Gold in the Dirt, Danae

I love music. I don’t really dig heavy metal or rap, but otherwise, bring me ALL of the music. It uplifts, it lets me connect with my soul, it quiets, it ramps up, it whispers, it screams, it speaks. It motivates, it encourages and it empowers.

Recently, I bought myself an Echo and have not looked back. I simply say “Echo?” and my little friend plays anything I ask it to. LOVE. You should get one. Seriously!

Every year, I choose a word that will help guide and support the year ahead  — both personally and in business. This year, it’s disrupt. I’ll share more on that soon, but I’ve come to realize that my word gains more traction when I assign a song to it. A personal anthem, a power song, a musical mantra.

This year, the song that found its way to me is Gold in the Dirt, by Danae. I don’t remember how I found Danae, but I am so thankful. The lyrics are meaningful and fit my intentions for the Year of Disrupt!

I’m done living my life
Just to get out alive
Yellow flickering light
Got it in my sights

Doesn’t really what it costs us
Gonna carry this shovel till the sun comes up
I’m gonna break up the dust in the earth

Cause there’s gold in the dirt, gold in the dirt
Dig a little deeper, there’s gold in the dirt
~
Black, blue, blood runs through
Every inch is proof
Shine, shine, deepen the mind
Leave the past  behind
~
Doesn’t really what the ending is

I got one shot, I’m gonna take it
I’m gonna shake up the dust in the earth

Doesn’t really what it costs us
Gonna carry this shovel till the sun comes up
Doesn’t really what the ending is
I got one shot, I’m gonna take it
I’m gonna break up the dust in the earth

Because connection is important to me, I wanted to reach out to Danae and learn a bit more about her, and I also REALLY, really wanted to know about the gold triangle necklace she always wears, because, you know, I’m all about all things Triangle!! Graciously, she answered my email right away, and the result of our connection and dialogue resulted in this Q&A. Let me introduce you to …
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Danae, share a brief introduction of you, your background and your journey to where you are today:

My creative journey has been one of personal discovery and joy. As a little girl, I loved to sing, but I don’t have memories of thinking I would be a “star” or a “singer” when I grew up. I also loved to write poetry, which eventually led me to start songwriting. I simply created to create; out of a deep love for it. Perhaps this also came from the fact that my older brothers were always in bands and shooting for the stars. I simply loved the music making experience!

How has your journey with music changed your perspective on life and the world:

Being a performing musician has taken me into situations and moments that I could have never imagined. On a tour to Germany in 2015, I found myself taking a bus to a small town on the outskirts of Bremen. The local pawn shop owner said that I would find the venue if I just kept walking. So I walked a mile with my backpack guitar and finally came across a beautiful retreat center. As the clock struck 7 pm, the show started and the room was filled with 50 Germans there to hear my music! This story is less about me and more about the power of the unknown. Music creation and performance has taught me to never underestimate people but to always be confident in myself as I share the gifts I’ve been given.

Danae

What was the biggest catalyst to the creation of Gold in the Dirt?

Gold in the Dirt started simply as a title and the first lyric: “I’m done living my life just to get out alive.” I can’t remember when I first wrote that down, but I took it into a co-write with AG, a producer in LA, and she loved it! We ended up writing the song in like an hour, which for my pop songs is lightning fast.

What does “home” mean to you?

Home is where you are loved for who you are. Home is where people know your quirks and your history and still dig deeper. Because I travel a lot and grew up in a number of different places, home really has become a place where family and friends are.

What does “community” mean to you, both personally and with your music?

Community is the place you feel safe to create and a group of people who send you out into the world. Nashville, where I lived for 2.5 years, has an incredible community. If you have an idea and passion, people will rally around you to help bring it to life. Community is also the place I often find the most authentic acceptance.

So this triangle necklace! Tell me a bit about the story behind Direction and … how were you connected originally to Sarah, the artist who created the necklace?

Danae

Sarah and I met over 9 years ago when I first moved to Washington D.C. We were in a book club together, and she was one of those people I just connected with instantly. I had only known her a few months when she asked me to sing in her wedding. And once you sing in someone’s wedding you are friends for life. It’s kind of the deal. The idea for the Direction Necklace was a natural outgrowth of our friendship and previous collaborations. I wanted something signature and special, a reminder of potential, change and hope. The Direction Necklace has been that for me and I hope it is that for others as well.

Note from Sarah Bayot: Each purchase of a Direction Necklace provides a scholarship for under resourced children to attend school. Currently, Kicheko is partnered with Mango Tree School, a primary school based in Uvira that educates over 200 primary-level students in the South Kivu province who are underresourced and cannot afford school fees and the other costs associated with attending school. Kicheko is an attempt to combat this cycle by identifying students who are most in need and working with families to ensure that their children stay in school year round.

Note from Naomi: If you purchase a Direction Necklace, please let me know in the comments!

How have you found your place in the “giving back” space and what is most often on your heart in terms of how you can serve others?

When it comes to giving back, I love to partner with people who share a common “why” with me and a drive to overcome obstacles along the way. I’m always open to fresh collaborations that will create positive change in the word.

What do you do to feed the desire for local and global connection

I think that desire is simply in my blood stream. Having lived overseas in Russia as a child and traveling to over 20 countries, I am constantly looking for connections to the world beyond myself. On a practical level, I try to read the news regularly and to stay connected with friends in industries different than my own.

Who influences you? Who do you read / listen to … or look to for inspiration and motivation?

I have a unique and solid community of girlfriends who I have known for over 5 years, and my conversations with them are a significant influence on me. They ask the deep, cutting questions I need to grow and give me a safe place to say my rough draft thoughts out-loud. Musically, I try to keep a pretty steady stream of the newest pop. I like to hear what’s happening in the market. Books wise, recently I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the mind and how it works. The way connections are made and the power of positive thinking. I also glean a lot of inspiration from my personal Faith. Ultimately, I believe that each of us were created to create.

What do you think about vulnerability and authenticity … and what do those two words look like when they show up in the work you do?

I aim to be authentic in everything I do. Whether at work, at the café, writing a song, loving my mom, listening to a friend, authenticity is the act of being present, of giving your real mind and heart to the moment to engage. To me, vulnerability is the next level deep past authenticity. You can be authentic but not vulnerable. I want my music and life to ring with the honesty of an authentic voice while also communicating the truth of a vulnerable heart.

Danae

 

What is next for you?

I’m currently working on a remix of Direction that will come out in Q1 of this year, which I am super excited about. It’s from a favorite Nashville producer of mine – Nilo G. He’s creative and I think fans will love the reimagined version of last year’s hit! Also, I new songs that are in pre-production. So keep an eye out cause the best music is yet to come for sure!

Where can we find you online?

The best place to connect online is Instagram. I think it’s my favorite social media platform. In addition to that, my website danae.co always had the latest stuff brewing. If you are on Facebook, don’t miss out on that too!

~

Danae, thank you for popping by and sharing you and your music!

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2016 Year End Giving

It’s not too late to do a mad dash of year end giving! If you’re anything like me, I’ve put off some opportunities to give financially this year, so I wanted to put together a quick post of the three ways our family regularly gives with our checkbook.


 

Ministry 2 Kenya Deb Smith

Ministry 2 Kenya

My mother, Deb Smith, is a missionary in Kenya! She has been there for 15 years and steps alongside those who are often otherwise forgotten — mostly children in need of an education — both in the urban slums and the rural villages. Through long-lasting, meaningful, one-on-one relationships she brings hope and encouragement to the lonely and the discouraged. Kenya’s academic year starts the first week of January and mom has started her fundraising campaign to raise the money needed for SEVEN students to have their fees paid for the 2017 academic year. The total needed is $2,880 and as of this post, $955 has already come in!!

In addition to the tuition, other expenses include:

  • textbooks, notebooks, pens, pencils, and other supplies
  • personal items for those who attend boarding school
  • fare to go home for the breaks between terms.

Deb, a/k/a Mom, has a need to raise the remaining funds by Christmas so that she can make arrangements to pay all school fees before she comes back to the US for a home leave trip. If you’d like to participate in sending a child to school and would like to help pay school fees, please click the Donate button just below this sentence. 100% of all funds raised go straight to the tuition and expenses … together, you can help impact the life of a child and their entire family!

DONATE TO THE SCHOOL FUND


 

Ripple Effect Images

 

I am honored to have been asked to serve on the advisory board for Ripple Effect Images, an amazing organization, doing amazing things in this world. A note from the Founder, Annie Griffiths that I wanted to share with you:
 
As we head into the holiday season, I have some truly lovely news to share. Ripple’s aid partners have reported raising more than 7 million dollars this year using the images and films we created for them. That is a return on our investment of 1429%. (I just love this number!) This is huge!
 
Every dollar invested became 14+ dollars of additional aid in a single year… a breath-taking Ripple Effect. Most importantly, behind every dollar are real women and children with so much potential. Thanks to Ripple supporters:
 
-7000 families in Guatemala will now receive clean cookstoves
-Teenage girls in northern Uganda will have safe shelters to go to when they flee early marriage
-Thousands of villagers in Ethiopia will learn how to prevent and cure a devastating foot disease caused by farming in volcanic soil
-7000 children in Bangladesh, Tanzania and Uganda will receive funding for early childhood education
-The effort to eradicate pediatric AIDS in Africa will accelerate
 
So THANK YOU! Ripple’s year-end goal is to raise $100,000 that, at our current rate of impact, could turn into nearly 1.5 million dollars of additional support for women and children in the developing world! This year, more than ever, we need to work together to move the world forward. We simply can’t do it without you.
 
 
Kiva

When a Kiva loan enables someone to grow a business and create opportunity for themselves, it creates opportunities for others as well. That ripple effect can shape the future for a family or an entire community.

Regardless of where you choose to spend your charitable giving dollars this year, and for years future, one really SMART thing to do is always check out the health of the organizations you are giving to.  Charity Navigator, your “guide for intelligent giving”, is an amazing tool to check out the transparency and ratings of large charitable and philanthropic organizations. Worth noting, in order to be analyzed and receive a Charity Navigator rating, the organization must have filed specific IRS forms for at least 7 years, so you won’t find all of your favorite 501(c)(3)s there.
Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite charitable organization is!
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2016 Presidential Election

I have been extremely quiet on social media and in person with my friends and family about how I feel about this Presidential election. I have watched much spewing, I have listened to the nasty campaign, and have “hidden” some very forceful opinions and thoughts shared on Facebook about who is most qualified to lead our country for the next four years.

I’ve been quiet partially because I am a business owner. I have been quiet partially because I didn’t feel strong enough to banter or debate with people who had differing opinions. I have been quiet partially because I have no earthly idea how to explain our candidate options to our children.

But here we are, the morning after, and I have some things to say.

This morning, we poured OJ, flipped pancakes and packed lunches just like every other day. Except as I puttered around the kitchen, I struggled with how to talk to my children about what happened during the Presidential Election of 2016. Not just the previous 24 hours, but the entire campaign process.

With our two youngest being 10 and 13 years old, they have been fully exposed to this campaign and to all that has gone along with it. Because they knew both sides of the media story that we were being fed, it was important to talk about it, this morning after. They knew what he said, and they knew what she did.

On one hand, I wrestled with how to explain that someone who has said things, exhibited behaviors and acted in a manner I would never tolerate from the men in my life, is now the President Elect. On the other hand, I was bothered with how I would have explained that someone who lied and should be in prison had won the election, should that have happened.

Our daughter looked at the television when she woke up and after she plodded down the stairs, with her hair in a high ponytail and her favorite leggings on. Her face showed absolute shock. She turned to look at me and sadly said “Well, someone had to win, and half of us would have been mad either way.” Later, the discussion turned to how people could vote for one candidate, when perhaps all they intended to do was NOT vote for the other candidate. We talked about how United States citizens could vote for one candidate when they couldn’t support him, yet wanted his party to be in control. We also talked about why people who admitted to have never voted before, chose this election to show up at the polls. I didn’t have answers for her, but what I do know is this:

I will continue to wake up every day and do something to remind this world why I am here. Each and every day. Some days it might be volunteering at a local soup kitchen. Another day it might be encouraging fellow female entrepreneurs along their journey, to act as a stair step to promote their future success. Perhaps I will jump out of bed and organize an event or otherwise be active in my community.

My husband and I will continue to raise our children to have an extremely strong moral compass. We are raising our children to speak their minds, but to also listen carefully. We are teaching them to respect, honor and support those that are running this country.

Our children will continue to be taught that diversity, true authenticity and kindness matters. They will be taught that it isn’t hard to give of ourselves to others. They will be taught that  we don’t call names and we speak to each other with respect. They have been and still will be told that living a life they aren’t ashamed of is important, and that keeping your nose clean isn’t difficult.

We are going to work harder at educating them about the bigger governmental picture in the United States. From the very bottom in our schools (running for student council) to our Mayors, school board representatives, all the way up to our Presidential nominations. Our republic is important, and I believe it starts from the ground up. I heard too many rumblings from people that they had no idea who to vote for on the local level, so they … guessed as they completed their ballots. Imagine a world where everyone votes (every election!), and knows their candidates when they go to the polling places. We can impact that change, by educating our children – from a young age – about the process.

It is incredibly important to me that we go back to basics in this country. It’s quite simple actually. We are humans. We are tasked with loving others, leading with kindness and doing our part to make this country (and the greater world) a better place. We cannot do that unless we begin with our children.

We are their light and their torch. They follow our lead. We are responsible for our children. I can’t say with any certainty that we are currently doing the best job we can in this arena.

I wonder what we will call the generation of children that I am raising (I’ve got one Millennial and two “to be determined” littles, as they haven’t yet named their generation). In doing some research, apparently MTV ran a poll and the chosen name was Founders, but in a Forbes article, it was suggested they be called The Builders. The article is slanted heavily towards our technology future, but I think it also is appropriate here:

Millennials are … pushing harder for continuing change and disruption across every aspect of their lives. MTV President Sean Atkins said to TIME that “…while millennials have disrupted society, it’s this new generation’s job to rebuild it. They have this self-awareness that systems have been broken, but they can’t be the generation that says we’ll break it even more.”

But this new generation to follow the Millennials cannot be Founders. Founders by definition are the ones who will establish something. But we have plenty of that already. What we need the next generation to be are The Builders; ones who will build on the foundation that the Millennial generation have sought to put in place through disruption.

The best way to predict the future is to build it.

This is a maker generation, a far more pragmatic and practical generation who must architect and build the future we are all trying to imagine living in. The world doesn’t need more foundational layers, it needs a generation to create.

I really like thinking of my two littles as Builders. I’ll call them that from this point forward, this morning after.

Perhaps you do not have children of your own, so, find some littles to inject your energy into. Find some Builders to teach. Locate members of this next generation and help them grow up to be strong citizens of our country who can stand with everyone, even among different belief systems.

There is a lot of diatribe going on this morning about the vote. About who showed up, about who stayed home, about who wrote in their own names for President. Voting is SO important. We have been given the right to do it … but the real “show up” opportunity is this morning after. We all get another chance this morning — as United States citizens — to love our neighbors regardless of what color their skin is or what gender of person they go to sleep with at night. We all get another change this morning to figure out what our talents and offerings will be to this world, and then we get to tie our shoelaces and go DO those things. We all get another chance this morning to look at the children in our lives and make a conscious decision and effort to be more present in their lives.

Last night, I said to myself that regardless of whether the country decides to “Make America Great Again” or “Stand With Her”, we are all — I think — blessed to be able to do both. If you think about it, we are given the opportunity to keep doing our part as human beings – to continue making America great (not again) and stand with all of those who are in this together (not just with her).

President Elect Donald J. Trump will be soon in the Oval Office, and he will be my President, regardless of the fact that I didn’t vote for him. That’s how I roll as an American. That’s how I’ll continue to raise my children.

And in the meantime, our family will continue to live by this motto: Do something every day to remind this world why you are here.

(For a really great book that offers a carefully curated reading treasury of the best children’s literature to help introduce your children to each area of the globe, as well as books that offer practical parenting suggestions and inspiration, take a look at Give Your Child the World. We have a copy and it really aims to help parents raise insightful, compassionate kids who fall in love with the world and are prepared to change it for good.)

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Smiles to Africa

A remarkable thing happens when two heads come together with their ideas, passions and thoughts. I dare say an even MORE remarkable thing happens when those two heads are young minds.

Meet Mia and Cassia.

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Cassia Price is a spunky five year old full of sparkle and ideas. She loves to perform, tell stories, do art projects and search for the perfect rock. One day, she decided that she needed to have a purpose for her growing rock collection. As she was painting, she said, “I have an idea! What if we paint them with hearts and leave them around town as a surprise for people? It would spread love and make people smile.” And so Cassia’s Rocks began. She has been leaving rocks all around Loudoun County and other cities in Virginia for over a year.

Mia Hattaway is 10 years old and has always had a heart for service and giving back. She created “Mia’s Mission” when she was 7 years old with an intention to make rainbow loom bracelets and then sell them, to raise money for various projects (donating to a high kill shelter, to an organization that provides heart transplants for young children in developing countries, and to raise money to send a young girl in Kenya named Robai to school).

Mia and Cassia met in 2014 and became fast friends due to my commitment to the Lucketts Elementary School PTA board, where Cassia’s mama also serves. Together, they soon joined forces and created a very special project they named Smiles to Africa.

These two young Loudoun County residents – both on their OWN mission to make the world a better place – realized that by combining their ideas, their reach and effectiveness would be greater!

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Mia’s grandmother lives in Kenya and does service based work with young children and single parent families, and our family already sponsors a teenager in Kenya. Mia and Cassia both have an intense love for learning, reading and had a soft spot in their hearts for girls who otherwise might not be able to go to school.

They knew that there is power when girls help girls, and Mia’s grandmother identified one particular girl, named Deb (who happens to have been named after Mia’s grandmother!) and the rest is history!

Smiles to Africa Mia Hattaway Cassia's Rocks

Many young girls attend only a few years of primary school while they are young, but due to various circumstances, many of them do not continue to attend school. Whether their family needs them at home to help with younger children, chores or just daily life, the percentage of girls who continue in school past Class 8 (what we would call middle school) is very small.

As the only daughter to Nathan and Alice, Deb’s five brothers have priority — according to Kenya’s culture — to the right to attend school because of the fees associated with school. Because of this cultural tradition, it was highly possible that Deb wouldn’t be able to continue attending primary school.

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The girls’ original plan was to paint rocks, and “sell them” for a suggested donation of $5 per rock. They wanted to raise $120 so that the remainder of Deb’s school year for 2016 could be paid for. However, their goal was quickly smashed and they raised their sights to include the school year of 2017. However, big dreams often come with bigger responsibility and soon the girls realized they had raised enough to pay for the entire REMAINDER of Deb’s primary schooling! $1,200 in total!

“I knew that it was a great idea because it is helping people and I like to hear about helping and I want to do whatever I can to help people around the world. I like smiles.” ~Cassia Price, 5 years old

“I didn’t think the idea would help in such a big way. I didn’t realize it could impact Deb so much in her daily life for a long time because our original goal was to raise $120 to pay for the rest of THIS school year. Instead, Cassia and I – with the help of many others – raised almost $1,200!” ~Mia Hattaway, 10 years old

(Side note – the money raised will pay for all of Deb’s elementary (“primary”) schooling expenses (including books, school fees, uniforms, sundries, etc) at her boarding school through the end of primary school (until she enters Form 1, which is equivalent to our high school Freshmen year.

In July of this year, I traveled with my two youngest children, Mia and Antonio, along with my niece Aaliyah TO Kenya for a month long trip. What an amazing trip it was! We carried ALL of those purchased Smiles to Africa rocks with us to leave in various places in Kenya, and with children we met along the way!

While we were visiting many locations in Kenya, we were able to travel “upcountry” to meet Deb’s family, and they invited us to come for lunch.

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Alice and Nathan graciously fixed a feast of chicken, rice, chapati and soup, complete with glass bottled orange Fanta! Typically, in rural areas of Kenya, they eat ugali (maize flour (corn) that is boiled to a dough like consistency) and sukuma wiki (boiled greens – and the name means “to stretch the week”) so the meal they prepared for us was very special.

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After lunch and visiting with the neighbor children (none of which attend school), we traveled to Deb’s school, some of us by boda-boda (on the back of a motorbike). Meeting Deb was so wonderful! Her smiles were ear to ear! She has grown so much because of being able to attend school and her future is bright because of it!

Smiles to Africa Mia Hattaway Cassia's Rocks

What’s next?

Since Cassia’s Rocks was initially never about selling the rocks to raise money, and was simply a “smile based project” for Loudoun County, Cassia will continue leaving her rocks around town. Mia has already started brainstorming about her next Project Mia’s Mission plans, but we are pretty sure Cassia and Mia will find another project to work on together in the future!! The girls each have facebook pages: Mia’s Mission // Cassia’s Rocks.

However …. their work with Smiles to Africa isn’t done yet!

We have collected money so that we can send Deb to school for lots of years. We only hoped for one year but we got lots more. It will change her life! ~Cassia

Deb deserves to be able to go to school, just like I do! ~Mia

The girls have decided they will see if their Smiles to Africa project can continue on, and they are excited to see if they can now raise additional funds to ensure Deb’s high school years (called Form 1-4) are also covered and funded.

 

If YOU would like to participate, you can donate here:



My rocks mean so much to me. Happiness, love, cheerful spirits. They make my heart happy because when people find them, they smile. Smiles make the world better! ~Cassia

We feel accomplished because not many girls have the opportunity to go to school (not as much as boys do). It was a really good opportunity, as well as a fun way to spread joy around Africa. ~Mia

 

One smile has the power to…
Calm fears.
Soften stone walls.
Warm a cold heart.
Invite a new friend.
Mimic a loving hug.
Beautify the bearer.
Lighten heavy loads.
Promote good deeds.
Brighten a gloomy day.
Comfort a grieving spirit.
Offer hope to the forlorn.
Send a message of caring.
Lift the downtrodden soul.
Patch up invisible wounds.
Weaken the hold of misery.
Act as medicine for suffering.
Attract the companionship of angels.
Fulfill the human need for recognition.
Who knew changing the world would prove so simple?
― Richelle E. Goodrich