Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too.
The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
In June 2008, I was early in my first pregnancy, due in January 2009. My husband, Wayne, & I had just left for a vacation to Spain — flying in & out of London, UK, where we have relatives we planned to visit for a few days. The first night after arriving, we woke up in the middle of the night (of course, jetlag) to an email from a friend that said, “Please phone us when you get this.”
After steeling ourselves, we called & found out that our good friend, Julian, had died in a car accident; leaving his wife, Kathy (who was also pregnant) and their two children to mourn his way-too-young passing (age 33).
We flew home a few days later and grieved with our friends & community. During the funeral, Julian’s father-in-law, a retired Christian pastor, spoke. Something he said had a lasting impact on us; amidst, of course, crying out the sadness & injustice of it all, he said, “God, you have our attention. What do you want us to hear?”
What did we hear? Unsurprisingly, a premature death certainly leads you to take stock of your life. Wayne did not like his job & felt like he was wasting his years in a poor fit position. Two years after our loss of Julian, we took a leap & moved to a different city (me 8 months pregnant with #2) for Wayne to finish a graduate degree that he had begun by distance many years before.
It was in one of those classrooms that we first heard about kantha blankets. Wayne took a class on "social enterprise" (business with goals additional to profit-making) and met Robin. Robin was from Oregon, but she had been living for 5 years in Bangladesh with MCC, working with women who were in the sex trade but wanted to get out. Her term with the NGO was over, but she had decided to return to the country & start a business to employ women who were ready to graduate MCC's program.
Wayne kept referring to them as sweaters (i.e. “It’s so great what Robin is doing with these sweaters”) — he had no idea, and Robin just laughed it off. We loved the concept, though, and when we figured out that it was blankets, we definitely wanted to support her. It just wasn’t an item we really had an occasion to buy, especially on a student budget.
A year later, Kathy came with her kids to visit us, along with a new man in her life. That weekend, they got engaged to be married; I knew right away what I wanted to give them as a wedding gift!
I bought a kantha throw made by Robin's business, Basha, and brought it to Kathy’s wedding shower. The other women LOVED the blanket itself (so soft!) and also the story of redemption that it symbolized.
Kathy & Suzanne toted their throws around the world for a 40th bday trip
I always get a little sappy around our dignify anniversary, thinking back on these origins... where dignify has come from, and to. I am very humbled and indebted that from such great pain could result so much beauty & life.
It has been A MINUTE since I've written a book post! It's actually been over a year, which is a shock — I have read some excellent books this year, and I know many of you are avid readers!
In the past, I've shared book lists for: different points-of-view, family dynamics, & books to give as gifts... today's post/list is nothing more than a thoroughly biased list of books I've enjoyed recently & recommend!
Hasn't this been the refrain of the week?! "Hard to believe that it has been a year."
A year ago, I published a blog post, "A Kantha Blanket's Journey" : a behind-the-scenes look from creation of a blanket in Bangladesh to enjoyment in your living room.
But, the truth is that it was really a way to address the un-(or subtly-)spoken concern from people wondering if they would get COVID-19 in the mail with their blanket!
Somehow, impossibly, I travelled around the world one year ago!
I am deeply grateful to have taken a trip to Bangladesh when I did. I was at a stage of my life & business when the adrenaline had long worn off, and I was a getting a bit stuck in a cultural mindset trap: "I don't feel like doing this every day."
More details on that, I'll save for another day (or perhaps for a more intimate conversation!). But, let it suffice to say that my colleagues in Bangladesh do NOT operate from that mindset... it doesn't even factor into the conversation.
Being reminded of this, as well as seeing — in person — the inner workings and impact of the blanket biz on the production side... well, it was deeply regenerative for me.
If I had not visited in January 2020, I don't know when that trip would have taken place! Soooo thankful.
Here is one story of a woman artisan I met: Poli.