Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 3, 2011

Rescuing Innocence and Restoring Faith (Part 2)

I try to be light-hearted when I blog.  I enjoy making people smile, laugh a little, or at the very least, shake their head in amusement.  There is no light-hearted side to the trafficking of humans though.  No way to discuss it without being serious.  Without being upset.  Without feeling rage that other human beings can have the capacity to destroy other humans’ souls.

Last night’s event in Duluth to support A Beautiful Rescue was soul-opening for me and I’m finding it difficult to put my emotions into sentences that fit together.

I’m angry.

I’m scared.

Mostly I’m angry.

I’m angry that in our vanilla, white-bread world, people can dismiss that sex trafficking happens around them.  In Duluth.  Probably on the Range.  This isn’t just a problem in Cambodia or Thailand.  It’s here.  In our backyards.

I’m angry that those of us in sheltered, protected worlds haven’t acknowledged that women caught in that world deserve to be rescued away.  That they didn’t ask for that life.  That they may have been led to it by their own parents.  Or family.  Or friends.  They may have been kidnapped.  They may have been runaways who were viewed as prey and then became preyed upon.  They may be survivors of sexual assault who don’t see that their lives have value beyond what their bodies can offer.

I’m angry at men for preying on these women and creating their lives as they now are.  I’m angry at men who use prostitutes without questioning if they are there by choice.  Or if there is a man watching them from a distance who will later take the money she earns for letting that john pick away at what remains of her soul.  I’m angry at the father who didn’t guide his son properly.  Who didn’t teach his son that women are human too.  And deserve respect and love and protection from forces physically stronger than them.

I’m angry at women who judge.  Who think women caught in sex trafficking deserve what they get.  Who think the majority of those women chose that life for themselves.  Who think it doesn’t matter because it’s underground/subculture/less-thans.  Who think that they and the women they love are above it.  Who think it couldn’t happen to them or someone they love.  Who don’t teach their sons the same lessons the father should teach.

I’m angry at myself.  That I had no recognition of the horror that exists right in front of me.

But I’m also proud.

I’m proud of the men and women who are stepping up to rescue these trapped women and work through all of the challenges of rewiring their minds so that they see their value in the world.  I’m proud of the men and women who have raised their children to respect people.  And love people.  I’m proud of the men who DO respect women.

I love my little vanilla, white-bread world where my nieces are safely tucked in every night in their homes.  Where they are innocent.  Where they have faith that people are good.  It would destroy me if they were ever lost to this other world that exists around us.  I would be unstoppable.

I should be anyways.

Those women who are caught in the sex-trafficking trade are someone’s nieces, their daughters, their cousins, their friends.  They are human beings.  21st-century sex slaves.  Former little girls who used to be tucked in at night with their foreheads kissed.  Former little girls with innocence and faith that the world was good.

I don’t want to live in a world where we’re okay with this happening.  Do you?

For more information about A Beautiful Rescue and other organizations dedicated to ending sex trafficking and restoring women, please check out the following sites:

A Beautiful Rescue
PAVSA
God’s Child Project
Somaly Mam Foundation

My 2nd day of giving was inspired by my friend Jody, who is dedicated to restoring these women’s lives.  Thank you Jody for opening my eyes to this tragedy.

Note: This is the second half of my second post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.

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Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 1, 2011

Rescuing Innocence and Restoring Faith (Part 1)

Friday night at the Zeigeist Arts Cafe in Duluth – Standing Together Against Human Trafficking

I’ll be there and hopefully some of you will be too.  A follow-up blog regarding my experience at the event and more information about my 2nd Day of Giving will be posted Saturday, December 3rd along with my 3rd Day of Giving posting.

Note: This is the first half of the second post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 1, 2011

Seriously Grandma, I Promise I’m Not Hungry

Were you aware that “love” is actually spelled f-o-o-d?

You were already if you’re related to my Grandma Klejeski or were ever a guest at her home.

Walking into the front door, the first three words that greeted me were never “how are you?” but rather “are you hungry?”  I’d stand in the doorway of the kitchen and say, “nah Grandma, I just ate lunch” and 11 times out of 10 she’d respond, “you just look too skinny, are you sure you don’t want a sandwich?”

“Seriously Grandma, I promise I’m not hungry.”

“There’s ice cream bars in the freezer.”

“Well, I might have a little room left,” snickering as I went over to the freezer to pull out the Schwan’s bars or push-ups or ice cream sandwiches.

_________________________

My grandparents never had a lot of money, but they took pride in knowing that their family and friends weren’t going to leave their home hungry.  Unfortunately, many Minnesota families aren’t able to have that same level of comfort that they did.

Feeding America estimates that 1 in 10 Minnesotans is “food-insecure” and may not always know where their next meal is coming from.  40% of those seeking hunger relief are children under the age of 18 and 35% of the households seeking hunger relief include at least one employed adult. (Source: Hunger-free Minnesota).    In St. Louis County alone, the food insecurity rate is 13.8%  with 38% of those individuals ineligible for federal nutrition assistance.

It can be tempting to dismiss these needs.  Shrug your shoulders and say, “why should I help out people who can’t get off their couch and get a job?” or “don’t I pay taxes to help out hungry people?”  It’s easy to be smug and tell ourselves that we’re supposed to be teaching people to fish, not giving them fish.  Convince ourselves that we’re morally superior because we have stocked pantries and probably waste more food in a week than they eat in a week.

Am I saying there aren’t people who manipulate the system and ARE too lazy to get jobs?  Oh heck no.

They are the exception though.  Not the rule.  And just like we all get fired up when one person’s bad behavior makes life more difficult for us (i.e., irresponsible snowmobilers), we cannot let our disdain for the few manipulative (expletive deleted) prevent us from looking out and lending a hand to all the folks that are choosing between food, rent, medications and other necessities.  Few people choose to be “needy.”  They wanted to provide for their family, but they lost their job when the economy crashed.  Or their son was born prematurely and they had already gone past their insurance maximum by the time he was 2 years old.  Or they were stay-at-home moms who were widowed early.  Or they are someone’s grandparent who lost their pension and is now struggling to make it on a limited social security paycheck while food and medicine costs keep climbing.

They are us.  They are our neighbors.  And they don’t have the basic comfort of knowing there will be food to feed themselves and their family.

Join the Hunger-Free Minnesota Movement.

Tell your friends about it.

Donate where you live.

In Northeastern Minnesota, we have the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank that services 200 NE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin non-profit agencies, including on the Iron Range.  They accept donations of money ($1.00 = approximately 5 meals!) or food and are looking for volunteers.  You also have the option of joining the “Harvester’s Monthly Giving Club” which allows you to automatically have a donation transferred every month from your credit card or bank account.

My 1st day of giving is in honor/memory of my Grandma Klejeski, who shared her love and great cooking with me.  She is the reason I repeatedly ask guests, “are you sure you’re not hungry?”  This choice for the first day was also inspired by Aaron Brown who recently wrote about the challenges faced by the Hibbing Food Shelf.

Here’s the site for money donations – the minimum donation amount, $25, equals 125 meals!  How awesome is that?

Note: This is the first post in a series of 31 highlighting donation opportunities this holiday season.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | November 29, 2011

A Little Insight Into A Lot of Giving By Others

My favorite thing about my 31 Days of Giving Project has been the open opportunity to talk to people about what they are passionate about in life, as exemplified by the charities/organizations they encourage me to support and/or support themselves.

The father, whose daughter survived cancer as a child and is now a healthy young woman, suggesting that I donate to St. Jude’s and the Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

The mother with a keen sense of empathy who funnels her energy towards ending human trafficking.

The globally-minded friend that believes in the sustainability of gifts from Heifer International.

When we pay our taxes, we don’t get to indicate where we want that money to go and unfortunately, sometimes we financially support groups that don’t align with our values.  So how do you balance that out?

Sometimes you get lucky and you get to have a career that allows you to make a difference in an arena that means a lot to you, which is why I won’t be focusing many donations towards environmental groups.  That leaves me with everything else that matters to me as well as the people that matter to me.  You’ll see some familiar local groups highlighted, some well-known national groups, and a few totally random groups.

“Put your money where your mouth is”

Umm… Okay

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | November 28, 2011

Uffda, I’m Such a Minnesotan

I have to confess something.

I feel really conflicted telling people about my 31 Days of Giving Project.

It feels, well… weird.

I’m a Minnesotan, by birth and by nature.  I was raised to believe that we’re not supposed to tell people we donate to charity.

The 12th-century Jewish leader Maimonides ranked anonymous giving as the 2nd level of giving.  He believed (and I concur) that the “rich” shouldn’t feel special for giving and “poor” people shouldn’t feel bad about having to receive charity.

The problem is that I can’t push others to recognize and share their blessings unless I am willing to talk about the project.

But it can still feel weird, right?

Note: Please let me know if there are special events coming up that I can let people know about or attend or both!  Or if you need a pledge for a cause!  There are still 2 openings for the project.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | November 26, 2011

31 Days of Giving

A few weeks ago on our drive home, I looked over at Matt and told him (with all sincerity and out of left field), “our problem is that we have too wealthy of friends.”  He raised his eyebrow, but asked two questions – 1) where did that come from and 2) huh? 

I like to tell myself that I’m “evolved” and I’m above competing with those pesky Joneses, that my self-worth and value don’t depend on the home I own or the vehicle I drive or the clothes I wear. 

99% of the time I succeed.

That other 1% of the time can really sting a person though.  As our friends/family build new homes or go on vacations or buy yet another new vehicle, we sometimes look at each other and say, “where are they getting their money from?”  It’s difficult to not want what others have, even if we didn’t realize we wanted those things before they pointed them out to us.  After all, why else would I have spent 6 years in college, if not to live the good life someday?

Oh wait (smacks forehead), I am.

Which ties back to my random statement to Matt.  My perspective has been completely skewed by the reality of my social circle, which extends out to middle-class America in general. 

At a recent work summit, our Sustainability guy (his official title eludes me right now) had us watch the classic “Miniature Earth” video, where the Earth’s population is broken down into 100 people.  It can be humbling if you take the statistics to heart and don’t fall into the trap of being the arrogant American who  feels as though you did something special to deserve the abundance that we have here.

Let’s face it – we were just lucky.  Our souls could have been funneled into another body, somewhere else, somewhere without the gluttony of America.  Somewhere where my fits of envy would be provoked by someone having a pair of shoes versus a more expensive pair.

So where does that leave me, other than shaking off the insanity of thinking I have to keep up with my neighbors?  It leaves me in a place where I recognize that this is the time of year where we really do need to focus on giving thanks for the blessings we have and for sharing our blessings with others who genuinely do need them.  I may not be the 1% the OWS protestors are going after, but dammit, my peers and I aren’t exactly hurting either.  So let’s shake off our self-pity at not being in the 1% and think about what we can do this holiday season to help out the folks on the Range, in Minnesota and around the world who would be thankful to be in our shoes, even if they aren’t Christian Louboutin.

During the month of December, I will be blogging about a different opportunity to give back to the world and either donating money, time or a material good (I knew I could find a home for my old bridesmaid dresses!) every day.  My challenge to all of you is to look honestly at your finances and your time commitments and ask yourself what you can give up this month – is it a few cups of over-priced coffee, barely worn sweaters that you really don’t look so great in anyways, a few hours away from the television to go shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk?  Share your ideas or your favorite charities with me in the comments.  Brag about what you did to break the materialistic chains that bind you.  Let’s have 31 days of giving on the Iron Range to end 2011 in style.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | May 14, 2011

Pushing Past Comfortable

Two days before my last blog posting, I celebrated my 33rd birthday by beginning the first of my graduate courses in Public Relations.  Two days after my last blog posting, my boss informed me that he was taking a new job within our company and that his position would be opening up.  A few months later, I have wrapped up that course, my sixth week in my new job and my first attempt at running a 5K.  It’s been a little bit of a blur…

Years ago, at the beginning of every school year (or semester when I went to college), I would crack open the textbook, scan through it and think, “I’m toast.  There’s no way I’ll ever learn all of this.”  I loved school and I loved learning, but I remained convinced that someday I would hit a wall and that’d be it.  Year after year, the semesters would move along and concepts that had once seemed daunting gradually became familiar and I would wonder why I had been so intimidated.

Some personality traits aren’t erasable and when the new possibility for my career opened up, I found myself looking at it the same way I once looked at my Biochemistry textbooks.  I had hit a comfortable point in my career after ten years and the thought of venturing into a whole new realm was a little scary at first.  There would be new regulations to learn, people to work with, levels of responsibility to shoulder.  Could I?  Should I? 

Back in November, a group of us at work decided to begin our own “Biggest Loser” contest (seems a little odd in hindsight considering that none of us really had more than 10-15 pounds to lose).  We mostly wanted to trim up a little and give ourselves the motivation to at least not gain any weight over the long winter months.  We didn’t realize at the time just how long the winter of 2010/2011 would turn out to be!  The weight loss challenge forced me to face the fact that I had become complacent about my fitness level.  As with my career, I had hit a comfortable point with my body.  My first few attempts at snowshoeing with friends were humbling, as were my later attempts to run around the one-mile “loop” I live on.  It would have been easy to stop and let my body remain at the stable weight it had settled on, a weight that required no effort to maintain.  I owed myself more than “settling” and in April, I won the contest.

I decided I was tired of being comfortable, at work and at home.  Although I have a long way to go to get the body I once had, I’m a few steps closer.  Although I have a long way to go before I’m comfortable again at work, I have already learned so much and recognized new areas to improve upon.  There are moments where I feel defeated – when I wasn’t able to run the entire 5K, when I have to call a coworker back because I have to find out the answer instead of being able to automatically pull it out of the file folders in my brain.  Those are moments when my self-esteem takes a beating.  Those are moments when all I see is how far I have to still go, instead of seeing how far I’ve come.

Comfortable can be a warm, wonderful feeling, but if you’re going to grow as a person, you have to be willing to make it a temporary friend.

Push through the tears, the frustration, the voices in your head that say, “you’re just fine where you’re at.” 

Push past comfortable.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | January 29, 2011

The Non-Debate Spins On

Yesterday, a Minnesota Senate Joint Committee hearing  was held at Hibbing Community College.  It was a much-appreciated opportunity to experience a hearing without having to travel down to St. Paul.  The Jobs and Economic Growth Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee toured one of the taconite mines before the hearing to gain some perspective and hopefully, appreciation for the economic impact of the industry.

The majority of the hearing inspired no more than a shrug of my shoulders and a “yeah, yeah, same ol’, same ol’.”  The PolyMet debate has been going on for several years now and we’ve been hearing the same voices, pro and con, for most of that time.  Few of the characters or their approaches change and the wheels of progress spin like my tires before the 4WD kicks in. 

Could the 4WD please kick in on the PolyMet project already?

A decision must be made by Minnesotans regarding our management of the minerals contained within the Duluth Complex.  It’s a simple question without a simple answer.

Should Minnesotans allow non-ferrous mining within their state? 

The following terms should be banned from this discussion – Boundary Waters, Lake Superior, Northeastern Minnesota and Superior National Forest.  If water and air quality are important to us, then there should not be a greater value assigned to those factors based on their location.  There is zero reason that projects within this area should have to be subject to higher scrutiny than if this deposit was located south of Hinckley.  Our developments have just as much right to proceed with proper permits as any of the development projects that have occurred within the Metro area or throughout the agricultural areas of the State.  Air is air, water is water, people are people.  There is an intrinsic value to those three factors separate from their geographic location.  The Arrowhead region has a higher perceived environmental value; however, the fertile soils and prairie lands throughout the rest of the State are on par with it and regulations need to apply equally.

I spoke with a Senator after the hearing and because I didn’t ask him if he could be quoted, I’ll keep his name out of this posting.  I wish he would have told everyone what he told me, “we can do this and we can do it right.”  His attitude was akin to the front tires of my truck gripping the road and pulling us forward. 

We CAN do this and we CAN do it right.  However, we CAN’T do either if we can’t have honest discussions based on facts, not fears.  Unfortunately, those honest and solution-developing discussions are relegated to meetings between industry and the regulators because too many people cannot see in shades of gray or admit it publicly if they can.  Instead, we get public hearings with the same soundbites spinning away.

We don’t encourage honesty in our public forums and we all lose because of it.  To advance towards the middle is too often seen as being weak and capitulating.  If the environmental activists were to admit that people need solid employment for survival and that these metals could be mined in a significantly more sustainable way, both environmentally and socially than most places throughout the world, they would risk appearing as if they are caving into corporations.  If the pro-development crowd admitted that they have concerns for the environment also and that they also want to be assured this project will be done properly, there is a risk that environmental groups would use that admittance as a sign that there are doubts that it can be done safely.

It’s moments like yesterday that make me disappointed in adulthood.  It should be okay to admit that no one on either side of the discussion knows all of the answers and that both sides have valid concerns.  We won’t get anywhere as a region unless we’re able to have open discussions and look past the dreadlocks and the loafers and hear the underlying messages of both sides.  We all want sustainability – environmentally, socially and economically – whether we call it that or not. 

Both sides have ideas and energy that could push our Range economy forward in a powerful, creative, competitive way.

By viewing each other as enemies, we’re just spinning our wheels.

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 31, 2010

#1 – In Pursuit of Christmas Spirit

I used to be sort of a Christmas junkie.  For someone without kids, I had more decorations, Christmas-themed movies and sets of Christmas lights than sanity (or common-sense) dictated I should.  But I loved the season – the apple cider, the sparkly lights, and even the carols.  I always was able to feel the magic of the season, the (relative) goodwill towards men, and there was always this little part of me that really wanted to believe that perhaps Santa was real.  But this year, I felt like a non-hostile but still hollow Grinch.  Where was the glow, the anticipation?

I decided to search for my Christmas spirit in the midst of a few mini-adventures that I will bundle up into my first Mini-Misadventure…  Perhaps some of you will discover a few ideas for things you can do next year to pursue your own Christmas spirit.  And keep in mind that even if they didn’t work for me this year, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a shot for yourself.  Perhaps I just had an off year.  It happens.

First Stop – Thanksgiving Night, Ely
As mentioned in my last posting, on Thanksgiving night, Ely stores open up their doors for Christmas shopping, replete with sales and cookies and good cheer.  After a day of stuffing your face, it seems like a healthy option to head over to Ely and walk up and down the hills of mainstreet.  From Wintergreen to Pebble Spa to Mealey’s Gift and Sauna Shop, there are a lot of opportunities to score some great deals plus a free ice-cream cone at Northern Expressions on Main if you’re so inclined.  With Ely’s Winter Festival and Art Walk coming up at the beginning of February, you’ll have a good opportunity to head up there to enjoy snow sculptures, yummy food (of course I’d mention this) and a little taste of an odd world where the mining past and the tourism present blend together.

Second Stop – Weihnachtfest, Biwabik
Weihnactfest was one of the first unique Iron Range events that I was exposed to when I moved up here.  Fireworks for Christmas?  Why not?!  For a split second while watching the fireworks, you almost forget that it’s freezing out because you’re so programmed from a lifetime of 4th of July fireworks.  Kinda’ like when clear Pepsi came out.  Your brain really really thought it should taste like Sprite, but instead, “what’s this? cola?! egads!”  So yeah, it’s pretty neat.  They block off the main highway running through town, sing Christmas carols and light up a bunch of large evergreens in the city park.  Earlier in the day there are craft sales too.  It’s a nice fit for a town with a Bavarian feel.  So next year, hit the trails at Giant’s Ridge, grab dinner at one of the local restaurants (can’t go wrong with Vi’s, but don’t wreck my chances of scoring a table!) and enjoy some fireworks on the first Saturday of the December! 

Third Stop – December Blizzard, downtown Minneapolis
As (bad) luck would have it, my mom and I planned a trip to Minneapolis the 2nd week of December to go Christmas shopping and visit a few museums.  Unfortunately for us, the adventure turned into a misadventure as the “December Blizzard” hit Minneapolis and effectively shut the city down.  City buses stopped running at 1:30 Saturday afternoon.  Barnes and Noble closed at 1:00.  Marshall’s kicked everyone out at 3:30, thereby saving me a large quantity of money.  The Minneapolis Institute of Art didn’t even attempt to open their doors that day.  Luckily for us, we were staying at the Crowne Plaza, which is connected to the Skyway system so our day wasn’t a complete bust.  Plus we discovered this wonderful restaurant on the top floor of Macy’s called “The Oak Grill” that had incredible food with even more incredible service!

We entertained ourselves watching all of the people who apparently thought they should be out driving.   Even this northern Minnesota girl with a 4×4 truck stayed put that day, so why oh why would someone think that driving any car with limited clearance down an unplowed road would be a good idea?  No offense to those of you who got stuck that day, but just to let you know… if you were in downtown Minneapolis, there were more people than my mom and me cheering you on from the skyway system. 

We also were lucky enough to get down there early enough on Friday night to see the Holidazzle Parade (it was cancelled on Saturday because Nicollet Mall had people snowshoeing down it). It was definitely dazzling and worth taking children to, even if they are 32-years-old.   There’s nothing like being trapped in downtown Minneapolis and the skyway system to test your mother/daughter relationship.  We passed – even after facing the challenge of finding a source of dinner in the evening when all the restaurants were closing down early and the skyway was prematurely locking doors!  Thank goodness for room service (and an easy-going, low-maintenance mom)! 

Fourth Stop – Shopping, Canal Park; snowshoeing, Lester Park; Christmas lights, Bentleyville
I discovered my Christmas spirit in Duluth.  Not a big surprise as it’s my favorite place in probably the whole world.  The joy of Christmas to me personally, I discovered, is found in searching out unique gifts for those I love.  Things that can’t be purchased in chain stores and that are unexpected.  Things that you find in stores such as the ones down at the DeWitt-Seitz building in Canal Park as well as the the stores lining the main thoroughfare of Canal Park (start a few doors down from the ‘Toga though).  Next year, I’m heading down there first thing in December to start my hunt for fun gifts that make people say “oh wow! Cool, where the heck did you find this?  I love it!”  That’s my resolution (one of many). 

We followed up our shopping adventure with snowshoeing in Lester Park.  One of the reasons I love Duluth as much as I do is that it has these little parks following the creeks/rivers in town where you can duck into the park and completely forget you are in a decent-sized city.  In addition to snowshoeing, Lester Park has a wonderful x-country ski trail system, including lighted trails (which seem like a necessity when it’s dark at 4:30!).  After wearing ourselves out a little, we decided we had been on our feet long enough, so we headed downtown to grab a beer and some mini-appetizers at the Dubh Linn Irish Pub before heading over to Bentleyville via the Skywalk system (smart people in Minnesota doncha’ know, we may live in the cold, but we plan for it).  Bentleyville is an experience, but I have to be honest and say that I preferred it when it was at his home.  Feels too commercial now and generic.  I miss the oddness of some random person having this absolutely amazing Christmas light display at his home.  Felt a lot more authentic, but there’s always the home on Park Point to make me smile!

Fifth Stop – Snowshoeing, Side Lake
Is there anything more peaceful than crossing a frozen lake alone in the dark on snowshoes, snow floating down and no sound but your own breathing (heavy as it may be)?  Walking past homes with lit-up trees in the window and feeling silence and calm (and sweaty)?  Time away from chaos to reflect on the year that had gone past and hope that next year won’t be as much of a challenge.  Just one more step, one more step, one more step. 

One more step into 2011 – Happy New Year’s!

Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 26, 2010

Think Globally, Shop Locally

This Christmas season I found myself picking up goods at stores, flipping them over, reading “Made in China” and putting them back on the shelf with a shake of my head.  It’s not hard to wonder what the people in China think about when they’re mass-producing knick-knacks for us over here.  But we buy their goods, lots of them.  And then we complain about China – the human rights abuses, the environmental devastation, the end of American manufacturing jobs and labor unions.

We all want to buy the cheapest goods we can find, without stopping to think about why they are cheap.  We fret about Americans losing jobs, without recognizing the role we play in the decline of living wage jobs.  We pretend that our individual consumerism doesn’t matter, neglecting to see that it matters more than any government stimulus program.

We are all in a hurry, a rush and we don’t want to be bothered with responsible consumerism.  We would rather complain about the decline of America than face the mirror and realize how we could contribute to a better one with small, simple choices.  The problem is, sometimes we don’t even have a choice.  For certain products, finding one made in America can be almost impossible. 

On Thanksgiving, we went up to Ely for their annual shopping event.  For those of you not familiar with Ely, it has marketed itself in recent years as the “Coolest Small Town in America.”  It deserves the title; the leaders of the city have done an excellent job creating a new identity for the city.  One of the stores that was open and offering discounts that evening was Wintergreen.  Wintergreen is a prime example of why we should really stop and think when we purchase goods.  The products they manufacture and sell aren’t cheap, either in quality or price.  And that’s the key point that we forget as consumers sometimes – cheap doesn’t always equal a smart purchase.  Wintergreen products are made in America and are incredible products.  Their jackets may cost more than something made overseas, but they will last longer and they’ve been produced more sustainably – socially, environmentally and economically.

And it’s not just Wintergreen, it’s all the products that are out there if you’re willing to look.  Think about the lifecycle of the goods you buy and about all of the hands that have touched them.  It’s hard for me sometimes to watch proud union members purchase easily broken, non-sustainably created goods from other countries that aren’t union-friendly.  If we want our companies to pay living wages or continue to be unionized, we ourselves need to be willing to pay for it in other industries.  In an area loaded with unions, we should strive to be leaders in buying American products.  Once upon a time, you wouldn’t dare to drive a vehicle made overseas to work at the mines, but what about our homes, garages, clothing, entertainment systems, etc.? 

Yes, buying American will typically cost more .  Consider why though instead of just putting it back on the shelf and reaching for the other product.  What’s the lifecycle of that product?  Is the extra cost going to pay for health insurance, scrubbers and dust collectors on exhaust stacks, wastewater treatment, pensions, living wages?  We cannot expect others to make the sacrifices necessary for us to keep our jobs if we don’t make the sacrifice ourselves.  Each purchase matters to someone.

It’s too late for this Christmas, but next year instead of buying someone a mass-produced knick-knack, consider supporting one of our many local artists or artisans.  When you spend that extra money, think about the person on the other end of that product who invested their time and creativity in making a one-of-a-kind product for you.  Recognize the love and passion that created the photograph, the painting, the pottery. 

Support companies such as Wintergreen and see the families behind the clothing.  Consider that the investment you make will get reinvested in the local community.  Put your money where your mouth is  in 2011.  If you believe in fair wages, environmental protection, and fighting the decline of American manufacturing, do as you would wish others would do – buy American.

Time to go strap on my Crescent Moon Snowshoes (Boulder, Colorado) and get out in this beautiful snow!

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