Storybird - Share Your Creativity

Thank You For Helping Me Be Me by ashleycooper, thomasart on Storybird

I love this new website, Storybird, where you can pick from some wonderful and inspiring artwork and then create your own story.

Here are a few more that I've found or that friends have shared with me. If you write one, please do let me know so I can read it. And check back at the website as they seem to be adding new artwork regularly.

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posted by ashley


We Are All Truly Miraculous

An Evening of Poetry, Music and The Spoken Word at The White House May 12, 2009.

I'm incredibly moved and inspired. Beautiful opening performance by ELEW and Esperanza Spalding, soulful spoken word by Mayda del Valle and a powerful performance by ELEW.

“We’re here to celebrate the power of words and music to help us appreciate beauty and also to understand pain. To inspire us to action and to spur us on when we start to lose hope." President Obama tells the crowd as he opens the evening.

"It is one thing for people to tell their stories in their own spaces and quite another for those stories to be welcomed in this space. Barack is president today because many people who thought their voices didn't matter or wouldn't be heard decided to show up on election day and vote anyway." Michelle Obama

"Abuela, how did you pray before someone told you who your god should be? How did you hold the earth in your hands and thank her for it's fecundity? Did the sea wash away your sadness? How did you humble yourself before your architect? Did you lower yourself to your knees or rock to the rhythm of ocean waves like I do? "

“To be able to go in the White House and to represent my grandmother and my ancestors, it really means a lot. It’s a generation of women that don’t often get heard, you know, these old Puerto Rican women that no one ever really thinks about. To be able to use my voice to represent them on this kind of platform is really powerful.” Mayda del Valle


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posted by ashley


Your Story Grows My Story

There are times when someone shares a story with me and it pops me open, spurting me out of the narrowness of my lived world and bursting me into an ah-ha that there are ways to experience the world that I’ve never imagined. I expect these experiences when I travel to new places or immerse myself into new cultural experiences. I love it when this happens and I’m not expecting it… which it did twice the other day. I'm so grateful to these beautiful souls who showed me something new and insightful.
One woman shared an experience of when she was in college and was in a class where part of their grade was based on class participation. She and another woman in the class were very shy and never chose to spontaneously participate. Every couple of weeks or so they would get together and intensely study the material for that class and plan for their ‘spontaneous class participation.’ She said it was always surprising to the professor that the two quiet women in this relatively small class would have something to add on the same day!

Another woman told me about her experience of being in a room filled with people that were passionately involved and invested in the work they were doing in the world. She had never experienced being surrounded by so many people that were passionate about their work. It was an eye-opening and seemingly body igniting experience for her.
There are so many different ways to live in and engage with the world. There are so many different types of people with whom to surround ourselves. In every moment we’re making a choice about how to engage, how to contribute, how to receive, what to offer, what to follow, what to be… so many choices and so many beautiful kaleidoscopic combinations of ways to live.

It humbles me to hear experiences like these, to have other people’s stories shake me awake to realities I didn’t know existed. It makes me stop and take a moment to reflect upon who I am, feel grateful for some of my ways of being and opportunities I’ve had, and recognize areas where I can grow.

I have largely taken granted my ability to jump in, ask a question and engage something or someone that interests me. This is a way of being that has come naturally to me… but doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In my narrow world, I hadn’t thought about the idea of actively planning ahead to participate in a conversation. It makes total sense and I feel such respect for this woman who recognized what she needed and wanted to do and took actions to help herself get there. In our conversation she taught me a lot about planned spontaneity and has opened my world to that pathway for growing spontaneity.

The woman in a large hall surrounded by people passionately living their calling told me, “I’ve been surrounding myself with the wrong people!” I took a moment and imagined myself in a world where people around me were going through the motions, doing what they do because it’s what they do. I felt the sparky pulse of passion and purpose ooze out of the living beings, that reflection and light around me growing dimmer. And, as you might imagine, a gushing wave of gratitude swept in and swallowed me. I was gifted the opportunity, from a new perspective, to stop and really feel my deep gratitude for all the people that I know who live their life’s passion and choose to share that with the people around them. If you’re blessed enough to be one of those people, thank you for letting others know how deeply you care about, believe in and are willing to take action to do what your body, mind, heart and soul asks of you. And if you’re one of the many people who continue to listen to yourself, trying to discover what that sparky pulse of passion and purpose is for you, please don’t give up… it’s in you and you’ll find it. And whoever you are, please share your stories with others.

I am immensely grateful to people like these two women who share little snippets of their life story with me… and thus help me live more consciously my own life story.

photo by //amy//

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posted by ashley


Friday, November 28th - National Day of Listening

This is fabulous... I'm looking forward to participating.
StoryCorps is declaring November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.

StoryCorps is asking the whole country to set aside one hour on Friday, November 28th, to record a conversation with a friend or loved one, and I wanted to encourage you to participate. You can read more at http://www.nationaldayoflistening.org

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posted by ashley


Living Stories

I'm amazed by all of the stories that we humans are living; all of the stories that we live together with so many others and yet don't even realize it, believing that we live them alone; all of the stories that we float through together; all of the stories waiting for us to tell them...

What stories are you living today? Are there others living them with you? Do you share your stories with others?

Here in the states, many of us are living a Father's Day story... my imagination floats off imagining how different each of our Father's Day stories and memories could be... and who might share similar stories?


posted by ashley


Love, Courage and Being Human

We’re so human.

Sitting in the hospital has the effect of causing me to think a lot about being human, having a body, how the body works, how we humans are connected to each other, and particularly the many, many different life experiences that we each have, the infinite possibilities that there are.

I’m in the ICU waiting room right now. Sleeping relatives, people reading, conversations, pacing,cell phones, tappering fingers at the computer, reading the newspaper, staring. What brings them all here? What is their loved one experiencing? How long have they been in ICU? Was it a planned visit like ours is or was it an emergency that brought them here?

A question passing through my head… How does each person cope?

And then I hear a laugh, and a woman somewhere on the other side of the plants says, “Ahh… you’re such an optimist!”

I woke up this morning thinking about bravery, courage and love. My dad continues to astonish me with the courage that he’s showed throughout this entire experience. Coming out of major surgery, he baffled all of us with his completely lucid, spirited, curious and informative self. Really, this guy just spent four hours in surgery. He had his stomach opened and then his entire digestive system was re-organized (gallbladder removed, part of pancreas removed, part of stomach removed, bile duct removed, and a tumor removed). Everything was sewed back together in new ways and his stomach stapled shut. Now he’s asking if we took a picture of all of us in the waiting room, he's telling us about the synchronistic connections with the anesthesia doctor and making jokes with the nurses. How is that possible? How amazing is our human spirit and the ability to not just survive but to do so with the will to flourish.

I really believe that a lot of his success has to do with his bravery and courage. I would say he walked into this surgery open-heartedly. For me an open heart has trust and is available to connect with what ever is coming its way and even surrender to it. I continually see him taking in the facts, meeting what is known about how he (and his body) are experiencing life, and then being with what arises. That includes being with his fear, his nervousness, the hinting inevitable ‘what-if’s. Being with it all… and not stopping there… having the courage to push beyond what-is to hold the perspective of what could be – healing, fast recovery, his own bed, LIFE!

As I write now, it is day 3 after the surgery. He’s out of ICU. This morning he took his first walk around the nursing station. This afternoon he made three laps. One by one the tubes are coming out and at the moment his legs are dancing under his covers to the Keb Mo playing on the CD player!

He believes that so much of his progress is from his huge network of love, support and care. He is a man well loved and respected by those in his life.

And so the questions that sit with me right now… How might each of us touch that place in us that feels well loved and respected (especially loved and respected by ourselves)? What happens when we live from that center? How do we allow that to be medicine that empowers us to have courage to move towards the possibilities of what could-be that feel alive and vibrant?

And as for my dad, you can follow his journey on The P Train.

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posted by ashley


Stories of Tragedy and Hope

Today has been a powerful day of hearing people tell their stories and being touched in deep and raw places in my heart.

I don't have energy to share much more than the facts around who I've had the great fortune to learn from today.

This morning I heard Eva Schloss speak at my school. Eva is a Holocaust survivor and the step-sister of Anne Frank. You can hear her on NPR here. A bit from her website:
I was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929. As our family was Jewish, we immigrated to Belgium and eventually to Holland in 1938, shortly after Hitler annexed Austria. After the Germans invaded Holland in 1942, our family went into hiding. In May 1944, we were betrayed, captured by the Nazis and sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The whole point of the process was the de-humanization of us. When we were liberated by the Russians and they shared their bread and water with us, I cried. That was a kind, human action.

Only my mother and I survived. My father and brother did not. My mother and I were liberated by the Russian army in January 1945 and evacuated eastward into Russia, as fighting was still going on to the west. In May 1945, we were repatriated to Amsterdam.
It was so powerful to hear her tell her story. Step by step, the places their family moved to and experiences they were faced with.

I was greatly influenced by hearing her story and I feel the same quality of learning that I had when I first heard a Holocaust survivor speak. Here is what I shared with the parents of students at my school:
I heard a Holocaust survivor speak when I was in first grade and it has had a lasting impression on me. It was very powerful for me to experience a live person who was telling a story about their life that was so far from anything I could imagine. I think it impacted deeply my ability to know that the stories I hear are not just stories, but real experiences (sometimes horrible) that happen to real human beings.
This evening I went and saw the documentary, “Prince among Slaves”. The true, little-known story of Abdul Rahman, an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before regaining his freedom and returning to his homeland. It was a powerful film that I recommend watching.
"Abdul Rahman survived the harsh ordeals of slavery through his love of family and his deep abiding faith," says co-executive producer Michael Wolfe." The film depicts a universal story of perseverance and hope. Abdul endured unimaginable indignities and faced immeasurable odds, yet managed to survive his long fall from royalty with character and integrity intact."

"I was immediately attracted to this story because of its powerful message," re-enactment director and supervisory producer Bill Duke says. "Too many people continue to be enslaved by poverty, drugs and bad decisions. But like Abdul Rahman, they can come out of it and regain their dignity and respect." Source
After the film there was a discussion with a 7th generation grandson of Prince Abdul Rahman, Mr. Artemus Gaye from Liberia. His message, like Eva's, was filled with the importance of sharing family stories and a reverence for life and hope.

There was time afterwards for discussion that was hosted by the Seeds of Compassion Youth Ambassadors. I was in a group with four others all of whom I'm guessing were under the age of 20. Three of them were first generation in America from Hong Kong, Iran and India. The forth person was 4th or 5th generation, her Japanese grandparents having been in internment camps.

I felt so honored to be in conversation with and learning from these youth as they shared their experiences with me, what it's like straddling multiple cultures... and so much more.

I'm so thankful for the many different humans on this planet and hope that in my lifetime I continue to learn the stories and experiences of what it's like to be you... whoever you are.

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posted by ashley


Giving Thanks and Turning Four

Four years ago I was working at a Montessori school. In the kitchen during snack one day (the school lived inside a sweet little house), I was being me... getting excited about something... I imagine there was lots of energy and a sense of awe in my expression (wink).

A nine year old turns to me, "Ashley, you need a t-shirt that says E A S I L Y A M A Z E D!" I was honored. Inspired. And EasilyAmazed was born! Four years ago today, this webl came into being.

It's amazing to look back through the archives and watch some of the flow of my own coming into being; my words, thoughts and methods of expression evolving. Growth is such a magical and fascinating thing.

I stumbled upon this birthday through a Thanksgiving morning memory. I felt myself sitting in my dad's office in Atlanta on one Thanksgiving morning, feeling the peace of a simple morning of celebration, giving thanks and family. I recalled writing one of my first blog entries. In looking back to that entry, I found that today is the actual birth day. I later read the post from EasilyAmazed's first birthday. With both offerings, my heart purred with resonance, gratitude and love. Some things never change!

I feel thankful for the opportunity to not only see my growth but to also recognize the essential core elements of my being that show up again and again, moment after moment. I feel a deep gratitude for the ways in which this place of expression and sharing has helped me to listen deeper and deeper into my calling here on this earth, honoring a dedication to sharing with love, curiosity and beauty.

This sacred space continues to be a mystery to me and a gift in so many ways. The most valuable treasure is the presence of you, those who interact here (in visible and invisible ways). I rest in a breath of awe... this inner-net is quite a magical place.

Happy thanks-giving to all who like to honor giving thanks and Happy Birthday, Easily Amazed!

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posted by ashley


Shadows and Swords

Being with

A month ago I was invited into a dance of awareness. I was invited to live with greater integrity. I recognized in my interactions with myself and others that there was an inherent boundary I was not respecting. A gate I was ignoring, walking through without honoring its sacred presence. I was acting irresponsibly.

Synchronicities and teachings unfold as Chris and friends share around Going to War at the Art of Hosting on Art of Hosting. Here's my story.

In a spontaneous moment of combined knowing-need for respite and solitude along with a longing-desire for escape, I took a one night trip to the ocean! It was a therapeutic offering of time and space to deepen into my experience of being alive. Some potent new awarenesses emerged. I'll share a story about one of them... a recognition of two precious parts of myself.

From my journal:
There is a part of me that interacts Powerfully with others by holding space for What-is to truly be present. There is another part of me that is naïve to the power that way of being holds… and thus doesn't always skillfully use timing or discernment. How do I come to better know these parts? Can you name them?
One part emerged immediately. I know her well. She appears readily at the surface of my expression, a light and free, playful self. The other part of my self was not as ready to be named. I allowed myself to rest in being, journeying on the land and in my soul.. and in the beauty and power of the ocean, I was able to name this other part of myself. Let me introduce you to them (again from my journal):
The innocent beginner – I’ll try anything. Why not. The best way to be an innocent beginner is to just put yourself out there. Just go for it and see what happens. I’m great at getting experiments started or inviting you into new experiences. I take the edge off of things because I give you permission to just be a beginner… be open and see what happens. I’m innocent because I really don’t know better. I’m just beginning to step my foot into this pool.

The woman who wields a sword - I notice how I have this sword. There is some body-knowing and memory of how I move, center and balance myself when holding a sword. This sword cuts through experience. The edge is fierce. Piercing the surface with awareness. It can be harsh and crisp. Awareness is often not gentle. Sometimes it’s seems so nice, helping to shave away the excess fluff that is in the way. Inviting clarity. Inviting precision. And other times it touches lived life that resists being touched… that wants to continue living as is and not to be poked and prodded, pierced with a sword of awareness.
Now that I know these two selves, I've been trying to notice when they emerge, especially the one who wields a sword. There is a quality that I feel in my body, a lightening of form, an expansive sense, a sharpening of presence. I am slowly starting to recognize this as her emerging. When I become aware of this I am making extra effort to listen intently to guidance of how to respond. Recognizing that in my being right now I wield a weapon and I must proceed with caution and clarity. I assume a stature of poise, balance, precision and awareness... when I remember... when I am aware.

The Synchroncity: At the Art of Hosting, "Anita Paalvast, a very powerful aikidoka, drew her katana and walked the circle, lowering the blade in front of each of us and challenging us to identify our fear and the shadow that is in our midst" (Corrigan). I plan to write more about Chris' post and Thomas' response and how I want to hear Christy say something on the topic! In the meantime, to stay with this story, it was Helen's comment that illuminated more to me about this new responsibility I've been invited to consciously respect.

She says:
Another shadow challenge that can derail our work in the world is our own passion.

We need to know how to remain in perfect poise and dignity, never to push our adversary or interlocutor into a place they cannot go unless we are prepared and awake enough to go with them to guard their back.
I have not always respected this. I recognize how dangerous my own passions can be and the shadow sides of longings that emerge from them. And how often have I drawn my sword and then walked away, abandoning the other? Chris wrote about the shadows of greed, failure and dishonesty. How often have I drawn my sword out of greed or fear of failure? Was I ever dishonest with my sword?

In my heart right now, I feel and offer deep apologies to those whom I have disrespected and possibly even harmed with my unconsciousness and lazy use of the sword. I am sorry for the inappropriate times that I have drawn my sword, cut into awareness and imposed a force upon you that caused harm to your system... your emotional, spiritual, cognitive or physical system. Please forgive me for mistakes from my past... and in my future. I welcome support from my companions to hold me more accountable as I learn to embrace this side of myself and be more responsible with this power. Thank you... and with love...

Photos from Helen and Tom

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posted by ashley


The World I Want to Live In

A sunny morning reflecting, writing and creating. This poem and post catches my attention and leaves me with tears in my eyes. It's possible. Keep dreaming your dreams. Let's celebrate our connections and bring these visions to life... together.

This is the whole post from CharityFocus Blog
The wonderfully inspiring Arab-American poet, Naomi Shihab Nye wrapped a poem around an unexpected experience of kindness she encountered at an airport in Albuquerque and sent it off to exactly two friends ... who passed it on to friends, who passed it on to friends who ... and so the ripple of poetry and goodness went, and courtesy of Daily Good reader, Cynthia Loebig, here it is in front of all of you. At a recent reading of the poem, Nye ended the evening remarking, that this spontaneous series of people passing the poem on had probably resulted in more people reading it than would have had it appeared in a print magazine ...

Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal
by Naomi Shihab Nye
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used -
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her -- southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag --
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers --
Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands --
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped
-- has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

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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


"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

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