tattoo love

a rare commitment

for those of you that know me, you know that i have a major fear of commitment.

i cry with all major decisions. no matter how much i pour over a pros and cons list, i’m too scared to make the wrong decision and make a commitment for any length of time.  what if i end up hating it? what if i’m stuck? what if, what if, what if…

I’ve realized now that in life, it’s very rare that you are permanently STUCK with anything (although this thought still doesn’t make my life decisions much easier).  However, there are a few things that I will have for the rest of my life on earth (and the life after):

– my family (and how thankful I am for that)

– my relationship with Jesus

– and tattoos

yes, tattoos.  I got my first one when I was 18 (with my mom), and i just got my third one this week, and it’s my favorite by far.  It’s in honor of my Granny Jo who passed away last year.  I knew that I wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure what.  Then I remembered that my favorite things that I have left of her are her notes.  She would send a card for EVERY occasion, and sometimes just randomly.  I cling to these notes so tightly now, so I decided to create a way that I could carry them with me.

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Love, in her handwriting, from the very last letter she wrote me – just a week before she passed. Just looking at this photo brings tears to my eyes.  It was a commitment that I didn’t have to think twice about – a rare moment indeed.

an open letter to 2014

dear 2014,

you were wonderful, harsh, dreamy, dark, and lovely. you were a brown paper package wrapped-up in string, filled with new desires, new dreams, new friendships, and new challenges.

you greeted me with unexpected loss. one that broke my heart and tore at my soul. one that brought me home to spend time with family and see friends that lift me up. one that helped me evaluate how i live and taught me to hold onto the ones i love a little bit tighter.

you brought me new community. new lives were brought to me that helped me appreciate my moments in this “new” city. through sport, through serving others, and other common interests, i found new humans to enjoy.

you became a challenge. i broke my leg and suddenly found myself on a surgeon’s table with two crutches as my new best friends. i was in pain and helpless. i was humbled to ask for help, and thankful for those who willingly would.

you put me in awe. when one of our friends ended up in the hospital after a tragic accident, it was astounding to see how we rallied, not only for him, but for each other from scattered places around the country. my heart was full.

you welcomed me with adventure. i was able to go to nicaragua without crutches just two months after surgery. we went as two girls open to the doors that swung our way.  we experienced beautiful moments, and fell even more in love with that country.

you were filled with gorgeous, new views. with a California camping trip, and a road trip up the coast on route 1.

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you knocked on my door with reminders. after various reunions, i discovered that distance will not steal friendships. whether it was through a beautiful union of two humans, or just for a Nashville ‘galentine’s day’ – we danced, we sang, and we lived.

you awakened my mind with new dreams. some to be told and lived out, others that may always remain a dream.

you were filled with laughter, late night cocktails, painful tears, spontaneous decisions, and confusing conversations.

lessons were learned, questions were asked, answers were lost, and life was lived.

so thank you, 2014.  your moments are forever in my memory.

a new kind of Christmas party…

’tis the season to celebrate.  we do that in all sorts of ways, most include lots of eating and giving gifts to one another.  but what if you decided to use that money to build gifts for a stranger? i’m so thankful that I have friends that are willing to sacrifice to make the world around them a little better.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/114488658″>Spreading Holiday Cheer</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/tiffanylo”>Tiffany Lo</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

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contrast

I started writing this the day after I got back from Nicaragua.  With the passing of my grandmother, my writing was halted, but I wanted to keep the spirit of this post the same.  That is why I have not changed some of the references in the following words…

As I sit here in my office in Santa Monica, it is hard to imagine that just over 24 hours ago my friend, Cami and I were still in Nicaragua. The contrast of the two worlds sometimes makes the last eight days feel like a dream.  And it’s an amazing, life-altering dream that is hard to put into words.

This wasn’t my first trip to Nicaragua, in fact, this was my 4th time to this beautiful country.  However, it was my first time on the ‘front lines’ of some of the real issues in the capital city, Managua.  My other trips involved loving on kids in the morning, and laying by a pool once 3pm came around at a beautiful compound built for missionaries. Don’t get me wrong, those trips were amazing in their own right, and opened my eyes to what real poverty and desperation looks like which completely changed my life.  But this was different.

We slept in the same neighborhood that the children we worked with lived.  We ate the same food, walked the same streets, and had the same drunks and thugs as neighbors for a week.  This community is considered by some as the “ghetto” of Managua.  We were not allowed to go outside of the school’s walls without a “bodyguard.”  We were not to be on the streets in the dark at all, yet children as young as 5 run the dirt alleyways until 11 pm (or later) without supervision.

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view from inside our walls looking out into the community.

We were completelty immersed in their culture, and I loved it.

The first time we got to meet the children, they greeted us with hugs without even a second thought to who we were or if we even wanted to be hugged.  You could tell their hearts ached to be loved, to be noticed.  None of their clothes matched, their skin was covered in dirt, their eyes were heavy, but their faces carried smiles. With every hug and kiss on the cheek, my heart ached more for these kids.

We started out the week with a little clean-up project at the school.  We wanted to engage the kids in doing the work with us, and give them a sense of ownership over the new ‘landscaping’ and clean play area.  They helped gather rocks, pick up trash, kill cockroaches that were the size of my fist (true story), and planted flowers.

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We were pleasantly surprised with how much they enjoyed the work, and it was fun to see the children in action and get to know them in this relaxed setting.

The next morning we were able to visit a project that we had worked with during my first three trips to the country.  It was amazing to see how much the children had grown up and how some of them remembered us from our past visits.  I brought them some brand new soccer balls and in true Nicaraguan form, the garage was immediately cleared out for them to play an exciting game of futbol.

The afternoon brought another new experience as we got to meet all of the children involved in the project and witness what a normal day at the school looks like.  Children go to school year round in Nicaragua, so the kids that attend this project go to public school in the morning.  This project was established to feed the hungry kids lunch, keep them off of the streets, and provide educational re-inforcement.

First, all of the kids come for lunch.  This is cooked by one person, who’s name is Julio.  He is the ‘groundskeeper’ of the school who also doubled as our bodyguard for the week.  Meals almost always consists of rice, beans, and ketchup in some form.  Yes, ketchup.  If you are lucky, some plantains will be thrown in there (yay for carbs!).

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Once lunch is over, the older kids go home, while the younger kids stay for their afternoon class.  The ages in this class range from 4-10.  The teaching consists of the teacher writing math problems, or stories up on the board, while the children simply copy them.  That’s it. Most of them don’t even know what they are writing down.  And someone of them can’t even write their letters or numbers correctly.  Even though there was a language barrier, it was surprisingly easy to help and encourage them through their challenges.  We were desperate to provide a more efficient way to help these kids learn.  And with exciting news, we learned that after we left, some of our money was used to purchase workbooks for everyone!

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The afternoon consisted of two hours of the same kind of teaching, just at a somewhat higher level.  Cami and I were challenged to go back to high school when some of the older girls had questions about their algebra homework.  It’s still pointless (my apologies to math teachers all around the world).

Everyday looked the same from the outside, but each day was a new experience as we became more comfortable with the community within and beyond the project’s walls.  We befriended our neighbors, and became close with our host, Tom’s family.  We learned more about the culture, and the real needs of each of the children and their families.

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One particular story captured my heart.  Pictured above is precious Yaritza.  She is seven years old, and a complete terror :).  She reminds me a lot of myself at that age, always wanting to be the center of attention.  But I could see the deep sadness in her eyes, and knew that her behavior was merely an outpouring of the life she had been handed.  She lives with her dad who is a drunk, her mom who is a prostitute, and her aunt (22) who tries to provide for the family by selling food on a street corner.  Yaritza was always one of the dirtiest children in the class, and the most stubborn.  She stole my heart.

While on the trip, I decided to become her sponsor.  I am so excited to get to know her and love on her from afar until I get to see her again.

On the 4th of July, we decided that we needed to throw a true American party.  We bought 300 hotdogs, an obseen amount of rice, and some classic fireworks to entertain the entire community.  We enlisted the kids of the project to help us again.  It was so fun to see how serious they were about their tasks.  I got yelled at more than once for my bun-splitting skills. If the bun broke in half, they were not happy with me.  They wanted it to be perfect. I would simply shrug and exclaim “accidente!!”. They would just roll their eyes and laugh.

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community nica

It was a joy to watch the children serve their community, but it was heartbreaking to see poverty stricken people face-to-face.  There are several kids that the project can’t serve, due to financial or scheduling reasons.  Do these children simply go hungry?  Do the babies have a way to get proper nutrition?  How many of these drunks and theives are parents to the faces that I have grown to know and love over the past 7 days?

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Everyday presented us with a new challenge that we dreamed about overcoming.  What can bring real change in this broken community that seems to be content with their brokeness?

Thank God for the blessing of technology and ways to communicate with those that are working on the front lines every day to combat these obstacles.  I love continuing these conversations from afar.

Although we go days without a real shower, without a good nutritious meal, without many of the luxuries we are used to here in the states, I am always desperately sad to leave this country and its people.

It’s a harsh reality when re-entering a first world life.  I landed at LAX with tears in my eyes, as I overheard people complaining about petty things. Yet, here I am almost two months removed from the trip, and I am again complaining about those same meaningless things right alongside of them.  That is why I strive keep these children in my thoughts and prayers daily.  It is a beautiful thing to realize that they help me as much, if not more, than I get to help them.  Their joy helps me to find joy on the dark days and their smiles help me to smile through the tears.

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A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated to this cause in honor of my birthday in February. None of this would have been possible without you.  We were able to clean the school, and update the landscape to make it safer for the kids to play in.  We bought each of the kids a Spanish, children’s Bible – all of their faces lit up when they got their hands on something of their very own.  We fed the entire community on the 4th of July, and we got to take the kids away from their neighborhood on an adventure to a beautiful park for the day.  We were also able to leave money to purchase the much needed workbooks, and provide funds for meals over the next month.

Each and everyone of you had and continue to have a part in this journey. I am excited to see what our God has planned for this community, and how you can be involved.  You never know, you could end up in these children’s arms before you know it.

If you want to hear more about the trip (there is a lot more to tell), please feel free to shoot me an email: kellyn.robison@gmail.com.

Be sure to visit my friend, Cami’s blog as well to hear about the trip from her perspective. You can view the re-cap video that she created below.

Please follow Tom (the man behind the project) and find out how you can get involved. http://onlyinnica.wordpress.com/  .  I encourage you to also check out Cassidy Maynard’s blog: http://cassidymaynard.blogspot.com/.  She is living and working at the school for the next few months.  

 

granny jo

the hardest song to sing…

performing is no stranger to me.  while i never fail to get nervous, i have sung at my fair share of events.  whether it has been in a musical, at a major sporting event, or in a small dive bar – i’ve done it.  although singing at an SEC football game was nervewracking, it pales in comparison to the event i sang at a few weeks ago: my granny jo’s funeral.

she was a spunky woman full of southern class and charm.  she was a sports fan, an unwavering democrat, and i’m pretty sure that Neil Diamond and Tiger Woods were here two favorite humans (yes, even after the Tiger Woods scandal – “he forever changed the game of golf,” she would say in his defense).

she used her life as a service to others.  her days were filled with volunteering, serving on various boards, and cooking meals for events.  i remember being at her house one day asking what she was up to and she responded, “well, i didn’t have anything to do on tuesdays, so i started volunteering at the hospital.”  because heaven forbid she rest a day.  she genuinely enjoyed using her talents and time to serve others, and she was the type of person that i wanted everyone to meet.

Little Women is one of my favorite movies, and when i think of Granny Jo, i am often reminded of the line at the end of the movie when Fredrich says to his love, Jo… “such a little name…for such a person.” she was a true one-of-a-kind <–read more about her here.

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here favorite people to serve was her family…especially her grandchildren. we all have unique memories of her that have spun us into the people that we are today.  unbeknownst to anyone in the family, Jo had her funeral planned out, down to the last detail.  the only people she wanted officiating the service were her four grandchildren.

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when i first heard the news, i was somewhat upset.  i had thoughts like, “how in the world did she expect us to hold it together?” and “this is going to be a blubbering mess.”

she wanted me to sing “Amazing Grace,” following my brother’s beautiful prayer, that had me in tears.  once i reached the stage, knees shaking, it took me a moment to reel in my emotions.  i couldn’t look out into the crowd without seeing a life that she hadn’t left an imprint on.  it was the toughest two minutes of my life.

my cousins followed up with some perfect words while attempting to sum Jo up through their tears, but if i do say so myself – the service was beautiful, personal, and a true celebration of the incredible woman she was. the church was standing room only, and i’m not sure that there was a dry eye in the house. as someone mentioned to me after the funeral, she was showing off her legacy, letting the world see what she was leaving behind.

i love that. and i feel so honored to be a part of Betty Jo Crass’ legacy.

granny jo

 

a special note of gratitude to everyone that has made these past few weeks a little bit easier.  it is so comforting to know that we have each other in these tough moments of life.  feeling loved goes a long way.  you will never know how much every note, text, flower, and hug has meant to everyone in my family.  love you all…  xoxo

my birthday.

i have decided to give up my birthday.

i have decided to give up the things that i want, so that i can give to those who have serious needs.

i will be making a return trip to Nicaragua this summer, and i want you to come along with me on this journey…

all i’m asking is for $11.00 in honor of my birthday on February 11th.

to visit my funding page or to learn more, please go here: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nicaragua-11/x/5993395

#STORYChicago

since starting this blog a couple of years ago, i have learned a few things. the most important of them being… it’s really hard to blog. in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been months since i have taken the time and the energy to sit down and write, and it is because of this lost time that this post is no longer relevant. however, i write on…

a little over a month ago i attended a conference in the stimulating city of Chicago called STORY. this is a place where creatives from all walks of life come to draw inspiration from their surroundings, from art, from pioneers, and from each other. it is a place where i have come to expect the unexpected and i wanted to share with you a few of my favorite moments and quotes from these incredible two days.

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The event started at a beautiful Cathedral with the showing of the Sundance Award Winning documentary, Blood Brother. [[If you have a heart for the nations, i highly reccomend that you check it out]]. but before that screening, we were welcomed to the event with the most extravagant display of art projected onto the ceiling, choreographed to the glorious sounds of a magnificent symphony.  as the production simulated a storm shaking the earth, actual thunder rolled in over the skyscrapers of Chicago. impeccable timing.

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after being completely humbled by the film, we woke up to a humid morning walk through the city to make our way to the House of Blues, Chicago.  It was here that our minds were stretched and our hearts were opened to new ideas and thoughts beyond our current understanding…

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“Dreams don’t fade, we simply trade them in for a standard of living” – @BenArment, Creator of @STORYChicago

“Obsession leads to authenticity. Authenticity leads to connection.” -Howard Lichter, Global Director of Creative Outreach @Nike

“Maturity is overrated. The team that generally wins is the team that is having the most fun.” -Howard Lichter

“If you haven’t done something that people love or hate – do something else.” – Howard Lichter

“You guys are so easy to please. I wish you were my parents, that would be amazing.” – @tomthummer, beatboxing extraordinaire.

“Toothpaste is peddled with far more sophistication than the life-saving work of aid groups.” – Scott Harrison, Founder and CEO of @charitywater

“Water has the power to make you feel beautiful” – Scott Harrison

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?” – Scott Harrison

“Your life is a story being written by heavenly hands that you can’t see, but you have to trust” – @dannygokey, recording artist and philanthropist

“Write about how the world is and how the world should be” -Dan Hassletine, Lead singer of Jars of Clay and Founder of Blood Water Mission.

“Shyness is not encouraged” – Drew Holcomb, recording artist

“You are a novel in a sea of magazines” – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

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“It sounded like what it looked like, what it felt like. That was a moment for me.” – Gillian Ferrabee, Creative Labs Director at Cirque Du Soleil

“Giving up control to take in the whole experience = proprioception” – Gillian Ferrabee

Gillian ended her enlightening talk by showing this inspired video from a former Cirque performer who has now taken on the alias of a dandy punk.

beyond these inspirational moments, i was given the chance to explore the city with some incredible people and that included a midnight donut run and the traditional visit to “the bean.”

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i hope you were able to draw some inspiration or encouragement from this post ‘better late than never’ post.  and if it sparked your interest in STORY, please check out the conference at www.storychicago.com . maybe i will see  you in chi-town next year!