The Very Worst Buyers Guide to Ethical Shopping.

When you talk about making a conscious effort to buy fair trade products from ethically responsible sources, you'll find there are A LOT of people who share that burden and sincerely want to change there consumer habits, but who don't know where to start.

 So today, instead of a nifty little raffle only one person can win, I want to give everyone a comprehensive shopping guide to aid in the search for positive ways to impact the world with purchase power. 

Shopping season nearly is upon us. *shudder*

Christmas is just around the corner, and I bet a few of you have already begun to accumulate the mountain of carefully selected gifts you'll give this year. The normal people rest of us are just gearing up, collecting ideas, making lists, stalking Amazon for the cheapest perfect expression of our obligation to give everyone we're forced to interact with a present for Jesus' birthday love for our family and friends on Christmas. There really could be no better time to share a buyers guide for all you conscientious consumers than right now! 

But there is one teeeeeny tiiiiiny problem.


Ethical buying? Don't worry, I can talk you out of it! (and a $50 Beautiful & Beloved giveaway)

I'd like to be a responsible consumer.

I really want to leverage every dollar that passes through my possession for the good of others. ...In theory. In practice, I want what I want and I want it cheap and I want it now.

Maybe that's why it's so easy for me to talk myself out of choosing costlier, time consuming, ethical purchases over grab-n-go products at rock-bottom prices. Admittedly, I can be impulsive, self-oriented, and expectant of immediate gratification, so, for me, putting in the extra effort to buy responsibly with others in mind is kind of a lot to ask. It's practically impossible.

To pacify any unrest I might experience when thoughts of ethical buying mess with my shopping mojo, I've mastered some pretty compelling arguments against shopping with a conscience. Since these well reasoned excuses have served me so well, I thought I'd share, as you may find my process beneficial next time you're perusing the aisles of your favorite store. You're welcome.

The first thing I do is tell myself that when I buy products made in foreign countries, regardless of the factory conditions, I'm supporting their economy. I'm giving all those poor people a job they wouldn't otherwise have. That $22 shirt is probably keeping like 75 women from having to work the fields around the dusty villages where their families and children are, ...I mean, everyone knows it's better to be exploited as slave-labor working in a harsh, dangerous, oppressive environment than it is to be a farmer feeding your own family. It's hot out there in the sun!

Really, what else matters?!
Then, if I find something I really want, I convince myself I can't afford to buy ethical products because things made by small businesses who pay regionally fair wages to their employees are more expensive than the same exact things churned out by a bunch of 9 year olds who practically work for free, and probably love it. (Do you know what I would have given to skip school and make wallets for rich people all day when I was 9? I would have traded a pinky finger! And I've heard some of these kids do.) Anyway. To prove that I absolutely cannot afford to buy the fair trade version of the shirt I'm holding, I carefully balance my Starbucks cup across the closest rack of hangers, then I pull out my phone and use my data plan to compare prices. I don't actually recommend doing it like this, because once my coffee fell and when it hit the ground it splooshed all over the jeans I was gonna get – super embarrassing! - plus, I had to go buy another latte... But, the point is, these mid-shopping internet searches always prove me right; The fair trade version of a $22 shirt is, like, $29. Who can afford that kind of mark up? Obviously not me...


Consumed by Thoughts of Consumerism. (and a rePURPOSE giveaway!)

Something is happening to me.

I want to say it's bad, because it feels bad a lot of the time... but I think it's actually good. Maybe even very good.

I don't know. All I know is that I used to be able to go into a store, pick out what I needed wanted, pay for it, take it home, and enjoy it without a single irritating thought about where it was made, or why it was so cheap, or who made it. Clothes and shoes and jewelry and electronics and furniture and household goodies just seemed to appear, as if by some sort of hip, trendy, mind-reading magic, in the stores I frequent. All I had to do was have an idea about what I'd like to wear to a wedding and when I showed up at H&M it would be there waiting for me. If I thought about the perfect thing to hang above the toilet in the downstairs bathroom, I could run over to Target and, not only would I find it, it would practically jump into my cart and wheel itself to the checkout.

I look just like this when I shop! No, I don't.
I didn't even have to try - I could always find just what I was looking for. Sure, sometimes I wouldn't get it because I couldn't afford it, but until recently, I'd never walked away from the perfect find because I wasn't sure about the conditions of the factory it was made in, or the workers ages or wages.

I mean, I'm not a damn hippie. 

But, like I said, something's happening to me.

I think it started on the busy streets of Cambodia, when I saw a parade of trucks carrying thousands of factory workers out of the city after a long day's work. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, packed like lil' smokies onto long, diesel driven flatbeds with wood slatted sides, bandanas tied across their noses in a vain attempt to keep the billowing smog and relentless dust out of their slight bodies. It reminded me of passing a cattle truck on a California freeway, and as one truckload of people after another went by, the labels in my cheap clothes started to make me itch. I wondered if any of them recognized their handy work in the Old Navy tank top I'd thrown on that morning, or if they could see their solid stitches in my trusty Target sandals. Seeing all this, I started to feel embarrassed by my own blissful ignorance, so I did the only appropriate thing.... I slid down as far as I could in the back of the taxi and avoided all eye contact.

That was like the first time I'd come face to face with where clothes come from. 


Not Everyone Likes You (a word for bloggers & a guest post giveaway)

People always ask me for blogging advice and I have no idea why.

I know the little piece of internet I own and author is doing alright, but I'm not exactly an expert when it comes to blog stuff, or tech stuff, or writing stuff. I just sort of do whatever I want and sometimes it works out. But blogging has been good to me. It's been a creative outlet, a quiet therapist, a boisterous community, a spirited debate, a sincere friend, and a soft, snarky place to land, again and again as I've stumbled along this path of Life and Faith. So whenever someone tells me they're starting a blog it makes me kind of happy to think they may be embarking on a similar journey.

I really do wish I had some bit of great blogging advice to offer, but since my beginning in the blog world, the rules of successful blogging (if such a thing ever existed) have changed a lot, and they continue to morph at a pretty rapid rate.

Back in the day, blogs were the place where conversations happened as people commented directly to the author or to each other, responding, edifying, arguing, encouraging, and offending in long threads of dialog at the bottom of each post. These days, the majority of the conversation takes place elsewhere, mostly on Facebook, where we engage in an oddly disconnected, but highly interested, modern-day version of community. So while five years ago the intent of a blog was to draw people in, these days it's to be drawn out – to be shared. We used to want to know how to get people to come to our blog, but now we're asking how to get our blog "out there” to the people. Comment threads are no longer a good indicator of how well a particular blog post has been received, because, today, in the land of SEO and XML and LOLZ, the Share button is king.

Success for today's blogger means being posted, pinned, tumbled, stumbled, mailed, and tweeted times infinity.

Just whispering the word "viral" gives bloggers a boner. It used to be if someone told you they'd gone viral, you'd take a generous step backward, visibly shudder, and run away to wash your hands. Now we're all clamoring for the chance. We want to spread our infectious discourse all over the internet, the faster the better. When we post to our blogs, it's no longer in the hope that people will come join us in our little space, but that they'll invite us into theirs. We want readers to carry the thing we've created home with them, to their Facebook house, to share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends, who will share it with their friends. And on and on, just like the flu, until everyone's had it, some twice.


Read Between the Lines, Ma'am.

Today is my birthday. Again. So I'm sharing this birthday post. Again. (**age has been updated to reflect oldness**)

The years seem to be going faster, don't they?

I don't know how that works, but let me assure you; it's a thing. As you age, time passes more quickly, gravity actually gets heavier, and your bladder shrinks to the size of a peanut. Before you know it, you wake up one morning and you're thirty-effing-nine, droopy all over, and living your whole life on the brink of wetting yourself. I'm sorry. That's just how it is. There's nothing you can do about it.... unless you have lots and lots of money... Ok. So there's nothing I can do about it.

Oh! And, as if being wrinkly, damp, and nearly dead isn't insulting enough, people keep calling me “Ma'am”. 

photo cred:
 Katrina Nicole Photography
What the hell, you guys?! Ma'am??? Psssshhh! How rude is that?! They might as well be calling me “you old bag".  “Thank you for shopping at Safeway, you old bag!” When the Starbucks barista says “Here you go, Ma'am”, she's lucky I don't throw my extra-hot latte right in her wrinkle-free face. I just cannot abide being told so politely that I'm old and haggard.

So I have a furrowed brow and flesh like an old paper sack. So what?! ...This face? This hot mess? This puckered mug? This is a freaking badge of honor.

My face tells the story of an incredible life. It's like a diary. Like a journal I've kept since the day I was born. My face can tell you everything about me... But you'll have to read between the lines. 


I'm not fat. ...I'm skinny-fat.

Ok, so The Very Worst Dietbet starts today! (The pot has grown to over $19,000! And it's not too late to join us!!)

Gotta say,  I'm super stoked because I know I'm going to end in the cash. I just will. 

Losing weight is something I know how to do. I'm actually kind of good at it. Unfortunately, I'm also really good at gaining weight. Like, sit me down with a large pizza and a diet Coke and everybody be like “Mmm, get it girl.” when they see me pack it in! I can EAT.

Skinny-fat. It's a thing. 
I'm not saying I'm fat, I'm not fat. Actually, I am what they refer to in medical journals as a “skinny-fat person”.  Pretty sure that's the scientific term for someone like me, whose body appears to be normal, healthy, and average weight when it's covered by clothes but, upon further inspection, is found to be made almost entirely of lard and marshmallow. I am not kidding. Once, many moons ago, I let a personal trainer at the gym pinch me with a medieval torture device to measure my percentage of body fat. Afterward, he looked at me, utterly confused, like, “How are you even holding yourself up right now?”



A Sad Farewell to French Fries...with Cheese...and Bacon.

*This post is sponsored by Dietbet* and approved by, um... me.

Roo and I stood knee deep in a swimming pool deciding which parts of our bodies we would put together to build the perfect female form. This is a thing women do. Trust me. (I have two sisters and we've been verbally dissecting each other in order to Frankenstein a single spectacular body using the best of our combined parts for as long as I can remember.) These conversations are always good humored; less a declaration of self-loathing and more an acknowledgment of our bitter jealousy deep admiration for the things God did with another women's DNA. So as we stood there in our bikinis, Roo and I imagineered ourselves into a long, lean, sculpted woman, with a nice tan, perky lady business, and no body hair. Oh, and visible collar bones, because that's very important.

Then we swam over to the bar, ordered drinks, and ate a pile of fries covered in cheese and bacon.


Burn Down Your Inbox

I burned down my inbox and everything it.

This ranks up there with the best decisions I've ever made. I mean, not quite as high as “keeping my baby”, but easily a notch above “canceling cable”.

The fact is, my inbox had gotten too big and it was totally unmanageable. Like when you find a baby crocodile and you bring it home to live in your bathtub, where you love it and check on it 900 times a day, but it starts to grow so fast you can't keep up with its demands and soon your thoughts are consumed by the needs of the crocodile which is now following you around your house, mouth gaping open, wanting more, more, more. Until, finally? It eats you.

My inbox was monstrous and out of control. It had to be stopped. I had to kill it, before it killed me.

It felt like I was being eaten alive by email.

Ok. Maybe I'm being a liiiiiiiiitle bit dramatic, but this has sincerely been the bane of my existence ever since the day Al Gore invented the internet. …Although, to be honest, I was thinking about it and I don't even remember setting up my first email account. It's like it has just always been there, collecting, growing, multiplying. An ever expanding to-do list with a life of its own. Then, it was like all of a sudden I had two email accounts and thousands - THOUSANDS – of unanswered messages, drumming their collective fingers on my brain.

There was stuff in my inbox from 2004, you guys. 

Here's the thing. Email was meant for people who are task oriented, organized, motivated, attentive, administrative, and mindful - so, basically, like, the opposite of me. I am sloppy, forgetful, disorganized, forgetful, inattentive, lazy, and forgetful. Expecting someone like me to manage an email account is kind of like asking a five year old to run a public library; our skills aren't up for the task. Eventually, you'd walk into the library to find a sticky little kid sitting on top of a humongous mountain of books. The mess would be unbelievable, and the time it would take to set things right would be unconscionable.


39 things.

I don't know if you noticed yet, but it's September... sigh... The worst month.

This is the month that drives me to the mirror with a fresh tube of Retin A, a pair of tweezers, and a magnifying glass to search for new evidence of my inevitable death. The telltale signs increase each year; deep wrinkles, lady whiskers, grey hairs, wizard eyebrows, droopy lids. And then there are all kind of spots and blobs and blotches to remind me that I'm knock knock knockin' on heaven's door.

Every September I find my impending demise etched a little more profoundly across my face... my chest... my knees... the tops of my hands. All the old lady dead giveaways.

This morning I wrentched myself slowly out of bed and stood there, hunched over like a decrepit old woman with creaky bones and bad hips. …Ok, I actually feel pretty good. But I'm practicing for when I don't... which will probably be tomorrow, because it's September AGAIN.

Every September, I get a year older and a year wiser and year wrinklier.

Every September, I “celebrate” having survived another 12 months.

Quick! Save her... shoes!!!
Every September, I partake in the morbid annual ritual of imagining what the rest of my trek down this path of mortals will look like. In my head, it ends with my life's light snuffed out during a heroic effort to save a squirrel from a mountain lion, or something equally as noble. Like diving through a plate glass window to catch a falling cheesecake. Or jumping in front of a train to push some lady off the tracks, rescuing her really cute shoes from certain annihilation. ...What can I say? I care.... My body will then be cremated and my ashes will be given to my husband who, against my express wish not to, will have me pressed into a diamond and set in a ring for his next wife.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I'm not going there this year. It's depressing and dumb, and, really, it's just silly because I'm still really young... ish.

I do take pretty good care of myself. When I'm not eating Cheez-its and warm glazed-donut icecream sandwiches, I'm eating greek yogurt and grilled chicken and kale salad and all that healthy crap. Plus, I work out! I mean, sometimes. So, my guess is that if I take it easy, eat right, exercise, and don't try to be a hero, I could live for several more decades. Several. Like three or four, maybe even five.

That's worth celebrating, right? That's not sad at all. I'll only be 39. That's great news. *blows limp party horn* I'M ONLY HALFWAY TO DEAD, EVERYBODY!