Hello and Welcome. I'm so glad you're here. The past couple of weeks I have been following an idea, chasing it really, and the idea was that our little corner of south central Kansas is full of truly amazing people. I featured nineteen of those people in thirteen posts on social media while many of you followed along. It was a journey not just in meeting new people and telling their stories but also in learning things about myself. I am so grateful for the experience and for everyone who participated.
One piece of the original idea was to collect things that the participants Do and Make to share with the viewers in an awesome giveaway at the end of the series. I thought it would be the perfect way to really connect you with the stories you've been following. Our world is in desperate need for us to build deep and lasting connections with one another, and I feel so privileged to help facilitate that in this small way.
So without further ado, the giveaway! Here's what it includes:
Two private yoga lessons with Jade
A juggling lesson with Leroy
A pint of Little Lion Ice Cream
A macrame plant hanger from Eliza Moonbeam
A gorgeous hand painted piece from Libby
The most incredible abstract art piece from Zoe
Half the Sky and The Things They Carried, Sana and Amena's favorite books
A shirt and a honey bear from Ky (once he harvests again)
An incredible painted wood piece from Jocelyn
Adorable earrings from Nina
A $25 giftcard to Noffy's
A custom chalk piece from Janice
Seriously, I feel jealous of whoever wins all of this! So here's the deal, you have two ways to enter! Share the post on Facebook and comment there, or comment on the Instagram post about what your favorite part of the series was. It's that easy. At the end, (4/18/17 at 7pm) I will put all of the entries into a random generator and select a winner. Entries from both platforms will be entered together. Winner should be announced by 4/19/17 at 12pm (or before!). May the force be with you.
In case you missed the original posts of the series, I've compiled them below. Enjoy!
The Doers and Makers Series by Blue Muse Photography
I remember when I was about to move out here from Florida and a friend's mom asked my mother in law, "So, do you have like, restaurants and stuff other there?" To the rest of the country, we are the wild wild west out here you guys.
Not only do we have food, we have art and culture and some of the truly raddest people on the planet. I'm excited to get to be someone who documents this fact. I've decided to do a series for the next week or two about some of the amazing people I know.
Azarah is the genius behind Eliza Moonbeam Vintage in downtown Hutch. And I mean genius. She doesn't just find the most amazing vintage everything to offer our small town, she takes the most breath taking photos for listing her items online. You know when you're in high school and you see someone who looks THIS COOL and you think there's no way they're going to talk to you because they're SO COOL and then you grow up and you have to tell yourself to not think that way anymore and you just play it cool and then it turns out they're like the most incredibly down to earth and kind person EVER? No? Just me? Well, that's Azarah. She's just comfortable and present and still deep down cool.
I've decided to call this series "Doers and Makers". For at least the next week I'll be covering the people of south central Kansas and all of the incredible things that they do and make. We are going to be using wonder to look at the world around us and appreciate what an amazing group of people we found ourselves among. At the end of the series, I'll be doing a giveaway so that you can experience hands on all the goods and services these people provide our community. Make sure to follow along to enter!
Meet Ky. He's ten years old and he's a beekeeper. He's known since he was two that this was what he wanted to do and he got his first hives when he was just eight years old after years of coming inside covered in pollen from "helping" his bees. Ky doesn't just love beekeeping, he loves talking about it too. He might be young, but he's passionate and knowledgable and offers classes for people interested in learning more. I think he's really incredible for living whole heartedly and think you will think so too. Check out his page facebook.com/kyshoneyhives to follow his work and show some love.
I don't know if you know this, but I'm an introvert. A semi outgoing introvert who truly loves to meet people, but an introvert. There are a lot of things that come really easy for me, and sometimes in life it is tempting to just do those things. To stay comfortable, to be lazy, to not push your own boundaries. I didn't really think about how much this series was going to push my boundaries but here we are. Cold calling (or texting) people I barely know or don't know at all... trying to explain my vision for the series and then asking if they want to be a part of that vision. Phew, takes some effort, but it's been absolutely worth it so far. I've only had the most incredible support from everyone I've talked to.
Jade was one of the first people I pitched my idea to. I don't think I was very articulate about it but she was incredible and jumped right in. She also has a smile that lights up the room. I know that sounds cliche, but I promise it's true. At almost 38 weeks pregnant, she radiates grace and calm while she leads her yoga class. Isn't that how we want all our leaders to be? I remembered how much it inspired me when she was mayor of our beautiful little town, just to hear her name, and to know that as a woman maybe someday I could do the same. I know she's going to be the most incredible mother to the little girl she's carrying and that she will continue to inspire our community for years to come.
It's hard for me to talk about Libby. She's an amazing maker and doer, and I knew I wanted to include her in the series, but she's so near to my heart that it is harder to be articulate. Does anyone else ever have that problem? Like your people are just YOUR people, how can you describe them?
I think I met Libby when I was added to a top secret Facebook feminist group that is now basically made up of most of my best friends. She's one of those people that you just know you are allowed to be wholly yourself with. There's no script, no pretending, just being. I grew up in a culture that was pretty scripted, and I sometimes fall back into those habits while at the same time realize I was never very good at it. Horrible really.
I remember when Libby quit her job to focus more fully on her dream, like I said, she's a doer. She's also a blogger, and her blog xoxolib.com feels like an iced latte and a random handful of confetti thrown in the air just because. A while back, Libby decided besides all the new and brave things she was already doing, that she wanted to learn how to paint and be better at hand lettering. So that's what she did. Remember last post when I said there's things that are easy to do and then there's pushing yourself beyond your boundaries? That's what Libby embraces and I love her for it.
I thought I was going to spend a week talking about and documenting other people but the truth is I've also been learning so much about myself and the creative process. There is this sense that I need to somehow remain deeply attached to the work and let it change me, that this is a part of the series somehow, not just what I put out but what I take in also. I remember listening to a Liturgists podcast about creativity and how irreverent and irresponsible it is to try to put work out when we aren't also willing to be taking in inspiration and grow and change ourselves. I understand this more fully now. I want to be a responsible creator.
I spent some time talking with Leroy about what it feels like to be a story teller, and to be standing in front of almost two thousand people and watching them listen to you weave a story. They hold their breath and cry and laugh exactly when you hoped they would and what it feels like to have that sort of response, that power. It's exactly what you hoped for and being able to see that come to life feels exhilarating. But I there is also this terrifying aspect of it that I think all creators and makers feel when what we hope for is now in front of us and we realize we have some control over the world around us. Are we being responsible with our power? Are we doing the best we can with what we know? I think all good creators ask these questions.
I wrote yesterday about growing up in a "scripted" culture. The first time I met Leroy, I felt immediately drawn to a shared experience of this. I moved out here ten years ago and remember people telling me about him and all of the things that he has done that don't quite fit the mold of our traditional Anabaptist communities. I've found something really beautiful about the space made for people "like us". I think most Doers and Makers have had this experience, of feeling other, while I also hope they have felt what it means to be embraced and held in communities who don't quite understand them but love them anyways. There is so much about the Kingdom of Heaven I've learned in this space.
As soon as I pitched the idea of the Doers and Makers series to my friend Libby she told me that I really needed to meet her friend Noffy. She told me that he has a vision and she was so excited about it. When you make a life in rural towns, vision is everything. I had a chance last weekend to sit down with Noffy and to hear about what he sees, about what he hopes for, and about what he gives up on so that he can continue to move forward. Isn't that what so much of being a maker is? Someone once told me that being a really good artist means knowing when to stop, what to erase, what isn't essential.
Noffy has done this and now, in just a few short weeks, stage one of his vision is coming to life. Noffy's Sandwhich Shop & Pub is opening and the vision is community. It's sharing a bench, rubbing shoulders, knowing your neighbors. It's creating space and sharing a drink and staying long under the Edison bulbs in downtown McPherson.
The space still looks raw. There is so much work to be done but so much life that has already been breathed into it. Noffy, Lisa and Addy are giving this there all, they are doing and making and being really incredible people. Oh! And they're including a $25 gift card to the pub in the giveaway at the end of the series!
I was born and raised in a city on the gulf coast of Florida that was made famous by the fact that most of the Ringling brothers wintered there (you know, the circus people). It was shaped by their influence and by its proximity to the sun and warm gulf waters. John Ringling fell in love with art while traveling in Europe and built a beautiful museum full of incredible pieces in my home town in hopes of making Sarasota a center of art and culture. This is where my understanding of the world was developed. There is artwork and incredible design everywhere.
And then I fell in love with Kansas. The prairie absolutely stole my heart. The vastness of it, meeting the endless blue of the Kansas sky, reminds me of the gulf of Mexico. And you know what else I fell in love with? The art. For all the dismissiveness that people have about Kansas, for all of the fly over state comments and questions about what culture we could possibly have out here, there is a thriving community of beautiful people who bring so much life and color to our world. In Hutchinson the community is small, but it is rich. I have learned to recognize each artist's style and appreciate the diversity they contribute.
Jocelyn's work haunts me, in a powerful and very good way. The images she creates, the pieces she dreams up, leave me with a sense of longing and a sense of place. I think that she has been shaped by Kansas, the sky, the prairie, and our small town and the children she watched movies from the theatre balcony with as a child in the same way that my hometown shaped me. I am so very excited by the Bricktown Mural project that she is dreaming up for the neighborhood that grew her. I can't imagine a greater tribute to her work or to the city that she calls home. We are so very glad to have her and looking forward to helping with the mural. If you'd like to donate to help cover the costs of materials needed to complete this huge piece of public art, please get in touch!
Every three months or so I make a post on my personal page about my routine mental health care because I'm passionate about normalizing it. I'm a photographer, but I'm also a social worker and a human who thinks everyone deserves the care they need to lead healthy and fulfilling lives without stigma. We do everyone a great disservice when we treat our mental health as something totally separate in our lives and do our best to hide the fact that we all deal with ups and downs related to it.
Christina is someone who is also passionate about smashing stigma and getting people connecting with the help they need. Her reasons are deeply personal. She lost her brother Josh to suicide in 2015 and fights every day to make sure she is making sure she is the healthiest person she can be to honor his fight, because of her beautiful little family and because she deserves it. She started a business making amazing jewelry called Turn On Your Twinkle By Nina and 10% of every sale goes to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. I can't think of a cooler maker to honor today, so please check out her page and let's make her sell out! Oh and be sure to enter the give away at the end of the Doers and Makers series for a chance to win a set of earrings from Turn On Your Twinkle!
Hope and help are out there. You don't have to struggle alone. If you or someone you love is feeling struggling, know that you can text “HOME” to 741741 to talk with a crisis counselor. I'd also love to connect you with local resources if you're in the Hutchinson area.
I'm an idea person. The really cool thing about being a big picture person is that it demands community. There's literally no way to do the stuff I dream up without really amazing people at my side. People who aren't afraid to do the work.
Janice is one of those people. Just a few days ago, we only really knew of each other. I was talking with another friend about an idea I had for the series and told her I wish I knew someone who was into chalk art. Long story short, I contacted Janice and she immediately was like I'm in. Zero hesitation. And not just willing to do it, but excited about it. I can't wait to show you the piece she did for later in the series.
We need all types of people. We belong to each other. And we need each other. Isn't that the most beautiful thing?
I have a sister with cerebral palsy. That diagnosis can mean a hundred different things when it comes to things like physical and mental capabilities. But anyone who loves a person with a diagnosis of any kind likely will tell you how much they hate the words that goes along with that. Things like "high functioning" and "profound disabilities", these are clinical terms that don't describe the people we know and love. We are all SO MUCH more than what we are physically able to do. We are SO MUCH more than what we score on an aptitude test. You're going to find out more about this later in the series.
Meet Zoe. Zoe is a painter, a doctor, a ballerina on roller skates, a fish mom, a whale lover, and a tea party event planner depending on the moment of the day. She is so much more than a Down Syndrome diagnosis, so much more than the expectations others have for her. She is Monet, Kandinksy, and Picasso all rolled into one, bringing color and light into her world. Zoe was so excited to be a part of the series, and so excited to donate a custom piece to the giveaway at the end. Seriously you guys, you are NOT going to want to miss this piece! And make sure to check out her page, www.facebook.com/DownWithItArtStudioCreations/
It has been the most incredible but deeply exhausting weekend. We spent the day in Wichita, met some new friends, and caught up with some old ones. I love how even though we grow and change and learn and believe new things, there are still parts of us that stay exactly the same. And those parts of us connect with the people we've kind of always known.
That's the story with Ian and my husband Jason. They're cousins somehow and they grew up together. I use the words "grow up" pretty loosely because as teenagers, these guys got into a whole lot of ornery trouble. The stories have kind of taken on a life of their own at this point and I'm not sure if anyone knows what really happened anymore. Thankfully, they both grew out of it and became the kind of men you write home about. Whatever that means. Seriously though, Ian is quiet and thoughtful but still has that ornery laugh that brightens up the room.
I'm trying to remember the first time I met Jubilee and I can't. At some point this last third of my life that I've known her in has become what I remember. It's been the richest most important part so that works for me. I feel like knowing Jubilee changes a person. It's subtle, like when you try to look directly at a star and suddenly you can't quite see it. Just knowing someone so bright, so open and fully present, it helps nudge you in the direction of showing up to your own life. Here we are.
Ian and Jubilee, besides making adorable babies, also decided they love making ice cream and thus was born, Little Lion Ice Cream. I mean, talk about showing up to your life... They are chasing their dream every day and the coolest things are happening because of it. They keep expanding, from one cart to two, and there are even more dreams to come! When you talk to them about dreams and ice cream, their eyes light up. They want to make ice cream for people, ice cream that you get excited about the way they do. I can't think of a better maker than that. You seriously need to follow them so you know where they will be located next: http://www.littlelionicecream.com
I can't say that I knew a lot of Muslims growing up. In fact, I'm not sure that I knew any. Realistically, I met lots of them and just never knew it. Doctors, waiters, in retail. There was a kid in high school who observed Ramadan during basketball season and I remember thinking how hardcore that was. Really though, it wasn't until my first year of college, when an organization asked me to do a semester long project gathering information about the Somali community of Columbus that I really got to know some Muslims. In the end, I learned so much more than I set out to. It started as a project, and it turned into seeing beautiful humanity.
I probably started with a sense of "other", them and me. They were quick to call me sister and friend and this helped shape the person I am today. Fast forward to now, and the beautiful community of Muslims I have gotten to know right here in Kansas. We've been heading to Wichita to the Islamic Society of Wichita and Annoor Islamic School for a couple of years now whenever they have community events. The relationships I've made there have continued to shape me.
This is where I met Sana and Amena. I knew as soon as Sana walked into the room the first time I met her that she was someone I wanted to know. She's one of those people that holds the space that she occupies firmly while also creating space for the people around her. I knew she was a social worker before she told me. Social workers are all cut from the same cloth. Muslim, Mennonite, atheist, there's a piece of us that is all broken in the same way. We cannot help but help, I think we'd die if we couldn't. Sana isn't just a social worker and counselor at the Annoor Islamic School, she's a professor too and the Muslim Student Association advisor at Wichita State University. Oh and a wife and mother with a doctorate degree (NBD).
Amena was following this series and got in touch with me because she wanted me to feature Sana. Amena says that every Muslim girl she knows looks up to Sana. We talked a lot about what it is like to come from a traditional culture, and seriously, there are so many similarities between growing up Mennonite and growing up Muslim. Like how do you learn new things and grow and change while still embracing and retaining the culture you came from? Amena is currently studying psychology (but we are working on convincing her to come over to social work) and has the exact same passion that is in my own heart for remaining present for the people you come from.
These women are doers. They are dreamers, they are learners and they are sisters. I love how Amena wanted to tell me to feature Sana in the series but Sana immediately said, "Only if you come with me." And that, my friends, is how it is done. We bring each other along. We make space, we hold space at the table. I talked with Sana briefly about how I wanted to feature diversity in the series because I know how much representation matters. It matters for us to see people like us, and to see people who are different than us. But I never want to tokenize anyone. I'm not featuring these two because they're the only Muslims I know (they're not). I'm featuring them because they are both incredible women, showing up to their lives each day with courage and grace, and encouraging the rest of us to do the same.
When I decided to call this the Doers and Makers series, I had an immediate red flag go off in my mind. Ableism is any discrimination in favor of able bodied people. It is something we are all constantly guilty of despite often never knowing it and it is something I want to be proactive rooting out in my own life. So I didn't want to perpetuate this. The truth is, and if you only take one thing away from this series let it be this, those of us who love people who are not able bodied know that they are the most capable among us to bring light and joy into the world. They change us in profound ways.
In my undergraduate studies I had the chance to document this phenomenon. I did a study on the impact of having a sibling with a disability. The research proved that there was a measurable impact in many areas like empathy and altruism. It changes us to know these people. I know this to be absolutely true because I have a sister with disabilities who is the most capable person I know.
And so, I knew I wanted to feature Kaitlynn and Kayden in this series because I know them to be the most incredible Doers and Makers. They are full of personality despite being non-verbal. They impact the world around them in truly profound ways, despite being unable to walk. When they smile, when they're ornery (Kayden) and sassy (Katie), they make the world rich in ways that we do not deserve. They teach us greater understand and empathy if we are willing to learn from them.