Cheap: Clothing Confessions and How to Buy Better

Cheap. adjective. Relatively low in price; may describe an object that is worth little.

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“Where is that shirt from?”

This should be a simple question. It is not.

In high school, I hated being asked about my clothes’ origins. They were often thrift store finds, which was not hipster cool in my small town. “Oh, my mom found it somewhere,” was my default answer.

I don’t mind owning up to my thrift store duds now, or to the LOFT 40% off sale or the Gap clearance rack.

But recently, I’ve learned just how complex the answer to “Where is that shirt from?” could be. My t-shirt’s origin is much more than the store from which I purchased it.

I’ve been researching. And now, I can tell you that the cotton that makes up each fiber of your t-shirt was grown somewhere, likely Texas, maybe India or Uzbekistan. It was then shipped to a factory, spun into thread, and woven together into fabric. Another factory sliced the shape of sleeve and trunk. Those pieces were sewn together and ironed and packaged before they were shipped away for me to pluck from a pile.

Real people, in Vietnam and Bangladesh and China, helped.

I do not think about this process or these people when I scout bargains. Instead, I think about how much I’m paying. Most of the time, I wish it were less. Clothing companies know this. Consumers like me are one of the reasons that clothing prices are dropping, especially at retailers like Forever 21 and H&M. I’m not the only one snatching up camisoles for $1.99 or t-shirts for less than $10. Even I, with student loans and a teacher’s salary, can afford these! These prices seem too good to be true!

Mostly because they are.

There is a cost to all this cheap fashion.

It’s no secret that the quality of these bargains isn’t stellar. Take, for example, the Old Navy dress I snagged for $10 last spring. I loved it. I wore it nearly once a week. And now, less than 6 months later, it has not washed well. It’s pilling. The arm holes are sagging. It feels tired. I can already predict its fate: it will languish in my closet for a while, being worn less and less, before it gets tossed in the Goodwill bag. Its story is not unique. The average garment in a woman’s closet is worn just 7 times before it’s tossed. Seven. That number seems ridiculous, but if I think of how many times I wore that dress before it started fading, it doesn’t seem so outrageous.

Beyond causing me wardrobe angst, cheap fashion also has huge consequences for workers around the world. In the pursuit of lower and lower prices, most companies have moved their production overseas. Overseas labor isn’t all bad. It provides work to people in developing economies, and garment work is often one of the better options for people living in poverty. But shifting production overseas also removes many of the regulations companies must follow to protect workers. Nearly all companies claim to follow countries’ minimum wage laws, but those laws mean very little. Minimum wage is different from a living wage, where workers can meet all their needs with the wages they receive. For example, in New York, a sewing machine operator would make about $1660 per month. In China, it’s $147 per month. In Bangladesh, it’s a mere $43 per month. That means that $1.43 per day has to cover rent, food, and all other living costs. Bangladesh may be an inexpensive place to live, but it’s not that inexpensive .[i]

In addition to the terrible pay, garment factories are often less than pleasant places to work. Disasters like the Rana Plaza factory collapse are unsettling proof. In 2013, employees complained to management about cracks in the building’s structure. Soon after, the eight story building in Bangladesh collapsed. It killed 1,135 garment workers. [ii]

It’s hard to determine who is to blame. Factory owners may seem to be shirking their responsibility to their employees, and that’s certainly true in some cases. However, factory owners often feel powerless themselves. Fashion companies may demand that factories pay their workers more or update factories without increasing the prices they are willing to pay for goods. Other times, they ask for clothing to be produced on tighter and tighter deadlines, for cheaper and cheaper prices, leaving factory owners few alternatives than to work their employees for more hours or lose the job entirely.

The clothing we want, at the prices we expect, is hurting garment workers around the world.

So what do we do?

Great question.

The world economy and political sphere is complex. The more I learn, the more complications I see. Does decreasing the demand for cheap fashion hurt those same workers we want to protect? Is it better to support them, even when they’re getting ripped off, than to take our business away entirely? Do better working conditions mean that fewer jobs would be available overall? Is there any way to fix this issue, beyond eliminating greed on the parts of corporations and consumers?

I don’t have those answers.

But I do know a few things. I know that I, with all my Western dollars and sensibilities, cannot dictate how the world should work. It is not my job to say what the Bangladeshi government should set as its minimum wage, or to tell China what rights its workers should have. These are countries with cultures and economies and people much different from my own. And besides, it’s unlikely that I alone will convince even one clothing company, much less an entire country, to change the way it audits its factories or the prices it squeezes from its manufacturers.

On the other hand, I also know that a better way is possible. Proof? A bunch of college students were enraged by the conditions under which their campus t-shirts were produced. They convinced their campus stores to purchase from Alta Gracia, which is known for its humane work environment and the living wage it pays its workers.[iii] Another example: ABLE, formerly known as FashionABLE, is launching its AccountABLE campaign to actively publicize how its employees are treated, in every element from the safety of its factories to the wages and benefits employees receive.[iv] These are just a few of the companies who are committed to treating every person in their supply chain with dignity and humanity.

I also know that I have the power to consciously choose how I spend my dollars. It’s tempting to complain about being a poor, student loan-saddled teacher who can’t spend the money on sustainably sourced clothes. But that’s not true.

First, a reality check: I am not actually poor. Not in the slightest. I need nothing. Not food, not shelter, not even clothing. My closet is full of perfectly good outfits that are functional, and even sometimes attractive. I may want a flannel dress or a cozy cream sweater, but not obtaining them does not threaten my health, or even my true happiness.

Then, there’s the issue of my spontaneous (read: unnecessary) clothing purchases. I may consider myself a budget-conscious shopper, but a $16 sweater? Or a $10 tee? I’ll snag those with little hesitation. And those deals are often the items that get begin to look shabby after a few wears. Instead, I could save those dollars for purchases that are more purposeful, for both my closet and the world’s garment workers. Rather than nabbing the first cheap black dress that looks decent, being frustrated by its quality, then replacing it every spring from now until forever, I could be more intentional. I could consider the ethics of the company, the materials, and whether my investment will last longer than one season. This will take a little more care and a whole lot more self-control. But if my actions can help create a more sustainable supply chain, and a better wardrobe to boot, it seems worth it.

Will I ever again set foot in an H&M? Yes. Will I ever buy clothes that are not fair trade certified? Yes. But will I also do my very best to be a responsible consumer, who truly understands where my t-shirt came from? Yes.

 

P.S. Want to join me in supporting sustainable clothing companies? Check out a big ol’ list of my favorite resources here.

 

 

 

[i] Overdressed – Elizabeth Cline

[ii] The True Cost documentary

[iii] Overdressed – Elizabeth Cline

[iv] That Sounds Fun with Annie Downs podcast Episode 57 – Barrett Ward and FashionABLE

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What I’m Into: October 2016

October. The month where everyone quotes the delightful Anne Shirley about being thankful to live in a world where such a month exists.

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I’m still reminding myself to not write the date as 2015, and here we are in October. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been loving in this full, beautiful month.

 

 

Reading

Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo. I want to write like Kate DiCamillo when I grow up. She takes an ordinary girl, an unlikely trio of friends, and baton twirling lessons, and wrings the most poignant of themes from them. Simple and sweet.

 

Rook – Sharon Cameron. This is a many-layered book. The world has been essentially destroyed by technology, so machines are outlawed. Those with enough money to build machines are being systematically arrested and killed under the Razor. The Red Rook, otherwise known as Sophia Bellamy, rescues prisoners from the prison with the help of her brother and friend. Their operation is threatened by suspicions from the deplorable minister of security and by Sophia’s unwanted engagement to a man whose fortune could save her father from a debtor’s prison – but whose mysterious demeanor makes it hard to tell if she can trust him. The plot twists kept me guessing enough that I couldn’t read this before bed, and the setting was an interesting take on typical dystopian worlds – the book read much more like historical fiction than fantasy. One caveat – the book ended just a little too serendipitously for me given what seemed realistic. Overall, though, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and gulped down half of it in one sitting.

A Fatal Grace – Louise Penny. This is the second book in the Inspector Gamache series. Penny’s mysteries are entrancing and explore horrors like murder in a way that doesn’t make you lose hope in humanity. This book also reminded me that I should not read mysteries before I go to bed – not only do I worry that a murderer is lurking outside my window, I also cannot. stop. reading.

 

Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love – The boyfriend and I joined a reading group to talk through this examination of Pope John Paul II’s teachings on love and marriage. We’re not Catholic, but this book has been full of helpful reminders about the depth that relationships should have. It’s not all warm fuzzies and cute Instagram pictures, and that has been such a valuable reminder.

 

 

 

Watching

Henry V in The Hollow Crown series. Out of these movie versions of Shakespeare’s histories, Henry V was my favorite. #henryVforpresident #tomhiddlestonwouldbefinetoo

Zootopia – I’m late to the party on this one (not surprising), but I enjoyed it so much. It’s a story ripe with truth for our culture, with enough simplicity for kids to understand and enough depth for adults to be challenged (and entertained!). For extra insight, I loved listening to The Smartest Person in the Room podcast interviewing Andrew Johnston, one of the writers of this movie.

 

 

Listening

All Sons and Daughters – Poets & Saints album. The whole album is gorgeous, but “Path of Sorrow” is one of my favorites.

 

Us the Duo – (Stop) Just Love. Plus their entire new album.

 

Pentatonix – Misbehavin’. It’s too catchy. I can’t stop listening.

 

 

Loving

All the tears from this video thanking teachers. Though I almost cried when a sweet kiddo gave me dark chocolate with a note about how much she enjoys my class, so my cry-o-meter may be a little off.

Apple cake. I made a family friend’s old recipe for a party, and even my first experimental attempt was delicious.

LOFT cardigans. This one in Lavish Eggplant Heather is my new favorite. It’s more of a plum color than it appears on the website, but it’s cozy and gorgeous and frequently 40% off.

Apple picking. I hit up apple orchards twice this month, once with my sister and the boyfriend, and once on a spontaneous double date with one of our favorite couples. Lessons learned: Always go to u-pick orchards. Corn mazes are hard – way harder than you think. I have good friends. Apples (covered in caramel, in donuts, straight off the tree) trump pumpkins every time.

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Doing

Trip north #1. A friend got married in Switzerland last month and had a reception in our hometown. It was a fast road trip to celebrate with them, but we’re glad we did. Congrats, Courtney and Ben! We wish you a lifetime of happiness.

The boyfriend and I saw Sense and Sensibility at the Guthrie, and it was a delight. We’re similarly delighted with the Under 30 Club. The program allows you to get rush price tickets on the day of the show by calling the box office instead of waiting in the rush line. There are no downsides. Unless you’re over 30, I suppose.

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Attending a lecture on Luther and Art. The MIA currently has an exhibit on Martin Luther and Art, and if you were looking for a way to celebrate Reformation Day (Anyone? Anyone?), you should have gone. It’s around for a while, so you have time if you were busy trick-or-treating on the 31st.

Two housewarming parties – in one night. This introvert does not know how to handle it when both her sister and boyfriend decide to host parties on the same night. Good thing that both of the hosts are delightful.

Trip north #2. The Nimbus 2000 has flown its last. We took our last road trip together over MEA break. Even though that car had been causing me issues (and anxiety), it was bittersweet to leave her behind.

So what am I driving now? Meet the Firebolt.

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I promise, she’s gorgeous when she hasn’t been down gravel roads.

So far, she’s started every time I need her to AND she has a CD player. Thank you to my grandpa for finding this baby for me and offering moral support when I bought her. Andrew, you get a shout-out for coming with us and running all of the errands I asked you to without complaining.

Our friends invited us over for dinner one evening. We got to try freshly hunted duck, and they introduced us to the game Idiom Addict. This English teacher is obsessed.

Concert-going! My college roomie, sister, and I went to a Pentatonix concert featuring Us the Duo.Let’s talk about a dream team. Go back up to the Listening section of this post if you need proof. Or imagine the following song sung as an encore, in the Xcel center, without any amplification or stage lights. I almost cried. That is not an exaggeration.

We were very excited about the entire thing.

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Celebrating Halloween. I’m not huge on Halloween, but when there are $3 Chipotle burritos with friends on the line, costumes are absolutely worth it. We are pretty proud of our last-minute renditions of Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby. Especially because, when we went to W.A. Frost afterward for dessert, someone told us, unprompted, “You look like you came straight out of Gatsby.” Goals = achieved.

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And then there’s school. I’ve been all over the board in how I feel about my job, from LOVING it (Socratic Seminars work! Sometimes lightbulbs go on!) to dead tired (like the morning after long nights of conferences) to frustrated (why do they talk so much?!). Overall, there have been more good moments than bad. The kids are asking to finish The Outsiders, our current class novel, because they want to know what happens. There is minimal complaining thus far. I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy teaching writing. So we’re hanging in there!

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Pajama day and students who give you candy don’t hurt morale, either

What have you been loving in October?

What I’m Into: September 2016

September. proper noun. The month in which  Joe Fox would sent us a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if he knew our names and addresses.

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I blinked, and September was over. It was a whirlwind of new beginnings and discoveries. Here’s what I loved during this full, tumultous, beautiful month.

 

Reading

Criss Cross – Lynne Rae Perkins. A most delightful book in which very little actually happens, but what does happen is told in such a charming way that it won a Newberry Award. This book contains the ordinary, overlapping stories of a group of middle school students. The descriptions of the characters’ thoughts made me laugh, because they are spot on with my 7th graders.

The Crossover – Kwame Alexander. It makes me so happy when my students pick up this book. (Maybe that’s just because it makes me happy when they take my book recommendations in general.) It’s the story of an 8th basketball player told in hip-hop style poetry. The language is sizzling, the characters are real and relatable, and the story ends in a completely unexpected way.

The Gilded Years – Karin Tanabe. This is a fictionalized account of how Anita Hemmings, a black woman, passed as white in order to attend Vassar College, a valiant effort. It’s an intriguing premise, and I loved the setting. However, I never quite connected with Anita’s character. She seemed too passive, and when she goes along with a decision that will obviously have terrible consequences, I decided finishing the book wasn’t worth my time. If anyone read and loved it, convince me I should finish the last half.

Dead End in Norvelt – Jack Gantos. Jack gets grounded for the summer, and is only allowed out of his yard to assist an old woman with writing obituaries for the local paper. This book’s tone is similar to A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck – it’s is full of small-town stories that seem ridiculous when retold, but which somehow have an air of possibility when you’re reading them.

Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo. In order to win Little Miss Central Florida Tire and bring her father back to their family, Raymie takes baton twirling lessons. She meets unlikely friends and learns what it really means to do good deeds. DiCamillo tackles heavy issues, like absent fathers and poverty, with gentleness and grace. A hope-filled way to introduce kids to challenging issues. I want to write like Kate DiCamillo when I grow up.

Kristin Lavransdatter (part I) – Sigrid Undset. The boyfriend sent me this book last spring, but I’m just tackling it now. It’s a coming of age story centering on Kristin, a young girl living in 14th century Norway. Kristin falls in love with a man who is not her betrothed, and the scandal thickens as the story goes on. This was not at all what I expected from a book written in 1920 by a Nobel laureate – there’s much more intrigue and seduction (!) and surprise. The story moves quickly, the writing is matter-of-fact but beautiful, and I enjoyed it enough that I’ll check out the sequel very soon.

Currently reading: The Justice Calling – Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson; Rook – Sharon Cameron.

 

 

Watching

The Hollow Crown. The boyfriend and I have been watching through this series, a BBC adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. I appreciate Shakespeare infinitely more when I watch it instead of read it, especially because this version has an amazing cast (I now understand the Tom Hiddleson buzz) and is so well done.

 

 

Listening

Walk Off the Earth’s cover of Closer. Their covers are wacky but wonderful. Watch for the surprises. Their cover of Hello is also brilliant.

The Smartest Person in the Room podcast, where Laura Tremaine interviews experts on their work. She’s currently posting on Hollywood experts like producers, directors, and security guards (one of my favorite episodes), and it’s a fascinating peek into an entirely different world.

A lot of NPR… I am becoming my mother, and the Weekend Edition of NPR is one of my new favorite things.

 

 

Loving

Stylebook app. This app is supposed to streamline your closet. Once you take pictures of all your clothes, it has a bazillion features, like a Looks page to put together outfits, a tool for price-per-wear analysis, and a calendar to schedule your outfits. I’ve only used the Looks element to keep track of outfit ideas, but it’s been so helpful for storing inspiration from blogs or Pinterest that I would otherwise forget. Fair warning, taking pics of your clothes is a bit of work on the front end, but if you see it as an opportunity to clean out your closet, it’s worth it.

Having a boyfriend in the same state! After being long distance for a year and a half, being able to scout bookstores, cook dinner, get ice cream, try new churches, read, and take walks together has been utterly delightful.

The bullet journal. This journaling/organizational method turns a basic notebook into your own customized planner. I’ve been using a calendar with blank pages at the end to keep track of meals, outfits, and adulting to-do’s each week. I’ve discovered that making a bunch of decisions at one time, and having all the information in one place, is making my life simpler. I use a modified version to keep myself on track at school as well. This tutorial was helpful for getting started.

The blog project my Advanced class is doing. I get to focus on writing with my Advanced kids this trimester, and we’re doing a blog project to practice writing in a variety of different genres. So far we’ve only done an About Me post and a goal-setting activity, but it’s been an awesome way to get to know students, give them some creative freedom, and teach them about writing for a real audience. They seem to enjoy it as much as I do!

My school. This month has reminded me that I am incredibly blessed to be working at such an amazing school. One example of many: I had car issues one day, and I had at least three teachers check on me, one leave me chocolate, and one offer to follow me home and pick me up the next morning.

 

 

Doing

Teaching! We kicked off a brand new year, and so far no one has died. Actually, things are going quite well. We’re hitting grammar hard, the kids are just starting to read The Outsiders, and at least one student thinks I’m 30 years old. I’ve had more moments of “wow, I really enjoy this” so far this year than all of last year combined, which seems like a good sign.

Heading to the lake one last time. My sister had a whole crew of friends to our cabin for a weekend at the beginning of September. I was almost incapacitated with tiredness – that first week of school is rough – but it was lovely to squeeze in one more round of waterskiing and sunshine.

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Attending a talk on medieval Christianity with a local Christian scholarship organization. This is not typically my area of interest, but when you date a history major, sometimes you attend events that end up surprising you. We’ve joined two reading groups as well, and it’s been good for me to meet new people and read outside my usual fiction zone.

Celebrating 2 years of dating the boy with Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. Those early days of library study dates and almost breaking visitation hours seem so long ago! I’m so grateful for him.

Watching my alma mater’s homecoming game. Well, sort of. My siblings and I stood on the sidelines and talked and occasionally paid attention. I got a free t-shirt, so I officially feel like a graduate now.

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PC: Brita/the photobooth

Avoiding renter’s tragedy despite a serious ceiling leak. While I was watching the presidential debate (another kind of disaster), my roommate informed me that our ceiling was spouting water. It started with one stream from the bathroom ceiling and ended with seven individual rivers flowing down from an overflowing tub in the apartment above. A variety of buckets, two late-night maintenance calls, one water-filled light fixture, and a soggy patch of carpet later, everything was solved with no significant property damage or tears.

Praying every day that my car will start. As mentioned above, I had a minor car fiasco earlier this month. I was stopped on a busy street waiting for a car in front of me to turn left. When the car turned, I stepped on the gas, saw lights flash, felt the gas pedal lock, shifted into park, and couldn’t shift any more. After I called 911 in a panic, was pushed to the side of the road by a kind police officer, and restarted the car, everything worked and I made it to school safely. My car and I are currently having some trust issues, but I am grateful that everything worked out okay.

After this month, my students now think my life is highly dramatic. Or that I am a barely functioning adult. One of those is true – you decide which one.

 

 

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – head to her site for more recommendations! Or comment below – what have you been into this month?

 

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What I’m Into: Christmas Edition

Christmas. proper noun. The celebration of Christ’s birth; also a season of merry-making.

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Though I don’t normally share what I’m loving until the end of the month, these Christmas-y finds are too excellent not to share now, while holiday spirit is still high.

Reading

Isaiah 9:2-7, and the SheReadsTruth Advent devotionals that keep leading me back to it.

This post honestly, gently acknowledged the truth about when Christmas hits tender spots.

This article, which reminds me that, like Jesus himself, blessings come in unexpected packages.

 

Listening

Francesca Battistelli – You’re Here. The rest of her Christmas album is lovely, too.

Leona Lewis – One More Sleep

 

Loving

Upholding traditions, like watching Elf with my family and White Christmas with my sister.

Christmas decorations (even better because they were mostly free)! Related: my roommate deserves an award for her patience for my decorating philosophy, which is similar to Buddy the Elf’s.

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This AWESOME family dance video. I proposed that my family do one instead of a Christmas photo this year. My lame siblings were not on board.

ALL THE PLAID. Plaid scarves, how I love you.

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Handmade Christmas gifts. I will actually be sad when my gift prep is done, because crafting keeps me sane.

 

What’s making you merry this Christmas season?

November (2015)

November. proper noun. The month in which fall ends and snow comes to Minnesota and we eat all the turkey and stuffing.

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Here’s what I squeezed into the month of November, which flew by me this year. As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer.

Reading

Truest – Jackie Lea Sommers. Oh my heavens, this book. Jackie Sommers works at my university, and though I don’t know her, this book makes me want to be her best friend. The Hart family moves to small-town Minnesota, and Silas and his mysterious sister Laurel shake up the summer for Westlin Beck, the local pastor’s oldest daughter. Silas Hart is the perfect literary boyfriend, who wears sassy t-shirts and memorizes poetry while he runs (holy hotness). I’ve also never read YA fiction that has such theological insight alongside a realistic portrayal of a complicated, rebellious teenager. Prepare yourself to read the entire thing in one night.

Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey. My life (and writing) has been a bit out of sorts this fall, as I work through what adult-ish life looks like. This book is the perfect companion for this time in my life as I wrestle with changing ideas and expectations about faith and God and life. It deserves more than a little blurb here, and I hope to write more about it as my thoughts percolate.

The Running Dream – Wendelin Van Draanen. Van Draanen is one of my favorite YA authors. (She penned the cute he said/she said story Flipped and the sassy Sammy Keyes mysteries that my sister and I still read when home on holiday breaks.) This book is about a girl who loves to run, but loses her leg in a bus accident. It’s a good pick when you need a reminder that your own struggles aren’t that insurmountable and that people (even young ones) are capable of amazing things.

The Anatomy of Wings – Karen Foxlee. This book, the story of a young girl and her sister’s death, is tender and sad. Jenny tries to solve the mystery of how her sister fell apart and why her own singing voice has disappeared. If you like coming-of-age stories and complicated family dynamics and sweet, innocent narrators, you’ll be touched by this book.

The Jazz Palace – Mary Morris. An interesting story about a boy growing up in the Jazz age in Chicago. It’s mostly tragic throughout the entire story until suddenly everything resolves very quickly and very sweetly. Okay if you love jazz and historical fiction and underdog stories.

Currently Reading: Lost & Found – Brooke Davis; Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith – Anne Lamott

 

Listening

Crowder – Lift Your Head, Weary Sinner. It’s been out for a while, but I still sing (loudly) whenever it comes on the radio.

 

Watching

Pitch Perfect 2. Because sometimes you need a silly movie with a pointless plot and fun music and incredibly awkward romance. (See: Benji attempting to flirt, and every interaction with Fat Amy and Bumper.)

I tried watching Jane the Virgin, which is not nearly as awkward as the title or premise (about a girl who gets accidentally inseminated at a doctor’s appointment) would have you believe. But there were so many ridiculous plot twists that I couldn’t stick with it, even though I liked Jane’s character a lot.

Elf. We waited until after Thanksgiving. It’s okay.

 

Loving

I love Addie Zierman’s posts on faith. She’s never cliche and always honest. This post on cynicism resonates, especially this quote: “It is the most surprising, beautiful thing when God uses a part of us that feels dangerous and threatening to bring Life.”

Knitting. ‘Tis the season. Send more yarn.

Exploring 1 Corinthians with the girls in my small group.

Wearing gray and burgundy. Those colors are my fall uniform.

Outfits Nov15

 

Doing

Ending my elementary ESL student teaching placement. Here’s how a 3rd grader sees me after 10 weeks.

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I’ve now started a new placement with 7th grade Language Arts kids. In the 7 days that I’ve been there, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Kids don’t grow out of being fascinated by tall people. Seventh graders just want quantifiable information, as my cooperating teacher has been asked multiple times how tall I am (though the kids are too scared to ask me directly).
  • Middle school boy hair is hilarious. Some look like they hire Justin Bieber’s personal stylist circa 2010, some look like their moms dictate their haircuts, and some look like they got their hair wet, put on a stocking cap, and went to sleep.
  • YA LIT IS THE BEST, Y’ALL. So is working with a teacher who has all of the best book recommendations.
  • The biggest way to impress/scare middle schoolers is to know all of their names by the end of week 1.

Flying to Washington, DC for a long weekend. I got one extra day off in between student teaching placements and celebrating by going to see the boyfriend. We squeezed lots of long talks, sightseeing, quality time, and great food into our few days together. I’m thankful for him.

At the National Arboretum. An awesome date spot, for the record.

At the National Arboretum. An awesome date spot, for the record.

Driving home for Thanksgiving. Highlights: mashed potatoes. Amazing Danish cream dessert that is like classy vanilla pudding on steroids. Hanging out with all of my siblings, who have their own particular brand of weirdo hilarity. Celebrating my youngest brother turning 17 (what). Wearing pajamas for an entire day. Cleaning and decorating with the fam to prepare for a holiday open house. (If you live in the area, go on the Tour of Homes to tell my mom that her Christmas decorating looks stellar and to admire what a sparkling job I did on the bathroom sinks.)

 

Anticipating

  • CHRISTMAS. Music. Decorations. Lights. Baking. Wrapping gifts. The whole shebang.
  • Taking on a more active role in planning and teaching at my student teaching placement
  • Officially graduating from college. (Though it will be anticlimactic. I graduate on Friday and go back to student teaching on Monday, and for four more weeks in January. The perks of being a double education major.)
  • Winter driving. JUST KIDDING.

 

What are you into this month?

October (2015)

October. Proper noun. The month of changing leaves, Halloween, pumpkin everything, and glorious Education Minnesota break.

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I still have something saving me from being a basic white girl: I’m not obsessed with fall. But I have to admit, this October has had some sweet moments. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer and sharing some of the things I loved this month. Head over to her page if you want more great recommendations!

Reading

Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thought I’d give F. Scott another try after enjoying The Great Gatsby earlier this year. Apparently he thought this tale of love gained and lost and mental illness was his greatest work. It begins by focusing on a young naïve girl’s infatuation with an older married man named Dick Diver and transitions to exploring Dick’s complicated relationship with his wife, who is mentally ill. This novel was admittedly challenging to read at points. It was sometimes difficult for me to see how each individual episode fit into the larger plot, and Fitzgerald doesn’t exactly have a sunny outlook on life. Doesn’t that make it sound stellar? Regardless, I’m still glad I read it. There were some sparkling lines, and I have a clearer idea of Fitzgerald’s struggle with his own wife and some of the reasons he might have found the world so meaningless after reading this.

The Real Thing – Ellen McCarthy. A wedding reporter tells the lessons she’s learned from real couples. A cute idea. I admittedly lost interest and didn’t finish, since none of the advice was earth-shattering.

Flyover Lives – Diane Johnson. Another interesting premise. A woman becomes interested by her own family history after a French woman accuses Americans of “indifference to history,” which is supposedly why we “seem so naïve and always invade the wrong countries.” This book explores what she uncovered. I picked it up because I came from a similar background of small-town Midwestern people, but I realized that I would rather read about my own ancestors than anecdotes from someone else’s relatives. It also showed me that I am not good at reading nonfiction; this book reads like a history text, which I probably should have expected, but I missed the spark that comes from an author weaving a complete, complex narrative. Another one I didn’t finish. What a weird reading month for me.

Currently reading: The Jazz Palace – Marry Morris; Out of Sorts – Sarah Bessey

 

Listening

Ellie Holcomb radio on Pandora. Every morning. I’m getting lots of acoustic-y hymns right now and it makes 7:00 am better.

Rachel Platton – Stand by You

Shawn Mendes – Stitches. Especially this version.

Adele – Hello. Like everyone else in the world.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast. I listen to this while running, and it’s a fascinating look at how ordinary folks foster and make space for creativity. The episode with Brene Brown rocked, like everything Brene Brown does.

 

Watching

You’ve Got Mail. Hairspray. Some Gilmore Girls (Rory’s going to college!). A few of the early episodes of Parks and Rec. Nothing new, but so much excellence.

 

Loving

I have never wanted a pair of socks as much as these.

Ahem. Who’s crying over this video? Multiple times? Not me. The best commercial I’ve seen.

This collection of photos, which shows the sad truth of our tech-obsessed world.

Running through fall leaves in shorts. The temps didn’t drop excessively until the last week in October. This is a Minnesota miracle.

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As I transition into the career world and contemplate having a family some day, this video is food for thought.

Clinique Black Honey Almost Lipstick. After hearing about its cult following, my mom and I checked it out. The rest of the world is on to something. If all 3 women in my family can pull off this shade, you can too.

This post is clanging around in my brain and reminding me that hard ≠ bad.

Cardigans. Especially this one, which is long and flowy and feels like pajamas.

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These photos will change the way you see world leaders for the better. It might even give my younger brother, who’s growing out his hair, some new goals.

 

Doing

THE edTPA IS DONE. THE BEAST IS SLAIN. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

Okay, fine. Other things kind of matter. I’m still rolling right along with the teaching part of student teaching. I have two weeks left in elementary ESL, and then I’ll switch to middle school Language Arts. Favorite stories from this month:

  • When discussing character’s emotions, I asked my first graders to draw what their faces look like when they are excited and tell why they were excited. One of my fiesty ones: “Because a boy said he would be my boyfriend, and I am taller than him.”
  • When writing about his favorite things, a little dude asked if he could write about his favorite teacher. Then he wrote “My favorite teacher is Miss C.” Cue the heart eyes. I’m excited to move up to older kids…but I have a feeling they might not be quite so heart-warming.
  • Less heartwarming is fielding questions like “What are those little red bumps on your face?” and “Why is it all red around your mouth?” They’re zits, sweet children. And they mystify me, too.

UNW Homecoming. My family came up to watch the football game and wander through St. Paul and go to my sister’s band concert. They are fun. They also buy me groceries. Both are highly appreciated.

Northwestern will be contacting us about a promotional campaign soon, I'm sure.

Northwestern will be contacting us about a promotional campaign soon, I’m sure.

We win Specialest Family. Or Most Incapable of Taking Normal Pictures. That too.

We win Most Incapable of Taking Normal Pictures.

EM break. God bless the state of Minnesota for this one. I drove home for a much-needed break from planning and edTPA. I slept in and chilled with my family and read and connected with kind people over lunch and fell off my chair because I was laughing so hard at my youngest brother. He loves when I come home and ask him about his personal life.

Random fun stuff on weekends. Hitting up the farmer’s market. Getting donuts at Glam Doll. Checking out Hunt & Gather, a funky antique store. Catching up with the RAs from my staff last year. Processing life over Eddington’s breadsticks with a sweet friend. The Twin Cities offer such goodness.

Flowers from the Farmer's Market? $6. Happiness potential? Unlimited.

Flowers from the Farmer’s Market? $6. Happiness potential? Unlimited.

Halloween. I work at a school where Halloween is a big stinking deal. Though my cooperating teacher doesn’t participate, I decided to be the fun student teacher and actually dress up. Lessons learned: accompanying kindergarteners to parades is the cutest, and you can throw together a decent costume with some colored duct tape and a trip to the Goodwill.

IMG_0619I’m celebrating the actual day of Halloween by going to Phantom of the Opera with my little bro. I do not plan to wear a costume. I don’t feel bad about it.

Anticipating

  • A TRIP TO DC, OH MY GOSH OH MY GOSH. I haven’t seen the boyfriend since Labor Day weekend. I’m not freaking out. Not at all.
  • Starting a new student teaching placement and (hopefully) not having to talk about the alphabet any more.
  • Starting a small group with some friends.

 

What have you been into this month?

 

May (2015)

May. proper noun. The month of real spring and finals week and graduations. Includes holidays such as May Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and The Last Day of School (don’t try to tell me that’s not a real holiday).

May

It’s the end of the month, which means I’m joining Leigh Kramer’s link-up to share what I’m generally enjoying this month. Honestly, May has whipped by in a blur of hard and good things, and I’m feeling a little off-kilter about my current state of transitional living, so I’ve probably forgotten important stuff. Oh well. Here’s what I’ve got.

Reading

Paper Towns – John Greene. I have a problem with John Greene. I can’t put down his books, and I neglect all responsibilities for the few hours it takes to finish them. Admittedly, this is the best kind of problem. This book, about a boy who’s in love with a girl who disappears, is his typical style and his typical amount of excellence. The movie version is coming out sometime this summer, and it would most likely involve far fewer tears than The Fault in Our Stars.

86, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff. This darling book is a real-life collection of letters exchanged over years between a New York woman and a bookseller from London. She’s sassy and he’s British proper. It’s a quick, charming read.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien. I have strongly resisted anything by Tolkien since reading The Fellowship of the Ring and being bored out of my mind by it. This one was more fun. And significantly shorter. According to my sister, this is proof that books meant for children are far superior to books for adults.

 

Watching

Friends, up to the beginning of Season 3. Watching a show about people in their 20s who have no idea what they’re doing is both relieving (I’m not the only one screwing things up!) and stressful (so you’re telling me this never gets better?).

Pitch Perfect 2. The plot was meh, but the music was aca-awesome.

 

Listening

James Bay’s album Chaos and the Calm was on repeat for all of finals week. It’s somehow both chill and motivating, both of which are necessary for end-of-school sanity.

Country radio stations have kept me company on long drives, especially songs like “Love You Like That” by Canaan Smith.

 

Loving

The Sugar Box blog makes me ridiculously happy, and this post about fantastic fictional teachers is spot on.

Minnehaha Falls. Wear Chacos, hike the trails, and get your feet a little wet. It’s even better if you have a good guy by your side.

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

Picture snapped by the boyfriend

After packing up all of my crap, I would believe these statistics about the amount of stuff we own. I’d love to pitch half my possessions and become minimalist, but I have a heck of a long way to go.

Birkenstocks. My mom laughs because I used to make fun of her Birks, but now I get it. They’re comfy and make me feel granola.

 

Doing

All the last stuff. Last friend date for the year at the Stone Arch Bridge and Mall of America. Last ResLife hangout at our end-of-the-year retreat. Last angsty, painful time pounding out papers and taking tests (halleluiah). Last time moving out of Hartill, my dorm for the last four years. Hello, emotions.

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(staff photo borrowed from Facebook)

Watching wonderful friends graduate from college, and helping my younger brother celebrate high school graduation a week later.

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(college graduation photos borrowed from Facebook)

Celebrating my cousin’s wedding (the day after Caleb’s graduation, no less). There are 27 first cousins on that side of the family, and all of us were there. Cue all of the family photos. Highlights include flying from MN to WI thanks to a really generous uncle, staying relatively dry in spite of the rain, and getting to sit in the copilot seat on the flight home.

wedding Collage

Currently driving back and forth between Minneapolis, the cabin, and home a heck of a lot and keeping most of my possessions in the back of my car. Ay.

Next month: running a half-marathon, moving into an apartment, starting a new summer job, and having all kinds of summer adventures. Be prepared.

 

What were you into this month?

August

August. proper noun. The last month of summer (sob). According to Wikipedia, Julius Caesar did some calendar rearranging (he would) and named this month after Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

 

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer and sharing all the jazz I’m into this month.

Reading:

I’ve struggled to find amazing books in August – I had already checked off the books on my must-read list for this summer, I couldn’t order books at will from my awesome small-town library, and I forget that I’m allowed to read for fun when I’m at college. But I did find a few gems.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling. I’ve been slowly rereading the books in this series for around 2 years, sprinkling them in whenever I begin to miss Hogwarts and Hermione. After wrapping up Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last summer and taking adequate time to mourn Sirius’s death, I’ve finally got around to tackling the sixth book. Though I actually like the earlier books better (#3 is my fave), I still devoured this entire book in less than a week. And I’d read it before. (Granted, I only remembered like 3 things from my previous reading. But still.)

An Altar in the World – Barbara Brown Taylor. This was an impulse buy at Barnes and Noble. I went in for a planner and came out with, well, more than that. I’m soaking it in a few pages at a time, as Taylor’s style seems to call for. Her reflections on seeing God in the everyday world, from blades of grass to overly enthusiastic classmates, are just what I need.

 

Listening to:

I have a confession. In the last month, the songs I have listened to the most include “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, “Shower” by Becky G, and “Classic” by MKTO.

I have no shame.

Okay, I have a little shame.

 

Watching:

Parks & Recreation. After taking most of the summer off from watching Parks & Rec, I’ve returned. Yay. However, I’m tragically 2 episodes away from finishing what’s available on Netflix. Boo. I’m going to need a new show soon – any recommendations?

The Lego Movie. (I’m so behind, I know.) I must admit that my feelings about this movie are still undecided. Pro, the one-liners that make 21-year-olds with nerdy humor laugh. Con, the plot that honestly didn’t make that much sense until the very end of the movie. Pro, the catchy “Everything is Awesome” song. Con, the catchy “Everything is Awesome” song.

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gif via Google Images

Randomly Loving:

White Converse All-Stars. After seeing how much trendy bloggers and my mother wear these, I asked for a pair for my birthday. Due to a sock malfunction during their first wearing, I got the biggest blisters I’ve ever had. But this tale ends happily: I wore Band-Aids on my heels for a week, the sneaks broke in beautifully, and I’ve been wearing them all the time. I like to believe that they pair nicely with my entire closet, including items like shorts, skirts, and skinny jeans that I have never been able to pull off with sneakers. Converse for the win.

This blog post titled “When Suits Become Stumbling Blocks.” It’s old news in blog terms, but I still love it. If you like snarky commentaries on modesty culture that are funny but not mean, you’ll love it too.

Sunflowers. Someone brilliant put sunflowers in my college’s community garden. Dear gardener, you have excellent taste and I like you. I picked a few flowers for my dorm room right when I moved in, which increased the cheerfulness of white cinderblock exponentially.

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These are few of my favorite things

Thrift stores. Because where else can your roommate find a comfy chair for $7? (Said chair is also grungy and ugly, but it’s nothing a makeshift slipcover can’t fix.)

This blog post by Sarah Bessey. I love the small moments that shape into her honest, beautiful love story.

 

Keeping Me Busy:

The last weekends at the lake. August was bookended by two mini-vacations at my favorite place in the world. The first had beautiful weather, so I spent every second on the lake. The last had crappy weather, so we watched movies and went into town. Both involved bonfires and s’mores, so all is well.

Moving back to school. I left home 3 weeks before classes started and moved into my dorm room to prep for a student leader position. I’ve spent that time figuring out what an Assistant Resident Director actually does, decorating my room (a serious undertaking), and relearning how to cook my own meals.

The college essentials. Note the vintage sweatshirt from my parents' college days.

The college essentials. Note the vintage sweatshirt from my parents’ college days.

Leader’s Week and Freshman Orientation.  For student leaders at my school, the year kicks off with preparatory meetings, introductions to school policy, and lots of group bonding (weekend retreat! low ropes course! camp games!). It all leads up to the extravaganza of Freshman Orientation, in which we welcome new students to campus with all of the enthusiasm. It is exhausting, but in a good way.

The Minnesota State Fair (x2).  Minnesotans throw a darn good get-together. Highlights of this one include going with both family and friends, petting sheep, eating buckets of Sweet Martha’s Cookies, and dragging our reluctant sister on rides.

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Starting classes! Bring on the homework. And the lesson plans. And the senioritis.

 

 

April

April. proper noun. The fourth month of the year, thought to be named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty. (Now the whole ring by spring thing makes sense…)

Otherwise known as What I Learned: April Edition.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

1. April (and heck, this school year) flew by ridiculously fast. I have like 2 weeks of school left. I don’t know what to do with this fact.

2. I have much smaller veins in my left arm than in my right. Apparently drawing blood from them is more difficult (and painful) as well.

3. Further lessons in tea experimentation: Adding lemon to will lessen tea’s intensity. I prefer darker teas in the morning and lighter teas in the afternoon. Cinnamon tea tastes like Hot Tamales, in a bad way if brewed too long and in a delightful way if brewed correctly. Brewing tea correctly while simultaneously eating cereal and finding shoes that match and packing a sandwich and running into class two minutes late is difficult.

4. The record for the longest book domino chain is 2,131 books. Watching them fall in the video below makes me smile every time.

 

5. Loose patterned pants are trendy. Ones that cinch at the bottom are even trendier. You also must be a supermodel or Jasmine from Aladdin to look attractive in said pants. Apparently I fit in neither of those categories. I only know this because in preparation for my trip to China, I am striving to find summery pants or capris that 1. Are more culturally acceptable for a blond, long-legged Westerner than shorts; 2. Are more lightweight than denim; 3. Do not look like they were made for elderly people; 4. Are cheap; 5. Actually fit the aforementioned long legs. With the success I’ve had thus far, I may be wearing skirts for the entire trip.

6. According to a spring issue of Real Simple magazine, guys reduce their walking speed by 7% when walking with a romantic interest as opposed to a just-friends kind of girl.

7. My grandma knows what a selfie is. On their 50th anniversary, she and my grandpa tried to take one. It was apparently unsuccessful. But this celebratory photo turned out nice. (Grandma and Grandpa, I am exposing you on the Internet – I apologize! It’s only because you’re too great for me to keep to myself. 🙂 )

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8. Twinkies have been resurrected, and they are not terrible. On the road trip home for Easter, my road trip buddy and I decided to try them, because you do strange things after driving for 5 hours. We were surprised by how not-bad they were. (My sister was a loser and did not participate. We have sworn to hold this over her head for the rest of her life.)

9. Parks and Recreation is one TV show that both my brothers and I can actually enjoy together when I’m home on break. This amazing, considering they generally like shows where everyone dies. Thank you, Leslie Knope. I’m liking you more and more all of the time.

What did you learn this month?

 

As always, I’m linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky. Click here to visit the site and read about what other people are learning!

Hibernate

Hibernate. According to Dictionary.com. “To spend the winter in close quarters in a dormant condition; to winter in a place with a milder climate.” Or wishing to be in a milder climate.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

No, for real.

Well, at this second it’s not so bad. But last week, it was legitimately as cold as Antarctica. And Mars. It was disgusting. I’m trying to forget it ever happened. However, because I am a Minnesotan, I know it will probably happen again.

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Image via sewlikeinparis.com

And when it does happen, I personally don’t want my Facebook feed to look like a whiny version of Accuweather, nor do I want to inflict my woes on the people around me. They, too, cannot leave the house without freezing their butts off, and you can only say “I’m so dang cold,” so many times before there is no more frozen-butt solidarity to be gained.

So here’s the plan: I underwent a major Project Distraction throughout break. I plan to continue it until I thaw out sometime in the spring. Want to join me? Here are the activities that I have found make hibernating a smidge more tolerable. Granted, these are tailored for a homework-less Christmas break in small-town Minnesota, but the general principle applies anywhere.

Make stuff. Like a scarf, or a canvas slathered in acrylic paint, or cookie dough. Especially cookie dough (you need an extra layer of fluff to keep you warm, remember?)

DSC_2451My first knitting creation ever. Focus on the scarf, not the subpar picture of me.

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Acrylic on canvas, created by me

I would post a picture of cookie dough, but none of it survived long enough to be photographed. Use your imagination.

Read books. Though please, skip the only okay ones and use winter to treat yourself to the hold-your-breath and stay-up-until-2am books. If you’re on break and slightly nocturnal like me, you’ll be up until then anyways.

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Image via Goodreads

My favorite break read. Definitely worth staying up until 2 am.

Memorize the song “Let It Go,” from Frozen. Randomly belt it out and feel no shame. While you’re at it, contemplate how in the heck the girls from Frozen survive without wearing gloves. (The easy answer: they’re animated. But really. This is a movie about winter. I would appreciate a speck of realism.)

Watch lots and lots of What Not to Wear and marvel at how many atrocious outfits there are in this world. For the overachievers, do your own What Not to Wear on your mom’s closet, tossing the sweaters with saggy armpit syndrome and creating outfits with actual accessories.

Wear some really atrocious outfits yourself (because you are never leaving the house and do not need to cultivate a professional vibe or even look attractive). This look can include such as flannel pajama pants that drift above your ankles and charmingly showcase inches of fuzzy socks. This look fits best if you have extra-long legs, and is most suited for environments with really chilly wood floors.

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Do a workout video. It will make you nice and warm (and sweaty). YouTube has free ones, so you don’t even have to venture outside to buy one. (And don’t even think about running outside, even if you do miss it.) If you’re brave, try one from Blogilates, my winter workout go-to. Warning: the workout lady is chipper and talks incessantly even when she should be wracked with pain because she’s made you do a ridiculous number of wacko Pilates moves. However, as my sister says, “At least she’s nicer than Jillian Michaels.”

Sit in the snow and read a book. Just kidding! Only crazy people (ahem, like my family) do that.

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Pray really, really hard for spring to come soon. This is my favorite option of all.