In case you didn’t catch it, which you probably didn’t, the title of this blog post is a Zoolander reference. Here
You guys. Guess what? My first trunk show for Noonday is this FRIDAY! And today is Wednesday, so that makes it THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW!!! It’s really getting real over here. Plus, I made my first sale! It was a gift card…so technically I haven’t sold any actual goods yet…but whatevs, #CountIt.
Truth be told, I’m nervous. I’ve already had a dream that I totally botched the show, my displays weren’t ready and I was disorganized in telling the stories of the artisans and nobody bought anything. But at the end of it, I just brushed it off and realized that I had another show coming up, another chance to get it right. And then I woke up and realized that it was only a dream and I still had days to plan and get ready, and that was a relief.
As much as I’m trying NOT to focus on MY ideas and keep myself totally open to God’s designs for this, I really do want to be successful. I can’t help it. I want to sell lots of stuff and book lots of trunk shows and actually be GOOD at this because, let’s face it, nobody likes to fail and everybody likes to be successful. Duh, right? But the fact is that my ultimate goal here, even apart from the “whatever God has designed” stuff, the reason I feel like this matches up with my and our family’s ultimate designs and dreams, isn’t really anchored in the business success portion- even though that aspect is slightly intoxicating, not gonna lie. So, let me take a minute to explain that here…it might help me stay focused here in the morning fog.
There’s really a whole bunch of stuff, both big and little, about how the experiences I’ve had have shaped my heart for this, but there are really two that stick out.
The first is that mothers around the world have been heavy on my heart since the moment I found out I was pregnant with Cam just over four years ago. In those early days, when the nausea and fatigue set in and the reality of the tiny little life I was harboring really settled on me, it made me feel fragile and vulnerable in new ways and I became acutely aware of the security I enjoyed. It was then that my mind first began entertaining the idea of what it TRULY meant to be a mother in less than ideal circumstances. Ever since then, stuff like access to good prenatal care, a safe home for my pregnant self and my babies, the promise that I’ll be able to feed my kids and seek the medical care they need- it has all been a bittersweet blessing because in that same moment when I’m providing it for my own babies, I know there are moms elsewhere who can’t. Stories of moms being separated from their babies by all circumstances unimaginable crept in at the edges as I nursed and rocked my sweet little ones at night.
Turns out, Jeff was having the same thoughts. He’s a hard-working, hard-wired provider, he has a job that can put food on the table for his family, put a roof over our heads, gives us insurance for medical care, and has even allowed us to make the decision we felt was best for our particular family for me stay to home with the kids. But his heart was heavy for the daddies who don’t have that chance, and for their kids. Food insecurity is his biggest thing, he cannot stand the thought of kids going hungry and parents not being able to feed their sweet babies.
So, we started reaching out in our local community, donating to local domestic violence shelters and providing food each month for our church’s ministry to feed local homeless youth. I volunteered for a few months as a tutor/mentor in the after school program at a residential recovery center for women transitioning out of homelessness and addiction where they were able to have their children living with them (until Kenzie stopped sleeping through the tutoring sessions in the front pack and started fussing instead). But the mamas in other parts of the world, those whose circumstances were perhaps even more dire than those of the mamas we were able to touch, were still on my heart.
I was inspired and thrilled at the thought that Noonday was having an impact on the lives of families throughout the world. Moms in Ethiopia were able to afford the HIV meds to keep themselves alive to raise their babies, dads in Uganda were able to put roofs over their kids heads, families were able to keep sweet babies they loved dearly rather than giving them up for adoption or even trafficking based on financial need, adoptive families were being connected and provided for through the work Noonday was doing. Being even a small part of that inspired me and ministered to an ache in my heart and in Jeff’s.
The second experience that has shaped our heart for this was our travels to Haiti and all that we witnessed there. My parents’ church has an ongoing, long-term partnership with a parish in Haiti and travels there each year to work on projects, provide medical care, and work with the teachers in the school to help them better meet the needs of their students. Jeff has been twice, I have been once, and my dad is about to make his third trip in January. Jeff and my dad were there for their first trip in January of 2010 when the big earthquake happened. They arrived on Monday and the quake happened on Tuesday. They were in Cap-Haitien, on the north side of the island and a mountain range stood between them and the epicenter, but they certainly felt it, experienced the fear and confusion of the community around them, and of course were deeply affected by it. Jeff and I fully intend to go again, but we’ve been slightly busy having babies the past four years. You know how that goes- or if you don’t, I’m sure you can imagine.
Being there really touched Jeff deeply. I mean, it did to me as well, how could it not? But there was a unique way that spoke to much of who Jeff is and what is on his heart. He’s a provider and a motivated achiever who was raised by an insanely hard-working set of parents who instilled in him the value of hard work and the idea that it’s everyone’s right to support their family by the sweat of their brow. He’s also a “fixer” by nature, he’s a solution-oriented process engineer for crying out loud, throw in his enormous heart and he just wants to find ways to make life better for every single person he encounters, their mama, their grandmama, and their cooky Great Uncle Herman. He saw so much need in Haiti, so many potential solutions, and zero ways to make them happen due to lack of resources and infrastructure. He also saw in the people we met there how hard-working, intelligent, capable, and dedicated they were, but how there was just nothing for them to do! They needed (and deserved!) jobs, training, opportunities to make a better life for their families, but there just weren’t opportunities.
Immediately, his brain went to work. How could we help? His chemical engineering mind went to finding ways to use plant refuse to make ethanol to use for cooking fires which would both provide a living for the people making it AND stop the deforestation that is occurring due to the constant need for charcoal. He also thought bigger, what would it take to get a manufacturing cell constructed in Haiti for the company he works for? Would that even be possible? Could he make it happen? They were all pipe dreams at the time and probably still would be now, all with fatal flaws that meant they just weren’t practical to implement at that point, but the wheels were turning. We spent hour talking about it, dreaming, wishing…but it just wasn’t the time. The time may come yet, part of me believes deep in my heart that it still will, but it wasn’t then and it hasn’t come yet.
(Side note: If you want to hear pretty much the exact same sentiments described in someone else’s words, check out this personal narrative by The Root Collective founder Bethany Tran on their website. And while you are there, buy some of her shoes. I’ve actually had the chance to connect with her personally within the last couple of weeks- which blows my ever-loving mind, by the way- and I plan on putting in some time to try to help her expand the footprint of her business as well, maybe get their shoes into some stores in Portland. Stay tuned…)
When I heard about Noonday (and TRC), it occurred to me that they were doing for the artisan groups they work with exactly what Jeff wanted dreamed of doing for those he met in Haiti: they were providing jobs and development and giving people in those communities ways to use their skills to make a living. By joining up with Noonday, not only was I becoming a part of that work, but I was supporting an entrepreneur, Jessica Honneger, who had the same dreams that Jeff (and I) had had. Same with Bethany and The Root Collective. I’m helping to make a reality for someone the same type of dreams that the heart of my own family has harbored, and that is a privilege in and of itself.
So that kind of sums it up in a nutshell. I really long and wordy nutshell. Kenzie is waking up from her nap now, so I need to skeedaddle. But writing this has calmed me and helped me to get focused again on what matters. It’s not about sales or success, it’s about contributing. All I REALLY want to do is to contribute. To help. Even one sale would help- or even just getting the word out to everyone who’s going to be at the trunk show. I’ll let y’all know how it goes!