Dream Until Your Dreams Come True

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” -Joshua J. Marine

Oh what a journey we have been on. I never would have thought I would look back and see my dream unraveling right before my eyes. It’s been a whirlwind and I can honestly say as a team, a company, we are stronger than ever. We hit so many bumps in the road…for a while I asked myself if I truly wanted to keep working on this. It always came down to the women we are working with. How could I give up on them? They are depending on us, on me. I wasn’t taught to give up, and we won’t.

As we wrapped up our first collection, we saw ourselves in a nightmare. Except we were living it. Many pieces from our first collection had to be completely scratched and redone. None of this was our seamstresses fault; it was our own. Luckily, through the help of so many others in our local fashion industry, we have found help and have found professionals we can outsource so that we won’t make the same mistakes moving forward. These changes have been HUGE for us.

Our mission is really a two step mission. Not only do we want to change the lives of women living in extreme need in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but we have to create a damn good product(s) so that you as our customer love it so much you want to keep purchasing. This is what will ultimately allow us to continue to change these womens’ lives.

With that being said, here are some major developments happening with us….

-We completely scratched and redesigned our entire Fall/Winter collection.
-We debuted in Nashville Fashion Week
-It was freaking ahMAZING.
-We scratched and had to remake some of our Spring/Summer Collection to send out. Phew!
-We will be launching our new line of sustainable scrubs, WeAreDAR Scrubs, at the end of the month. So all of you scrub wearing folks, get ready! I promise not to disappoint.
-Our new collection will go for sale on our Shopify account by end of next week! Check out our pictures below!

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Someone please pinch me and remind me to keep going when the going gets tough….please. I can’t entertain those self-defeating thoughts. Writing all of this down makes me realize we’ve come too far to turn back now. Just because we have met a crap-load of roadblocks does not mean that it’s time to turn back, sit down or give up. Perseverance now is more important than ever. Our strength is definitely being tested, but we are pressing forward, past fear and doubt.

Things to remember:
– This is the right thing to do. I will not choose fear.
-I can do this. Normal people like us change the world, every single day.
-I’ve overcome bigger tasks than this before. (I might be lying on this one…)
-Worst case scenario is that I get stuck, but at least I tried.
-Our team is strong, smart and creative. We are capable, and we can do this.
-I have one life and will regret not taking this risk.
-It’s ok to dream BIG and make my journey count.
-Don’t give in. Don’t stop moving forward.
-Don’t you dare stop.

xo,

m.

We Grow With Change

This one has been a long time coming for me. We’ve got big exciting changes headed our way! With all things good or bad, change is inevitable. It is the one constant factor, and many times with change comes adversity. How we handle that adversity is what truly defines us. I believe true strength is smiling when you want to cry, laughing to hide the pain, and going on no matter what. It’s what I am trying to do and what I will continue to do.

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Unfortunately, Crista is no longer with us. I could write pages about each of our team members’ contributions to WeAreDAR, including all the amazing hard work Crista did for us, but here is the bottom line — we’ve learned from each other, and we’ve become like family. Each of you challenge me, you challenge each other, and WeAreDAR is committed to making a difference in this world. I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it. This project is not about me; it is not about you… It’s about the greater good and how we can give to those in need. Yes, I admit being so new, resources are limited, including my knowledge, but we will get there. There is no question about it. So things have changed, but we will adapt and we will accomplish what we set out to do, which is to give life changing opportunities to those in extreme need. We will continue to work on what we started, and we will succeed.

Our new Director of Apparel Design, Maarika Mann, has been more than a blessing. Shortly after Taylor returned from Haiti, we sat down and met. We discussed how we wanted to bring on a new designer to help us with our scrubs line. Ironically, just the day prior, Maarika had emailed me offering her help and expertise whenever we needed it. We knew we wanted to reach out to her and ask her to join our team, and once we did, she quickly jumped on board. When Crista’s contract expired with us we asked Maarika to join us full-time. With all the change, we found ourselves in over our head, finishing tasks for our Spring/Summer collection, and all this with only 4 weeks left to redesign our Fall/Winter 2014 collection, which will be featured on April 2nd in Nashville Fashion Week.

Talk about facing adversity!

Maarika and I sat down in Whole Foods, of all places, and together we selected our fabrics and designed our upcoming collection. It was such a relief and a pivotal moment for me, and I realized just how much I love and enjoy this opportunity and each of our team members.

I guess what I want to say here is — WeAreDAR Team–you are all so beautiful and strong. Freaking braveheart strong, and for that I am thankful. Thankful more than each of you know. The only way a project like this can work is knowing we have to be braveheart strong each and every day because you CANNOT change the world working 9-5.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for all of your hard work and faith in this project! We have SO many exciting things happening and our prayers are starting to really be answered.

I now have the honor and privilege to present to you our new Apparel Designer, Maarika Mann!

Maarika Mann - Apparel Designer

Maarika Mann – Apparel Designer

My road to WeAreDAR has been a transformational one. Life journeys are always meandering ones, moving along in unexpected ways;  after getting married, graduating with a degree in elementary education, having children and moving to Nashville, my life seemed to be busy, but I craved for something more.  Design had always been a passion of mine but connecting my life’s dots and having the end picture look anything like art seemed impossible.  Then, in 2011 I followed my intuition.  I left teaching, enrolled in O’More College of Design as a Fashion Design student, and never looked back.

I met Martha when she teamed up with O’More and created our Designing for a Cause class.  Together, we designed and constructed a line of children’s clothes that became the foundation of the aDARable project.  Through this relationship I have been able to combine my artistic passions with my desires to give back to the world in a unique and powerful way.  I am grateful for this opportunity every day!

In addition to my role with WeAreDAR, I also have been chosen as one of Nashville Fashion Week’s Top Ten Emerging Designers of 2014.  My designs have been featured at the United We Style Fashion Show 2013 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and I am completing my final line of ten dresses for O’More’s year-end Eloise Fashion Show in May of 2014.

xo,
m.

Day 1 (1/5/14)

Crista here. For those of you who don’t know, I went to Haiti for the month of January to oversee the production of our very first line of fair-trade children’s clothing! This morning I am finally setting aside some time to pour over my time in Haiti. I guess you could say I’ve been putting it off because I knew it would be an emotional experience and, let’s face it, I avoid the ugly cry at all costs. 

It all starts with this notebook. The night before I left, my dear friend Hannah gave me my Christmas present. In it was this beauty and I knew exactly what I would be writing in it. I was so swamped with the holidays that I neglected to find something that would hold my thoughts, experiences, prayers, feelings, and dreams. 

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SUNDAY                                                                                                                                   January 5, 2014

“Today was my first full day in Haiti this go around. It began unofficially at 5am to the sound of rats stirring in my room. After  falling bad asleep, I woke again at 7:30 to the sound of church bells. I had just enough time to get ready and went to the common room. I was greeted by a new friend, Father Eddy. He was very friendly and sweet. He also works for Partners in Health with Paul Farmer. It was very exciting to talk about him and reminded me of my passions.” (If you don’t know who Paul Farmer is, I highly encourage you to read Mountains Beyond Mountains. His passion and dedication to the people of Haiti is unwavering and incredibly inspiring.) 

After a rather lengthy church service, I found myself back in the common room with Father Eddy and my interpreter (and friend!) Marc- Endy, though Father Eddy’s english was a breath of fresh air! We shared a traditional Sunday lunch of squash soup together and discussed my time in Haiti. He ate quickly and told us that he needed to go visit a family whose house caught fire recently. Their youngest son was in the home at the time and was burned very badly. He was in the hospital undergoing treatment but I could tell the situation wasn’t hopeful. Father Eddy made his exit while Marc-Endy and I continued to talk about the family. I asked him if I knew the family and he told me that I did. It was Reesha’s family, a sweet boy who had been taken in by one of our own WeAreDAR girls! Though she lives in America and he in Haiti, she does her very best to make sure that he has the funds he needs for school, books, uniforms, and food. I asked Marc-Endy if we could also visit the family and he said of course and suggested that if I had any money to give that it would be very helpful at this time. (Marc-En rarely suggests such a thing.)

I remember walking towards the house and trying to prepare myself for what I was about to see and praying that the Lord would use me in any way he could. “The mother was very sad and I hugged her and held her for a moment. Reesha had tears on his face. I was amazed how moved he was because he could have only been 6 or 7 years old.” Though there were many people gathered around, there was a quietness in the air. We walked in the still standing house, the smell overwhelming. They were in the process of cleaning and gathering all the burned items. Vanya, the mother, looked as if she was so weak she might fall over. 

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“We then walked through the village and said hi to many people. We also stopped in on the baptist church where Marc-En usually goes. He jumped right in and started playing the bass. All of the children stared at me. Most of them smiled with excitement! But some remained serious. It is pretty crazy being the only white person for miles and miles. I often wonder what they really think of me. What they think of my smile, is it sincere, do they trust me? Do they think I pity them? A little girl I’ve never met ran right up to me and jumped in my arms exclaiming my name. How do they all know my name?! I will continue to pray over my protection- proclaiming the Lord’s goodness and mercy over this house and my life (and like Marc-En said, that the rats would respect me!). I am (by no surprise) having a hard time with the food. I continue to pray that I would be better- meals are a great place to share communion and if I refuse to eat, I refuse to take part in the greatest meal in life. This month we will need miracles. I pray the Lord sees and responds. That he would open doors I didn’t even know existed. It is very strange being alone. At times I love it, but at times it is very difficult. Nights are the hardest for me. Would the Lord be so kind as to give me peace and assurance. That I could calm down and relax and rest easy.”

I have had many people tell me how courageous it was to go to Haiti for a month on my own. I hope this bit of truth and insight allows others to see that it wasn’t always easy and I wasn’t always strong, but that the Lord was with me every step of the way and knowing that was more than enough for me. 

Don’t worry, I have MANY more days to share, but as you can see, one day often felt like a lifetime! 

Here’s to more stories soon!

-Crista 

LOVE shows up

It’s so hard for me at times to share emotions, and although I’m hiding behind a screen and keyboard, this is still hard for me to do. All my life I’ve been taught to love, serve, and be grateful, but to not talk about it. A bit weird, huh? Humility, in my mother’s eyes, is one of the most beautiful characteristics an individual can possess. So here I am struggling to share this. I’ve even had anxiety about it. But a struggle is usually a sign of a good, important process unfolding, right? A sign of something that needs to be unpacked and explored. I’m thankful for my struggles with WeAreDAR lately. Because lately we have been pushed beyond limits we didn’t even know existed.

Not sure if you remember me struggling to continue the project simply because we had no funds. We had the heart, the courage, and perseverance to continue, but by no means has it been easy. A month ago, Crista boarded a plane to Haiti all by herself to begin the manufacturing process with our women in Ti-Bouk. I wanted more than anything to be there a portion of the time. This project, my baby if you will, that we had been working so hard towards was finally beginning for our Haitian community, and I couldn’t be there. I cried. Hard. I had to trust that God had our best intentions in place.

Crista, who just recently graduated from college, was off alone for an entire month with no one but our Haitian family, leaving behind all the comforts of home to make it happen for these people. A huge part of me also feels responsible for those who work with our project, and, naturally, my mommy instincts kicked in. I needed someone to be there with her. It couldn’t be me because we truthfully didn’t have the money. So we needed someone who could not only fund-raise their way down, but take time out of their work schedule. And again I prayed hard. And just like I said in the beginning, love just shows up.

Taylor, who has been a God-send, stepped up to the plate and on a whim, purchased her tickets and off she went for two weeks to help Crista and our Haitian Community. And just like that things began falling into place. Although I had one obstacle taken care of now I needed to raise funds to pay everyone in Haiti. I recall swiffering the house one evening after dinner and breaking down from the feeling of defeat. I know Jeremy thought I lost my noodle….which I did, but he just held me and let me cry it out. I felt horrible for tapping into so much of our personal funds for our Haitian women. Was this even fair or was it selfish of me? I struggled more than most know, getting no sleep and working feverishly to make something happen.

Off Taylor went to spend two weeks with Crista and the women, helping manufacture this very first collection. Shortly after dropping her off at the airport on a Sunday morning, I felt the urge to pray on the ride back home. I asked God to help us. Day after day we were showing up and were just willing to love and serve those with no hope, but we needed funds to actually pay our team fairly, as well as other expenses involved, and we literally had BIG FAT ZERO’s in the bank. I asked him to place someone, something, an opportunity in our paths, and I kid you not, that same minute my phone alerted me of an email and the subject was, “WeAreDAR”. An angel was put in our path and wanted to help us put together a fundraising luncheon. The following week we hosted the luncheon and raised the exact amount needed to make this life changing opportunity available for our Haitian families in Ti-Bouk, Haiti.

Crista comes back on Saturday. I am beyond thankful for her, Taylor, and all others who work so hard to help us out… You know who you are. This first collection has taught me that God shows up through the hands of his people when we’re drowning in the darkness. From despair to hope. From brokenness to redemption. It’s real life and real faith. And just like Bob Goff would say, “To choose love opens our hearts, which amplifies our internal energy. We see more, feel more and connect more. We bring in greater events and people into our lives. We are intrinsically happy which inspires greater happiness and opportunities. It is an upward cycle.” Thank you all for your continued love, support, and for simply showing up.

Xo,

m.

Life’s a Marathon

“Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’. The answer is usually: ‘Yes’.”  -Paul Tergat, Kenyan professional marathoner

They say everything happens on God’s timing, and although I’m not one to always be a fan of this thought, I have to say the older I get the more I believe this wholeheartedly.

Four years ago, I got bit by the marathon bug. I wanted to run my first full marathon. I committed by signing up for the Chicago Marathon. I trained and got up to 18 miles. The day I ran 18 miles (I’ll never forget it) was my longest run to date, and around mile 17 I hit a wall. I told my friends, Leslie and Boomer, that I was done and planned on hitch-hiking home. I felt funky and just completely drained. The next day, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test in complete shock and tears. There was no way I was pregnant, but after three more positive tests I figured I pretty much was. Since I’ve had four knee surgeries from my high school and college soccer days, my OB advised it wasn’t the best idea for me to run the Chicago Marathon, and so I didn’t.

A year and a half later, I once again signed up for a full marathon. And once again, on my first scheduled 18 miler I was in a lot of pain but pushed through it. However, there comes a point where your body tells you it’s more than just the normal pain, and my body was telling me something was seriously wrong. A couple days later at the doctor’s office I found out I had a pretty bad stress fracture. Once again I had to face the disappointment of not being able to do something I had worked so hard to accomplish.

This past Saturday I finally completed my first marathon. Running is truly my therapy.  It’s free, and it gives me time to think about life, my family, our brothers and sisters in Haiti, WeAreDAR,  etc. During those long 26.2 miles I thought about all those things.  I thought about the pain I was going through, the boredom, beating Oprah’s time, and then I stopped thinking and just started talking to God.

I first thanked Him for giving me the health to be out there running.  I thanked him for all of you, and then my sass came out.  How dare I go there with God, but I did.  I asked him why it was so hard for me to pursue what I felt like he laid on my heart to do.  Why was he being so “non-responsive” to my bold prayers?  I thought if you truly seek and pursue what God set you out to do it would be a piece of cake. In our case, it’s been the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done.  All we are trying to do is impact lives by providing life changing opportunities to women in extreme need.  Women who don’t even have access to clean water, a basic necessity for themselves and their children.  By giving them this job opportunity all of that can change.   They will be working under fair trade regulations, allowing them to enjoy their jobs, but most importantly allowing them to change their lives and the lives of their loved ones for good.  Providing not only clean water, but food, shelter, and education, thus breaking the cycle of poverty in their lives forever.  So why, God, why is it so hard to do?  All we need is about 13k and our women can survive for two months.  We laid out where every penny would be distributed, and we have tried to reach out to anyone that will hear our story.

I’m not sure if anyone is listening, or maybe these times are just so hard that it is truly just too difficult to give right now… But what I do know is that God’s timing is never wrong. I think He put this last marathon on my path at that exact time because I needed its therapy. I needed the time with Him to understand and appreciate what we’ve already accomplished and that everything will be OK. This marathon was my self discovery of who I am and who I could be while I am figuring out my purpose in this world. It was a reminder that there is peace at the center of every hurricane. We are weathering the storm. We are remaining hopeful and determined. We are DAR.

-m.

P.S.  In case you were wondering, I did beat Oprah😉

Being Faithful and Thankful

“True happiness means forging a strong spirit that is undefeated, no matter how trying our circumstances.” -Daisaku Ikeda

Everyone has a story, a beautiful, interesting story.  I’m the weirdo who tries hard to make eye contact with complete strangers in hopes of sending them the secret message of, “you are loved.” A simple reminder that we each have beauty and can connect with others in unique ways. It’s the passing glance of a stranger, and the earnest offering of a reciprocated smile that makes me genuinely smile ear to ear. Today after all the stress of the past two weeks I remembered gratitude in simplicity changes everything.

Let’s face it, whether big or small, stressful or simple, we all face challenges every day, some easier to deal with than others. Unfortunately, we aren’t given an instruction manual to handle these challenges. I naturally hide any fears, or insecurities in front of others, in fear of showing any vulnerability.  Not sure why I am like that.  Especially when I know, no matter how much I try to plan in advance, calculate our every move, or predict what the future will bring, it’s impossible to prepare enough for the unexpected.

I know I’m all over the place, and sound a bit cray cray, but I’m getting somewhere here. I’ve been stressing out quite a bit about our funding, and all the costs associated with starting a project like ours.  Crista (our product development consultant) met with me last week and gave me the news that we hit some more bumps on the road with aDARable.  See, Crista is a recent graduate of O’More. She doesn’t have all the experience needed to grade, cut, and do all the other things needed to get things in place to return to Haiti soon.  But what she does have is the heart and the passion to figure it out.  Taylor, our young, sassy business developer has that IT factor as well.  And that IT factor is all that is needed.  That IT factor means forging a strong spirit that is undefeated no matter how trying the circumstances. These ladies along with Tiffany, Annette, Jen, Jenny, Ashlyn, Jamie, Sarah, Kayla, all the students involved with aDARable, and all of you, are what makes me look back at this past year, and this holiday of Thanksgiving, and it makes me so thankful for all that I have. I am beyond blessed and thankful for all that I have been given, and I only hope I can give it back to all of you and those in need.

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xo,

m

Puppy Love

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” -Dean Koontz

I’m a very sarcastic girl.  I get it honestly.  Have you met my Mami yet?  Exactly.  I used to joke about my sweet Jazzy quite a bit. Jeremy and I had been married for exactly one month and a day, when he walks in with the cutest fur-ball I had seen in a long time.  I quickly panicked and asked what was going on.  It was my birthday.  He had brought home Jazzy as my birthday gift.  He was completely in love with this beautiful beagle with green eyes and I immediately began to cry.  I bawled my eyes out….and it wasn’t because I thought he was the sweetest husband, no it was because I didn’t want a dog and Jeremy knew that.   I didn’t want the responsibility. I wasn’t ready.  It was January, meaning it was dead smack in the middle of basketball season when Jeremy is never home, so it would be my responsibility to train this cute puppy and to sacrifice my sleep for potty training….I was just not ready and I was obviously selfish.  But like most things, with time Jazzy and I became best friends.  After having the girls Jazzy wasn’t getting all my attention anymore and unfortunately took a back seat in our family.  I wish I could say otherwise but I can’t.  Although she was no longer my one and only baby, I still loved her and when the girls were gone, we would catch up on our love.

Today, Jazzy died in my arms, naturally and peacefully.  Since I am so good at hiding emotions I thought I would be better at this but it hurts.  I lost a piece of my family today.  I honestly haven’t felt pain like this before and sitting here, in my living room without her around feels weird.

But, through all the tears and pain, I realize Jazzy taught me a lot about love and life. Jazzy taught me to live in the now.  They say that when training a dog, you need to keep this idea in mind: dogs do not learn from the past or future. They learn in the now. Therefore, if you’re training your dog to “come,” for example, you shouldn’t give them a treat after they’ve already walked across the room to you, but you should start your praise the moment they start walking in your direction. This is because dogs can’t understand that the reason they’re getting treats is for something they did 20 seconds ago. Everything must be handled in the present. With my busy schedule, I find myself being swallowed by meetings, activities, future trips, birthdays, etc. but just like Jazzy’s mentality, I need to remind myself that sometimes it’s just better to go with the flow, to live in the now.  The now is a beautiful place to be. And in many ways, it’s the only place to be.

Jazzy also taught me to love.  To love unconditionally and to love honestly. How do you love honestly?  Many times we think we need to act professionally, or as a good friend of mine would say, “PC”, meaning politically correct.  But to me, loving like that is a flat-out cop-out and lie.  In relationships, whether it’s with co-workers, friends, or partners, you shouldn’t have to try to decide how you should act.  Many people ask themselves, “Should I shake their hand? Should I play it cool and hold back my smotherings of love? Can I be myself, be silly and give big squeezes to friends I just met or will they think I’m odd, or over doing it?”  I, at times, am guilty of this too. I sometimes over analyze my role in a variety of situations and with all kinds of people to the point where I can’t even figure out how to act. But Jazzy never did that. It didn’t really matter who you were. She would walk over to you and brush on you, lick you, and simply love on you.  Jazzy didn’t play the “how vulnerable should I let myself be?” game.  She loved without hesitation and that was that. I feel like this lesson is so important for our own lives – we don’t need to over analyze how to appreciate other people (Will they think I’m weird? Am I being too mushy?), we just need to love, in whatever way truly feels right.

In the puppy ER tonight, waiting for the vet, I was holding Jazzy like a little baby.  Wrapped in a blanket, rocking and swaying her back and fourth. I gave her a kiss and she licked me back.  Her beautiful green eyes rolled back and she calmly and quietly went to heaven.  I will miss her so much, but I will forever be thankful for all the things she taught me in life and of course for all of her honest and pure, love and friendship.

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Shop aDARable now for 10% off your order!

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Until Sunday, November 2, when you enter the code WEAREDAR10 at shop.wearedar.org you will save 10% off your order! The holidays are just around the corner and our aDARable clothing is perfect for that little fashionista in your life. Not only will you be supporting a great cause, but also our 10 women in Ti-Bouk who depend on our line for economic independence. Shop our ‘clothing that tells a new story’ with your head and heart.

aDARable in ATL

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This weekend the WeAreDAR team packed our bags and headed down to Atlanta, GA to be a part of the Apparel Market. This was our very first time at any event like Market (and my first time in Atlanta – hello, Gladys’ Chicken & Waffles!) and we were so happy to meet all our new buyers! The unique and wonderful thing about WeAreDAR and our line, aDarable, is that it truly tells a story. It was encouraging to hear buyers taking notice of not only our beautiful products but also to see them really listen to the whole purpose of the line. We now will have aDARable sold in 5 new stores and you can’t help but just feel this good energy continuing to build around this project.

– Tiffany

Embracing the Process

How moving is this video? I can’t wait to buy it once it’s released. Our dream is to make their dreams come true by giving their mothers job opportunities and stability. Each day we inch a bit closer. Life has been hectic and crazy as of late. So much is going on in our neck of the woods, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Our aDARable daughters are trotting the streets of Washington, DC ( I swear my girls travel more than I do…a bit jealous!) while we prepare for market, which is later this week.

This past weekend I had an opportunity to participate in a local half marathon. My running hasn’t been the best because I have been so busy, and I just didn’t think it would be the best idea to run. But I couldn’t get over the fact that I had paid quite a bit to participate and so I woke up at 4:15am on my day off to run….I was so mad at myself!

When I got there I mentally shifted and just accepted I would be running for the next couple of hours. I took advantage of this time to myself to think about everything we have going on. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made. During my run, I realized how far we’ve come. For some reason things just keep falling into place. We’ve become such a close knit group of passionate women determined to grow this project. This week we are headed to market in hopes of selling to retailers all over the southeast. Keep us in your prayers. We hope to make you proud!!!

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Feeling like the luckiest girl in the world! OH! And I finished my run strong. I actually PR’ed by five minutes. I need to think about this project more often during my runs🙂

m.