those he holds close and dear. He doesn’t express it. It just is. It’s who he is and how he loves.

He is tender. He holds my hand while we sit in the car. We walk down the street and he reaches out to hold my hand, always. He kisses me on the head every night and tells me to “dream well my love”. When I wake him up, he sees me and smiles. He doesn’t project an image of someone who is tender. People see him as rough sometimes. As quiet. But he’s really very introspective. He wears his heart so much more on his sleeve than anyone would imagine. His heart is open and vulnerable. He feels things completely and his feelings have a way of consuming him.

He is brilliant. He has the capacity to learn rapidly and apply that learning. He absorbs information. It drove me insane when we were first dating. He would pick up a new passion and learn it inside-out in no time, and just when I thought he was on track for the next career, life change, defining moment, he would move on and pursue the next interest with the same passion. Now, I appreciate the flow of his learning. Although I’m still amazed. Sometime still shocked he doesn’t continue to pursue things he’s demonstrated such ability in. But I love him for it. He’s constantly changing, evolving and learning. It’s interesting to watch his process. And knowing now not to set or apply my expectations on how to use that skill or knowledge releases the frustration I used to experience and allows me to just appreciate him and value the process he’s experiencing. I’m jealous of his capacity to learn and apply his knowledge.

He is forgiving. He leads by example here. There have been so many times I’ve made a black-and-white, no-room-for-forgiveness call about someone. He’s the opposite. He believes everyone is capable of change and that they deserve the opportunity to grow and adjust and be. Through his example I am constantly challenged to let go of my judgments. He is gracious and unpresumptuous. He allows in his heart and mind room for someone else to be on their journey without his judgment. He might have to fight his own fears of an action someone else causes, but he doesn’t let someone’s action, or mistake or path define his perception of that person. One act doesn’t define anyone in his book.

He is dedicated. If he’s given his word, it will happen. He will find a way. Even when there is no way. It may not happen the way he wanted it to or thought it would. But it will. He’s been an incredible football coach. Even when we’ve had no time to give, he’s found a way to make it happen. When we didn’t have the means to help, he still found a way. He doesn’t let his pride get in the way of accomplishing what he’s set his mind to. He will simply fight to make it happen. And if he’s given his word, he will be there. His honor matters to him. His word matters.

He is funny. He uses humor to pull people in and hold people back. He pushes every joke as far as it should go, and given the right circumstances, further than anyone thought it could or should. He talks smack like a pro. He has laugh lines he’s earned. He’s given me laugh lines that I know will grow as we get older together. He comes up with things off the cuff that just crack people up and comes up with pranks and jokes he plots and plans that are un-topable. I think it’s one characteristic everyone that knows him has experienced in one form or another.

He is a true partner. We talk often about the word “marriage” versus “partner”. In Daniel I’ve found a true partnership. He acknowledges each of our strengths and weaknesses and we work together to bring out the best in each other and to help hold the other up in to overcome the weaknesses as a team. “Us” is an identity that is a living thing he values, protects, and holds dear. I really enjoy who he is and who we are together.

He’s a fighter. At one time in his life, it was about the physical battle. About pushing himself to the limit, pushing the other person to the limit. Letting the beast inside of him roam, and he found opportunities to make those fights happen. Now he’s taken on a much harder battle. He’s fighting his own demons, fears and insecurities. He’s battling with his own patterns to take control of his life and be the master of his emotions and their outcomes. These last few years of working for ourselves and trying to create these businesses have shown me a strength I didn’t even know he had. I’ve always thought of him as a fighter, as tough, as strong. Now, he also lets me see him as weak, he lets me see the battle scars. And in my eyes it’s made him stronger and tougher then ever. We have been pulling through situations I would have said NEVER for us, or to us, will that happen. But he’s not a throw-in-the-towel guy. He sees the big picture and understands the difference between a lost battle and a lost cause. His strength here gives me the strength day after day. To keep believing. To keep striving. To make it happen. That same strength and stubbornness and willingness to fight have kept us together. Have held us together. Have helped us grow together.

He’s my best friend. He knows me. He accepts the worst of me. (And he’s seen it.) He loves me. He understands me. He gives me the room to be me. He challenges me. He relaxes me. He deals with my fears. He kills the spiders for me. He lives in the chaos of my to-do piles. He loves our family. He calms my crazy medical fears. He enriches me. He appreciates me. He loves my crazy curls first thing in the morning. He loves me in sweats as much as he does when I’m dressed up. He loves my grey hair and ‘Dan wrinkle’ in my brow. He is the one person I need, I love. He’s my forever plus 2 days.” – Summer

summerinsSummer ~ “Not every day, but too many days, I wake up and the sadness is there with me. It’s hovering over me, surrounding me, and enveloping me. It fills me with thoughts about not being enough. Not doing enough. Not capable of enough. Not. Not. Not. That at my core, I will never be enough. That I deserve this sadness. That I was made for sadness. Other days it sneaks in. It invades a perfectly pleasant day. It pulls me into myself. It threatens to overpower me. It slows me. Stops me. Tries to define me. I fight it. I struggle with it. I deal with it. I’m able, most of the time, to still function with it. I shake it. I bury it. I fight harder with it. Sometimes I have a logical grasp on where it’s coming from. On what just triggered it. On how the PTSD I am experiencing is bringing in these feelings. This feeling. Other times it takes days or weeks or I never really understand why it’s there or was there. I don’t know why some days the sadness is winning or wins. I don’t know how to make the tears not fall. I just internally curl into a ball. A big ball of feeling sadness. Other days I am able to use one of my coping mechanisms and get through it. Still feel like the part of myself I want to be. The part of me that can take on the world. The part of me that has room for everyone else and the details of their lives. The struggle is feeling like two different people always at war. The internal sad girl and the outwardly happy girl. Where I am now is trying to understand that I am both. That one isn’t really bad, or wrong. It just is. It comes with its own gifts of compassion and empathy for others that I don’t think I would have without it. What I’m fighting with right now is still only wanting to be one. Just the happy one. The one I try so hard to project and be. The one that is socially more acceptable. The side that in every happy ending story is the side we see, know and love.” 

 

Summer’s friends and family:

“Summer is one of the most amazing people I know. She is generous, creative, warm, energetic, loyal, driven, has integrity and works extremely hard. Summer is one of those people who walks into a room and lights it up with her smile and energy. I love being around her because she makes me happy. Even when she has a difficult time, she confronts her challenges with grace and a smile. I admire her and often think about her when I think about the type of person I want to be.” – Kristen

“Summer was my first best friend. We played poker for candy, and talked nonstop. We used to dream about what we would do when we grew up. What I love about Summer is that she follows her dreams, even if they change. She is a hard-working, not afraid to take chances overcomer. She is also a great listener. She lets me talk and ramble and cry if I need to. She is talented in so many ways. I admire her creativity, her boldness, and her strength.” – Shannon

“When I think about the things I love, admire and appreciate about Summer, the phrase “the most…” is the start of nearly every phrase. She puts everything she has into all that she does and cares about and, because of this, she is the most positive person I know, the most selfless person I know, the most generous person I know, the hardest working person I know, the most caring person I know. She is amazing at lifting people up and giving positive words of affirmation and does so regularly. She is an enjoyable person with high energy who has a cheesy, yet, witty sense of humor that is charming and she can carry conversation on most topics. She is someone who I admire, love and appreciate for all of these reasons but even more so for the glimpses I get of the raw emotions she rarely lets everyone see. In these moments, I am honored to be her friend.” – Heather

“Summer –

When I think of you, four words come to mind: Strength, Sacrifice, Love, Selfless. Your creativity, eye for design, and ability to capture moments in life that are often taken for granted are inspiring. You astonish me with the energy you give to all those you love. Your strength is something I’ve looked to so many times in my life to help me get through. Despite the challenges of the last couple years, you still make the impossible possible. EVERYDAY. I’m constantly in awe of how you manage to pull it all off. You’ve been a role model to me, “what would summer do” is a phrase I’ve found myself asking so many times. You are always there to listen and advise. I truly enjoy spending time with you. You are fun to be around and I love the adventures we have taken together – remember the caves? I hope you know how loved you are by me, and not for anything you can do, just for simply you.
I love you sis!
Kirsten”
“Dear Summer,

You are my first-born child, from the moment you were placed in your bassinet and lifted your head to look around the room you were born in, I knew that this strong, curious, adorable, little person would rule my heart. When we name a child, we agonize trying to select the perfect name. You are your name, warm and kind, full of life. As you and I have grown over the years our relationship has grown and changed as much as we have.

I have always been able to depend on you to be there for your sisters and I emotionally and logically. We have survived pain and sorrow, and relished in laughter and love. We have exposed the past in painful and revealing talks with each other and as a group with your sisters. This was cathartic and necessary for us to continue to become healthy and happy in our emotional lives. I am forever grateful that you helped to bring this about.

We have laughed so hard that tears form. You bring a sense of adventure into life, be it simple or extravagant.
You love with your whole heart. You are the epitome of a creative thinker, and believe if you can visualize it, it is possible, and then with your drive and persistence it becomes what you dream.

I am intensely proud of the life you have lived, as a child, and an adult. You have made excellent choices in your life. I love the gentleness of your soul, the delight you possess in life. Your giving nature never fails to amaze me. You are intuitive and your instincts are spot on.

I am very thankful that you chose to move back home, I know that was hard for you, but you have brought so much joy to our lives, and the time I get to share with you is very precious to me. I look forward to every minute.

I know you think you are not an artist, but in everything you do, you are. Art is not limited to only one definition. Your muse leads you on paths that others could never follow. I adore you.

My heart overflows with love for you,
Mom…..“

“How do you tell a story about Summer. Summer is magic.  Summer is loving.  Her love for her husband is epic and the kind of love written about in romance novels.    Her eye for art and composition is heaven gifted.  Not one earth given gift like sunrises, sunsets, sweet babies sleeping, smiling, toddling, and springs first bust of flower are missed by Summer.  Appreciating the smallest of blessings this life has to offer is in her radar.  How do you tell a story of Summer just breath in and breath out. She is life!!!!” – Amy

“Dearest Summer,

I love the passion you have for your creativity. I admire all of the beauty you create. Your passion and creativity make my life, as well as the lives of everyone you touch inspired.” – Christy

“I started loving Summer a little over 24 years ago. The things I love about her have changed and intensified during that time.
I’ll go with some of the ones that have been there since I first realized that I was in love with her.
Summer is caring, compassionate, and loving. She gets the biggest joy for the simplest things. When she really smiles she shows her gums, and she’s uncomfortable when she does. When she tells a joke she usually laughs harder than you do. When she loves something she loves it with everything she’s got. When she believes in something Summer will fight for it, even if she knows she’ll lose.” – Daniel
 

kyleinsKyle ~ I worry that I am not going to be the man my wife needs or wants me to be. I know that my wife loves me, but, I sometimes worry that at some point that won’t be enough. This is kind of like me worrying that I’m not good enough nor do I deserve this amazing woman who I have been blessed to call WIFE.” 

Kyle’s friends and family:
“Kyle: Honest, adventurous, confident, trusting, brave, great company, charismatic, creative, good-natured, hardworking and active.” – Anita

“Kyle—this Guy has helped me in many ways—whether it be as simple as something around the house, or saving me from being stranded in the middle of the woods. He’s always willing to drop everything to lend a hand to those he loves. He’s grown into a Man of God, and I’m so proud of him for putting his faith in The Lord’s hands. He’s a guy I can trust, and a guy I can depend on. I cherish our friendship and am so thankful for him. Love, Aaron”

“Dear Kyle,
Well my friend, this is a tough one. I don’t know you on a super close personal level yet I do know how much my friend feels loved by you, which makes you a pretty cool cat in my book.
I admire that you have supported your wife in her business adventure. You not only accepted her idea to start her own business but also supported her in the journey. You allow her to often put others before you and accept that this is a just part of the process. Most important, it is amazing that you still love her even though she smells like liniment when she comes home!
I find it incredibly admirable that you were willing to take on a second job to support her in the start-up of her business. I know that 10 minutes in the porn industry is equivalent to a lifetime in an office setting so I appreciate that you sacrificed your dignity to support your wife’s dreams.
I love that you have discovered that it’s okay to be open to loving all types. Your exploration in an often-judgmental world shows your strength as a man. Not all men can make a connection with another man over the internet. It is fantastic that you never questioned his motives and allowed feeling to develop slowly over time. Those of us in that you shared your story with are impressed in how you have demonstrated that you are truly comfortable in who you are and that you respect the sanctity of your marriage by not keeping the feelings a secret. I am proud of you and Scott!
I admire that you have met the expectation we as women have of our man by becoming a true caveman. You have hunted and gathered…finally! Your ability to provide for your family in a very primal manner is impressive. It demonstrates yet another wonderful quality that you possess; you never give up!
Kyle, all kidding aside, you really are a great man. You put your family in the forefront, you love your wife, you are a hard worker, you have an amazing sense of humor, and you provide a wonderful environment for your kids to grow up in.
I admire that you are able to make your family a priority and work as a partner with Jess to create a happy home. The work you put into providing financially and emotionally for your family doesn’t go unnoticed by those who surround you. You possess the qualities that many people envy and yet to you, they all seem to come naturally. I know through the many conversations that Jess and I have had that you have an amazing heart and always live your life with the best of intentions. These are qualities we all hope to find in a life partner and I am glad you share those with Jess. You my friend are a wonderful example to those around you and most importantly to your children. You should be proud of the man you are and the family you have created.
Love to you!
Liz”

“Though I’ve only known Kyle for a few years, I have high respect for him and feel that he’s the best thing that’s happened to Jessica. He’s a very kind and gentle man, as well as a good father and provider. He loves the outdoors, but his first love is his family.” – Lanette

“Kyle- Smart, loving, sincere, funny spontaneous, adventurous… The Hunter. Just a few characteristics that come to mind when I think of you. But you are so much more than that. I know this because of the love you have for your wife and your children. You love despite the lack of the same DNA. You love because your heart is worn on your sleeve – your adventurous spirit and wanting to live life to the fullest is evident when one is around you. The way you take care of your family is a gift beyond measure. When one looks at you we see that your cup runneth over with love and appreciation for all that you have. You don’t take things for granted; you are the calm in the tornado. You are balance, peace, joy laughter and kindness. You see more than what’s on the surface, you go deeper, you trust your instincts.  You are a good judge of character. You are patient with your children and your lovely wife; you are an example to many men of who they could become if they would just let go of society’s expectations. You are handsome and sweet and oh so funny, too.
I love you both very much.” – JulieAnn
“Kyle is very social and he can make friends with complete strangers in any situation. Kyle has a beautiful smile and participates in sportsman type activities.” – Peggie
“Kyle was one of my first friends in Tacoma, and he quickly became one of my closest. He is like a brother to me, and his entire family embraced me as one of their own almost upon meeting. He is a wonderful person, with a smile that is infectious and the biggest heart in the world. He’s also completely hilarious.

Throughout my friendship with Kyle (and he’ll tell you this), I have never really loved anyone he dated. I always thought he went for girls that weren’t good enough for him, in one way or another. Not to say that there were a ton, but there were a few, and they all came and went. For whatever reason, they just didn’t compliment him.

Until he met Jess.

I knew immediately that she was different. She was more confident than the others, and she actually wanted to be MY friend. At the time, Kyle and I were very close and hung out frequently. Some weren’t too keen on that, but Jess didn’t sweat it, and I respected her for that. She also had a calmness about her that was very soothing to be around, and above all she truly LOVED Kyle. And you could tell he loved her, with the way he lit up after he met her… as though no one else existed.

Since they’ve been together, I’ve seen both of them grow into such amazing people. They are kind, generous and devoted to each other and their growing family. They are proud of the life they’ve made, and they work at their relationship every day, even if it’s in the smallest way. Their children are a reflection of the love they have for each other and I am so very proud that they’ve made it. If there is such a thing as soul mates, these two certainly embody the idea. I admire their love.

Although we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as anyone would like, I know they are doing just fine. I am so happy they are doing this project. I know that it will bring them even closer together, and will further strengthen the deep bond that they share.

Here’s to true love. <3” – Jayme

“What I love most about my husband… I’m afraid if this letter gets out I may or may not be the most hated woman in the world. You see my husband… he is perfect. I love the fact that my children love him. He is our daughters’ first love, and our son’s first hero. He is an amazing father in so many different ways, and he makes me proud everyday as those kids truly begin to look up to him. I love my husband because he makes it a priority to put our kids and myself first. His happiness is our happiness and he would do anything for us. He is a born provider, not just a hard worker but always improving himself as a hunter and fisher too, in order to provide food for us. I love my husband because he has a huge…giant…almost too big sometimes… heart. He supports me in almost all that I do and enjoy. He helped me take a risk and start my own business, he believes in me, he trusts me, he respects me. He treats me like I am the most beautiful woman on the planet, like he is afraid every day to lose me because of how wonderful I am. He is everything I ever wanted in a man. He sews, he cooks, he bakes, he does laundry. He lets me sleep in on weekends. He helps with our children, he fixes everything and anything when it’s broken, he does the gross chores that include garbage, poop and old wet food. He is strong. He is my protector. I’m proud to have his arm around me in public, I think he is a beautiful man.. inside and out. His beard is outstanding. He creates bromances and is a social butterfly. He doesn’t care that I hide money in weird places around the house to be able to save, or that I eat popcorn almost every night, or that I never get comfortable in bed until I roll around 32 times. He is my team-mate, my partner, my side kick. My husband truly is the definition of Raw.Honest.Love… and he’s all mine :)” – Jessica

jessicainsJessica ~ My biggest struggle in life has always been the same…never being good enough. It used to be not being good enough for my mother but now it is mostly always not being a good enough mother. I try constantly to give all I have to my 4 children but I never feel like it is enough… they deserve so much. I also always try to be respectful, loving and helpful to my husband but I don’t feel like I am enough for him too… sometimes I feel like he deserves more than I can give him because I am giving so much to the kids and I fear I don’t often put him first as much as I should. I own a business and with all the work, billing and paperwork that often takes me away from family also and leaves me feeling like I am not enough for those in my family. Or my friends at that…I have no time and have slipped away from all my friends as well :( I cannot please everyone in my life and it hurts me endlessly. I want to love, fix, heal and lift up everyone that comes into my life and it drains so much of me that in the end I don’t know that I am even enough for myself.” 

Jessica’s friends and family:

“Jessica: Honest, big heart, capable, reliable, helpful, master of time, giver, creative, confident, healthy and balanced.” – Anita

“Jessica—she is the most caring, loving, forgiving, accepting you-for-you kind of gal. She truly is someone I could go to at any time of the day, for anything, and she would pray for me and offer her love. Jessica came into my life a few years ago, and from day one she was someone whom I felt safe with. I knew I could trust her. Jessica is a dear friend who I love, and know if our schedules don’t always allow us to talk or see one another, the time we do spend together is like we see each other everyday. Definitely blessed to know this woman, and love her dearly.
Love, Mandy”

“Dear Jessica,
Where do I begin when I am asked to share what I love, admire, and appreciate about you? First and foremost, I admire your bravery in entrusting me to write a serious letter for you. Not to worry my friend, I’ve got this one. If there is one thing that I take serious in life, it is the value I place on true friendships and the interactions I have with genuine people, so I am honored to write this for you and will do my best to keep this G-rated and appropriate for the experience.
Let me start with what I love and admire about you…
I love and admire your love of your family. You beam when you speak of your children. You provide them the love, support, and the time they need to grow up knowing they are loved. You take parenting serious in that you love and provide for them, but you also recognize that parenting can be fun, crazy, and at times out of control. You do what is best for your family at all times. You’re an amazing mom!
You are an incredibly positive person. You not only speak of positive things, but you exude positive energy. When I am around you, no matter the mood I arrived with, I leave with a much more positive attitude. That is a gift you share with the people you are around. I know this is cliché, but your glass seems to always be half full!
You have an incredible ability to not only listen, but to truly hear what people say. I love that when we talk I know you are listening. You share ideas, you laugh at silly stories, and sometimes you simply provide support and encouragement. I admire that you truly hear what other have to say. Life is so busy for so many that the art of listening is often pushed aside. It’s a wonderful quality I love about you.
You are smart; damn smart! You started a business, you manage your time to balance work and family life, and, shoot, you picked me to be one of your friends! I love that you can hold an intelligent conversation, educate yourself on the areas of life that you are passionate about, and share your knowledge without making others feel less intelligent than you.
I admire that you don’t judge me. You have seen my rear, yet you are still my friend. You have heard some of my deepest darkest secrets, yet you are still my friend. You listen to me talk like a drunken trucker, yet you are still my friend. I say shocking and horrific thoughts that randomly pop into my head, yet you are still my friend. I feel as if I have pulled out all of the stops, given you every opportunity to judge me and run the other way, yet, you don’t judge me and instead stand by me as a true friend. Rather than judge me, you support me, laugh with me, and sometimes even laugh at me, and for that I love you! People with the wonderful quality of being non-judgmental are rare and you, my dear, have this fine quality.
Now for what I appreciate about you…
I appreciate that you are not a quitter! When you want to accomplish something you do it. You don’t give up. You don’t look for the easy way. You go all in and you do it right. You do that not only in your life but also for those of us that come to see you with challenging problems. You don’t give up on us. You look for ways to help, you search for options, and you give everything 110%.
I appreciate that you refrain from telling me that my ass is huge! Yes, I know it is a large caboose. I know that seeing that each week must be traumatic for you but yet you treat me as if my ass is that of a 21-year-old hard bodied stripper! Come on, you didn’t really think I could keep it all serious, did you? But hey, I am serious in that I really do appreciate that you don’t bust out singing “Baby Got Back” when you walk in the room!
Ok, now for the thing I appreciate the most… you saved my life! When I met you, I had given up. I gave up hope of living a pain-free life. I gave up hope all together. I felt as if my pain was a burden to not only me, but also my family. I felt as if you were my last option for relief. As you know, I didn’t believe you could do anything to help me but then I heard you say something that changed my life. It wasn’t just the words you said it was how you said it. You said with confidence that you liked a challenge and you believed you could help me if I would give you the chance. You were one of the first people I believed in during my journey to heal. So, therefore, it is your confidence and determination that I admire most, because it was life changing for me.
I could go on and on about all of the things I love, admire and appreciate about you but what it comes down to is this…
I love, admire, and appreciate YOU! All that makes you who you are. I love, admire, and appreciate all of the things that make you obviously amazing as well as all of the things that you may question about yourself. It is all of these things combined that make you the perfect friend, an amazing mother, a wife who loves her husband, a healer to many, and a strong woman who will leave a lasting impression on those that you meet throughout your life and someone I am so proud to know.
I love you BEAUTIFUL!
Liz”

“Jessica, being my god-daughter, and knowing her since the day she was born, I knew the first time I held her in the hospital that there was something special about her. She’s the most kind-hearted and gentle person I’ve ever met. She’s a free-spirited individual, and puts other’s needs before her own. She’s the kind of person who would take the shirt off her back if someone needed it. She’s an amazing mother and puts her kids first. I am proud that she’s grown into such an amazing woman and mother. I am proud that she is my God-daughter and blessed to have her in my life.” – Lanette

“Jessica- I thought a lot about what characteristics and words I would choose to describe you. It is my pleasure and a joy to share how much I love you. And what you embody. I have known you since you were about 18 months old. You have always shone like the stars and are the light amongst the darkness. You shine like the sun, your loyalty is as deep as the ocean and your love is as wide as the sky. You are a wonderful daughter, mother and friend. You are patient, kind, and forgiveness. You embody Christ’s love and it radiates from you. You are beautiful, inside and out, you’re a good listener, creative, fun, spontaneous, thoughtful, sensitive, caring, and nice to a fault…at times!  Thank you for loving me, because you made a choice to love me. I’m not your blood, I’m not your family, but I love you like you’re my own.” – JulieAnn

“Dear Jessica,
I wanted to take a few minutes remind you why I love you and will always love you. First of all, you stole my heart the moment we met, with your beauty, humor, patience and giant heart (yes I could tell). You put such great love and devotion into all that you do, no matter what it is. I admire that. And whether failure or success is the result (more success than anything), you always find the positive in the end result. I absolutely love that you are so passionate about life and the world you live in, it drives me to be more like you and see things the way you do all the time. I find myself asking,”what would my wife do?” There is so much that I love and admire about you, there simply isn’t enough time in the world for me to tell you it all.” – Kyle

 

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Shawn ~ I struggle with not feeling wanted or loved. It affects my judgment with people because I’m giving out chance after chance in hopes that they are good people; in return I can easily be a doormat. I struggle with it as being a supervisor on my jobs because people take advantage of me. If I’m not careful, I can fall into being a people pleaser, and it puts great pressure on my wife.” 

Shawn’s friends and family:

“Shawn is a gentle man with what I would describe as a fierce, consistent, steadfast love. Shawn has staying power in my definition, when the proverbial poop hits the fan; he stands and remains standing, LONG after most have run away.
The Biblical King David had what was described as ‘mighty men’ or ‘Valiant men”.
Don’t see too many of these today, so in my book, Shawn is one of few…..
I’ve seen him up and totally down, and he usually bounces back and chooses to stand up, and remain standing.
This is a deep soul quality.
A RARE deep soul quality.
If I were asked to do the impossible, I would include Shawn in a list of maybe three men I would ask to join team with me to accomplish the impossible, why?
Because he is ‘fade proof’.

In my definition, Blue-collar workingmen are the true ‘gold standard’ in any nation. They are literally the backbone of society. Without them, every above and below would crumble. Shawn is a hard-working artisan in stone and brick. I have the utmost respect for him.

I am honored to call him my friend.” – Brian
“My brother has a heart of gold and tries to help all who need it.” – Jean
“My father, Shawn, is strong in his faith and love. He is a hard-worker and gives his best for his family. His love is unbreakable just like his faith in God. He is an incredible man. He is funny and caring. The word that can describe him best is “heart”. He has the biggest caring, giving heart I know.” – Reilley

“Shawn is humble, compassionate, forthright, and for the most part, pretty honest. He is quick to help, slow to find fault, and eager for opportunity to learn new things. There is rarely a time that he misses to involve himself in the lives of his kids, friends and family at large. Aside from his unfaltering ability to conduct himself in peace, patience, kindness and with self-control is mind-blowing to me. His loyalty and dedication are traits that I admire and wish to emulate. Strength & Resolve!” – Tracy

 

 

tracyinsTracy ~ I wrestle daily with the feeling of being inadequate. As a human, a wife, a mother, daughter, friend, employee, creator. Some days it lays me flat; conquering any energy I can muster to enter the realm outside my bed. Those days are fewer than they used to be. I have decided to give up and let God power me through whatever I’m purposed for, which has enabled me to live a life of acceptance and peace.” 

Tracy’s friends and family:

“One word that I believe truly describes my mom, Tracy, is strength. She has tenacity and a will power to get through anything. She is inspirational and lives a great tale of heartache, love, struggle, and empowerment. She is beautiful in every way, with her outer beauty and her spirit. She may have her dark sides but the good will always out weigh the bad. I strive to be like her. She will live up to greatness.” – Reilley

“My dearest Tracy, the things I love and appreciate about you are too numerous to mention. Words simply cannot describe the light you bring to the world. You are ever patient, humble, loving and steadfast. You truly love unconditionally. You give from your soul. You handle challenges with more grace than I could ever imagine. You grow more beautiful inside and out with every passing year. You are a rock not only for your husband and children, but to everyone you come into contact with. You have such an adventures spirit. You are so very creative and see beauty in things that most would toss away. .. The struggles you’ve endured have created all that is amazing about you.” – Evie

“I have always looked up to my sister-in-law Tracy, she is very creative.” – Jean

“Tracy is one of the most free-spirited, strong, creative, giving, energetic, fun-loving women I have ever known. She is beautiful and full of love, allowing it to flow unconditionally. She is steadfast in her beliefs and willing to share that belief in any form needed, at any given time to brighten the day or situation. Tracy is curious and intelligent and is always learning more, and in that creates herself to be an ever-changing, wise, caring, fabulous, mysterious, fun energy. Tracy sees the good in you and shares that with you. She will be your champion! I am so pleased she is being honored. And so blessed to call her my friend. :)” – Margot

“Tracy is my cousin, whom I dearly love. She is one of the best people I know. One of the things I like most about her is her ability to see potential in people and encourage them to be the person she sees they can be. One example of this is the work she does – she works at a building materials salvage store that warehouses and sells old building materials. She is really good at what she does because she sees the potential of how these old, discarded, building materials can be repurposed into something beautiful. Like how some old wood could become a bed frame, or an old door could be a beautiful table, and so forth and so on. In the same way that she sees beauty in the potential of old building materials, she gets excited and has vision for the potential people have. She’s an encourager and vision caster and I really like that about her.
Another attribute that relates to this is how caring and loving she is. She generously loves people both with her time and possessions – always welcoming people into her home and caring for those in need. Her amicable personality puts people at ease and makes them feel loved. She’s fun, bright, and full of life which is contagious to those around her.
Also, she is so creative. Over the years I’ve seen her come up with so many creative ideas for things – everything from fashion, starting businesses, decorating her house, coming up with games (hallway tennis) to keep busy during the winter, etc. She’s full of ideas! She’s also got the moxy to make those ideas come to life. When she lands on a solid idea she’s determined to make it happen and goes out and does it. It’s really encouraging to be around.
All in all, Tracy is one of the most kind, caring, and generous people I know. She’s an absolute blessing to those around her – the world wouldn’t be the same without her. I’m so thankful to have Tracy as a cousin and am constantly impressed and encouraged by her.
Tracy, YOURE AWESOME!!!! Keep being you. Love ya!” – Abe

“I love Tracy’s sense of adventure, how she can light up a room full of smiles and get people talking, and how hard she listens and interacts with people…I admire her vision and dreams and how hard she seeks freedom and health. I appreciate that she speaks the truth, even if it hurts or she may not get liked over it..” – Shawn

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summerdantogetherSummer & Daniel ~ Together almost 25 years

Describe the first time you became aware of your partner:

Daniel – “We worked together at a movie theater. I made her laugh while in the box office but no one else could see me, so it made her look a little crazy.”

Summer – “I first met Daniel at my first real job as a box office girl at a movie theatre. I was 16, almost 17, and he was 19. He was transferred in from another store as a manager and introduced to me as Mr. Briggs. He wore a suit. He was quiet. He paid absolutely no attention to me. And I was smitten. We were from completely different kinds of backgrounds. We had so little in common. I would come in on my day off wearing tiny black mini skirts and flirt unabashedly. One day he pulled a joke on me. And he laughed. That laugh turned into conversations. Which led me to ask him out, and led him to give me a very HR answer about no dating between employees. Which led me to put in my notice that night. We went on our first date that weekend.

Somehow in these last few years, though, I’ve become aware of him in new ways. I’d walked around with perceptions of who he is and was and they blocked me from seeing him, as he was, who he is in the very moment. My own expectations and needs were blocking me from seeing him. Working so closely together, through so much personal and financial and business opening chaos and stress has allowed me to see him. To really leave my perceptions and insecurities behind and simply see him. Who he is. What struggles he’s going through. What path he is forging. And it’s led me to be aware of him in new ways. To love him in deeper ways. To care about him more completely. To talk to him more. To understand him better. It’s almost like starting all over again after getting so much wrong the first 20 years.”

 What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever received?

 

Daniel - I don’t remember ever receiving any relationship advice.”

Summer – “This Valentines Day I was photographing people at a local business. A woman approached me to take a snap of her with her husband. She leaned in and told me “we’ve been together 52 years this year” with a wink. I let her know I was going on 25 this year. She looked at me very earnestly and said, “Oh, you’re young still. So much to learn.” And it put life in good perspective for me. Dan and I are far from figuring it all out yet. And that’s the beauty of this journey we’re on together.

The piece of advice that helps me the most, though, is from Daniel. He asks me to “Love him anyways.” It resonates so deeply with me. Living with anyone is compromise. It’s bound to cause your nerves to grate. Loving anyone is bound to cause disappointment, heartache, and some pain. During the little moments of crazy annoyance where he keeps adding to the garbage until it’s overflowing, I think, Love him Anyways. It helps. It is him to do that. It’s not going to change. Instead of being so frustrated, stopping to remember I love him anyways takes the frustration and anger out-of-the-way for me. It puts it into a different perspective and allows me to ask for what I need, the garbage taken out, or gives me the room to just take it out without “losing” a fight he’s not even aware he’s in. During the bigger hurts, the emotional reactions that threaten to pull us apart, I try to take pause and think Love Him Anyways. It helps me to remember this is one moment, one fight, one hurt, and we have a lifetime of other moments behind us and in front of us. This one doesn’t define us. It isn’t the end of my love for him or my commitment towards us. It’s just a Love Him Anyways moment we’ll get through. Most times stronger than where we started.”

Friends’ & Family’s thoughts on Summer & Daniel as a couple:

“They have a deep and refined understanding of who each one of them are. They support each other in their dreams. They build each other up as a couple and are happy to spend time with each other and not have to be in big groups.” – Gene

“I do not know Dan very well, but I appreciate the hard work they have put into their relationship. They are committed and resilient and have made it through some tough times. They support each other and work together to reach mutual goals. They are different but appreciate each other’s differences. Great couple!” – Kristen

“I love their playfulness and creativity.” – Shannon

“Caring, creative couple. They support each other and love each other unconditionally.” – Juliette

“Dear Dan & Summer,
I can’t describe in mere words how much your love for each other makes a positive difference in my day-to-day life. Your love for one another as well as your marriage has given me an example that true love is real.” – Christy

“Summer and Dan love each other completely and just as they are. They are so opposite but balance each other out in this unique and special way. Not many couples can spend as much time together as they do and still enjoy each other, but they do spend most of their time together and really truly seem to still enjoy each moment. I have never heard either one of them speak an ill word towards the other publicly or nag or pick at each other. They are life companions that not only love each other, but like each other too. They actually inspire me to love my husband better.” – Heather

“As a couple, Summer and Dan are so loving. I hope one day to find that kind of love – you can honestly see how much they love one another. Between their weekly Facebook hacks, their adorable hashtags, or the simplicity of their nightly walks, you can just see a level of love that many couples don’t seem to have. I admire the two of them so much. Throughout their hardest times they have been there for each other.” – Kaylee

“Most kids look to their parents’ marriage to understand love and what relationships are supposed to look like. They model their own love stories based on what they see growing up. I didn’t have that. I had Summer and Dan to look to to understand what love was about and how relationships should be. I feel so lucky to have had them for an example. This is what I believe about their love…Their love is enduring. They support each other through every up and down life has thrown at them. They really are best friends. They don’t see each other as being without fault, they embrace those faults and, rather than criticize and judge, they accept and love. They both put in the work it takes to keep their love and friendship thriving. They don’t take each other for granted. They are love.” – Kirsten

jessicakyletogetherJessica & Kyle ~ Together 3 or 4 years(ish)

Describe the first time you became aware of your partner:

Kyle - “The minute she looked at me and made eye contact.”

Jessica – “Mazatlan on Cinco De Mayo. He made me smile and I had not smiled in months. He made me laugh and I wasn’t sure I would be able to anymore. He made me feel like I was the prettiest girl he had ever seen… he is silly when he drinks and quite the social butterfly :)”

  

What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever received?

Kyle – “Never give up, never let it get stale.”

Jessica – “Do not go to bed mad, always communicate your feelings.”
Friends’ & Family’s thoughts on Jessica & Kyle as a couple:

“They have great teamwork and communication” – Anita

“We love their honesty. We love their admiration for one another. They support one another, and strive to GIVE to one another. We love them both, and are so happy they have found each other.” – Mandy & Aaron

“Dear Jessica and Kyle,
I am asked to write a letter to you both as a couple, which is a challenge for someone who hasn’t spent a ton of time with you both. I can really only write the letter based on the few interactions we have had when we have all been together and what I take from my conversations with Jess.
When I have been around the two of you, I notice a true connection. I see a friendship, support, and clearly a passion that exists in your relationship. I feel safe in assuming passion as you have two kids together in such a short period of time! :) It seems that you support each others loves and accept that time away from each other may make the time together more important.
Jessica, you seem to accept that Kyle has a love of the outdoors and you allow him to take the time he needs to be happy and enjoy his hobbies. Sacrificing your time together for time with another of his loves is a selfless act and demonstrates that his loves are equally as important to you. Kyle, you seem to accept that Jessica wants to grow her business on top of being a mother and wife. You allow her to take the time she needs and you support her by helping with the kids and sacrificing time with her. You have allowed her to share her gift with others at the expense of sacrificing some time with your. It is a true example of loving your wife.
You both seem to share a passion for art. You went on an adventure together to hear your favorite band. You focused on the two of you, left the kids at home, and created fun memories that can carry you through times when adventures may be limited. You identified a shared love of an artist and incorporated it into your marriage and doing something together. One of my hopes for you in your marriage is that you remember to take time out from your busy life to continue to share common loves and turn them into adventures.
Another quality I admire about the two of you is that you both display your loves in an artistic fashion on your bodies in the form of tattoos. I love this not because I love tattoos, but, because of the symbolism behind it. Jessica has symbolized just how much she loves you, Kyle. She has combined two loves together of both art and you. You know how much she loves you, people who know her know how much she loves you and her family, but she has gone as far as displaying her true loves on her body for the world to see in the form of a tattoo. She put thought into it and included symbols that translated to you and her children when displaying the verse on her arm. It’s the modern-day form of shouting her love for you from the mountaintops! It is a quality I truly admire. It is a quality that more people shouldn’t be afraid to share. It need not be in the form of tattoos but in any way that proclaims one’s love for another. Why not tell the world how much you love the person you are committed to? I am proud of you, Jessica, for sharing your love for all to see!
Kyle, you also display your love of Jessica for the world to see when anyone sees you with your kids! You nurture and love the things that a mother cherishes most. In a woman’s eyes, that is a true statement of love. You have taken on the true role of providing stability for your family and represent the wonderful qualities of what a husband should be.
The one thing I admire most about your relationship is that it is built on a foundation of love! Enjoy your journey, friends, and keep on loving each other whole-heartedly.
Love,
Liz”
“They are a couple that continues to grow together, and not only are they a couple, but they are best friends. They balance each other out.” – Lanette

“To Kyle & Jessica, I love you! You are both a gift, not only to each other, but to all you know. I believe that your loyalty and love outshine the hardships and challenges that occur throughout life.” – JulieAnn

“Kyle and Jessica together have embraced each other. Together they have found in every way to enjoy life as a couple. They have found in each other the family in which they have needed to feel blessed and whole.” – Peggie

“What I love most about us is how much we laugh…there aren’t too many people who get our sense of humor and can continuously have something to laugh about. I love how we both love deeply and always remind the other of exactly how much the other means to us.” – Kyle

“As a couple we work together and rarely step on each other’s toes. We lift each other up in times of need. We both work hard to give our children the best lives we can give and then some. We spoil each other. We are understanding, supportive, caring and try hard to never go to bed mad. We are raising four small children together and haven’t killed each other or them yet…I’d say that’s doing pretty good! We are always asking how we can be better spouses, we are ever evolving as partners so we give each other what we deserve. We are very open about feelings and good at communication, for the most part. Not much gets swept under the rug or ignored here. I believe we have finally both discovered real love and we are both willing to work to make it last.” – Jessica
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Tracy & Shawn ~ Together 23ish years

Describe the first time you became aware of your partner:

Shawn - “At a party I went to, she was sitting on a bed in the middle of the living room with a huge American flag that covered the whole wall behind her. I couldn’t stop gazing at her…”

Tracy – “He was brooding in a corner, confident enough to be just outside the group yet interested enough to watch.”

 

What is the best relationship advice you’ve ever received?

Shawn - “The Bible, when God said to love your wife like He loves the church and laid His life down for her…”
Tracy – “Don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry.”

Friends’ & Family’s thoughts on Tracy & Shawn as a couple:

“I admire how long they have been together and how they have overcome a lot as a couple. My brother’s undying love for his wife is something every woman prays for. They have four wonderful kids and I see their parents in all of them.” – Jean


“Tracy and Shawn are a wonderful balance. I believe they take turns grounding each other in life, love and our Lord. They are both family oriented, fun-loving, caring and creative. They are a fabulous mix of fire and earth! I see Tracy as being the Fire;) and Shawn being the Earth;). I admire their strength and courage in their love, marriage and path in life. I congratulate them on their 20+ years of life and love together. They are strong good people, the best neighbors I will ever have, and my good friends!” – Margot

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Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and experiences, if you feel so inclined.

The reason behind the start of this project can be found here: If you don’t have anything nice to say…
previous 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 7, Men!
Group 8
Group 9, Moms & Daughters! (featuring Melissa & Lily)
Group 9, Moms & Daughters! (featuring Liz & Caitie)

 

 

 

 

 

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Group 9 – Moms & Daughters! (featuring Liz & Caitie)

alanatphotography:

in super duper excitement and anticipation of Group 10 – Couples!! happening on Sunday, I’m reblogging one from Group 9 – Moms & Daughters. And, ohmygoodnessyes, I will be finishing the blogs from Group 9. I still have seven awesome women whose stories you need to hear. I haven’t done it yet because, 1) I’m the most terrible procrastinator, 2) I procrastinate even more when I’m scared I’m not going to be able to do someone’s story the justice it deserves, 3) I’m just damn busy. I WILL get to them, however. I WILL.
For now, enjoy this one again, ’cause it’s a good one…

Originally posted on alana t photography:

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(The introduction for each of these Group 9 blogs will be the same…if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip down to Caitie’s & Liz’s stories…if not, Melissa’s & Lily’s stories can be found here)

“When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement.”

Those were words written in and spoken by Melissa, the first mom to share her story. Melissa had participated in Group 1 and was ready/nervous/frightened/determined to participate in this group, as she thought it would be beneficial to share the same honest and open experience with her daughter.

This project had been going on for a year and a half by the time this group took place back in June.
Every group is eye-opening, every group is relatable, every group has compelling stories that evoke much emotion.
This group was all of those things and more.
The emotion…

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are you beautiful? I asked 100 men what ‘physical beauty’ is and the results shocked me

alanatphotography:

this goes along with everything I believe in and everything that the Raw.Honest.Loved.Project is all about. Thank you, Rozanne!

Originally posted on Life is Rozie:

Tina Fey said it best in her book, ‘Bossy Pants’:

 “But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of mainstream American beauty.
Girls wanted butts now.
Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them.
And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired.
And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful.
Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you.
All Beyonce and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful.

Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose…

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Group 9 – Moms & Daughters! (featuring Liz & Caitie)

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(The introduction for each of these Group 9 blogs will be the same…if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip down to Caitie’s & Liz’s stories…if not, Melissa’s & Lily’s stories can be found here)

“When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement.”

Those were words written in and spoken by Melissa, the first mom to share her story. Melissa had participated in Group 1 and was ready/nervous/frightened/determined to participate in this group, as she thought it would be beneficial to share the same honest and open experience with her daughter.

This project had been going on for a year and a half by the time this group took place back in June.
Every group is eye-opening, every group is relatable, every group has compelling stories that evoke much emotion.
This group was all of those things and more.
The emotion involved this night was the most intense of any yet.
Why? Because being a mom is an emotional roller-coaster that none of us are really fully prepared for. And most of the time, we’re not all talking about the tougher side of motherhood.
We’re not talking about how much anxiety it can cause.
How isolating it can often be.
We’re not talking about how sometimes being a mom fucking sucks.
How much we question every. single. step. that we take.
We talked this night about all of it. We talked about the mistakes we’ve made. We talked about where we think we may have done things right. We talked about so many things.

***The mom with the son and daughter whom she feels she’s failed. She never wanted kids anyway…is that wrong?? Is it wrong to vocalize??

***The mom who had to work full-time to support her alcoholic, drug-abusing husband, who had to leave their daughter there to care for him at these times because there seemed to be no other option. Who watched her daughter not get to experience a real childhood…did she totally screw up?? Will her daughter be okay??

***The mom who has always cared too much about others’ feelings toward her, who feels she has set a bad example for her teen daughter, especially in respect to men. Who became a victim of abuse and stayed…did she completely fail her daughter with that example, even though she finally left?? Will her daughter make the same mistakes??

***The mom who experienced tragedy and powered through, seemingly stoic. Who has always been the pillar, the strong one on the outside…should she have shared more?? Should she have cried in the open more??

***The mom who never feels like she’s enough, who has also experienced tragedy and loss you and I could not imagine experiencing. Has she been too emotional?? Is she setting the right example??

***The mom who felt like a huge failure simply from stepping into that role too young, who is always trying to live up to expectations of someone she’ll never be able to actually get approval from. Is he proud of her?? Did she work hard enough??

I promise you that you will relate to at least one of these stories.
We all seem to have these thoughts running through our heads. We compare ourselves to everyone else. There are often overwhelming feelings that the other moms are, simply, just doing it better. ‘They’re not possibly almost losing their shit as we feel like we are…they’ve got it together. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!’
And then you sit down and talk to a few of them and there’s a big “A-HA!” moment – we’re all the same. We’re scared. We’re exhausted. We’re scraping by. We’re overwhelmed. We’re insecure. We’re desperate for some validation that we’re each doing, at least, ‘alright’.

This particular group came about because, not just do we need some solidarity as moms, but, we need some as moms raising daughters. The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the most influential (and just happens to be the one we’re talking about this time). Our daughters most often learn from us what it means to be a woman. A father can see his daughter as separate from himself, but, this can be much more difficult for a mother. In my own experience, my mothering of my daughter versus my son differs in ways I often wish it wouldn’t. Affection comes much easier with my son, especially now that my daughter is a teenager. Do I think this is because of my own relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother growing up (more on that and the mother/daughter dynamic here)? Because of the lack of affection that went on in my own childhood home? Definitely. I often simply do not know how to show affection to my daughter. It feels so foreign. And it KILLS ME. It’s the number one thing I wish I could change in our relationship. I am her biggest cheerleader and her main advocate in all things – I will take on the world for/with her, but it’s difficult to give her a hug. WHAT?! Crazy, I know. Which is why I had my daughter (14) join us this evening as well. We could relate to so much of what was said. We needed to talk this stuff through also.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the similarities in insecurities between the mothers and daughters. I watched the pattern as all of their write-ups came through to me in the days before…and it made me cry. We pass these things on to our daughters (maybe our sons, too. probably our sons, too.) without even realizing it. It’s devastating. The recognition on each of these moms’ faces when realizing how similar their daughters’ insecurities are to theirs…it was a very shocking and enlightening moment. A teaching moment. Where maybe we didn’t realize this before…we thought we weren’t vocalizing these things…if we’re not vocalizing them, it’s okay, right?? Seems to be wrong. We, as their moms, are the number one influence on how our daughters feel about themselves. Our kids are sponges, not just of our words, but, most definitely of our actions. And, really, not all of this can be helped. We can’t just be these super shiny examples of doing everything perfectly, that’s just not realistic. But, we can be aware. This made us aware. I know it taught me to share. I already share quite a bit and try to do so at appropriate times with my daughter, regarding different experiences in life, but, it was emphasized even more to me how important it is. Being “real”, being honest, is vital.

I’m breaking this group up into blogs of each mother/daughter duo (or grandma/mother/daughter trio, in one case) in the order of the evening, for the sake of telling each of their stories in a less overwhelming package. The most important things that were said this evening were the things said in-between what had been written. There was so much conversation that went into much more detail. So, I will be including a bit of that with each mother/daughter story. Hopefully, this will give each woman the chance she deserves to have her experience told…as a mother…as a daughter…together.
(links to previous groups can be found at the bottom of the page)

Liz & Caitie

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Caitie ~ Being in 8th grade, at a rich private school, while on a scholarship can be very difficult. I accepted a scholarship and started attending (name omitted for privacy) school this year. This was a big change in my life that I am still struggling with today. I always feel compared to the other girls in ways of money, looks, and many more things. But one thing in particular that always gets me down is how I look. I have transformed SO much in the past two years. I have lost over 40 pounds, I have gotten contacts and my braces off, I have grown taller, I have grown more mature. Even through this transformation, I have gained confidence, but I still don’t have as much as I should. Everyday I look at myself in the mirror and say: “You aren’t good enough. You are too fat and ugly to be loved.” I think, “People should pick on you at school; you deserve it. You don’t have any friends. Nobody likes you.” Some days I don’t want to eat because I want to be skinny. This is not how I want to live my teenage years. I need to have better friends in my life, and find good people to surround myself with more often. I need a change.”

Caitie’s friends and family –

“Dear Caitlin,
I’ve know you for a long time and Girl Scouts was a great time for us, and a great time for me to make a new friend. That friend was you – a quirky, fun, caring, and most definitely outgoing girl! I’ve had lots of good memories with you and I hope we can always make more! I admire your snappy attitude and your way of entertaining and interacting with people. You’re an all around nice, talented and smart girl. I hope we can stay friends and I hope you stay just the way you are.
Your Friend,
Paige :)

“Caitlin, you’ve been my friend for many years and I’m very thankful for that. Even through our ups and downs you’ve proven to me that you’re a strong, inspiring, beautiful girl that never gives up. You’re a fighter, who will push through anything that stands in your way of your dreams and will do anything for anyone no matter what. Never be insecure about who you are. And don’t ever change to be someone else. I love you for YOU <3 “ – Isa

“Caitlin is a smart, honest, fun, outgoing girl. I have always loved being around my best friend, but she is not really my best friend…she’s more like my SISTER! I love her so much and don’t know what my life would be like without her. It’s hard to have a long-distance friendship but if you have to, it can work out in your favor.” – Hailey

“Dear Caitie,
You are very funny. You have always been a good friend to me and helped me through any problems I have had. I am very happy I can count on you and you’ll be there because that is what friends are supposed to do. You are very independent and a strong person who has been through a lot but you still keep your head up and a smile on your face.
From Ashley”

“My lovely daughter. You amaze me. I see more and more glimpses of the young adult you are growing into and it makes me so excited. I know you still are holding onto being a kid, but know you will always be my kid. You are so beautiful, so funny, so strong. I love your voice, your courage – you are a natural leader and watching you find that and practice it is amazing. I’m proud to be your mama. Your growing into your own skin, and I truly believe these next 4 years will be memorable and positive for you. Be confident to be who you ARE. You are awesome baby boo. Don’t lose sight on you. Love you kiddo.” – Liz

After I take her photo, Caitie goes onto elaborate on her insecurity:

Caitie: “I’ve had troubles in the last couple of years or so with self-harm. I told my new friend at school about it. The day of graduation there was a big sleepover that I wasn’t invited to, for all the girls in my class. That girl called me from there to ask me if I was okay because they didn’t want me to cut myself again. I could hear a bunch of girls laughing in the background…”

Me: “because she shared it with them?”

Caitie: “Yeah, I trusted her with my big secrets and she told everyone. That was really hard for me…I’ve always wanted to be friends with her…one day she shared with me that she used to try to be mean to me to get me to not hang out with her anymore. It was really hard to hear – whenever she would say something mean to me or make fun of me in front of people to try to be funny or make herself look cool, I would just try to not let it get to me because I was afraid of being alone…I try to tell myself, “Why would you want these people as friends? They don’t deserve your friendship.” But, it’s hard to love yourself.”

We go on to discuss how she ended up in this situation at this private school…

Caitie: “We moved here at a time when so much was going on…my grandpa died, my dog died, my parents were getting divorced…everything happened at once, so we moved up here and I knew nobody.”

She and her mom, Liz, go on to speak about the difference in environment. How friendships came easily to Caitie in her former school, but, now that she was starting over, it was much more difficult. How hard it is to insert yourself into a new school where these kids have all grown up together, where they already have a tight bond and an already established clique. Most have been raised together since they were about three years old. They also are, for the most part, used to a different standard of living.
Caitie goes on to explain: “The worst part is that I think they didn’t even know they were doing anything wrong…When I was a kid, I didn’t really get to have a childhood because my dad did a lot of stuff that was bad and I had to take care of him and stuff and wasn’t able to be a kid. So, now I’m going through the bullying stuff and not having the same experiences as other kids is really hard. I try not to show that kind of stuff because I have different problems than they do. They complain about not getting enough money, not getting as much as they want for allowance, and I’m over here having serious trouble with my family…they don’t understand. And all of my good friends are in Vancouver.”

We go on to discuss how that likely isn’t the case – it’s not that these other kids have perfect lives, it’s just that maybe they’ve been raised to live under this guise of perfection. Hiding the real problems that may be happening at home. Smoke and mirrors. Not everything is always as it appears. 
I’ll go into more on all of this after Liz’s story, as Liz and Caitie’s stories are obviously intertwined…

Group 9_LizInsLiz – Insecure. Fear. Unloved. Alone. Unworthy. Judged. Not good enough. Needy. Spoiled. Questioning. Question my motives, question my instincts, question my abilities. Not a lack of confidence, but a doubt. A small seed of doubt. Haunting doubt. Shadow of a doubt. Doubt about my choices, my strength, my abilities, my motives. My negative shadow of self-doubt. How can I trust even myself? Fixer. People pleaser – I have sacrificed my own self to fill the doubt and that didn’t work.
Somewhere along the way, I lost sight of ME. My desires, my hopes, my values, my instincts, all put aside for others for so long. Lost sight of ME – now I don’t even recognize myself anymore. Who am I and what am I about? What IS my path? Forgotten. Question everything. Am I ok? Am I a good mom? Am I worth loving? Am I someone I would want to be around? How do I create the strong, confident, balanced woman I want to be? Where do I go from here? There is a blind faith for me to be on this path. I can’t see the end of the path – but I have to trust I am finally on the RIGHT path. My reward will to be able to see someone in the mirror that I respect, someone I would want to be by my side. Someone to be proud of. I want to belong in my own skin. I want to define – shine light on – my path. Without the doubt. The doubt can stay behind.”

Liz’s friends and family –

“Elizabeth is extremely kind and giving. In some ways almost to a fault. But nevertheless it is today and what she is doing for her family now. I believe she is a forward-looking and competitive person, making today and tomorrow the best of days. She understands support and the priority of family and the responsibility of providing a nurturing and giving environment to a daughter.
She has an artistic sense and the ability see a job and produce a creative outcome. Also the organizational ability to multitask, all of theses attributes are characteristic of her parental influence.
Lastly she is a beautiful woman, who is kind and loving.” – Jack

“I love how positive she is and how smart she is…she is the total package in my life. She has been through hell and back and has made it out to a better life and continues to strive for more out of life…she isn’t narrow-viewed or close-minded and all of this in this day and age is rare.” – Adam

“Liz is a tremendously loyal, compassionate woman who is able to organize and take charge of items that require decisive leadership. Always willing and able to put in some elbow grease.
Unique, and appreciates diversity- non-judgmental.” – Eric

“Oh, my beautiful, amazing, and talented Lizzy…. The strongest woman I know. And I’m blessed to have you as my best friend. I admire your drive- when you set your mind to it- watch out world! The love and support you give, not just to your family and friends, but also to the people you don’t know. You are one of the few people I know who will drop whatever they are doing to help another. I love how you get emotional about some things… Even the ones we don’t agree on!” – Kay

“Liz always surprises with her talents, strengths, interests and passions. She, like her dad, can get intensely involved in a project, never fearing that it is something she’s never done before or that maybe it might be too hard. She has drive and ambition in abundance.
Liz has both inner and outer beauty and a style all her own, never a copycat. She is a fiercely loyal mom and has a heart of gold.” – Dianne

After taking her photo, I asked Liz if she cared to elaborate on her insecurity anymore…

Liz: “Um, this (the group) has just come at a really good time. I’m glad this is here.”

Caitie speaks to her mom: “When you say you have self-doubt and you doubt you’re able to be loved or be a good mom, that just blows my mind. Through my dad being an alcoholic and a drug addict and not being there for us…through going through divorce and being alone, you’ve always been there for me and you put a smile on your face and you just figure out how to put your stuff aside and not care for yourself. You care for me and grandma and everybody else – you put us first before you and sometimes you forget to take care of yourself. How could you think that you aren’t a good mom? I don’t understand why you would think that about yourself. It makes me feel bad that you feel that way.” 

Liz, to Caitie: “I’m sorry. It tears me up that you …I worked so hard to get you into that school because I thought you needed some structure and needed a smaller place to thrive…”

Caitie: “I’ve always felt that because I didn’t have a good experience there…that I failed you because you worked so hard to get me in, like it was all for nothing…”

Liz: “but then I feel like I failed YOU because I put you in a place that tore you apart socially…and getting you out of that situation with your dad, I feel guilty that I didn’t do that soon enough – you missed your childhood - because I didn’t have enough guts to get us out. That haunts me. I carry that with me because I wasn’t strong enough.”

Caitie goes on to talk about how Liz had no choice. How she had to work because they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to survive. How it wasn’t her mom’s fault. How she did what she had to do.

Ugh. Right?
I think that was the overwhelming feeling. Especially for us moms.
We really felt for Liz here.
To hear your kid tell you that it’s okay that you made the difficult choices that you made…that even though it may have been extremely tough on them in some ways, they’re okay.
They’re okay because you enabled them to survive.
And YOU survived.
You may not have done everything perfectly along the way, but, you worked with the situation you had. You may wish you could have changed a million things, but, you can’t go back. You can’t fix it all, but, what you’ve strived to fix has been worth it.

At this point, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room. We all had experienced a bit of emotional exhaustion through all of this heavy conversation…and we were only four stories in!

Guilt.
What mom (dad, too, I’m sure) can’t relate to the feelings of guilt? At least on some scale.
Here was Liz looking at her life – feeling guilty that Caitie had been in and out of hospitals with her father when he overdosed, that Caitie had to be the one to care for him at home, as he was in no position to be caring for his family at that time. Feeling guilty that she had to be out of the home on business trips, that she had to take time away from home in order to provide for her family. Feeling guilty that she couldn’t just get her daughter out of that situation. Feeling guilty for not leaving. And then, when she did leave, feeling guilty for not leaving sooner. After that, she provides what she thinks will be a more comfortable life for Caitie and ends up feeling guilty for the way Caitie is treated in this new environment straight out of the ‘Mean Girls’ movie. Suffice it to say, she probably even felt guilty for admitting in this group that she felt guilty for all of this. Aaaaaaa!

This was all obviously incredibly intense. But, seeing the communication, seeing the honesty that was being put forth in this group…it was beautiful. Mothers and daughters were having conversations that maybe they’re not accustomed to having. Conversations that, however hard they may be to have, were obviously necessary. It was important for the daughters here to see the honesty. They’ve seen their moms always put up the strong front. A tough exterior – one that can handle it all.

Honestly, that feels like what we’re doing as moms at least 75% of the time, doesn’t it? We’ve got our strong shells and our kids often don’t see the cracks. They don’t see the tears behind closed doors. They don’t see us awake at night questioning countless parenting decisions we’ve made. The things we could have said differently, the extra bit of patience we wish we could have had, the hug we wish we could’ve slowed down and given them as opposed to the snapping at them that we did instead…and on and on and on.

There was such a comfort in this group. To have our kids see the raw bits of us – the reality of being a mother.
To hear from them that, no matter how you may question yourself, no matter how often you do this, your kids see a you that you don’t.
They see the stronger version of you.
They don’t see that this may be a bit of a facade you are protecting them with.
They see you in ways you don’t even realize.
The fragility that you may feel is enveloped in a love that presents itself as a strong, safe refuge for them.

That’s the mom you are.

***on a side note, I must include some information about a situation that happened in relation to Caitie when the photos from this night went up on Facebook. I had previously warned the ladies in this group that people can often be quick to make assumptions about what they’ve written when it’s compartmentalized into such a small space as a word or so on a chalkboard. I’m so glad I warned them of this, as that’s exactly what happened the very next day. One of Caitie’s former teachers contacted her and told her, and I quote: “Your post is humiliating garbage,” “You should take it down. People who really care about you will not give any attention to it.”
Caitie went on to attempt to explain this project to her, letting her know that her and Liz were extremely happy with the evening and what it did for them. Her teacher went on to basically say that Facebook isn’t the place for this.
I disagree. The point of this project is to encourage LESS judgment, MORE relating. Definitely MORE compassion. The reason it is posted on Facebook is because, well, Facebook is where the people are. And Facebook is what has encouraged this project along. It is because these raw and honest stories are shared with you, the public, that people take a minute to think a little deeper. To pause before judgment. To show love and empathy. To evaluate relationships. I get messages all the time in this regard. What I don’t get are messages saying what this teacher did…that this sort of thing is “humiliating garbage.”
Caitie was also told, “You are a child. Your mother needs to take you to the museum, a movie, ice cream. You do not need more drama and adult stuff.”
Hey, guess what? Caitie’s not a child. She’s a teenager. A young adult. She just entered high school. She is faced with very real, very adult issues every day. She was faced with these adult issues as a child. Now that she has the capacity to process these things, they should just be avoided? She should go have some ice cream? See a movie? Play with a Barbie too, maybe? No. She’s not three. THIS. IS. LIFE. We’d do well to acknowledge that and guide her through it. Not stifle conversation.
I let Caitie know that I would love for this teacher to contact me and that maybe I could dispel whatever was making her so “concerned” about Caitie’s involvement in this project (though, the fact that Liz, HER MOTHER, deemed it something they should do should have been enough). Her response was that she would not be contacting me, that she ‘respects her own credentials’ and that I am ‘a freaking photographer. Not even a psychologist. WOW.’
Yep. I am a photographer. Even a freaking photographer. Not a psychologist. Not a psychiatrist. Not a therapist. Not even a counselor. But, here’s the thing…I’ve never attested to be any of those. I do this project because it facilitates conversation. This is something anyone can do. I don’t give out answers. I encourage discussion. That is all. Not that I needed to answer to that…anyone who’s been in a group can attest to what it is that goes on.
*Sigh*
Positivity.
Let’s keep this stuff positive.
Encourage each other. Promote discussion. Be there. Be loving.
This project is here to benefit others. And that’s the general response. I hope you find that to be the case in at least some form.
Much love, Alana***

…look out soon for the next story: Jennifer & Gwendolyn. A story about looking for approval, about wanting to be liked, about dealing with abuse…

Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences, if you feel so inclined.

the reason behind the start of this project can be found here: If you don’t have anything nice to say…
previous 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 7, Men!
Group 8
Group 9, Moms & Daughters! (featuring Melissa & Lily)

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Group 9 – Moms & Daughters! (featuring Melissa & Lily)

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“When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement.”

Those were words written in and spoken by Melissa, the first mom to share her story. Melissa had participated in Group 1 and was ready/nervous/frightened/determined to participate in this group, as she thought it would be beneficial to share the same honest and open experience with her daughter.

This project had been going on for a year and a half by the time this group took place back in June.
Every group is eye-opening, every group is relatable, every group has compelling stories that evoke much emotion.
This group was all of those things and more.
The emotion involved this night was the most intense of any yet.
Why? Because being a mom is an emotional roller-coaster that none of us are really fully prepared for. And most of the time, we’re not all talking about the tougher side of motherhood.
We’re not talking about how much anxiety it can cause.
How isolating it can often be.
We’re not talking about how sometimes being a mom fucking sucks.
How much we question every. single. step. that we take.
We talked this night about all of it. We talked about the mistakes we’ve made. We talked about where we think we may have done things right. We talked about so many things.

***The mom with the son and daughter whom she feels she’s failed. She never wanted kids anyway…is that wrong?? Is it wrong to vocalize??

***The mom who had to work full-time to support her alcoholic, drug-abusing husband, who had to leave their daughter there to care for him at these times because there seemed to be no other option. Who watched her daughter not get to experience a real childhood…did she totally screw up?? Will her daughter be okay??

***The mom who has always cared too much about others’ feelings toward her, who feels she has set a bad example for her teen daughter, especially in respect to men. Who became a victim of abuse and stayed…did she completely fail her daughter with that example, even though she finally left?? Will her daughter make the same mistakes??

***The mom who experienced tragedy and powered through, seemingly stoic. Who has always been the pillar, the strong one on the outside…should she have shared more?? Should she have cried in the open more??

***The mom who never feels like she’s enough, who has also experienced tragedy and loss you and I could not imagine experiencing. Has she been too emotional?? Is she setting the right example??

***The mom who felt like a huge failure simply from stepping into that role too young, who is always trying to live up to expectations of someone she’ll never be able to actually get approval from. Is he proud of her?? Did she work hard enough??

I promise you that you will relate to at least one of these stories.
We all seem to have these thoughts running through our heads. We compare ourselves to everyone else. There are often overwhelming feelings that the other moms are, simply, just doing it better. ‘They’re not possibly almost losing their shit as we feel like we are…they’ve got it together. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?!’
And then you sit down and talk to a few of them and there’s a big “A-HA!” moment – we’re all the same. We’re scared. We’re exhausted. We’re scraping by. We’re overwhelmed. We’re insecure. We’re desperate for some validation that we’re each doing, at least, ‘alright’.

This particular group came about because, not just do we need some solidarity as moms, but, we need some as moms raising daughters. The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the most influential (and just happens to be the one we’re talking about this time). Our daughters most often learn from us what it means to be a woman. A father can see his daughter as separate from himself, but, this can be much more difficult for a mother. In my own experience, my mothering of my daughter versus my son differs in ways I often wish it wouldn’t. Affection comes much easier with my son, especially now that my daughter is a teenager. Do I think this is because of my own relationship, or lack thereof, with my own mother growing up (more on that and the mother/daughter dynamic here)? Because of the lack of affection that went on in my own childhood home? Definitely. I often simply do not know how to show affection to my daughter. It feels so foreign. And it KILLS ME. It’s the number one thing I wish I could change in our relationship. I am her biggest cheerleader and her main advocate in all things – I will take on the world for/with her, but it’s difficult to give her a hug. WHAT?! Crazy, I know. Which is why I had my daughter (14) join us this evening as well. We could relate to so much of what was said. We needed to talk this stuff through also.

It was absolutely heartbreaking to see the similarities in insecurities between the mothers and daughters. I watched the pattern as all of their write-ups came through to me in the days before…and it made me cry. We pass these things on to our daughters (maybe our sons, too. probably our sons, too.) without even realizing it. It’s devastating. The recognition on each of these moms’ faces when realizing how similar their daughters’ insecurities are to theirs…it was a very shocking and enlightening moment. A teaching moment. Where maybe we didn’t realize this before…we thought we weren’t vocalizing these things…if we’re not vocalizing them, it’s okay, right?? Seems to be wrong. We, as their moms, are the number one influence on how our daughters feel about themselves. Our kids are sponges, not just of our words, but, most definitely of our actions. And, really, not all of this can be helped. We can’t just be these super shiny examples of doing everything perfectly, that’s just not realistic. But, we can be aware. This made us aware. I know it taught me to share. I already share quite a bit and try to do so at appropriate times with my daughter, regarding different experiences in life, but, it was emphasized even more to me how important it is. Being “real”, being honest, is vital.

I’m breaking this group up into blogs of each mother/daughter duo (or grandma/mother/daughter trio, in one case) in the order of the evening, for the sake of telling each of their stories in a less overwhelming package. The most important things that were said this evening were the things said in-between what had been written. There was so much conversation that went into much more detail. So, I will be including a bit of that with each mother/daughter story. Hopefully, this will give each woman the chance she deserves to have her experience told…as a mother…as a daughter…together.

(links to previous groups can be found at the bottom of the page)

Melissa & Lily ~

Group 9_MelissaInsMelissa J. ~ “What am I insecure about? So, this is my second around at this. Facing my insecurities the first time wasn’t easy. Who knew I had more skeletons in my closet?! Round 1, I spoke about my insecurities with my weight, body image and lack of self-esteem.

A major insecurity for me now is that I’m not making the right decisions when it comes to my kids. When people tell you that raising kids is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, it’s an understatement. I’ve tried to raise my kids with morals, values and respect. I raised my kids like my parents raised me, minus the things I thought they did wrong. What I missed was self-worth.

When my son was young, he was so confident and so happy. So I didn’t worry about him. My daughter was shy. I was so worried she would be like me, shy and afraid. So I signed her up for different classes, made her talk to people when she didn’t want to, and made her ask for things she wanted. Today, she is a confident and strong young woman. She knows who she is and I am very proud of her.

What is more painful for me is her brother. I no longer see that happy, self-assured boy and that kills me inside. He cowers and retreats when he’s challenged or questioned. He doesn’t see his value, questions his worth and the love we have for him. I don’t know where the line of being too stern or not begins and ends. How can I trust anything I say and do now if this is the result of parenting thus far? This is my biggest insecurity.”

Melissa’s friends and family ~

“One of the things I admire Melissa for is how she looks after her Mom and teaches her children to do the same. She’s a great mom, very loyal to her friends, takes good care of my son. I wouldn’t trade her.” – Evie

“She is always there to support family and friends.
She is passionate for food and culture.
She has strong opinions on what she believes and stands by them.
She is kind and caring.” – Tina

“I love how you are a great Mom – having patience, understanding, and the follow-through to enable our children to be the best well-rounded people they can be.
I love your sense of humor as we almost always are finding the humor in life.
I appreciate how you are a great daughter as you take care of your mother in a selfless, patient and loving way.
I appreciate how you always take the time to put your love into your art of cooking.
I love you for your patience with me and all of my faults.
I love how you make me want to be a better husband and father.” – Scott

Further from Melissa: “My kids think I’m this tough ass, kick-your-ass type of mom if you mess with me – part of the whole “failure” thing is sometimes I think, when it came down to it, I didn’t do it when I should have or when I needed to. And that’s part of the failing…I was raised with girls and having a son is SO different. And all of the expectations that come with having a son – and having a husband who has a son – you see that our expectations are even different…even at three, the expectations of being a man were already on my son…in hindsight, I can see where we could have made a difference, could have changed something, but it’s about moving forward from this point. Where do you go?”

We then spoke a bit about the men’s group that we did earlier this year, in which we discussed very much about that connotation of “be a man” and what that does to boys, and later, men. More on that can be found here: Group 7 – Men!

 

Group 9_LilyIns

Lily (age 13) ~ “My main insecurity is failure. I feel like I fail at everything. At being a good friend, keeping my grades/GPA up, meeting my parents’ expectations, personal goals, and being perfect. 

I really want to be perfect, but whenever I try to get an A, get perfectly skinny, have perfect hair, perfect anything – I always end up failing. And sometimes I’ll start to reach that goal of being perfect, but, as I said, I always end up failing for reasons that are, honestly, pretty dumb. Most times I will overthink WAY too much and beat myself up for failing and take my anger out on myself. People say that I don’t fail and I’m doing perfectly fine but I just think they are lying and I am that much of a failure that I can’t even get my friends or parents to tell the truth.”

 

Lily’s friends and family –

“Dear Lily, You are so beautiful and sweet and always have the cutest outfits. If anybody ever thinks otherwise then they must be crazy in the head because they don’t know who they’re dealing with. I’ll always love you!” – Abby

“They are very kind and nice and she’s pretty.” – Jaqueline

“She is a wonderful girl. She is my twin, not by blood, but by heart. We love the same things, eat the same things and do the same things. We may not see each other a lot, but what I admire most about her is that when she does something, she tries the hardest at it.” – Kaitlyn

“Lily, I love you because you are such a wonderful person inside and out. You are kind, smart and respectful. You warm my heart and make me happy and very proud.
I admire you because you are strong and brave, so much more than I was at your age. You make great decisions and choices when it comes to friends and doing the right thing. Since you were young, you have always known who you are and have done things in your own time.
You have so taught me so much, how to be a better mom, friend and person. I can’t imagine my life without you and your brother.” – Melissa

Melissa then comments about the last part of what she wrote to Lily: “The reason I say that is because I never wanted to get married or have kids, and they knew that. That’s something I told them since they were young – that I didn’t want kids. They’d then say, “Well, you didn’t want me” and I’d say, “I didn’t KNOW you. It’s not that I didn’t want YOU, I just didn’t know you.” To Lily she then says, “I just want you to know…I want you.”
~Commence hugging.~

Really, though, are we not allowed to say that? “I didn’t want kids…I got pregnant. I had kids. Originally, however, I did not want kids.” “GASP! YOU MUST BE THE WORST MOM!” No. Not the case. Why is that some sort of faux pas? Don’t we all know at least ONE woman who is a great mother but swore she’d never have kids? Who maybe was pissed and terrified and angry when she got pregnant, and still maybe is pissed and terrified and angry often as a mom, but, she’s still a great mom? You do know at least one. Even if you don’t know you do, you do. I’ve had many a conversation lately with moms who can attest to this sort of thing. I don’t think there’s anything crazy about it. There are many super insane and stressful situations I’ve had to meet in my life that don’t compare at all with the energy it takes to be an ever-present mom. When my kid (three year old son) has multiple nights on end where he awakens me several times through the night, it results in a version of myself that I find even scarier than the occasional super-hormonal version of myself. Sleep deprivation will turn any decent mother into a terrifying nightmare. There are many, many, many things that make being a mom the most rewarding job, but there are many, many, many things that make being a mom the absolute most difficult job…and a job that many, many, many moms maybe didn’t intend on signing up for. Doesn’t mean they love their children any less. As Melissa said, she didn’t know her children yet. Does she love her children more than anything else in the world? Absolutely. Would she give up being a mom now? Absolutely not. Does she sometimes still hate it? Absolutely. Is that normal? YES. So ridiculously normal. And this night gave us a chance to talk it all out. And I’m thankful to Melissa for addressing it.

…look out soon for the next story: Liz & Caitie. A story about growing up quickly, about living around substance abuse, about feeling incredibly out of place, about bullying, about starting over.

Please comment and share your thoughts and experiences, if you feel so inclined.

the reason behind the start of this project can be found here: If you don’t have anything nice to say…
previous 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 7, Men!
Group 8

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beginnings, thank yous, and overwhelming heart tugs.

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We just had our reunion of the nine groups that have happened so far and it got me thinking about beginnings. 

This project started about a year and a half ago, in February of 2013, as merely a “thought”, more or less.
As an idea.
As a little shift from the “normal,” just to see what could come of it.
It started because, simply, I feel that communication is powerful. Conversation can breed change.
It continues because that communication has become more powerful than I ever thought possible.

As I’ve said many times over, it started because I was more and more disgusted by the gossip, slander, trash-talking that is common among women. The ONE goal I had was that the eighteen of us in that first group would walk away with a little more understanding and a little more empathy – that we would check ourselves before we think something disparaging about another person, definitely before we voice such a thing to someone else. That we would take the time to realize that, more often than not, there is SOMEthing we have in common with them – that if we took five minutes to really listen to them…to listen about things that matter…our quick-to-judge opinion would change.

The project has continued because that has definitely happened. But, that’s not all that has happened. I receive letters over and over from participants who have gained more self-respect, more self-love. Who, besides being slower to judge others, are also now slower to judge themselves. They are equipped to recall the positive traits about themselves that their loved ones believe to be their overwhelming qualities. They’re not just equipped to do it – they actually DO it.

The project continues because I also receive letters and feedback from those who haven’t even been directly involved yet – those who take comfort in the words of participants that are friends and strangers alike, finding that they’re not alone in their feelings, in their insecurities. That we’re all more and more alike than we sometimes imagine.

One of the things that has impressed me the most about this project is that every. single. time. I orchestrate/facilitate another group or ANYthing related to the project – no matter how nervous I may get – everything flows so effortlessly and easily. It tells me every time that this is what I am supposed to be doing. Things just flow and work with this because it is based in positivity. Because it is solely for building up, supporting, and loving one another.

Even when it came down to organizing a party that would consist of about 130 people – I’ve NEVER thrown a party in which I would need 130 people entertained and happy! But, as I said, because it was for the project, it just came together beautifully and perfectly.

I cannot thank enough those involved with that night.
It’s impossible.
But I’m going to try.

For those of you that didn’t get to attend, however, I will give you an idea of how the night went down, in list form.  

- 80 photos and insecurities – (every single participant) were hung on the wall
– amaaaaazing finger foods
– ridiculously delicious beer and wine
- a photo booth (SO FUN!)
- a spot for the little kids to entertain themselves
- a video that made everyone weepy
- a raffle and silent auction featuring awesome goods from small businesses in the area
- music! My favorite kind of music.
- laughter, tears, and more laughter, with an overwhelming feeling of solidarity

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The night was amazing.
I’ve said many times since that I wish I could have stepped back, taken a breath, and just listened. Just looked around and taken the whole thing in.
I didn’t really get that chance, as there were so many people who stopped me that I desperately wanted to talk to. Everyone was there because they were supporting the project. That alone gave me a constant overwhelming lump in my throat. To see so many people there, whether they have been in my life for long periods of time or short, meant the world to me.
There really are no words to accurately convey how that felt. But, I would not be far off in saying that it was one of the best feelings ever. Like falling in love with 130 people at once. Whoa.

What I can possibly state just in words: the buzz was phenomenal. The party was constant and joyous. I was told multiple times that when guests entered the building, the energy was awesome and contagious. THAT means everything went as it should.
Once again, the project was a success. And it enforced my desire to continue. So, continue I will.
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This party served as a fundraiser as well – as I know that many who attended are curious, the amount raised basically allowed me to break even as far as the cost of the party itself. So, thank you all whom were there for helping me to throw an awesome party!

I will be releasing the Group 9 – Mothers/Daughters blog in the near future, as well as a Kickstarter for the project, so that this can be something that continues as long as possible. Hopefully, this will be out sooner than I currently think. 

Now, I’d like to thank some people specifically:

Rhiannon – my right hand lady – the one who has filmed almost every single group; the one who serves as the part of my brain that is often lacking; the one who tirelessly sets up and tears down all of these things with me. You are amazing. You have my undying appreciation always.

Jamey – I could not have thrown this thing without you. No joke. Your handling of the food – organizing and creating such a delicious array of selections – brought such peace of mind to my planning. Everyone would have had to eat some Little Caesars pizza if I had been handling the food. You and your family did more than I could have ever expected. And I know you had a few other awesome helpers with you – to all of you, THANK YOU. I love you guys.

Glenna – for tirelessly lending your home time and again for us to have a meeting place. I don’t know what I would have done without you. <3 Also, a big thank you to you and Abby for more wine! 

Kt – You are just awesome. You are reliable even when you think you’re not going to be reliable. Not really sure how you do that, but you do. You have been so damn supportive of this whole thing and I appreciate all you’ve put into it. I love how our friendship has grown since the start of this. You are definitely a part of our little family now. Thank you!

Ian – THAT VIDEO. WHAT?!?! That is the most beautiful thing. I still can’t watch without crying. You are ridiculously talented and I appreciate every stressful and exhausting second you put into this for me. Thank you so very much!

Aarde, Cheryl and Alan – THAT VENUE! Seriously, you guys, THANK YOU SO MUCH! That was such a perfect place to hold this and I appreciate your kindness in providing it so very much! I don’t know what I would have done without you guys. Aarde, thank you for making it happen.

Ash – While I include you in my thank you to Jamey, you definitely need your own. You were like a machine in your assistance with food and tables and cleanup and music and and and and…so many things I know you did that probably even went unnoticed. You are a great dude. Thank you. So much.

Rosie and Jennifer – You’ve photographed various groups and shared your experiences at each of those and I couldn’t thank you enough for your support in that way. Rosie, I love the photos you’ve shared from that night. I am so thankful that you were kind enough to capture the evening for me, as I was too busy to even take it all in.

Heidi – That wine was so good! You are the biggest of champs for providing that for us. I appreciate you and Precept Wine so very much. Love you, lady.

Dylan and Austen – THAT KOLSCH! Soooooooooo good! Thank you for brewing for me and sharing the deliciousness with everyone there. I know people now can’t wait for you to get some tap room/brewery going’. Love you both. Thank you so much!

Peni – Having my best friend here for this event was just perfect in itself. The fact that you organized and helped orchestrate the raffle and silent auction to take it off my plate, that was even beyond perfect. You helped silence my crazy mind where that was concerned. Thank youuuuu!

Kristen, Ana-Elizabeth and Jen – Thank you for conquering any fears you may have had (except Kristen; you love that shit)  and speaking in front of the crowd. Your experiences still speak to me on a huge scale. You are the reason this continues. I love you guys.

Mara and Melissa – GIRLS, I would probably only have made $5 if not for you both! I cannot thank you enough for your mingling and selling and handling of money! You guys are the best. I love you long time.

All of you who donated for the auction/raffle – Melissa Huston, Peni Massure, Singe Candles, Anna Bailey, Thisisrhi, Heidi Hedge, Justin Tamminga, Dagmar Simard & Sasquatch Cinnamon Rolls, Jennifer Jones, Jamie Haskell, Becca Macdonald & Compass Rose, Mara Christensen, EarthNerd Treasures, Jake Pendle, Drollinger Designs, Kt Wright, Karla Corona & The Red Hot, Erin Stiner & Salon Parente and anyone else that my crazy brain may be forgetting…THANK YOUUUUUU GUYS SO VERY MUCH!!!!! You were essential in the raising of funds. I appreciate it sooooo much!

Jenn, Rhi, Austen, Dylan – Thank you for helping me clean up everything remaining the following day. I think I would have just sat on the floor and sobbed if I hadn’t have had your help.

To EVERYONE who donated money and contributed to raffle/auction monies, I thank you! (To Shari Kalsta and Laura Rossi who donated toward food before we even went shopping…all my love.)

If I forgot anyone, I’m so incredibly apologetic. My brain has been fried since this event and is only sort of coming back to me. You are all amazing.

TO EVERYONE: THANK YOU A MILLION TIMES FOR YOUR SUPPORT. Your support keeps this project in the forefront for me. It makes me keep going even when I think that the work is too hard – when I think of the daunting paperwork it will take to become a non-profit organization; the hours of social networking and administrative work it takes to keep this out there; the exhaustion that is super emotional and, yet, fulfilling with each group. You keep all this love and positivity as the main message for me.
You are this project.
Thank you.

Alana <3
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jaymefinal

group 8! women: raw. honest. loved.

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Stereotyping.
Generalizations.
Judgment calls based on face value. Based on outward appearance.
Judgment calls with no merit attached to them except merely what we alone have felt to be true. They seem to be a combination of what society and media tells us to be true mixed with what we have possibly experienced to be true based on our slight interactions. Does this make them correct? Obviously not.
They’re hurtful. They’re unnecessary. And we most often are wrong.
This group was a definite reminder of that.

– The skinny, pretty girl who seems to “have it all”…who actually feels just as much of a failure as you do. What is wrong with “just her”?
– The outwardly happy and confident mom who struggles with feeling like she’s never enough. Is she fulfilling each of her roles the way that she should? Is she an adequate mom/wife/friend?
– The brave and intimidating one who is listening intently to what you’re saying, but giving you no reaction, who inside is actually just questioning what your reaction is to her. Is she being social enough? Funny enough? NICE enough??
– The seemingly strong mom who sometimes wonders if her maternal path was the right one, and instantly feels bad for having such a thought. Does it make her less of a mom? Did she disappoint you by saying that?
– The one who is so creative and seemingly fearless, who actually fears so much. Is she losing you? Is she enough for you?
– The pregnant mom with the beautiful smile and calmness about her who is scared to death of bringing another child into this world. Will she be able to raise another child successfully?
– The quiet one in the background that gives a shy smile and has interesting things to say when she feels confident enough to speak up, who is constantly feeling like the outcast. Why do you like her? Are you around only because you feel sorry for her?
– The stone-faced beautiful girl who is scared out of her mind of being vulnerable. Why trust you when she can just trust herself? Why put herself out there when she may lose you?

Can you relate to any of them? To all of them?
I certainly could.

Since beginning this project over a year ago, I have met so many women involved with it now that, had I given you an assessment of them just based on my first interaction, I would have been so off-base, so far from understanding what makes each woman who she is.
This project has taught me to slow down.
To remember that if we give ourselves a brief period of time to really get to the core of a person, that the nuances, the supposed “bitchface”, the shyness (which I’ve often misjudged as ‘bitchiness’…I’ll admit it), the seemingly cold exterior…hell, even the laughter, the over-exuberance, the hatred of silence, the need to be the center of attention (these could describe me at any point in my life)…these traits generally all manifest themselves because of something much deeper that is happening. Something that this person is not usually bound to share with you within the first few minutes of meeting them. Maybe not even after years of ‘knowing’ them.

Please, get to really know them. Or, if you can’t do that, at least reserve your harsh judgment about them. You don’t know the whole picture. Even if you think you do, you don’t.

There was so much interesting discussion that went on in this group…I touched on a bit of it, which is all I’m going to do. I hope to release some videos here and there that can bring you into the group and the feeling of the night. Only then will you understand how intense it was. If I even try to explain it in words this will go on forever. I would rather that you read the stories of the ladies, in their own words…

Here is one video for you – please take three minutes and watch it, as it is very powerful. This was the discussion that took place after Alison read her insecurity and elaborated a bit on why she feels that way. The reactions from the women are heartfelt and impacting. Please keep in mind that the ladies did not know each other before this…

(links to past groups can be found at the end)

lindseyinsLindsey ~
“I believe that my biggest insecurity for me at this time is the fact that I am pregnant. I am pregnant with a child in a culture and society that I have a hard time believing in, and one I don’t trust. Our American ways have lost sight of our human ways, we buy into the “look like barbie” bullshit, we spend thousands each year trying to be something besides ourselves. We are not taught by society to love ourselves for us!

I am exhausted, yes the pregnancy does that too, but I am exhausted trying to be something society wants and not being what I want to be. I just want to be me. I want to teach my second child to just be. I want to live in a world that professes its love for all living things, one that cherishes the belongings of this earth, not spending time consuming and destroying it.

Some days I love the world and all its glory, everyone and everything has a special place in this grand sphere of energy. We all are different and we all have different strengths and weaknesses that fuel this fire. I truly believe that if we as a species and entity could only see the beauty we possess in our souls, beyond the negative thoughts, the cultural ‘lessons’, the masks that we all choose to hide behind. Than maybe just then we are making progress as being who ‘we’ are supposed to be and our souls and fires inside could burn the negativity and lies fed to us by a corporate American society. It’s my hope and prayer.”

Lindsey’s friends and family:

“Lindsey is, beautiful loving and courageous. :)” – Nicollette

“My Lindsey is an amazing woman with many facets. I have been fortunate enough to witness her take life by the horns and make her visions come to fruition. She is one of the most independent people I know. Self-motivated and willing to do the work. She has always made me proud to be her friend and has continually impressed me with her determination to be a great mom, an all-star student, a driven employee, the life of the party, a loyal friend, an open hearted lover & a die-hard Seahawks fan…. All of these in an honest way. One of my favorite traits about Linds is her raw, open, up-front style. She doesn’t put on any fronts in order to receive acceptance. She is one hot goddess too – gorgeous smile, the cutest nose ever, lovely tattoos, beautiful curves… All of these attractive traits, but her confidence and self-love is what puts her truly over the top for me and is inspiring to those who spend time with her.” – Jaime

“Here are my thoughts feelings and words on my dear friend Lindsey…

I was blessed to meet Lindsey around 9 years ago. She is gorgeous (inside and out), and her smile and the light in her eyes can pull anyone in. Lindsey has one of the largest hearts of anyone I know, she always has a shoulder or ear to lend, and THE best hugs. As a mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, and friend, she is an inspiration. I am grateful for this woman in my life. She is a very hard worker, completing any task she sets her sights on, while staying open to the universe for its sway (be it gentle or rough, she perseveres). Always a fun time to be had with this girl, anytime & anywhere! And an incredibly easy and rejuvenating friend to be around.

Lindsey is:
Kind
Open
Intelligent
Vulnerable
Loved by many
Non judgmental
Loving
Gentle
Strong ( ^yes both at the same time, and thats just her)
Caring
Beautiful
Determined
Intellectual
a Lover of life
Funny….hilarious!” – Jessica

“A few words about Lindsey: Lindsey is one of the most honest, tell-it-like-it-is ladies I know. There are no hidden agendas or subtext with Lindsey; what you see is what you get. I have always assumed this is because she is so confident and has the courage of her convictions. We have been friends for nearly 20 years now, and I can honestly say, she is the most loyal of all my girlfriends. Not only does she go out of her way to make time for me on my infrequent visits back to the USA, but she usually is the driving force behind organizing my social calendar with all our friends. This is a reflection of Lindsey’s natural leadership qualities, combined with her generous nature. I feel like I can tell Lindsey anything, and since she is so open and accepting of her own flaws, she is able to be the same about mine. That is probably the glue that keeps our relationship strong; a mutual respect and understanding of not only our strengths, but our weaknesses.

I love that lady!

I hope she enjoys her photo shoot and hearing what all her loved ones think of her.

With best wishes,
Rowan”

alisonins Alison ~
“Asking someone what they’re insecure about is like asking for a laundry list of the things that they hate about themselves. I could make that list pretty easily, and it would be a lot of the same things that most of the women I know fixate on constantly. It’s not our fault. Media and society tell us that we should be able to have it all: the awesome career, the perfect body, the great guy, the busy social circle, a great wardrobe, and so on. I have about 31% of those things, and it makes me feel inadequate. And because I feel inadequate, I feel undeserving. That’s really the main thing: I never feel like I deserve the things I have or the things I want. It’s such a hard and embarrassing thing to admit, but it’s related to all of these things that I love.
I really love work, and it’s actually one of the spaces in my life that I don’t feel undeserving. It makes sense because it’s quantifiable; I can see the results based on the work that I complete and the effort I put forth. I can logically see that I deserve things, like projects and extra responsibilities, based on how hard I work. In spite of the pride I get from my job, I also work under constant fear that at some point, I’ll stop deserving things. It’s maddening. I worry constantly about letting someone down and not deserving the next thing I want — a promotion, a raise, whatever it may be — but that motivates me to keep the bar high on my work, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Outside of work is where I more have trouble. I have great personal relationships with people, but sometimes I don’t even know why. So many of my friends are these brilliant and talented people, and I’m just… me. Sort of funny sometimes, reasonably attractive if I comb my hair, generally a hard worker, just some girl from a small town who is literally faking it every single step of the way. There is nothing that I find particularly outstanding about myself, and yet, I’ve made my way into a truly exceptional group of friends. Honestly, it feels fragile sometimes.
My mom constantly tells me how proud she and my dad are of me. I don’t doubt that they truly feel that way, but I don’t feel like I’ve done a lot to deserve it. I go to work and things like that, but beyond that, I don’t feel exceptional, certainly nothing to be proud of beyond the facts that I breathe air and pay taxes. I know what pride feels like – that big, swelling feeling in your chest, and I don’t know what I could ever do to inspire that for them. My mom tells me constantly, “I’m so proud of you.” It feels like I’m cheating her somehow, or I could be doing something better that actually deserves pride and praise.

I don’t really date because I’m particular. Somehow, in spite of being selective, I still find the wrong men. My last two serious relationships ended due to complications involving other women. And when that happens, you start thinking to yourself, “What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with JUST me?” And then you go down this rabbit hole of comparisons. The other girl must be prettier, smarter, funnier, better at life. You do this horrible side-by-side comparison of all of the things that they must be that you’re just not. Then, irrationally, you start thinking that maybe you don’t deserve love or to be happy. It sounds so stupid on the surface — and still, it’s true. Getting burned like that forces you to feel a certain way; I feel like I must be undeserving of someone’s love and affection and kindness somehow, or maybe not even that — more than someone else is more deserving. It’s the absolute worst. It forces me to trip myself up, question myself constantly, and also to not put myself out there when I should because I’m terrified of that rejection again. It happened recently where I’ve had all of these feelings for someone for a few years and just couldn’t bring myself to put it out there until recently, and because I waited so long, I may have waited too long.

It’s not that I sit around and feel sorry for myself about it constantly or lack confidence in the things I can do well, but I when things happen, I never feel like I deserve it. When they don’t happen, it’s because I feel like I didn’t deserve it.”

Alison’s friends and family:

“Alison is one of my best friends – she is probably the warmest person I know. She loves deeply and sincerely. She is a woman of substance and knows quality when she sees it. She cares about others more than she cares for herself. If she spends 50 dollars on herself, she’ll turn around, without even a second thought, and spend 50+ on someone who might just be having a bad day. Alison reminds me of sunshine because its hard not to be happy when she’s around. She is physically beautiful, but even more gorgeous on the inside, which, in turn, radiates on the already lovely outside. She’s hilarious and witty. She’s intellectual and opinionated, well read, and can debate her side with solid facts. I love her. She and my parents adore each other too. I consider her family for many reasons. Faithful, honest, fun, sincere and protective – she will go to war for any of her friends or family members. Very creative and artistic! She loves music…I think of her often when I hear a fun tune. I could go on I suppose, let me know if you want me to – I am a huge Alison fan!” – Rebekah

“Hi,
I was contacted by you on Facebook to provide a few positive traits of Alison. Where to begin…
Alison is driven, unique, and loyal. She will lay herself across railroad tracks for any one of her friends or family members, and makes sure to personally connect with these people on a regular basis. She is endearing, enchanting, smart, quick-witted, brave, caring, and feels with her whole heart. I love her dearly. :)
Hope this helps! Sounds like an amazing project. I hope to see the end results!
Thanks!” – Heather

“Hi Alana!
My words about Alison:
– loyal
– smart as a whip
– generous friend
– beautiful soul
– amazing encourager
– Alison has great energy and is such a fun friend to be around..shares honestly and makes connections with everyone
I think this is such a great project! good luck,
Stephanie”

“If you took ALL the sunshine and bottled it up, you would have Alison. She is bright and unique and touches everyone with her vibrant smile. Her warmth is radiant and comforting. As a friend, she is irreplaceable and I thank my lucky stars that she is in my life.” – Julie

“Strong-willed, caring, thoughtful, fiercely loyal, fiercely honest, amazing listener, wise, true friend, big heart, talented.” – Matt

“Alison is the most engaging person I know. It’s nearly impossible not to be distracted by her beautiful green eyes or her fantastically endearing smile. She is intelligent, articulate, passionate, funny, talented, beautiful, selfless, and thoughtful. As if that weren’t enough, she is a wizard of cupcakes and other baked confections. Alison is one of the most important people in my life! All I have left to say is this, “No… you’re awesome!”
Best Regards,
Daniel”

“Alana,
I need to start with an apology, I’m sorry this is arriving at the last minute. I couldn’t decide if your message was spam, glad I finally opened it. Alison happens to be one of my favorite topics so this won’t be hard. That said, here goes.

Ali is a blessing, a true miracle. With a little bit of a rough start, this quiet little unassuming girl has won many hearts and made countless friends. Loving and kind.

Intelligent and wise beyond her years. She is so bright, teaching herself to read by the age of three. As a first grader she told me that she would be president one day and I told her that she could do anything she wanted to do. Older people love her. She has always been able to listen and connect with people … to actually “hear” them.

Determined and goal oriented. As a freshman she went to Washington DC, with a group of adults, as a student ambassador for our local industry. She went hoping to change the world and shine a light on governmental consequences. She was able to meet with many of our leaders including speaker of the house. This relationship, with business and governmental leaders, led to her being a featured student author in a statewide magazine.

A princess and a queen, literally. She stepped out of her comfort zone and ran for queen of our local festival and won. She not only won the title, but the respect and love of her community. She has always been a princess to us, a girlie girl that has never been afraid to get dirty. Her enthusiasm shines.

Competitive. Her older sister became a cheerleader and she followed, challenging herself to work harder. Hard work earned her a spot on an elite cheer squad that traveled to France.

A leader. As a senior she decided local veterans deserved to be publicly honored. She organized an assembly drawing the community and student body together starting a new tradition at her school.

Hardworking. Alison is a true believer in “give it your best”. She is never content with doing the minimum and sets goals for herself. When she meets that goal she will work to best that mark.

Entrepreneur extraordinaire. Alison creates beautiful cupcakes for weddings and parties.

Brave. Alison is not afraid to try. She has traveled the US working for a summer concert tour and then driven across the US to promote the release of a new product for a major company. Ali is not afraid to ski down a black diamond run or climb an old growth tree to talk to protesters. She shows no fear when rock climbing, even walking past a rattlesnake in the process (ok … she froze for a minute and then ran). She is able to give a speech or conduct a seminar for coworkers like it’s just another day. Climb Mt Adams.

Independent. Flat tire, rain, heels, dress – need help? No problem, changes it herself. Tell her she can’t, she will.

A daughter, a friend. Although she is my daughter, she is also my friend. I enjoy hanging out with her … she makes me a better person.
Thoughtful Compassionate Generous Driven
Selfless Amazing Open & Learning Beautiful inside & out
A book that you want to read … you can’t put it down. It’s a wonderful and intriguing adventure.

Strong in the face of tragedy. Alison is able to share the sorrow of others while silently lending strength, even in the face of her own sorrow.

For all of the above reasons … she is my hero. To say that she makes me proud is an understatement. I smile whenever I think about her. I am her mom … and I love her.
I hope this helps you.” – Lori

aleaseins Alease ~
“I’ve had my kindness mistaken for weakness in the past. So, I tend to keep people a certain distance from me until I feel that I can bring them closer; its hard to trust people sometimes. So, I make sure to trust myself always.”

 

Alease’s friends and family:

“Patient, healing, intelligent, intuitive, spontaneous, creative, innovative, sunny, beautiful.” – Julie

“She is an amazing cook and loves to bake. She makes an amazing fruit cobbler.
She loves music in my genres and always seems to know about bands before they’re cool.
She is always willing to help you no matter what. Especially if she sees you need a ride or some food, and she is always generous with her time.
She is well-spoken and can talk her way into any venue to see any band. It’s her superpower.
If you need anything else, let me know! I hope this helps and best of luck with your project.” – Del

 

tinains Tina ~
“Am I enough? That’s what it all boils down to.
I’ve never really cared what strangers thought of me, but my friends and family? That’s a different story. One of my biggest insecurities, the one I’ve chosen to focus on for this project, is that I worry I’m not enough for them. I try to be the best friend/family member possible but is it enough? Am I smart enough? Nice enough? Caring enough? Funny enough? Pretty enough? Selfless enough? I could go on..

I try so hard at everything I do… but is it enough?

I’m a stay-at-home mom. Is that okay? When other moms do it I think “hooray for them!” But I worry that I have to do it because I’m not smart enough or successful enough to have a job. And speaking of being a mom, am I nurturing enough? Am I patient enough? I’m sure the answer to that is no! Am I doing enough for my children? And my husband? As a wife, am I loving enough? Sexy enough? Supportive enough?
I think you get the point…. Am I enough?”

Tina’s friends and family:

“Hello Alana-
When asked to write a paragraph about Tina, I honestly didn’t know where to begin. I wanted to begin writing for the last few weeks but was always at a loss for where to begin and how to possibly sum up all the moving, amazing parts that comprise Tina. She is caring, she is funny, she is creative, she is multifaceted. I have a lot of respect for her as a mother and wife and I have shared some very funny times with her. When we first met, we clashed in very typical A-personality type conflict. We are both loud, center-of-attention-loving people. However, after that we hung out again and we both realized that we were the same and the friendship was instant. Tina brings out the fun in a situation. No matter where you are with Tina, I guarantee it will be a blast. She is not afraid to be exactly who she wants to be. I consider myself blessed to know her.
Thanks Alana, I think this is an amazing project!” – Thera

“I’ve known Tina her whole life…she was an active and precocious young child and very loving as well. She hasn’t changed much as an adult except she has gotten more beautiful each year. When I say beautiful, I mean the outside and the person. She has the most beautiful big eyes that I’m totally envious of and let’s not even mention the curly hair. Her “inside” is more deep. She is brave and honest. She is funny and kind. She knows how to be a confidante and friend and she is truly a caring person.” – Deb

“My wife Tina is the most amazing person I have ever met. With her beautiful hazel eyes and her perfect smile, I was putty in her hands from day one. Tina has a way of making a fully-lit room brighter as she walks in. Tina always will put someone else’s needs before her own. She is a great mother to our beautiful daughters (thank you, by the way). Okay, enough about what’s on the inside…. Tina has a ravishing body – the way her jeans look when she puts them on is more than enough to make my heart skip a beat or two. I love everything about my wife ‘cause when you put a body like that with the awesomeness that makes her…. what’s not to LOVE.
P.S. Tina, I fall more and more in love with you every day, you are my dream come true. I am very proud to call you not only my best friend but also my wife. I LOVE YOU!” – Tom

“Tina was a handful as a child – stubborn, strong, smart and funny. Sometimes it was impossible to discipline her as she could get you to laugh at the drop of a hat. Always her own person, never bending to others’ rules or opinions; she was Tina, like it or leave it. You never knew what she would do next.
Now she is a woman. I adore her – she is stubborn, strong, smart, funny and wonderful. She is impossible to get mad at. She is Tina! She is her own person, you never know what she will do next. She is wacky, sincere, passionate and wise. She is beautiful, inside and out. I am so very proud to call her my daughter and my friend.
-so hard to keep this under 16 pages.
Thank you!” – Laurel

“When I met Tina, the first thing that struck me was her fearlessness. It wasn’t something she just put on to face the day, or a show of any kind, her fearlessness was something that came from deep within her. She truly knew who she was, and wasn’t afraid to be who she was. I admired her immediately!
As the years have passed, and I have gotten to know her more, I only became more astounded by the awesomeness of Tina! Just to list off a few attributes (off the top of my head):

Tina is…
(of course) Fearless
Kind
Generous
Beautiful
Fierce
Confident
Creative
A Wonderful Mother! Nay SuperMom!
Talented
Loving
Strong
Smart, wait, Super Intelligent…would Genius be too much?

I have seen her take on things (that no one really wanted to do) and give them all of her energy, wisdom, and creativity, and turn them into something amazing. She knows how to engage people, make them feel welcome, and at the same time, be firm and stand up for what is right. She knows the power of her “No”, which is something some do not ever learn. She also knows the power of her voice, and uses it wisely, kindly, firmly, and with grace. The best part of all of this, is that all of the qualities she possesses within herself, she is passing on to her beautiful girls. (Honestly, I would willingly offer myself up for adoption if Tina would adopt me…that’s just how great of a mom she is.)
This world is a better place because Tina is in it, and I am a better person because I know her.” – Nancy

“I think it’s safe to say Tina and I jumped into our friendship feet first!
It was only a short time after becoming friends with Tina that we started scheming to get our families together for an extended camping trip. Our husbands had not met and our kids were virtual strangers, but hey, Tina and I liked each other so that’s all that mattered, right!?
Somehow we pulled off an amazing trip full of wonderful memories and made lifetime friends.
Being friends with Tina is easy, I don’t feel that I am somehow competing with her, or have to try to impress her on some level. And, as women, I think we all know how this feels with some of the people in our lives.
She has a diverse group of friends, family, and interests, so she has something in common with everyone, And judges no one. Tina has a lovable quirkiness, is always quick to share her beautiful smile, crack a joke or offer consolation when needed. She has an uncanny sense of knowing if you need to talk or just want to hang out and have a quiet drink, or seven.
She is a proud nerd, a craft queen, and a fierce list-maker, in fact her lists have lists!
Tina is a beautiful woman, a caring mother, dedicated wife and loyal friend. She will admit her faults, and always tries to rectify the wrongs in her relationships. Her generosity is boundless, there is always room for you at the dinner table or your favorite beverage in the fridge, she’ll even give you the last of her tequila.
Becoming such close friends with someone at this point in my life was unexpected but has made me remember that life is ever changing and never rule out the possibility of inviting people into your heart. From Lady Dates to camping trips, Tina is one of my favorite people to spend time with.” – Karla

“It is the best when neighbors get along. Even better when they become friends. To the moon when they can help one another through the daily grind. Tina and her wonderful family are of the third kind. I could not feel more blessed to have such a great neighbor and friend. I believe our friendship formed when I had my third child. Her girls adored the new babe and gradually we started talking and leaning on one another. Well, at first it was me doing all the leaning ~Tina made sure to get my little guy to and from school each day. I still cannot express how absolutely amazing and helpful that was. That is the Tina I have come to know: sweet, generous, non¬judgmental, compassionate and silly.
As a neighbor, I can always count on Tina to have that cup of sugar or embroidery hoop. My kids are welcome to come by to jump themselves silly on the trampoline or stay for an all day hair-dyeing session. Her house always has an open door. Tina gives it to my kids straight, in a funny and irreverent way that I like. And when the time calls for it, she can be super serious too. I really like that about her – she doesn’t take herself too seriously. And the best part about being neighbors with Tina is the food. Good homemade food. If she mentions something she is making that sounds good
and I intimate that I might really like to try it, she brings it over. Immediately. Lots of it! The best.
As a friend, Tina is loyal and really very sensitive. I have been through a lot in the past year and she has been very respectful of my space, all the while being very sensitive to what I might need~ more often than not that ends up being a really good beer and an open mind. She understands some of my struggles more than most people and she is very careful and sensitive to those particulars. I never feel judged by Tina. She accepts me as is.
Tina is beautiful. I really love her quirky and cute style ~ a mix of tomboy and glam. I think she is an amazing role model to her two girls. She sends the message to them that they can be who they are. You see it in their distinct personalities. And they are both so nice, so interesting and sooooooo funny. Like their mom.
I think Tina is pretty rad and I think anyone is lucky to count her as their friend. I know I do!” – Jenn

“I’ve known Tina almost longer than I’ve known anyone else in my life and I’m so proud and amazed at the person that I’ve seen her become over the years. She’s a bold, intelligent, creative woman who doesn’t always see what an incredible person she is and what an inspiration to other people around her.
One of the things that I like best about her is that she comes off as fearless, even though I know her life isn’t easy. She’s never afraid to be honest and tell you what she’s thinking. But behind the honesty is also a ferocious caring. She tries to do a lot for the people in her life, even when it involves her sacrificing part of her time, her resources, or even herself. Tina is one of those women who always seems to have room for one more, whether it’s sitting at the dinner table or camping or just being friends. I don’t think she realizes how much all the little things that she does add up in the long run.
Along with these traits of caring, she’s also incredibly intelligent (though like most genuinely smart people, she has no real idea or belief of this). She can think up the most amazing creations and then put them to life. Sometimes that’s a costuming project, other times it’s building some sort of incredible macabre contraption. She reads voraciously and even better, she shares what she learns and what she likes with other people, bringing her gift and understanding of books to those around her. She’s also quick-witted and comes up with solutions to a lot of everyday problems that most other people would just give up on or let go. Tina has always been both resourceful and a lot of fun, two things that don’t often go together.
I could go on and on and probably still not really hit the essence of what I want to say, or how much I admire her. I am so very glad to know her and that she is someone that my children look up to. I wish I had the words to say really how awesome she is but there aren’t enough out there!” – Gwen

“Tina is so very STRONG. She gives herself, without hesitation, to her family and friends. Strength is something that is hard to come by.
TIMELESS BEAUTY. Tina has a beauty that is far deeper than many get to see. While she can pull off anything and everything, she holds a fascinating inner beauty as well.
She is LOYAL. Having a constant person in my life has not always been easy, but with her it has.
Tina is PROTECTIVE. She cares so deeply for those in her life that she will stand by you. Even when she does not agree with you.
Only someone who possess the ability to truly LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY is able to stand by. Even when things are tough.
TRUSTWORTHY. When Tina is a friend to you, be assured that you can confide anything in her.
Tina is incredibly HONEST. This is a quality that very few people get to say they possess. Tina can.
The amount of PASSION that is put into everything Tina does shows what kind of person she is.
Only an ADMIRABLE person has all of these things.
UNIQUE, LIVELY, LOVING, INTELLIGENT, CARING, KIND.
These are just a very few of the things that cross my mind when I am asked to describe my best friend. Tina is the conditioner to my shampoo.” – Brandi

“I am honored to have the chance to write about my beautiful friend Tina. She and I often laugh about how we met when our children first started preschool at Bryant. I had moved to Tacoma when my twin sons were tiny infants recently home from a long NICU stay. As they grew to school age, it was quite apparent they had serious developmental issues. I didn’t know a single person in Tacoma, and was so isolated those early years that I hadn’t made any friends. I would stand on the playground waiting for school to end, scared and sad at what new bad news would await as the teachers brought the children out. Every day, this beautiful young woman would also be there. As soon as she walked in, the other moms flocked to her, seemingly drawn by her incredible light. She was clearly the “it girl.” Naturally, I hated her. Maybe hate is too strong of a word, but I certainly turned all my negative emotions on her, the perfect mom with the perfect kids and her perfect friends. I stood there watching every day, willing myself not to break down in tears.
Then one day, Tina simply walked up to me and introduced herself. She said she had noticed me always alone, and invited me to come stand with her and her friends any time. This is the heart of what Tina does and is: she draws people in with her grace and warmth, making them feel welcome and accepted. She takes care of people. Time went by and we formed an unlikely friendship. I learned part of the reason she was so popular on the playground was she had been suckered into being PTO president when nobody else wanted the job! I also learned that she is not perfect; she is delightfully imperfect. Tina’s specialty is taking in and nurturing people like me, the misfits, the broken people, the weirdos, showing us love and acceptance. Over the years, as my children’s disabilities have grown worse and have shown to be permanent, she has been an amazing support. Most people are uncomfortable with others’ grief and actively discourage it. Tina has supported me and allowed me to grieve and cry and helped me to accept my situation and heal in a way no one else in my life has done, not even my closest relatives. She has brought joy to my world when nothing seemed joyful.
Tina is what I call “an old soul.” Young enough to be my daughter, she has grace and wisdom far beyond her years and my years as well. She endured and experienced more adversity in her childhood than many people do in their lifetime. A child of divorce, she dealt with having an absent father. She and her sister nursed their mother through three bouts of cancer. Tina developed a woman’s body while still essentially a child, and had to deal with all the weirdness society puts on girls who develop early. She has dealt with her own medical issues and lives in near constant pain. Despite all this, she is strong and cheerful and constantly takes care of everyone else. Tina is endlessly generous and kind, a trait she got from her amazing mother and clearly has taught to her amazing daughters. Her entire family is kind and accepting of my children. Her daughter has protected my boys at school even at her own social jeopardy. That shows how well Tina raises her children!
Aside from her beautiful personality, Tina is also just a gorgeous woman. She naturally has the kind of beauty women like me spend hundreds of dollars at Sephora trying to get! (Not that she and I can’t shop the hell out of a Sephora store together!) Tina radiates beauty. I love how daring she is, and has so much fun changing and playing with her look. She likes to make fun of herself and her interests and quirks, and I believe she has no idea how much people admire her.
Tina, I am so proud of you for going through with this, and I hope you have a wonderful evening! I love you!” – Linda

jaymeins Jayme ~
“Insecurities I feel comfortable sharing with a room full of people? Ha! How much time do you have?

Growing up, I was a fairly confident kid… as much as kids can be, I suppose. Smart, precocious and extroverted were adjectives that many of the people in my life would use when describing me. I had a great childhood. I was highly advanced in early academics, was involved in music and sports at an early age and had plenty of friends throughout my teens. It was, by all accounts, a regular upbringing, with plenty of confidence-boosters to go around. Except for one thing: My parents weren’t around. I mean, they were around in the sense that they were home on occasion, made sure that we had food to eat, were enrolled in school and that we always had a roof over our heads. You know, the basics. But when it came to the supportive, present and encouraging parents that every kid needs in those formative years (and I so craved), they just couldn’t put away their “pre-kids” lifestyle and my sister, brother and I were often left to figure it out alone.

This affected me in many ways, but I think the biggest psychological impacts have been creating an enormous feeling of never being good enough for the people in my life, as well as an intense fear of failure. Winning combo, right? I covered it well for many years, but, the older I get the more these fears manifest in aspects of my life that I never imagined they would. Relationships (of all varieties), college, work; all of these crucial paths of adulthood have been covered over with the insidious weeds of abandonment and no matter how I try to maintain them, they always return.

I have forgiven my parents, but its another thing entirely to shed these insecurities that linger. I have an abundance of amazingly supportive people that surround me, a positive outlook and a bright future. Even still, I often can’t shake these questions that constantly circle my head. “Do they really like/love me, or are they just here?” “Am I (insert adjective here) enough for him/her/this?” “Did I do a good enough job?” These and other worries plague my thoughts, as well as a voice that screams from deep inside “You are going to fail. Don’t even try, because you will never be as ______ as ______.”

So what do I do? Carry on through life feeling mediocre and quitting everything as soon as it starts getting really good? I just can’t anymore.

In the past year, with the help of a very special person and one of the great loves of my life, I am learning to see and really know that I am good at many things and that I am worth loving. I hope being a part of this project only further instills this in me, and I look forward to it.

I can only be me, and though I may still struggle with who that is, I have to be the best version of me that I can, and trust that it’s enough.”

Jayme’s friends and family:

“Jayme is brave, strong, cultured, loved, fearless, beautiful, creative, and an amazing sister.” – Kenna

“Hello, Alana. Awww Yes, Sweet Jayme. Beautiful Sparkling Blue Eyes, Fun Hair Always, Sweet Smile, Fun Fun person to hang out with, hard hard worker. Love Her with a heart as Big as Her!!” – Peggie

“Miss Jayme is:
~full of love and life.
~wise and insightful beyond her years. An old soul.
~has a contagious laugh that lights up a room.
~a special friend.
Hope this helps! It’s truth!” – Angie

“Jayme is a beautifully honest woman who is compassionate, yet still takes care of her own needs. I find her to be very creative; so much so that I wrote it twice on my list of adjectives for her. She is loving, warm-hearted and thoughtful, even while delivering brutal truths. I was immediately drawn to her twisted but fabulous sense of humor. She is adventurous, open-minded and progressive. She cares about her community and making it a better place–whether it be with her thought-provoking writing/conversation or her contribution to the local music scene. She’s also one hell of a drinking buddy!” – Kelsey

“Well what can I say about jayme-jams? She a balls out trailblazer. After becoming a transplant to Tacoma, she now exists as one of my major music resources & she’s a woman! Her skill, talent and ambition will take her so much farther & she’s already done so much. She has a strong & open heart to so many people, not just close friends. Always has a smile for me – even when she doesn’t feel like smiling, it’s still there. I couldn’t imagine her not being my friend and each & every day I feel closer to her. She’s so important to me. I have a huge toothache & am trying to squeeze this in before I pass out…while things of all sorts happen everywhere, I’m glad I get to experience some of those things with Jayme.” – Lindsay

“I’ve not met many people as caring and selfless as Jayme. This sweetness and care is infectious, and is quickly felt by those who have even just met her. She’s honest. Not to a fault…I find that term to be an excuse to be an asshole…just honest. Like Little House On The Prairie honest. Good, real.
Her tenderness has certainly affected me in so many positive ways over the course of our relationship. She teaches me patience, to slow down and reflect before judgment. To forgive. To improve.
Jayme is a fantastic woman and a fantastic friend. All should be as lucky as I.
Thanks,
Jason”

mackenzieins Mackenzie ~
“Mackenzie’s bag o’ insecurities:

Things I think sometimes when I’m in a room with a bunch of strangers, and maybe a few friends:
• I need a funny story so I can be engaging
• I hope no one tries to talk to me because I’m not sure I really want to have a conversation with a stranger. Nor do I want to act interested.
• Great, now I’m trying to avoid people. Stop being a bitch and socialize!
• Why does [random friend] keep flitting around the room without me? I must not be interesting enough.
• People keep gazing through me when I’m talking. I must be talking too much.
• Conversations aren’t being sustained! I must be talking too little!

I took the last couple of weeks to really think about what makes me insecure. I, of course, fell upon the usual suspects at first: body image, intelligence, money, etc etc, but none of those things really rang true to me. OF COURSE, throughout a lifetime these things have affected me in one way or another, but I realized what really got me to shut up and go inwards was this: I feel as if I am unlikable.

I’ve worked in the service industry, so my firsthand experience with being deemed “unlikable” actually happened more often than I’d like to think about. I feel, because I’m not immediately accessible, willing to listen to a stranger’s story about whatever happened in their life, or smiling all the goddamn time, I am not a likable person. I know in my heart, that it’s PROBABLY not true, but because of my experiences, and working with co workers that were extremely “likable”, “bubbly”, “always smiling” and “a joy to be around”, I keep finding myself trying to figure out their secret to being so popular.

But the “likable”-thing didn’t just start when I was waiting tables and tending bar, I remember it even earlier in my life; not necessarily a specific event or circumstance, but more of a feeling of being not as “cool” or fun to hang around. In grade school I was always reading books, and more often than not, had an opinion about what the kids were doing and whether or not I liked it, so when I voiced these opinions, they wouldn’t hang out with me. It’s not that I was “bossy” per se, but that I didn’t always want to do the things the other kids did. On the other hand, when I got older (middle school) and was quiet, I was teased and picked on because I WOULDN’T say anything. It was a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In high school, things got moderately better because I joined a sport, but in the end I still didn’t feel like I fit in my group of peers because I didn’t want to do my makeup over and over, I didn’t want to get drunk ever, I didn’t want to make fun of everyone all the time. When it came down to it, I just wasn’t very…”likable”.

Growing up when and where I did (Olympia, 1990’s, Revolution Grrrl Style Now!) I learned to be proud of my voice and the things I could say, the minds I could change, and really? The freedoms I was allowed to have. But I still can’t get past the whole “likable”thing. I’m not “nice” enough. I can’t feign interest like so many people that I know (people that will honestly say to me later that they can’t stand the person they were just talking to), and I just don’t giggle that much with strangers. I like to save that stuff for the friends that have earned it by making me spit beer out of my mouth in a full bar.

So, to be honest, I’m not a 100% sure if this is my insecurity, or if I’m airing my frustration with the weird sets of “rules” we put ourselves though to find a place within the pack. All I know is that I think of it everyday, when I meet people for the first time, when I go to work, even when I’m with my friends. I’m never quite sure if my people will stick with me, once they find out I’m not super friendly and sometimes I can be a bummer.

There! I did it!”

Mackenzie’s friends and family:

“I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to watch Mackenzie grow into the person she is today. It’s been so inspirational to so many people watching her take enormous risks and step so far out of her comfort zone to better her life. I’ve never met anyone so passionate, driven and goal oriented, and I’m so proud and amazed by her accomplishments every day.
When we met each other we were both a little lost. We were searching for different things, but instead found a sisterhood in each other. Growing up, all I ever wanted was a sister, and I was lucky enough to find her at 22.
In the beginning, I got to know her as a fiercely loyal friend willing to fight for what she believed in, no matter if it was the popular choice or not. As more time passed, I found in her a loving, emotional and empathetic sister who would do anything to protect her family. I got to witness her amazing love for my brother, which almost brings me to tears to think about. And now, after all these years, she has grown into such a confident, determined woman and I am so proud I get to tell people she is my sister.
Even if they don’t ask, I’m probably still gonna tell them.
Mackenzie– I love you more than if you were my blood because you are the family I choose. Thank you so much for being the beautiful, brave, intuitive woman you are. And for being my hero.” – Megan

“Let me first say that I am so glad to have the opportunity to brag about one of my favorite people in the WORLD… my friend, Mackenzie. We met at a time and age when everyone is finding themselves and riding on the coattails of adolescent insecurities – college. Mackenzie had the most refreshing self-confidence, raw honesty, and sense of identity of anyone else I had met up to that point in my life. We quickly became close friends, and eventually roommates. Although we now live on opposite coasts… 3,000 miles between us… I count her among my closest friends.
When thinking of what to write about Mackenzie… what words describe her best… almost every cliché good quality fits. The irony here is that Mackenzie is the least cliché person I know… the LEAST. When she first brought me to a scenester garage band show in Olympia, it was apparent to me then (and has been proven countless times since) that she is the essence of punk rock.
When I talk with her about losing her father to a long struggle with cancer, her strength, kindness, and empathy emerges in the most loving and authentic way.
Throughout our 15 year friendship and a lifetime of experience with people from all walks of life (the millionaire wasps of Manhattan… the political elite of Seattle… Ivy Leaguers… Art school hipsters) Mackenzie’s brain power rises to the top every time. She is a wicked sharp intellectual powerhouse. Unlike many uber intellects that I have come across, Mackenzie uses her powers for the good of the common (wo)man… gracing us normal-brained folk with her unique brand of humor that is a pure manifestation of her nerdiness.
She is constantly making me laugh. I am compelled to articulate the perpetual contribution Mackenzie makes to the feminist movement… not in a pretentious, overt way… but in the way that, by merely being the amazing woman she is, she inspires me to embody all of the aforementioned amazing qualities that seem so effortless for her. Mackenzie is infectious. I have never not wanted to be around her.” – Emma

“When I think about Mackenzie these are the things that come to mind: her big heart — love for her family and friends; creative; free spirit; brave and beautiful; smart and sassy; fun to spend time with and always lots of love.” – Kirby

“Hello Alana,
Hopefully this is what you were looking for!
Without coming off too much like a list but more of a description of what I see in my sister, Mackenzie.
-Caring
-Beautiful like her mother and strong and determined like her father
-Brave-Willing to take chances for things she believes in and stays the course
-Creative
-Someone I can Truly look up to as more than just a big sister, but as a role model
**On a side note, wanted to say what you are doing is pretty cool and good luck with it all!” – Kyle

“Kenzie is one of the bravest people I have ever met. Not fearless (she’s got all sorts of fears.) Not in a military action or cancer survivor sense; but in knowing her fears and limitations, and then just blowing past them like they can’t touch her. So many “I can’t-s” and “I’ll never be able to-s” have been voiced, ignored, and then proven wrong that I sometimes think she’s started making them up to make me feel better about myself.
She is an engine of wish-fulfillment for herself and those around her, and in the six+ years that she has been my other half, I still can’t figure out how she does it. My role as resident devil’s advocate/naysaying realist has become a figurehead position. It’s not through methodical planning or evil genius, just determination and intuition. You know those wishful thinking moments everyone has? She’ll say ‘wouldn’t it be nice if ___’ and then it happens. Because she made it happen.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if I could do my hobby full time?”
A year and a half later, she’s quit her job to run her own company.
“I’d like to own my own home some day”
A year later, we are signing mortgage paperwork.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if you quit your crap warehouse job and worked in IT?”
Six months later I’m doing database analysis and don’t dread going to work every day.
She made an offhand quip about buying a village in Spain a while back. I went ahead and downloaded the Spanish language tutorial on Duolingo, just to be safe.
She amazes me daily. I wish I could be more like her. I love her.” – Gabe

nicholeins Nichole ~
“Disappointment…that is my biggest insecurity. Hearing the word that I disappointed is what hurts me. I feel that everything I do is not enough and that anything I do is never enough. So to hear the word “disappointment” is the worst thing I can hear about myself.”

Nichole’s friends and family:

“Nichole is a relatively new friend to me. We met shortly after our sons were both born prematurely in November 2011, and bonded over the struggles of sick, tiny babies. I have learned a lot about motherhood from her, as she is a seasoned mom of 3. She has endless patience for her children and her love overflows around them. She puts her family above herself every single day and is constantly on her way to another activity, helping out in the classrooms, taking the kids to appointments, and still manages to chat with me about our days.
I see Nichole struggle to find enough time in the day for all her family’s activities, and rarely has an hour to herself, even when sleeping! She is so generous with her time and love, and even though I know she is exhausted and at times frazzled, she still holds her youngest till he falls asleep, even if she is stuck in a chair, dying to go to the bathroom, with a toddler wrapped around her torso. We send silly pictures back and forth of the crazy ways our kids have fallen asleep.
I wish Nichole got more appreciation for all the sacrifices she makes for her family. She is an amazing mom, a wonderful wife, and a kickass friend. When other women would have cracked under the pressure, she gets up and does it all again the next day. She’s an inspiration on how to be selfless and loving and never ask for anything in return.” – Ashley

“Hi, I’m Nikki’s mother-in-law, Maggie. Nikki is beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. She has a huge heart and open arms. She is always available to anyone day or night, which makes her extremely reliable. She’s also a very good friend.
I love her great sense of humor. She is delightfully funny. She is so much fun to be with! She laughs easily and makes friends easily because she is compassionate and quite lovable. She’s a great mom and an amazing wife. We are so lucky to have her in our family.” – Maggie

“She is a wonderful mother, very intuitive about her children’s health. Sometimes I think she knows their are ill before they do.
She is a giving and caring person, for animals as well as people. Nikki is family-oriented, she has a large extended family as well as blood relatives and shows the same love and consideration for both equally. She has a great sense of humor.” – Vontell

“She is kind loving and caring…Nikki has this inner core of strength – when something bad happens, she is there standing strong, and when it all calms down, she still is the last to sit down. Strong; hits the ground running. Kind and giving – would give you her last dime. Compassionate – when someone she cares about is about to break, she offers the first hand up. She shows that in this great big world and the grand scheme of things, there are still pure loving hearts…Her laughter makes my heart swing…triumphant and loves to share it with everybody around her. Her heart is open and she is the first one to say, “just tell me what to do” and she is out the door. When it comes to her babies, and other’s babies, she is pure love and joy…She’s my kiddo and I adore her.” – Sissy

connieins Connie ~
“I guess my biggest insecurity is a few bunched into one big one. I always feel like I’m the outcast, like no one really likes me – they just act like they do just because they feel bad. I feel like that awkward sympathy friend; like I drive everyone up the wall because I’m annoying and have mass anxiety problems so everyone hates to be around me. It’s like “Oh well I don’t want to make her feel bad so we’ll hang out even though she is so annoying and her anxiety problems are ridiculous, like seriously, who is afraid of food.”

Connie’s friends and family:

“Connie is an amazing mother, whether she sees it or not; she is an amazing fiancé, putting up with all the crazy me and my family can muster. She is beautiful both outside and in. She’s a little stubborn, but it’s cute; she is creative and fun and always tries to tackle everything at once. She is patient. And, most of all, she is forgiving. She cares so much for her friends and tries to always understand what they are going through before she makes a decision.
Idk if that is how this is supposed to be set up but it’s from the heart.” – Jace

“Connie is a free-spirit, she always has been. She is an artist in every form, from her clothing to her photographs to her drawings. She is fun to be with. Connie loves Anime and making her own and Teagan’s costumes for the Sakura Con convention. She has a great laugh and a beautiful smile. She loves the outdoors and being in nature. She’s a great, caring, and loving Mom. She’s stronger and more courageous than she thinks.” – Deneall

“There’s a lot that I can say about Connie but to make it simple I’ll stick to a few things that best describe her personality.
Strong: Connie is strong, far stronger than I think she even realizes sometimes. She has been through a lot emotionally and still has everyday challenges to face and has handled it better than anyone I’ve ever seen. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and is an awesome mom and person.
Genuinely good person: Connie is that person that you wish nothing bad ever happened to because she just has a good soul. Whenever I’ve needed her she’s been there for me regardless of how I’ve been as a friend. She even allowed me to stay with her for several months when I needed it. At one point she even provided more than half my son’s wardrobe! She’s full of compassion, sweet, feisty, and full of energy!
Fun: Connie is the one person who I call when I want to go on an adventure which in our case means driving to the bookstore, sitting in the car and talking for hours, going on a walk, or even the occasional grocery shopping. Just sometimes we even include clothes or shoe shopping. She’s a functional good kind of crazy and that makes for some pretty fun conversations.” – Lisa

Thank you for your time. Please leave a comment if you are so inclined.

and here are links to past groups:

Group 1, Part 1
Group 1, Part 2
Group 2, TEENS!
Group 3, 55+
Group 4
Group 5
Group 6
Group 7, MEN!!