Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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Women’s Empowerment Day (It’s About Us All)

ProgramThis morning I attended a breakfast presentation for Women’s Empowerment Day at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. During the presentation, a panel of notable women spoke on the state of women’s issues locally, nationally and globally. While I didn’t agree with everything they said, it was clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.

Two things became forefront issues as the discussion continued: violence against women and the debate over how much control women have over their own bodies. It’s true that most people can agree that violence against women is a bad thing. We tend to form an overall consensus there. Yet, it’s still a huge problem. The latter, I realize, is a hot-button topic for politicians and us Christians alike. It’s not my desire to head down that rabbit hole right now, though. Instead, I think we can tie it back to the first, and agree that women should be protected from being forced into something they don’t want to do.

CenterI also learned two very startling facts. The first is that Georgia has the fifth highest rate in the US of women being killed by a domestic partner. The second is that the average age for a human trafficking victim in Georgia is 12 years old. These statistics should shock you, and I hope move to you action.

Issues like these can seem overwhelming. And you may not personally know anyone affected by them, therefore, you are unsure how you can help. But I assure you, you can create change.

 

 

In fact, here are six actions you can take immediately:

  1. Start at Home. Your biggest sphere of influence is likely within your home. Have open and honest conversations about these important issues within your own four walls. Also take stock of jokes and off-handed remarks that may could cause a problem or portray you as different from your actual beliefs in the eyes of those around you.
  2. Watch What You Watch. Sure, media is easy to blame. But the argument can also be made that we’re taking the time to watch and listen to what they have to say. The media is focused on ratings. They don’t keep putting out content we don’t, as far as the masses are concerned, care about. From TV shows to movies to music to video games and much more, media’s reach is far and wide. Take a hard look at your participation and what message it sends. Be a solution, even when no one else is watching.
  3. Realize It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue. Of course, it’s largely taken on by women, but more men should definitely be invested. Women’s issues affect the community and society as a whole. So if it makes you feel better to focus on capitalism, do that. When women are educated, working and thriving, it stimulates the economy.
  4. Talk About Sex. Um, so, yeah, it can get uncomfortable. But I hope you also realize that if you aren’t talking to your kids about sex, someone else will. And it’ll likely be from a source you wouldn’t want—refer back to #2, for example. Gender stereotypes and sexuality portrayed in the media are often far from the truth, but if that’s the only way your kids are getting their info, they won’t know that. You got designated a parent or guardian, so be that first.
  5. Help Your Boys Become Real Men. Too many men are set on their boys not becoming “soft.” They want their boys tough. They put them in sports and roughhouse with them and laugh when their little boys push or kiss little girls. On the surface, none of these things are bad. But how are they viewed? How are they reinforced? What is the intent behind them? Real men know how to treat women, and this is a taught and learned behavior. It begins when they’re little.
  6. Empower Your Girls. Abusers and traffickers are experts at finding a vulnerability and exploiting it. Instill in your girls confidence and a sense of self worth. It will make them a very unlikely target.

 

Clearly, these issues and suggestions are just starters. They are just the beginning of a dialogue I hope you will continue.

As my friend Stephanie and I walked around the Center afterwards, we landed in the Civil Rights area. It brings me to tears just standing in that room. We started talking about what we’d heard that morning, and what we were seeing in front of us, and how it was all still so unbelievable.

I told her that human rights and trafficking were our mantel to take up. They are our Civil Rights movement. I told her that if I’d lived during the 50’s and 60’s, I hope I would’ve had the guts to be a part of demonstrations and freedom rides. And I also told her that I hoped one day the displays would show how we eradicated such injustices.

Both times I’ve been to the Center I’ve stared at the older people who walk through the displays. I wonder what they’re thinking. Do they look at those walls with pride because they did something, even in their own small way, to bring about change? Do they feel shame because they did nothing and accepted racial inequality as part of the culture? Or are they just glad someone else did the work? I don’t know.

But one thing I do know is that if those displays are ever erected that tout trafficking and human rights injustices as part of our history and not our present, I want to be able to walk my friends and family through with my head held high, knowing that I helped make them a reality.

I will be the change I want to see in this world.

Won’t you join me?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke


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The Way I’m Feeling

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 11.48.02 AMI love John Mayer. I love the sound of his music, and especially his lyrics (Mostly—see “Your Body is a Wonderland” for otherwise). I’m a word person. And sometimes he just hits the nail on the head with his own blend of phrasing and rhythm.

When I first heard “Bigger Than My Body” I felt like words had been put to my own thoughts and feelings. After a little research, I read that he wrote it at a Coldplay concert, trying to express that he wanted to make music that moved people the way his favorite artists did. For me, it articulates those times when I have so many thoughts, feelings, passions, pursuits, interests . . . and am overwhelmed by them all. It gives perfect voice to my frustration that I am limited by my skin and time and resources and capabilities. It’s the phrase I always use to denote my inability to do everything I want to do.

I had another moment like that this week. In fact, I have them fairly regularly. But I thought of this song, and took comfort in the fact that I’m not alone. There are a lot of us who are trying to make this dusty rock we live on a better place.  And despite heartaches and setbacks and maybe even a few failures, we’ll get there. Because we just won’t settle for anything less.

So, for all my fellow dreamers and doers out there, this one’s for you too.

 

“Bigger Than My Body”

This is a call to the color-blind
This is an IOU
I’m stranded behind a horizon line
Tied up in something trueYes, I’m grounded
Got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded (by)
All this pavement
Guess I’ll circle
While I’m waiting
For my fuse to dry

Someday I’ll fly
Someday I’ll soar
Someday I’ll be so damn much more
Cause I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for

Why is it not my time?
What is there more to learn?
Shed this skin I’ve been tripping in
Never to quite return

Yes, I’m grounded
Got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded (by)
All this pavement
Guess I’ll circle
While I’m waiting
For my fuse to dry

Someday I’ll fly
Someday I’ll soar
Someday I’ll be so damn much more
Cause I’m bigger than my body gives me credit for
Cause I’m bigger than my body now

Maybe I’ll tangle in the power lines
And it might be over in a second’s time
But I’ll gladly go down in a flame
If the flame’s what it takes to remember my name

Yes, I’m grounded
Got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded (by)
All this pavement
Guess I’ll circle
While I’m waiting
For my fuse to dry
For my fuse to dry

Someday I’ll fly
Someday I’ll soar
Someday I’ll be so damn much more
Cause I’m bigger than my body
I’m bigger than my body
I’m bigger than my body now


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Lent 2015

464613430It’s hard to believe, but we are about halfway through the Lenten season already. I’ve participated in Lent for a number of years now, and always feel that it’s an encouraging and challenging (in a good way) experience.

The New Year begins and we resolve to read our Bibles more, or pray more, or give more, but as we know, most resolutions are short-lived. And that is one reason I really like Lent. If I start the New Year off strong, but wane a few weeks or a month later, Lent is there to kick me in the pants and get me motivated again.

I didn’t really have a plan for what I was going to read this year. But I came across Margaret Feinberg’s 40-day plan via Twitter, and decided to give it a go. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament, so I thought it would be a good idea to focus on Jesus’ life while looking toward Easter. (I’m actually reading it through YouVersion if you prefer to read it digitally. Plus, I really like those little check marks that it gives me. ;) Another reason I really liked her plan was the post she wrote about her #LentChallenge, stating that she wanted us to start each day’s reading with this prayer, “As I read today, Lord, reveal that which I most need to read but least want to hear.” Wow. That’s asking to be challenged for sure!

Another thing that’s greatly influenced Lent for me this year is this article on Relevant Magazine’s website by Ken Wystma. I definitely tend to go into Lent each year with my own questions, my own agenda. Sometimes I get an answer, and sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t make the season any less valuable, but yep, I’d rather have the answers on my schedule. So this was a fantastic article for centering myself, and for my approach to prayer at any time of the year. I particularly resonated with this part, “We often start our prayers with: ‘God, what is your will for my life?’ when we should be asking, ‘God, how can I serve you with my life?’” Um, guilty as charged.

Both of these items have given me a strong foundation for Lent 2015. It’s not been particularly unique or life-changing so far, and that’s ok. I’m learning to slow down, focus and listen. Those are always valuable lessons, and I have no doubt that I’ll have to learn them again later. For now, I’ll take them and the time I’m spending with my Creator. And I’ll look to April 5, when we all get to celebrate together.

______________________________

Curious about Lent but don’t really know much about it? I read this post recently on Ken Wytsma’s blog, and thought this writer did a really good job of explaining it.

We’re halfway there, but it’s not too late for you to join! Why not make this your first Lent. If you do, I don’t think it’ll be your last.

 


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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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