Being Community and Environmentally Friendly: How Do You Do It?

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Today was kind of a big deal.  I got a recycling container from town hall (no more long, stinky trips to the county recycling facility), I went into our local arts center and museum and introduced myself (so many ideas!), and now I’m sitting at my favorite local coffee shop drinking my first ever London Fog (I may be a convert)!

Something I learned while working as a newspaper journalist is the value of connecting with the people in a community—on all sides.  Whether you live in a cute, small area or are navigating your way through an amazing and huge city (I’ve done both), building a community is important—we all want to belong and have those spaces where we can enter and be known.

A few ways I’m doing this is attending monthly town meetings, going into places and intentionally meeting people, and doing my work in a public area instead of in my bedroom.  Also, I’m trying to make environmentally conscious decisions while I’m out and about (a real coffee cup!).  Here is to taking steps for an environmentally and community friendly lifestyle.  Here is to getting involved, meeting people, and becoming known.

What techniques do you use to get to know people in your area?  Do book clubs work?

How Did You Choose Your Name?

I was one of those little girls who pretended to get married starting at age three or four.  I’d wear my lace slip with the pink bow, stick a piece of lace fabric on my head as a veil, and carry a giant coloring book as a bouquet (yes, you read that correctly).

Over the years, my life and views changed, and I’m very thankful I didn’t get married in university or immediately afterwards.  Instead, I had time to work, continue figuring out myself and life, make some questionable decisions, and get published(!).  However, once I started dating A, I began to ponder my last name.

Historically, I couldn’t wait to take my husband’s last name, but, like I said, I changed.  I liked my last name, it was my identity, and I valued the connection I felt to my family (granted, my father’s side).  Thus began my ongoing internal (and external—ask my colleagues) argument for keeping, changing, or hyphenating my name (I’ll save the subject of women changing their name for another post).

*Spoiler* I decided to hyphenate.

It allows me to stay connected to who I am and embrace my new family.  But, now I’m facing the conundrum of deciding what my “writer’s name” will be from this point—and I have to decided ASAP (I have a new article coming out next week!!!).  Do I continue with my published name for continuity and to honor the career I started and the work I did before marriage?  Should I hyphenate, to stay current with who I am and recognize my husband (after all, he is my biggest fan and pushes me and celebrates my victories)?  I’ll let you know what I decide (actually…through this process, I think I’ve decided)!

Have you experienced this situation?  What did you do?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Finding an Inspiration, Choosing a Cause

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Current mood: slightly depressed and lacking get-up-and-go.

These past few days have been very emotionally charged.  I’ve felt it.  You’ve felt it.  Goodness, the whole world is feeling it…though, not all because of Charlottesville (because THAT would be incredibly self-focused).

A while back, A suggested I choose a cause to invest most of my “activism energy”, rather than spreading myself across so many areas.  I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about his words, and I agree.  Focusing on one thing, while still caring about other issues and supporting them, is healthy and, likely, more productive.

I haven’t decided 100% what it’s going to be…but I have a good idea.  I really care about the plight of women around the world.  Sexism and patriarchy are very real things.  It varies in degrees from place to place, culture to culture, religion to religion, and race to race, but it is there.  In fact, feminism is directly related to so many other issues because women are everywhere, involved in so much, and, frankly, are the reason each of us is here.

Lately, I’ve found myself especially inspired and motivated by the new Freeform show The Bold Type.  It’s about three mid-twenties women, working for a women’s magazine, and trying to figure themselves out.  It’s amazing.  Each episode deals with a subject that is going to be, at some level, slightly to more-than-slightly uncomfortable, but it energizes me in so many ways!  Of course, I connect to the writer because I want to be her—finding my niche in an awesome publication, having my voice be heard, and making a difference.  But, each of the three main characters represents a part of my personality and characteristics.  It’s like The Devil Wears Prada but with an AMAZING boss—you know, who actually cares about you as a person.  So, check it out if you’re looking for a fun and deep show to inspire you to rise to the occasion…wherever you are!

What’s your inspiration?  What’s your “issue” where you focus your energy?  I think, as humans, we all need something in which to invest that goes beyond a job.

Charlottesville, VA: A Symptom, Not the Root

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Two and a half months ago, my husband (A) and I were sitting in our car one block from the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA when we saw a group of people walk across the road and into Emancipation Park.  We could tell it was a protest of some kind.  Grabbing our things, we jumped out of the car and ran to see what was happening.  Little did we know the gravity of events that would occur such a short time later in the exact same spot.

I have so many words, thoughts, and feelings about what happened on Saturday, August 13, 2017.  Anger, sadness, disbelief, and incredulity are a few of them.  I have read countless articles, scrolled through Facebook far too much, and engaged in deep conversation about the events with A.

What makes my blood boil is the inconsistency of people.  Numerous first-hand accounts confirm the counter-protesters fought back in self-defense…yet so many choose to believe the contrary.  They condemn violence “on all sides”, as if what happened was equally evil.  Violence is not equal.  In the case of Charlottesville, videos and individuals’ stories line up—the police stood back.  They did not engage like they would have if a Black Lives Matter protest had turned violent.  People did not die at the hands of police like they might if the groups had been filled with black and brown people.  Yet, some still insist that the counter-protesters were the instigators.  Of course, when the nation’s own president takes 48 hours to denounce the racist groups and their violence by name…it makes a bit more sense why so many refuse to condemn them.

People continue to defend Donald Trump, claiming he is not the reason these violent and racist events are occurring with rising frequency…yet statistics show that in the past two years, since he declared his candidacy for president, that racist crimes and actions have risen (here is a report citing incidents since Trump’s election).  That leads to the many who don’t understand the root of this problem (because it’s not DT).  They claim the decisions to take down Confederate monuments is starting these riots, but that is only a symptom—a side effect—of a centuries long problem called racism and white supremacy.  People are taking a stand and saying these monuments do not belong in our town squares and in front of government buildings, places of honor and recognition.  They need to go in a museum, as a relic of the past mistakes the United States made in allowing white people to lord over black people, as masters and murderers.

I have often asked myself how I would have responded to the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany.  Then, I wondered if I would have joined the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.  Now, I no longer have to wonder: I am part of the movement to the fight against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ethnocentrism, and much more.  It is wrong.  There is no place for it if we are going to love each other.

What keeps running through my mind is: if we love others and desire change/equality/etc., we must be willing to sacrifice our preferences, desires, and privileges.  Without sacrifice, our selfishness and pride will prevail, and hatred, violence, and death will continue.  Therefore, if we believe love must win, it means putting ourselves in the shoes of others and thinking about their experiences, their history, and their lives and asking ourselves how ________ will affect them.  It means placing someone else above ourselves…especially when we (white people) are holding the flag of privilege.

Conspiracy Theories and a Movie Review

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December 2014.  The first time I was really introduced to 9/11 “conspiracy theories.”  Did I squabble and rebel against the idea?  You better believe it!  I was more progressive than ever before in my life–but that was too much.  The US government knew the attacks were coming?  Possibly were involved?  No way!

Fast forward to now, and I am much more open to this possibility.  So much so that last night I watched the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore.  It is well worth two hours of your time.

If you’ve ever wanted to know the details of what built the “Bush Empire”, the connections that spun a web behind the Bush family, the Bin Laden family, and Saudi Arabia, the timeline in which actions took place, the justification of invading of countries that had no connection to 9/11, the slaughtering of civilians in those countries, the recruitment and, consequently, killing of U.S. troops, and the pain and sorrow of humans in many countries…go watch it now.

One of the greatest qualities of the film was the way it gave the history of how we arrived at 9/11 and then showing the humanity of what it is to lose someone (or multiple people) to war.  It showed humanity in the worst of lights, killing other humans.  But, it showed they had to psych themselves up to do it–and that they felt part of themselves dying with each person they killed.

As we enter a new presidential era, where we awaken each morning wondering what new executive order will be passed down from on high, let’s remember that we are all humans and we need each other.

Fashion and Aleppo: Let’s Make a Difference

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John Lennon famously wrote “Imagine” during a tumultuous time in the world.  However, based on the essence of what it is to be human, I argue that it is always a tumultuous time in the world—some simply more than others.

The other morning, while scrolling through Instagram, I finally saw celebrities speaking out against the violence in Aleppo, Syria.  However, long before the Anne Hathaways and Kaley Cuocos of Hollywood started speaking out, my newsfeed was filled with sorrow and love for the tragedy and people affected.  For those in the Raleigh, NC area, many were actively working to raise funds and supplies in one day for a family arrived directly from Syria.  The outpouring did not disappoint.

On this particular day, after seeing an image of the rubble in Aleppo, I was greeted with a lovely and artistic image from Dior.  The contrast struck me, and once again I found myself waffling between my love of people and desire to see the world change and my love of the fashion world—especially when clothing and accessories seem so frivolous in the face of children and adults senselessly dying.

For context, let me share what first inspired me to pursue journalism.  I read the April 2011 Vogue story by journalist Marisa Mazria Katz who went to Morocco to teach impoverished youth how to tell their stories, and felt called to do the same—write for the sake of truth and justice.  However, it impressed me that a magazine known for fashion was the carrier of such inspiration.  That was the beginning of my exploration and love of the many fascinating and, at times, controversial articles published by Vogue—a giant in the fashion industry.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed many conversations in which I was able to share why I believe it’s important to not overlook avenues that may seem unorthodox when it comes to impacting humanity—which brings me to that morning.

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Imagine…what the fashion industry could do if it took a real stand against “the lions of injustice”.  These are not separate realms, one being frivolous style and another being heart-wrenching deaths of people unaffected by fashion.  Yes, one certainly outweighs the other, but terror does not discriminate based on the brand sewn into ones clothing.  But, money does play a role in when and how quickly one can attempt to evade the horrors to which so many are currently subjected.  (In fact, many of the country’s wealthiest have fled Syria to surrounding countries, and, according to Bloomberg, could even play a role in rebuilding the nation if peace could be attained.)

Of the five countries that border Syria, four of them have Christian Dior boutiques.  Why is this relevant?  Because it shows that contrary to the way many view the East, the same brands that don the cat walk in Paris are bought and worn there, as well.  Consequently, what happens in these countries impacts the companies that reside and profit within each border.  Therefore, as the adage goes, “money talks.”

If we believe that money does, in fact, talk, imagine what could happen if the multi-billion dollar fashion industry halted all preparations that are currently underway for Spring Fashion Weeks and said nothing would move forward until fighting ceases and peace is attained in the region?

Imagine what could happen if consumers boycotted buying clothes, accessories, beauty products, and more until people start engaging and speaking out against the atrocities happening?  As individuals, we hold far more power than we realize—especially when we come together to work for a cause.  In this case, the lives of humans suffering at the hands of fellow humans.  As stated above: money talks.  The people who have money are connected and influence each other.  If that money flow is stopped because people are upset and want change, something is going to happen.

Syria is not the only country impacted by the war—many others have contributed by providing militarization, supplies, weapons, etc. to both the government and the rebel army.  These countries are wealthy, enjoy the profits of the companies that reside within them, and would hurt economically if the fashion world decided to shut everything down until progress towards peace is made—and if the consumers stopped consuming.

The problem is: it requires sacrifice.  Money will be lost.  It will hurt.  But, isn’t sacrifice necessary to properly fight against the powers that want to oppress and terrorize humanity?  This overview of the civil war by Al Jazeera makes it clear that people protesting against injustice was not tolerated, thus leading to the past five years of fighting.  However, if the rest of world rallied and said, “we will go without until justice is served and peace reinstated”, the shockwaves would go out, corporations would feel the pain, whole cities and countries would know how serious the world is about no longer tolerating such actions.

The question is: are people willing to go without in order to fight for something greater than themselves?  Are they willing to go beyond posting on social media and stop shopping?  Are they willing to give and open up themselves, their communities, and even their homes to help those with less?

I’m asking myself these same questions.  What am I willing to give up to help other people?  I’m reminded of my great-grandparents who took in a young Hungarian refugee family after WWII.  Am I willing and/or able to open my home to strangers?  If I can’t, am I willing to send funds, supplies, or help coordinate assistance to those suffering and in need?  Am I willing to forego buying from entities that refuse to stand up against tyranny and instead profit off places supporting suppression of expression of beliefs and values?

I hope I can say “yes” and act.  I want to challenge myself and you to know what is being supported by the purchases we make and the things we do…beyond the square of Instagram.

Welcome!

Welcome to The Teapot Journalist!

Five years (and three months ago) I lay on a pool chair in Daytona Beach Shores reading my first copy of Vogue.

It contained a life changing article that inspired my pursuit of journalism as a career.  The article was about a journalist who traveled to Morocco to teach impoverished teenagers the skills of journalism, and then enabled them to go into their communities and practice what they learned.

Fast forward to now; I fondly reminisce the year and a half I spent as a rural newspaper journalist in western Virginia, continue to gobble up news from a plethora of sites, participate in social justice activism, am learning to be a better vegetarian, research ethical and sustainable fashion, notice the beauty around me, and care for myself, as a spiritual being…all while enjoying ‘newlywed’ status in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

You might be asking: why this blog?  Why now?

The name came to me over a year ago; the content has continued to steep for the past ten months.  People frequently ask me if there are others who think like me?  I tell them YES!  Are we identical?  Absolutely not.  But, our ideas and philosophies are similar—therefore, let’s share them and live them together.

How many people do you know who are intelligent, caring, and keep talking about wanting to do something to make something, somewhere, better, but they don’t know where to begin?

This blog is for those people.  This blog is for you.  This blog is for me.

I love discussion, so please feel at home to comment, email, etc.

Here is to many more posts, good conversation, and encouraging each other in this big world as we all pursue our unknown.

Sincerely,

The Teapot Journalist