For each “Vesta” wrap or accessory you purchase, Wrapsody will be donating all profits to the Garcia family. Read the article below for more information OR to learn about the awesomeness that is Vesta Garcia … or if you just want to shop, click the photo of the sugar skulls wrap to be taken to a purchase page.
Vesta Garcia in a nutshell — Texas at its best in a Little (Day) Dress
Words don’t fail me often, but as I’ve worked to write this piece, I’ve found that I don’t have the words to adequately convey the deep love and respect I have for Vesta; the gratitude that knowing her brings me; the quiet, ever-present hope and grief that is my bedmate since I learned she was diagnosed with ALS, a cruel and progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects first voluntary muscle function and, as it progresses, other functions such as swallowing, speaking, and breathing.
She has begun, sold, run, or coached a variety of businesses, received a custom-made Master’s degree in neurobiology, created a baby who has grown into a talented teenage artist (you can see Ella’s work on Instagram), and more than once has stood up in a room of politically-minded suits to speak her mind with unvarnished words.
I “met” Vesta when she was a sage on TheBabywearer.com’s Vendors’ Lounge. The first trip I took away from my kids was to leave my oldest two in my newly estranged husband’s care for an informal babywearing business summit in Texas in 2005. I was almost a stranger to her, but she comforted me at arm’s length when she found me in tears after a phone call with my children, who’d spent the night with their father’s new girlfriend. She helped me comb the house when my 16-month-old disappeared through her dog door. We found him playing in her fenced in back yard. Her home, in itself, was a bit of a nest. I had been terribly nervous about going, but it welcomed me like a friend.
Vesta is a woman of incredibly large presence, abundantly human, small in stature, brilliant, articulate, multifaceted. Vesta Garcia is, in so many ways, the American pioneerwoman of the babywearing store. Her online e-commerce shop, Peppermint, was the first store focused on collecting products for and related to baby carrying into one spot. Her own brand of baby carriers, EllaRoo, grew alongside her shop as she developed many of her own products and also purchased some smaller brands, like the Mei Hip.
Shaping the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance and so many other organizations
It was during that meeting in Vesta’s home that I was first exposed to the idea that would grow into the BCIA. Rochelle Price, owner of SlingRings, talked about the idea of a trade organization in relation to insurance. I was in a room of tiny giants within the burgeoning babywearing business – visionaries who saw beyond their kitchen tables in a newly growing industry. When I pushed forward with the Baby Carrier Industry Alliance, an international trade organization that brings together teachers, retail stores, and manufacturers of baby carriers, components, and accessories, Vesta had left the babywearing business, but she let me rope her back in as our paid director. “Paid” was, of course, somewhat of a euphemism – she filled out her small budget of salaried hours with abundant volunteer work. She took my vision of a cohesive industry voice and enlarged it, sculpting our trade group into something powerful, beautiful, and savvy before she moved on to other endeavors – such as her work with Little Day Dresses and Stitch Texas in the Texas fashion industry.
Vesta does not take the spotlight well unless it is to use her voice to effect change. That is, she does not love to be gushed over (sorry, Vesta; forgive me), but she’ll stand up in a room full of people and say what needs to be said. She’ll meet with government officials and take them sweetly by the ear and tell them, “You need to understand this. I’m here to make you understand.” She’ll bring a bottle of champagne to an ASTM meeting and set it down beside her confident smile and take the floor as an effective leader with a sense of humor and a sense of gettin’ shit done.
Kicking as much ass as legs with ALS will permit (and using her arms for the rest)
But with her diagnosis of ALS last year, she was thrust into the spotlight in a new way. This kind of spotlight is less about effecting change and more about having change done to her. It’s been interesting to see the ways in which she insists on effecting change even in the area of ALS … she’s impressed her doctors by increasing her strength in her arms even as her legs give way to her illness. She’s been enrolled in a huge, comprehensive study of ALS patients in which researchers will sequence her genome and gather detailed information about her history and illness, among other things. (Fun fact: the small study was significantly enlarged by the funds raised in the 2014 ice bucket challenge, an idea that started as a farce and morphed into something with some ultimately pretty amazing results.)
She continues to travel as much as she can, spending time with friends, with family, with colleagues, traveling for work. Travel has always been a priority for Vesta, and one of her goals for her daughter was to take her to all seven continents. She’s worked hard to hold this as a financial priority for her family, but now time and her neurological illness have offered her huge challenges. Her family is working to make their home handicap accessible while continuing to live a full, vibrant life. There have been tremendous financial pressures from many directions on her family.
The roots of our fundraiser
This woman has had a profound effect on who I am and on how I exist in the world. She’s encouraged me when I felt hopeless; she’s inspired me from a distance; she’s schooled me on business ethics and on the art of worrying about my own business rather than fretting about competitors. I’ve learned something about gracefully coping with profound grief while also continuing to meet my business obligations. I’ve learned about setting good boundaries. I’ve learned about loving myself by expecting that other people will respect my boundaries. Her example speaks for itself.
So when I asked her if she would let me run a wrap in her honor to raise funds for her family, I was so happy she agreed. It is a terrible thing to be powerless when someone you love is ill, and by allowing me to create a wrap, she is giving me something to do. Last year at the BCIA dinner, Rochelle Price spoke beautifully about Vesta and about the fundraiser the BCIA has created for her. Afterward, I excused myself to a quiet space to just be with my thoughts, and I thought of one particular story – Vesta attending a meeting in orange flip-flops because her boots had broken.
My mind grasped that metaphor and carried it. “She’s left her mark,” I thought. “She’s left a huge-ass bootprint across this industry.” And, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, for the first time since learning she was ill, I held myself and cried for her.
I began envisioning a boot-print wrap and skirt (because lots of people who love Vesta have grown-up babies), and started working on the design for that. But the design seemed to get cheesier and cheesier – not at all a representation of my friend, who values art and a particular elegant aesthetic.
In October, we spent a week together on Lake Michigan and I showed her the designs we were working on, and she was kind but shared my sentiment – not awesome. Too much like a cartoon, really. So we began talking about other aspects of Vesta and her life that would represent her on such a design. She told me she would love a wrap with sugar skulls.
The significance of the colorway
“My husband was born and raised in northern Mexico and came to the states just a few years before we married. While I had heard of Día de los Muertos, I had never personally celebrated it. But after traveling in Mexico with him, I connected with the celebration and the focus on remembrance and family and joy. I have experienced an inordinate amount of death in my life, and am now facing my own terminal illness. The yearly Day of the Dead celebration helps to ground me in the fact that death is as much a part of life as birth and marriage and love of all kinds. It’s a day for my family to build our ofrenda and laugh and cry and remember those who have passed.”
Each year she and her husband share his Mexican heritage with their daughter during their celebration. From a distance, I admire the sugar skulls (that is, decorated skulls made from sugar) that she makes with Ella. I have seen her move from significant loss to significant loss these last years in a way that has put a great deal of strain on her pragmatism. As she faces her own diagnosis, I am grateful, in my small way, that she has this celebration to share with Ella and her husband, Jan. ALS research is moving swiftly, more swiftly than ever before, perhaps, but it is likely that her illness will outrun the research, and she knows this.
If you are the person who took the box and suitcase of wraps from our booth at ABC Kids Expo, if it was intentional and not accidental, I’d be grateful if you’d at least donate the funds that would have been raised by selling the Vesta in the box. If it was an accident, please send it back so that I can sell it.
And if Vesta has inspired you, pissed you off, shared a memory with you, or simply touched your world in some small way, comment below with your story. I think it would be lovely for her family, and especially her daughter, to have the option to read the many ways she has stretched her spirit across the globe.
Last of all, please share this fundraiser with those you know. Vesta has meant so much to me personally, professionally, and intellectually. I’m grateful she’s allowed me to do this, and I’d love your help.
For more reading: a list of links in this article:
- Ella Garcia’s artwork on Instagram
- JBO Photo of Houston, TX
- Information about ALS at the ALS Association
- Boston Globe: Why the Ice Bucket Challenge Still Matters, including information about the Precision Medical Program Study
- The Ice Bucket Challenge
- EllaRoo and Mei Hip
- Giving Birth to the BCIA on the Wrapsody blog
- The Baby Carrier Industry Alliance
- Little Day Dresses
- Stitch Texas
- Donate to the BCIA’s fund drive for Vesta
- Buy a Wrapsody Vesta wrap
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