We all know it’s good to be a giver…it’s ingrained in us from the moment our feet met the earth. All too often though, more often than we’d like to admit, our giving is out of guilt, done only with credit card swipes, seemingly abstract and sterile. Our giving has become dollars and cents: our real “eye on the prize” is the tax write off we receive in return, not the full heart and peace of mind, knowing we made the world slightly better for someone. Think back, when was the last time you felt so compelled to help, so drawn to volunteer, so moved that you couldn’t help but try to make a difference?
For us, it was WEN.
For 25 years, the Women’s Employment Network in Kansas City has been helping women get their careers back and thus regain their self worth, while gaining independence and falling back in love with who they are. From burned-out business owners looking for change, to battered and abused single mothers who have nothing more than a G.E.D., every woman that passes through WEN’s doors has a moving and almost eerily relatable story. One recent graduate’s story sent chills down the collective spines of the packed banquet hall filled with CEO’s, socialites, and public servants at WEN’s annual luncheon this spring.
The well dressed and completely confident woman, took her place behind the podium in front of over 1,000 attendees and began her story…
She was a single mother dependent on her very loving and long-term boyfriend. One day, however, her love, her life, and her will were shattered: her once doting partner shot her repeatedly during a domestic dispute. She was left with no home, no way to support herself or her daughter, enormous medical bills, and more than a year of very dark recovery. A friend directed her to the Women’s Employment Network and after much soul searching, she began the journey to a happier her.
Through WEN’s program, she relearned life skills: how to take back control of her finances, how to rework her resume so she could secure interviews, and how to properly interview to land a full time job. She worked closely with the WEN social worker who helped her with housing, and issues with her daughter. WEN even helped her dress the part, giving her not only tips for proper career wear, but actually providing her with suits for her interviews. At the end of the 5 week program, she indeed found a job that would help her get back on her feet. More importantly, she learned loving herself might be hard at times, but when you love yourself you can take over the world.
This is just one story, but it could really be anyone’s story. The work that WEN does builds women like you and me, and that is what compels us to give back. We see ourselves in every woman that embarks on her journey with WEN, and no matter if the gift is monetary, time spent working with women on interview skills, teaching women how to wear their hair, or helping them get back on track with a financial budget, each act of giving directly impacts a woman, and really does make their life that much more worthwhile.
Learn more about how to help Kansas City women get back on track at kcwen.org
I would consider myself a modern day bag lady of sorts. No, I’m not hoarding 30 year old newspapers or broken oscillating fans, nor do I keep an obscene amount of cats as my entourage. What I do mean is I’m a purveyor of purses and I take a great deal of care when choosing my next carryall. I’m not a fan of frequently changing from one handbag to another: I like my bag to be timeless AND trendless. I need to be able to carry it while I’m scoping out the flea markets or when I’m having dinner at a Michelin Star restaurant with my husband.
Key qualities I expect from my handbag? Craftsmanship and quality, of course!
Craftsmanship: Keep an eye on SPI. High “stitch-per-inch” count is a huge indicator of quality and can tell you if your handbag will hold up well to wear. A 7 or greater SPI usually indicates a stellar bag. Check to see if there are any imperfections due to production, like messy glue at the seams and stress points, patterns not lining up appropriately, and broken or frayed threads.
Quality: Give the actual materials a careful inspection. Check the leather, lining and hardware. Fake leather is tricky to spot but the telltale sign is smell – so give that bag a good sniff! Look inside the handbag, not just for pocket room, but also to see what material the lining is made of and how it’s constructed. Does it pull away from the bag or is it glued to the body? Are there apparent needle holes where the seams were stitched? Lastly, is the material durable? Hardware should be solid! It doesn’t have to be heavy or clunky, but it does have to be substantial, and if the “gold” or other finish seems to be sloughing off, calmly drop the bag, then turn and RUN!
Finally, if the bag doesn’t feel right when you put it on your shoulder, if you don’t feel an instant soul-mate connection, keep it moving, sister! Handbags are like your hairstyle, it’s the one thing you wear everyday. The whole world sees it, so it needs to be a reflection of you and your style. Not too crazy, possibly a little posh if that’s your taste, or maybe no fuss, no muss. Whatever it is, wear it and wear it well. And when you find a handbag that you fall head over heels for…hold on tight!
It’s no secret that linen is the one of the most expensive textiles in the world. It’s also the oldest: once reserved for only the top tier of royalty and most bougie of bougie. Its ability to absorb and wick moister faster than most any other fabric makes it a natural for hot, humid tropical climates. Which is probably why when I think linen, my mind automatically goes to beaches, bronze bodies, deck shoes, and the faint sound of calypso music drifting in the salty breeze. I think relaxed, kicked back, and sandy toes – but never do my thoughts drift to how difficult this easy breezy fabric is to produce. Needless to say, it’s no holiday!
Linen is made from the fibers that are found in the stem of the flax plant. More often than not, it takes countless plants to make a modest amount of fabric.
The stem must be separated from all other parts of the plant in order to be made into what we know as linen. Of course, now in 2015, we have modern day technology to help with the separation process, but traditionally this was done by hand. After the stems are separated from the other bits of the plant, the fibers have to be separated from the stem. Although these fibers are very strong, this process can’t be done in haste: any broken or smashed fibers are unusable. Because of this, a chemically-produced bacteria is used to eat away at the stalks and separate the fibers. After this separation comes, you guessed it, more separation! The fibers are combed to more definitively separate the soft and usable fibers from the stiff and hard unusable fibers. Finally the fibers are ready to be spun into yarn and then woven into their final textile state.
Phew! So after that very abbreviated explanation of how linen comes to be, can you really say that you don’t have a love and new found appreciation for one of the first fabrics known to man?
Despite common perceptions about the Midwest, we have culture, education and much more than farms in the center of our country. In an effort to prove the fact that we Midwesterners have long moved past Mom jeans and Christmas sweaters, we remind our coastal friends that middle America is home to several major fashion brands. There is more than enough to explore and we couldn’t think of a better location for one of our stores than Kansas City. It’s a town full of rich history and extremely diverse culture. The opportunity to experience everything from unique shopping to historical areas, to fine dining and incredible libations, awaits to intrigue you in this not-so-little city. If you happen to have a chance to poke your head in and visit us, might we suggest some of our very favorite places that we locals love.
Antiques: The West Bottoms is a marketplace that houses a mind-blowing amount of antique and re-purposed retail stores. The cluster of tall brick and mortar buildings and warehouses which make up the market date back to the 19th century, and was an integral part of the river trade. What makes this area so unique is that many of the merchants are only open on the first weekend of every month. The streets are lined with food trucks, and street performers, and beautiful period music fills the air. Lover of antiques or not, it’s a pretty beautiful experience in history.
The Perks: Kansas City is a coffee town! The streets are dotted with brew shops that offer flavors to fit every taste. Our favorite happens to be a little bit artisan with a slight unintimidating hipster twist. Thou Mayest Roasters was founded by two coffee lovers, of course. This java hub is cozily nestled in a charming 110 year-old building with a massive bar on the first floor (they also do craft cocktails) and plenty of seating on the second floor. Beans are roasted on site, and you can watch your coffee brewed and filtered by hand, no fancy machinery here! Thou Mayest cares about your coffee, offering a TRUE coffee experience that is really hard to find.
Serious and Savory: Food doesn’t get much better than it does in the Midwest. And although Kansas City finds itself with more than its fair share of James Beard-nominated and award winning chefs, one holds our hearts and tastebuds. At the helm of the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange is Howard Hanna. This man isn’t just a chef, or an artist, he’s pretty much a food God. Biting into anything that Hanna has seen fit to put on a plate is like bliss passing through your lips. The building, again, has an amazingly impressive past, which is not forgotten in the décor. If dinner wasn’t enough, they also boast a secret basement speakeasy, named Manifesto. But I warn you, the list is long and the space is small, so if you’re feeling slightly 1920’s, make a reservation!
Block Party: A stroll down a Parisian sidestreet isn’t really an 8-hour flight away. The historic Crestwood Shops is a highly curated line of local merchants and restaurants offering unique clothing, cuisine, wine, antiques, home décor, and even flowers. Posh and artisan, our neighboring merchants at Crestwood offer an experience that is untouched by anything else in Kansas City. From the hard-to-find wines of Underdog Wine Co. to the exquisite fine English antique furniture found at Charlecote, you’ll be shopping like the locals when you meander down 55th street.
Of course it goes without saying that one of our favorite places to spend time soaking in some culture is the Nelson-Atkins Museum. Along with our most coveted hidden gems of Kansas City, there are many more amazing events, shops, eats, and experiences that set our city apart. So next time you find yourself deep in the heart of the Midwest, venture out and take it all in, who knows, you might fall in love with us!