Girls Humanitarian Weekend

Happy International Women's Day! Posting this couldn't have come at a better time, and I'm so excited to share! I really can't believe how quickly this weekend went by.  Here's a little back story about how these special weekends came to be. My sister and I started an annual girls humanitarian weekend a few years ago with our friends. We decided that each year, we should meet with a purpose to do good for other women. One year we made feminine hygiene kits for women in Africa, another year we made blankets for women with cancer, and last year we put together kits for refugee families in Utah. This year, we decided to put together care packages for the homeless men and women of Chicago.

My heart bursts with love and gratitude for these remarkable women in my life and for everything we get to share and experience together. We normally try to center our weekend around service and the LDS General Women's conference, but since the dates for that have changed, this year we opted for a weekend in March before the craziness of summer begins. And I'm so glad we did. 

Each of the women who came to meet us in Chicago all live such brave lives and inspire me to be better. They inspire me to see those who might be invalidated in society, to be a little more brave and to have tough conversations. When Ari and I decided that we'd be making these care packages this year, all of our friends were so on board, and so eager to give those who are marginalized a little more dignity. 

"How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great."  -Bill Bennot

I've always admired this quote and felt it really resonated with me. I have an incredibly supportive and compassionate spouse who reminds me to give to others unconditionally through his actions. Every time we are in Chicago, Mario looks homeless people in the eye when he decides to give them some spare change or when they ask for something they need. We learned it's so important to look people in the eye, "people are hard to hate close up, move in." Mario is amazing at giving generously. No strings attached, no judgement, all love. The subject of homelessness can feel a little uncomfortable for some, but for me, it's so clear that they are just as human and deserving of respect and love. They also deserve to be seen and heard. Getting on their level and looking them in the eye is crucial to human connection and in making sure those in the margins are cared for. There are so many misconceptions regarding homelessness. One of those revolves around the innate fear we have for those who are different from us. We're afraid of homeless people. We're afraid to look into the discomfort and seeing ourselves in that very same situation. Would we give ourselves the grace to receive from others? To feel completely in need, completely vulnerable?

Fast forward to a few months later when Ari and I were looking for ideas on how to come together in service. We felt this would be an amazing opportunity to nurture that connection. To see each other as equals. Little did we know that it would also open the flood gates of tough conversations revolving race, privilege, and poverty. But how grateful am I that these women are not afraid to show up, own their stories and to get real about these issues. We recognize our privilege, but we also recognize our impact and our ability to connect. We can have both. The most important thing is that we never stop getting curious about looking discomfort and pain in the eye. We cultivate gratitude, we love, and we stand with those who are at the margins of society. 

This quote just keeps coming back to me: "People are hard to hate close up, so move in."-Brene Brown.

You could feel the intrinsic human connection with each of the individuals who received the care packages. All misconceptions were shattered, and met with gratitude and humility. Our gift to them was simple and heartfelt, but the greatest gift for us was connection. Connection with those we rarely care to see. 

I loved the way my sweet friend Mattie described one of our experiences:

"For the past four years, some friends and I have gotten together for a weekend trip and done some sort of humanitarian project. This year we decided to put together some kits for the homeless. It was a humbling experience to give one out last night and hear the story of Lisa, a homeless woman living on the streets of Chicago. We chatted with her a bit and then right before we were about to go @ourvieadventures softly touched her arm and said, “We want you to know that we see you”. I was deeply moved by how much this phrase meant to Lisa. Being passed every day by hundreds of people, while clearly sitting in a very difficult spot of life, I’m sure she feels forgotten and unnoticed. Although I wish there was more we could’ve done to help, I know that by noticing her and hearing her that day, we did make a difference. I want to be more of this person, someone who sees people ❤️"

My heart is so full. We feel so grateful to have partnered with some incredibly generous brands who made our care packages feel a little more heartfelt. A million thanks to Justin's Peanut Butter, Kodiak Cakes, Savannah Bee Company, KeriCure, and Farm to Feet for your contributions! 

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Being able to share one of our favorite cities with these amazing women was such a memorable experience. We got to see and do so much! 

day 1

Friday Morning we had a fun breakfast at home as we settled in. We wanted to do something a little special this year, so during breakfast we gifted each of the girls these Made by Mary necklaces with the letters 'GRL PWR'  engraved. I designed the little prints and Ari and I wrote notes to each of the girls thanking them for being there and for being so brave with their lives. They're all such amazing examples of GIRL POWER. They make their dreams happen, they cultivate love and kindness, and they own their stories. So beyond grateful to the Made by Mary crew for providing these pieces for us. I've loved their jewelry for years, and own a few of their pieces. I literally wear mine every day! 

 The most delicious pancakes courtesy of  Kodiak Cakes . If you're looking for a healthier/heartier alternative to pacnackes, then these are your guys!

The most delicious pancakes courtesy of Kodiak Cakes. If you're looking for a healthier/heartier alternative to pacnackes, then these are your guys!

Alliance Patisserie  was so generous to gift us with these delicious treats for when our friends arrived. The flourless chocolate cake was so good, and it was so fun to have some fun treats there for when everyone arrived. And Addi was the cutest little helper 

 

When you're in Chicago the first thing you should do is head straight to your favorite deep-dish joint. Ours is Giordano's, (and it should be yours too!) So so good. We ordered some appetizers since it takes about 45 minutes for the pizza to get to your table. The bruschetta was one of my favorites. If you head to Giordano's, make sure to order the Chicago Classic and the Meat and More Meat pizza. They were a hit! 

The cutest babes there ever were! Theo was our special guest this year, the first boy invited to our girls' weekend ;)

 This city. Chicago, you have my heart!

This city. Chicago, you have my heart!

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Friday night we went to the signature room on the 96th floor of the Hancock tower. I can't really explain how beautiful it was. We were all feeling quite sentimental about the whole thing haha. Since we don't drink alcohol we ordered ten dollar smoothies and it was well worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat! The view was so magical and getting to share this city with these amazing women was so special! 

day 2

On Saturday morning we went straight to brunch at Siena Tavern! Afterward we all raved about how fresh and tasty everything was. The monkey bread was SO good, and should be a brunch staple everywhere ;) 

Bike ride along the lake! The views from North Ave Beach are some of my favorites in Chicago!

I experienced a little miracle on this bike ride when I lost my bag near Lincoln Park Zoo. I didn't realize I didn't have it on me until we were several blocks away and ready to go grab lunch/dinner. I was so nervous that I'd totally lost it. When we rode back to the location I had left it at, the bag was gone and my heart dropped. Luckily we found someone who worked at the Zoo and got in touch with the information center where my bag was returned to. Chicago is such a big city, and I recognize that there are a lot of negative things that happen here but I am so grateful to the people who returned my bag. It was full of very important personal belongings that would have been devastating to lose. It was such a good reminder that there is still so much good in this world! After we found my bag we cruised back to Del Seoul and it was SO GOOD. It's so good every time, though. It's a must if you're ever in the area!

When Ari and I were planning our itinerary for the weekend (we're big planners over here!) we thought it would be so fun to have a night out doing something we normally don't have the luxury of doing. The The Peninsula Chicago was so gracious and kind to let us stop by and enjoy their Chocolate Bar. They had a wide variety of beautiful, dainty desserts that were DELICIOUS. We felt so lucky to be able to spend our evening there. Live music was playing as we dined, and we couldn't help but feel like we were in a movie!

day 3

On our last day in Chicago we went to church and had a slow day catching up, walking to the bean, and eating some yummy homemade food! Madison stayed home to take care of sweet theo, who was teething, so we missed her on our cloud gate tour! I'm so grateful to have spent this past weekend with these amazing women, who truly feel like soul sisters. I wholeheartedly believe we should all take some time nurturing the meaningful relationships in our lives. Although this year felt a little extravagant, I believe you can cultivate these memories in the simplest of ways just like we have in years past. Just feeling so grateful everyone made an effort to make it happen and to meet us in this beautiful city!