Hobby Lobby pro-life?

I already talked about the Hobby Lobby case in various corners of the internet, but I realize it’s something I should address here because I take an approach few critics are taking, and it has a lot to do with the topic of my blog, Style Wise.

If you haven’t already heard, the Supreme Court exempted Hobby Lobby from providing certain types of birth control believed to act as abortifacients (basically, birth control that keeps a fertilized egg from implanting on the uterine wall). While I’m ideologically pro-life, I think it’s better to regulate the market and make safe options available to women than to restrict more invasive types of birth control. But I’m not all that disturbed by the immediate repercussions of this particular case. What scares me is that the court had to argue that Hobby Lobby is protected under rights normally granted to individuals. Corporate personhood is a slippery slope!

hobby lobby quote

All that aside, Hobby Lobby represents a type of Christianity prevalent in America that so heavily favors capitalism it can’t see the plank in its eye (that’s a Bible reference! Matthew 7:5). I should know because I worked there for a year. Because I helped set up a local store, I got to see the first boxes of products arrive. I had a lot of time to read the labels and scrutinize the products. As it turns out, the majority of products are made in China. And this isn’t artisanal stuff; it’s sweatshop quality. Even the custom frames are shipped from China. It doesn’t take long to realize that Hobby Lobby, a company that plays Christian elevator music over its speaker system and donates to Texan homeschool organizations, is making profit – a lot of profit – on goods sourced from sweatshops.

There have been several articles that point out the hypocrisy of buying product from a country with a one child policy, but I don’t think this approach goes far enough. It’s not just about abortion! If you’re going to be pro-life, that should extend to everyone. Everyone deserves a chance at life, even poor people in China, even non-Christians, even people who don’t like Americans very much.

hl2

What kills me about the Hobby Lobby case is that they had the resources to revitalize their production chain and provide better wages and better protections to the people who toil to make cheap shadow boxes and “handcrafted” garden statues, but instead they directed their time and money to the petty task of trying to prove a point about the shortcomings of universal health care.

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october is fair trade month

fair trade month graphic

October is Fair Trade Month. It’s the perfect opportunity to encourage fair trade in your life and the lives of others. Buy yourself some fair trade chocolate. Buy your friend a fair trade scarf. Read up on fair trade and the companies who support it. Boycott companies with a history of human rights violations. Buy from local, small scale farmers and artisans.

Do your part to make the world a little bit better. For everyone.

For more resources, check out Style Wise‘s Retailers and Resources tab. And don’t be afraid to Google what you want to know.

*The links above are examples of retailers and resources that can help you shop more ethically and sustainably. Don’t worry, none of the links are affiliate links.

why I buy secondhand

why i buy secondhand relevant

My article, Why I Buy Secondhand, went live on the Relevant Magazine website earlier today. I’m excited by the responses, shares, and dialogue created by it so far. Take a look if you haven’t already seen it.

I may write a follow up to it on Style Wise if it generates enough of a conversation and/or it becomes apparent that some things need clarification. Thanks for your support! – Leah

radical

Originally published on my fair trade blog, Style Wise:

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shopping addiction

radical : of, relating to, or proceeding from a root

I started this blog with a specific reader in mind. I wanted to encourage young women – my peers – who were already reading personal style blogs to take an interest in a more thoughtful approach to consumption. Although it wasn’t fully parsed out, I knew that simply buying better wasn’t an end to the moral journey. But it’s a lot more fun to talk about etsy and charity-minded start ups than to talk about frugality or to address the dark, addictive underbelly of shopping.

But the more I think about morality as it pertains to consumption, the more I realize that I need to buy less altogether. 

It’s important, of course, to realize on a superficial level that we bring more to the table than our curated closets and styling capabilities. But it’s immensely difficult to let that sink in, and to actually change our habits.

I assume that my readers come from a place similar to my own. I grew up (upper) middle class and, while my parents emphasized budgeting and saving, I experienced no real financial strain. Influenced by my grandmother’s sales rack obsession, I seemed to intuitively justify buying anything and everything as long as it was on sale. I liked the rush and the hunt of a good deal.

Later in college, just introduced to personal style blogs that emphasized the importance of investment and statement pieces, I replaced my sales-only paradigm with a boring, preppy basics only framework. And then, when I realized everything I owned was boring, I went crazy with prints. And the cycle continues. But the consistent result of each new set of guidelines is that it encourages me to search and spend like the addict that I am until I’m nauseated by my own materialism.

The point is that the real problem is bigger than poor labor regulations. It’s more than carelessness. It’s the addiction to new and better and cheaper. It’s the haul videos and constant self advertising and attempts to be brand ambassadors. It’s the thoughtlessness and vanity of it.

We need to spend less. I have to tell myself that, too: I need to spend less. And I need to focus less on what I can get my grubby, greedy hands on. And it’s at once ridiculous and terrible that it’s so hard for me to do.

Of course, buying ethically is a great idea. And buying things in general is fun and sometimes even necessary. But the mission of this blog is only a little better than its non-fair trade counterparts if it fails to acknowledge that maybe there’s something wrong with the whole system, that maybe buying ethically opens up a can of worms that causes us to reassess our spending habits at their root.

I’m beginning to see this process as a gradual (at times painful) journey to better, more thoughtful living in all areas of my life. The growing pains are in full swing, but I believe I’ll come out better on the other side. The important thing is not to give up – I’ve wanted so badly lately to give it all up. But I see that the fair trade mission is bigger than my aches and moans and will power, and if I can’t will myself to sprint ahead, I can at least resign myself to it – and keep pressing on.

For additional reading on this topic, see my homily here

*image source: by SnowMika leírása

freshly pressed

freshlypressedThank you to all who accessed my blog through WordPress’ Freshly Pressed feature and read, commented, liked, or followed. The homily I posted here was presented in my local congregation last Sunday. Since it was my first time presenting a sermon, I was nervous and emotional, but I made it through and felt moved in a way I didn’t expect by the message presented in the Biblical readings and through the process of speaking the words aloud. Helping the oppressed – especially those suffering within systems we can at least begin to change with minimal effort – is close to my heart; expressing that to an audience made it real to me in a way it hadn’t been before. I’m thankful that WordPress made it accessible to a wider audience.

I thought I’d provide a few resources if you’re interested in poking around the blog or exploring social justice issues further:

  • If you’re interested in social justice and fair trade issues, I encourage you to check out my ethical style blog, Style Wise, for retailers, resources, and inspiration.
  • If you’d like to know more about my journey through Lent, you can read my Lent post
  • For all other explorations, you can navigate by topic using the Categories menu on the left hand sidebar. 
  • If you’re interested in a thorough discussion on the sacredness of life, you may want to read The Sacredness of Human Life by David P. Gushee. I’m reading it now and find it uplifting and thought provoking.

I can’t promise that all my future posts will be as meaningful as the last one, but I’ll continue to keep an account of my life with honesty and (hopefully) a fair amount of reflection.

tips from a barista

‎”We don’t have flavored creamer because this isn’t a waiting room at JiffyLube.”

latte art

I discovered the site, Bitter Barista, this morning and it had me laughing out loud while I drank my coffee. I agree with almost every statement, but I am happy to say I have a much better attitude about working in a coffee shop than the author. I thought I’d provide some (gently put) insider knowledge to assist you in your next coffee shop order:

  1. A Macchiato, if made correctly, is a shot or two of espresso with a small amount of foam, typically served in a short ceramic cup. It is not, as Starbucks would have you believe, a double shot latte with caramel. It’s not possible to make a real macchiato in a 16 oz cup (unless you add 8+ shots of espresso, which may make you go into cardiac arrest). 
  2. If you order an Extra Hot Soy Latte, you’ll either get scalded soy milk or a regular temperature latte. Soy milk scalds at around 140 degrees. It won’t taste very good, but we’ll do it if you insist.
  3. Soy Milk doesn’t foam well, partly because it can’t be steamed for as long. If you ask for a Soy Milk Cappuccino, you’ll get either a wet cappuccino (less foam) or a latte.
  4. More foam is created as you reach maximum milk temperature (above 150 degrees). If you ask for an Extra Hot, No Foam Latte, know that you’re going against nature.
  5. To make enough foam for a Dry Cappuccino (lots of foam, very little liquid milk), the milk must be steamed first, then tapped against the counter and allowed to sit so that  the foamy air bubbles can rise to the top of the pitcher. Cappuccinos take extra time to complete, but they’re worth it. It pays to be patient.
  6. We don’t offer flavored coffee or flavored creamer because they’re gross. High quality coffee has layers of flavor notes, like wine, that come together to create a delicious, complex taste experience. We can put flavor syrup in your drink, though, so please don’t act too disappointed.
  7. Some customers ask how old the drip coffee is. I understand the concern, but the shop is typically busy enough to go through coffee in an hour or less. If you need your coffee fresh, please ask the question before you pay, then order a different drink if you’re in a hurry. We try our best to keep up with coffee demand, but if we run out or need to make a new batch, it takes almost ten minutes to complete the brewing cycle.

I really do think it’s the job of the barista, and the coffee shop, to accommodate as many specifications as possible while maintaining quality. I’m more amused than annoyed when customers make their drinks incredibly complicated or ask for things that aren’t possible. But it’d help to have basic coffee information dispersed to the wider, coffee-drinking audience. A good barista cares about both quality and efficiency, and sometimes has to strike a balance between the two to keep things running smoothly. I like my job and I like customer interaction (for the most part), so please don’t scowl at me if things don’t go your way. I really want to help you.

I’m not a seasoned veteran of the coffee shop, so if you have more advice (or need to correct some of my statements), please feel free to do so in the comments section. 

*photo source: Coffee Art