If you noticed that I'm different
Don't take it personally
Don't be mad, it's just the brand new kind of me
And it ain't bad, I found a brand new kind of freeOh, it took a long long road to get here
It took a brave brave girl to try
If you are reading this, you know my work and passion around the design studio (yes, that’s what Atelier means). However, you may be unfamiliar of my day job; what I do to pay the bills, support my children and invest in my passion project. I provide consulting in Human Resources and Communications for a local non-profit that provides workforce readiness and wraparound support to fathers who were formerly incarcerated (now on parole or probation), so that they can build better futures for themselves and their families. Last week, I traveled with the Executive Director for the first week of a 10-week civic accelerator program, aimed at building scale for our organization in serving underemployed populations. As one of 12 organizations in this cohort, I applied to be part of this accelerator program because I knew, if selected, we would be challenged to be succinct in our offerings and become more robust in our impact. You see, I tend to color outside the lines and do what people think I can’t do. We received a call last month inviting us to attend this prestigious program…a first for an organization in New Mexico. I was excited but also nervous at the caliber of our peers and the coaching team. It was a brain-filling, mind-challenging triumph. We learned our gaps, but we were challenged on what we need to do to fill them. We were paired with a peer group that will help us be accountable and honestly, want to see each other succeed. One morning, on our walk to the daily meetings, the Executive Director asked me, “with all your talent and connections, why are in you involved with this organization?” The easy answer could have been “because you asked me”, but that wasn’t it. I thought about it for a minute. I truly believe in the mission of supporting people to become who they want to be. If I have the skills, network and capability to do that professionally, then that is fulfilling to me.
However, personally I have a deeper connection to the work. I am one of those—1 in 10 New Mexico kids who has or had an incarcerated parent—statistics that we stun the audience with. I was in fifth grade the first time my father was incarcerated. It became cyclical because he didn’t address or get help for his underlining issues of addiction and aggression. Based on that, I decided I could not have a relationship with him as an adult. If there was a program like this when I was growing up, who knows what his life would be like now and the kind of relationship we’d have. However, I don’t wallow in the “could have, should have” philosophy. I believe everything happens for a reason and my path led me back to this body of work to impact others. Initially, I was asked all the time by friends and family, “if I ever felt scared going to work”. My naïve, knee jerk response was, “No, why?” and then followed by, “Oh, you mean because I work with men who have been incarcerated?” I have never felt scared. I think about the dads I work with and how they are treated as 2nd class citizens (if that). They are judged all the time because of their past choices. Yet, I see every day how they are working SO hard to build better lives for themselves and their families. It’s funny to me because I have dealt with people who are supposed to be community role models, yet don’t go an extra step to be there for others including their families, using the excuse that they have busy schedules or focus on their own interests. I am reminded all the time that you can’t judge a person by what you see on the surface.
Recently, I volunteered with my son at the Westside jail. Several years ago, it was re-purposed to be a winter time shelter for homeless men, women and families. However, nothing was done to change the appearance of the building. Arriving families were met with razor wired fences, industrial-sterile looking rooms and walls, until a woman and her girl scout troop made the time and investment to make it warm and inviting for these families. They first started out on their own and then the Sandia National Labs community jumped in. This woman presented last month to a group I belong to about the volunteer opportunities because the shelter would be opening up again for the season in a few weeks. I volunteered and voluntold Isaiah to join me. When we arrived, it was stark and in the middle of nowhere. The facility was surrounded by high fencing with barb-wire and small but welcoming hearts on each side of the gate. It was a little intimidating. When we walked inside, it was quite different. Taupe walls had been transformed with paintings and powerful words like dream, hope, love… Different segments of the buildings were decorated to support its inhabitants: family rooms, men’s rooms and women’s rooms décor reflecting the users. We were inspired and headed back outside. For our team, we were given silk flowers and flagging tap. Isaiah and I got to work creating floral archways on the two gates while the other volunteers created welcome signs and cheery graphics on the fencing. The outside now reflected the inside—warm and inviting. The beauty and color in the flowers and designs made the twisted wire melt away. I thought about it for a hot moment, how adding some love, support and teamwork--transformations occur. I think how important this is for people.
It's been a while, I'm not who I was before
You look surprised, your words don't burn me anymore
Been meaning to tell you, but I guess it's clear to see
Don't be mad, it's just the brand new kind of me
Can't be bad, I found a brand new kind of free
I was told a few months back, “you have passion and dreams, but you lack foundation”. It’s funny, if put any stock into this comment I might have been devastated, but obviously this person didn’t know me. Instead it was a great motivator for me to follow my dream to show in NYC (and invited to show again in February 2018 with a pop up shop). I'm currently in talks to show in London and potentially in Paris. It gave me self-confidence to apply for the accelerator because this non-profit deserves the best minds to challenge the impact. It reminded me that we all have the power to uplift or tear down and it is incredible to see people overcome odds when they not only put in the work and believe in themselves, but are also mentored and have someone believe in them. And, I realized that is why I’m involved in the manner that I am. Thinking through all the "why I do what I do" gave me the time to formalize the Atelier’s value proposition…Making Impactful Entrances.
When you feel comfortable and confident, you impact the scene. Through Hopeless + Cause Atelier, patrons can also impact the environment through sustainable production processes; they can impact charitable causes and as the brand grows it is my hopes that we will be able to impact sustainable futures by working with domestic social enterprises with livable wages. I have redesigned the website to reflect this. While I love providing style consultation, until now, I haven’t really built out that product. I’ve now created a space on the site for this business. I’m hoping you take advantage of that work. I hope you will continue to follow the Ms. Adventures and the crazy that happens in the Atelier, but I also hope you will have your own positive IMPACT on the community around you and transform it into something beautiful.
Saturday, October 28, 2017 is the National Make a Difference Day. For projects in Albuquerque, visit: https://www.centerfornonprofitexcellence.org/mdd/projects-list. Nationally, visit: http://www.makeadifferenceday.com/.
With light and love!