Avec.

I woke up Sunday in a funk. It was day six of my work week. It’s been too hot. I haven’t been sleeping well. And honestly, I’m just a little melancholy about not being able to travel, having Sunday dinners at my grams, going to concerts, etc. etc. etc. Poor me right!?! But still they are legitimate feelings.

However, I decided to remember what I’m grateful for and to leave that funk at home (I decided I’d work it out Monday on a run tomorrow plus I’d be seeing Ang). When I got into Macy’s and logged on to email, I had a message from someone I wasn’t expecting one from. She was shopping for a VERY IMPORTANT PERSON in her life and chose to ask for my assistance instead of shopping online. I hit the floor and found options. We talked on the phone for a moment as I processed her purchase (with curbside pick up). I was totally floored when she mentioned that she noticed my posts and my positivity. This interaction totally got me out of my funk and finally inspired me to write. When I started writing this blog, it was initially entitled, “The power you have is, YOU.” And while I believe this to be SO incredibly true, it’s also what and who you bring WITH you.

I’ve been continuing my French lessons on Duolingo and listening to French music constantly (I’ll share my favorites at the end) and it is such a beautifully romantic and throaty language but the one word that has been popping up over and over and I love the way it sounds is: Avec. It is pronounced a·vèk. It is a simple but powerful word, translated into English, “with”. It has been resonating so much lately.

We just wrapped up my favorite month of the year. I don’t normally tell people my birthday, and not because I don’t like celebrating it, I celebrate all month. I don’t say it because I have the “Christmas in July” birthday. It’s the day after Independence Day and as a child I loved it…I thought the whole nation was prepping for my special day, but as I entered my teenage years I found it was hard to schedule anything and especially if it was on a weekend because most people were either were out of town or spending time with family, so I have instead taken the casual approach. I invite friends to get together for drinks….that way no harm no foul. This year was even more so ehh…so I decided to give instead and was constantly reminded how much I am loved.

PC: Conde Nast Traveler

This year, I wanted to do something different. I don’t know if I told you about the dream I had a few months ago. There was a long family-style table out in a field. That field reminded me like one of the fields within my family’s ranch, sitting at this table were more than 20 people from different parts of my life. I was serving them the homemade Italian meal I had made and as I sat down, I listened and laughed along with the lively conversation and at the end of the dinner Red Light Cameras began to play. This dream occurred in late April and as I sent it out to all those who were at my table we all reminisced about missing social interaction.

So I decided to do it, the next Sunday Super was going to be in my quite large back yard. I planned out the menu. Cleaned and organized the back and looked at furniture. I sent out invites with the caveat that if the invitee didn’t feel comfortable going out, that was fine. I also asked that they not come if they were not feeling well or traveled recently. I wanted to ensure the safety of everyone attending.

the Burata Caprese is divine

The Monday before this Sunday Supper started with dinner with my friend, Eilene. I was celebrating her belated birthday and she was celebrating my birthday early. We opted for Scalo and oh how I’ve missed that restaurant. It was incredible and for a Monday night, by 7pm, the seats were full yet socially distanced…which was a good sign. It had been 5 months since we had seen each other last. As we caught up on life, we enjoyed the incredible menu that Scalo has to offer. However, on my mind was this upcoming Sunday Supper. Earlier in the day, I got a text from my KK and she was concerned with the number of people attending which had been playing with my conscience. My concern was if it got too hot and people wanted to come indoors I’d have a harder time with social distancing in my small casita, so I reached out to my friends at Hollow Spirits and asked if the private room would be available. It was and I got to work on the final details. Unfortunately, Red Light Cameras was not available.

The morning of Sunday, July 5th started with me hosting brunch. Honestly, I love cooking family style meals (so much so that when I retire I hope to have a small casita in a big field and once a month hold a family-style dinner).

I invited my minis, Jeremy, my brother, and Yvette, my SIL. I agonized over inviting my aunt Lisa and my gram, but I couldn’t take any chances, so I made them their own meals that would be delivered. Jeremy and Yvette brought dessert, my favorite, Red Velvet cake. I was interrupted once by the ring of the doorbell and the delivery of beautiful flowers from one of my BFFs, Laura, all the way from Cali. As we ate, we laughed and shared stories. It was a fabulous morning and I sent everyone home with lots of food.

Posted by Dara Sophia on Sunday, July 5, 2020

After their surprise delivery, I received this response from my gram and aunt. My heart melted. I continued on on that afternoon making desserts for dinner. While Hollow Spirits was going provide the drinks and meal based on my Italian family style menu, I wanted to bring the desserts. I forgot how long it took to make cream puffs. LOL. I arrived a few minutes after 7pm and needed to set the scene before 7:30pm.

I arrived to a beautifully decorated space. I added flowers, hand sanitizer, and name placards to the seats. Around 7:30pm, I invited the guests in. I purposefully sat people where I did. I wanted to ensure they got to know each other and why they were important to me. There were childhood, reconnected and newly made friends. It was a small group and unfortunately, we couldn’t all sit together to mingle as normal, but as I looked around, I saw people talking and laughing at their tables and that made my heart happy.

At the end of the evening I got up, for a champagne toast and dessert. I went through the group individually and talked about how we met as I’ve done for years. I talked about my wishes for the upcoming year and how I wanted to share with them that they too may want to adopt them.

May you always be safe and healthy
May your body be nourished by things that help you grow
May you have fire that sparks your soul
May you be surrounded by those who love you and bring out the best in you
May you find a reason to celebrate even when the world seems dark
May you find beauty in everything
May you laugh until it hurts
May you choose selflessness over selfishness

PC: Kristen Olguin

I received a few black and white photos ‪from Adolphe. I met Adolphe 6 years ago when he came in to take photos for an article the Journal was writing about me at the boutique. However, one his most recent photos stopped my breath. It was of the protests at Tiguex Park and it was of women fleeing when shots were fired. One of the women was my KK. Adolphe was celebrating his wedding anniversary that day that he was called into action, he was not able to celebrate with his bride that evening. I invited him and Gabrielle and were honored that they could join me for this dinner.

PC: Adolphe Pierre-Louis

I couldn’t help but think of the quote, “Life is not about the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” There’s something magical when you see joy on someone’s face and you had something to do with it. Sometimes the best gift is what you do for others. This day was that and a bag of chips! 

I continued the celebration the next day with my BFF, Ang. She took me to Santa Fe and it really felt like a quaint European get away, but sadly, what is known as the height of tourist season in Santa Fe wasn’t found on this day. The streets were quiet with only a few people out. Tomasitas, known for its long wait time for patrons, was a quick wait even though it was only open at 50% occupancy. Had a lovely lunch and headed over to the plaza where we accessed the Terrace at La Fonda and the beautiful view that is normally reserved for events. Our day was filled with conversation and laughter (primarily Ang laughing at me and awkward shenanigans).

I am nothing, I know it, but I compose my nothing with a small piece of everything. 

As the days progressed, I wanted to do something fun for my Macy’s clients, colleagues and the community. I hosted a new bedding drive to support Beds 4 Kidz Albuquerque. I received tremendous support. I also worked with my fellow board of advisors at Fathers Building Futures to properly dress a client that completed the program and was going out for job interviews. When Macy’s decided to donate dresses to non-profit organizations, I jumped at the chance and asked if I could organize the donation to Locker #505. And because of the incredible support of the planning committee from the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation, I styled and donated two dresses to two beautiful volunteer poets for their upcoming virtual Maravilla Gala. That’s not all, there is a huge community even that I started planning again…more to come and HOPE you will provide your support.

I ran contests for clients and community members that shopped or interacted with my social media with prizes made up of my favorite products at Macy’s and for colleagues that shopped with me, shared assisted sales and/or made referrals, they were entered into weekly drawings for my favorite local products and services. I planned a Macy’s employee appreciation night at Fork and Fig and Broken Trail Distillery. Matt, from the later, was such a huge supporter as I was building Hopeless + Cause Atelier, I thought it would be a fun place for our employees to let off some steam and support two incredible local/neighborhood businesses (and even though it poured rain that day, the clouds seemed to disappear in time for the event). These events seemed to go over well by the interaction I saw.

What I do, I don’t do alone. I depend on others immensely and I wanted to show those around me HOW MUCH I appreciate them, especially during a time of closures, layoffs and CEOs receiving bonuses (yeah, I said it). I know what my strengths, weaknesses and opportunities are and I work on them every day, but WITHout others, I wouldn’t be who and where I am. And this reminder hit me twice last month.

First, I know the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted plans for everyone. For my passion project, Hopeless + Cause Atelier, it meant a pause on potentially being a designer on Project Runway and Paris Fashion Week this September, but I refused letting it stop my desire to create and empower others.

H+CA was featured in another international fashion magazine (thank you Harper’s Bazaar UK for including this designer from New Mexico in your August Issue). I have always believed that if you work your ass off, surround yourself with the right people, and believe you deserve the best, the universe follows suit. I can’t wait to see what’s next, but until then, I’ll be enjoying my international model friends posting their magazine videos because I won’t be getting my copy until September (darn you again COVID-19). All of you reading this, thank you for believing in this little atelier and supporting my dreams!!

Then a few weeks later, I received a call from a writer with the Albuquerque Journal. I was to be receiving the recognition of the Businesswoman in Fashion and Design and honoree in Retail Services. The writer asked me about mentors. I started talking about my original mentor in fashion design, my grandmother. I continued to talk about Jennifer and her early support. I talked about Jamie who constantly supports my dreams through her blog/videos and even many times flying out to my shows. I talked about the community that surrounds me from models, to beauty professionals, to other creatives. Honestly, it’s WITH others that I have achieved so much.

While my life motto is la vita e un dono, I plan to die young as late as possible which means experiencing life to the fullest and not using the excuse that I’m too old or it’s too late for me to do that. But I also believe the youthful souls around me help to keep me young and I’m not saying the 20 and 30 year olds, but those youthful souls in their 50s, 60s and beyond. While individually we bring ideas, values and life experiences–an uniqueness to the table–but the collective “we” brings change, brings vision to life, brings beauty to the world.

As I go into the last few months of the year, I will keep this in the forefront of my mind–AVEC AMOUR. I am beyond words on how grateful I am to have the CUSTOMERS I have, the COLLEAGUES I work with, the SMALL BUSINESSES and NON-PROFITS I partner with, and especially my FAMILY and FRIENDS. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!! You help me get out of my funk and focus on the important things. We can all do something that costs nothing: be kind, be grateful and be positive about something…especially in a time when we can forget to be.

And thank you, Governor (she was my customer from Sunday that reminded me of this), your role is a difficult one at any given time, but during this pandemic…I can’t even imagine!! So doing even a small thing like shopping for your VIP helps alleviate something, I’m honored to.

Oh, and I booked that trip to NYC…so if anyone wants to travel WITH me…

Avec lumière et amour,
Dara Sophia

P.S. Here’s that playlist I promised

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