A Baby's Unconditional Trust and Love

photo by Alyssa L. Miller (no relation to people in the story)

A Baby's Unconditional Trust and Love -- A Kindness Story
--written by rettak at HelpOthers.org

We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?' Erik continued to laugh and answer, 'Hi.'

Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.' Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk.

My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.

We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. 'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed.

As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him and avoid any air he might be breathing. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.

Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time.

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.' Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone.

He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift.' I said nothing more than a muttered thanks.

With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.'

I had just witnessed real love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was blind, holding a child who was not.

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posted by ashley


What Aisle Did You Find Your Serenity In

I went for a walk with a beautiful 4 year old yesterday. She had amazing skills for approaching strangers and inviting engagement. She quickly got to where her heart wanted to be... holding a woman's hand crossing the street, petting a dog, offering a flower.

The poem below invites me to step up my efforts and attention, becoming more skilled at getting to the heart of what my being wants to communicate to another... to go right there with stranger, friend, family or self? The poem inspires me to get creative and be real. Just like this little boy who asked Obama if he could touch his hair to see if it felt like his own. What a genuine way to relate with the world. Do you want to join me in this challenge?

I Confess
by Alison Luterman

I stalked her

in the grocery store: her crown

of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,

her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,

the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,

beaming peace like the North Star.

I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find

your serenity in, do you know

how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,

excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess

some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—“

But we don’t request such things from strangers

nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

Thank you 37days for the poem and The Official WhiteHouse Photostream for the photo.

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posted by ashley


Some Little Tid-bits of Delight

A fabulous new find, Zooglobble - Kids music worth sharing - which led me to Tres Leches which is quite sweet (I really like Listen) and this fabulous kid hop song by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, Gotta Be Me

My brother called me yesterday, excited to tell me that today is a day that the sun is celebrated in Judaism. This celebration comes once every 28 years. Christy shared some of the prayers and chants and a video of this sweetness. Birkat Hachama blessing

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posted by ashley


Children Keeping it Simple, Teaching Simplicity

A few inspiring comments from my teachers in simplicity, children.
  • I was participating in Seattle’s Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Rally this year with some of the faculty, students and parents from the school I work at. During the march one of our first graders looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

    (fyi: I host Friendship Groups, a class that all the students in the class participate in just like math or reading. The aim is to help students deepen their ability to connect with and understand themselves and others. It's all about friendship... with ourselves, others and the world around us!)

  • During Obama's presidential inauguration Rev. Joseph Lowery was talking about love,
    "And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance."

    I looked in front of me as a Kindergartner was staring down at his little hands, shaping them into a heart. That image summed up where my hope for our future lies... in love.

  • After the inauguration we hosted an Open Space with the 3rd graders. One child's closing remarks, "I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference."

  • Words of wisdom that a 2nd grader told me over lunch one day that I am practicing and trying to better embody, "Just listen until your mind gets deeper and then you'll understand."
I am so grateful for all the gifts that are bestowed upon me by these wise humans who are so willing to share their world.

heart photo by samantha celera

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posted by ashley


An Invisible String That Will Stretch and Not Break

photo by D.Hyuk

An amazing story about the bond between a mother and a daughter. I think it's a beautiful analogy that any family could play with.
Meredith has an ongoing story about an "invisible string" attaching her to her mother. This story began in a literal manner, when she at age two would wrap one end of a string around her mother and then wrap the other end around her own wrist and say that they were "connected forever." The string has morphed into an invisible string, that will "stretch and not break" when necessary, such as when she is at preschool. We have come to think of this string as an indication of her internal emotional state and a metaphor for managing separation.

For example, after a long and challenging day recently, she said that the string was very short and would break if her mother left her side. Her baby sister started crying, however, so then she added that her magic wand had turned the string into a "long golden thread that would stretch and not break" while her mother tended to the baby. "But," she warned, "when Rosie stops crying, it will turn back into a very short string that can break easily." She mentions the string every month or two, and we have come to appreciate her use of creativity and abstraction in expressing her psychological state.

~Seattle Mom

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posted by ashley


Together We Can Make a Difference: Opening Space with Children

I feel blessed and thankful to live a life that includes so many opportunities to be inspired. On January 20th, 2009 after President Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony I had the opportunity to spend my day hosting 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders in Open Space.

The idea was birthed in a planning committee with 3 third grade students. They decided the questions that would guide the our time together:


What is something that you think is important
in our school or in our world that you would like to discuss?

The planning committee opened the space with a poem and a story.
The opening poem by Mila Kopp:

And another student told a story:
Once you get older it’s harder for people to change your mind so you’re not as much of a help to the community when they’re trying to think of something to do or when something’s wrong and they need help and are deciding what to do. For instance, with my grandfather, it’s really hard for people to change his mind because he just thinks one thing is right and if something else is right and someone tells him, because he’s older, it’s a lot harder to change his mind and it might not even happen.
You can read more about the topics they discussed, their notes, and their closing remarks at Educating For Wholeness.

Here are a few of my favorite comments:
  • STOP Globle Warming (happy voice) in ten years (Deep Voice)
  • make a complante to the president
  • Invent vical that runs on trash or sun, rain
  • Nicely tell others to be nice
  • Help stop war by traiding reciorses
  • If you are shy talk
  • If you are a chatterbox let others have a chance to speak
  • I agree with (another student) that you don’t need that many people, you only need like 5, you don’t need like 15 or 20 or 50. You don’t need huge numbers like that.
  • I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.
  • I discovered how pollution can make the air dirty and hurt people and animals
  • I discovered a lot of people have ideas too.
  • I discovered that once you think about it, there is a lot more waste
  • I learned it can actually be pretty fun to work with other people
  • Teacher: I learned that you all can have important conversations by yourselves and that you don’t need the adults there. I also learned that you can self-organize what you want to talk about.
  • I discovered there is a lot of things to change and like President Obama, we should start.

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posted by ashley


Singing the Blues

A guaranteed smile (for me at least!). Another treat from my God Friend Ethan and his dad, Brad!

(my apologies for the poor quality, I'm still figuring out the whole Youtube thing)

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posted by ashley


A Song Can Lessen the Fear

Sderot, Israel is near the boarder with Gaza and is a city that experienced (experiences?) a constant threat of Qassam rockets being fired into the city. When a rocket is spotted, there is a "Red Color" alert that is sounded warning people to take cover.
Residents of Sderot have about less than a minute to get to a place of safety when they hear the warning "Red Color" announcing an incoming rocket (spotted by those who watch for them). Hearing a Red Color causes panic in many, especially children. ~ Source
“Children experienced real developmental regressions, some began bedwetting,” she said. “They were getting hysterical when the alarm sounded – some freezing in place, unable to seek cover. One day I felt like ‘now is the time’ and I took this song I'd made up to a kindergarten class.” ~ Source
It is not hard to believe that repetitively experiencing alarming threats to one's life from 'out of the sky' would cause trauma for children. The following video is an example of how one woman helped create change for many children. She could not change the threat of the rockets, but she found ways to shape the experience so that the children were not stripped of all of their power and understanding but could, instead, become active participants in the event. The song she created for the children to sing integrates EMDR therapy, somatic exercises and relaxation techniques to help the fear and tension of the warnings move through the children's bodies, and hopefully freeing them from some of the terror.

I am very inspired by this video. I wonder, what simple ways can we each use in our lives and with those whose lives we touch to gently reshape the ways we experience something, decreasing the impact of fear and unknowing?

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posted by ashley


Learning From Others

I feel so fortunate that my life includes opportunities to learn from and be with children. Here is a bit of learning that I journaled about the other day. One day as a school counselor, a fortunate human being, sharing, relating and exploring in an educational community.

Today I learned about bravery.

These children are so brave to reach out to someone and ask for help with emotional problems. To accept and surrender to a feeling state that isn't serving them and to vulnerably reach towards another and ask for help.

I learned from the teachers, honoring their bravery to open up and be willing to learn in public, from their peers.

I learned about gossip from a group of third grade girls. They discussed some of the reasons that people talk about other people... For "Something to do", because we're bored, and because it can help to strengthen a bond with another person by talking about a different person. I felt humbled hearing the clarity they expressed of some of the reasons why gossip happens... and how those self-serving intentions can effect the well-being of others.

And I learned about how deeply someone can be touched (I can be touched) by a thank you that bellows out straight from the heart. It amazed me how profoundly I was (and still am) effected when I reached out to a family, helping them to have a resource they needed. I was on the phone with a grandmother when a 5 year old un-promptedly called out a "thank you" that was the most heartfelt, genuine expression of gratitude I have ever heard.

It still echoes through my core, vibrating as my cells, sparking and fueling a current of hope and life's vitality.

Photo collage Celebrating Children by Cocoabiscuit

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posted by ashley



Empathy by Mikala
Age 6
Pen and Ink. Unsolicited gift to mom. Has been hanging on the fridge...

Speaking of empathy and compassion, look at this recent entry to the What Does Compassion Look Like? Campaign. Wow.

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posted by ashley


Roots of Empathy

Here are some articles and a video about Roots of Empathy, another program I am involved in that Seeds of Compassion has brought to the Seattle area. I'll also take this moment to express my gratitude for being connected with these amazing initiatives. A deep source of hope and inspiration for our future.

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posted by ashley


What Does Compassion Look Like?

Dear Easily Amazed friends and visitors,

You are absolutely the perfect people to share your art, wisdom and participation with this exciting Seeds of Compassion initiative: What Does Compassion Look Like? The campaign is geared towards children and you adults are welcome to participate as well. Invite some of your children's friends over (any ages), tell their teachers, volunteer to work with an after-school group at a nearby school or at your community center, call your nieces, nephews, grandchildren and friends together, share this information with anyone and everyone across the globe that interacts with children. Let's help the children's expressions shine and be seen so that our communities may learn from the wisdom that youth have to teach us about compassion.

Bird by Anna, Age 13, Lake Washington Girls Middle School

I was inspired by the warmth and compassion that a phoenix represents. To me, warm colors always evoke hope, kindness, and all that this campaign encourages

Compassion comes in all shapes and sizes, but it means the same thing wherever you go. Compassion is the ability to believe in something with your whole body, mind, and soul. It is the ability to devote your time, and even your life to a cause. Everyone thrives with compassion, it is the light that makes all things grow.

~ Indigo M., Grade 7, Seattle Girls School

This is your opportunity to explore what compassion is to you - how it shows up in your life, how you think it affects the world, what happens when we live without compassion. This is an invitation for you to create and express. Please share your experiences and views of compassion through drawings, photography, poetry, videos, spoken word – whatever medium resonates for you.

This project is part of the amazing initiative, Seeds of Compassion, whose intention is to bring compassion to the lives of children and adults throughout Washington State and beyond. Together we can create a more compassionate today and tomorrow.

I picture a world full of the sound of peace,
and empty of the racket of violence.
~ Gamada, Age 11, ArtsCorps

The Loving Owls by Javon
Age 7, Giddens School.
Compassion means showing others that you care for them
and that you will stick up for them when they need help.

P.S. If you do participate (which I hope you will) please make sure to let me know so that I can see and share your artwork with our community here. And if you're an adult and want to participate, don't let the focus towards children stop you. Let your creative expression flow!!

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posted by ashley


We're Alive, Here Now

"Let there be no more holding back on
our commitment to our life on earth."

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posted by ashley


Roots of Empathy

Tomorrow begins the next amazing (I imagine) training of this summer. I am very fortunate to be participating in the pilot of bringing the successful Canadian based program, Roots of Empathy, to the United States.

I first learned about this program at the Vancouver Dialogues with the Dalai Lama on Educating the Heart (you can listen to those dialogues here). Of all the programs that were presented, Roots of Empathy was the one that most deeply touched my heart as a powerful program with the potential to touch and effect many individuals.

Have a peek at their mission:
The focus of Roots of Empathy in the long term is to build capacity of the next generation for responsible citizenship and responsive parenting. In the short term, Roots of Empathy focuses on raising levels of empathy, resulting in more respectful and caring relationships and reduced levels of bullying and aggression. Part of our success is the universal nature of the program; all students are positively engaged instead of targeting bullies or aggressive children.
The basic structure is that an infant and parent and their relationship are used as the teaching modality for such content as emotional literacy, inclusion, neuroscience, infant development , perspective taking and much more. The infant and parent visit a classroom 9 times throughout the year. A Roots of Empathy instructor goes to the classroom with them and the week before and the week after the parent/baby visit. A synchronistic chain of events has lead to the opportunity for me to be a Roots of Empathy instructor at a local public school. (I'm very excited!)

Here is my response on the application to the question of Why do you want to become a Roots of Empathy Instructor?
I am deeply inspired by this program and how it uses relationships as the core of its teaching, invites and facilitates community connection and belonging, teaches through modeling and experiencing, and has potential to reach a wide variety of people (students, parents, teachers… of all types of diversity). I would like to become an instructor because I would like to see this program touch as many people as possible and therefore I would like to help facilitate that sharing and touching!
Here we go!

On a separate but related note, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to write here these days. There is so much pouring through me on both a personal level and a professional level that I've been clueless about where and how to jump in and share with you (and a little uncertain as to who 'you' are these days). If there is anything that you are curious about from these trainings or anything else that has been going on in my life, please feel free to ask me questions and maybe help inspire forward some writing here! Thanks.

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posted by ashley


Age Appropriate Skills for Children

Here's a little article that I wrote for my school's Alumi Newsletter.

Did you know that your five year old is capable of taking out the garbage or sweeping the floor, your seven year old can help change the sheets on the bed or put dishes in the dishwasher, your twelve year old can cook meals for the family or do his own laundry, and your teenager can purchase her own clothes with a budgeted clothing allowance or do heavier yard work.

Many children are denied the opportunity to contribute to their families and communities in such valuable ways. They aren’t given a chance to learn essential skills for caring for themselves and others. Well-intentioned adults do things for children that they are capable of doing for themselves. As a result, the children learn to under-function, displaying trained helplessness and learned incompetence.

In a parenting group we explored age appropriate skills that kids are capable of doing for themselves. Many parents felt the a-ha that their child was capable of taking on some new responsibilities at home. Addressing this change with their child also gave them an opportunity to apologize to their child and admit that they had made a mistake. Children love to hear when adults make mistakes. In addition, modeling making mistakes is a powerful way to help address a child’s perfectionistic tendencies.

Below is one parent’s account of how she surprised her son with an apology and gave him an opportunity to feel empowered and begin taking control of one aspect of his life.

“I had still been picking out clothes for my 8-year-old son every morning. I had tried over the last few years to get him to pick his own clothes (“just pick something – what’s the big deal – it’s just a shirt and pants – your little sister has been picking her own clothes since she was 3…”) but he always acted like it was an overwhelming task and he had no idea what to pick. It made the morning go more smoothly if I just pulled out the clothes for him. After a few parenting classes, I told him that I had learned how much kids can do at different ages. Then I told him that I owed him an apology. He straightened up, taken aback, looking very happily interested in this unusual conversation. I told him that I knew that he was capable of picking out his own clothes and had been for many years, but that I had not been giving him the chance to do this for himself, and that this wasn’t fair to him. He looked honored. The first day after this little talk, I came by and asked him if he had an idea of what he might pick to wear that day. He told me what he was thinking and I said that it sounded like a good choice. Since then, he’s just shown up at breakfast, dressed, without any fuss.”

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posted by ashley


A Funny Conversation

I'm having lunch with two 3rd-grade girls.

One farts.

The other looks at me and then the other girl and says, "Oh my gosh! I would
be so embarrassed to fart in front of someone like that. Wouldn't you, Ashley?"

I smile and make a casual, this-is-life kind of face and say, "Farting is something that we all do."

"Do you still fart?"

"Yep, I still fart. Adults fart just like children."

"Oh, I didn't realize you were an adult. I thought you were a teenager."

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posted by ashley


The Peril of Praise

This New York Magazine article, How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise has been making its way through the email circuit. I found it to be a great article, well worth the read if you are involved in the lives of children (and adults!). Also, here is a handout that you can download that complements this article.

For a few decades, it's been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

[In a research study, fifth-grade students were] randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, "You must be smart at this." Other students were praised for their effort: "You must have worked really hard."

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. "Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control," she explains. "They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure."

[In another study, students were taught] that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.

Baumeister has come to believe the continued appeal of self-esteem is largely tied to parents' pride in their children's achievements: It's so strong that "when they praise their kids, it's not that far from praising themselves."

What would it mean, to give up praising our children so often? Well, if I am one example, there are stages of withdrawal, each of them subtle. In the first stage, I fell off the wagon around other parents when they were busy praising their kids. I didn't want Luke to feel left out. I felt like a former alcoholic who continues to drink socially. I became a Social Praiser.

These are only some scattered clips... there's much more in the article!!

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posted by ashley


"happy mornings"

its presidents day and i am off on a trail ride with my husband. as i awake my first job was to get the children to school. i was very excited as the weather was wonderful. i got the children up and dressed and made them breakfast. jared was sitting quiet and calm and i said to him "jared, you are very relaxed this morning" and his reply was " well mom, you are letting me have a happy morning" my heart SANK, as i realised that because i was happy and relaxed,jared was able to be the same, other mornings when im flying around the house stressed to the max, projects onto him and shapes the way he feels. i said to him that from now on i was going to make a conscious effort to stay relaxed and happy so that he and zoe can start their day relaxed and happy too. i was sooo glad he told me this as so far i have kept my word and to my surprise i have a much better day. my concerns that i had on being able to communicate to my children and them to me are fading each time incidents like this happen and jared was also self aware of what was causing his change in his mornings (COOL!) thank you sweet jared for another wonderful lesson learnt!.


Welcome to the time honoured art of holding space.

Gravatarthanks chris, i'm floating right now!!!

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posted by maria


Practice of Play

at integral naked there's a discussion on Play as Practice. below are some of my thoughts on the subject... of course, i'd love to hear yours!

let's play! let's get down in the mud, roll around, get ourselves dirty, and pee in our pants just the tiniest bit from laughing so hard!

let us celebrate this opportunity to share our ideas and stories and opinions and beliefs. let us laugh outloud as we read and write, a smile curling about our lips, the face of confusion or contemplation taking our features for hostages... transforming our bodies into clear expressions of that which is moving through. fully engaged, let us be seduced by the flavors and sounds and textures and magic catching our attention. let us follow our sensations sharing the ground of discovery with our open eyes and curious minds, diving into the deliciousness of Being. oh, yes, let us play.

play is vital. rather than it being something partitioned off as separate from "normal" life, let's imagine it as a basis of one's mode of operation. DavidD quotes J.P. Carse:
When we are playful with each other we relate as free persons.
relating in the world as a free person touches a fundamental core of our essence. once tickled at the core, this quality of relating has potential to permeate our thoughts, emotions and actions.

for me, play is the heart of doing. for example, moving through the motions of making cereal for breakfast can be a task to be completed or one can play while making the cereal, engaging in the delight of the present moment -- hearing the Fruity Pebbles fall into the bowl, watching the milk pour, feeling that suction as the refrigerator pulls the door close upon being shut, noticing the cereal swishing around as it's carried to the table. on the surface it all looks the same, and yet the flow of the experience is free and playful, a simple act has become fun. play is the heart that brings action to Life.
It is, in fact, seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself. ~J.P. Carse
i really appreciate this line. i wonder, how do you define seriousness? to embrace the Practice of Play, it seems important to recognize when we are not at play, to recognize when seriousness is stealing the show and collapsing possibilities.

as always, it's a treat to play with you in this world of words and thoughts!


Oh wonderful play! whom better to re-educate ourselves is from our own children. just the yesterday ashley, myslef,jared and zoe did just what you said and laughed soooo hard that our tummy's hurt. the situation arose when i was sitting on floor with zoe coloring,and she accidently marked my arm with the marker. she apologized and on impulse i put a dot on her nose and she giggled. the incident caught jared's attention, he sat by us and drew on his nose. oh my! then the fun began we all started to color our faces with all different colors,red,green,black, brown and yellow, looking at each other just sent us roaring with laugthter. my husband turned to see what all the laughter was about and just shook his head and told us that we were silly, but i just didnt care as that feeling of laughing sooo much was sooo worth it. i had not laughed like that in a while! then we all got up and looked in the mirror and just fell about the place in fits of laughter. let our kids take us on these wonderful experiences. let them take you by the hand and allow them to show you the countless possibilties of play!
thank you zoe and jared for reminding me how to play! love mom!

Gravatar(big smile)

when do we get to see the picture?


Gravatarin my excitmnet of the moment i forgot! (bummer) but i will remember next time. oh and i forgot to add that they were washable markers (ha)

GravatarMmm, I'm so glad I stopped by at this happy place for a few minutes this weekend! Here's some more from the playful genius who is J. P. Carse (I know you like these Ashley):

Surprise causes finite play to end;
it is the reason for infinite play to continue.

To be prepared against surprise is to be trained.
To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.


Gravatari'm so glad you stopped by also, david.

thanks a ton for those quotes, they've inspired me to alter a practice of mine. i frequently notice when i get "knocked off track"... when i'm in the flow and then all of a sudden i am not connected anymore. usually i ponder the shift, the cause for the shift, the disruption that has occured in me, the emotion that i may now be stuck on, etc.

my new practice is that i am now first noting that i am surprised... and then i reflect on
how the infinite play can continue from this moment of surprise. that which follows still looks the same in my practice (same questions,
same avenues explored)... but instead of walking into the reflection with the taste of disruption on my toungue, i now walk in with the wonder of surprise in my spirit.
thank you for this gift, david....

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posted by ashley


Overcome with blessings

My granddaughter Abby recently turned two. I stopped by to visit her tonight. She took me by the hand, leading me to sit on the living room floor next to her mom. She then began skipping and galloping in circles around her mother and I, singing and shouting whatever came into her mind. (free association- toddler style) Her arms were sometimes flailing, sometimes doing a chicken dance. Her face was excuberant. Her body aligned with the union of her heart and soul. She is innocence and celestial beauty, joy and love.

Each of us possesses this authentic beauty , although it is sometimes concealed. For example, defenses help to protect us from pain, but they may also diminish the joy of living fully and completely. Socialization teaches us etiquette, but if we are not vigilant, we are in danger of slipping into a persona.

Today I resolve to pull away one more layer of my earthly defense, and celebrate life a little fuller; boldly letting go of earthly pretenses, immersing my soul in God's creation of humanness. I will open my arms to all dimensions of being.

To Abby: Thank you for modeling lessons on living. Love, Nana


first of all, patti, i must again say how i love the poetic flow of your words... free-association toddler style had me busting rhymes and rhythms as i read the rest of your post!

"Her body aligned with the union of her heart and soul."

I wonder how you (we) know this when we see it. What are some of the clues that tune us into the fact that someone's body is aligned with the union of their heart and soul? (anyone can answer this!)

"defenses help to protect us from pain, but they may also diminish the joy of living fully and completely. "

isn't it interesting also how those very same defenses were probably completely necessary in order to protect us from external sources of pain at some previous point in our lives. how we become ingrained in the habit of depending on those defenses even when the threats no longer exist, or when we are now strong enough to to face such threats on our own (living fully and completely) and not dependent on those old habits.

and OH MY, patti. your intentions set in this post are amazing. please keep us updated on what unfurls from the peeling away of one more of those layers, from your courageous action of letting go, and the enticing drive to immerse your soul in God's creation of humanness. let us know about the textures and flavors of the new dimensions of being that pop out and become just that much more visible to you.

thank you abby and nana, for showing us how to be a teacher and a student.

with love,

Gravatarsweetest is the innocence of a child, to abe to freely express at all times what they are feeling. no fear or shame of thoughts of others, oh how i wish to be sooo free. from your post dear patti i too choose to remove a guilt layer , hmm! guilt just popped into my head, yes remove the guilt is what i tend to acheive. it reminds me of the day i was walking in the mall with jared and zoe. "come on mom skip with us" i hesitated, looking around to see who was watching, feeling ashamed, then accepting how i felt, off i went skipping along, having a wonderfull time with my kids. "skip backwards" they told me, so i turned around and skipped backwards, the kids and i were laughing and having soo much fun, enjoying life! everyone around faded away, treasured moments that will NEVER fade!
thank you abby and nana for reinforcing my desire to be free!
love maria.

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posted by Patti


Acceptance within

As I sit and wonder about the many many times one has to deal with each different feeling throughout the course of a day, I as an adult having lots of practice, begin to think of the tremendous task our young children have to face. Most of the day they are without their parents guidence, which is why I choose to invest time with my children on how to deal with their feelings as much as I can. Time worth spent, when one evening my husband and I went out to dinner and our baby sitter,jennifer was keeping jared and zoe overnight for the first time. They absolutely adore jen so i had no worries on how they would be. As i entered the house at 10pm the phone rang and it was jen letting me know that someone wants to come home. i asked who it was (it was zoe) and i immediatly asked if she was crying. Her words to me were "actually, she is quite calm and happy, i tried just one time to persuade her to stay, but her message was crystal clear" i spoke to zoe and said "zoe, do you not want to stay with jen?" she calmly replied "no mama i just want to come home" So I went and got her. driving home i realised how zoe was totally in control of her own feelings,accepting how she felt,no anxiety or worry of her wish not being granted. her communication lines were wide open and clear. i was soooo excited and felt a huge relief as now it was confirmed to me that my 5yr old was on a wonderful adventure of self acceptance and also trust in me. as insignificant and trivial it may seem now, this ability to deal and have confidence in how she feels will be a huge benefit to her self worth. how much we can teach our children when we invest our time!


her communication lines were wide open and clear. ... it was confirmed to me that my 5yr old was on a wonderful adventure of self acceptance and also trust in me.

it's so encouraging to read stories of how trust is built, clear communication encouraged, and how self-acceptance is nourished and inspired to grow. i'm moved by how conscious you are of actively developing such skills in your children rather than working so hard to GIVE them to your children.

i'm thinking about how often people think that if they show a child tons of acceptance and constantly tell them how wonderful they are, then the child will automatically realize it and integrate it for themselves... how sometimes that praise is empty and the child comes to depend on others for their own sense of worth. i love these stories that illustrate otherwise.

and i am eternally interested in the fruits that come through any relationship by simply
... investing our time!

thank you again for sharing.

with love,

GravatarWOW! That's so AWESOME! I'm so proud of Zoe; I feel like she's my own daughter!


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posted by maria



Under mine and my husbands pillow one morning I found 25cents. (I might mention that my son Jared has had two visits from the tooth fairy recently, and my daughter Zoe wished that she could have a visit also). Curiouse to know why, I asked Zoe who had put them there and she told me that she and Jared had. I asked her why and she replied with a HUGE,PROUD grin on her face "because I love you"

The smile on your face,
The truth in your eyes,
The touch of your hand,
Says it best, when nothing is said.


How precious!!! The hearts of children are so pure and creative. They hide neither their shadow or their celestial love. It warms my heart to hear such stories, especially because you the receiver, Maria, are able to see and take in this most wonderful blessing.

GravatarThat reminds me of one Christmas several years ago: We always make Christmas stockings for our children, packed with all kinds of small toys and goodies (and still do, even though they're pretty much grown up!), and used to creep into their bedrooms around midnight on Christmas eve to leave them by their beds.

Usually (when they were little), they'd be up about 4am to unwrap them (and get suitably chocolatey!) but in the year in question, we woke to hear all sorts of whispers going on, followed by 'Santa's elves' creeping into our bedroom to place stockings they'd made for us. Nearly all the presents (and the stockings themselves) were tiny gifts they had made themselves - they must have spent hours and lots of imagination on it all.

I still have the tiny Father Christmas made from felt, complete with hat and beard, that sits by my bed - now about 10 years on. A tiny but very precious gift.

Gravatarmaria and andy,

your lovely stories make me wonder about those little tokens of appreciation that we can surprise and share with others... how such a little act can live for so long in the heart of another... perhaps a secret note hidden in a pair of pants...

thank you,

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posted by maria


Paper Towel Purse

A purse made out of paper towels was left in my office mailbox. No name, just a precious gift from a child. It wasn't necessary to receive recognition for making the gift. It was given with a pure heart. I have purchased a shadow box for the purse and will proudly display the purse in my office with the following poem. For those of you who have been blessed to see a child's heart:

Anonymous giver, follower of heart,
Treasure of imagination, creativity untaught,
Soul is your voice, voice is your soul,
Healing hands work as inner light unfolds,
Dancer of wonder, spirit pure light,
Silent love prints, heaven on earth's delight.


Oh Patti!
How precious,scrumptious,simply divine is your poem! I must have read it 5 times. Why is it that kids can simply melt me away and take me to a place where i feel wonderfully safe! where i can join my heart with theirs!

thank you! sweet patti!
with love,maria


i join maria in praise and delight of your poem... i had no idea you were such a poet. i know you have a poet's soul, it's so beautiful to see it expressed in words.

it makes me wonder about the many ways and opportunities that we have to anonymously give... all that we can give... anyone want to share an anonymous way of giving that tempts your soul? makes me think of corrigan and his daughter and the rocks they scatter about through their lives... are you out there, chris?

much love to you, patti, and gratitude for sharing here.


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posted by Patti


The healing world of play!

Sitting one evening reading my daughter Zoe a bed time story my phone rang and it was a good friend of mine very upset as her 3yr old great nephew had been burnt with a cigarette on his chest by his mother. In my shocked response to her I repeated what she had told me not realizing that Zoe was all ears (I guess the intensity in my voice caught her attention) I did what I could to consol my friend and hopefully gave her the advise she needed. I was mortified by the sheer thought of what had happened to this poor baby and began to think of how painfull this would have been for him.
I sat for a moment and Zoe said to me " did the baby get burnt Mama" I looked at her sadley and said "yes darling,he did" "is he going to be ok" I took her hand and reflected back to her how worried and concerned she was. she asked again if he was going to be ok. I reflected once more on how it made her feel sad that the baby was burnt and that I was sure Ju Ju(the great aunt who Zoe knows well) will put some cream on it for him. I kissed her on the cheek and told her that I loved her so much.
Afew days later she was changing the diaper on her baby doll and I noticed that there was a band aid on its chest. I said "Zoe whats wrong with your baby" ( I,remembering the baby who was burnt) she replied "she got burnt" then proceeded to remove the band aid and turned to me and said "see Mama she's all better now" I replied "yes sweetheart, she is"

I wondered how many other children were going through the same horrific ordeals and all I could do was hold onto the hope that the advice I gave my friend was enough to protect the little boy and Zoe was able to deal with the sadness through her toys.


oh maria,

you soooo capture the magic of play. thank you again for this story and all the ones to come. i trust you know how my heart melts and leaps as you share of the wonders unfolding and the opportunities for experiencing and FEELING the many peeks and vallies of life that you facilitate and embrace with yourself and your relations (especially your kids). thank you.

all my love,

thank you for your story, Maria. you are an amazing person.


It's funny that if we would only allow it, how the fountain of life can flow. If we would open the doors to our hearts the way our children naturally do, how beautiful this world would be! thank you once again for you endless encouragement!

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posted by maria


Sibling limits

Each day I take a moment to reflect on how my day was, enjoying and savouring every moment with my children and trying to learn to deal with the new challenges they throw my way. Today I found myself thinking of the time when my 5 year old daughter Zoe came running to me whining because my 6 year son Jared was poking at her. I reflected back to her that it aggrivated her when her brother did this and that she was to use her words to tell him to stop. She carried on whining so he carried on poking at her. Again I asked her to tell him to stop, but she refused. She wanted me to tell him and as much as I wanted to fix it for her I knew if I did she would never learn to build confidence in herself to tell him or anyone else to stop when she wished it.

As she stood at my feet her body facing mine, I lent against the wall confused as what to do next. I then said to my son "Jared, doesn't the whining drive you crazy?" His reply was "Yes, but I want HER to tell me to stop." There was a moment of silence and then Zoe turned to Jared and asked him to stop. He granted her her wish and walked away. I stood for a moment speechless, it totally blew my mind as I found this very exciting as a parent to be able to let my kids work it out for themselves and to give THEM control of thier own actions. How easily situations can be resolved if you give your children enough trust and faith to fix it for themselves. I continue to practise this now, as when there comes a time when I am not around I can feel comfortable that they will be able sort out thier differences.I contunually encourage Zoe as I know we all learned a special lesson that day!


Maria Darling!

You have been extolled to the heavens by our dear friend, Ashley, so I was compelled to indulge in your latest offering!

Tonight over dinner Ashley and I were talking about the importance of coming to an explicit recognition/understanding of those things that are yet only intuited, or lacking the manifest forms of words and concrete cognition.

Reading your account of the scenario with your children, and how you oriented yourself toward them and their conflict, cloaked my intuition/implicit understanding in the mantle of words, making concrete and SPECIFIC what was only held in my awareness as a vague principle.

After absorbing your words, my own explicit understanding of how to foster empowering conflict resolution increased exponentially, and I had the distinct impression that in the future (whether that be tomorrow or years from now) that I will be able to approach conflict--my own and others--in such a way that lends itself to the successful end you described in your post. (In other words, you have given me an invaluable gift, and as I have opportunity to employ and impart it in my own life, I will remember the night I read your words and how instrumental they were to my own growth and happiness.)



GravatarDear Brandy,

Yes our dear friend indeed! for Ashley is responsible for giving me this gift and I will forever be in her debt. Her very presence thrills me as I know she is the only person who really feels and understands how precious my children are to me.
and you sweet Brandy, after reading your comments I humbly bow, but am thrilled that you too were able to rejoice and feel.

with love,Maria

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posted by maria


~story people

vacation and celebration time. i'm off to explore parts of this big state i've yet to see and celebrate two years well spent in texas being educated and growing... growing... growing... learning to hear the music everywhere and bowing humbly when all i can say is thank you.


Dearest Ashley. How easily our emotional balance is tipped. How easily our emotional partners are switched. Skipping along, skip,skip,skip, a sunny happy day and my heart is light. I trip "oh no" as I stumble I reach out my arms to try to catch my fall. Its dark now and the rain drops fall from my cheeks. I stand back and observe and learn as the partner of sadness steps in. Deep breath in accepting and knowing that lightness is patiently waiting to return! I will smile again. ~

GravatarStory! "Mama you don't love me anymore" said my 6year old son. I stopped in my tracks turned and looked straight at him, I raised my eybrows and smiled, he returned the same facial expression for he remembered that when ever he thought I did not love him to come and tell me and I would give him a very special hug and kiss. This went on for another five times(laughing and playing) as after 50 kisses and hugs he was now convinced he was loved. You are in my thoughts always as through your wonderful advice I am able to express my love through the eyes of my child and in a way for him to understand in his world. I am forever in your debt for the very thought of not experiencing these "treasured moments" saddens me.
God bless you especially in this Holy season, sweet Ashley.
Hugs and kisses,Maria

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posted by ashley


things we can and cannot control

as an elementary school counselor, i get to engage with children in many enriching conversations. discussing life skills has always been a topic that i find incredibly valuable to dialogue with children. this month's guidance lesson with grades 2-4 was on changes that happen in our lives.
things in our life are constantly changing. some changes we can control and some changes we can't control. can you think of some things that happen in your life that you can or cannot control?
the class, sitting in a circle, passes around a container of dried lima beans, a can, and a bug cage. each child takes out a lima bean and, if they feel comfortable, shares with the group either one thing that they can control (putting a bean in the can) or one thing that they cannot control (putting a bean in the cage).


my behavior
my thoughts
my life
how much sleep i get
what i wear
my little brother
my dog


my mom and dad fighting
my grandfather dying
my parents getting a divorce
someone being mean to me
having to move
my little sister annoying me
my dog jumping on me
the weather

what has been most noteworthy to me in these revealing discussions is how much happens in children's lives that they have absolutely no control over. in most classrooms the can would have 3-5 beans and the cage would be full. as an adult, can you imagine swimming through your days from one place to another, having to strictly follow and succumb to events in your life in which you have no control? can you imagine that feeling of complete helplessness, the extreme lack of control of the course of your day, your life?

then i start to think about adults... and the events, emotions, places of being in which we feel like we have no control. i was listening to someone explain the tendency of a child to just giggle uncontrollably when they are uncomfortable, anxious, or nervous. the child would giggle, giggle, giggle, until no breath was left... take a deep breath.... and then return to giggling, giggling, giggling. listening to this description made me think of addictions. how we constantly return to our addictions (our old habits) because they sooth us. they are often all we know as a means of coping with that which we are experiencing inside. and as is the nature of addictions, we fall into the habit of replaying the looping scenario of needing something and indulging in the addiction that provides that which we feel like we need (comfort, familiarity, calmness, numbness, security, support, companionship, etc.). this process becomes a fixation and often it takes such a strong hold on us that it seems as though we have no control over it. it is simply happening to us.... and we put a bean in the cage, feeling trapped and helpless.

in the guidance class, the next round of discussion is coming up with ideas of ways to respond to situations we can't control. if many children mention that their parents argue a lot, the group shares suggestions of things you can do when you're parents are fighting
go into your room and draw a picture that makes you feel good, go to a friend's house, ask them to stop, go to your safe-secret space and relax there, make up a skit with your sister of what they look like when they're fighting "they really look just like kids!"
this part is my favorite as i am always in awe of the children's insight and their ability to help one another. we then pass the can around without the cage and re-emphasize things we have control of in our lives.

feel free to drop a bean in the can or cage if you're so inspired.


Ashley, you are such a hero. I'm sure you realize how important the work you're doing is, but I wish more people would. The lessons you're teaching (and learning yourself, it seems!) about community building and supporting others and interaction are so, so significant. Thank you so much for posting this: you've given me hope.

GravatarYup kids, and adults too...in my work this is the essence of colonization: how little control we feel we have over our lives. Decolonization is the process of opening the space of options for that which we can control, and getting busy with doing that to make more of it.

GravatarIn a related vein, it's true that kids seem to have so little control in their lives, but they have many more options that adults. For example, when I take my kids to Grandma's house and we visit the sitting room, I can see about two options for the kids: sitting there quietly or leaving My kids on the other hand, have a million options. Grandma's sitting room is a theme park waiting to be played in, but for me all of that is anxiety riddled. "Don't touch, don't jump, don't knock over..."

The trick in supporting opening relationships is to negotiate in a way that leaves the kid's options intact and both of our needs met. Kids will always win that negotiation, because in any negotiation, whoever has the most options wins. So as an adult, my kids are always challenging me to find more options, rather than limiting theirs.

GravatarDecolonization is the process of opening the space of options for that which we can control

YEAH! and so much of that work is an inner journey. internally we have to reframe, restructe a perspective that has been given many reasons, justifications, moments in history to believe that there is 'no control.' i see the role of those who already know this as one of acting as companions and role models for the a-ha that the open space already exists and there is room for us to have immense control. does this fit in with your mapping of decolonization?

Gravataras for the adults and the kids at grandma's, isn't that just a matter of perspective that the adults only two options? adults can go and ask questions about the trinkets and pictures and paintings and such. eh?

as for the anxiety... that's so not a part of parenting that i'm looking forward to! doesn't it make you just not want to visit places where there are so many child-instigated-disasters waiting to happen?

for me leaving the kids options in tack and meeting both adult and child's needs is wrapped up in setting limits and offering potent choices. like you say the one with the most choices wins, and the key seems to be offering joices that are a win-win for both adults and children.

your kids are so lucky that they've got you for a dad!

Gravatarhi guys! this is brilliant ashley. and congrats on the new address! i'm posting here because i can! love from kathmandu. m

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posted by ashley

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