Category: Guest Post

At Home in This Life, Interview with Author Jerusalem Greer!

I’ve gushed about Jerusalem on this blog before. We’ve never met in real life, but I really can’t wait for the day she comes to San Antonio. I’m going to march her right over to Bird Bakery so we can eat cupcakes and share stories. In the meantime, these “virtual chats” are a fun way to get to know one another. I know you’ll enjoy this chat as much as I did. She’s an artist in so many ways.

Traci: Tell us a little bit about your inspiration behind At Home in This Life. What story did you feel like you needed to tell? Who do you think should read it and why? 

Jerusalem: At Home in this Life is not the book I set out to write, but it was the book I needed to write. It was the story I needed to live and then tell. I thought I was going to write a fluffy happy book about combining Benedictine monastic practices with ordinary domestic chores – and to some extent that is the book I wrote – but it went much deeper and was much messier than I ever intended.  This book is the story of how everything I thought would make me happy fell apart, and how I found peace at the intersection of mess and brokenness and beauty and happy surprises, when I decided to give God’s plan a try instead of forcing my own. I think anyone who is wishing that their life was something different than it is should read this book, because ultimately – no matter who we are or where we live, we have to learn how to water the grass beneath our feet instead of always seeking greener pastures.

Traci: #notgonnalie, when I see your Instagram posts of your gorgeous farmhouse and your amazing kitchen and your sense of style that includes magazine worthy cookouts  I think to myself “I want that life!” I struggle with that sometimes on social media, seeing other people’s lives and wondering how my own life measures up. One of the things I love about At Home in this Life is now it dives in to some of the challenges you’ve overcome in living the life you want to live. What encouragement do you have for me and other readers who feel overwhelmed by the pressure to do it all and be perfect? 

Jerusalem: Everyone – probably even Martha Stewart – looks at parts of other people’s lives and pines for what they have.  I think that is just a normal part of human existence. The trick is to not become so defined and driven by what you want or what you lack, that you miss all the goodness of what you have.  It’s the old trap of comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides.  I talk a lot about spiritual practices (or disciplines) in the book, and whenever I give a talk or a workshop about these practices I like to remind people there is a reason why they are called spiritual practices and not spiritual perfections. It’s because we all have to practice them in order to get better at them. And some practices – areas of our lives, behaviors, patterns of thought, design skills etc – take longer for us to master than they do for our neighbor. The idea that everyone should be proficient in everything is just nutso. If it makes anyone feel better I stink at cleaning baseboards and exercise.   

Traci: At Home in this Life is more personal and vulnerable than your first book A Homemade Year is it hard to tell your story and know that so many readers will be peering in to your life? Do you have any vulnerability hangovers now that the book is published? 

Jerusalem: Ha! Nope. I generally am on the other end of the spectrum – I worry that I haven’t been vulnerable or transparent enough.  Which is why my husband Nathan reads everything I write first – he is my B.S. meter. He is the one who tells me if I am putting lipstick on a pig, glossing over the hard parts, spinning something to be better than it was or not digging deep enough.

Traci: Along with the book, you’ve worked to curate a whole collection of on trend and fun items to go along with the book. Tell us about the process of finding the artists, curating it, and how it’s doing. 

Jerusalem: Most of the artist are either women I know, or women who were recommended to me. Women whose art and designs I just adore. The collection came about because (as you will read in the laundry chapter) I am a bit of a “stuff” person and I love cute things. (I will never be a minimalist!) But what I really love is cute things that have some meaning – that convey messages of beauty, hope, joy, peace and so on.  The idea was to create a collection based on the words of At Home in this Life an as interrupted by these artist. I am so in awe of their talent and I love every item in the collection – which all make great gifts btw! [Traci Note: I can attest to this! Jerusalem sent me the sweetest mending kit from the collection when her book was released. Love, love, love it!] 

 Traci: What’s your actual writing process like? I imagine you cheffing up some farm fresh eggs and coffee and sitting down at your kitchen table to write before the sun rises, inspiration flowing out for hours, but I know how hard writing can be, too. What time of day do you like to write? Do you have any inspiration or words of wisdom for others who want to publish their own stories? 

Jerusalem: For better or for worse, I write in the margins. Sometimes I do write in the bucolic setting, and other days (like right now for instance) I write in nondescript airports in between speaking gigs. I write on my couch, in my bed, in coffee shops and upstairs at my parents’ house. Sometimes I go away for a week and get a chunk done but that is the exception, not the rule. Generally I am writing whenever I can find enough time to turn on my computer and sit down. And sometimes inspiration flows, and sometimes I just stare at the screen until I can’t take it anymore and give-up.

The only advice I would give aspiring writers is to try and figure out (if you can) why you want to be published writer… Is it to be a conduit of information? Is it to inspire? Is it because you just enjoy it? Is it as springboard to being a speaker? Is it because you love storytelling? There are a lot of ways to approach writing, and the sooner you figure out why you want to write, the quicker you can find a support system in the writing community – which is extremely helpful!

Where can readers get the book and items from the Etsy collection? 

The book is available on Amazon and B&N and for large orders (for book clubs etc) make sure to visit Paracelete Press. To view the whole Curated Collection go HERE

WIN A COPY of At Home in this Life! Paraclete Press has generously offered a copy of At Home in this Life to Faithful Families readers! If you’re interested in winning, just write a comment on the pinned Facebook Post to enter! Deadline to enter is Sunday, July 30th at NOON CST!

 

Guest Post: Jessica Vaughan Lower #whomademyclothes

I have never been the girl who lives to shop. Where I come from, the mall was appreciated just as much for being an oasis of air conditioning during the hot summers as it was for anything else.

But all the same, I have always worn clothes that reflected how I wanted to be seen by the world around me.

When I was in high school, I wore a self-imposed uniform of hoodies and maybe-too-tight Levi’s with a slit cut up the bottom hems of the legs so that the jeans (did I mention that they may have been too tight?) would cover the tops of my gleaming white Adidas shoes. Sometimes I wore other things, but hoodies and Levi’s were my favorite. They went with my black eyeliner perfectly. And they let me blend in with my friends.

A blast from the past

In college, perhaps in response to the Freshman Fifteen Twenty Five and perhaps in response to the early 2000’s, I traded in the hoodies and tight jeans for baggy jeans, flip flops, and maybe-too-tight t-shirts that had quippy little sayings on them. My favorite shirt said “New Jersey: Only The Strong Survive.” I wore it as often as I could once I was accepted to grad school in New Jersey. Not only did this outfit also compliment my black eyeliner, but it made me feel brave and independent in the sea of women on campus who were on the cusp of the emerging “short shorts” trend.

Favorite tee!

Perhaps it was following a year spent in the UK, coupled with the realization that flip flops and t-shirts wouldn’t work well during east coast winters, but I trashed the jeans completely in grad school and replaced them only with tailored tuxedo style slacks. I would pair them with patent red leather loafers, socks with crazy prints on them, layers of thermals under t-shirts with a blazer and, inexplicably, a tie loosely strung around my neck. While I still own those loafers, I have no explanation for this choice in style. All I can say is, I felt like me.

My style has continued to change over the course of my life to reflect how I saw me and how I wanted others to see me: those red loafers became the stilettos of a young professional; stilettos were traded in for the running shoes of a stay at home mom. Button down collars were traded for nursing tanks, which were then traded for exercise wear as I chased toddlers around the park following my morning work-out. When I returned to work four years ago, after five years at home, it was looking at my closet that induced anxiety about my future. For some reason, it was easier to declare “I have nothing to wear!” than it was to admit that I was suffering from imposter syndrome as I returned to work.

Clothes have always reflected who I am into the world.

When Rana Plaza fell in Bangladesh in 2013, I have to say, I was not deeply affected. It’s not that I was cold hearted to it—factory workers shouldn’t have to make the non-sensical choice between death or “keeping their jobs”—it’s just that traumatic stories around sweat shops had been common place to me since Kathy Lee Gifford’s gaffe circa 1996. By 2013, I had accepted disasters like this to be a necessary evil if I wanted to stay clothed. I didn’t like it, I didn’t think it was right, but there was nothing I could do about it if I didn’t want to be publicly nude.

My husband, on the other hand, was mortified. In 2013, he was the chair of the board of the first fair trade clothing company in Africa. And he couldn’t stop talking about Rana Plaza. By December 31st of that same year, he had rid his closet of all of his clothes and replaced them only with clothing that he could guarantee, to the best of his ability, that the workers were treated both fairly and ethically. But because ethical clothing is more expensive than fast fashion, that meant that he could afford less: one pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, two t-shirts, one zip-up sweater, four pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, and one pair of ethically made flip flops.

To be this close to someone making this much of a change with this much passion was really inspiring. I wanted to make a difference too. So I went online and searched for ethically made clothes for women.

And I searched. And I searched. And I searched.

It’s not that there wasn’t anything out there for women—there was plenty. It’s just that there wasn’t anything out there for me. I didn’t want to look like a hippie. I didn’t want to look like a girlie-girl. I didn’t want to look basic. I wanted to look like me.

Even more disappointing, there wasn’t anything that I could find in early 2014 that I could wear in a professional context. I had spent years finding business blazers of varying lengths and styles to wear for any occasion, but in the ethical space, I couldn’t even find one blazer. I was disappointed. And rather than feeling the freedom my husband felt, I returned to that feeling that I had before Rana Plaza collapsed—buying slave made clothes was a necessary evil if I wanted to be taken seriously as a professional woman in a man’s profession.

But for my birthday that year, my husband gifted me with a t-shirt from an ethical women’s brand. It was plain, but I liked the cut. It fit me well, and it felt good on my skin. I could wear it under a cute jacket. Then for Christmas, I was gifted another shirt. It was silk, sleeveless, with a collar. Great for work, great with jeans. I wore it twice a week.

Every now and then, I would go to the Nordstrom’s Rack and look for something new to refresh my wardrobe. But as the new year went on, it became difficult for me to look at the racks and racks of clothes and not imagine the hands that stitched them. I guess that, before now, I had imagined that clothes were stitched together by faceless machines—there is just too much merchandise to believe that individual human hands had put them together. What massive amounts of people must be needed to stitch together all the clothes in Nordstrom Rack, let along all the clothes in the mall, let alone all the clothes throughout all the malls in the city, and the country, and the world? It started to become overwhelming, and by fall of 2015, I stopped going into fast fashion stores completely.

I continued to wear the clothes I had, and when I could afford it, I would buy a piece from the ethical market to update my wardrobe. Every morning when I looked in my closet to choose an outfit, I found myself choosing the ethically made clothes over the fast fashion attire more and more. It felt good to put them on. When people complimented me on my outfit, it felt good to say, “Thanks! And it wasn’t made by slaves!” I found that, as time went on, dressing like me started to mean dressing ethically.

In late April 2017, coincidently the day before the fourth anniversary of the collapse of Rana Plaza and three years after the start of my own journey, I found I had enough essentials to have an largely ethical wardrobe. And so I pulled all of my clothes out of my closet, sifted through them, and gave nearly all of my once-beloved pieces of fast fashion away. My husband saw a shirt on top of a pile that I had worn quite regularly once-upon-a-time and lamented over it, wondering aloud if I should keep it for nostalgia. But I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t want it anymore. It wasn’t me anymore.

If you’re a person who likes stats and figures, like I am, then here are some of the stats I have. In 2013, following the Rana Plaza disaster, the Bangladesh government raised the minimum wage from $38/month to $68/month. This raise still keeps workers below the poverty line, eating fewer calories than they would need to get through a day of work at the factory. In Sri Lanka, 66% of women garment workers have anemia. In Cambodia, 1/3 of garment workers are underweight, which means fainting is common in the factory. And even in these countries where standard minimum wage is enshrined by law, there is no guarantee to workers that they will actually receive it on time, or receive it at all.

Also, check out these numbers: standard mark-ups on clothing by companies ranges from 60-70%. So let’s do the math on that H&M top that is advertised for $5: three dollars is 60% mark-up, leaving two dollars for fabric, buttons/zippers, elastic, thread, as well as to pay the  laborer who put it together. And buying clothes on the higher end doesn’t actually mean that workers are being paid better, or that better quality materials are being used—it often just means that the mark up is higher. The truth is that many of numbers in fashion are impossible to know, because fast fashion companies do not share their financial or production figures to anyone.

Clothes made by someone who is paid a fair wage for her work.

Most of the time when people talk to me about ethical clothing, they tell me that they can not afford ethical clothes. And this is painful for two reasons: 1) it shows how much of our economy is dependent upon fast fashion practices and the subsequent oppression of workers overseas and 2) it’s just not true. The relative cost of clothing has gone down substantially over the last four decades while the relative amount of disposable income has gone up. This means that where $100 may have afforded your parents two outfits decades ago, $100 affords us upwards of four outfits today. We’ve changed the way we prioritize budgets, justifying paying more on one thing because we pay less on clothes. But that is a direct result of unscrupulous practices that have been rampant and unchecked in the garment industry for generations.

You may have noticed that I said that I gave nearly all my clothes away. Let me be clear: I still have some fast fashion pieces in my closet. For instance, I still can’t find a blazer that is ethically made, so I’ve kept my old ones. I’m required to wear a white dress for a sorority event once every few years and it seems silly to spend money on any level to replace it. While exercise clothes are some of the biggest offenders in the garment industry, I teach cardio-kickboxing four times a week and can’t exchange out all my exercise clothes at once because my budget won’t allow it. But this isn’t an all or nothing game. I’ve committee to a one in/one out policy—for each piece of ethical clothing I buy, I get rid of one piece of fast fashion. And while that might take me many more years in this already-three-year journey, I’m okay with that. Because now, with each garment I buy, I am buying in line with my values.

I am becoming more of me in what I wear.

To contact Jessica, email hello@visible.clothing

Note from Traci:  I was so touched by Jessica’s story, and my favorite part of it is this line: this isn’t an all or nothing game. So often I feel that way. I know my clothes and my children’s clothes are often made by slaves and trafficking victims. I know that the fact that our clothes are “cheap” means that there’s a very high human cost behind them, yet doing something about it feels overwhelming, and like it won’t do any good. This post is a great reminder that doing something is better than nothing. Last week I decided to support visible clothing’s Kickstarter by getting an ethically made tie for Elias. Though it’s the first item of clothes I’ve ever bought that I know for certain is ethically made, I have to start somewhere, and I can’t wait to give it as a gift. What do you know about ethically made clothes? Leave a comment. Let’s have a conversation.

The Shocking Solution to Your Child’s Disrespect: Guest Post by Nicole Schwarz

father and daughter in the park

“You’re not the boss of me!” your child yells as they stick out their tongue and run away.

Furious, you yell back, “How dare you talk to me like that! You little…”

This pattern is nothing new. Your child has a bad habit of disrespect.

It’s something you’ve been trying to nip in the bud for a while now, but no matter how many times you try to “set them straight,” send them to their room, or take away their video games, the behavior continues.

The disrespect is not OK. And your kids need to know you’re serious. So, how can you put an end to this once and for all?

The shocking solution.

You.

Yep, you!

But not the sarcastic, condescending, criticizing you. (You’ve tried that already and it hasn’t worked.)

This solution calls for the calm, confident, empathetic you.

The YOU who doesn’t panic when their child acts immaturely because you understand their brain is still in development, and there will be times when it is hard for them to make a good decision in the heat of the moment.

The YOU who isn’t worried about “showing them who’s boss” because you know you’re in charge. You don’t have to give harsh punishments or empty threats to prove it, you set reasonable boundaries to help your kids feel safe and secure.

The YOU who responds with love because you know that conflict is inevitable in families, and you want your kids to feel safe enough to share their feelings and know that you will listen, even if the two of you don’t always agree.

This YOU can put an end to disrespect from your kids.

Why this solution works.

Think about it. Imagine your favorite teacher when you were in school…

This person probably knew much more than just your name. They knew that you hated sitting in the front row, that you needed a little extra time to complete word problems, and that you had a cat named Mr. Pickles at home.

But, this teacher wasn’t all fun and games. They had rules for the classroom, expectations for their students, and graded fairly. When the class became rowdy or loud, they didn’t have to stand on their chair and yell or dole out extra homework as a punishment, they were able to direct the class back to order with calm confidence.

Why?

Because you respected them.

Did you respect them because they DEMANDED respect? No! The respect was built out of the  relationship. This teacher KNEW you, they treated you with firmness and empathy, which led you to want to give it back in return.

It’s the same with your children.

When your kids feel connected and respected by you, they are more likely to respond in kind.

Three tips to decrease the disrespect from your kids.

  1. Engage and Connect: Spend quality time with your kids on a daily basis. Ask questions about their life (and listen to the answers!), play games they enjoy, or simply be together without nagging, correcting or directing.
  2. Model the Behavior You’d Like to See: Take note of the words you use, listen to your tone of voice, and watch your body language.  If you don’t want to see or hear it from your kids, eliminate it from your own posture and vocabulary first.
  3. Embrace Learning and Imperfection: Old habits die hard. Apologize when you make a mistake, allow “do-overs” in which you or your child are able to restate a phrase in a more respectful way, and problem solve together.

These strategies may seem uncomfortable at first. You may feel like it’s “not working” because you don’t see an immediate change in your child’s behavior.

Give it time.

Everyone wants to be respected, even kids.

And when they start to feel respected, they will let you know by giving you respect in return.


Nicole SchwarzAbout the Author notes from Traci Smith: Nicole Schwarz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and owner of the website Imperfect Families, a parenting website that includes a ton of  common sense advice on parenting. I find her tone to be positive, non-judgmental and straightforward. In addition to the blog, you can join the 10,000+ people in the Imperfect Families Facebook Community or follow her very helpful Pinterest board.

 

Special Offer Right now! Nicole is starting a class called Communication for Imperfect Families, a seven week course that looks absolutely phenomenal. Check it out and consider investing in your family this summer!

Fun Fact! Though we share very similar philosophies and professional goals in adulthood, I actually know Nicole because we were childhood friends! One of my favorite memories of our friendship is spending hours (yes hours) passing notes back and forth through a laundry chute. We would take turns being upstairs (to me, the preferred position!) So fun. Congratulations on the success of Imperfect Families, Nicole, and thank you so much for stopping by!