My upbringing was non-traditional in that I was raised by multiple people in my family. My community made me strong and spoke life into my journey with blessings, wisdom, and encouragement. They recognized and nurtured greatness in me that I didn’t yet know I possessed.
At 18 I enlisted in the military and served almost nine years in the U.S. Army. Some of life's very best and worst times were to follow. I bore witness to deep suffering: my own, people I loved, and people I didn't know. In the years that followed I lost myself. My marriage fell apart. I was shattered in the deepest parts of my soul. I couldn't connect with other people, I didn't feel connected to myself, and I had a hard time envisioning my future. I had lost my connection to things that had given me meaning, identity, and strength. I felt a lot of conflict over things that had happened in the military, so I made a vow to myself to spend the second half of my life using my power to inspire good in the world. (At the time I didn’t know it, but children were to be where I found good in the world.)
After a life changing equine retreat, I left the city and moved to a sleepy little town where the ocean meets the redwoods, and started my healing journey. Part of that journey has been to nurture my creativity. Exploring creativity in the natural world has helped me understand the rhythms of life in a new way. Nature has been an incredible teacher and healer because it constantly models how even the smallest organism is connected to the whole. I am deeply inspired by the lessons found in nature and much of my design work reflects that.
Second, I turned to my family for support as I tried to figure out who I was again. I began asking questions about my family history as a way to understand my own story. I needed to find purpose in being connected to something greater than myself. Imagine my shock when I learned that my paternal grandmother, Jewel, (who passed before I was born) was a Hidden Figure! She was the second African-American, woman, aeronautical engineer in the United States, and she designed aerospace technology that is still in use today! What she set in motion made so many things possible for me today. Her life and accomplishments remind me that even one person’s actions affect generations thereafter.
My maternal grandmother Geraldine, who helped raise me, has always talked of our Taino ancestry. History books say our people were all killed, however my 89 year old grandmother is a testament that our people are strong and resilient and still very much alive! She survived many years of hardship, but raised two wonderful daughters and retired after a 30 year career of designing engineering blueprints for communication devices. She represents resilience and has always told me about my ancestors. My grandmother recognized my creativity when I was very young. She brought me back to that gift as an adult, and encouraged me to follow my passion in interior design.
These stories have been so healing because they connect me to people I love, and connection is vital to being emotionally and spiritually whole. They have helped me connect to my own story, because I understand how history unfolded in order to bring me into the world. Remembering my Grandmothers words and connecting with the blessings spoken into my life by those who have cared deeply for me have given me a key to unlock my own power and purpose. They will be a light should I ever start to lose my way again. (My line of Legacy Blankets honors this concept.) My family history inspires me to live with purpose and awareness because I understand how the choices I make today will affect generations after me. These legacies will stay with me forever. They will be what I draw upon for wisdom on as I continue my life journey.
When I reflected on the impact this had on me as a middle aged woman, I started to think about how powerful these connections could be for children. What if we could find a way to capture the sacredness of a child’s story, or an elder’s blessing, or words of encouragement from a loved one in a way that: 1) helped families feel connected, 2) was age appropriate, 3) was accessible to children in way they could interact with every day, 4) could journey with them into adulthood? I took to creative design to help me answer these questions. At the time, I was expecting a new niece. I lived far away but wanted us to feel connected, so I decided to make her a quilt that she could keep close as she grew. On it, I hand embroidered a message to remind her about her value and potential, so she could snuggle with it every night. Little did I know that quilt would lead to me opening a shop and supporting other families who were looking to connect in similar ways!
This is how my desire to manifest hope and connection in the world intersected with my love for interior design. It was a tiny ray of hope, a Wee Possibility, that something new could happen if I honored the power of my story and lived in congruence with the deepest parts of myself. So, remembering my Grandmother’s words of encouragement and the examples she had set with her own life, I claimed my power and walked forward with it.
The process of designing for children is a gift because when I create, there are no restrictions. Birds with polka dot legs? Yes! Plaid trees? Absolutely! In those moments, the world is alive with possibility. When I step into that possibility I am free. I feel inspired to create something that hasn't yet existed. This is the hope children represent: they are all things yet to be. My quilts are designed to help you make lasting connections with the children in your life. My goal is to empower children to know themselves and to reach their potential through connection with others and with their own stories. If we provide opportunities for these connections when children are young, my hope is that children will grow up to know who they are, how much they are valued, and how important their story is in continuing the work of leaving the world a better place for future generations.