hope

A Reflection from My Time At Onsite

I’m not sure where you were when you got the news that Kate Spade had ended her life.

For me, that news will be forever etched in my mind. I will always remember the patch of grass where I was standing, the feeling of the sun hitting my face as it was setting. The lump in my throat as I tried to swallow when I heard it was suicide. My stomach physically ached.  And not because I was a Kate Spade super-fan, but because I heard the news moments after receiving my phone back on June 7th after being away from all technology for a week. Let me back up.

Onsite.

On June 1st, I drove myself about an hour outside of Nashville, Tennessee, to a place called Cumberland Furnace, TN to the Onsite Workshops. Onsite is a therapeutic retreat center and they have a week-long program called “The Living Centered Program,” or LCP. I’ve had a ton of friends who have gone through the program, who all had incredible experiences, but I never thought I would actually do it.

See, I always thought of Onsite as a rehab type of place — like, you only go there for serious problems. But, after talking with my friend Miles who is the CEO at Onsite, and another friend Jess that works there, I had a better understanding that the program was really for anyone who wanted to take the next step. Anyone who wanted to become more emotionally healthy. A safe space to work on yourself and on your stuff. And that looks like all different things for different people. It’s really just a place for you to get emotionally fit.

So, with a little help and encouragement from my friends I said YES and signed up for the June 1st LCP. Honestly, part of me almost let fear win. Like, I almost didn’t say yes. I didn’t like the fact that I would be without a cell phone/computer and all the comforts of the outside world for a week — hello SEPARATION anxiety from my life. It was a real thing.  And another real fear was that the last 8 months I’ve really felt in an emotionally healthy place…or at least A LOT better than other times in my life…so I was a little worried that a week of intense group therapy was going to leave me in a worse place than before. But, I was able to talk that out with some of the Onsite staff, and they helped calm my fears and reassure me that it was a guided process — I wasn’t going to be alone with these fears.

So, June 1st came, and at around 7pm that evening, I handed over my cell phone. Guys, it was weird. I was excited to be free from it for a week, but I also immediately felt SO ALONE. I had none of my people with me. I couldn’t text Jill if I was having a melt-down. I couldn’t send a GIF to my girls if I needed a laugh. I couldn’t call my mom. I couldn’t insta-story and chat with all my insta-people. Solo. Me. Well, me surrounded by 56 strangers. Yikes.

I’m not going to share the details of all that we did, but it was a combination of mornings spent with the big group — learning more about the science behind why we do what we do…sort of like emotional fitness classes, and then the late mornings and afternoons were spent in your small group of about 8 or 9 other individuals, and that’s when the more focused work would happen…in group therapy.

I am not even going to lie — I thought the idea of group therapy was terrible. I mean, I knew that was the thing that LCP did, but I’ve never done group therapy and I was certain I would hate it. But, OMG, it was magic. These 9 people started out as strangers, and I can tell you right now, there’s not one of them I wouldn’t fly across the country for in one hot second right now. These strangers became like family. Six days. What in the world?

I’m not even sure how to fully summarize what changes I feel in myself, but it feels significant. And full disclosure, I definitely had some personal a-ha moments that I want to keep for myself or family/close friends, but I do really want to share some of my takeaways with you in hopes that they might be useful to you. They might be jumbled or random but here’s the bottom line.

I loved it. I feel like I learned tools that will help me navigate the rest of my life. I feel like I experienced real healing in some wounds that I was carrying since childhood. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who has blood running through their veins. I think anyone and everyone could benefit. Literally there were people there from ages 19 to mid-70s. Anyone can do this.

Group Therapy.

So, you’re in a small group, where everyone has signed a confidentiality agreement and you have a therapist who is the guide for your group and you get to know these people. Like, KNOW them. As you share your story and as they share theirs, something begins to shift inside of you. You cannot look someone in the eyes when they’re talking about their pain and not be changed. My therapist group leader told me that 70% of your healing comes from just being in the room — the 30% is when you’re talking about your own stuff, but that might not even be as impactful. And I realized something…that might be the key. I think that’s what we’re all looking for in life. Someone to bear witness to our pain. We don’t need someone to fix it. Or say it’s going to be fine. Or pity us. We just need someone to see it. Someone to bear witness to our pain. Especially if the pain happened a long time ago, to go back, to uncover those painful moments and have a room full of people witness it. There is healing in that.

I am a fixer by nature. I want to rescue and fix and make a plan for change to get out of pain. Yet, that was not my role —in group therapy or in life — my role is to say, I see you in that pain. Maybe that’s it. Just, I see it. I am a witness to your pain…and I’m sorry. You take 57 strangers, and you realize that every single person there is carrying pain of some sort. Wounds. Hurt. Heartache. Some of them are scars that run deep. Some are fresh and still oozing with infection. But pain is pain. I left there and I swear I was seeing people differently. The cashier at Kroger. The guy flipping burgers at Five Guys. Every single human alive has a story and most likely has pain. It makes me want to listen more. I don’t need to fix or rescue. I need to listen and see people. I need to bear witness to their pain. It’s powerful.

It was intense.

They say the week there is equivalent to 8 months of weekly therapy. So, it’s no walk in the park. At times, it was uncomfortable…pushing me out of my comfort zone and into feelings that I haven’t felt in a while. Was it a breeze? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Because here’s the thing: I’m pretty certain that great things come after a bit of friction. Sometimes sitting in the group room, I felt uncomfortable and it felt hard. I think of it now like fire or friction. No one likes fire, but that’s how you get the refined beauty. No one likes the friction on the rock until the diamond appears. And I don’t mean it to be a cheesy analogy, but I mean it. It reminded me that most things in life that are worth it take work, and sometimes that work is uncomfortable in the process.


You aren’t allowed to talk about what you do for work. That is a true story. You arrive and you are given a name tag. Kate R. — that was all of me. You guys, I’ve been a part of the duo Jill and Kate for 15 freaking years. Do you know how awesome it was for people to get to know me? Me. Not “Kate” from Jill and Kate...or Kate the back-up singer for Kelly Clarkson. Me! Just me! This part was so helpful.  Literally, there are people that don’t know the difference between Jill and I, and honestly they don’t care to. When showing up at an event on my own people will ask me: “So, how are you guys?” Ummm…it’s just me here.

I felt seen.

This kind of piggy backs on my last point — but during my week at Onsite, I felt seen. I sort of think you can’t escape that. Seen, known, and loved. I think someone summarized those things that might be our three most basic desires and longings. I wasn’t known for accomplishments or seen because of what I did for work. I was seen as a human being not a human doing.

Also, I realized that so much of my life is work. And I love it — I love all that I get to do, but when people aren’t allowed to talk about work — you talk about who you are. Sometimes around the meal tables there would be awkward lulls in conversation because the natural flow of conversation NORM is to talk about work. Instead, I found myself asking the question “Do you have any hobbies? What do you do for fun?” A lot. It was awesome because you actually get to know people for who they are, not what they do. Yes, yes, yes. I’m trying to do this more. My way of asking people questions is now, “So what keeps you busy when you’re not {at the event or driving for Uber}?”

Another huge takeaway for me was that my job is to look after myself. Not in a “Only lookout for #1” way or a selfish manner at all, but that my role in life is taking care of and nurturing myself. I cannot control anyone else or any other situation, but I can take care of myself. A lot of my nature is to caretake — which my therapist also pointed out the difference between care-taking and caregiving. That care-taking is way more about you than it is the other person. Ummm…say what? Thanks Jim for the mic drop moment. Taking vs. giving. Dang, that was a lightbulb moment for me. But I realized that self-care is something that I need to focus on.

Meditation and the brain.

So here’s the deal. I have always heard meditating is good for you. I sort of thought it was more in the New Age vein, but heck, even the Bible talks about meditating…but I’ve never really done it, because I thought that it was something to do for fun or for spiritual reasons. During one of the morning sessions, they do a whole lecture about meditating and show you scientific scans of brains and meditation. I will not attempt to regurgitate medical information here, but let’s just say I now try to meditate every single morning. It’s like flossing but for your brain. Do it, do it, do it. I downloaded a few free apps that have guided mediations: Calm, Headspace and Simple Habit. So far, I like Calm the best.

I am so incredibly grateful for my time at Onsite. To the people that read this that spent the week with me — you know who you are, and I am so grateful to have you with me on my journey from here on out. To the ones who got me to Onsite — Jess, Miles and all the other friends I texted for advice — thank you! I am a different person because of you.

And to you, reader, who might be feeling scared or stuck or in need of the next step…reach out for help. If it’s a friend or a therapist or counselor or a week at Onsite — don’t underestimate the healing power of sharing your pain with others — that’s what we all need — we need a witness to the pain.

And so, I think that’s why the news of Kate Spade hit me so hard.

She was seen and known by billions of people. Had success. Money. Fame. But did she feel truly seen? Truly known? Truly loved. Did she need someone to bear witness to her pain? I don’t know and I never will. But hearing the news of her death was the punctuation mark to my week at Onsite that made it forever memorable.

My hope for you, dear reader, is that you feel seen, known and loved.

Much love,

Kate


To The Brokenhearted on Mother's Day

I had intended to write a blog about my mother and how much she has taught me over the last few years. But, I wrote her a card (that didn’t arrive on time...#fail) and called her today and told her all of the things I would’ve written about here on the blog.

Instead, I have this nagging feeling that I’m supposed to write about something else. But, in all honesty, it scares me to write about a topic so grand, so sensitive, so fragile, so personal...it feels overwhelming and so for the majority of the day I just kept putting it off...but my courage has caught up with me and I’m going to try. I may not succeed, but at least I’m going to try.

This is the letter I’ve been wanting to write all day:

To the brokenhearted on Mother’s Day,

I’m sorry and I feel you.

I’m writing to the ones that have lost their mothers.

I’m writing to the ones that have lost their babies.

I’m writing to the ones that are currently waiting to become mothers.

And I’m writing especially to the single ladies (thanks Beyoncé) that find themselves in the situation where motherhood isn’t even an option...cause that’s where I’m at.

When I was younger I didn’t seem to mind as much. I actually didn’t even notice really. I wanted to celebrate my mom and that was about it.

But now on days like today I feel a lonely-heaviness I haven’t felt before. See, a majority of my friends are married and have kids. If truth be told, most of my friends are like, “having their last kid.” And through no fault of theirs, their reality makes me feel sooooo far behind in life. And it feels super lonely.

You might be thinking, well, you could have a baby now if you wanted to. True. I’ve got the goods and I know how the birds and the bees work...but, I really would love to find a husband first. If I’ve learned anything from observing, it’s that being a single parent is hard--like, ‘they should get their own holiday’ kind of hard. In my world, having a two parent home is just where my sights are set...and that hasn’t happened for me yet, which means that being a mom hasn’t happened yet. And because I’m sharing this does not mean that I don’t love my life and yes, I’m trusting in the timing of my life...insert all the good quotes here...I’m just saying days like today feel hard and bring something to the surface that I wanted to get out on paper.

I have all but avoided social media today. Picture after picture of happy people my age with their babies or husbands proudly adoring their baby mama’s. And I want to celebrate with them. I do, and I have. But, if I didn’t acknowledge the heaviness I feel today I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth.

Maybe you’re reading this and you feel the same way. Welcome. Maybe you’re reading this and think I sound like a whiner...that’s okay, you’re welcome here too. I just wanted to write something to address that days like today can hurt.

So...

  • If today is hard because you’ve lost your Mom: I’m sorry and I honor you and your mom today in my heart.
  • If you’re a mama who has lost your baby...born or unborn: I’m sorry and I honor you and your baby(ies) today in my heart.
  • If you’re waiting patiently right now to become a mama: I’m sorry and I am celebrating you in hopes that you will soon step into motherhood.
  • And finally, if you’re like me, where motherhood doesn’t even seem like an option on the table: I’m with you and I honor you in the struggle on days like today that are hard.

You are seen.

You are noticed.

You are vital to your community, with or without a spouse or kids.

If I could encourage you to do one thing today...find a mom in your life who’s doing it well and call or text her and tell her that. Tell her she’s doing a great job. Never cease celebrating even in your own pain. It’s kind of a holy experience...and one that I believe is truly healing.

You are loved. There is hope. Don’t doubt that miracles happen and that all could change in a minute.

You’re allowed to be hopeful and hurting at the same time.

Sending much love to you today,

-Kate

 


 

For The Love (31 Days-Day #20)

Wanted to give you an update on the precious little faces at Houses of Hope Africa (HOHA.) If you are a new reader, HOHA are homes for orphaned children in South Africa and Zimbabwe that we are involved with. (Kate's dad, Bill, started the organization.) They provide all the basic needs for a child to thrive…but they also do more than that. They provide a home for them. Besides all the basics of food, clean water, school fees, etc. they are also telling these kids that they are part of a community. They are loved. They have a purpose and a God who loves them. They have a place to come back to when they're grown--they are family. We normally try and do a benefit concert each holiday season but have found this year that this time of year is cray cray. Yes, we just said cray cray….but really…there is so much going on. So, we will be moving our benefit to a different time of year…we're thinking Valentine's Day-ish…maybe call the event "For The Love" :) Do you like that idea? We'll keep you updated as we plan more and we'll get you details as soon as we know them.

But, we did play a house show here in Nashville on Thursday night. Kate's parents have friends who knew we did house shows and asked if we would play one for them & their friends and have it benefit HOHA. We LOVED that idea. So, we did exactly that. Played in a living room (which btw, the house had gorgeous hardwood floors that made for fabulous acoustics), Kate's dad flew in to talk about the specific fundraising goals, and we raised awareness and money for these awesome kids. Right now we are raising funds specifically for the 16 kids at the Zimbabwe home. It takes about $35 per child/per month to cover their food, clothing, school fees and medical care. If you are looking for a tax-deductible place to donate this holiday season we'd love for you to get involved. These kids have taught us so much about joy and strength. Click here to donate.

Here are a few pictures from our last trip earlier this year.

xo j&k

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Trip to Houses of Hope Africa!

 Hi friends! Finally had some time to sit down and write some words about our recent trip to Africa to visit the children living at Houses of Hope Africa. On May 25th we (Ryan & Carolyn & us) took off from Nashville and headed across to the other side of the world...Southern Africa!

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...with a seven hour lay over in London-town. That's always fun right?

photo 3 We found some comfy chairs in the lounge (hallelujah) in the London airport and checked email for the last time since we would be in Zimbabwe with zero cell reception of any kind.

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It was an 11 hour flight from London to Johannesburg and we landed just as the sun was coming up.

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Kate's dad, Bill, met us at the airport with the van. He has more energy than all of us put together :)

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We got settled and headed over to the House of Hope in Temba. We were SO HAPPY to see these faces after two long travel days.

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 We passed out party supplies which included hand clappers and little noise makers--we were a LOUD bunch.

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 Some of the kids in the pictures have been at the house since it opened and some are so new to the home that they'd only been there a few days. 

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 This little guy below is amazing and such a fighter. When he first arrived at the home he needed serious medical attention. Since being at the house for a few years we are happy to report that he is doing SO WELL!

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Bill brought a guitar for the kids and so we got it out and Jill played songs that the kids were familiar with. Music...it's what brings us all together :)

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 We left the kids as the sun was setting and headed back to the hotel. We went to bed early cause we were leaving for Zimbabwe bright and early the next day...

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 Bill was our dedicated driver...he drove sooooo much...it was about 14 hours on the road to Zimbabwe (!!!)

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The open road in Zimbabwe.

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Why yes. Perfect place for a jumping picture. 14490828945_b046274677_z

One more with Carolyn!

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The paved road turned into a dirt road and it was SO bumpy. Almost two hours on a dirt road rock road. Wowza. 14304090338_686a83c3a4_z

Hooray. We finally spot the brand new House of Hope Whunga sign in the bush!14304248037_21275fda8f_z

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We arrive and get to see these faces. These faces. You guys, these are the faces that you help support. You are the ones helping to provide housing, food, and an education for these beautiful souls. The kids are doing really well and we were so happy to spend a few days with them.  14304097610_325de82588_z

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They love playing with balls--so much fun!14304141268_e6ac1c34d2_z

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Life is pretty simple up there. Our van was the only vehicle in the area because their main mode of transportation is donkey cart. The building on the left is the out-house. Let's just say that there is no electricity or running water.  Enough said about that. 14510894533_d24a2b8f9d_z

Group shot!! So many giggles. 14489507382_0b3336f5ed_z

This was one of our favorite parts of the trip. We woke up at the Philip's house (he is the orphan home director & builder of HOH Whunga) where we were staying and walked with his two kids to the orphan home. It's about a 10 minute walk and we left right around 6am--just as the sun was coming up.

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There is literally nothing around. If we look all bundled up it's because it's winter over there right now. Cold in the morning and evenings. Off to the orphan home we went...14510950313_ba91a0316e_z

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 The kids were in their uniforms all ready to go...we did some morning stretches & just general goofing off before we began the 6 kilometer walk to school (that's 3.72 miles.)

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We even ran for a few minutes cause we thought they were going to be late! Look at the smiles as we ran...they LOVE going to school.14467704166_82e79a5385_z

Long walk for this guy but he doesn't complain.

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After an hour walk we arrived at the school grounds. There are about 300 children at the school and some of the other surrounding village children have to walk up to 3 hours to and from school each day.

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We got to meet the teachers and the head master (principal) of the school.

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We might have been called into the head master's office...ugh oh...we weren't in too much trouble ;)14489514874_b5ff0abf71_z

We left the older kids at school and hung out with Suprise (the littlest guy at HOH) for the morning/afternoon.

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 ...after some playing he decided a nap was in order....right in Kate's arms. Love!

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The older kids got back from school and we played, played and played! We even got to watch some of the kids milk the goats!

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The sun set on the crops and the stars were INCREDIBLE!! Having no electricity has it's perks.

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We brought some glow sticks with us and decided to make our own shooting stars.

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Last couple of pictures on the morning we were leaving... just as the sun was coming up...we were half awake...and cold. 14489485042_d52a9790dd_z

This might be the most attractive picture of Kate you've ever seen. Hahaha.

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Philip's wife made us fried dough...it was sooooo good.14490701625_16c4458015_z

Then we hit the road again back to South Africa...

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But, we had to take one more picture on our way out! You know last year when we were in Zimbabwe and we got stuck cause the bridge was totally flooded? This was the bridge. Woohoo...no water :) Jumping picture had to be taken!14487310921_561107c31e_z

We had such a great trip....we'll post more pics from Kruger Park and of course the rest of our travels that took us over to the UK for the #jkUKtour :)

xoxo

j&k

PS.  Houses of Hope Africa is doing amazing work for the kids over there and we know a lot of you are just as invested in their lives as we are. So for that, thank you. Thank you for caring for these kids. We took all your love with us. If you are unfamiliar with Houses of Hope Africa click here for more info.

Let The Sun Shine

On late Sunday night we were able to fly into Los Angeles to spend a few days with friends. A lot of you have been following our dear friend Will Gray's battle with cancer. If you haven't read his ongoing story, it is one of unparalleled bravery, strength and courage. You can read his story at www.GoTeamGray.com We flew out because he was given some news about the progression of the cancer and we wanted to be near him and his wife Angie. A few friends have also flown in and yesterday we were outside for most of the day...some friends that we haven't seen in a while and some that we see often. We laughed. We shared stories. We ate yummy burritos. We opened a couple of bottles of wine (at the appropriate time of course...) and enjoyed the simplicity of friendship, fresh air and the glorious California sunshine.

Will & Angie came and sat with us for a bit and it was wonderful. Will continues to be a bright light in every second of life. He cracked jokes, spoke words of wisdom and was brainstorming the next big thing. Totally Will. Totally amazing.

Life will always bring us different situations and we have the opportunity to learn something. This situation has just further instilled in us the beauty of living every moment. To let the people in your life know they are loved. To not stress out about silly, insignificant things. To breathe. To love. To be.

We are overwhelmed with love for our friends. We are overwhelmed with thankfulness that they are in our lives.

We are two hopeful and grateful hearts in California.

j&k