Monday, January 15, 2018

Tiger's Stripes: Joy and Grief

Tiger 虎 Japanese, Edo period, 1830 (Bunsei 13/Tenpô 1),
1st month Artist Utagawa Kunisada I (Toyokuni III),
Japanese, 1786–1864, Woodblock print (surimono);
ink and color on paper

“We have to embrace obstacles to reach the next stage of joy.”  Goldie Hawn

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” Helen Keller

It happened again.  I received another: “Thank you for your submission.  We really enjoyed reading it, but we aren’t going to publish it (written in a nicer tone).  Please send us more.”  It is the eight time for this short story about grief, neighborhood rumors and mis-perceptions.  I sat staring at the e-mail for at least several minutes with my “magic eight ball.”  My heart is all weepy and the self-critic in her high voice saying:  “I told you this was going to happen.”  

I immediately silence her with:  “Is it worth trying to find a literary magazine or just self-publish?”   It is a question I've been mulling over lately before sharing my creations.  She doesn’t have an answer. 

Himalayan tiger panel sold by Loft House, Austin ,TX
Dance with the Tiger
Songwriters: John Stewart and Rosanne Cash

In every woman and man lies the seed of the fear
Of just how alone are all who live here
Denying the fear is the name of the game
To stare at the fear is going insane
Forgiving the fear is one up on Cane
Is to dance with the tiger
And laugh at the rain

Don't give me your life, I have one of my own
It was a brilliant idea inventing the home
Creatures of habit, American fools
Reaching for stars while we're standing on stools
Letting it go is jumping the train
Is to dance with the tiger
Letting it go though we won't be the same
Is to dance with the tiger
Letting it go is the name of the game
Is to dance with the tiger
And laugh at the rain

If you ask a preschooler the difference between a tiger and a lion, the answer is always a tiger has orange and black stripes.   The markings on their forehead are thought to resemble the Chinese character “King.”  This idea may have influenced author Jorge Lois Borge.  Borge wrote two stories about how the tiger stripes were coded messages from the divine—runic divination waiting to be read.  Zoologists would debunk these mystical ideas, firmly stating that the patterns were for camouflage.  The tiger's stripes mimic the shaded patterns of the sun coming through the trees and grasses.  Either way they are a mystical animal that walks in harmony with their environment.  The tiger is a perfect companion to Xi Wangmu.

I interpret their markings as a balance between joy and desires (orange) and grief (black).  For me, it often hard to maintain this balance.  I find myself always tilting towards the grief.  I admit, I have been trained to see the worst case scenario and this way of seeing is cheered on my inner critic.  She, most likely out of fear or wanting to protect me from future disappointments, projects the worse worse worse thing that could happen.  It is out of these moments I betray myself and don’t create.  I don’t sit and the computer, don’t knit a row, don’t color, don’t make yummy cookies, don’t…   I don’t make.

This isn’t living in balance.  It is a life walking in grief and shadow.  Orange has changed into its shadow.  It is an orange that relies on what people say and not on self-reliance.  It is taunted on by shadow black telling you, “You are unworthy.”    

Black has another meaning.  It is a mourning color recognizing death.  It is a color to be used for grounding, banishing or breaking curses.  Perhaps, the tiger’s stripes is a balance creativity and freedom (orange) by dismissing the inner critic. 

I will send off my short story again to another publication. 

Tiger Embroidery 
Artual (Art + Ritual) a phase coined by Whitney Freya 

Looking to the left, you will see that I have finished my tiger embroidery.  It was done riding in the car cross country (i.e., 3 days - USA).  

I have decided to make this creation into a pillow.  My son asked if he could have it.  It will be making it's trip back west hopefully by the end of the month.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Claiming Tiger Power

Korean Folk Art: Tiger and Magpie

"The living self has one purpose only, to come into is own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty, or a tiger into luster." D.H. Lawrence.

"Animal totems, like the tiger, come from the Other Side to protect us while we are away from Home." Sylvia Browne

When I was born, I received many stuffed animals.  One was an orange and black tiger.  It was given to me by my aunt who was attending University of Missouri (Mizzou).  Her school's mascot was a tiger.  According to UM history, the tiger honors a group of men (and women?) from the U.S. Civil War.  A local militia called themselves the Missouri Tigers and protected the city of Columbia, Missouri against pro-confederate forces. My stuffed tiger never appear to be terrible, angry, or ready to pounce.  Instead my tiger had a friendly smile, her tail curled up, and she was in what my son called the meatloaf position ready to take a snooze.   

In choosing a deity to study, SOF - T.A. recommended that I reflect if there were any animal patterns in my lifetime.  Throughout my life there has been tigers, bees, and blue birds often appearing.  T.A. next suggestion was to look for a deity with these animals.  When I did the search, Xi Wangmu, Grandmother of the West appeared.  Reading further, many of her symbols have appeared in my life.

Xi Wangmu is considered one of the oldest Goddess in China.  She lives in the Kunlun mountains in a garden.  She is known for her peaches that she grows.  One of the animals Xi Wangmu has been associated with is a tiger in ancient text.  She is shown as both a mother tigress with her cubs and a tigress with sharp claws and teeth.  The tiger becomes a metaphor of who she is.  Xi Wangmu is a Goddess holding balance and able to: create or destroy, promote disease or healing, foster life or death.    

The Jungle by Helena Perez Garcia 
A Dying Tiger -- moaned for a Drink.
Emily Dickinson (1863)

A Dying Tiger — moaned for Drink —
I hunted all the Sand —

I caught the Dripping of a Rock
And bore it in my Hand —

His Mighty Balls — in death were thick —
But searching — I could see
A Vision on the Retina

Of Water — and of me —

‘Twas not my blame — who sped too slow —
‘Twas not his blame — who died
While I was reaching him —
But ’twas — the fact that He was dead —

To be associated with a tiger is a good thing.  I see tigers as tough, brave, and courageous, but in a balanced way.  Yes, they can throw their weight around (500 lbs.), but they do it with grace and necessity.  They don't stockpile for the apocalypse.  They take what they need.  Tigers appear to live from a place of abundance rather than scarcity.  To me, they approach life much differently than humans who are always needing more things.

I also see tigers as having patience by waiting for the best meal or the best catch.  They stalk out their meal by moving around and getting a better perspective.  They seem to do this same behavior when looking for the best shady place to take a snooze.  I don't see tigers having an inner critic or having self doubt or self judgment.  If things don't work out they pick themselves up and try again or move on to the next place.

Artual (Art + Ritual: a phrase coined by Whitney Freya)          

As I suggested in last week's post.  This year, I will continue to emphasize creating things with my hands.  I googled ideas and really liked Jessica Marquez's "Satin Stitch Nepali Tiger Pillow."

I've made changes to Marquez's pattern.  1) I painted the tiger onto a piece of natural linen.  (A piece of fabric saved for a rainy day.)  2) I like orange tigers.  Thus, I used an bright orange acrylic paint from the craft area in Target.       

It took me about an hour to paint the tiger and another hour to dry before I got out my iron.

I expect that your tiger will look different from mine.  You are a different artist than me.  I also encourage you as your stitching to not think: "When am I going to get this thing done!!!!"  Rather let the stitches be a meditation on how you can be more tiger-like in your approach to life. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 Challenge

Louise Bourgeois. No. 5 of 14 from the installation set À l’Infini. 2008. Soft ground etching, with selective wiping, watercolor, gouache, pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor wash additions, 40 x 60" (101.6 x 152.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Agnes Gund, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann, and Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer, and Richard S. Zeisler Bequest (by exchange). © 2017 See at

2017: A tough year for me and I am glad it is done.  These last six months, I've been trying to get over the last 15% of Bell's Palsy (i.e., movement in my left upper and lower lip).  In July, I woke up with my symptoms of facial paralysis.  I thought it was a stroke.  

Needless to say, I wasn't mentally up to writing, gardening, knitting or reading.  It was through the support of family, friends, co-workers, women's writing circle and SOF Circle who encouraged me to start off writing a word for the day.  Over the course of three months, I was able to write a paragraph.

Bell's Palsy has caused me to do a lot of reflection.  Specifically, I realize that I need a year long challenge to keep me going on writing a blog.  To be honest my blog looks like a winter activity.  

Henry Cowell: Tiger (1928) for piano played by Heidi Brende Leathwood. 2012

T.A.'s Year Challenge

T.A., a SOF member put out a challenge to our circle.  It is a academic, meditative and creative (e.g.,  craft, arts, creative writing/journaling, gardening, composing, cooking, knitting, sewing (how you express yourself)) challenge.   


1) Pick a God or Goddess to work with in 2018.  It can be someone you don't know or someone you would like to get to know better.  

2) Begin to research and study them.  Find out the symbols, stories, written religious text, colors, animals, emotions, plant life associated with them.

3) From this list choose twelve aspects (identified in #2).  

4) Each month meditate on one aspect; and explore this aspect creatively (e.g., craft, arts, creative writing/journaling, poetry, gardening, composing, cooking, knitting, sewing, cartoon (how you express yourself)).

Major rules:  We all are creative.  Standing ovations are for everyone who is able to get something down or make something by hand.  

Aitch, Old Souls


I will be exploring the "Tiger" in January.  Types of creative projects I could do are the following:  
  • Write an essay on what Blakes' The Tyger poem means to me or the purpose of the Tiger in Melissa Ginsburg's poem or A.A.Milne's Tigger or Martel's Life of Pi Tiger or the Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht and the deaf woman who befriends a tiger. 
  • Write a haiku about the symbolism of tigers (i.e., power, courage or fear) (Haiku is a Japanese verse in three lines. Line one has 5 syllables, line 2 has 7 syllables and line three has 5 syllables.) 
  • Consider plants with "tiger" in their name.  Find out if they could grow in my garden. 
  • Learn to play Henry Cowell's Tiger on the piano that's collecting dust. 
  • Bake and share some Tiger Chocolate Cookies 
  • Cook-up Crying Tiger Beef.  
  • Paint with orange and black 
  • Sew a tiger.
  • Watch reruns of the Detroit Tiger's play against my home baseball team.  

All of these are creative possibilities in this challenge.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What brings me joy? Lenten Journey 2017

Erzulie's Arsenal by Renee Stout. 2013
mix media wood.  Haley Institute of Contemporary Art
"Let us dance in the sun, wearing flowers in our hair." 
~ Susan Polis Schulz. 

“There are random moments - tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children's rooms - when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.” ~  Elizabeth BergThe Art of Mending

Lent is here and spring is right around the bend.  I can feel the sharp winter winds at my back and the warmth of spring rains on my face.  The trees are beginning to bud up and the birds are back (earlier than usual). 

As you are aware, I look at the Lenten season differently.  Lent is not about giving up.  It is about creating sacred space for reflection and for putting my life in order.  Okay, giving-up things that are barriers between MotherFather Spirit and me.  This space gives me time to face these barriers straight on.  A good Spring Cleaning of my soul. 

This past week I read this great blog by writer Candice Benbow.  Benbow poses the following questions she intends to reflect on during Lent: "What makes you feel alive? What brings you joy? How do you need to be reminded that God wants you to flourish? Might I suggest answering these questions and leaning into some of the answers over the next 40 days."  

I have reflected on many questions, but joy, not so much. What does it mean to have joy as a woman?  I plan on exploring these questions too and I invite you to come with me on my springing into spring journey.

Beethoven Symphony 9, IV Movement "Ode to Joy"


Exercise: What Brings Me Joy? 
Over the next 5 days write a list using free writing for 10 minutes.  Whatever comes to your head, write it down.  Write whatever needs to be written.  Just keep it moving.  (Below is my daily writing.  Note your ideas will be different.

What brings me joy? I like going to a movie. Going to foreign films to learn about different cultures - traveling two hours to another place for $8 - $10.  Meditation. Yoga. Singing. Running. Going up stairs and not getting winded. Driving with the window down and feeling the wind go through my fingers.  Forgetting the ill and pains of the world one moment. Green grass. Sitting on the beach and listening to the waves. Listening to the birds in the morning. The beginning sun change in February.  A candle with a faint scent of bergamot flickering on my table as I write.
This brings me joy.
A tiny baby reaching out. Eating with my entire family--surrounded. Just listening to stories like how my uncle had a gas station and how famous people came to it driving from Detroit or Chicago to Cleveland. Chicken farm stories.  Painting. Sewing. Knitting.  My friends - even when I'm not so great of a friend.
What brings me joy?
I like running and the after run feeling. I like to escape into the land of reading.  I like gardening. I like sewing. I like writing. I like eating.  I like cooking.  I like hiking.  I like having a clean home.  I like dancing. I like the arts.  I like doing things with my hands.  I like creating.  Lighting a candle. A sunbeam. Seeing my cats sit and snooze in the sunbeam.  The sun through leaves and seeing the veins and the lightening of the leaves.  Red and blue glass and holding a piece of pink quartz and feeling it vibrate.  Watching my cat wash her face the way the sun lightens her black coat. Sunny cloudless blue sky days. Forsythia bending in spring winds.  Almond croissants full of butter and crispy. Crunchy popcorn.  Chocolate mint ice cream.  Smell of spring.
This is what brings me joy.
Morning quietness.  PBS.  Dancing and twirling.  Walking long distance.  Dinner.  Good egg breakfast.  Traveling. Prague. Glastonbury. Luca. Frankfort. Kyoto. Picasso.  Dali. Art museums. Painting with oils and feeling the smoothness of the brush across the canvas. Having my toes painted.  
These things give me joy...
Flamenco, science, mysteries, finishing up a creative project, guitar, piano - Beethoven, Chopin, listening to music, flowers, growing things from seeds, learning something new, Z, T, my cats, my family, my friends, 
Joy Joy Joy
A rainy day for reading, freedom to travel, freedom to become what I want to become, my house, my bed, my sofa, my computer when it is happy and moving face, ocean, SOF, my writing group, Lake Erie and watching a storm come in. Things run smoothly like butter cream frosting. Pie.  Coconut Cream Pie made with coconut milk.  Chocolate.   Tres Leche Cake.  Baking my Aunt Sue's cardamom bread.  Dancing with friends.  Lunch and a good book.  Lunch with girlfriends.  Out with girlfriends.

Monday, February 27, 2017

What are you for?

Infinity Mirror Room Phallis Field 1965. by Yayoi Kusama
"You can't save people. You can only love them." ~  Anais Nin

“Don't seek love externally, it's fleeting. Go beyond the ego and awaken the love that already exists within; it will encompass everyone and everything in your life; it will permeate your very being.” ~ Danielle Pierre

“A positive needs a negative to complete its cycle, as the Moon needs an embodiment of itself, the Sun, to complete the cycle of its illusory essence, the Earth. Now if the earth is in dire straits, is bombing the moon to discover whether water is ‘perceived’ in the natural stance of humans an intelligent move?” ~ Aainaa Ridtz

Binding Spell: are used to prevent someone or something from causing harm. They aren't the same as curses, where you inflict harm on another person. They are similar to, but slightly different from protection spells, which are meant to protect you from bad things occurring. (

Hex: 1) A spell or curse; 2) Brings bad luck (Webster)

A binding spell recipe is currently been shared on social media. (Here is an example of one) Personally, I feel binding has a place, but you have to be careful. CAUTION should be in the back of your mind whenever binding, hexing, and cursing. You must be aware the spell can come back to bite you in the bum. Another consideration is a higher power and the law of giving and receiving govern all spells: the good, the bad and the ugly. The higher power and the law always influence the net result and the results may not turn out as how you planned.

Another consideration is the person who is performing the spell. What is your frame of mind? Why are you doing this? Are you reacting or are you acting out of love for all humanity?  All good questions you should ask yourself.  

Reading and reflecting on the proposed spell, I’ve identified a problem. It appears to focuses on one individual. My analysis and gut reaction? I believe the problem is bigger than the identified individual who is the focus of the spell. I also believe this spell doesn’t get to the root of the “infection.” This spell doesn’t act like an antibiotic killing the root contagion.  It acts like more of a band-aid. 

Putting on my health hat, if we get down to the nitty-gritty of this issue, we all have been infected with the same disease that has infected the person identified in the spell. Think PANDEMIC. The difficulties with this acquired disease are each individual manifests the symptoms and signs differently. Personally, I wish bacteria, a chemical, or virus caused this disease. We could identify the source, create vaccines and/or other course of treatment. When an out-break occurs we would follow WHO’s international protocol to help stop the spread. We would also develop guidelines for prevention.

I wish I could say I’m free of the infection, but this is a lie. I
Lingering Dream by Yayoi Kusama
have biases and violent tendencies too (i.e., I like to thrust my imaginary sword for justice, and in my youth I liked to play hard on the soccer field, and have been known to yell and raise my voice at my children). I’ve grown up in a culture and society that rewards being King of the Mountain and kicking people down versus culture and society that rewards sharing and helping someone who is down. I have been exposed to the same infectious agent as the one who the spell is being directed.

Sure, I don’t do all the things that this person does. It takes a lot of work to keep my infection in check. I try daily to dismantle my prejudices and biases. I try to put out kindness and somedays I don’t have that energy. What really keeps my infection in check is my devotion to a world where all people feel like they are heard and belong. I am devoted to the beloved community that Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks about.   

Making Peace
By Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out,
             ‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
                                   But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
                                       A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
                                              A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
                        A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.

Levertov, Denise. “Making Peace.” Breathing the Water. New York:New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1987.  

I've written about this before.  Our actions effect the things around us.  If we cut a tree down, we lose our relationship with the tree (CO2 to O2 relationship), shade, helper in soil erosion...  The way we treat other people effects our world. 

This is the time to really reflect on your personal ethics.  What do you stand for?  What are you devoted to?  This is your point of reference.  This is what you should be aligning your heart and mind to when you act. Your actions should be inspired by your devotion and not a reaction to the oppressive forces.     

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Emma Watson's Books on the Underground

Emma Watson
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.  ~ Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. ~ Angela Carter

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. –Maya Angelou

It’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. –Judy Blume

I am always keep my ear out for women who are doing interesting acts of kindness.  I am also interested in unique ways young women are changing things up.  Emma Watson (recognized as Hermione from her Harry Potter Days), actress, activist and UN Ambassador for her organization He for She, is hiding books in the subway stations as her new literary philanthropy project: Books on the Underground.  The books are part of a Feminist Book Club called Our Shared Shelf.  She takes a picture of where the book is hidden and shares it on Instagram.  She is using books for the public to the talk about feminist issues.  Those who join her "club" are asked to read one feminist book a month and talk with someone about the book.
I have been doing my own book sharing by releasing the novels I read during graduate school.  All revolve around social justice issues.  I have been leaving them at the Free Little Library Project at my local food pantry.  
Below is my own social justice book reading list for 2017.  Books I've read so far:
Re-read:  In Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez  (What sister are you?)
Oran's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (What would you have done in this circumstance?)
Wonder by R. J. Palacio (How do you treat and talk about people who have disabilities?)
Bridging the class divide and other lessons for grassroots organizing by Linda Stout    (Written in 1997, many of Linda's examples are true twenty years later.  How does it feels to be left out and not welcomed at the table.)
Another spin to my project this year is to use my local library.  Why?  Libraries provide you free access to book, e-books, audio books, and knowledge so you can think for yourself and make your own decisions.  They are also a place for you to meet members of your community.  Libraries are a place for me to spread kindness magic. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Holes that need mending

Illustration for Little Mermaid by Asami Kiyokawa. 2007. Fabric
“For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” ― James Baldwin

“Sometimes that’s all it takes. Just one person to turn everything on its head. Remind you of the person you were.” ― Samantha Towle, Trouble

“You know, life fractures us all into little pieces. It harms us, but it's how we glue those fractures back together that make us stronger.” ― Carrie Jones, Entice

There seems to be a lot of things that need mending in my life, and I am not just talking about the loose buttons, ripped skirt hems, and snagged holes in my sweaters. My son’s used car’s engine is beyond repair. My butterfly bush needs pruning again due to an ice storm. Did I mention I have family relationships that need transformation after ten years of not speaking and a reckoning is coming soon due to a death of a favorite Uncle. Then, there is the living room walls need re-painted. Writing this list down, they all seem pretty restorable. (Okay not the car.)

Really what I am driving at is something bigger. Right now. At this moment. A chasm is expanding. I watch the hole rip wider from a leader who is rallying others to stalk, beat-up, and deface personal property of those who are different (e.g., racism, sexism, abilities, agism).  No matter how much I attempt or my friends attempt to stabilize it by sewing patches or knitting stitches--it grows.  I knew there was this undercurrent, but I never knew its extent.  It feels far worse than having my big toe poke through a hole in my hose while I’m at work and don’t have a replacement pair.   

Syende fiskerpige by Anna Ancher. 1890. oil on canvas.
See it at Randers Kunstmuseum 

Two Sewing 
By Hazel Hall, 1921

The wind is sewing with needles of rain;
With shining needles of rain
It stitches into the thin
Cloth of earth—in
In, in, in.
(Oh, the wind has often sewed with me!—
One, two, three.)

Spring must have fine things
To wear. Like other springs.
Of silken green the grass must be
Embroidered. (One and two and three.)
Then every crocus must be made
So subtly as to seem afraid
Of lifting color from the ground
And after crocuses the round
Heads of tulips, and all the fair
Intricate garb that Spring will wear
The wind must sew with needles of rain,
With shining needles of rain
Stitching into the thin
Cloth of earth—in,
In, in, in—
For all the springs of futurity
(One, two, three.)

I don't have any easy answer for this problem.  I saw this video yesterday by Robby Fischer entitled: "Fight Despair with Defiance."  It gave me an energy boost of hope.  
The take home message for me was a radical and defiant person takes action against a bully by using their gifts and talents to make a difference.  It isn't about changing the bully's life. Instead, the defiant person creates the community they want to have no matter what the bully says.  

The bully and his/her crowd is not going to listen to your analysis and logic.  Instead they will use your information and turn it around by lying, discrediting, intimidating and isolating you. 

Fischer calls us to use our gifts and talents.  If your gifts and talents are chaining yourself to fences during a protest--use it.  If your gifts and talents are gardening--use it and fill your community's pantries with food and teach kids to grow food. If your gifts and talents are art, music, or writing--use it.  This is what will overpower the bullies and their followers in the end.   Your gifts and talents creating a beloved community.

BIG TAKE HOME: Don't tear each other down.  If you aren't into marching--don't tear down the people who are into marching.  If you aren't into picking up the phone and calling to voice your opinion--don't tear that person who is has this passion to do this.  If you aren't into gardening--don't tear that person down who is putting food on the table.

INSTEAD: Honor and celebrate how we each show our gifts of courage against the bully by creating a community where kindness rules and everyone has a voice and feels like they belong.