Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Why I Bought This Car at That Place

Prius 2011

My 2011 Toyota Prius

After pouring way too much money into my lemon of a car over the last few years, I decided it was time for an upgrade. Always a daunting task for sure, but this was definitely going to be a new challenge for a number of reasons. First, I know very little about cars (hear: really nothing except how to operate one). Second, I wanted to find a car that was good for the planet. And third, I wanted to find a car that loved people.

The first reason probably resonates with many of you. And the second may also make some sense to you, whether you buy into the notion or not. But the third likely needs some explaining.

I used to work at an environmental organization, and this was before “green” was as en vogue as it is now. Products were certainly available, but not as commonplace and inexpensive as they are today. It was the beginning of the movement for the masses. I learned a lot there, including what my personal impact has on the planet. So, I started recycling and switching many of my personal and cleaning products to more eco-friendly ones. And I knew that the next time I purchased a car, this information would be taken into consideration.

Then, a few years ago I started to learn about supply chain through my volunteering with human trafficking and modern-day slavery organizations. Based on my previous environmental experience, I began to see that this was the next big movement in consumerism. Supply chain, if you are unfamiliar with the term, is just the process of taking raw goods through a production process to create an end result. And this can be in the form of anything: food, electronics, rugs, paintings, cars, etc.—anything. What we are often aware of, and something I’ve spent a lot of time talking about on this blog, is the harm that can occur to people in the cultivation and/or production process. For example, you have likely heard about child labor being used to pick cocoa beans, or poor working conditions in places like India, Bangladesh or Uzbekistan, or blood diamonds. Recently, there has also been a lot of concern over the dangerous situations children and adults are put in to mine coltan, a metallic ore found in almost every piece of electronics. The harmful effects of supply chain are everywhere, and can be found in most every item of your house, but are rarely talked about on the news. But it’s an important issue to me, so this is why I decided my new car should love people. I didn’t want anyone to be harmed in the making of my car.

This third aspect was the toughest by far because it has the smallest amount of established data. It’s not yet important to the masses, so it’s the hardest to track and find available information.

Ok, yes, then there is that pesky fourth requirement of being within my budget. Ugh.

And so my search begin . . . with lots and lots of research. Over a couple of months.

I actually don’t mind research because I love to learn. But if that’s not the case for you, I’m pretty sure you can deal with it when you’re going to be dropping this kind of money. ;)

Here are the initial steps I took:

  • Asked friends what they already knew that might be relevant to my search.
  • Asked experts I could actually contact for the same. These weren’t blind emails I’d retrieved from a website; they were people I’d spoken to before on different supply chain matters.
  • Searched a few websites that take supply chain into consideration, including GoodGuide.com and BetterWorldShopper.com. Note: while things like clothing, chocolate and coffee are becoming more popular to buy as fair trade or ethically sourced, cars are still far behind the curve.
  • Searched ConsumerReports.org for their advice and ratings.
  • Googled and found a site called AIAG, which is a group of automotive related companies trying to create more excellence, transparency and accountability within the industry.
  • Utilized social media to ask questions to the general public as well as car manufacturers.
  • Emailed car manufacturers for more detail about their policies.
  • Read Corporate Responsibility Reports (sometimes called Corporate Sustainability Reports or CSRs). I have read many of these types of reports across different industries, so it takes a some practice to understand what to look for and frankly, what I’d consider BS (or good PR).

Next, I dug deeper:

  • Just by doing the things above, I was quickly able to eliminate some brands. This was either for poor ratings, lack of information (which is fishy to me) or because the car was too expensive (hello, Tesla).
  • Sadly, my friends and experts in-the-know didn’t have any advice here. And again, that’s largely due to cars not being as much of a hot-button issue as products like cocoa and electronics. It’ll get there.
  • I emailed the PR person for AIAG, who was listed on a press release housed on their website, to see if they had any sort of ratings in place. She responded right away! She was very nice, but unfortunately, they do not yet having a ratings system in place.
  • Social media has been a big help in times past for various things, but it couldn’t really help me here yet. People that responded mostly had opinions or ideas, but nothing to back it up.
  • I looked to see if they had any manufacturing plants in the US, so at least they were stimulating our economy in some way.
  • It really came down to Good Guide, Better World Shopper, Consumer Reports and Corporate Responsibility reports. Besides just reading and research, I also emailed the first two websites because of what they’re trying to accomplish, which I admire. BWS emailed me back, which I greatly appreciate, and this was the second time he’s answered questions for me. But I’ll be honest here, there is definitely some conflicting information in cross-referencing, and it can be frustrating. Who do you believe? I usually lean toward the third-party who has no stake in the profit, which is why I really like BWS. Overall, it really takes 1) the desire for answers, 2) determination to push through and 3) discernment to cut through the crap. As I said earlier, the last one for me has taken some practice. It probably helps that I work in PR and marketing, and know what forms “fluff” can take!

The finalists:

  • After all of the above, I finally narrowed it down to a Toyota Prius, Honda Fit and Ford Fusion Hybrid. You may do the same thing and get some varied results because part of it is just how you interpret the data. Sadly, it’s not really based on hard facts.
  • I then eliminated the Fusion. Honestly, the three were all pretty close at this point, but I just didn’t like the way the Fusion looked. And let’s face it, I do have to drive it everyday so I wanted to feel comfortable in it. Sue me.
  • Down to two. A major factor resulting in the Prius was the difference in Corporate Responsibility reports. Not only was Toyota’s the easiest to read, but I liked a lot of the other programs they were running to better people’s lives, both here in the US and in the countries where they manufacture or source parts. It felt genuine. And, of course, I liked the hybrid factor. But besides Ford, they also had the most impressive policy on supply chain. It was included, for one thing (not all do), and well thought out. It didn’t look like it was included for legal reasons or pressure to do so. They included a variety of topics including conflict materials (note: coltan) and worker’s rights.
  • So, in the end, it was the Prius.

Buying the car:

Actually, before I bought the car, I knew exactly where I wanted to purchase it. My friend and mentor, Holly, told me about her friend’s dealership, Providence Auto Group, outside of Nashville. They are a family run business, not loyal to any particular brand, and give a lot to charity. Those were three things I liked better than any other dealership I was aware of. (And I was given a great deal on my trade!)

There was also no pressure on any front as far as what to buy or my budget. I did basically everything via email since I was four hours away, and it was ready to go before I arrived to test drive it. In fact, I basically sent them a wish list because I didn’t see what I wanted on their website. So, they found me that car and actually called me to see if I was interested before they listed it. They thought it was a good fit for me, and wanted me to have the first option. Um, what?

And as I mentioned, they are a family run business. So, they didn’t feel slimy. They have a kid’s room with a TV, movies and games since they said people come from all over the US to buy cars from them and need to bring the family along. There was a family in there at the same time as me from Michigan. The guy had a friend who’d purchased from them, and had a great experience, so he made the trip to do the same. And the co-owner’s dad was there making Root Beer floats for everyone the afternoon I was in. Not even kidding!

Finally, they contribute to a charity I already love, Thistle Farms, a long-term recovery and job training program for women leaving prostitution or trafficking. A portion of every car they sell is set aside to provide a car for select women coming out of TF programs. I was also given TF home and body products as a thank you for buying with them! Loved it. Providence said they are the largest (or one of the largest, I forgot) retailers of TF products in the nation—a car dealership! They also support several other charities in the Nashville area.

Driving off into the sunset:

So, as you can see, it definitely took some effort to arrive at my decision. But I’d certainly do it all over again. And policies and ratings change every year, so I will do exactly that the next time I car shop. Hopefully, the information will have caught up more by that time, too.

I know this is a different process than most people take, but again, it’s not like you’d go out and buy a car without having done your research. This is just an extra layer. It’s one, however, you can feel really good about. And once you’ve navigated it the first time, it gets a lot easier. You can’t unlearn it. And you can also see how the process translates to other items you purchase more frequently. Doing good in any way is always worth trying.

I love my Prius, and I’m proud to own it. Like me, it’s not perfect, but I feel pretty confident that we are both trying to be kinder to the planet and love people in our own way. And that’s all I can ask for now.


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Living Each and Every Day

466825681I was reading the book of Ruth the other night. The intro talked about Ruth being full of everyday miracles. “God usually works in the ordinary events of everyday life. Miracles do happen, but God regularly accomplishes His purposes and blesses His people through routine occurrences. If we learn faithfulness in the everyday, we are equipped to be faithful when the miracle or crisis comes . . . The everyday and the ordinary can have breathtaking eternal results.” (NLT Study Bible)

Overall, Ruth is a pretty ordinary story, especially when compared to the plagues, tumbling walls and fire-consumed altars all around her. But God is there. He is always there, whether we see or feel Him. Perhaps that’s why so many find comfort in this book. It’s a good reminder to find God in the everyday-ness of life.

Most of life is lived between big events, but there’s still plenty worth celebrating or at least noting. He created us to live fully, and that means the in-between as well. You and I friend, and loads of others, are living in-between what we want our story to be about, what we want to be known for. The days are made up of errands, laundry, bills, work, too much television, long commutes and trying to see all the Oscars Best Picture nominees. (Just me on that last one?) But books aren’t comprised of just a first chapter and last chapter. There are all the words and phrases and sentences in between, sometimes beautiful and sometimes sorrowful, and we can choose to live them or skim over them. We can boldly add more exclamation points, or resign to suffer more footnotes.

There will undoubtedly be days that we just skim by. And that’s okay. Neither of us is perfect. But I pray we will live every syllable with the freedom we have been given.

 

(This post is dedicated to Katie.)


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How to Give to Charity With Little or No Money

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 3.15.05 PMIt’s the beginning of the year, so you may feel a little financially stretched after the holidays. Or, you may be like a lot of people who would like to give more to charity, but feel you lack the ability or resources. Well, I’m here to tell you that there are plenty of ways to give with very little or no money involved. All you need is the desire to do so.

One of my heroes, Sheryl WuDunn states in moving her TedTalk, “Research shows that once you have all of your material needs taken care of, there are very few things in life that can actually elevate your level of happiness. One of those things is contributing to a cause larger than yourself.”

So here are 10 easy ways that I’ve come up with to add a little more happiness to your life. I challenge you to pick one and get started this month. What have you got to lose? Probably something you won’t miss anyway.

  1. Use Charity Miles to earn money for charity when you walk, run or bike.
  2. Donate your hair. I’m actually in the process of growing my hair out in order to donate it, and have had a few friends do the same. I’m still doing research on which charity to give it to, so I’ll keep you posted. But this is a great way to support cancer patients, by providing hair that will be turned into a wig.
  3. Through Fit for Food, Fitbit and Feeding America have teamed up, along with Joel McHale, to donate meals to those in need. You burn calories via Fitbit, they give.
  4. Donate things like airline miles to a charity who can use the travel bonus for their staff or beneficiaries.
  5. Spring clean. Like me, you probably have way more stuff than you need. But chances are, someone else may want or need it. Clean out your home and donate your excess to Goodwill or another local charity. I recommend giving to places where you can actually meet the recipients. This will motivate you to de-clutter on a regular basis knowing that there is a real need, and a real face, that needs your clothes and household items. And if you need any motivation in this area, I suggest you read 7: A Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
  6. Have extra…anything? If you’re like me, you’ve stayed in a hotel at least a few times. And what’s your most popular and consistent souvenir? Probably the toiletries. I had a gallon+ Ziploc bag of unused toiletries. Then I found out that the organization I volunteer for can use those items in their weekly outreach. The same goes for blankets, suitcases and things like that for people who may not have a permanent home. Realistically, you can probably find a charity for anything you have. You just have to look, and ask.
  7. Don’t use your smartphone. The UNICEF Tap Project will help give clean water to children in need when you open their app or page on your smartphone and leave it alone. Each minute without you using your phone results in a larger donation. (It will drain your batter, though, so keep it plugged in while running.)
  8. Give consistent time. This is probably the idea that first came to mind. But, besides money, it’s probably the item you feel you have the least to give. And that’s ok. As we’ve pointed out, there are other ways to be a solution. But, before you dismiss it, let me say two things. First, we prioritize what matters to us. If you really want to volunteer your time, you can likely carve some out during your week or month. It just has to matter enough to you. Second, you might want to check with your favorite charity to see if there is an option that fits your current lifestyle. You don’t know until you ask. For example, through Out of Darkness, I write letters monthly to a woman in a long-term recovery program. It’s something that doesn’t take a lot of time given my schedule and other conflicts, but it provides her with a source of comfort and encouragement consistently each month.
  9. Give inconsistent time. Maybe you have a skill that can be utilized infrequently, that would still be a huge help to an organization. Like to clean or organize? Are you a business professional that can consult? Do you have first-hand industry knowledge that could benefit others? Can you teach a seminar? Have a couple extra hours one month to run errands? I’ve had friends do all of these things. And I personally consult on public relations, advertising and social media for my friend’s organization. I probably only do it a couple of times each year for a few hours, but it’s beneficial to them.
  10. Buy well. There is no shortage of this topic on this blog. I’m a HUGE proponent of utilizing the money you’re already going to spend on something that has a bigger (and better) impact. Luckily, we see this form of social enterprise everywhere now. This can be anything from clothes to dinner out to eyeglasses to comforters to chocolate to sports gear to flowers to .  . . really almost anything these days. You get the point. It’s easy to do. It may take some habit changes in the beginning, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll become a pro in no time. And you’ll feel better about where your money goes each month, which is priceless. Here are some resources to get you started. And, I’m an avid Amazon shopper, so when I use that site, I use Amazon Smile to donate to my local charity.
  11. One to Grow On: Give your life event. Charity Water can probably be credited with starting this movement, but many others have done similar things. If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you have a birthday. You may even have an anniversary, or something else you celebrate regularly like a holiday. Those are super easy ways to let others in on your desire to give and tell them about your favorite organizations. Charity Water asks people to donate their birthdays by setting up pages on their company website in order to help build a well from small donations in lieu of birthday presents. I’ve seen similar things for Christmas presents, and even read about a couple who asked their wedding guests to make small financial donations to their favorite org instead of bringing gifts. Last year, I had my friends donate $10 Chick-Fil-A gift cards to Out of Darkness for my birthday. This way the women could be taken out of the house for a treat without it being a financial strain on the house moms, staff or budget. As discussed above, I can imagine that you, like me, have enough. So, why not use these events as opportunities for others to have enough as well.

 

Well, that’s my list. What else did you come up with, or have you done? And if you do any of these, or anything else, let me know how it goes!


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My Word for 2015

466850191Well, 2015 is officially underway! Can you believe it! I work in event marketing, so we’re always a year ahead on the calendar. But nevertheless, when said year shows up on my doorstep, it still seems pretty surreal.

The New Year means a lot of things to a lot of people: new goals, new diet, new budget, etc. For me, one thing is always consistent. It means a new “word for the year” or theme. I love everything “new” (and a theme) so it’s always an exciting time for me to choose my new word. I usually start thinking about it sometime in November.

My word for the year is a very cherished tradition. My friend Daron had the idea to take a word and use it as a lens to view your year. Post where you can see it regularly, and it helps guide you navigate each day. This way you can look at a year proactively, instead of coming to the end of the year and only reacting to what happened. You engage your year more along the way. So a group of my friends and I have done this for years, sharing our word and accompanying Bible verse, checking in with each other throughout the year to see how it’s going, and then evaluating at the end. It has changed my years!

For 2015, I had an idea in mind, but couldn’t quite figure out how to articulate it. I came up with the word in December, but I had to let it marinate for a while to see if I’d keep it or find something more suitable. But as the end of the year came to an end, it seemed a good fit. And that word is FRAME.

Weird, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. It was out of the ordinary for me. I always try to pick a verb because I like the notion that it keeps me in motion, moving forward. But FRAME allows me both a verb and a noun—a two-for-one kind of word!

The original idea came from the concept of “margin” which I’d loved since my friend Mark retaught an Andy Stanley sermon series on the subject years ago. Create space, or boundaries, around things like time, money and relationships to allow for a buffer when the space is pushed beyond what you’re comfortable with. It’ll help you bounce back, or not make decisions you’ll regret. That’s kind of a lousy explanation, but hopefully you get the gist. So, “margin” became part of my group’s vernacular. It’s something I’ve since striven for, with sometimes good and sometimes not so good results. But I keep trying!

This past year really pushed against my boundaries, though, so I decided to make them a priority for 2015. I could take 30 minutes to explain the theme, and even make gestures to emphasize it with my hands, but until I came up with FRAME I couldn’t really condense it. And who has room for a soliloquy on their bathroom mirror?

FRAME gave me what I needed. And at the same time, in noun form, I think it helps me form a picture of what I want 2015 to be. See what I did there?

So, FRAME it is. And I think it’s a keeper. I’ve already started putting it into practice, and it’s doing it’s job. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead, and time to invest in this word along the way. Even though I don’t know what’s in store, I know it will allow me to give 2015 the perspective it needs.

And speaking of perspective, that leads me to my Scripture. I think this verse sums up how to FRAME my year.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33 (NLT)


 

Typically, I just choose my word through prayer, Scripture, contemplation and conversation, but this year I came across a few resources that were fun to incorporate. I actually had no idea so many people did this same “one word” thing! So, I wanted to list them here for you in case you’re interested in starting this tradition and want a little guidance. The last few are just some great advice for ending one year well and starting the next one strong.

  • One Word That Will Change Your Life – I stumbled across this book when someone posted about their four-day reading plan with the YouVersion Bible on Facebook. Their book only takes about 45 minutes to read, and I suggest it as an accompaniment to the reading plan. The reading plan on its own is a little abrupt to get the full effect, in my opinion.
  • My One Word – This book is about four hours long, and is great if you want more direction, stories and Scripture.
  • Andy Stanley’s Breathing Room series – You can watch or listen via iTunes to this four-part series on finding margin in your life regarding time, money and relationships. He teaches this now and again under different names with a little different emphasis, but I found this one most helpful for where I am right now in life.
  • 9 Actions You Must Take to Reach Your Biggest Goals by Rick Warren – This two part article is exactly what you’d expect from Rick Warren, practical and wise. A good read.
  • Preparing for a Fantastic 2015 – I came across this blog a couple of years ago during my SIMPLIFY theme. This couple sold all their stuff to travel the world. They talked about cutting the clutter to follow their dreams, and well, that was about the only sales pitch I needed to follow them. ;) I include this post of theirs, however, not because I think everyone should follow their dream, but I really like how they take the time to sit and evaluate their year with a specific process. And of course, as a married couple, I could see the benefit of doing this with a spouse to get on the same page. So, an extra bonus there for you duos.

Hope your 2015 is off to a great start! May you find joy, and a little margin, in it over the next 11 and a half months.


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My 2014 Highlights

Happy New Year! Insane that it’s already 2015. Wonder what this year has in store?

Before I move ahead, I wanted to take a quick look back at 2014. Here are a few of my highlights.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 6.10.39 PM

Thanks to everyone who was a part of it! May we all have a more adventurous 2015!

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