We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Joseph and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kimberly, how has the public health crisis affected your views on work-life balance?
I’ll start with some background. Finding balance in my life has been an ongoing process for years. Before I got married and had children, life was whatever I wanted it to be. I traveled, worked, took naps, and enjoyed every minute of it. Then came marriage. With any new relationship finding the balance of me time/ couple time had it’s struggles but I managed to do pretty well. Then came children and balance went out the window. I lost my sense of who I was as a woman. I couldn’t think about being a wife and my children took up 100% of my physical and mental capacity. After 5 years as a stay at home mom, I ventured back to work. This was at the same time that I started sewing. Working outside the home with two small children was the most difficult endeavor yet. For the last three and a half years I have been going non stop while trying to instill the morals and values I learned growing up into my children. Then COVID-19. Working for the school system at the beginning of the pandemic was insane. Zoom meetings took over my days and although I was at home I was still only seeing my children and husband for a few minutes in the morning to a couple hours in the evening. There was no balance as my job tried to scramble and create a process to tackle the last 9 weeks of school with at home learning. The school year is over and I am happy to say I have finally found a balance. I love being able to connect with my children during the day. As a family we eat together at the dining room table. A room that was set up like a picture in a magazine is now one of the most used rooms of the house. We sit together and have conversations about life while we eat together. We go on family bike rides, play board games, card games, bake together and zoom with family and friends. I make sure to carve out a lunch hour to spend with the kids and we check in throughout the day. We follow a loose schedule to maintain some normalcy to our days and we also carve out some alone time so that everyone can fill their tanks to do it all again the next day. We created a quiet escape area under the stairs with pillows, favorite stuffed animals, and books so when someone needs a break, they have a safe place to go. I have been sewing masks for the front line hospital workers and people that want to stay safe. My happy place continues to be my sewing room. I have sewn over 500 masks and I have learned that I had to balance that out with sewing something for myself to keep from getting burned out. I am proud of my children that have handled the stay at home order with more understanding than I could have imagined. I am proud of my husband that has also been working non-stop but has been my team mate around the house. I am also proud of myself because in my journey of losing myself to marriage and kids, I have found that work and sewing brought the woman that I had lost back to life again. COVID-19 gave me more than it took away and I am grateful for this time to be with my family. It made me re-evaluate what is important in life and moving forward I will continue to put our mental health first, take care of our emotional and physical needs, while doing my best to maintain the demands of work and sewing.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
From a young age I knew I wanted to work with children. I initially wanted to be a child psychologist but I fell into education by accident. My first job after college was with a private non-profit organization working with children with special needs. I fell in love with these babies and their families and it changed the course of my life. I went on to obtain my Masters degree and have worked with children with special needs from birth to 5 years old for 23 years. I took a leap of faith when my son was born and decided to take some time away from working to focus on being a mom. I moved half way across the country from Maryland to Texas, During our first year here I had my daughter and poured every ounce of energy I had into my children. My main challenge in the transition was the shift I felt in who I was as a woman. I no longer had a career or a pay check which made me feel like I was losing a part of my identity. Being a mom was rewarding and my purpose seemed clear at the time but something was missing. After 5 years I decided to go back to working outside the home. The process of getting a job was not only a challenge but a blow to my self esteem. I got one rejection letter after another. I had never been looked over for a job in my life. I was either over qualified or not the right fit as I tried to re-enter the world of special education. All the no’s finally yielded a yes and I landed a job that was perfect for me. The main lesson that I learned was not to give up. Even though the rejections hurt my ego and I needed a job, I continued to apply and interview. I am now a firm believer that what is meant for me will be for me. Those other jobs were not a good fit and I would have been miserable in them. Ultimately my work ethic and years of experience paid off. I have grown so much in my career and I am very proud of the work that I do as a Behavior Specialist. Although I was back in my field there was still something missing. I felt like I still needed something just for me that would bring me joy. My husband would constantly say “you need to find your passion” My therapist would say “you need to find something for you.” This all sounds good but it was easier said than done. On a whim I bought a sewing machine with the bright idea of making my daughter a dress for the Father Daughter dance. I started off slow but with each passing month I realized that sewing for my family gave me a feeling that I never had before. I create beautiful things with my own two hands. It is all mine but now I can share my gift. As a result, I followed my new found passion and Anaya Grace Designs was born. Named after my daughter and my grandmother, I began to develop my brand. I still work a full time job but now I know sewing is what fills my soul. I am still learning and growing in my craft but one day hope to transition to sewing full time. For now I am okay knowing that as I build my business, I am still helping families and children with special needs navigate the public education system. As for Anaya Grace Designs, I have sewn over 200 masks that have gone to families as well as front line workers to help flatten the curve of the current COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the recent changes to life in the world, an important lesson that I have learned is to focus on what gives you life. For me family, sewing, music, food, and laughter give me life. Our metal, emotional, and physical well being is what is important in life and putting those things first is what will get us all to the other side of the pandemic.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Although by nature I would say I am a home body, I love going out in Dallas. In the last 9 years that I have been here I have seen so many new places pop up. Living in the suburbs of Dallas has a charm unlike anywhere in the US. I grew up in the 80’s on the East coast so my first two tourist stops are always Southfork Ranch where the television show Dallas was filmed and the Fort Worth Stockyards to see the bulls walk down the street. When friends or family with children come to visit we go to Celebration Park in Allen or White Rock Lake in Dallas. The parks and walking trails are amazing. We also go to the Perot Museum or Klyde Warren Park. For shopping I take visitors to the Allen Outlets and NorthPark Mall. For fun we go Ice skating at the Allan Events Center or visit the Dallas aquarium. Then there is the food. You can’t go wrong at Legacy West or Uptown Dallas. There are so many great places to dine and hang out in the DFW area. In my opinion the fall is the best time to visit Texas. The food festivals, hot air balloon launches, and the State Fair have been some of the best activities we have done here in TX. There are so many other things to do and a week isn’t long enough to really see what the DFW has to offer.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are a few people that I want to shout out. First and foremost, my husband and children. They are my biggest cheerleaders and self esteem boosters. My husband Mark has been so supportive of my sewing. He believes in me and encourages me to venture out and build my brand. I would also like to shout out my Aspiring seamstresses group and my Project Sew family. My sew sisters support, help and encourage me to keep sewing even when I lose my sewjo. If it weren’t for these ladies I definitely would not be where I am right now in my craft.

Website: anayagracedesigns.wordpress.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/anayagracedesigns
Twitter: @Sew_Graceful
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sewhappy29

Image Credits
Q and R Photography

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