A lose/lose situation

So, a little publication called The New York Times recently published this tragic story.

The Times reported that the tanking economy's spiraling effects has been so far reaching that even "gold diggers" are now suffering. In fact, not only are these women dealing with "limited" funds once their financial fiances and banker boyfriends face the harsh realities of Wall Street, but OMG! their relationships are now suffering as a result.

(Am I over-using the quotation marks? Maybe I need some lessons from this guy.)

Luckily, there is help for these unfortunate females. Because, you know, everyone needs a place to share their story.

(Warning: Their site is full of ridiculous comments that may make your stomach churn...including but certainly not limited to the heartbreaking entry from the newly-forgotten "Other Woman.")

At any rate, the article hits the press and not surprisingly, the DABA (Dating A Banker Anonymous) blog receives many hits and a variety of reactions--from sympathy to outrage, from bemusement to bemoaning and a myriad of emotions in between.

But, just when you think it couldn't possibly get any worse, this comes out.

Unwilling to accept the Times' report at face value, one reporter decided to do some digging on her own.

The result?

Some serious doubt cast on the Times' credibility.

Turns out, their blog site was registered just days before the report was published.

Turns out, there is little evidence that this is anything more than a spoof.

Turns out, the media may not be an unbiased source of information after all!

So, I ask you friends, which is worse--if the site is legit or if the Times ran a bogus story as fact?

(Can I get a waaaaah, waaaaaah?!)


In so many words...

*Note: Judging from this graphic, you may be led to believe that I fully embrace this season. You would be sorely mistaken.


Hot topic: Fair trade

"As consumers, our power is in our dollar. People need to understand that, when they buy a product, they're unconsciously endorsing a way of doing business."
-Nina Smith, executive director, RUGMARK


A few months ago, I found myself here for a Halloween extravaganza. In the midst of the evening's festivities, the impossible happened--I WON something! This rare feat had not happened since I was a frizzy-haired fourth grader who walked away from the spelling bee a braces-wearing, style-lacking winner of a gift certificate that resulted in my first cassette tape.

After erupting into a completely unnecessary squeal of delight, I walked away with another gift card--this time, to a place called Ten Thousand Villages. As my excitement subsided, my curiosity peaked. I began asking around and discovered this store is actually one of the world's oldest and largest fair trade organizations.

What exactly does fair trade mean? I wasn't too familiar with the term myself, but I did know that in a nutshell, fair trade "enables artisans to earn a fair wage and provides the opportunity for a better quality of life" (taken directly from here).

Last weekend, I set off for Ten Thousand Villages to learn more...after all, I had a gift card to spend.

I perused the store and was pleasantly surprised. Funky jewelry, trendy scarves, global home decor items...like a mini, local Pier One. Except there was one important difference--Ten Thousand Villages is fair trade certified.

After milling about the store, I picked up a pair of earrings that were calling my name and headed to the check out line.

While distracted by a table full of beautiful journals, my eyes fell on a booklet titled "The Conscious Consumer: Promoting Economic Justice Through Fair Trade," which I decided to add to my collection (because in case you forgot, I WON a GIFT CARD!).

Okay, confession--while I was certainly not well versed in the details of fair trade, I had enough background to know that this topic was one that could easily bring about feelings of discomfort, guilt and even frustration.

I mean, I knew along with just about everyone that many American stores sell products made in sweat shops. In fact, several large corporations have found themselves in the middle of public relations nightmares due to their support of such inhumane production practices (think Wal-Mart, Nike, Disney, and Kathie Lee Gifford). And the thought of me perpetuating such a cycle of injustice in the name of saving a few bucks was a bit disconcerting to say the least.

My vague awareness was enough to keep me from buying my stand-by Nike running shoes last year but beyond that, it did very little. Sure, I felt bad. And when I saw videos or news reports, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of remorse.

But quickly following such feelings came such defensive thoughts as "Okay, fine. This is a horrible thing. Call me just another materialistic American consumer. But how am I supposed to know a better alternative? How do I know that New Balance is any better than Nike, or if J. Crew is more ethical than the Gap? Until I'm presented with a convenient alternative, I can hardly be expected to make any changes...right?"

And you know what? I still don't have all the answers. But I'm learning more and more.

And I do know that people--living, breathing, laughing, crying, dreaming, loving, feeling, failing, flesh-and-blood people--are being broken in every possible way in order to produce these material things that I will likely throw away within the year.

And that this may be an overwhelming reality, but it is, in fact, a reality.

And that someday, when I have a frizzy-haired fourth grader, I do not want to have to explain to her that the shirt she wants at Wal-Mart was made by a penniless child her age living in squalor across the sea.

And that unless I start to care, and start to make changes--however small--nothing will change.

I share this with you knowing that those same feelings of discomfort, guilt and frustration will follow. And I think, to some degree, that is okay.

But don't let it stop at a feeling. Don't compartmentalize this idea into a social injustice that we are powerless to control. Or worse, trick yourself into thinking that "these people" are any less human than you or me and let such a message fall by the wayside.

So, okay, what can we do then?

First, we can learn. Want to compare stores for the most socially responsible brand of clothing/food/athletic wear/coffee/etc? Check out this site. Read about some of the "Most Wanted" corporate human rights violators here. Or hey, maybe just Google fair trade and see what you can dig up.

Second, spend wisely. It is no secret that the economy is less than ideal right now and that saving money is at the forefront of everyone's mind. However, while we may struggle to find the money for that plane ticket or that snazzy hi-tech gadget or that little black dress we've been eyeing, we will continue buying things like grocieries. And shampoo. And coffee (Lord knows, I will buy coffee!).

So why not spend a few more bucks on the "necessities" of life on something fair trade certified? You will buy it anyway--might as well make it something you can use with a clear conscience. Choose a store ranked high by the above sites...or better yet, pick one openly fair trade certified, such as here, here or of course, here.

Finally, start talking. Share what you're learning. Ask questions. Disagree. Just keep the conversation going. Let me know what you're thinking by posting any comments here.

Happy new year, friends. Here's to spending wisely...



Maybe it's my lack of sleep,
Maybe it's the winter weather,
But sometimes the world just seems dipped in pain.


Maybe it's this movie I watched,
Maybe it's this book I'm reading,
But I am trying to make sense of my own journey.

Maybe it's this class I'm taking,
Maybe it's my forlorn, dusty journal,
But lately I really miss writing.


Maybe it's this coffee talk,
Maybe it's since others are soon packing their bags,
But I've been bitten (again) with the traveling bug.


Maybe it's because they too love the little things,
Maybe it's knowing they are along for the messy ride,
But I'm especially thankful for my friends.