Thursday, March 29, 2012


Today has been a tough week.  I won't lie.  One of the people reading this right now did a really hurtful thing to me.  I hadn't left my apartment all day on Sunday because I wasn't feeling well.  Andy was on his way back from a weekend away for baseball and I was cleaning some things up before he returned.  Upon his arrival, he came into the apartment, wanting to make a dash for the bathroom, but on his way, between my hug and the bathroom, he said is this yours? And he handed me a strip of paper that had this quote on it (highlighted):

Do whatever feels right for your conscience, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you're saving the world. (these may not be the exact words, I threw the slip away in an angry attempt to forget about it.)

Wow.  At first I felt completely violated that someone would go to that extent to print this out and hang it on my door (whoever it was wasn't bold enough to hand write it OR sign their name.)  Then I let it get to my head.  I was so excited to see Andy because we spent the weekend a part but our perfectly happy reunion was destroyed by someone cruel enough to want to put in front of my nose that though I think I'm doing good, they want to make sure I know I'm not doing anything to make any sort of a difference.

Did this person not have parent's that told them that they could do anything that they put their mind to?  Did they not sit through a hundred seminars as a child in school with the main point being you can make a difference?  Do they have any semblance of a heart?

So yes, it hurt me.  If you are the one who posted this on my door, this is my response to you:

I am deeply sorry if I have offended you or hurt you in any way by the things I have written in my blog.  I am very sorry that you don't feel as though you can reveal to me who you are.  But most of all I am sorry that you feel that you don't have the power to change anything.  I want more then anything to sit down and talk this through with you.  I would like to know why you felt so strongly about this that you felt like you needed to make sure I knew that I'm not doing anything to make a difference.  Better yet, I'd like to know what you're doing?
If your goal was to hurt me, you achieved that.
If your goal was to try to get me to stop writing, sorry but I won't.
You don't have to read it if you don't like what I have to say.  I'd like to point out to you a paragraph that I posted a couple weeks ago:
You can play devil’s advocate and you can say that I’m wrong with all of this if you want to.   The way that I am doing things might not seem like much, if it is at all, but please don’t make fun of me, give me a hard time, or criticize my actions of not supporting large businesses and injustice when sincerely from the bottom of my heart all I want to do is improve the life of another.  You don’t have to support me, but please don’t bring me down for trying.
In this paragraph I have clearly stated that I already know that I have no idea how much of a difference I am actually making.  But the responses of support that I have received after YOU decided to try to bring me down have shown me that there are so many people out there that care about these things as well.  I know that most people aren't reconsidering their entire lifestyle because of this blog and I know that I am not directly saving anyone's life, let alone the world, but I am using what little control I have to do what I think is right.  What "satisfies" my conscience.  So thanks for giving me the opportunity to grasp a measurement of how much of a difference I actually am making.  Just so you know, even if you don't care, other people do and I'm sorry but you aren't going to get very far if you don't think you can make a difference.
I'd like to encourage you and let you know that if you put your mind to it and care about something enough, you are making a difference just by taking an initiative!  The words of support that I received from someone in response to your note, "positive change has to start somewhere."

Why can't it start with me?

If you decide you would like to talk, please e-mail me or call me.  I'd love to buy you a cup of coffee and hear about your concerns.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chocolate Lovers!!

Thank you all SO much for your encouraging words and support.  You have no idea how much it meant to me to be walking from class to class and have someone come up to me and start talking to me about my blog, or asking me questions.  I LOVE it!  A week has gone by in which many new events have taken place.

It was a fairly typical, smooth week and Andy and I have been continuously trying to make plans for the Summer.  We found something VERY exciting out and have been praying for ways to make it work if it is what God has planned for us. (And NO I am not pregnant. :)) Prayers for guidance for us would be great and I will share what it is as soon as we figure it out for sure!

Now, on to what everyone is here for...CHOCOLATE!  With Easter coming up quickly, I thought this was quite appropriate!

There are these cookies that I absolutely LOVED growing up.  My mom would make them and bake them for less than the time listed on the packaging so they were gooey and the chocolate split apart like it does in the commercials with the long, milky string of pure bliss.  Tollhouse cookies. Yum.  How about Tollhouse pie?  Anyone ever try that?  It's sort of like an oatmeal pie but it is doused in chocolate...Nestles Tollhouse Chocolate.

Perhaps one of the most devastating finds yet. 


As most other girls (at least that I know) I am completely 100% in love with Chocolate.  If it wasn't for my understanding of how terrible it is for you in excess, I would eat it all the time, tummy aches and all.  And despite those tummy aches, it actually does make my heart feel all better again, in any situation :) (my decision to give up meat and dessert for lent is probably the cause of all this heartburn I've been experiencing lately...lack of chocolate!)

Nestle, Toblerone, Crunch, Swiss Miss, Cadbury, AND Dove chocolate will no longer show up in our house.  Isn't that heart breaking!? That is like every single one of the best chocolates!

If you'd like more information on ethical reasons for boycotting these companies, check it out here.

This is a quote that I found on The Ethical Consumer's Website specifically relating to chocolate:
"A study conducted in 2002 estimated that of about 284,000 children working in the West African cocoa industry, 200,000 were in the Côte d’Ivoire and a “substantial minority” of these children were found to have been trafficked from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo.(2) The same study found that some 10,000 children in the Côte d’Ivoire were victims of human trafficking or enslavement, whilst 109,000 worked under the “worst forms of child labour”."

It continues to appall me at the fact that people can be so manipulative, conniving, and monstrous!  These are not cut and dry issues to be read about, they are complex, organized systems that have been around for decades!  The fact that people steal children to make them slaves in the cocoa industry to cheaply produce chocolate bars whose primary consumer is most likely CHILDREN is heartbreaking.

Anyways, I apologize to hand out such unfortunate facts, but these things need to be made known.

On a lighter note, head on down to your local Ten Thousand Villages or Co-op and pick up a few bars of Endangered Species chocolate!  They, along with all other companies that are rated "A", are all slave-free companies!

Endangered Species Chocolate is organic, made from small, family-owned farms, AND 10% of their profit goes to support organizations that are actively supporting humanity, wildlife, and the environment!

Other companies in the A category:Rapunzel, Equal Exchange, Divine.

Also, if you're wondering about Hershey's Chocolate Syrup...C!

Happy almost Easter!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Long, but worth it

My heart is hurting right now.  This is going to be an off topic blog post but my entire body is full of frustration right now and all I want to do is go outside and scream.

This is not about chocolate, which I know I promised, but this is screaming to come out.

Today at church we had a group of five from Christian Baptist Church in New Orleans.  The service was engaging, different, challenging, encouraging and helped me to become more self-aware.  The music was certainly from the heart and the people in their group seemed to be some of the only ones that were being responsive like the pastor encouraged us to do.  He welcomed the “amens” and “hallelujahs” and often times asked for them.  The woman “sitting” next to me was on her feet almost the entire service waving her arms and “blessing” the man that was speaking.

This was so eye-opening for me.

This is a church of 30 some members who’s church was destroyed in hurricane Katrina.  Many of their homes were sprawled across the ground because of this disaster.  And the five of these people that I saw today were completely and utterly thankful to God for EVERYTHING that he has given them and blessed them with.  No matter how small, they were thankful for it all.

This morning I woke up to a text message from a high school friend making me aware of an accident that occurred last night in my hometown.  One of my friends, whom I lost touch with after high school, was killed in an accident.  The situation was that she and another man I went to school with were hit by a drunk driver.  She was killed on the spot and the other man in the car was taken off of life-support right before my Sunday school class started (in which I was supposed to help lead) this morning. There was no alcohol involved in their car.  This is not the first loss that I have experienced and I don’t claim to be close with either of them, but my heart breaks for their family and friends. 

While I was in high school, my school lost a student every year in a car accident.  One year there were two losses and they were two and a half weeks a part from each other.  My high school classmates can attest that we are no stranger to loss.  The question that everyone asks is “why?”  They didn’t do anything to deserve it, and I don’t believe in a God that takes peoples lives as punishment.  (I also don’t believe humans have the right to take people’s lives as punishment.)  So why does this happen? 

So back to the discussion on being “blessed.”  In my Sunday school we normally discuss the sermon and one of the questions posed was “how are you blessed?”  Many people talked about being blessed with security, a loving family, church, knowing where we are going to sleep and where out next meal is coming from, etc. The entire time these responses were taking place, I couldn’t think about these things as being a blessing from God because it makes it sound like He chose this for me and chose these worries for someone else.  My mind was stuck on the people who don’t have security, a loving family (if a family at all,) food, a place to sleep; but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel blessed.  The people I saw in the church service today repeated over and over and over again that they are blessed even though they lost their church, their homes, and numerous family members.  But they are blessed.  God didn’t do this; God didn’t choose whom to do this too.  He doesn’t choose the people in America to have the most money and He doesn’t choose to keep the impoverished countries impoverished.   They aren’t less “deserving” then we are. 

As class went on I was bouncing around in my own thoughts not even knowing where to take them or where they were going next.  I feel like I am being selfish and greedy with what I have.  I am struggling to find the balance between acknowledging my blessings from God and comprehending  why other people don’t have them. If we are thankful to God for what we have, but are not making any attempts to make things better for other people, are we being greedy?  I am stuck with wondering what I can change, to make a difference.  I am left with the thought that a blessing is perception.

Perhaps the most important part of this blog post:
No matter what happens in life, we come in contact with other people.  Our lives are stitched together like an old blanket.  We have good, neat relationships, the fine stitches. We have bad relationships. We have the capability of ruining another person’s day by being grumpy at work, by not saying hello, or even by not noticing another person.  There are holes in this blanket that keep growing larger with wear.  We have the capability to make another person’s day by greeting each other with a smile; by showing them we care.  We have the power to give life, and also to take it away.  It is not God that takes a life before it’s been lived by the hand of another, it is the choices that we make.  For that drunk driver to get behind the wheel of a car, he had to make that choice of crossing another person’s path and literally destroy their stitch in this blanket.  For all of the people who die in a war where we are taught that it is against another country to make things better for us, it is not against another country, it is individual PEOPLE risking their lives fighting other PEOPLE, to kill them! To “defeat” them!”  WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!  We are crossing in the paths of our neighbors on a daily basis in which we have the power to maintain a healthy “stitch” or to destroy it.  We were put on this earth to love and to help one another. 

God put Eve on this planet to be a companion to Adam.  He noticed he was lonely and gave him the gift of a friend.  He gives us little brothers to laugh and play with.  He gives us kind co-workers to make doing that job we hate (but are “blessed” to have) a little more enjoyable.  He meant for us to be involved in each other’s lives, to be COMPANIONS of one another.  He meant for us to cross paths.

But it is up to us on how to carry ourselves across that path.  We have a say in that.

To tie this into the purpose of this life interconnects with every single person who has come in contact with a product that I buy.  By purchasing a pair of jeans that are sold for $10 dollars that were created in a sweatshop where employees are paid less than a dollar an hour, I am directly supporting this injustice because I want to save money by buying a cheap pair of jeans.  If no one bought these products this wouldn’t happen. 

I would also like to note that this movement that I am doing for myself, is not something that I expect every single person who reads this blog to do.  I am not going to judge someone for buying something or shopping somewhere that I am avoiding.  I am doing this because it is something that I feel committed to and have the means to.  A friend challenged me in saying that most times people buy cheap because they can’t afford anything else.  I accept that in saying they should continue with what they can afford.  I am by no means well off as a young, still in college newlywed, but I have enough that I have the option of choosing what’s better for my neighbors and this earth that was created for us. 

This blog post was written under the circumstances of extreme emotion and unsettlement.  I am feeling angry, sad, and extreme discontent because all I am doing at this moment is sitting on my couch under a blanket because my toes are freezing.  There are things I have missed and there are many things that can be said in response to everything that I have just written about.  You can play devil’s advocate and you can say that I’m wrong with all of this if you want to.   The way that I am doing things might not seem like much, if it is at all, but please don’t make fun of me, give me a hard time, or criticize my actions of not supporting large businesses and injustice when sincerely from the bottom of my heart all I want to do is improve the life of another.  You don’t have to support me, but please don’t bring me down for trying. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Brands! AGH!

AMAZING week at Myrtle Beach with my best friends! We left early Sunday morning and returned on Thursday afternoon.  This week was a bit of a challenge as far as the shopping goes, and the return trip proved to be especially difficult as well.

First of all, we wanted to find the lowest prices that we could since none of us really had much money to spend on a vacation.  Second of all, we had no idea what was actually available until we arrived at the beach and searched shopping places on the GPS.  In order to find the "good" places, you really need to hear it by word of mouth from the locals, otherwise, if you go to the front desk at a hotel and ask where you can go grocery shopping they'll say, "there's a wal*mart up the street!" because that includes everything that anyone could need while on vacation.  We didn't ask the front desk where we could go, but we did search on the GPS.  We found a Food Lion (C) that was only about a mile away.  Not as good as the local grocery stores which we had no idea where/how to find, but good enough that I would go there. 

One of the difficult things that I frequently encounter when I go grocery shopping at grocery stores that I know are safe are whether or not a particular brand is safe.  Luckily for me I have the Better World Shopper App readily available on my iPhone that I can utilize as often as necessary!  I think that on our grocery shopping trip at the beach I may have tickled a few nerves because there were times that people would pick something and then I'd mention I have to double check whether it's okay or not, (thankfully every time it WAS okay) and I heard back once that if it wasn't okay then I could pay for something else myself!  Which I don't blame 'em because the price for something that is quality is typically more expensive then it's unjust counterparts!  But unfortunately for me, it's a bit difficult to stick to my commitment around friends because I don't like being a jerk about things...but nevertheless, it's important!

Andy and I both returned from our week away yesterday (he was in Florida with the baseball team) so today we were in for a decently large shopping trip!  We stocked up on fresh produce from the co-op because that's the BEST place to go where we don't even need to take out the app to check whether a brand is OK or not.  And then after that we decided to check out Food Lion to see what kind of prices they have and how it compares to Red Front (our local grocery store that frequently has expired goods on the shelf.)  It did prove to be cheaper and we even got a dozen eggs for free with the purchase of our Tropicana (B) orange juice(?) even after we already but a dozen from the co-op because they're locally produced without drugs or horomones!  One of the tough parts of shopping at middle of the road places like Food Lion/Giant is that you have to choose very wisely because they still carry brands such as Kraft (F), Orville Redenbacher (D-), Hunt's(D-), Hidden Valley(D-), Oscar Meyer (F), Tyson (F), and tons of the other widely known and often the main brands of what you are buying.

Overall, we had a successful shopping trip and only spent about $60 at Food Lion on quality, good products :)

Fun (not so fun) fact: if a brand has the word earth, or good in it, it does NOT necessarily mean that it is in fact a quality brand (in the way that this blog describes them to be.)  Though many of them ARE quality, it's hard to tell.  For example, Good Earth Tea? D+! Good Seasons dressing? F! Green Works cleaning products? D-!

My next post will be about chocolate!  You're (probably not) going to want to read that one if you're a chocolate lover!

Enjoy your Better Shopping! :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring Break!

Blah....Had a night last night where we were scrambling around town trying to find somewhere "safe" where Andy can buy Clif bars for his baseball trip to Florida this week!

Rewinding:  For lent this year we wanted to do something that challenges both of us.  I know dessert and meat are two of the most typical things for people to give up.  When I was in high school I gave up meat for lent and ended up a vegetarian for three years.  On a separate year I gave up dessert for lent and quit eating it for about a semester (of high school.)  So this year Andy and I decided to do them both.  Together. 

I have been a dessert aholic ever since we got married! Before we got married I went dessert free for a couple months, and then as soon as he stuck that piece of cake in my mouth it was all over.  Our honeymoon was the type of thing where we said "this is the only time we're ever going to do this!"  So we ate dessert.  A lot. 

As a baseball player, for Andy to give up meat is a huge deal.  Not only is he giving up a huge source of protein to keep him full throughout the day, but he's putting himself at risk of losing weight in season.  Which he does NOT need to do.  But as a +/- 215 lb block of muscle, it takes a lot to make him full.

The first week for him was difficult.  He was feeling very tired most of the time and usually pretty hungry.  We had some problems when we went on a choir trip to PA and were first handed bagged lunches with ham sandwiches that had lettuce, tomato, ham and cheese on them.  Andy typically picks off the veggies from his sandwich, so alas, he was left with just cheese.  After that first week of scrounging around and figuring out what to do, I decided that I was going to invent something that would make him full! And it did!  And it also included +25 grams of protein in one meal! Which is way more than your average serving of meat.

So anyways, for Spring break this year he is heading down to Florida with the baseball team for four days where they will most likely eat out, a lot.  We went to the store and made some trail mix with lots of nuts and raisins, and he strategically added about twice as many m&ms as necessary, insisting that it's part of the mix and not dessert.  That smile gets me every time.   He also planned to take a couple boxes of Clif bars.  While at Martin's, we looked around and only found the kind that you can buy individually and Andy said we could just stop at CVS on the way home because they definitely had them.  Unfortunately though, CVS is an F, even though Clif is an A+.  We tried Food Lion (which is a surprising C) and they didn't have any at all!  We did find Powerbars though and without thinking bought the 10/$10 deal (it seemed pretty good at the time.)  We got back to the car and while on our way home my stomach sunk because I knew I forgot to check the rating on Powerbar.  I pulled up the Better World Shopper app and sure enough, Powerbar...F! In red print.  Here we go again.  Andy said today that he's looking forward to eating them this week (he got cookie dough, peanut butter, double chocolate, etc.)  and I told him he better not get too used to it!

I am heading to Myrtle Beach with four of my best friends for a few days of relaxation in the upper 50-lower 60 degree weather! Boy did our school choose the right week for Spring Break! :/  Oh well, we shall have fun filled girls nights :)

Andy should be on his way back from baseball right now and then heading out for the week in about 20 minutes! Send your prayers our way for safe travels! Thanks everyone, happy spring break!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

To begin...

I will be the first to admit that I haven't made the best choices in purchases.  I struggled with compulsive buying throughout high school, resented my parents for making me save money, and even went a little bit crazy with the shopping when I first got to college when I was finally allowed to touch my beloved savings account.  I enjoyed the comfort that money provided, too much.

Throughout high school I became aware of of some of the social injustice that was going on the world, particularly with restaurants.  I had one experience that I will never forget that I believe has made my urge to follow through with my commitments so much stronger:  when I was in high school I had a boyfriend that I thought was the center of the world.  When I first learned about the tomato wars going on with Taco Bell during one of my classes in high school, I immediately sympathized with the farmers.  I went home and researched it and as anyone would who is pumped up about anything, went to share it with him.  I told him all about the terrible working conditions, lack of benefits and unjust pay that these farmers were receiving (or lack thereof.)  What I got in return?  "That's a bunch of bull."  So I was immediately shut down, HE was completely unwilling to listen to any of the CLEAR research that was done on this issue.  Why? Because he enjoyed his Taco Bell runs too much to want to think about all of the other people who were hurting to make these runs even happen.

What about the gas it takes to get to Taco Bell?  What about the brand of car your driving? What about the shirt you're wearing right now?  These thoughts started to drown me, am I actively supporting this injustice by my current state of being?

What has happened to me in the past year that has further altered my mindset of consumption. This past Summer (2011) I did an internship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum through the Washington Community Scholars Center.  Emily King and I quickly found a friendship.  We related to each other very easily over our love of shopping, healthy eating, and mutual scorn of living in a house with 13 other people.  On one of our outings, Emily introduced me to the Better World Shopper.  It was a small, pocket-sized book that had ratings on everything from pizza sauce to gas stations.  It ranked EVERYTHING.  She explained to me that she tries to never shop anywhere below a C in the guide. Which at first glance seemed like everywhere and everything that I had previously used.

Here are the 5 key issues that the book takes into consideration when ranking (taken directly from
HUMAN RIGHTS: sweatshops, 3rd world community exploitation, international health issues, divestment, child labor, code of conduct.
THE ENVIRONMENT: global warming, rainforest destruction, pollution, recycling, renewable energy, greenwashing, toxic waste, eco-innovations, illegal dumping, sustainable farming.
factory farming, animal testing, humane treatment, wild animal habitat.
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: family farms, local business support, volunteer efforts, sustainable growth, philanthropic donations, nonprofit alliances, establishing foundations.
SOCIAL JUSTICE : fair wages, fatalities, union busting efforts, health & safety records, discrimination based on: race, gender, age, ability, religion, sexuality, ethnicity.

And here are the rankings (also taken directly from the site above):

At first I nodded with admiration at her commitment to shopping so wholly and conscientiously BEACUSE I didn't think it was possible.  As an American, I was raised on Kraft Mac & Cheese, Nestle's Tollhouse, and McDonalds (of course this was not a regularity, I did have parents who loved me enough to ensure my diet was balanced.) But these were treats that I loved while growing up.  By the end of our time in Washington D.C., I had experienced numerous shopping trips with Emily to know that, hey, this isn't as hard as it sounds.  By exposing myself to smaller, more local alternatives, it was much easier to make good choices when everything in front of you is a good choice.

Upon my return to Harrisonburg, I tried to remember what the book said about certain places, but just couldn't do it anymore.  I went out, bought the book and on the spot made the decision to not shop anywhere that is a C or below.  Just like Emily.  I forced it upon my roommates, who may or may not have gotten extremely annoyed with my constant "I can't, that's a D," "Nope, it's Kraft," and now  my husband, who is very understanding, supportive, and almost as committed as I am to this life decision.

There have been times that I have failed at this.  We did our wedding registry at Target in April of 2011, which is a D.  Not much I can do about that, except for after spending all the gift cards, and making all the exchanges we need to, to never enter that store again.  We had terrible customer service anyway.  I also admit to tagging along in a group and eating at a restaurant that is not a favorable one.  I'm also stuck in a two year contract with Verizon, which just so happens to be an F. My iPhone is no excuse, and though it's significantly overpriced, it's a B+ :)

My most recent commitment that I voiced to my husband while on a choir trip, not knowing where we would stop for a meal was this: I would rather not eat and be hungry then spend my money somewhere that I know is contributing to negative impacts on my fellow human beings.

I may not be able to solve all the world's problems, but I can peacefully and safely protest big box corporations and money hungry business by spending my money where I know that it is fair.  Can you imagine what would happen if everyone did this?  Wal*Mart would go out of business, giving small business owners more of a chance! Pizza Hut would diminish allowing small, family style diners a new beginning!

What I'm doing now? Trying to survive as a poor college student on the slightly higher priced fresh and local produce and goods that my Friendly City Food Co-op provides!  They don't even have brands that I have to question.