Put your money where your principles are…

11247970_10204759314167049_8826692576397745492_nLast year, I wrote a lot about my efforts to discipline my spending, weigh and balance what my financial choices say about me, and to be a mindful giver. This year, I hope you’ll join me as I try to turn all those words into deliberate action. I read a horribly controversial book by Chika Onyeani just a few months back and despite it’s crass racial rhetoric, it left with me a strong sense of responsibility for my financial choices.

We all watched quietly in 2013 as thousands died in Bangladesh’s Savar/ Rana plaza building collapse, but I’m sure that you – like me – turned away with a feeling of helplessness. Those of us who felt anything at all likely donated money to an active charity doing rescue and recovery. What we did not do, surely, was research the brands that sourced garments from these factories that told their sweatshop workers to return to work despite visual indications that the building was unsafe. We didn’t stop buying the accused brands and we certainly didn’t demand retribution. According to Forbes, we’re talking about Benetton, Primark, Walmart, and JC Penney among the names you know, but Carrefour and NKD among those you don’t.

I could say I care because many haven’t compensated the lost and injured, but frankly I care for purely selfish reasons. I care because even those that have paid something have surely turned profits 100 fold on the labor bought and sold on the cheap in far flung places. I care because I’m sure they overcharged me, underpaid their workers and made out like fat cats on both our complicity.  I care because I want to do no harm, and apparently, shopping endorses forms of slavery that big businesses will say are sanctioned because you and I keep spending. I care because where I spend my money threatens to paint me as both an idiot and an asshole if I don’t pay enough attention to understand the implications of those financial choices.

In this new year, I am making a sincere effort to make better financial choices. In addition to starting a budget, which I have never actually had in my life, and increasing my monthly charitable giving, I am making a concerted effort to spend my money mindfully – #shoplocal, support free & fair trade, shop small and minority owned businesses, read the ingredients and animal testing disclaimers on all labels, research before clicking ‘check out.’

Some transgressions are unavoidable, like the Tantalum in our iphones or the chocolate in the dessert served at our favorite haunt, so that’s all the more reason to take a stance on what we can control. We have all gotten used to the ease of Amazon Prime and the convenience of big box stores, but the easier it is to buy and the cheaper goods seem to cost, the more likely it is that companies are cutting corners – in paying their workers, in being socially responsible, in doing no harm to the environment. The list goes on…

So, this year, I want every dollar I spend to NOT be easy. It should take effort and deliberation to wrench my pennies from my pockets. I want to monitor the life cycle of each cent and I want to know that this year, my hard earned money went in greater percentages to better causes. The filter between receiving my pay check and buying material things should only allow mindful purchases, necessary objects and proud choices to make their way onto my bank statement. And if I can have a face to put to the names of the brands in my closet, in my pantry, and in my office – all the better. If this process makes me shop less, what a priceless added benefit! I hope you’ll consider making a similar declaration to reverse consumption as a habit, and consider spending an act of protest and philanthropy.

It takes a village to do right by the world.

***

See below a short list of the businesses I’m considering supporting going forward. I haven’t done all the reading I need to, but I like what I see so far. I hope you’ll do some research too and let me know if I should re-consider. Comment with the names/ lists of other brands and businesses to consider that aren’t listed here. Help me grow this list!

*No, I haven’t been paid to list those below and I won’t get kick backs or discounts if you shop. Some brands I’ve tried already (evanhealy, bami, Geeda’s, MOMs & Grenada Chocolate Company) and have had great personal experiences, others are completely new. There’s no funny business here. *

Bath and Body

Home

 

Clothing and Accessories

  Food & Dining

 

 

Lists to comb and consider for U.S. shoppers:

Fair Trade Clothing

Black owned businesses

Black owned spas

Women owned businesses

Toxin-free cosmetics

Black owned bookstores

Cruelty free products

 

 

#musicamonday #MUSICMONDAY (18)

Welcome to the 18th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

When my FLOTUS kicks beats, you better believe she will be featured right here. Listen to Lady O.  Go to college: even though the prices of most 4 yr degrees are too damn high! Try, apply, study & succeed. #StayMadAbby is cute today, but it needs to be the fuel to Keep Abby Mad 4 years from now and 4 years after that… and so on & so forth.

#bettermakeroom

Shortguide to Sifting through Advice

Advice you probably don't need - http://twaddle101.blogspot.com

Advice you probably don’t need – http://twaddle101.blogspot.com

As of late, I have been the victim of unsolicited career advice. At first I was flattered by the abundance, because frankly it means someone cares enough about me to think about my future. Then, I became overwhelmed by all the possibilities that came my way by hearing all these inspiring words of wisdom. Finally I became paralyzed, because much of this advice is contradictory and seems totally irrelevant to my current ambitions or track record thus far. So, what to do?

Just as I was coming out of my advice coma, a long lost cousin contacted me to learn more about a career in international relations. I had been wracking my brain about what to tell her when we finally connect, because I’m still reeling from my week of mismatched mentorship. At least my advice will be solicited, which absolves me of only half of my problems. What about the rest of my advice? How relevant will it be for her when she starts her career? Why would she ever trust me and why would my advice be particularly useful? These are the questions that passed through my mind until I remembered that these are her problems, not mine. She asked me for advice. She will need to put on her big girl boots and sift out the good, the bad and the useful for herself and simply know that my intentions were good.

In thinking through this cycle of advice, mentorship, professional development, supervising, managing and being a cog in a wheel for the next 35 years, here are a few things that I would offer (unsolicited) to help strike a healthy balance between listening and unlistening to the bits of ‘knowledge’ that will come your way, no matter what field you specialize in. Consider this a short guide to sifting through career advice.

Broke Life – http://bit.ly/1Jws94I

1 – Money advice rarely ever changes. Career advice and money advice aren’t the same thing. – In my field, there are particular positions that are coveted for the political cache they yield. You hear that people come out with powerful networks and transform into semi-Gods. Ok, fair enough. But, these positions are often low paid, high powered, and stressful. Your spouse will probably hate you. The credit card companies will love you. Your gas guzzling car will enjoy being fed every 3 days for your 1 hour commute to & fro. But, your co-workers will know your name! There is a price to pay for power and I consider it very steep. So, you’ll need to decide for yourself what drives you. If you want to be the talk of the office, maybe it’s worth it. If not, you’ll want to think long and hard about what’s important to you, because you may be taking a pay cut to chase someone else’s dream.

2 – Thinking of your day job as your second stream of income is transformative. – There are some people who enjoy going to their offices because the work is fulfilling and they are passionate about the organization. I know very few of these people who live with this reality every day. There are days when you’re going to want to stab someone with a pencil, no matter what office you work in. But, sometimes it’s important to realize that your day job allows you to have expensive hobbies or lucrative independent businesses or priceless experiences that you can only float with your day job money. For me, that’s been going to school. For others, it can be jewelry making, art collecting, import/export, teaching, photography, and a whole slew of other opportunities. Sometimes it just takes remembering that you’re not a slave to your day job; in fact, your day job allows you to be free in other areas of your life. So, switch around job #1 and job #2 in your head and it can change your whole mindset.

Back in my Day

Back in my Day

3 – The industry you’re in likely changes every 10-15 years. So, know which generation of professional you’re talking to and balance well.  – Like I said, this has been a rough few weeks because very successful individuals in my field have been inclined to share with me what they think is best for me. Yet, I’ve found much of their advice to be dated, because when they entered the field the rules were different. Does this mean that I throw out all their well-intentioned advice? Well, of course not. Some nuggets of it are worth listening to simply because these people are at the top and, right now, I have to know the lens they’re using to define success when they view me. Why? Their minority point of view, since it’s at the top of the hierarchy, still rules the game. Their views prevail when it comes to promotions and hiring. So, while I don’t agree with everything they may believe, I need to know WHAT they believe so I can play to my strengths and moderate expectations when dealing with these career power brokers.

Get Like Me

4 – When most people say ‘success,’ you should hear ‘be like me.’ – When offering unsolicited advice to a colleague over sangrias recently, it dawned on me that the reference for ‘success’ is rarely ever Oprah or Warren Buffet. In those terms, people mean ‘rich.’ Or when people say Gwen Stefani or Jay-Z, they mean ‘famous.’ You have to read between the lines to know if their vocabulary really defines ‘success,’ because what I’ve found is that most people are just talking about themselves. Sometimes that’s great, esp. if you’re talking to a mentor whose excellence you want to emulate. The greatness is that most people are just telling you how they would have lived their lives or made professional choices differently if they had the chance to do it again; you can avoid their missteps. Other times, you will have to agree to hear, but not to listen because some of the circumstances of your advisor’s life or interests just don’t apply to you or yours.

5 – Everything people say about others is true (to some degree). – My workplace is an institution built on talking shit about co-workers. Workplace gossip isn’t new, but I was shocked to the degree that it was codified and perpetuated in my industry. People believe that hearing how others have worked with a person will help them decide to bring that colleague onto a new team. While this can be altruistic, it also sucks because there are probably 2-3 dozen who like you (good), thousands who don’t know you (neutral), and about 3-10 dozen who have personal or professional misgivings about you (bad). The nice people in the latter category just don’t say anything, but there’s a small minority who will rip you a new one at the first opportunity. You probably don’t even know that they hate your guts, but your future boss now does! But, understand that smack talking works 2 ways. It’s highly likely that if they don’t like you, you don’t like them – so your time will come.

http://blogs.longwood.edu/jazminehurteportfolio/work-samples/research/

Workplace Gossip – http://bit.ly/1NUHL8m jazminehurteportfolio

The true revelation is that pretty much everything you hear about colleagues is true to some extent. The question is just how relevant is Jack Smith’s dreaded experience with Jane Doe in Honduras on a marine life conservation project to my projected experience partnering with Jane on a microcredit project in the Mali three years from now. It’s anyone’s guess! If Jane and I work well together, it isn’t to say that Jack was lying. It is to say that we have different angles & needs from Jane as a colleague. And Jane is not one dimensional. The reality is that Jane might not have liked marine life, she may have been going through a bad break up, she probably doesn’t speak Spanish and it’s highly likely that she thinks Jack was a total douche bag. And all of that, too, could be true… so what now?

In giving and receiving advice in your work place keep these thoughts in mind (or don’t), so that you can hear the wisdom through all the noise!

Giving Birth to my Vision Board

IMG_2545The first time I ever heard about a vision board, I was in a restaurant in Melville, Johannesburg with my friend Michelle. We were talking about all of the things we wanted for our businesses and our plans for the coming year. She had been working on an online consignment shop concept for many years but hadn’t yet brought it to market. And me, well, I have a million little hustles going at any one time and often no sleep and no quality time with my husband to show for it. She mentioned all the things she has on her vision board and how they’ve helped her focus. I immediately laughed at her and thought she was a quack. Dinner continued and developed into a night of NYC inspired debauchery and life went on…

Fast forward to last month. I was in the US and Europe traveling for a while to recharge my battery and reconnect with family. During these long plane rides and alone time while everyone is at work, I usually have time to refresh my goals. I get inspired by remembering all the things and people who made me.

Annette+Johnson+Profile+Pic

The FLY Coach (PHOTO CREDIT: YASMEEN ANDERSON PHOTOGRAPHY)

So, I started reading blogs by the FLY Coach and Christine Kane on visualizing success and they brought me back to that table in Melville a few months ago. My quack of a friend didn’t really explain herself very well when she dropped the vision board reference in passing. After doing my own reading, I totally saw the logic. For years I have had annual lists of projected accomplishments. In short, they were glorified to-do lists. They required minimal revision throughout the year and usually 90% of the list was completed by year’s end. Success! But, recently I’ve drifted away from the validation of accomplishments and focused on the long-term. You can’t really put, “Be a better person” on a to do list and be empowered to go out and achieve it. This vision board, though, really fills in the gaps.

The logic here is that you use images of what makes you happy, fulfilled, accomplished and loved to create a board to remind you to go after that vision of your future. Not everyone’s idea of “be rich,” for example, look alike. So, you’re tasked to be specific: create a collage of pictures that match how you want to feel and that look exactly like what you want for yourself. Interesting things emerge.

I found that things I expected to have on my vision board weren’t what eventually made the cut.  In fact, I was looking for someone rolling around in a pile of money, but that picture never came up in my stack of Latina, Bona, Real Simple and House & Leisure mags. I also expected to have something about travel, airplanes or globe-trotting crop up. Ditto – there isn’t so much as a beach image with a mai tai or a paper plane heading towards palm trees.

P1070335Looking at my board with fresh eyes this morning, there are a few things that even I am shocked by. First, I used glue. I hear that many people like to use push pins or something that isn’t as permanent. Rather than having to scrap the whole board or paste over it, they like to switch out images as they no longer become relevant. Maybe it was just a beginner’s boo boo, but I also think maybe the glue shows both how committed I am to these concepts and how much I think each piece is integral to all the others. Second, there are 6 children on my board. We agreed on 5! But somehow on the family side of my board there’s an extra body. I intended to add the very last one to the work side of my board, but the kid with the Kindle ended up with the other babies. Good thing we’re ok with adopting.

Third, the work side of my board is racially mixed; the family side of my board isn’t. I suppose that’s just my reality, but it’s very telling. Proximity doesn’t mean integration and rather than fighting that, I’m happy to embrace the fact that I will produce healthy, intelligent Black children raised in a loving, successful, two parent household. So few kids have this in the world and I’m committed to this vision for my own. Fourth, all the images of a de-cluttered home were supposed to be paired with the words for the cities where I want to buy new property. Instead they’re in a section between work and family that’s labeled “Sleep.” The images are actually of a bed and pillows. Subliminal much? Last, when it comes to work, my vision board doesn’t include anything about my PhD, my day job, or even my multiple side businesses. It focuses on being a writer. All in all, I knocked my own socks off with this vision board. I’ve drilled down to the most important and most essential images that reflect what I want to be my future. I’m a believer and I’ve just begun to use it this morning!

I’m not sure what vision board sharing etiquette is, but I’m beginning to think that it’s supposed to be a sacred secret. My friends who have them refer to them vaguely in Facebook posts, but never really tell us what they’re after. I think you’re supposed to keep it in a place where you see it everyday, but I’m not sure what that means for your family who have to walk past your future every single day of their lives. I don’t quite know if you can share it after you’re no longer using it or if that jinxes it somehow. I’m still new to this. But, I’m proud of what I’ve compiled and I had to share the journey with people who would appreciate it. Maybe now, I sound like a quack too or maybe you’ve had one for years and this is letting you revisit what you already know. But, if you’re also green on vision boards, I hope you’ll give it a try. I found that my vision for my future doesn’t match the words I use in my daily life. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as I have some way to stay grounded and remind myself of what success, love, and ‘a life in full’ really mean to me. My vision board’s got my back!

IMG_3035

VLOG THRU THE NOISE

I have been horrible. Not writing. Not dropping knowledge. Not sending you sweet little nothings on this beautiful blog of mine. But, have no fear. I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been on the road to Greece, South Africa, USA, Frankfurt and back to my beloved Mozambique. So, let me try a different medium to share my life between the clouds and above the noise.

Live Music (If you only open one video, let this one be it!):

Follow Kitchenmess on twitter (@Kitchen_Mess)

Live Music:

Beach Life:

Sunset Zen:

The Southern Atlantic ocean in winter:

Performance outside Durban:

Enjoy the sights and sounds from around the world. Global people, you inspire!

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