Beads that buy hope

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What are your top three dreams?

This is a question we like to ask here at Ember. It’s a question we asked of our artisans in Uganda at the very beginning of our partnership. There is hardly a more beautiful sight than the radiance of an African woman’s face when she lights up and shares her dreams.

And it’s amazing that the women still dream. After surviving the brutality of civil war, poverty, domestic violence, and social injustice their dreams are fully fueled. The women each have individual, unique, and inspiring dreams, but one thing made it to the top three of every single one of their lists.

Education.

We asked each of our partners what she was dreaming of, and every women answered with dreams of education. Stella dreams of seeing her children graduate from university. Agnes dreams of owning a computer and finishing her own schooling. Lucy has nieces and nephews who she wants to purchase school uniforms for.

The women have dreams and incredible work ethics, now all they need is our support.

This is why Ember Arts is so proud to introduce our Library Bead Collection. Made from recycled book pages, the jewelry is a testament of hope. With every purchase of Ember Arts jewelry, our Ugandan partners are one step closer to earning the finances they need to fund their dreams of education.

We hope that the Library Bead Collection will inspire you to make a difference in the lives of Ugandan women, remind you of the value of education, and take you deeper into the journey of cultivating beautiful dreams.

Library Bead Collection Look Book 

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Ember Ambassadors West Coast Road Trip!

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Did you know that Ember Arts is a family owned and operated business?

Clayton and Jessica Connolly (together with their parents, daughters, siblings, an artist in Uganda, and a couple of college students) bring life to the business and story of Ember Arts. Together they are empowering dreamers and working to build a compassionate, sustainable network of individuals who can make a positive impact in their world.

During the whole month of August the Connolly family is taking the Ember Arts story and hitting the road. They’re calling this adventure the Ember Ambassadors West Coast Road Trip.

Read some more about Ember Ambassadors as the Connolly’s share their plans for their road trip:

What are three reasons why you are taking your family and your business on a month-long road trip? 

1. We simply love being on the road and seeing new places. Our girls have so much fun playing road games like “I Spy” and blasting music while singing along. We also believe that traveling to new places and seeing new sites is so enriching to young minds. We want our daughters to grow up knowing how big the world is and valuing every single person they come across during life.

2. Ember Arts is in a stage of expansion, a time when we are striving to grow our business and further our sphere of influence. Simply put, we want to see our jewelry sold in more stores, so we’re going out adventuring in search of those new partners.

3. Also, from past experiences we’ve learned that individuals are more likely to purchase a product when they can shake the hand of the person who is selling. We so value meeting with people face to face, sharing stories, and building relationships. We want to be as authentic and intentional as possible when interacting with our partners and customers. What a better way to build relationships than to simply stop by and say hi.

Meet the Connolly family - Clayton, Jessica, Kairah, Shiloh, and River. If you're on the West Coast, be keeping your eyes out for them.

Meet the Connolly family – Clayton, Jessica, Kairah, Shiloh, and River. If you’re on the West Coast, be keeping your eyes out for them.

Give us a glimpse into your travel plans. What will you be doing? 

Our plan is to drive up the West Coast of the United States, starting in our home base of  San Diego and ending in Seattle. We are hoping to stop in as many towns and cities as possible, meeting with retail store owners. We’ll shake lots of hands, pass out business cards, and give away free jewelry, all with the intention of sharing the Ember Arts story.

Your road trip sounds amazing! How can I join in on the fun? 

We would love to have you become a part of the Ember Ambassadors story. Here a couple of ways you can join us.

1. Follow us on Instagram (@emberarts) and on Facebook (search Ember Arts) to see fun photos of our trip.

2. Help us make our travel plans, tell us where we should go! Do you have a favorite boutique, bookstore, or gift shop on the West Coast that you think should sell Ember Arts jewelry? Let us know and we’ll try to stop by that store. You can send us your thoughts by emailing info@emberarts.com or commenting on any of our social media posts.

Designing Jewelry, Inspiring Dreams

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This is Emily Grace Goodrich — designer and dreamer. She is the creative mind behind Ember Arts and has served as our jewelry designer in Kampala, Uganda for the past five years. She brings color, vibrancy, and ingenuity to both our products and the Ember Arts story.

Not a single day is the same for Emily, living in Uganda, though every morning she wakes to the sound of chickens clucking. She will often take a white minivan taxi into town to visit the Owina Market, where she searches for used paper and old books to use in Ember Arts designs. Several times a week she travels to the outskirts of the city to a neighborhood called Acholi Quarters, where the women of Ember Arts work and live. Emily is there to conduct meetings and train the women on crafting jewelry. It is a lifestyle she loves — something so much more than a job.

We are so very proud to have Emily on our team and are grateful for the beauty she brings to the Ember Arts family.

Ember Arts: You studied Interdisciplinary Studio Arts in college – do any of the skills you learned in school influence the way you design Ember Arts jewelry?

Emily Goodrich: I think there are similarities in some ways. I mostly studied painting and photography, but things like color and pattern and line are applicable across all creative fields. I think my designs are a lot more influenced by the ebb and flow of materials into Uganda. It’s tricky to figure out which jewelry components will be available in the local markets consistently; and so more and more, I’m trying to look toward alternative sorts of materials. 

emilyWhat is something you’ve learned from the Ugandan women you work with?

I’ve definitely learned a lot about hospitality and resilience from them, but lately, we’ve been learning together the value of celebration. This last year has had its fair share of bumps and challenges for the group and for individuals in it, but we’ve decided to start bringing a little fun into our meetings. We threw a small party the last time an order shipped to the U.S., and had refreshments and played a few silly games. The ladies have decided that this should be standard: they’re usually focused on business, and they realized that it’s important to enjoy each other’s presence.

 

When you talk to your friends and family in America, what is one thing you wish they would know or understand about the state of life in Uganda? 

No matter how many times I say otherwise, people still think I live in a mud hut. There are certainly people here that do, but Uganda is growing and changing. It’s a place of strange juxtapositions.

Uganda has its fair share of dirt roads, slums, and political struggles, but every single one of the women we work with has a mobile phone, and they know how to send text messages and mobile money. A lot of them have TVs and stereos in their homes, and are sitting and watching Columbian telenovelas and other international television shows during lunch. There are also opportunities for entrepreneurs and enterprising folks everywhere. 

This is why I think the work that we’re doing at Ember Arts  is so important. Most of the Ember ladies are content to move back to the village one day, but their children are going to inherit this new world of technology and rapidly changing information — even here in Uganda. When these women who we work with are able to send their kids  to secondary schools and universities, I think it helps to ensure those children a voice in the future of their country.

There is a lot of room to do some good in the world with our purchasing power.

 

Someday you’ll be moving away from Kampala. What’s next on your list of adventures? What are you dreaming of doing? 

I really enjoy “making things,” so I think I’ll always be interested in the way that human beings interact with one another as consumers and producers. There is a lot of room to do some good in the world with our purchasing power. There are also a lot of ways to do harm. Eventually, I’d love to figure out how to make those ideas more accessible to people, especially when the assumption is that things like organic and fair trade have to equal expensive. There’s a whole lot for me to think through before I have any concrete steps, but I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in those areas. I’d love to share them in a tangible way, with a blog or maybe even a retail space.

What is one piece of advice you can give to others who are dreaming of making a positive impact on the world? 

Stop dreaming about it, and just start moving forward. I often find myself getting stuck in the realm of “maybe someday,” and I’m learning that even baby steps will get you there faster than waiting for the right time or enough resources. If you need money, start putting change in a jar. If you’re waiting for more free time, spend just fifteen minutes a day working toward that goal. Little things add up.

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Morgan Coleman Turns Insecurity Into Art

morgan_coleman_4When I meet her in a funky little bar in the Paseo district of Oklahoma City, Morgan Coleman has purple hair and she doesn’t talk like a poet. She talks with the same use of cliche and personal verbal tics we all do. And she talks with a mix of pride and humility about her childhood, a mix that seems both familiar and out of place.

It’s a childhood that inspired lines like these, which she delivers into a microphone in a small, crowded room painted with gnomes:

“it’s a shade that follows you through your life
a tattoo on your scared flesh
typing different over paper like that’s your new name
Like this was just a shift in the stars
when you can only see black night skies”

Morgan Coleman is a poet, and she maps the harder parts of her life experience with gymnastic words, bent and tumbled to fit the challenges she’s faced. “I haven’t had the easiest life,” Morgan told me.

As her story unfolds I find out what she meant: alcoholism and violence in her childhood home in Connecticut; working from a young age and spending nights under a bridge a mile away because that felt safer than her bedroom; close brushes with suicide, a stay in a home for troubled youth, and the long loneliness of feeling, and being treated as, different.

But these hard circumstances are not the whole of her story, even during her younger years. Morgan was very bright. She attended a magnet school focused on global studies and traveled to various countries and all around the US. After high school she helped lead trips of American high school students to Europe, where they studied geology through extended field trips to places like the Alps.

When she was 21 her parents divorced and her mom made a quick move to Oklahoma. Morgan moved with her, and through her job at Barnes and Noble she got plugged into the local poetry scene.

morgan_coleman_performing_1_webOklahoma is a very conservative place, a very conservative-American-evangelical-Christian place, the sort of place where people expect you to have a good job, a happy heterosexual family, and a favorite college football team with Oklahoma in the name. And it goes without saying that you attend a good, strong church every Sunday. If your life doesn’t look like this picture it can be hard to feel at home.

The poetry scene in and around Oklahoma City is filled with people who, one way or another, don’t feel at home. They’re often more liberal, less Christian, less heterosexual, and less concerned with college sports. Because of this, Morgan tells me, there’s a deep value placed on vulnerability and acceptance throughout Oklahoma’s poetry community. The people who come to share and listen to poetry are really there to connect, to find people who feel out of place like they do.

And this is why Morgan found so much space to breathe here. She is an outsider. She doesn’t fit the conservative Christian mold. She has purple hair. In Oklahoma’s poetry community, Morgan found a place where the ways in which she felt insecure and hurt and alienated became the sources of art and beauty.

Late last year, in between studying for a career in chemical engineering, Morgan won the chance to represent Oklahoma at the Women of the World Poetry Slam. The poems she wrote and performed about all the hardest parts of her life have lifted her up as a sort of hero.

And this is why, when she tells me about a childhood that leaves me fumbling for words, she talks with that mix of pride and humility. It’s the same mix you hear from people who have accomplished something great, like building a company or getting a novel published. It felt strange to hear that tone when she told me stories of alcohol and abuse.

But, Morgan tells me near the end of our conversation, she doesn’t wish for a different childhood. That one was hers. And not only did she survive it, but she is transforming it into art, into beauty, into a way to connect with other people who share similar wounds. With it, she is accomplishing something great.

Buy Morgan’s latest book of poetry and help send her to WOWPS here! http://emberarts.com/store/busting-out/

Dreamer: Kerry Docherty, Mindfulness Mentor

Dreamer Kerry Docherty, Mindfulness Mentor

Think about an orange-robed monk meditating quietly in a temple in the green hills of Thailand. Now, imagine the exact opposite person. You might think of someone in a dark suit barking into a cell phone and hustling through a big, crowded city. Someone like a lawyer in New York. These two would seem to live in different worlds, but Kerry Docherty is building a bridge between them.

The year before she started Pepperdine Law School she spent three months in Thailand, ending with a week in a Buddhist monastery. “I had nothing to do all day but sit with my thoughts and meditate,” she told me by email. “What a struggle!” But this introduction to the usually unnoticed workings of her own mind stuck with her, and during law school she started training at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

The practice of mindfulness helped Kerry handle the stress and competitiveness of law school, and she continued the practice when she moved to New York to clerk for a judge in Brooklyn. The judge’s daughter was applying for college at the time and Kerry taught her the basics of mindfulness to help handle the stress, which proved very helpful. “Most of our lives,” Kerry said, “we are told to ‘calm down,’ ‘pay attention’ and ‘chill out,’ but we never learn how to do these things.” Kerry wondered if there was a market for this kind of training, and a way to unite her two worlds into one pursuit. She started exploring mindfulness training as a business.

“Walking away from a financially stable and comfortable career was scary, exhausting, energizing, and empowering,” she said. “My biggest obstacle has always been myself, particularly self-doubt and people pleasing. But at some point I just accepted that I can still have self-doubt and move forward.” She said that the day she decided to put aside her law career and fully commit to her new pursuit was the day doors started to open. Now she works full time on her business, The Mindful Mentors, teaching the practice of mindfulness to everyone from busy professionals to a class of fifth graders.

When practicing mindfulness, says Kerry, “we’re learning about ourselves and about the fleetingness of emotions; we’re learning that there is beauty in the mundane moments of the day; and we’re learning that there is a place inside of us that is always okay, even when the world isn’t.” Kerry is injecting the world of the monk into the chaos of modern American life, uniting the two worlds she lives in. And, fittingly, one of her key client groups is New York City lawyers.

Connect with Kerry using the form below. Send her a question on mindfulness, an encouraging word, or order one of her guided meditation CDs—one for adults and one for mindful youngsters.
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Dreamer: Megan Krempels, A Creative Director’s Global Sabbatical

Connect with Megan and read more about her adventures on her blog.Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerIt’s a long way from South Korea to small-town colonial Pennsylvania, a trip Megan Krempels made at the tender age of two, when she was adopted from her native Korea by an American couple. Last month, after 28 years, she took the scenic route back. Megan put her successful career as a creative director on hold and sold most of what she owned for a four-month, around-the-world exploration of new cultures, her own identity, and the tensions between successful American life and the deeper values she has cultivated in herself.

Megan grew up in a small town near Pennsylvania Amish country—”the only Asian in a sea of white people,” she told me by email. Then for college she moved to Los Angeles, where she felt like a “small-town girl in a sea of city kids” and an “Asian who looks Asian but doesn’t act Asian.”

“You just feel out of place, everywhere,” Megan said.

She stayed in Los Angeles after school and built a career in design, eventually helping launch Little Black Bag, a fashion e-commerce site, as the company’s Creative Director. From there she got offers from a number of top companies and had startup ideas of her own. But something didn’t feel right this time.

“Here I was at the top of my career, being requested at incredible jobs most people would kill for and I felt completely jaded and empty,” Megan recalled. “Why do I keep hustling for this? To buy more? To move to a better place? I started getting healthy as a human but as a corporate cog I felt burnt out.”

She decided to leave Los Angeles, and started kindling an old dream of traveling the world, a dream she had postponed due to financial worries. “Fear of not having money kept me in the spin cycle,” she said. But now she thought about it differentlyShe had some savings, a retirement account she could cash out, a tax refund on its way, and plenty of stuff she could sell. She decided to go for it.

Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerShe listed most of her stuff for sale on Craigslist and in a few days was driving across the country with her dog, going back home to spend time with family and old friends, and to plan her adventure.

First she booked a flight to Peru, a country she’d itched to return to ever since a trip there in high school. When she learned she needed proof of a return flight to be allowed in the country, Megan happened upon a strange itinerary: Rio De Janeiro to London to Seoul, back to London and finally back to Philadelphia. And it was cheaper than direct flights home from Rio. She booked it, realizing as she did that it would be her first time to Korea since her adoption in 1984. This trip would truly take her full circle.

Megan’s goal in traveling, as close as I can get it, is simple enough to write. We all know the stuffiness that creeps into our lives, the accumulation of questionable habits, unquestioned assumptions, postponed and missed opportunities. These things hang around because they fit into our current lifestyle and relationships. Even seeing them clearly is tough. Changing them is near-miraculous.

Traveling internationally, not touristing but really traveling and experiencing cultures that are different from our own, is a wide open door that we walk through, out of our own stuffiness. From such a distance—the actual geographical distance giving rise to an emotional one—we can see our little worlds as the strange and arbitrary places they are and we can choose to live differently.

Part of the stuffiness Megan was trying to air out in her travels is the uniquely Western—and perhaps even more uniquely American—elevation of economic achievement as the primary value of a person. “Accomplishments, accolades, job titles, earning money and stuff: my personal self-worth was, um, 100% this for the majority of life,” she wrote on her website. And by unraveling this flag of identity and exploring other value systems, she seeks to get closer to her own core values, and ultimate value, as a human being. “The fullest versions of myself. Who is that?” Megan asks. “I honestly dunno. I’m learning it little by little but honoring each second.”

Finally, after four months in South America and a quick stop in London, she touched down in Seoul, South Korea and walked out into the country of her birth for the first time. “Physically, at first glance, yes I fit in,” she told me. “The clothes magically fit, the shoes slide on my short, wide feet perfectly, and they know how to cut my hair.” But when she asked locals if they could spot her as a foreigner, “there was a resounding response of, Yes, duh, absolutely.”

Megan Krempels, Ember DreamerMegan’s American upbringing and fast-lane career success set her apart from the average young Korean woman. “The country still values traditional gender roles in their most stereotypical sense,” she said. “Girls have found this interesting space of emulating the little girly-girl where they primp in public in front of huge floral-motif mirrors and take selfies in coffee shops. Meanwhile they run the show at home with their husbands and sons.” Megan was not as fashion-conscious as her Korean counterparts, and not as conservative, and acted a little more confident.

At first she was turned off by the formality of Korean culture. “Korea is a land of discipline and conformity,” she wrote, recalling a trip to a Korean salsa club. “You could only dance with a partner or you were forced into a corner to practice the steps in a group in front of a mirror. You weren’t allowed to just dance freely.” But soon she started noticing positive things: people’s considerateness of others in public spaces, thoughtful design incorporated into everyday life. And when she got out of Seoul a whole new appreciation blossomed. “Once I got out of the hustle of the city, people invited me into their lives and homes like family. I’ve never felt that way before. That feeling of being fully accepted and part of a culture immediately without trying.”

Now back home in Pennsylvania and planning her next venture, Megan says the trip helped her to appreciate her unique identity as a small-town-Korean-American-woman-startup-leader. “It’s become kinda fun to surprise people and remind them not to judge a book by its cover,” she told me, “to show them that someone young can have wisdom, a playful person can have depth, an artist can have a science brain, and being Asian isn’t easily defined.”

Through her travels Megan realized that she’s not alone in her mixed identity. “I’m not part of one single entity. But I don’t actually think any of us are now, so I feel a little less alone in that.” Our increasingly connected world gives us the opportunity to identify ourselves not only by our origin, but also by our destination, and perhaps most importantly by the journey we take to get there.

Connect with Megan and read more about her adventures on her blog.Megan Krempels, Ember Dreamer

 

Dreamer: Musician Karina Frost

By day Karina Frost manages our shipping department. By night she rocks San Diego’s soul.Karina Frost, Musician and Ember Dreamer

“My brother and I shoved toilet paper in our ears many nights to drown out the song my mom and dad just had to listen and dance to at full volume,” musician Karina Frost told me by email, a smile in her writing. “My parents’ love language is definitely music and dance.” It’s easy to imagine how contagious such a love would be to a child watching her parents enjoy themselves, their lives, each other.

As a young child Karina’s own particular love was books, or one book in particular: a children’s chapter book called Old Granny Fox. Raised in a Mexican household in Chula Vista, California, she spoke and read only Spanish. But so entranced was she by “aged, yellowed pages and the glorious musty smell” that she held the book close and imagined 100 different adventures for the old fox. Years later she joined an English speaking elementary school and found in books both a refuge from and a tool to tackle the challenge of learning a new language and a new culture. Books became, she told me, “as much a part of me as my blood and muscle.”

Both of Karina’s parents are from Ensenada, a small coastal city on Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, about an hour’s drive from San Diego. Her parents drove her and her brother to Ensenada nearly every weekend, where they were surrounded by family.

One of the great privileges of being family to a younger generation is introducing them to the small wonders of the world, and sometimes watching them fall in love with one of them. Visiting her grandfather in Ensenada when she was only 12, Karina asked him to teach her how to play a song on his classical guitar. He taught her to play La Bamba. She took that guitar home for a week and wrote her first song.

fox n janeThe lyrics, she said, were embarrassing. But the collision of her love of music and her love of words was transformative. The next Christmas, Santa brought her a guitar of her own, and in writing and performing songs she found an opening through which her deepest thoughts and feelings could flow, and a place to connect on that level with others. “I have to admit,” Karina said, “the true reason I perform my music and not just write songs while alone in my little room is that I feel the most connected with mankind while exposing myself in the intimate way a performer does.”

It seems to me that her ability to dig down into herself, into the places where we all feel alike but alone, and to bring back something to share is foundational to Karina’s life. This, after all, is what she must love in the books she so treasures. This is what was unleashed in her when she wrote that first song. And this innate understanding of the value of her own thoughts and feelings and stories is probably why, though she still owns the book, she has never read the actual pages of Old Granny Fox. She doesn’t need to. All the fox’s stories are within her.

Follow Karina’s music on Facebook!

Dreamers: Shiloh and Jovanna, Ember Models and Much More

Shiloh and Jovanna, Ember Arts DreamersOur new online store features two beautiful women modeling our jewelry. Choosing models is tough. The standard way is to hire the most impossibly skinny blond you can find, dress her in something expensive and trendy, and put some jewelry on her. But that’s just not us.

The whole idea of models troubles me—that there is a standard of beauty women should aspire to, and that we have to abide by that standard in presenting our products. Especially when the standard is set by women whose dress size is literally zero. And more especially when these women are usually photographed in fabricated fantasy worlds, passively enjoying their impossible lives. These images, which saturate our lives, paint aspirational pictures for women that are as unhealthy as they are unattainable.

Here at Ember Arts we think the dreams women hold in their hearts and enact with their minds and hands are far more important than their dress sizes. We think that beauty is found at the intersection of a healthy body, an active mind, and a positive, confident sense of self. Models in this sense are far more than just pretty girls. They are women we can admire.

Our search for models turned up two remarkable and beautiful women: Shiloh and Jovanna. Both are friends of the Ember family, and each brought her own story and style to the shoot.

Jovanna Williams

Jovanna wearing the Ember Arts Gravity necklaceWhile we were shooting, Jovanna told me that she dreams of hiking the Appalachian trail. She has a strong sense of adventure and wants, in fact, to travel the world, starting with America.

For now she is busy working and studying early childhood development, her professional passion. “Those early years are such an important time,” she told me later by email. Jovanna loves working with children, and currently interns at a progressive elementary school in San Diego.

I asked her one of my favorite questions: If the world could be different in one way because you lived, what would it be? She said she hopes to inspire people to be more kind. “I feel sometimes that the world can be unnecessarily harsh,” said Jovanna, “and if everyone was just a little kinder to others, to animals, to our environment, or even to themselves because of me, well then, wow, that would be amazing.”

As a student, Jovanna is focused on the future—not only her own, but the future of education and all the children it touches. Thinking about Jovanna’s future, it’s wonderfully hopeful to imagine all the little girls and boys that she will inspire with her sense of adventure, and imbue with her value of kindness.

Shiloh Schneider

Shiloh wearing the Ember Arts Jinja banglesShiloh has a tattoo on her arm that means ‘gypsy’ in Romanian. To understand what this means to her you need to know two things: first, gypsies are despised in Romania, and in the greater part of Europe; and second, Shiloh spent a good amount of time living with gypsies in Romania.

“My tattoo is a reminder of the family I made in Romania,” she told me by email, “and the sacrifice and love they had for me right from the start.” She said that American friends of hers who are ethnically Romanian have questioned her about the tattoo. Doesn’t she know that ‘gypsy’ has a terrible connotation? they ask. “I am able to talk about what my gypsy family was like and how they lived to serve and my experience in getting to know the deeper part of a people group on a personal level.”

The story of her tattoo illustrates two of Shiloh’s guiding passions. One is for travel. “I dream of living in Paris with two dalmatians, a bike, and a good typewriter.” said Shiloh. “I also dream of doing research on a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean like Jacques Cousteau, and yes I would have to don the red beanie and turtleneck look.”

The other is her desire to peer behind the veils of culture and stereotype, and to engage people as unique individuals, each as human as every other. Asked what sort of difference she’d like to make in the world, Shiloh replied, “That everyone knows their importance and the effect they can have on others and how special and truly unique everyone has been made!”

Giveaway

We’re celebrating Shiloh and Jovanna by giving away one of our favorite pieces: An aqua Gravity Necklace, like the one Jovanna is wearing above. To enter the giveaway, just comment on this post!

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Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life Magazine

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineOn a clattering bus dodging potholes in the Kenyan countryside, Fay Johnson realized that she hadn’t had enough time for dancing lately. It was 2012 and Fay had just finished a consulting project for Nuru International—an organization that aims to end extreme poverty—helping them increase the use of latrines in rural Kenya. She worked eye-to-eye with Kenyan community health workers. She watched them assimilate new skills and improve their communities. It was change she could literally touch.

Making this sort of change has many rewards, but Fay found that time for the simple things that bring her joy—dancing, painting, storytelling, photography—is not often among them.

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineA South African raised mostly in California, Fay’s parents made a point of introducing her to the wider world. “It was not uncommon,” she told me by email, “to spend Thanksgiving dinner with guests including Communist People’s Party officials, Indian professors, French scholars, Nigerian princesses and the children of political refugees.” She visited 26 countries before graduating high school. This global foundation, said Fay, “solidified my deep, personal commitment to the betterment of all human life, regardless of national identity.”

After college she moved to Washington, DC and worked with Human Rights Watch, the US Congress, and Oxfam America, all before getting a Master’s degree focused on behavior change communication. She founded a consultancy called Red Balloon Ideas to put all her education and experience into practice. Which brought her to this bus ride, traversing the vast Kenyan countryside, thinking about dancing.

There are things we believe in, things we know to be good and worthy of our time, like improving health conditions in Kenya. And then there are things we love. For some its music, for others teaching; for some it might even be organizing files. We can’t say why we love these things, or make a good argument as to how they are better than other pursuits. We just know that they open springs of joy within us. Before her bus dropped her in Nairobi, Fay decided to move the things she loved closer to the center of her life.

Ember Dreamer: Fay Johnson, Founder of Deliberate Life MagazineThrough a good amount of research she decided to create a digital magazine to engage the world in the kinds of stories and ideas that molded her. She named it Deliberate Life. The goal, in the pattern of her upbringing, is to create a global community of people building a better tomorrow, with Deliberate Life as a venue to read about and share their common challenges, solutions, and stories. “I have set out to create something that I wish existed,” said Fay, “a manual, as it were, for what I should be doing if I want to make a difference.”

But nothing ambitious comes easy. Founding the magazine solo she has to constantly keep herself motivated and learn new skills like becoming a registered Apple iOS developer. And then there’s the emotional risk. “Whenever you put your heart into something, and it is out there with your name on it, it’s nerve wracking,” said Fay. So far the iPad-only magazine has been downloaded in 52 different countries. A community is growing. It’s small still, but with issue number three launching today for the iPad, you can bet that somewhere near San Francisco, Fay is dancing.

Support Fay: download the Deliberate Life iPad app and like Deliberate Life on Facebook.

Dreamer: Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica with Gladies in Acholi Quarters, UgandaThe first seeds of Ember Arts were planted back in 2007, when my sister Jessica Connolly was pregnant with her first child. The birth of her daughter, my niece, transformed our family. It was my parents’ first grandchild. Jessica stepped away from marine biology to focus on motherhood. And both she and my mom started selling Ugandan jewelry, little by little, at farmer’s markets and craft shows.

Of course it was most transforming for Jessica herself. Not only was she suddenly a mother, a world entire for this new little person, but the process of being pregnant and giving birth gave her a burning new interest.

“I dove in and learned all I could about the maternity system and the choices women have,” Jessica told me. The birth of her daughter was attended by a midwife, a woman trained to understand giving birth not just as a medical event, but as a normal and healthy part of a woman’s life. That experience, Jessica said, “was the beginning of a passion that has turned into a calling to educate, empower and attend women during this transformative life event.”

Jessica Connolly, Co-Founder of Ember Arts

Jessica set her sights on becoming a midwife. She sees it as not just a personal calling, but a global one. “Training skilled midwives to attend women in places of conflict and poverty, where women don’t have a voice or access to care, is one of the most powerful social development tools we have today,” said Jessica.

Now with two daughters and another on the way, freeing up the time and resources for the necessary schooling is a challenge. Jessica started by becoming a doula here in San Diego, and offers physical, emotional, and informational support to women throughout their pregnancies and births. “The challenge is balancing a calling with the current season of life,” she told me. “My priority now is to invest the better part of my time in my kids while they are young and maintain my role at Ember while stewarding my dream.”

It’s strange to think that my nieces never knew a time before Ember Arts. And that so many of the dreams of my family trace their way back to that same year that Jessica’s oldest was born. It probably doesn’t surprise Jessica, though. “Birth is one of the few raw, wild moments in life,” she told me, “when, in a day, we are transformed and empowered and changed.”