Category Archives: news

last night at mockingbird

Mockingbird Restaurant and Music Hall in Staunton, VA closed its doors at the end of last weekend for reasons unknown to the public. They’ve been very hush hush about its closing and didn’t announce it until the beginning of the year. They made all of their events free last week so Daniel and I attended both an open mic night and their final concert featuring local folk bands, The Winter Line and Hound Dog Hill.

The Winter Line is relatively new to the music scene. Their music is reminiscent of Mumford & Sons in both lyrical themes and instrumentation. It’s encouraging to see such a young banjo player. We saw them perform at both events and think they have a lot of potential.

the winter lineHound Dog Hill is a seven member bluegrass, blues, and country band from the Shenandoah Valley. They played an enjoyable array of covers and originals from multiple genres. Their high energy and casual demeanor on stage made them immensely enjoyable to watch. Daniel even bought a t-shirt!

Hound Dog Hill Cutch Tuttle banjo fiddle(clearly, his arm was moving quite fast)


Since I don’t know the details of their closing, I don’t know whether to say goodbye or hope for a swift reopening. Rumor has it that there are a few buyers lined up to take over the place. We appreciate Mockingbird’s focus on local Roots music. We saw Ralph Stanley there back in August and we’d hate to never be able to visit again.


introducing Style Wise

style wiseStyle Wise is my new blog dedicated to providing fair trade resources for the conscientious consumer. From now on, all fair trade posts will be posted on Style Wise. You can access it anytime by clicking on the Fair Trade category on the sidebar of this blog. I hope you’ll follow along.

lipstick for slaves

I was introduced to Radiant Cosmetics’ “Kiss Slavery Goodbye” campaign through a fashion blogger I’ve been following for some time. As I mindlessly scanned the blurb (because no one actually reads fashion blogs), I was suddenly forced to engage when I read the following:

For every lipstick purchased, we’ll donate a lipstick on your behalf to a survivor or current victim of trafficking. 


Wait. What? You will donate some lipstick to a prostitute or child slave?

I can imagine how that conversation will go:

“Hey! Are you a slave?”

“Yes. I suffer daily at the hands of tyrants. I am violated, stripped of human rights, treated like a dog.”

“Great! Leah in Charlottesville donated this lipstick to you. It’s definitely your color.”

I’d like to give Radiant Cosmetics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was a typo? Maybe they’re giving lipstick to Texas preteens in the hopes that they’ll recruit them for the virtuous cause of ending human trafficking?

Except they don’t say that. They say they’re going to hand sexually violated and demeaned and desperate people some lipstick, then maybe smoosh their glossy lips together and blow them a kiss before bidding them adieu.

I hope they realize that something as serious as human trafficking doesn’t really pair well with the American beauty industry, that it’s inappropriate – and frankly, bizarre – to put a cutesy spin on slavery. (To their credit, they do donate 20% of all proceeds to charities that work to end human trafficking.)

(On only a slightly different note, I recommend watching the documentary, Whores’ Glory)

Revision 1/5: My husband discovered this excerpt from a British soldier’s journal that has a very different firsthand take on giving lipstick to slaves. I don’t know if this particular incident directly correlates to the one above, but it’s still worth a read for reflection’s sake.


anguishAnguish by Malaquias Montoya

It’s not about gun control or letting kids “keep their childhoods” or pointing fingers. It’s about allowing ourselves to grieve – fully – for very real heartbreak, for immense suffering. I’m beginning to think people talk these kinds of things to death to numb themselves. Don’t change the subject. Bathe in it. Take it in. Force yourself to recognize and feel the immeasurable darkness of tragedy.

And read this, too.

Fair Trade Month

Happy October and joyous Fair Trade Month. If you read my last post, you’ll recall that I’m on a mission to spend my money on ethically produced products; now is the perfect time for you to join me.

You can take the Fair Trade Pledge over at Fair Trade USA. Check out their list of Products and Partners while you’re there.

I’ve compiled a mini list of ethical companies and resources for you to peruse:

Don’t forget to shop local, too. You likely have access to lots of small farmers and businesses from which you can purchase locally produced, organic products. Thrift shops and vintage stores are a great alternative to buying new. As Amy Skoczlas Cole of eBay’s Green Team says, “The greenest product is the one that already exists.”

Obama in Charlottesville

a.k.a., the most thrilling day of my existence. 

Regardless of how you feel about Obama or the party he represents, if you had been in downtown Charlottesville yesterday, your veins would have been coursing with the tangible, electric, energy of thousands of people, first awaiting Obama’s arrival and then crowding in around a perimeter secured by Secret Service agents outside the local campaign office to catch a glimpse of him, snap a picture, shake his hand.

a man serenades the line with jazz

I had to work at 1, so I took the bus downtown around 11 am to avoid the anxiety of limited parking due to road closures. Once there, I meandered the Downtown Mall, camera in hand, to take in the crowds. It was important to me to capture the overall feeling and sense of anticipation rather than just a couple shots of Obama. People started lining up before I got there even though the gates weren’t set to open until 1:00. By 12:30, the line extended back several blocks from the Pavilion, from one end of the mall to the other (some report that it actually extended past the pedestrian mall in the final minutes before the line began to inch forward). It took an entire hour to herd all attendees through the gate; my coworker and I watched them move forward in line from the shop’s large window.

Crowds extended to the end of the Downtown Mall

I didn’t get to attend the event due to work, but my boss, a local small business owner, had a VIP ticket which allowed her to stand at the front of the auditorium. She took some great pictures and got to shake Obama’s hand.

After the speech ended, the coffee shop was overwhelmed by customers eagerly awaiting smoothies and other cold drinks after several hours in the late summer heat. As the final customers trickled in at the end of the rush, we noticed that a crowd had started to gather outside of the shop. Someone shouted, “Obama’s coming!,” and my manager and I immediately ran outside. The area was secured by a dozen or more Secret Service agents. After 15 minutes of waiting, we heard cheering as a caravan of black cars drove down 4th street. Within seconds, the cheering escalated, and there he was! I was maybe 100 feet from the President of the United States: an international figure, a fixture of American politics, a talking point of every American household! I held my camera above my head to try to get some usable shots. It was exciting to see what I had managed to capture at the end of the day’s events.

People crowd in to catch a glimpse of the President

Obama visited the campaign office and brightened the day of many hard working volunteers and staff members. A girl at the restaurant next door shook his hand and her coworkers all high-fived it, as if the thrill of her experience would rub off on them.

As we began our closing tasks at the shop, two girls sat at separate tables, crying. One had been an active campaign volunteer who couldn’t get past the Secret Service to shake Obama’s hand. The other was at the front of the crowd as he arrived, and she, much to her surprise and joy, had shaken his hand. That image summed up the spirit and passion, the sheer emotion – impossible to interpret at times –  of the day for me.

“It’s part of their faith to love everyone, Huja and Arora said, but they’re afraid that despite Sikhs’ efforts to quietly teach others about their way of life, there are some people no one can reach, people whose minds are turned to hate.

‘There are people like that living all over the country,’ said Huja. ‘They’re amongst us here.’

‘But good people are much more available everywhere you go in the world,’ Arora interjected gently. ‘The bad are few and far. They make headlines, maybe, to show they exist.’

True, his friend said. And the good, the majority, must keep conversing their way toward greater understanding. Keep smiling and talking to the child who points and says, ‘Are you a genie?’ Keep pouring tea for friends and strangers alike.

‘People need to learn that the solution to problems is not killing each other, it’s talking to each other,’ Huja said. ‘If you don’t talk to each other, you can’t understand each other.'”

– Mayor Satyendra Huja and Dr. Narinder Arora of Charlottesville, VA, interviewed by Graelyn Brashear in C-Ville Weekly 


Sometimes – oftentimes – when something terrible happens, I don’t even know how to talk about it. Sometimes there’s nothing to say that would add to the conversation or dry up any tears. Sometimes I try not to think about the truly horrible things at all because there is no narrative that will make sense of a broken world or broken people.

But we’ve already begun telling stories: Maybe the act was symbolic. Maybe his parents knew he was mentally unstable and did nothing to help him.

I’m reminded of what Tim O’Brien says about war stories:

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it.”

I understand, of course, that the man who opened fire on theater-goers in Colorado is not a soldier in the midst of war. But I think that narrative in general functions powerfully to wrap up and make sense of things that don’t make sense at all. Once we can justify his behavior, we can point fingers at whoever let him go unchecked for so long. We can turn away from tragedy. We can turn to anger and self righteousness and indignation. Once we know the story, edited and tied up with a string, we can move on from collective grief and get on with our lives.

Sometimes there isn’t an answer. Sometimes the narratives we construct are lies we tell ourselves so that we can sleep at night.

(I understand that it isn’t feasible to quit telling stories, to altogether quit constructing narratives. They’re part of human nature, and they bring joy and closure to our lives. We need them to look back and move forward. But when we tell stories, we need to be clear about the implications, always erring on the side of honesty even if our narrative becomes a bit muddied. When millions of individuals and thousands of cultures are telling their own narratives, there is going to be confusion – there is going to be inconsistency and overlap. When we tell “true” stories, we have to do our best to convey all information, even when it’s hard. We also have to understand that “sense” is a construct. Life is not obligated to make sense.)