Monday, December 19, 2016

15for17: Annalisa Palmer

Another addition in the 15for_ series, a beautiful post by Annalisa Palmer.
Annalisa was in my British Literature class a few semesters ago and unlike most English majors, her brilliance is subtle and never boastful. She is one of those people that genuinely listens. Her responses in class always strike me as thoughtful and refreshing. She shares with a vulnerability and honesty that I wish more people would jump into. And among a dozen other nice things I could say about her, I am just really grateful she is sharing a list of 15 statements she would tell her 17-year-old self.

Her list is bellow (and it's really freaking good):

15 statements for my 17-year-old self by Annalisa Palmer

1. 5, 15, 2013,17: 4. Those moments of imperfection in your subjective bildungsroman narrative cripple your ego. Do not dwell on them.

2. You regret your choice to graduate early. Sometimes.

3. Stop looking for something or someone that never shows up.

4. Ensconcing yourself in your room doing homework is not the only answer. Do not turn your friends away.

5. I cannot convince your narrow mind to halt your long attempt to achieve societal standards of beauty. But, happiness flitters away as soon as you say no to yourself.

6. You get lower than you ever got before.

7. I see your bones. When you play your ribcage, you think it is beautiful—to a certain extent, I still think it is.

8. Another moment like this returns. You crave those once sharp collarbones and protruding spine. Your index finger glides up your back and the struggle between a full stomach and a caffeine induced high wages on. She haunts you.

9. As much as you try and defer your progression into adulthood, the blood comes.

10. You do not care about love right now. Value your time alone.

11. Time and fear etch scars onto your body. You ache, feel, and grow more than you ever thought possible.

12. Forget about him and what you said. 

13. Keep running. Move and do. Despite its sadomasochistic bent, exercise reminds you to breathe. You are enough.

14. When you press your nose against the backseat window, watching your brother leave for his mission, do not expect tears. Your faith soon falters. Start questioning now before the flood swallows you whole.

15. Do not silence your call to explore and risk. Fear tarries in your heart; ignore it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

postcards to myself

When I studied abroad, I would send myself a postcard every week or so. I would write it with the thought that when I returned home to the States, I would have a big pile of notes I wrote while I was free, wandering, and learning.

I really can't explain how incredible it was to come home after nearly five months of being away and seeing a stack of postcards I wrote with my greatest memories, revelations, and hopes.

I often take the postcards out of the wooden box I keep them in and read over them. I trace the ink with my finger and think about what I was doing when I wrote them. I remember the urgency I felt to tell my future self to hang on to this. I wanted so desperately for those moments of my life to be forever remembered and revisited.

So today, I'm sharing some of the things I wrote myself. Because you don't have to go far to realize that your life is undeniably beautiful, sacred, and trying. You don't have to go to a country that doesn't speak your language to realize radical empathy is a universal way to communicate. You do have to go to France if you want to eat the most delicious bread, cheese, and drink wine that makes you wonder why you ever drink anything else, but that's not really the point of this post.

Here's what French Katie said to American Katie. Forever thanking my overly emotional self for writing each week, for sending it across the ocean so that I could sit here, quietly, this morning and pour over the most sacred season of my life this far.

This process hasn't always been easy. You sat in an empty church this morning, looked up towards the ceiling, and asked what to do.
Allow yourself to be present. Allow yourself to feel deeply with your bones the truths that have built them.
Surrender to your stories. Follow your truth."

Mom says nothing here is defining you- and she's right. Your life is your own. Private and sacred. Shared with those worthy of hearing. Always let yourself wander. Bits of your stories have been scattered everywhere here in the south of France."

You stood here and let it all go. The bad, the old, the worn-out, the stuff that was taking up room. I am so proud of you for forgiving without apologies, and living again without borders. 'Listen- are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?' -Mary Oliver"

For years to come you'll remember what it felt like to walk alone on empty and crowded streets. You'll remember friends from all over the world. You'll remember what it feels like to abandon the things that only weigh you down and what it's like to live in a state of constant gratitude. Remember who you are, who you are working to become. Love yourself always."

You were reminded today how fragile and exquisite life is. How yours has carried you long after you stopped moving. How you must pay attention to the goodness and delight shared with you. Live inside those blessings spoken to you. I worry about you forgetting but how could you not remember today? Maybe that's why you are here. Collecting experiences and writing it all down. To be reminded of how small and necessary you are. How much your life is only yours. To carry, nourish, treasure."

My sweetest memories. Hope you all have a wonderful day xo.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Carly Cottle

Let me start out by saying this: Carly Cottle is the truest, kindest, most loving spirit I've ever known. Having her as a friend has made me a better person. Having her in my life reminds me that gratitude and kindness are not dead and that some people just carry a little more than the rest of us. Her 30 Days of Thankful post is bellow- feel free to fall in love with her.

Hi all! My name is Carly Cottle. Little, and proud sister, of Ash. I am 22 years old and a soon to be graduate from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education. (Currently engaging in a little happy dance while I type this out because saying that just feels so sweet after four long years as an undergrad.) Aside from my giant passion for working with the little humans, I would consider myself to be a bit of a life enthusiast.

I am a Las Vegas native but seventeen weeks ago, jumped on a plane to Galway, Ireland to complete my Student Teaching. I wanted to share this experience of mine because it has radically restored the gratitude I have for this precious life. It has humbled me to be still, inspired me to marvel at the small things, and encouraged me to celebrate the mundane and the people found within it with an abundance of love, grace, and compassion.

I chose to embark on this journey abroad for so many reasons. I wanted the opportunity to be anonymous. I wanted the chance to be brave. To be out from underneath my security blanket, away from everything and everyone familiar to me. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted my eyes to be opened to something bigger than everything I thought I knew. I wanted to explore and I wanted to learn. To amerce myself in the unknown of another culture. I just wanted an experience that was completely my own, to courageously weave through the way in which I wanted.

When I arrived in Galway, the first couple nights were my most challenging. I moved into a large, vacant house by the sea with no Wi-Fi, no friends, and no sense of direction as to where I was going when I was to step foot back outside of the house. My roommates were to arrive the week after I got there so I was feeling quite apprehensive walking into a large empty house all alone. I remember unpacking my things, sitting on my new comfy, yet dusty bed in an emotional state of “What the hell did I just do?” My heart was pounding and my eyes were heavy. I had a world wind of emotions running throughout every inch of my body. Part of me was so angry with myself for feeling this doubt in my decision to come abroad. I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be scared, to be out from underneath familiarity. So why am I feeling this way?’

I wanted to be out of my comfort zone, yet I didn’t seem to like uncomfortable. I wanted to be away from everything and everyone familiar to me, yet I seemed afraid of the unfamiliar. I prayed a lot that night, asking God to stop me in the midst of my anxious thoughts and send me the strength to be still. I knew there was purpose in my feelings of fear, doubt, and reservations; I just didn’t yet understand what that purpose was.

That next day after spending a lot of time in prayer and being consoled by my gracious mom, my oh sweet and gracious mom, I decided I would no longer spend my precious days alone in this new place feeling anxious, afraid, and lonely. I would spend them doing what I came abroad to do. This was my experience after all, so I was going to challenge myself to work alongside my fears and amerce myself in the journey, just as a vowed to do before I left.

That day, I booked a cheap hotel room and bus ticket to Cork.

I’m not sure if it was my continuous prayer, the consoling from my sweet mother, or if it was the fact that I challenged myself to find beauty and comfort in the unfamiliar, or maybe even a combination of all three, but being alone didn’t feel like being alone anymore. It felt like an opportunity to discover who I was in a completely raw and vulnerable state. I can’t tell you how fulfilling and liberating that week alone was. I discovered a side of me I didn’t know existed. I think it was buried deep under all of that fear of the unknown, I didn’t even recognize I had.

Today, seventeen weeks into this journey of mine, gratitude means something completely different to me than it did before I left. I have met so many wonderful people throughout this journey. I have made close friends, created lifelong friendships, built relationships with my most unique, wild and rambunctious kiddos, and met sweet strangers who have restored my faith in human connection. I have witnessed the vastness of this beautiful country; I have been so privileged to live in for these months. I have hiked mountains, soaked in geothermal hot springs, and sat dangling my feet over the edges of tall, rocky cliffs. I remember each courageous thought, each silent prayer, and each feeling of emotion that made up each of these moments during this journey. My heart has absolutely been filled with joy and gratitude for every single bit of it. The places I have been able to see, along with the people I have meet along the way, have made an imprint on my being, in ways I don’t think I will ever be able to explain.

Each day that I am here, my heart continues to fill with gratitude.

Gratitude for the people I’ve met, for the places I’ve been, and the strength I’ve gained to be still.

I have learned to trust God, and to trust myself. This experience is embedded in the fabric of who I am. It has replenished and restored me. It has laid my heart brave and inspired me to never stop seeking what I am most passionate about.

So whatever your passion is or whatever you consider yourself to be an enthusiast for, go at it full speed and chase it. Make a list of empowering vows along the way, and chase it. Love it and nurture it, even if it scares you. Welcome it with unbolted arms, a heart soft and exposed, and intentions that are filled with love and purpose. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and brave. Agree to disagree with your fears, and do your best to find beauty in the scary and the unfamiliar.

Let your heart be filled with gratitude as you sit back and marvel at your wild and precious life because well, it absolutely deserves that kind of love and recognition.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

15for16 - Haley Jakobson

This is a new series on my blog tailored to what you would tell your teenage self, or early-20's self, or basically any self you felt needed a little more guidance and self-love. A year ago, I studied abroad in France and sat in all these moments that I wished my 15-year old self could have known were coming. Moments of radical forgiveness and grace, moments that promised eventually, it would all be more than okay. Life unfolds as it should and I'm grateful for the great unfolding that is mine, but that doesn't take away from the times that were tough and trying. The times I journaled for hours, wishing words could be a bridge to take me anywhere else. At 22, I would just hug that girl and share what I know to be true. What was true for me ended up in a list of 15 things, and I thought of how we all probably have our own list of 15. Don't we all have bits of wisdom and revelations with each passing day, month, and year? I'll be sharing the thoughts of writers and artists and friends and strangers. 15 things for any age, thoughts you would tell that self of yours.

First up is Haley Jakobson. If you don't follow her on Instagram, do. I read a post of hers and wept. (it's this one if you want to cry too). She's incredible, vulnerable, and true. Her post is bellow, 15 things she would tell her 16-year-old self.

1. everything you know about love isn’t true. 

2. keep writing poems in your math notebook. someday people will eat your words right off the plate and lick the scraps. but also, do your math homework, because apparently discipline is a cool thing you can spill your dreams into. 

3. you don’t have to lick anyone’s dick “like an ice cream cone.” 

4. I’m sorry for what’s coming.

5. when they begin to tell you your blood is made from sin and your fingers tarnished in charcoal betrayal, crawl deeper into your mother’s arms. 

6. beat your chest like fury, shove your budding womanhood into their lockers, smear your skin with the smell of their ignorance so they have no choice but to breathe their own unfairness. prove them all fucking wrong.

7. you can stop telling yourself you wanted to have sex with him.

8. when the gynecologist blinks at you with pity in her eyelashes, tell her how dare she, tell her she’s the reason people can’t get up in the morning, ask her if she ever was a girl with collarbones sprinkled with moondust and didn’t she ever make the mistake of searching for answers in a boy?

9. when you dare to look at your vagina in the bathtub, please don’t make it into a house of shame. 

10. you didn’t want to have sex with him.

11. someone will love you. 

12. a couple someone’s.

13. when you go to that dinner with Grammy, please hold her hand a little longer. you won’t always get to do that. 

14. the walls of your high school are crushing you, your classmates are hiding their own monsters inside your gentle mistakes, your teachers cannot grade the ancient waterfalls washing your ribcage, you are a poet and a prophet and words like entire galaxies live in between your molars.

15. start flossing.

Monday, November 14, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Nissa Chan

Hi all. Ashley and I have had a bit of a break from posting. I know there are heavy hearts between the two of us and all around the world. I hope whoever is reading this knows you are loved, seen, and acknowledged as a powerful, necessary force.  This past year has been so eye-opening as I make friends with people of all different backgrounds, orientations, races, and statuses. I don't know how we heal and learn to respect and appreciate people if we don't take time to listen. Listen hard and long to their stories, their cries,  and their fears.

I am so, so grateful that Nissa is sharing her story as apart of #heysistercampaign 30 Days of Thankful. It seemed like an appropriate thing to share right now. I hope you enjoy and learn from her vulnerability and honestly. Here is her autobiographical short:

Love to all of you xoxo

To contact Nissa:
ACD Media Studios
(336) 365-8560
 You can find her online at:
Instagram:  ACDMediaStudios & SolidariteKitchen

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Ashton Mantolino

Today, the beautiful Ashton will be sharing her story as part of the hey sister campaign, 30 Days of Thankful. My heart is heavy today and I opened Ashton's story to remind myself that we have a power. We can share. We can grow. We can listen. Part of the magic of our lives is that we have one. A life to discover, unfold, love, and fight for the kind of world we want. Enjoy the read, xo.

This year has been a whole new world to me.  Being diagnosed with cancer was not on my “to do” list before I die, but somehow it crept onto what I needed to conquer before I turned 30—or even started a life of my own!  My name is Ashton Mantolino and I started my journey this year of post college, first year teaching and the battle with Non Hodgkin’s diffused large B cell lymphoma, stage II. 
              I remember the day I was diagnosed. I was in the hospital after a biopsy to my chest with a tumor 15 cm right over my heart (close to the size of a pencil). I was weak, tired and panicking about unplanned lessons for the upcoming week, not realizing that a week after my surgery, I’d be resigning from my job after less than 3 months as a second grade teacher.

              My doctor walked in and my heart flipped. “So Ashton, my name is Dr. Gollard, I am going to be following you for awhile. Your diagnosis is Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma…”  I remember his voice trailed off and everything went quiet. My whole life flashed before me. I zoned back into reality and felt my mom tightening her grip on my hand, she laughed in relief and said, “Thank God!” like it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. I felt angry at first because to me cancer was cancer-- didn’t matter what kind, but lymphoma’s survival rate was high and that was her greatest relief. It took me a long time to accept it and it took me a long time to understand that it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me… dying was.  I learned that I was part of the 2% of lymphoma patients diagnosed with anterior mediastinal lymphoma, meaning that most lymphoma patients have tumors in their lymph nodes found in their neck, groin, and abdominal areas and mine was surrounding my heart vessels.

              I admit it scared me. A 90% survival rate sounded relieving to the ears but 90% was still just 90%.  In my first treatment I was confined to the hospital for almost a month.  I hardly remember my first treatment but it was after, that I vividly remember most.  On the 4th day of my chemo infusion, I woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom; my mom helped me up and sat me down onto the toilet. I remember looking up at her and that was it.  I woke up and bright lights were on in my room, I felt the tile underneath my body, the smell of blood, at least 10 pairs of eyes on me and the sound of my mother’s voice screaming my name.  Somehow, I developed a GI bleed from all the medications I was on and not eating that it created multiple ulcers in my stomach that were not caught in time. I bled out and passed out from it. I almost lost my life that night from internal bleeding and my heart slowing down to a mere 45 bpm. I received nine blood transfusions after.   Two weeks after, I contracted a really bad infection and no one was allowed in my room without a gown, a mask, and gloves.  I felt like an experiment. I remember my primary doctor told me as I laid there hopelessly one day that this was the worst it was ever going to get and that I had to fight. She said, “You are too young to give up. Just think, one day you’ll get married, you’ll have babies, you’ll have a life… but you can’t if you lay here and you give up.”  I knew then, that all the prayers in the world would help but not save me, I had to save myself. 

              Being the person I am, I’ve learned to fight for what truly belongs to me and I know deep down inside this was just another chance for me to show the universe that the challenges it threw at me wouldn’t stop me.  I finished my last round of chemo on October 11th. I did six rounds of a vigorous regimen that often left me in pain, exhausted and questioning God at times… but as I write this now, I find the most gratefulness in my heart.  I gained a completely different perspective on how I look at life.  I found a whole new appreciation for human uniqueness during my transitions of hair loss, weight gain from the chemo, and accepting who I’ve become.  I am a warrior of life and I don’t plan to stop!

Monday, November 7, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Chloe Bortmas

One of my fondest memories while studying abroad was meeting sweet Chloe, who is sharing a personal narrative today as part of our hey sister campaign. We spent so many days walking the streets of Pau, France, indulging in patisseries and having long life talks. Grateful for your kind heart and goodness, Chloe. Thanks for being a part of our project! xo

Hi all, my name is Chloe Bortmas. I am a 21 aged student at the University of Mount Union in Ohio, where I study French. This time last year I was studying abroad in France. It sounds like a dream, and in ways it was, but it also tested me to my limits. I went through a period in my life where I was completely out of my comfort zone, away from the people I loved, and all while trying to learn a different language. All of these things combined turned into many anxious nights. While I was going through these changes, I realized I had a lot of people on my side who would not let me quit. There were days I wanted to buy a plane ticket and fly back to the states, but I knew I had people who were fighting for me and believed that I would come home so much stronger. I think that is one of the amazing things about being a woman. If you really look for it, you have women all around you who want you to succeed. Without some of the women I met in France, I honestly do not know what I would had done without the nights of laughing and talking about life. Or the women back home in the states, who would stay up late just to talk and pray with me. The five months that I was abroad changed me. And I am eternally thankful for that. I learned that going out of my comfort zone is what life is intended for. And life is certainly not intended for you to go it alone. This month, and every day I am beyond thankful for the women in my life who are always by my side and never let me give up, even when things get hard. I’m also so very thankful to be home this holiday season in the states. So here’s a huge thank you and hug to all the beautiful women out there who never let me quit and all around the world who encourage other women to go out and explore this beautiful world.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

30 Days of Thankful: Hannah Blum

Part of the magic of the #heysistercampaign is the women we meet. It's humbling and completely motivating each time we learn another woman's story. Ashley and I are huge advocates of reaching out, getting help, and letting everyone know we may be fragile beings but we are never alone. Hannah is a beautiful person who was willing to share her narrative and is our first feature. Read, enjoy, and share. xo. 

My name is Hannah Blum. I am a 27-year-old vlogger, and blogger advocating for mental health. When I was 19 years old I had a mental breakdown which placed me in a mental hospital for a small amount of time. I received a diagnosis of bipolar II and feared my future living with this condition. It has been quite a journey ever since. I spent so many years letting my disorder and the stigma that surrounds mental health conditions strip me of my confidence. Then one day I realized that this is the mind I have been given, and I have to learn to love it while I have to live with it. Today, I am thankful for my struggle, because it allowed me to find the strength I needed to build myself back up. I am thankful for the people along this road who have empowered me and sacrificed their story so that I can share mine. I appreciate those who have doubted me because they are my biggest motivation to seek change. My life will always be a rollercoaster ride, but I control the speed of it today. I have learned to enjoy the ride instead of fighting against it. Most of all I am grateful for the opportunity to reach out to others and give a little bit of hope to those in need. Everyone has a story and it deserves to be shared. We are fortunate to have unique platforms that allow us to open up the conversation about mental health and other issues in society that should be, and need to be discussed. We can give a voice to those who have been silenced by stigma, and I am thankful for those who speak up for others. Every day is different, some harder than others, but if you can find a little bit of color in each day, even when the sky is gray, you will succeed.

Personal Links: 

My HealthyPlace YouTube Channel:
My HealthyPlace Blog "Mental Health for the Digital Generation":

My personal blog Halfway2Hannah:
Instagram: @halfway2hannah

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fair Trade Month: Minimalism

Fair Trade impacts everything: the environment, the development of impoverished communities, justice for the oppressed, and even, the simplicity and reclaiming of our lives and what "abundance" really means.

Just before I left to study abroad in France over a year ago now, I had a slight panic as I sorted through what would come with me on the journey and what would be left behind.

A giant black suitcase was nearly full in front of me filled  with jeans, sweaters, and books I couldn't fathom to live without for a few months. The space was becoming less and less, and I thought to myself, "How am I going to get by without more coats and tops?"

I had a few pair of pants. A couple sweaters. A black and a white top. Minimalism wasn't my initial plan when thinking about how fashionable I wanted to be while traveling Europe, but it happened organically as I learned the power of living with less so I could see and become more.

Traveling with less meant going farther. It meant hopping on a plane with my olive green backpack and not caring that my jeans may have been dirty or I may end up outfit repeating. I was traveling Europe. I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing at this big world's crazy beauty. Did I care if someone would notice that my shirt was the same one I had on the day before? Absolutely not. Do I look back on my travels and think, "If only I was dressed in cuter clothes?" Definitely not.

Returning back to the U.S. and my giant closet, I felt the weight of everything I thought I had needed. I got back to my room and couldn't believe all I had collected. Holding on to physical stuff is also holding on to old ideas, old ways of thinking and being, and my initial biggest fear: what happens when I choose to just let things go?

I started to look at my clothes and the sheer amount of stuff  that I buy. Why had I made the choice to make these purchases? Most of the times, I didn't need what I was buying. Most of the time, I saw an ad. I received an email about an amazing deal I thought I couldn't pass up. I saw beautiful girls with cool styles that look happy and put together and I wanted that too. When we look at why we make our choices, we have to be honest and willing to see if it's for us and what contributes to our best self, or if it's for other and what we think will make us look  like we are our best self.

I think often, what is essential to my being? My goodness, it's so very little. Kind friends. Good conversation. Faith and dedication to living for something bigger than myself. Days for my own solitude and reflection. Time outside when the sun is bright or covered. Food that makes me feel strong. Love that humbles me. When I think of what I value, stuff that makes me look good  is never written on my list. Cute clothes that take up all the space in my apartment,  is never what comes to the forefront of my mind. But how many times do we ignore our true values to look the part of a role we don't even want to play?

This newfound truth has let me pull away from always needing something. I also think long and hard before I make a purchase. Do I absolutely need this? Is the quality of the item reflective of the quality of the life that created it? How many do I already have? (anyone else guilty of having five black V-necks??)

As people, we fear not having enough. That somehow it's linked to not being enough. We live in this culture that has changed how we view an abundant life. Despite what society preaches at us: no amount of things will make you feel full in your life. It's not the amount of stuff you can show, but how much you can give, be apart of, and grow. It's all of our essential truth that what we really need is within us when we quiet the noises and pressures of society. Sure, we need to wear clothes and have basic household and toiletry items, but beyond that, we need so very little.

Minimalism and becoming a conscious consumer allows us to make room for what is important. It puts less focus of material possessions. It allows us to slow down and ask questions of the massive corporations we are buying from. Are the workers being treated fairly? Do I know the origin of my purchases? Where is my clothing made and where is my money going once I buy it? We can begin to ask these questions of everything we buy: food, coffee, beauty products, household items, and more. We can love what we have and care for it. We can be part of a culture that reflects equal opportunity, empowerment, and gratitude. Every purchase has an impact so when we ensure that the impact is building and supporting, not oppressing and exploiting, we are helping re-shape the world we've watched fall so far away from it's true potential.

Image via Pinterest

If you want to learn more, check out these articles:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tips & Tricks for Ethical Shopping

One reminder that helps when I feel overwhelmed at the amount of injustice being done by clothing companies: one person can make an enormous difference.

When I started Sister House Collective, my goal was to share my love of beautiful, handmade things while helping some communities in Cambodia where were jobs were being provided for women living in poverty and disabled people who were shunned from society. This may be repeat information for those who know me or have read previous posts, but I truly wanted to live in Cambodia for some time and help with the production of goods and rehabilitation of women/ children who had been trafficked. Once there and seeing the programs that existed, I couldn't think of anything but coming home and sharing the stories of these incredible programs and the people behind them; I wanted to sell their beautiful handmade things in the US, where people throw money around at the drop of a hat. How much rehabilitation and growth could take place in these communities if people here had the education of how most of the world's population lived and were choosing to support efforts for sustainability in devastated communities?

Fast forward almost two years and here I am meeting people in my own community who want to see change- in the way we think, consume and spend time and money. In a society where shopping is a social activity and consumption has become thoughtless beyond what's tangible, here are some things that have helped me shift my perspective:

1. Shopping ethically often does not happen overnight.

It takes time to learn what brands are reputable and what stores have more ethical guidelines. It has taken me many long nights in front of the computer, reading article after article- feeling guilty for my part in blindly harming others in my "need" for all of the things that were never actually needs. If you become overwhelmed with guilt, the natural reaction is to throw up your hands and say, "well this is too much. I can't change. This problem is too big. How could I possibly make a difference?" But you can. Slowly, and give yourself credit for trying. Being a more conscious consumer forces you to ask yourself, "do I REALLY need this (fill in the blank)?"

When I started shopping more ethically, I thought I would spend a lot more money. I assumed the only ethical clothing or make up I could find would be SO much more expensive than what I had been buying, that it seemed daunting. I found out that is so untrue- and I hope to make it easier for you to find this truth out too. If you buy items that are made better (and as a result, last longer!), no doubt you will not need to be buying as often. I have actually been saving so much money since I began to shop more ethically. It does take time though so go easy on yourself. In my experience, I began to make small changes in my habits and routines and realized things I could live without (like excessive amounts of cheap make up), and things I could do some research on and feel good about supporting, like companies that provide education, counseling and new life to people who have been abused. 

2. Shopping doesn't have to be the enemy. It can still be a social thing!

I still go shopping with friends or family on occasion. I grew up thinking that shopping was just something you did for fun with the girls. (And let me tell you, I was that girl who went shopping a few times a week because I was always on the hunt for a bargain- buying lots of cheap things because I was sure I couldn't afford anything better.) In learning more about WHERE to shop, (Nordstrom Rack, TJ Max and Marshalls being some stores that carry USA made clothing which is almost always more ethical than clothing made anywhere else), I feel empowered to make conscious decisions about which companies I support. And shopping with that in mind, I'm able to share what I know with whoever I am shopping with.

Will I still walk around the mall with my sisters and mom around the holidays? Probably. But that's the point- I can do just that. Walk. And talk. And enjoy the company without needing to consume things I don't need. Like more shirts, skirts, jackets that will just end up taking up space in my closet, maybe being worn a few times. If you're like me, you've probably emptied your closet every few seasons and thought, "well look at me! I'm going to do some good. I'm going to take my enormous trash bags full of clothes I never wore to Salvation Army and they are going to go to a good home." And in the back of my mind, I was kind of thinking, 'well now there's room for me to buy MORE cute stuff I'll never wear and do this all over again!' Okay, I'm joking a little. But really, many of those quick "Oh, I need that!" purchases are just our brains telling our hearts that we will feel a little more fulfilled with a new purchase. Once you start making more conscious decisions, that little signal in your brain will start rewarding you for making SMART shopping choices, like saving money by only buying what you actually need- or paying a little more for something that will last you a lifetime rather than saving a few dollars for something that will only last a few wash cycles.

SHOPPING TIP! Thrift stores are pretty darn awesome. If you like to 'hunt' for deals, these are great for doing just that. Usually, you can easily find out which thrifts in your town value their employees by providing transitional housing/ vocational training/ counseling/ youth guidance- a lot of times there are various opportunities provided to employees of different thrift stores; find one you believe in and support them by shopping there!

3. You don't actually "need" all the things.

In the last year, I've become more aware of the clothing industry in particular and as I've learned, more and more I feel in my gut when I actually need to buy a new article of clothing. Before, I would buy something for the sake of it being cute, or for a certain occasion, or because I was stressed out, or I needed a pick-me-up..the list goes on. Now, I only buy something if I actually need it, and when I actually need it, it's important enough to me that I find it made ethically.

Unfortunately, things like lamps and cutting boards and lots of little household necessities are very hard to determine ethical. But there's part of the transition that will likely always exist- knowing that even your smallest efforts of shopping more ethically make an impact to someone, somewhere. It may be near impossible to be a completely ethical consumer, but anyone can be conscious of their purchases and the impact that they have. My suggestion is to do a little research; find clothing brands whose style you admire. Or your favorite store, what companies are they buying from? Are the items made ethically? If not, is there a company that exists that produces something similar but has created an ethical model? 

I want to help you find these brands, make information and education more accessible and inspire you to take small steps to a more ethical lifestyle. Keep your eyes peeled for the ethical resource guide that will be coming soon! I am currently compiling ethical brands for all sorts of goods to create a shopping guide for those of us who want to impact the world in a positive way with our purchases. Want to join me by sharing your favorite ethical brands? Send an email to

Change is on the rise,


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What is Fair Trade? by Ashley Ayala

So what the heck is “fair trade”? 

Shortly after starting Sister House Collective, I came to the realization that many are unfamiliar with the term fair trade. When first introduced, I’ll admit that I thought, “well, fair trade is a nice concept but I can’t afford super expensive, organic cotton everything.” And that was the end of that.

Over the last few years, as I have become more and more interested in the human rights aspect of producing goods, I have become completely consumed with the reality that in the process of America’s mass consumption, many people around the world are suffering. Not only is our consumption as a nation making us less happy as a whole (the more we have, the happier we are. Sound familiar?) but it is keeping poor nations poor, and our ignorance is costing people their lives. This is when fair trade started to make a whole lot of sense. My perspective about it’s importance became something I couldn’t ignore.

Living with intention about how each of our choices impact the larger world, I learned that it shopping with an ethical mindset does not have to be expensive, or pretentious or monochromatic. There are plenty of ways to stay true to our values while embracing trends and honestly, enjoying the items we bring into our lives instead of piling up clothes in our closet that we have no connection or particular attachment to.

Fair Trade is a market-based approach to alleviating poverty in ways that improve lives, strengthen communities, and protect the environment. Fair Trade offers fair prices and wages to farmers, workers, and artisans; improved terms of trade, and community development funds to invest in education, health care, and other projects to improve their quality of life. (definition from

So what’s the difference between a minimum wage vs. a fair (living) wage?

According to the Berne Declaration, a Swiss not-for-profit that campaigns for more equitable relations between Switzerland and underprivileged countries- a living wage is, “Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their families an existence worthy of human dignity..” 

“This principle is guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; however, it is systematically disregarded in the textile industry. The majority of the over 60 million workers worldwide live in extreme poverty. In spite of excess overtime, their wages are not enough to live on. This holds true for workers in Asia as well as Europe. 

The way out of poverty is a living wage. The Clean Clothes Campaign defines a living wage as follows: A wage earned without working overtime that allows workers to meet their own, as well as their family’s basic needs such as food, rent, health care or education and that allows for some discretionary income (10%) to cover unforeseen costs or savings.

“Fair fashion” only becomes a reality when workers receive a living wage. This is why in 2013 the Clean Clothes Campaign conducted a broad study of over 100 brands to assess their efforts with regards to implementing a living wage.” 

  • from Fair Fashion? app, What’s a Living Wage?

So in short, the first full month of the hey sister campaign, Katie and I will be providing information and how-to’s to become a more conscious shopper when it comes to clothing. The textile industry has taken the world by storm with the demand of constantly changing fashions in developed countries. Katie and I aim to expose the truth behind this consumption and what we can all do to live in a way that empowers and does not exploit. Like Katie said in our last post, we all have to wear clothes; this is something we all vote for with our dollars. Will we chose to vote for oppression and poverty or will we give businesses and individuals the opportunity to succeed and thrive? 

Interested in learning more? Check out the links below:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

What is fast fashion?

What is fast fashion? By Katie Visconti

If you’ve been following the #heysistercampaign for the past several weeks, you’ve probably noticed terms like fast fashion and fair trade being used.

Like any topic that is brand new, we want this post to be as informative and useful to you as possible. Because here is the truth: we all wear clothes. To be a member of our society, clothes are necessary. In the grocery store, in schools, in the workplace, everywhere. Something we may not realize is everything we buy comes with a cost that stems beyond the price of the product.

Did you know that before the tee-shirt you are wearing reaches you, at least ten people have been part of its production? There are ten lives that all went into the making of a single item of clothing.

Fast fashion is the term used to described how quickly clothes are moving from the catwalk to the consumer. We used to have four seasons where clothing would come out and now we have new clothes going to stores every two weeks and being mass produced to meet the “needs” of consumers.

What does this mean for the people making our clothes? Up until 1970’s, our clothes were being made in the US. After that, companies began to realize that using outside resources would be cheaper. It led to regions Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, and more impoverished nations getting exploited through manufacturing clothes for next to nothing, having little to no union representation, and little human and worker rights.

The world consumes 400% more clothing right now than it did 20 years ago. The world makes between 80-90 billion pieces of clothing every single year. Each individual throws away about 70 pounds of clothing every year. To meet this rapid production, workers are hired every day for less than what we pay for a single coffee. Their weekly salary would not even be enough money to fill up most of our gas tanks. The legal minimum wage in most of these countries is about half of what they need to just survive. For example, in Bangladesh, a leading exporter in fashion, workers are paid 60% less than what they need to make to survive. That would be like us being paid $4 to live on while paying for bills, childcare, insurance, food, and more.

The questions I hear all the time is: “Well their lives are different, so how is that relevant? They need less than we do.”

Their lives are lives just like our own. We did absolutely nothing to be born into the abundance we have. In terms of all the places we could be born in the world, we won the lottery. These people are asking for basic human rights. And when they ask and we go off to buy a four-dollar shirt from H&M or Forever 21, we are choosing to ignore their pleas and saying our need for fashion is more important than their need to simply live.  

We would never let our families or friends be exploited. We would never watch a factory collapse here in America and kill nearly 1,200 people and simply ignore the tragedy. We would never go on to buy the clothes from that factory, we would honor the lives lost.

And yet.

When the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed in 2013, 1,133 people died and 2,500 were injured. The ruble was so great that many people were buried beneath it as families cried and waited for their loved ones’ bodies to be discovered. A year later, 200 of those bodies have still not been found. And we have rebuilt the walls that we allowed to collapse due to our negligence. And this time, we do nothing different. We force the same people to work in the place they lost their sisters, brothers, wives, and children. Because we “need” more tee shirts.

Photo from the NY Times

Couple found dead, embracing. Photo by Taslima Akhter of Time Magazine

(if you are interested in seeing more portraits and learning more about the Rana Factory tragedy,

I use “we” because we can’t progress if we don’t address that we contribute. We vote with our dollars as consumers. Before I knew the deep, twisted roots of fast fashion, I was the biggest supporter of it. I went out and shopped every time I had a date, a special occasion, a bad day, a good day, all of it. I went into Forever 21 and H&M and countless other stores with reckless abandon on how much I would spend.

After watching The True Cost, I could not believe what I had been participating in. It’s been eye-opening and wildly upsetting. While it is slightly difficult to find things made fair, or in the US, it is possible and worth it.

I don’t personally know who made my clothes. I haven’t shaken their hand or had a class with them, or bumped into them in the grocery store. But that doesn’t matter. Because their work is how I stay clothed. Their work is seen every single day and yet we don’t take the time to acknowledge them.

Think of an item of clothing that means the world to you. I have shirts that I’ve had interviews turned into jobs in, dresses I’ve worn on favorite dates, running shorts that I’ve crossed finish lines in, all because someone, somewhere, made it.

The very, very least we can do is honor their life as much as we would our own.

We forgot that these people are more than just seamstresses and factory workers. They have children. They have passions. They like reading, and spending time with family. They are athletes and writers and dreamers and leaders to be.

They are part of this big, beautiful world we are inhabiting together and I know there is plenty of room for them to be seen, heard, and deeply appreciated.

Your clothes aren’t a bargain if they cost a life. Let’s change the way we buy so we can change the world.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Conscious Magazine

I'm not sure how I stumbled across Conscious Magazine; all I know is that when I read about their publication- I thought to myself, "oh my gosh. I have to read this! It's all about changing the conversation. Other people who are putting everything they've got into creating socially conscious movements, brands, non-profits- people are doing it! And there are so many that there is a magazine about it? How can I get it!?" 
I ordered the whole collection that day. When they arrived, I tried to find a cozy, quiet space to flip through the three editions and I was overwhelmed with inspiration- I would read a story and then let it sink in for a few days before moving onto the next. It's now been almost a year since I discovered the publication and I still have not finished my (now four) magazines; not because they aren't incredible, but because I treasure each story. Each one has so much meaning and intention behind it; tales of men and women who are at the forefront of real, authentic change, leading lives that stand for something bigger than themselves.
In Issue 03, I learned about "Conscious Fashion Pioneers"- Eryn Erickson, founder of So Worth Loving, Melissa Joy Manning of Melissa Joy Manning, Inc. and Dawn Yanagihara, co-founder and creative director of Kiriko. In another issue, I was encouraged by an article that depicted the realistic business model that Sister House Collective is: slow growth for social impact. This was profound for me. Slow growth is still growth, and social impact efforts are stillefforts that are impacting someone. So what if it takes years for me to build this thing up? Is the social impact worth it? Absolutely.
During the first year of Sister House Collective, I asked myself a lot- how does a business sustain itself if it isn't all about making a huge profit? Well, with no experience in business management or marketing, a deep desire to cultivate social justice and transparency, I accepted that I have to be patient. I have to know that I will never be filthy rich. I can live passionately for something more, something greater that will take some time to develop. I can keep myself inspired by people who are living the dream I want to achieve.
Through Conscious Magazine, I have has my eyes opened to social impact brands, businesses and non-profits that all started with an individual who made a change. One person with a crazy big idea can inspire lasting change in the world. When I read this magazine, it is proof that people are making changes for the greater good- BIG CHANGES. Every day.
Here is the Story + Mission from Conscious Magazine's website: 
"I need to do something. I can do something.” This is why CONSCIOUS exists, we hope our stories inspire impact despite our pasts, circumstances, and surroundings.
CONSCIOUS Magazine was founded by sisters, Rachael and Elena. Their passion for people and seeing them live out their potential in the service of others was the driving force behind the venture. They wanted to become a voice that inspired and empowered all generations.
The concept originated as a blog called Lifestyle + Charity. During that time, they discovered and met with a growing community of influencers, leaders, world-changers, social entrepreneurs, and those doing great things that not only serve their community, but also create real change in different parts of the world. After countless interactions, they learned that many of those making a difference have gone through a series of triumphs and challenges recognizing that the work they do is hard and requires passion, commitment, and purpose. They were inspired, so they sought out to share their stories. They found themselves shifting their conversations to discussing the needs of other cultures, learning about people from different communities, and getting excited about it.
Like many startups, they shared their vision with their closest friends and invited them to join. In the first and second year, the idea became alive through a blog and events, and eventually, with the help of partners and readers, it transformed into a digital magazine featuring conscious culture from fashion, food, art, film, people, and more. At that time, they tagged themselves as “Your Source for Conscious Culture,” which was instrumental in their next step.
Just after the three year mark, and with the help of an expanded leadership team including Jon Lechliter, Sarah Stanton, and Garfield DeBarros, they relaunched the Lifestyle + Charity brand as CONSCIOUS Magazine with a focus on stories and conversations that talk about local and global concerns, as well as continuing to be a source for conscious culture.

Our vision is to raise up the next generation of storytellers and journalists that make a difference while staying creative and innovative to attract the world's leading voices.

-From Conscious Magazine, find out more by clicking here.
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