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Hiking Blackwater Falls State Park and Monongahela National Forest

A few weekends ago, myself, my husband, and my mom headed on a weekend road trip to West Virginia to visit Seneca Rocks in Monongahela National forest and Blackwater Falls State Park. While we have been to West Virginia before, it was my husband’s first time and the first time for all of us in the region that we visited. This was a semi-quick road trip/hiking trip, and I was so excited to have the opportunity to hike somewhere that is not my backyard, for the first time!

First Stop, Blackwater Falls

I live in Northeast Ohio, where we have the incredible Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just one of many beautiful areas in the state of Ohio. But, it just hits different when you get to visit somewhere new; somewhere that is not home. You get to fall in love with another small part of this world.

Blackwater Falls State park

Located in the Allegheny Mountains of Tucker County, Blackwater Falls State Park is named for the amber waters of Blackwater Falls, a 57-foot cascade tinted by the tannic acid of fallen hemlock and red spruce needles. The falls, along with a few of the park’s other features like Elakala Falls, Lindy Point and Pendleton Point Overlook, are some of the state’s most photographed spots. Visitors can enjoy the scenic views year-round by taking the steps to the falls or using viewing platforms. The park has 20 miles of hiking trails, the longest sledding magic carpet on the East Coast in the winter, a comfortable lodge and more.

https://wvstateparks.com/park/blackwater-falls-state-park/

We got to hike about 20 minutes of the Elakala Trail, which is a 4 mile loop with gorgeous waterfalls. Unfortunately, we were unable to complete it because the sun was going down quickly and besides the obvious concerns of hiking at night (which we had no intention of doing), the trail, while not overly difficult, had a lot of tree roots to maneuver around, so it was really essential to have light.

Of the trails that we did over the weekend, this was, without a doubt, my favorite trail, and I lament that we did not have the opportunity to go back and complete it.

Seneca Rocks Trail

On Sunday, we had our main hiking day, since we could start out earlier in the day. The night before, I looked up potential trails using a combo of AllTrails and the National Forest website. This was my first time researching trails beforehand, up until this trip I left the hike planning to my friend, Jacqui, who has been my hiking mentor – but this time around, I was “the most experienced hiker” (and I am claiming that title very loosely, because I did a terrible job) and so I took charge.

On the positive side of the river, I helped us avoid accidentally embarking on a 15+ mile trail – but I really learned a lot about reading trail maps, taking reviews with a grain of salt, and realizing how easy it is to forget about the basics. Errors aside, the three of us embarked on an amazing hike on the Seneca Rocks Trail.

The trail is a 2.7 mile loop, with an elevation gain of 836 feet. Rated as a “moderate” trail, according to AllTrails, it is mostly uphill with multiple switchbacks (“A switchback is a type of path that follows a zig-zag pattern up a steep stretch of terrain such as a hill or mountainside. Rather than climbing directly up the slope, switchbacks run from one side of the slope’s face to the other before “switching back” and continuing in the opposite direction.”)

At the start of the trail, an amazing view of Seneca Rocks

The trail was really rough. I am in decent shape, my mom has never really been on a true hike before, so in retrospect this was not the greatest trail for a beginner, and my husband has the best stamina of us all, so he was good. The temperature was also in the 90s, I didn’t include elevation in the equation, and I broke the most important rule of hiking for any level – I didn’t make sure we had enough water.

As you can see in the photos, the sweat stains are real, and I was so dehydrated when we got back to the car I willingly drank the rest of my can of Mt. Dew that was in the car – that was hot. (I will be doing some future posts on the do’s and don’ts for beginner hiking, because I need the reminder just as much.)

Despite the struggle to reach the top, it was well worth it!

From the observation deck, you can’t really see the rocks, you are somewhat on top of them and then there is a sharply angled view to your left. But, it is still such an incredible expanse – and there is a special sense of accomplishment knowing that you reached the top.

The trail is for anyone of all ages and (mostly) all abilities. As I mentioned earlier, it is not likely to be the best for someone’s first trail, but I saw all ages, from young children to seniors, and different abilities – new hikers and experienced hikers – making the trek.

We made it !

Would I Hike These Trails Again?

Yes, absolutely! If I return to the National Forest, I will look for some new trails, just to keep adding to the list, but I loved being in this part of the Alleghany Mountains, and I felt like a more “authentic hiker” by gaining experience outside of my own National Park. (Disclaimer: this is just my own, personal labelling. If you call yourself a hiker, then you are a hiker, it does not matter how much experience you have or how far you have or have not travelled.)

I would like to return and spend more time in Blackwater Falls State Park. I regret that I didn’t take more photos, but there is a richness and tranquility that cannot be explained, only experienced. The trees and moss had such a lush, green color, and the trail was soft and it really felt like the type of path you would follow to find the hidden realm of elves. It was truly magical.

Where Are My Hikers At?

What is your favorite hike that you have completed so far? Do you have one that you are waiting to check off your bucket list?

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The Truth About Being Bilingual

I speak Spanish and English. My native language is English and I have studied and spoken Spanish for over 10 years.

But you need to know the truth about being bilingual.

Please do not expect me to interpret for you just because I am bilingual. Interpreting requires me to process a conversation twice – every phrase, every emotion, every question – twice I experience it. If I hear trauma, I hear the trauma, and then need to repeat the trauma, while attempting to maintain the dignity and sacredness of that experience from its narrator. If I tell a joke, I have to figure out how to tell a joke all over again. (And please take note, jokes rarely translate).

If an emergency is taking place, please, go ahead and interrupt whatever I am doing so that I can interpret. That isn’t snark, I mean it, there are times when the other is more important. But please, if I am going about my day, don’t demand me to translate. I usually will, I don’t have a reason to say no, but I didn’t learn another language to just help, I learned another language to be in solidarity with another culture.

To the person who demanded I translate, while we were off work, relaxed, shopping in the local shops, please don’t. I want to relax as well, and although you may feel comfortable bartering, that doesn’t mean that I feel comfortable doing it for you. While the words I translate may be yours, it is still my face behind them, and my energy. (I do want to add the disclaimer that if you are asking me to translate because we are at work and it is a part of my job, the above does not apply, the context changes things greatly.)


If I am interpreting for you, remember that there is another person in the conversation. Don’t look at me, look at the person. My hearing is not dependent on whether you are in my line of sight. Also, if you aren’t conversing with the other person, then why I am there? I am nothing more than a living version of Google, the person you need to focus on is the one who I am interpreting for.

The choice to be bilingual, and for non-native speakers, the choice to learn another language is personal. Although I know you are all coming from a “good place” I am telling you now, you do not have permission to tell us how to learn another language. My husband is a native Spanish speaker and he is still learning full English fluency. We only speak to each other in Spanish. This is a decision that we, as a couple, made together. We talked about what would be best, for us. It does not mean that he is not learning English, it simply means that I am not the primary avenue by which he will learn English. But a lot of people don’t seem to like that. In the 5+ years of our relationship, I have heard countless times “you should only speak English at home,” “how will he learn English if you don’t use it?’ And countless times I have had to defend our decision. And almost all of those people have one thing in common – they only speak one language. How then, do they have any authority to comment on the best way to learn another language?

For native speakers, you don’t have to assume that I prefer English. I use Spanish and English equally in my day. When I ask you to repeat, it isn’t because my Spanish is weak, I only asked you to repeat because I have hearing loss, there was static on the phone, or I genuinely could not hear what you said. The language that you used wouldn’t have changed that. But saying that, over time I have also learned that your reason for choosing one language over the other when speaking with me, is rooted in your own experience. And although I am always excited to speak your native language with you, you may not be comfortable sharing that intimacy with me, and I am sorry if I have not respected that.


The decision to be bilingual is a very personal one, and can be a very different decision depending on your background. I am a white American (from the United States of America), where being bilingual is a privilege that I chose to take advantage of. When people learn I am bilingual, they are quick to praise my talent.

But for some, when they try to speak their native language they are told to go back to their country – regardless of whether they can speak English. They are often not applauded for their skills, but told off for not being assimilated. While I see so much value in how language maintains culture, I recognize that being bilingual can be painful and shameful for many – I have no right to comment on whether or not they should speak multiple languages.

For the 1st generation immigrants, I know that it often pains you to see your children not be bilingual. But please do not compare their Spanish to the Spanish of the gringa sitting next to them. When they struggle to form a sentence, do not point out that I am fluent. In that moment, I feel embarrassed. I do not feel proud. I feel like the white colonizer who is deemed better than the native. Don’t perpetuate the colonization of our country. And imagine how your child feels? The white girl is more Latina than the child whose parents are Mexican? No one comes out inspired in this scenario, we feel angry and sad.

I am grateful every day to be bilingual, (and I plan on learning Swahili next!).

But being bilingual carries with it an important history of colonization, racism, and most importantly identity. It is not simply learning another language, but it is making the history of that culture a part of your own, and you do not get to choose which bits and pieces you want. Your roll may not always be a good one. But it can also create a life of beautiful solidarity and connection.

Whatever your experience, whether you are bilingual or not, whether you are bilingual by choice or by necessity, my only ask is to respect each other’s journey and decisions. The “why” is much more powerful than you may realize.

Are you bilingual or have you had experiences with different languages? What are the struggles or misconceptions that you have faced? Or what are the beautiful moments you have experienced?

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Supporting Small Businesses: Unik Dazzels

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post; I am not affiliated with Unik Dazzels in any way. I purchased these items myself and my opinions and review are my own.

Unik Dazzels was imagined because we are strong advocates that the right accessories are an active propellant in a life of happiness. Each of our pieces of jewelry is carefully designed to make you look unique. Our products are refined and specially made exclusively for you. We believe jewelry has the power to complete and transform your look in a way that compliments your personality. Personal style is the ultimate form of self-expression, as a result of that, all our jewelry is crafted with care and love to illuminate your style and make you Stand Out and Be Different, because…you were born to Dazzel!

Unikdazzels.com

Locally, black, and women owned – What more could you want?

This month’s featured small business is Unik Dazzels (You can check out previously featured small businesses here). Unik Dazzels is an Ohio based jewelry brand, started during COVID, that has grown into an empowering and beautiful community.

As soon as I learned about Unik Dazzels, I knew that I wanted to support the business, and the individuals behind the community. Through Unik Dazzels, I find more than timeless, beautiful pieces of jewelry; I also find friendship, community, and representation.

  1. Friendship – I know one of the owners of the brand, and one characteristic about me, if you didn’t already know, is that I am authentically passionate in my willingness and efforts to hype up those around me. We do not have to know each other well, but if I see you doing something positive and awesome, I am there for you.
  2. Community – being a woman owned business makes it that much sweeter. Unik Dazzels has options for any gender with their jewelry, but as a woman myself, I maintain an unwavering solidarity with fellow women. My feminism runs deep.
  3. Representation – My purchase, as you can see, were the stunning outline of Africa earrings. I picked these for a few reasons. First, it fits my style really well. I tend to gravitate towards handmade and/or unique pieces that, most importantly, have a story behind them. Secondly, a lot of the clients that I work with are from various countries in Africa, and I am proud to show love for a continent, and the people, that I encounter in many ways.

Making the purchase was not easy for me. From the perspective of logistics, it was very easy, the website is very user friendly, they have great customer service, and your purchase arrives quickly and elegantly packaged, as you can see in the picture above. What was difficult for me was putting all that I have heard and learned about being an ally and avoiding cultural appropriation, into real life action.

There are a lot of elements of cultural appreciation vs cultural appropriation that may seem like common sense, but over the past year I have, thankfully, been bombarded with countless commentaries from BIPOC creators on social media; information that I have spent a lot of time reflecting on and processing.

But, although I immediately loved the outline of Africa earrings, I was immediately self-conscious about whether it was appropriate for me to purchase them, or for me to even buy something from the business. Many of the items are representative of black, Ghanaian culture, and I wanted to make sure that I was supporting the business in the right away.

So, I asked the owner.

It was uncomfortable for me, because I was worried about “what if I missed the mark, and I sound like an idiot for asking, am I making this a bigger issue than it needs to be?” Or, “what if she says I can’t buy anything?” I would, of course, respect that, but it would have been a humbling moment to work through.


I am exposing myself with my whole thought process, but authenticity is important to me, and I also want to show that if we want to be an ally for someone, it might mean that we need to swallow our pride and risk sounding silly, which really is a small thing to ask.

The good news is that my question was not weird at all. The owner thanked me for asking and then discussed the products with me, letting me know that there was one item that I should probably avoid, and another item that I could buy, but that I should take the time to educate myself on it’s history first.

The end result was simple. It affirmed for me that my gut instincts about what is and is not appropriate are on the right track (although I will still ask for clarification if it isn’t obvious to me) and I was absolutely approved to purchase my amazing earrings!

Be Sure to Support Unik Dazzels!

Buy something for yourself or find a one of a kind gift for a friend. As always, hyping up and supporting a small business does not require a financial commitment, head over to their Instagram to share some love and support and be sure to share their website with your friends and family!

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Welcome to the Mushroom Kingdom: Foraging 101

Today, upon admiring my vintage style foraging poster in my office, my co-worker asked me if I was a “shroomie.” – And this friends, is how rumors get started.

But in a sincere response to that question, I do have a fascination with the foraging of foods, flowers, and most especially, mushrooms. I blame COVID-19 which led to quarantining which then led to downloading Tik Tok and that ultimately led to a host of new interests.

A vintage styled poster of different wild plants such as mushrooms and wild berries.

Foraging is not new, nor is it something related only to antiquated practices. “Foraging is the act of searching, identifying and collecting food resources in the wild. Those include a wide range of plants, mushrooms, herbs and fruits growing around us uncultivated, as stated by britshlocalfood.com.

There is something magical about foraging and educating myself about the earth that is under my feet and surrounds me in all that I do. Foraging furthers me in my journey of renewing my intimacy with the earth and with creation; it is a part of my spiritual practice and a form of meditation, being able to experience a deeper relationship between myself, creation, and the Creator. God made us of the earth and our relationship is symbiotic, and in re-connecting in these relationships, I see my relationship with God strengthen, and I become more self-aware and content in my unique existence.

This new wave of interest in foraging, that includes myself, is incredibly positive as it allows us to connect better with our roots and early influences, and instincts – But it is also a movement that, like everything in the United States, is impacted by racial and systemic oppression, foraging cannot be done without an understanding of how your privilege and my privilege may be treading on cultural practices and our understanding of foraging will never be the same as it is among indigenous communities.  I am still educating myself about the role of foraging in indigenous communities and learning to understand how my interest in foraging can exist in a way that honors and respects that role.

Two excerpts from an article from ThisisMold.com about decolonizing foraging, quickly provides a framework for a complex history, narrative, and struggle:

“For me, that’s first, even more than physical nourishment,” Black Elk said. “We have to realize that these plants don’t just feed us physically, but spiritually.” For her, plants are sentient beings, who speak and know her relatives. Believing that live things can only feel if they have a central nervous system is narrow, she says, adding that plants should be treated with the same reverence that we treat animals. 

 For Baca, the infinite Indigenous knowledge of plants and foraging belongs with the Indigenous community. White men and white women are like little brothers and sisters, he says. “You only give them information that they can handle in an honorable way, because throughout history they’ve proven to us that they can’t,” Baca said. A recent example of this irresponsible use of information happened when people came onto reservations and over-harvested sage, which is known for its antibacterial and anti-viral properties, as a response to the  COVID-19 crisis.


If you are curious about foraging, or looking for some calming, yet empowering, magic in your life, I encourage you to give foraging a try. Foraging is a possibility in any landscape, you do not need access to an unbounding forest to partake. Here are 3 great ways to get started:

  1. Check out two of my favorite foragers (and my two biggest influences on foraging): Alexis Nikole and Jules Amanita . They have relatable, quirky, and easy to follow content. Alexis is based in Columbus and is an amazing example of foraging in a more urban landscape. Jules lives on a commune in Virginia and is a self-taught guru on mushroom hunting.
  2. Start observing the world around you. You do not need any fancy tools to get started. Look for plants that you don’t recognize, take pictures if you can, and then look them up online and you will be amazed at how you slowly build up your foraging knowledge.
  3. Look for foraging meet up groups in your area. Even if you are just exploring the possibility of getting more engaged in foraging, this is a great way to meet new people, ask questions, and see first hand what to expect.

My foraging journey is just beginning, but I cannot imagine my identity without it. Welcome to the Mushroom (and plants) Kingdom!

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Just Your Basic Spooky Hippie

The memo across social media is clear – it is time to embrace the Fall/Halloween Season! – despite it only being August. If you vibe with “Halloween being 365 days a year,” you immediately understand what I am referring to. But, for many of you, August is much too early to be thinking about an activity in late Fall, and I can only imagine what people around the world think; those from countries that don’t even celebrate Halloween and/or have a completely different concept of a Fall Aesthetic. 

For all of my readers, I am proud to announce that I am an ordinary spooky hippy, and this is a huge part of who I am. 

But why is it worth writing a whole blog post?

There is an inundation of “serious” issues in our world. These problems, injustices, and struggles are not disappearing any time soon. But despite our constant need to endure, survive, or advocate, life is also meant to possess a lot of joy. Each person has permission to seek that joy in their own way. The spooky aesthetic is one place that I have always found joy and comfort, no matter how trivial a thing it may be in the grand perspective of the world. Size or perceived importance does not diminish the value or contribution of something in our lives, or in the lives of others.

While the visual aesthetic is certainly alluring, it is most often the people who are represented in spooky season, in gothic media, in indie communities, that I resonate with the most. I watch the Addams family and I see a non-conforming family that embraces their history, culture, and personal interests without apologizing to the world around them. I find strong women, respectful men, model relationships, and humanity. In the films of Tim Burton I find characters that look different from everyone else, but who embody the same struggles and life questions that I have experienced. For every moment that I feel or have felt that I don’t fit in or vibe differently than others, in this sub-culture I see people (or representations of people) who share my own heart and spirit. 


When I see amazingly talented and beautiful make-up, looks inspired by cosplay, haunt make-up, or just spooky glam make-up, I find a meditative activity where I can make my identity and personality whatever I want for a few moments. I can channel a different energy, and I can process my own trauma and stress, and heal into the person that I have become, and continue to become. 


Pumpkin Spice may have overtaken Instagram, but there is a comfort in the spices used in traditional fall foods, especially beverages and baked goods; spices that carry with them ancient histories and beautiful cultures.


While this may seem nothing more than an enthusiastic rant of my favorite season and holiday, it is actually a very personal post to write.

You do not have to be a fan of fall or halloween aesthetics. You do not need to start celebrations early. But it is often in surprising places that we find ourselves, that we create our own healing, and that we find community. First and foremost, allow yourself to find your own joy – it is a human right.

And by that same extension, if it is a human right for you to find and embrace your own joy, then it is also the right of everyone else to be respected by you for that choice. I have found comfort in fictional communities, not because I am out of touch with reality, but because there have been moments of my life where those fictional communities, or those sub-cultures, were the only place that I could find the acceptance of self that I was seeking.

I am fortunate and blessed to say that I have reached a point in my life where I am unapologetically comfortable in my own skin, in my own eclectic and quirky personality, and I have the real life people beside me to support me. But this was not always the reality, and is not always the reality for those around us.

This reflection is about finding joy and allowing yourself to fall into your own definition of yourself. And as you undertake your own journey of allowing yourself this sense of self-awareness and acceptance, extend the same generosity to others. We are all weird in our own ways, but there is an unfortunate epidemic, nearly since the beginning of time, that humans decided that we have the authority to make judgments on others, that we alone can decide what is fruitful to nurture our spirit. 

We aren’t all going to be fans of the aesthetic, sub-culture, fashion, interests, etc. of the people we meet. Our expectation should not be homogeneity, but should instead be the celebration of our uniqueness.

To borrow a part of rave culture that sums it all up: “peace, love, unity, and respect.”

It is time to make this a universal default, with or without a pumpkin spice latte in hand.

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Pride Month is More Than it Seems

Growing up, we are taught to be proud of who we are – to celebrate our uniqueness and to not allow anyone to tell us differently, to not allow anyone to “correct” what makes us a non-replicable human. But this early lesson of self esteem is quickly derailed by those members of society “in power” who capitalize on our differences, and create systems to convince us – to convince others, that we are wrong in our uniqueness. Our humanity is quickly invalidated by groups that decide for themselves that they have absolute authority, and this invalidation happens on all levels, from aesthetics to unchangeable qualities of self.

In June, we celebrate members of the LGBTQIA+ Community, and walk alongside as allies in the continued fight to recognize the human dignity of each person. Pride month, and the gay rights movement, began with the Stonewall Uprisings of 1969 – riots that broke out because in 1969, only 52 years ago, “gay” activity was illegal in all states except for one. History.com states that “bars and restaurants could get shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons.”


Once again, one group of people had decided that one group had a little less humanity – and as a result, continued to build on systematic hatred and oppression that continues today.


There is a common misconception that Pride Month is solely about celebrating being a member of the LGBTQIA+ Community. While there is a sense of pride taken in the literal sense (being proud of your representation), the birth of Pride, is rooted in a powerful movement – a movement that is created when a group is so systemically oppressed that they come crying out to reclaim their diminished dignity, a dignity that society decided was not valid.

1969 Stonewall

On June 28, 1969, in New York, the Stonewall Uprisings occurred. There is some speculation about who officially ignited the riot, who threw the first brick. Two names frequently heard as being involved are Marsha P. Johnson (a Black activist and self-identified drag queen) and Sylvia Rivera (a Latina advocate for transgender people, especially transgender people of color).

Regardless of who initially set off the spark, it should not come as a surprise that the oppression of a group of people was built on the shoulders of oppression of Black and POC ( Persons of Color) individuals – the roots of systematic racism run deep, and created the footholds for future hate crimes and oppression.


Wikipedia state that “The Stonewall riots (also referred to as the Stonewall uprising or the Stonewall rebellion) were a series of spontaneous demonstrations by members of the gay community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Patrons of the Stonewall, other Village lesbian and gay bars and neighborhood street people fought back when the police became violent.


While critics may look down on the rioters for inciting a violent response, it is important to look at the situations of riots throughout history. With few exceptions, riots occur when a group, typically oppressed, has reached a breaking point of desperation. We must acknowledge that what occurred at Stonewall, while a textbook definition of riot, was actually an uprising, because in that moment there was a moment of finding your voice to finally articulate that this was not okay – and those that broke the silence, quickly realized that they were not alone.

The riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States. 

civilrights.org

Black Lives Have Always Included All Lives

The Stonewall Rebellion is not just a critical part of history and humanity for the impact it has had on the LGBTQIA+ community, but because it was also led by Black and Persons of Color.

Without delving into another article that would take many pages to discuss, the majority of our current movements of social action, and the majority of our current societal systems of oppression, are in place because of how they impacted the Black Community; systemic changes were introduced to further oppress, or restrict, Black and POC individuals – liberation took place from these same groups fighting for their inherent human dignity, which should have never been reduced.

Moving Forward

Unfortunately, there is a lot of oppression and social injustice throughout the world – it is overwhelming to be aware of every single event, ad it may feel impossible to be fully educated on every single event.

Our humanity is quickly invalidated by groups that decide for themselves that they have absolute authority, and this invalidation happens on all levels, from aesthetics to unchangeable qualities of self.

How then do we move forward? When we hear a person talking about an injustice, or when we see a celebration that we may not understand – instead of making unfounded remarks, forming opinions without information, or taking a particular stance, we can do three things:

  • Learn: Your initial assessment of a situation may be correct, but it is just as likely that it can be completely incorrect. The only way to form a genuine opinion or to take a stance, is to take the time to learn about the situation. Google the history, talk with those who are involved in the event, analyze a range of news stories, not just those from one source.

  • Ask: As stated above, talk to those who know best. Do you have a friend who is a member of the LGBTQIA+ Community? Ask them about what Pride means to them and why it should matter to you.

  • Reflect: After you have taken the time to learn and ask, there may be a lot of information that you need to sit with. Reflection is okay, and is a step that you owe to yourself and that you owe to whatever group or individual for who you are trying to be an ally.

The United States, and the World, has taken powerful steps over the years – but there is still a long journey to eradicate the many systems of oppression and hatred that dominate our everyday lives. Each day we must be intentional in our choices to continue this change.

How do you celebrate PRIDE? What is one thing that you would want someone else to know, or one question that you have?

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My Sustainability Journey

Sustainability is such a trending word, generally with good intentions behind it. But sustainability is not a static state, instead it is a very fluid journey. When we consider sustainability in our life, and in our world, we would be remiss to assess this transformative lifestyle without considering important factors such as culture, systemic oppression, and privilege.

Sustainability just got much more interesting, didn’t it?

Sustainability

Merriam-Webster defines sustainability as:

sus·​tain·​able | \ sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl  \

1: capable of being sustained 2a: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged sustainable techniques sustainable agriculture b: of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods sustainable society

Sustainability can be applied in all aspects of life. But in everyday media, the buzzword “sustainability” is typically used to refer to a sustainable lifestyle, that is, a lifestyle that works to sustain the environment of the earth and aim to work counter to our typical consumerist culture.

Sustainability of our life-giving earth, however, is not a concept or practice that started with hipsters or minimalist woke culture – it has always existed among indigenous, black, and people of color, who through their traditions, cultures, and spirituality, honored the earth in ways that we fail to replicate today with all of our modern ideas.

The journey of sustainability can not start until we honor its’ roots because, as you will see in my personal journey below, acting before being informed actually causes more damage.

A Fluid Journey

The majority of media, whether videos, blog posts, or photos, depict sustainability as a low to zero waste lifestyle with a minimalist mindset. Each of those concepts can unravel their own intricate argument, because low waste/zero waste lifestyles and minimalism are not always achievable for all people at the same level at all times.

A trending, but important, dialogue that is taking place right now is about the privilege of minimalism. Historically, minimalist aesthetics have coincided with wealth and being secure enough to be able to live with less. While I have yet to fully dive into that conversation and form my own opinions, it is always important to consider whether a movement is marginalizing a group of people.

Low waste is also something that is not accessible to all people, or may mean something different to various groups. In food deserts, there may not be the opportunity to seek food items in bulk or not wrapped in plastic. Financial restraints may make low waste look different to others, and in some lifestyles low waste may already be present, and seem silly to make a trendy goal.

Finally, sustainability is about more than only swapping out glass for plastic and having your own garden, it is about addressing the root systems that prevent our society and environment from being naturally sustainable.

My Personal Sustainability Journey

My personal sustainability journey may not be considered genuine by some. But my journey is reflective of where I am or was in my life at a particular moment and indicates the level of reflection and education that I have or had on the true definition of sustainability.

For the majority of my life, as a kid growing up, my sustainability was rooted in recycling as much as possible and to try not to waste food. Sustainability was not the buzzword it is now 20 years ago, and so I didn’t have much more of an awareness beyond this. Between high school and university, there were new sustainability items on the market, like a surge of reusable bags and reusable water bottles. Once again, I dabbled in both of these, feeling like it mattered (which it did) and that was about it.

Post college, so in the last 8 or so years of my life, I have had 3 substantial phases of my sustainability journey.

1.All or Nothing

Clever marketing mixed with my neurodivergent perfectionist personality meant that when I learned more about sustainability I was convinced that I had to either be 100% sustainable or forget it all together.

(Spoilers sweetie, you cannot be 100% sustainable.)

What this resulted in was a lot of action without research or education. I bought a lot of “eco-friendly items” that I was told “would make a difference.” Reusable straws, tote bags, bath products in recyclable packaging or without packaging, reusable cups, reusable storage bags, and the list goes on.

But, instead of finding myself feeling good about living a more sustainable life, I felt stressed from always having to assess everything that I was doing and I was making purchases beyond my means. Even with good things, if we don’t educate ourselves first, we can hurt ourselves in the long run.

2.Moving Backwards

During this period, which has been about the past 2-3 years of my life, I stopped a lot of the “sustainability efforts” that I was doing. I was burnt out. Trying to incorporate sustainable living into my everyday life was making my stress worse. And I did not have the financial resources to purchase the items that I thought I needed to. Some changes did stick, such as my bathing products and the switch to a menstrual cup and reusable pads, but after marrying my husband I realized I needed to just take a break.

3.Education and Moving Forward

Now, at 30 years old, I am slowly recommitting to my sustainability journey. By taking a break, I could see what things are important to me. I am also spending more time learning about a more holistic definition of sustainability, and diving into bigger questions such as the privilege of minimalism, environmental activism, and what sustainability is meant to look like in my life, and in the life of my family. A family that is built from different cultures, different challenges, and our own unique reality.

My sustainability journey never truly stopped, but it has become informed and intentional – and I have barely scratched the surface.

What had your sustainability journey looked like? What do you hope to learn as you move forward?

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Lavender & Patchouli

What kind of hippie are you? Do you live out hippie aesthetics and practices in every breath, or are you an ordinary hippie who embraces aspects of this style and movement, incorporating it in different ways to their everyday life?

I am the latter, a hippie of the ordinary kind. Part of that hippie identity comes with a comfort in the “natural.” Walking through untouched lands, eating simple and pure flavors, and resting comfortably in scents and plants that heal, if not our body, at least our spirit.

My love for lavender and patchouli betray my hidden identity as an ordinary hippie.

Lavender

I was first introduced to lavender when I was about 11 – I was at a summer sleepaway camp and one of the girls in my cabin gave me a small sachet of dried lavender and told me to put it by my pillow at night to help me sleep. I used that sachet until it no longer had any scent, and from that day forward, lavender has stuck around.

Lavender, or Lavandula, is a genus made up of 47 species of plants that, surprisingly, is a member of the mint family. Depending on the species, lavender plants are used in home or community gardens. In additional to their fragrancy, they also attract environmental heroes helping to attract pollinators. Lavender is also used for many purposes such as fragrance (dried or from their oil), herbal medicine, and can even be used in cooking; there are a multitude of recipes for lavender infused lattes, cookies, and spirits.

These plants are native to the countries bordering the Mediterranean, but there are several types, such as the commonly known English Lavender and French Lavender that can easily be planted and thrive in our climates.

Patchouli

I would argue that the one scent that religiously comes to mind when we think of “hippie” is patchouli. Interestingly, patchouli, like lavender, is a perennial and a member of the mint family, native to the lands of Southeast Asia. Indonesia currently produces 90% of the world’s supply of Patchouli.

Patchouli is utilized primarily for its’ oil, which is mainly used in perfumes and to scent a variety products such as lotions as well as some less common uses in herbal medicine.

While researching the patchouli plant, I was amused to find an article titled “Why do hippies smell like patchouli?” But a quick read proves that there is a strong rationale for the correlation of hippies and patchouli.

Patchouli oil has been in use for thousands of years, but it gained tremendous popularity because of its use by the hippies in the 1960s. Experts suggest that regular use of patchouli oil by hippies is because of the raw, earthy and natural nature of this oil. Hippies preferred using products that were not artificially manufactured and were cruelty free. Those are characteristics of patchouli oil. . . . Some experts suggest that strong-smelling patchouli oil was used by hippies to mask the smell of marijuana that they have used. It was also effective in masking the smell of alcohol. The hippie culture emphasized unbounded love and inclusiveness. Patchouli oil is known for its calming and libido-enhancing effect, which made it popular among the hippies.

Why Do Hippies Smell Like Patchouli?

Essential Oils

Both lavender and patchouli are widely used in their oil forms, from aromatherapy, adding fragrancy, and herbal medicines. I have found that applying lotion with lavender oils on my joints does provide some relief to my autoimmune diseased body, however, this is my own experience, and my use of those essential oils is in conjunction with medication and other treatments. Currently, for both lavender and patchouli, there is lacking scientific evidence that they provide any specific health benefits. (My disclaimer: if essential oils impact your life and health positively, then go ahead and use them, I am not here to argue for or against their use or make any claims.)

The Cultural Impact

As much as I encourage education and conversation about different cultures around the world, so that together we can respect and celebrate the richness of our shared humanity, I am constantly reminded of how little I know.

Lavender and patchouli have histories of cultivations, and traditions far from the United States that are rooted in centuries of sacred practice. We are in an era where it is very trendy to see essential oils or to plant these perennials to enhance our own gardens, we don’t stop to think where they came from, or the richness of their history.

This awareness does not prohibit us from embracing their use, but ethical living calls us to educate ourselves and to honor the legacies of hands that have cared for and cultivated these plants that are so easily present in our lives. These are just small pieces of the sacred in our everyday lives.


What aspects of your life make you an ordinary hippie?

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Supporting Small Businesses: Pastures & Pine

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post; I am not affiliated with Pastures & Pines in any way. I purchased these items myself and my opinions and review are my own.

I have often heard the saying “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism,” and it is something that I think about frequently. If true, it puts a dark cloud over any purchase that we make, and it quite disheartening. But, even if we have not solidified the answer of how to make the most perfect ethical purchase, we can make conscious choices that bring us a little closer to a genuine definition of ethical consumption.

One way that I like to work towards this is to support small businesses. My purpose in supporting small businesses is threefold:

  1. Small businesses are more likely to have ethically sourced/ produced items (though it is still always good to do your research.)
  2. With small businesses there is transparency behind who is doing the work. Often you are interacting directly with the founder, artisan, farmer, etc. and you get to build a personal relationship – it’s a fun celebration of humanity!
  3. Small businesses often have unique items, or better quality items, than what you would find in mass produced commercial businesses.

Although I am not always able to purchase from small businesses as often as I would like (budget, privilege, and need can impact all of our purchases), I try, from time to time, to discover new small businesses and find a way to support them.

Introducing Pastures & Pine

Tik Tok and Instagram are great places to discover new small businesses. And, now, more than ever, we have access to support businesses and individuals across the United States and even throughout the Globe!

I love artisan hand poured soaps, so when I came across an Instagram post promoting Pastures & Pine’s homemade soap, I knew that I had to check them out further.

Based in Montana, Ashleigh runs a small dairy farm with Nigerian Dwarf Goats, and also produces beautiful, sustainable, and natural bath products such as soap, solid lotion bars, and whipped body butters.

An excerpt from her website really sums up the wholesomeness and passion of their farm and business:

What began as an interest in learning the old ways of self sufficiency grew into a passion for making things bloom and grow- for colorful chicken eggs and the happy, free ranging chickens who lay them- for beautiful and friendly dairy goats, and the symbiotic relationship between animal and farmer.

What Did I Try?

Pastures & Pine Brown Square Box

First, I want to applaud the packaging of Pastures & Pine. All of my items came carefully nestled in the cardboard box pictured above. There was no extra space, just enough to fit everything. Each item was packaged in either a recyclable brown paper bag or reusable tin/cloth bag. I appreciated the minimalism for the sustainability that it ensured, yet it was still an exciting unboxing experience!

Whipped Bee Butter: Scent Hippie Stank ($8 for 2 oz)

The first item that I selected was one of their whipped body butters made with beeswax. I chose this scent based on name alone, “Hippie Stank,” and it does not disappoint. A hippie perfect mix of lavender and patchouli; lavender is the dominant scent and is one of my favorite blends. Because of the beeswax, the butter is a little more oily when applied. I prefer to use this at night before bed, so that it can soak into my skin while I sleep

I took this photo right after receiving my package, and temperatures in my hometown have been in the 80s. Once in the house and given a chance to settle, the body butter hardened into a soft semi solid balm. If you travel, just be mindful of heat when bringing this item along.

On the Fly Bee Butter Solid Lotion Bar ($6)

I have been wanting to try a solid lotion bar for awhile now, and this was the perfect excuse. Solid lotion bars are like a bar of soap, but when you rub it ono your body your natural body heat gently melts it so it can be spread and massaged into the skin.

Pastures & Pine offers this as either a first time purchase in a tin, or as a refill. It applies very well and has a soft scent, with the main ingredient being beeswax. The scent of pure beeswax takes a little time to adjust to, but that is more of a personal preference. I am very happy with this item and it is great for travel or to keep in your purse since you don’t have to worry about a liquid.

Jar of Hearts Goat Milk Soap ($8)

As I mentioned previously, I love hand poured artisan soap, so I had to be sure to grab one up. Unfortunately, several scents were out of stock, but I am anxiously awaiting them to come back so I can try out some more scents.

This adorable jar of hearts feels like it is their signature soap, it has a clean scent and just smells creaming and nourishing, before you even use it. As expected, it is super creamy and produces a great lather. This would work perfect as a hand soap or in the shower as well.

Be sure to Support Pastures & Pine!

I am absolutely delighted with all of my products. From packaging, to price, to product quality, to the overall mission of their farm and business, I feel good supporting their work and feel better about the products that I am using on my skin.

They also included a sample of their sweet grass bar soap, which is light and fresh. I look forward to trying this scent out as well.

Be sure to check them out and give them a follow! I have included their links below, and be sure to share if you try anything!

Pastures & Pine Website

Instagram

Facebook

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Axolotl: A Dangerously Cute Trend

Axolotls are the new trendy animal. In the early 2000s, owls could be found on every shirt and accessory, llamas followed suit and are still going strong. And now, we have axolotls.

But with trendiness comes ethical issues.

What is an Axolotl

The Axolotl is an unique creature rooted in mythology and culture. Originally named for an Aztec God, the Axolotl is a type of salamander (not a fish!) that is exclusively found in Lake Xochimilco, near Mexico City. Deeply rooted in the history, culture, and tradition of Mexico, they are typically a greenish brown color (to better hide from predators), with the trendy pink ones being bred for their appeal as personal pets.

The unique characteristic of Axolotls is that they are “neotenic,” maintaining juvenile characteristics well into adulthood. This trait is not typical for other species of salamander.

Surprisingly, very little is know of this specie; most information has been obtained via laboratories and they maintain much of the mystery they held when first considered to be an ancient God. Biologically, they are very young, having existed for only about 10,000 years.

Is it ethical to have an Axolotl as a pet

Axolotls are very popular pets; it is difficult to resist their cute faces. But, in the context of their history, and the fact that they are critically endangered, it raises an important question that, although legal, is it ethical to have them as pets?

In researching the ethics of owning an Axolotl, I found that there are two principal categories of ethics to consider:

The first is whether it is okay to have them as pets. This seems to be a frequently raised question within the aquatic community. Axolotls are critically endangered, so does pet ownership help or harm an already delicate existence? The answer is neither. The Axolotls bred for the aquarium trade are not the same breed that is found naturally in Lake Xochimilco. Their extinction is, as mentioned above, caused by pollution, predators, and consumption. Having them as pets may have positive impacts such as helping to raise awareness of the Axolotl and the threats they are facing, and promoting Mexican culture. There is a deeper question about whether the exotic pet trade and captive breeding is ethical, but that is a topic to be explored at another time.

The second is that you are making a personal ethical decision on whether or not to have them as pets. As the Department of Education of Australia shares, Axolotls are high maintenance. Their habitat requires very specific space requirements, they are hostile to most other fish and species, and they require frequent cleaning of their habitat. This high level of care warrants sufficient research, and a high level of commitment when deciding to add these creatures to your home. If you cannot maintain the requirements needed for the Axolotl to thrive, then it would not be ethical for you to have them as a pet, and it would be better ways to show your appreciation for them.

Do trends help or harm animals

I don’t have a well researched answer to this yet, but from my own observation I would conclude that it depends. Trends bring something to popularity quickly, and that spotlight can be a positive opportunity to educate and advocate – the trendiness of Axolotls right now is a great opportunity to raise awareness and can potentially help to shape the narrative to prevent their extinction.

At the same time, trends are just that, trendy, short lived, hyper fixations that soon get replaced by something new. The short term fascination with a trendy animal often results in rapidly lost interest (advocacy may slow down), or animal abuse resulting from discarding unwanted pets or inappropriate care from insufficient research.

I will not be getting an Axolotl as a pet, but will advocate for them in other ways. There is a lot more to learn regarding ethical pet ownership of this unique creature, and the best ways to help restore their population. I will continue to admire their cuteness, and take the time to educate myself further; all of the points discussed in this post possess deeper levels to explore and understand.

Trendy or not, this is the most ethical decision that I can make at this time.

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Mamas for the Win

Let me begin by wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mamas out there! You are beautiful, you are fierce, you are loved. However you became a mother, or whatever the reason you identify as a mother, is valid, and today is your day to shine – I hope to one day soon join your ranks.

I also thought that Mother’s Day would be a great day to kick off our “A Female Revolution” series – diverse posts dedicated to incredible women, from past and present, forming a platform to amplify the voices of all women and to share our narratives – for too often are we silenced.

I was inspired today, to highlight two moms who, quite frankly, bring joy to my day. If you are on Tik Tok, you may already know who I am talking about, but I want to put the spotlight on Gwenna Laithland and Tori Phantom.

During the start of the COVID Pandemic, when we were full swing into quarantine, I downloaded Tik Tok and, although it hasn’t been my calling for content creation, it has been a great comfort to me. It is entertaining, sometimes educational, definitely odd, and a new tool in social activism (Tik Tok was the full coverage for the height of the BLM movement this past year).

Gwenna and Tori (both who I would love to meet in person), are two moms who share a really beautiful and important message about authenticity and inclusivity within motherhood. Their content, which extends far beyond Tik Tok provides a smart, and much needed blend of humor, fun, and real life. Gwenna and Tori provide equal parts seratonin and heart and have been a much needed source of joy during this past year and counting of non-stop trauma.

Gwenna established her Momma Cusses platform in 2020 to “normalize modern motherhood and give moms a place to connect and feel less alone.” Motherhood is not an easy job and there can still be a lot of stigma surrounding common parenting challenges, especially experiences unique to mothers. How can we push our world forward if we do not have the support of our communities? We need support in our challenges and in our celebrations.

Tori’s Tik Toks are just as viral and her heart is just as big. I recently started listening to her Podcast and her (and her husband) are some of my new favorites for parenting advice. She talks honestly but with such overflowing love, you know that you have her support even if you have never met. And truthfully, that is the the kind of energy that we need more of in the world. Her passion is to promote important dialogues about mental health and parenting.

The celebration of mothers and motherhood doesn’t stop after one day – with the same energy that we celebrate today, we need to put into each day to support one another, especially in the scary or challenging moments. We can share our recipes to make dinner time more fun, we can laugh at the moments that question our sanity, and we will pause to acknowledge when mentally, physically, or emotionally we see a mother who cannot do it alone.

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Why Do People Keep Talking About Spoons?

What does the average person feel like on a daily basis?

I recently realized that I will never know the answer to that question.

My husband is my rock, but he is also my exact opposite in that he knows the answer to the above question – he can fall asleep within a few minutes, he can use as much energy as he wants for an activity, and recovers by the next day (example: he wants to deep clean the entire house in one day? done, and he is ready to go the next day), he can go to sleep at any hour and still wake up in time for work, no matter how little sleep (don’t get me wrong, 3 hours of sleep will still leave him tired, but he isn’t hitting the snooze button either).

I live with chronic illness – specifically, two autoimmune diseases known as Hashimoto’s Disease and Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disorder – and in my 30 years I have never known what it feels like to function like my husband, to function like someone with no health issues.

Some of you reading this may be fellow spoonies or may have loved ones living with chronic illness, so I want to share a small piece of my journey so we can continue to grow in community.

If you are reading this and don’t know much about chronic illness, my intention is to share my experiences and continue to help raise awareness about the realities many of us live with.

Regardless of where you are on the “Spoonie” journey, I am going to break down a few key elements to get us started:

Autoimmune Disease:

Every chronic illness is not an autoimmune disease, however, I do use the words interchangeably and the chronic illness/autoimmune community is made up of both parties. A chronic illness is, in simplest terms, exactly what its name suggests – a disease or illness that lasts for an extended period of time, typically for life. Chronic illness, as with any health issue, can come in many forms and in many varying degrees of severity. One key point to remember is that one person’s experience with chronic illness is never going to look exactly the same as someone else’s.

Autoimmune diseases are specifically the 100+  diseases that are caused by a blip in our autoimmune systems. Basically, something in our body perceives another part of our body as a threat, so your body responds like it would for any threat, and starts to attack it. Those of us wth autoimmune disease are bad asses for literally living every day with a body that keeps attacking itself.

Spoons:

Many of us in the autoimmune and chronic illness community talk about spoons alot. This stems from the spoon theory, which is a way to explain, and help manage our limited energy. With many autoimmune diseases, our bodies produce energy differently and in very finite terms.

The premise with the spoon theory is that we have X number of spoons a day. Each activity that we do uses spoons, and the more strenuous the activity, the more spoons we use. If we run out of spoons, we can “borrow” from the next day, but then we will be even lower the next day. Our energy is very explicitly finite, and we daily have to make choices about what activities to do, and often having to choose not to do things.

My diagnoses:

I received my first diagnosis in high school, I was a sophmore and after missing a month of school in the aggregate, we knew something was wrong. I was missing school because I would have many days where I felt so physically exhausted that I could not get out of bed, and I would end up sleeping all day, until dinner.

Blood tests and an evaluation of my symptoms with my doctor would show that I have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is a Thyroid Condition.

It was not until I was 24/25 that I received my second diagnosis. A fun yet unfortunate tidbit is that having one autoimmune disease can make you predisposed to have others. After my Hashimotos disease was well under control with medication ( I had several years where I didn’t even feel that I had a disease), I started to experience more intense symptoms: worse fatigue, rashes, join pain, join swelling, etc. I was referred to a specialist where I was diagnosed with Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. (Where are my UCTD pals at?)

With this particular disease, I have markers for several other autoimmune diseases, but I have not fully developed into any one of them: Rheumatoid arhthrisits, Firbomayla, Lupus. What my body is attacking are my connective tissues, such as my joints, but there is always the potential that things could get worse. I take medication to help with flares and to protect my organs, in case my body gets worse.

Mental Health:

Mental Health issues and chronic illness go hand in hand. It is literally the constant struggle with the “chicken or the egg” question. Having mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, can cause chronic illness to flare in your body – but having chronic illness can also cause mental health issues to start. It really is a no win situation.

This was a very quick introduction to autoimmune diseases, and my own personal experiences. My hope is that it can be a starting point for community, education, and awareness.

I intend to have a an Ongoing Spoonie Series, and plan to cover every single autoimmune disease. If you have an autoimmune disease and would be interested in sharing your story, providing feedback, or guest writing (you can be anonymous if desired) please visit my contact page and send me note.

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Just a Girl in Love With Mushrooms

I am just a girl in love with mushrooms. Well, love may be a strong word, but anything “earthy” brings joy to my soul; mushrooms are my recent fascination. Strangely enough, my interest was sparked by the depiction of animated mushrooms in an anime called “Little Witch Academia.” If you are not familiar with the series, it is a whimsical story of a young girl who goes to a witch academy to live out her dream of being just like her role model, the infamous Chariot. One of her friends, Sucy is a fellow witch who is the resident emo/goth character, which immediately makes her my favorite. From the first episode, Sucy has a unique obsession with mushrooms and, my enjoyment of her character led me to see mushrooms as something a little more special then I had previously considered.

My knowledge of Mushrooms is suprisingly little: I am familiar with the few types of mushrooms that I regularly eat, I know that mushrooms are fungi, there are poisonous mushrooms, and they are the poster child of 1970s hallucogenics.

Needless to say, some research is in order.

Mushrooms 101: What Makes Mushrooms So Special?

It is a natural inclination to want to use the term “plant” when talking about mushrooms. But mushrooms, if you recall, are their own kingdom, separate from plants and animals. Mushrooms possess their own personalities and traits, and are quite remarkable creations.

Mushrooms are nutrient-dense, impressive self-cultivators, and are the anti-heroes of living things.

The benefits and behaviors of mushrooms are overwhelming. Let’s start with how they behave. Mushrooms grow at an incredible rate – some types of mushrooms grow 0.2 inches per minute, while others take several days. Mushrooms grow by metabolizing non-living organic matter. This “consumption” causes mushrooms to be incredibly sustainable for the environment; they help to lower the carbon footprint generated by other forms of production, and may also be the tool to help purify the earth. Mushrooms have been used in a process called mycoremediation to remove toxic waste after events such as wildfires. While their full potential has yet to be understood, mushrooms are an important part of ensuring the longevity of the earth.

There are a long list of the many different types of mushrooms. It is difficult to obtain an exact count between “wild” and “edible” mushrooms, because both terms, when referring to mushrooms, are misnomers. There are many mushrooms that we eat regularly that are found “wild,” that is, not farmed. There are also many variants of mushrooms that are not part of our agricultural process, but that you would easily find by foraging and that are completely edible. That being said, it is not recommended to eat the next mushroom that you see sticking out of a tree stump, unless you know that it won’t kill you.

So how are mushrooms the anti-hero? Fascinatingly enough, despite their nourishing and positive impact on our ecosystem, mushrooms also have the potential to be ecologically toxic.

BBC News highlights that mushrooms are fungi that can breed a wealth of benefit to our ecosytem – they are essential to the survival of the earth and are an inspiring hope for the future of sustainability. But aside from the obvious downside of certain toxic and lethal breeds, “they have a darker side: devastating trees, crops and other plants across the world, and wiping out animals such as amphibians.”

Some types of mushrooms are responsible for diseases in plants and in humans. However, it is important to understand that the Fungi Kingdom is immense, and not all types are damaging. In a future post I will be exploring the different types of mushrooms/fungi that are found and the impact they have.

What surprised you the most about mushrooms?

If this is your first time visiting “The Ordinary Hippie” be sure to read our welcome post and our about page. Thank you so much for sharing in this community!

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We’re Saving the World Wrong

Our relationship to the environment is a reflection of our relationship to society

Loren Cardeli

On my commute to work I have started listening to podcasts to pass the time and to add some spice into my daily routine. My most recent listen was an episode from the Green Dreamer Podcast (my new favorite) titled “Loren Cardeli: Dismantling injustices in the food system and building farmer autonomy.”

While I thought that I would be listening to a podcast about eco-activism, I quickly realized that I would have my entire belief system challenged.

When we think about eco-activism and food production, what most immediately comes to mind?

The conversation surrounding environmental activism and combatting food waste usually tosses around issues such as food production, the use of pesticides, and farmer education to help grow successful crops in an ever changing climate. ,

Although all of those points are legitimate, they fail to acknowledge the biggest issue in our global system of food production – the injustice and oppression of those who produce our global food supply. Environmental justice needs to be less about the plants, and more about the people who grow them.

An Unpopular Opinion

Loren Cardeli, sites his own experiences in challenging how we are actually approaching the topic of environmental justice.

During his time in Belize, Loren was first exposed to an indigenous and native approach to farming, but also witnessed the destructive and dehumanizing effects of industrial agriculture. Through a deeply rooted and worldwide history of colonialism, there exists a system of agriculture that is designed to benefit those who are wealthy or are privileged.

Data shows that hunger is often not the result of a lack of food, but instead a capitalist hoarding of food that forces communities to starve to death, while growing ample food to feed others around the world; ample food that we often throw away because we are unable to consume it all.

What Is Environmental Justice?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that “Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” and that “This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys: 1) The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and 2) Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

In Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ he articulates that “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

Grassroots non-profits such as the Interreligious Task Force “envisions a world where local communities (particularly indigenous and Afro-descendant) are able to assert their right to communal lands and self-determination, especially when outsiders try to impose infrastructure or development projects. Communities are able to define the kind of development they want: economically and environmentally sustainable while maintaining cultural integrity. Their autonomy is respected by governments and corporations. The modern economic view of natural resources as something to be exploited for the sake of development or profit has been replaced with an ethic of people over profit.”

Environmental Justice is more than protecting the integrity and sustainability of plants and animals – it is demanding the inherent dignity and rights of people who are being discarded.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I first want to acknowledge that, depending on your experience, you may be feeling a variety of things right now. You might feel angered. You may be feeling uncomfortable.

Whatever your response at this moment, sit with it, and acknowledge why you feel this way.

As you move forward, here are 3 action steps that you can take today:

  • Listen to the full podcast episode and learn more about Loren’s nonprofit. Education is an important and valid first step.

A Growing Culture IG

A Growing Culture FB

A Growing Culture Website

  • Donate to A Growing Culture to help support this mission
  • Share this post: on Facebook, Instagram, in a text to friends. Keep the conversation going and help raise awareness

If you are new to “The Ordinary Hippie” be sure to visit our welcome post! Have ideas for future content? Let us know in the comments or send us a note.

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Trader Joe’s Haul

I’ll admit, I find haul videos fun. There may be an argument about the sustainability of these type of videos and posts, but I’ll leave that conversation for another day.

I recently visited Trader Joe’s for the first time in probably over a year. I enjoy the store, but with COVID and budgeting, I haven’t had a reason to visit. But, I finally ran out of a Trader Joe’s exclusive, aka an item that I literally cannot find anywhere else. It was finally time to make the trek out there.

A Brief Intro To Trader Joe’s:

A snippet from their website about their model:

We know that maintaining our everyday focus on value is vital, which is why we don’t have sales, we don’t offer coupons, and there are no loyalty programs or membership cards to swipe at our stores. Trader Joe’s believes every customer should have access to the best prices on the best products every day. To consistently deliver value:

  • We buy direct from suppliers whenever possible, we bargain hard to get the best price, and then pass the savings on to you.
  • We buy in volume and contract early to get the best prices.
  • If an item doesn’t pull its weight in our stores, it goes away, making room for another innovative new product.
  • Most grocers charge their suppliers fees for putting an item on the shelf. This results in higher prices… so we don’t do it.
  • We keep our costs low because every penny we save is a penny you save.

Trader Joe’s is a quirky, inclusive, hippie spot that radiates their mission. They strive to provide products that are ethical and sustainable, at a price point that is more accessible than some other suppliers.

Without further ado, here is what I recently picked up!

Lemon Elderflower Soda

This was a spontaneous purchase. The moment that I saw elderflower, I was intrigued. As someone who enjoys botanical additions to beverages and foods, such as lavender, I knew that I had to try it. (Plus, if you are concerned about a low calorie soda, this is a great option at 70 calories a can!) Plus, it is sweet. I am not a fan of seltzer waters, because of the lack of sweetness, and this soda drinks like a seltzer but with a little more warmth.

I did try one, and it is a very mildly sweet and soft soda. I found it refreshing, although I was anticipating a stronger presence of lemon. Would I buy it again? I am not sure yet, I need to try another can. But, if you enjoy unique pairings, this may be worth it for you to try.

Peppermint & Tea Tree Oil Shampoo Bar

This was a new find, but one that I am excited about. I made the switch to shampoo and conditioner bars a few years ago and, aside from the obvious environmental impact, I have found them to work much better on my hair. I primarily use Lush Cosmetics products, but I am nearly out of my current shampoo bar and this was a fraction of the price. Being the Trader Joe’s brand, I trust that is an ethical and high quality product, so it seemed to be the perfect timing to try it out.

Honey Mango Moisturizing Cream Shave

THIS is the whole reason that I went to trader Joe’s and waited in a socially distant line in the middle of winter. This is the shaving cream that I “can’t live without.” I have very sensitive skin, and this is the first shaving cream where my legs don’t itch right after shaving. It is not super thick, but thick enough to provide a protective barrier, and it smells wonderful. Bonus points for being vegetarian and gender neutral. Although it is not package free, the bottle is made from recycled materials. It will be a sad day if Trader Joe’s ever discontinues this product.

Washable Paper Bag Lunch Tote

Trader Joe’s, if you are reading this, this is the coolest find of 2021! I had an inexpensive lunch bag that I had purchased online that I love, but I apparently treated it too roughly because the handle broke and the inside is ripping away from the zipper. So. . . I had a valid excuse to purchase a new bag.

While exploring the aisles, I noticed this next to the bread and tortillas.. For $6, it is large, I can pack a lot of food (think breakfast, lunch, and possibly dinner) and it is one of the most unique products that I have seen. It is made from cellulose and latex and is 100% washable – not just spot clean, you can actually put in your washing machine. This is a moment of sustainability and creativity at it’s finest.

What’s Next?

I don’t always do product reviews, but every now and then I enjoy sharing the products that bring some joy into my life. These recommendations are not sponsored*, I simply believe that when you find a good thing it is worth sharing.

*Any sponsored content will always be disclosed at the beginning of a post

Are you a Trader Joe’s fan? What is your favorite product?

Small Business Saturday: Julia’s Crochet Crafts

Here at The Ordinary Hippie, you may have noticed that I am a fan of supporting small businesses. You can find out why here.

I am dedicating the first Saturday of each month to a post dedicated to one of my favorite small businesses. For June, I am highlighting Julia’s Crochet Crafts!

The Bio

Julia happens to be a family friend, which makes suporting her small business even more special. Relationships are one of the reason that I find small busiesses to be more attractive than larger scale businesses.

Julia is a talented crochet artist, who creates unique, often one of a kind, animal friends in the traditional amigurumi style, as well as some other traditional crochet items such as scarves, blankets, and gloves.

What I Bought

When I saw it listed in her Etsy store, I instantly knew that I needed to bring it home – an amigurumi axololt!

If you read my earlier post on axolotls, you will remember that they are one of my favorite animals. But, after a reflection, I determined that it would not be ethical for me, personally, to get one as a pet. So, thanks to Julia, I can still have my axolotl friend in a sustainable, responsible, and adorable way!

Julia puts special care and passion into every aspect of her business – you can tell that she truly loves what she does. From the excellent craftsmanship of my new friend, to fast shipping, a well-packaged product, and a sweet note, Julia provides a joy filled experience from start to finish.

Sustainably Supporting Small Businesses

My previous conversation about my sustainability journey alluded to sustainability being a part of every aspect of our lives, and that it is part of a larger conversation than solely low waste living.

There are so many amazing small businesses, from local to global! I like to keep a running list of small businesses that I hope to patronize some day and that I am committed to supporting.

But, the reality is, is that it is seemingly unsustainable, from a financial perspective and a consumerism perspective, to support every small business that we want to:

  • Financially: For the average person, myself included, we do not have the financial resources to constantly make purchases from small businesses. I may keep a running list, but I will be moving through that list slowly.
  • Consumersim: This perspective refers to us assessing how ethical it is in our own lives (this answer will vary for each person) to accumulate or purchase a certain quanity of items. We can only use so many of items in our lives, such as earrings. In a similar way, while we can always buy more replaceable items, such as soaps, we know that we can only use them so fast.

The Alternatives

So, if it isn’t sustainable in this moment for you to support a small business, what CAN you do?

The good news is that there are ways to support without being the consumer, or without making a purchase at all!

You can:

  • Purchase an item as a gift or for a friend (assuming that financial sustainability is not an issue)
  • Spread the word and share their content on social media, business cards, links to purchase, why you think this business is awesome.

If you are looking for a handmade, eco-friendly, locally made (for those in Ohio) chrochet friend, than I encourage you to check out Julia’s Crochet Crafts.

Even if you are not looking to make a purcahse today, be sure to follow her Instagram and favorite her Etsy store to share with your friends .

Do you have or know a small business that I should check out?Let me know in the comments or tag me on IG and I’ll be sure to show some support.