Is it even possible to shop ethically on a tight budget without looking like a smelly hippie?

When it comes to making sure the things we buy are ethically sourced - meaning it's not made by small children, or paid for in slave wages, or created in unconscionable factory conditions - it seems like there's one thing nobody wants to say out loud. It goes like this: 

"I want to be a conscientious consumer! BUT. I also want to dress like I own a smart car, sip whisky, and smoke the occasional American Sprit around a hammered copper fire pit with my friends whose apparel is also perfectly on trend. The thing is, I don't have a lot of money (in part, because I like $95 whiskey and the most expensive cigarettes at the gas station), and a lot of the stuff I find when I search for ethical, sustainable, slave-free merchandise is either really expensive or... really ugly. This would be so much easier if we could pay people all over the world fair wages to make cheap clothes that I love."

I have thoughts like this. I really do. And I know that makes me kind of a douche, but I also know that a lot of people are completely ignoring this conversation because they want to live/look a certain way and they don't think they can do both; they don't think they can dress cool and buy responsibly. So they skip articles like this one and instead they go read The Onion, which is funny and true but doesn't make you hate yourself.

Most people (*raising my hand*) would simply prefer to ignore where their stuff comes from and who makes it, because if they don't they'll be forced to make the uncomfortable distinction between what they're willing to pay for a t-shirt and what they're willing to pay for the one who made it. Thinking of our purchases in terms of who and not what changes everything! You can hardly blame anyone for not being super excited to scrutinize their closet and their wallet and their role in the state of modern day slavery, because, let's be honest, it sucks.


My Life As a Painting

I'm telling you, that guest post giveaway did not disappoint! Today, I'm excited to share this post from winner, Julia Frey. I hope you love it as much as I do. Welcome, Julia!

My Life As a Painting

One of my most favourite places in the world is The National Gallery in London. I try to make a quick stop there as often as my life allows. Although it contains an astoundingly large collection of European art I am always drawn to the Impressionists. Every time I walk up to that section I get so overcome with emotion that I am sure everyone else can see my visible goosebumps. There is something special about the Impressionists that sets them apart in my mind and in the world of art.


Did You Say *Shorts*?

While I've never met her in real life, our paths cross with frequency in internet land, so I can't even tell you how happy I was when my little raffle generator randomly chose Diana Trautwein's name as the winner of a guest spot here. When she admitted a little trepidation about writing for you people, "What do they possibly want to hear from a nearly 70-year-old retired pastor-at-mid-life with a passel of grandkids and a creaky body?", I replied, "The world has a lot to learn from a nearly 70-year-old retired pastor-at-mid-life with a passel of grandkids and a creaky body. We're listening!" Welcome, Diane! And thank you.

Did You Say Shorts?

Getting old is ripe with indignities. Go ahead, ask me how I know. I watch my 93-year-old mom take daily steps further into the haze of dementia, and I fear for the future. And then I realize -- the future is here. Yowza.

In four months, I will be 70 years old. 7-0. I remember struggling a bit with 35, taking a deep breath at 40, sort of reveling in 50 and feeling resolute about 60. But 70?

The word that comes to mind is sobering.


FREEDOM ISN'T FREE! ...Actually, it's not even a bargain. (Plus a $50 Freedom Culture giveaway!)

If there's one thing Americans love, it's food!

...I mean... freedom, Americans love freedom. 

And if Americans know one thing about freedom, it's that freedom isn't free. Oh, man, we love that slogan -- it's everywhere around here. We declare this truth with our starred and striped bumper stickers and license plate frames, lawn signs, tee shirts, rubber bracelets, phone cases, key chains, and tattoos. Liberty and Justice are our birthright, and we're pretty serious about letting everybody know. 

Our history books, bursting with accounts of wars fought and people lost, have taught us to value our freedom. Our Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors paid for our liberty in the currency of lives and limbs.

Freedom isn't free. This we know. This we understand at a core level.

We even celebrate our beloved independence as a nation every year with fire works and beer and BBQ, to remind us that war is terrible and millions have been maimed and killed by it -- but not just so we would be free to get drunk and light money on fire. They died so we would be both protected by our government and free from its tyranny. The flaming drunk part is just a bonus.

That's just talking about regular old Americans, I haven't even mentioned the Christian Americans. Oh, yes. Christian Americans dig freedom even more than dirty heathen Americans, because we revel in yet another kind of freedom.

I'm talkin'bout Freedom in Christ, baby!

Naturally, "Freedom in Christ" and its variations often proudly accompany the "Freedom isn't Free" thing on Bible covers and bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, hoodies, bumper stickers and ceramic figurines of Jesus holding the lifeless body of a soldier, cop, or firefighter under the shadow of a waving America flag. (Talk about blessed! First we were born into a land of wealth and liberty, and then we were adopted into God's family and gained His inheritance, too.  WHAT?! I KNOW! We are, like, the freest, you guys.)

And it's all because someone was willing to pay the price.

I am free, physically and spiritually, because of the sacrifice of another.

I'm free because someone decided I was worth it.

I'm worth the loss. I'm worth the cost. I'm worth the giving up and the laying down of life.

... I'm just not all that willing to pay it forward.