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A word. A picture. A sound.

I’ve found I like to collect places the same way I would collect seashells on a beach – not unlike this one – on the coast of Florida when I was seven years old. I have this place that once was mine where five o’clock settles in slow, that built much of me out of cricket songs and Dogwood trees, and I didn’t realize it until I left it behind for someone else. I keep coming back, though I’m made of more places now. I’m looking for something worthwhile and always find it in the heart of a saltwater cure.

Upswing – Prinze George

– Lauren

 

Good Things

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Movies | Roman Holiday. I love watching black and white movies on rainy days. Roman Holiday is a really great one that follows a princess – played by Audrey Hepburn – as she sneaks away from her handlers to spend a ordinary day in Rome.

Drink | Matcha. Matcha has a ton of health benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants, improves your immune system, and boosts concentration. Plus, it’s very tasty. Matcha can be prepared like tea or a latte, but my favorite way to drink matcha is in matcha water. Just mix a bit of matcha with some cold water and shake it up.

Music | This Justin Bieber cover. This cover of Love Yourself is so catchy and fun.

Writer | Joan Didion. I’ve been loving Joan Didion’s memoirs recently. So far I’ve read The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. I love Didion’s writing style, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of her books.

Magazine | Oxford American. Oxford American is a literary journal that celebrates southern art and writing. So many people see the South as culturally defunct when that just isn’t true, so I love that there are publications like Oxford American that celebrate art and culture of the South.

Reads | Classic Poems Modified for Climate Change. I’m not sure how anyone came up with this idea, but these famous poems modified for climate change are so funny. The Waste Land and April Rain Song are my favorites.

Art | Lee Jeffries’ portraits of the homeless. I’ve been really interested in low key photography lately, and this photo series by Lee Jeffries is stunning.

Podcasts | New Yorker Fiction. I’ve been listening to podcasts like crazy lately, especially during my art classes. One of my favorites is the New Yorker Fiction podcast. In it, a writer who has been published in the New Yorker chooses a story by another writer who has been published in the New Yorker and reads it out loud. Then, fiction editor Deborah Treisman and the featured writer discuss the story.

Swimwear | Kortni Jeane. Check out Kortni Jeane for some really cute, vintage-inspired swimsuits. Best part? They’re made in the good old USA.

Shampoo | Shea Moisture Peace Rose Oil Shampoo. This shampoo is organic, fair trade, sulfate free, and smells so good. Also, a portion of the profits go toward supporting women-led business in the communities where the ingredients for the products originate.

Essential Oil | Rose Hip Seed Oil. Rose hip seed oil is my go-to essential oil at the moment. I’ve been using it as a moisturizer and eye cream, and it’s doing wonders for my skin. Rose hip seed oil has so many skincare benefits. It reduces the appearance of scars, moisturizes, and has anti-aging properties, to name a few.

Jewelry | The Giving Keys. The Giving Keys is a jewelry company that makes cute and simple necklaces and bracelets out of keys inscribed with inspiring words. The idea behind the keys is to spread positivity by passing the keys on to people in your life. Also, the profits help people transition out of homelessness.

xxx

What have you been loving lately?

– Lauren

 

Thrifty

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It is an indisputable fact that I come from a family of professional thrifters. Every Saturday, my parents scavenge yard sales, estate sales, and antique stores to find some good deals on vintage items, and when I’m at home, I go with them. Luckily, they passed their love of old things and their knack for scoring a deal on to me. I’ve found some really great things on my thrifting adventures, from clothes to furniture to books, but some of my favorite finds are some that I found this week.

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This past week was my Spring Break, and I spent half of it in Georgia and the other half at home in Alabama. While in Georgia, I went to some antique stores and a vintage clothing store, and in Alabama, I stopped by some estate sales and a flea market.

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At the Georgia antique store, I hit the book jackpot. They had a ton of rare, first edition books. I found an edition of some Robert Browning poems that was published during his lifetime (which is so cool) and a copy of James Joyce’s letters, both of which I’m really excited about. Later in the week, I headed to Little Five Points in Atlanta to visit my favorite vintage shop, where I snagged a few rompers and dresses for summer. If you’re ever in Atlanta, check out the Clothing Warehouse for some amazing vintage finds.

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Back in Alabama, I went by an estate sale and found a vintage coffee grinder. To be honest, I didn’t know what it was at first, but when I found out, my coffee-loving self couldn’t let it go. Antique coffee grinders are selling online for over $100, but I snagged mine for $22.50.

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Finally, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect vintage suitcase for a while. I found one last summer at a flea market, but I waited too long to buy it and someone else got it. I was pretty disappointed, but there is no shortage of old suitcases at flea markets. I knew that if I just held out long enough, I would find the perfect one. And I was right. I finally found it at the same flea market where I found the first one. It’s so cute and in nearly perfect condition – no rips or weird smells or anything – and I can’t wait to take it on a road trip.

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Needless to say, I love old things, and I love thrifting. It’s a great way to find some unique items without breaking the bank. Finding a cute romper from the 80s or bedside table from the 70s is so much more fun than getting something that’s been mass produced for any old store.

What’s your favorite thrift find?

– Lauren

Good Things

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Tunes | Born Ruffians and this version of Novels by Rusty Clanton. I’ve been in a bit of a music slump lately. Usually I’m discovering new music all the time, but this season, that just hasn’t been the case. The exception to my musical drought is Born Ruffians. Their song “Needles” is fairly popular, and it was the only one I knew of before I clicked on their Spotify profile on a whim and discovered what I had been missing. Another song I’ve been loving lately is Novels by Rusty Clanton. I found this song while on a late-night Youtube binge, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been listening to it nonstop.

Listen | Serial. I began listening to Serial per recommendation in early December, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The premise of the podcast is that investigative journalist Sara Koenig researches certain events and attempts to get to the truth of them. For instance, Season 1 followed Koenig’s attempt to decide whether or not a Maryland man, who was imprisoned as a teenager for murdering his girlfriend, is rightfully imprisoned. Season 2 is about Bowe Bergdahl, the American solider who walked off his post in Afghanistan, was imprisoned by the Taliban, and was the recent subject of a controversial trade. The podcast is incredibly engrossing, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

Attire | Ankle Boots. I got a pair of black ankle boots last winter, and they were an instant favorite. One year later, and I’m still wearing them nonstop, so much so that I had to get another pair in brown. They go with almost anything – jeans, leggings, dresses – and provide some much-needed warmth for this girl’s poor circulation during these cold days.

Body | Nourish. Lately, I’ve been trying to be more conscious of the things I put in and on my body. While I was browsing the shops of downtown Savannah a few months ago, I passed a window full of bath products and made all of my friends turn around and go in the shop with me. And thank goodness I did. Nourish is a cute little shop with locations in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida that sells handmade, all natural bath products. They have everything from soap to lotion to shower gel to candles to bath fizzes. I love everything they sell, and literally everything smells good. I’m not exaggerating when I say I smelled every single thing in the shop, and not one thing smelled bad. My favorites at the moment are the salt scrubs, the face sponges, and the white tea ginger soap. One really cool thing about Nourish is that they include a list of all the ingredients they use in their products as well as a description of what each ingredient is. Each product, including its packaging, is biodegradable. They contain no parabens, sulfates, or animal products. Nourish products are available online, and they ship (hint, hint).

Bath | Acure Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner. A few weeks ago, while in the shower, I decided randomly to read the ingredients of my shampoo and conditioner and made the disheartening discovery that they contained lots of sketchy chemicals and additives despite insinuating via product names and packaging to be organic. The next day, I went to the store and read the ingredients for tons of bottles of shampoo and finally found one that is all natural, sulfate free, paraben free, gluten free, phthalate free, cruelty free, fair trade, organic, and vegan. Also, it smells really good and makes your hair really shiny. All around win in my book.

Drink | Teavana Youthberry Wild Orange Blossom blend. Two words. Pink. Tea. It’s no secret that I’m addicted (and I mean addicted) to coffee, but an addiction to coffee comes with an addiction to caffeine. There was a time when I would get horrible headaches if I didn’t have at least one cup of coffee per day. As someone who doesn’t like to take medicine for every little thing, this was a problem, especially when I was in a situation where coffee wasn’t available. So I cut back and tried to substitute coffee for tea, which has much less caffeine than coffee if any at all. And while I wouldn’t say that I’ve completely replaced coffee with tea (or that I ever truly will in my heart and soul) I’ve been loving the youthberry wild orange blossom tea from Teavana lately. It’s pink. It’s delicious. And the loose tea is really pretty.

Activity | Knitting. I taught myself to knit during my senior year of high school and for a few years after would knit a scarf here and there. Lately, though, I’ve gotten back into it and have been really enjoying trying out new stitches and patterns. I’ve even started selling the scarves I make with plans to open an Etsy shop soon.

Blogger | Deer Circus. Bridget, owner of Deer Circus, writes the most beautiful essays and takes the most beautiful photos. I absolutely adore following the minute, day-to-day facets of her life.

What have you been loving?

– Lauren

Dear 2015,

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I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to say thanks. You were, quite possibly, the best year of my life. I learned a lot of things, went a lot of places, and met a lot of people. School was harder than it’s ever been. I spent many late nights over my computer racking my brain to figure out what more I could possibly say in this paper to make it to page 15. For the first time in my life, I had to decide which homework was essential and which homework I could afford not to do. I stress-cried a little (a lot). But I pulled through. The old GPA is still doing well. I managed to snag a parking spot in a lot that, unlike last year’s spot, is close to my classes. You reminded me to rejoice over the little things. I moved into a new apartment that’s much bigger and homier and less brown than the last one. There’s a mystery stain on the carpet that’s been there since before I moved in and a pesky bug problem, but I like it anyway. It feels nice to come back to at the end of the day. 2015, we had many adventures. July was the adventure of a lifetime. I spent a month exploring England, taking classes with Oxford professors, and buying so many books I had to buy another suitcase for the flight home. I mastered the Tube and found “my” coffee place in Oxford. I made lots of friends. I remember sitting on the banks of the Thames on our last day in England and making plans to start a folk band. We celebrated July by keeping our Taboo tradition at Old Bookbinder’s alive. It was the best month. I saw other new places as well. Edinburgh. Albuquerque. Savannah. Louisville. DC. New York. I met my favorite poet while eating dinner at a stranger’s house. I faced fears. I read my writing in front of real-life humans. I became the editor in chief of a literary journal and had no idea what I was doing. I think mostly, 2015, that you helped me grow. I turned 21. I realized for the first time that I let people, friends, take advantage of me. That sometimes it’s not my job to take care of everyone. These days, I’m trying to stand up for myself, but I’m not so good at that. I’m trying not to question myself so much. 2015, you were good. I saw and learned and grew. If it’s possible, I hope that 2016 is even better and just as full and filled to the brim with good times and joy.

Love,

Lauren

The True Cost

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I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe that you can start over or set goals for yourself whenever. But as it happens, within the first few days of the new year, I resolved to make a change in the way I live and, more specifically, in what I consume. Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the clothes I wear and the people who make them. A friend recommended that I watch a documentary on Netflix entitled The True Cost, and it opened my eyes to the effects of fast fashion on garment workers and the environment.

Until recently, I, like most people, had never thought about the hands that make my clothes. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that my clothes were made by actual people. They just existed on the shelves of my favorite stores, waiting for me to buy them. And it is exactly the type of system that ignores the humanity of its employees that allows for one of the most grievous social and environmental injustices of our time: fast fashion.

Essentially, fast fashion is a term that describes the way in which clothes are produced and sold cheaply  in order to move trends from the runway to the shelves of your favorite stores quickly. Conceptually, this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. However, in order for clothing companies to produce clothes and sell them cheaply, they must outsource their production to sweatshops in developing countries where labor is cheap. Because of the nature of the supply chain, the CEOs of these clothing companies have the power to deliver all sorts of ultimatums to the factory managers of these sweatshops. They have the power to say, “Produce these garments for this amount of money, or we’ll take our business elsewhere.” And because these factories need business, they accept these demands. However, the only way to produce their goods as cheaply as the clothing companies desire, the workers in these sweatshops are denied adequate wages and many corners are cut in terms of safety regulations.

Basically, these companies base their profit on the desperation of the garment workers. And while some people argue that the workers essentially pick their poison, it is worthwhile to note that it’s easy to look at the plight of the garment worker and say, “They didn’t have to work in a sweatshop.” But the fact of the matter is that these workers lack almost all agency over their own lives. Social mobility is almost impossible, and job options are fairly limited. It is nearly impossible to look at the life of a Bangladeshi factory worker, for example, from a western worldview and truly understand their options. The CEOs of the major clothing companies justify the exploitation of these workers by saying that a job in a sweatshop is better than any other option available to the workers. But if that is true, then something is wrong. We’ve created an inadequate system, and it needs to be scrapped. Garment workers are paid less than $2 a day. When they form unions to demand better working conditions and higher wages (in Bangladesh, they demand only $160 per month), they are attacked and beaten by factory managers. Safety regulations are often overlooked in order to save money, which leads to disasters such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where over 1,100 workers died and many more were wounded.

I want to put this in perspective. These people are not different from us because they live in developing countries and are driven by desperation into working jobs where they are treated inhumanely and are subject to dangerous conditions. And when I read about the conditions in which these people exist, I can’t help but place myself in their shoes. What if I lived on only $2 a day? What if it were my mother who died when her workplace collapsed because  her bosses decided not to prioritize her safety for the sake of making money? What if I had to leave my child with family or friends and only see him or her once or twice a year just so he or she could be educated? What if, on a daily basis, I were denied my basic human rights and a reasonable wage on which to live? If it were me, would I sit around and do nothing about this drastic injustice? The way I see it, if I wouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it were me, then I shouldn’t be stricken by apathy if it’s someone else.

And from a religious perspective, I believe in a God who is for justice, who cares for widows and orphans and the downtrodden, and who teaches love for the nations.  I read a Bible that tells me to not grow weary in doing good. This is what I say I believe. These are the principles that I say guide my day-to-day life, and I do not see a way where I can claim to follow a compassionate and loving God but contribute to the heartless oppression of so many people.

The reason this system is allowed to persist is because big brands perpetuate the idea through their marketing promotions that the more you have, the happier you’ll be. Today, American women own more than double the number of clothes they did even thirty years ago. The paradox of the system is that these fast fashion companies tell you that by buying their products, you’ll be happier, richer even, but the only people who are actually getting richer are the CEOs and high-up people of the big brands.

Not only does fast fashion exploit the workers of the garment factories, but it exploits the environment as well. The use of GMO cotton and widespread use of pesticides damages the environment faster than it can repair itself, causes disease and deformity to the people in the farming villages, and serves as yet another tool for large corporations to exercise unchecked power over farmers.

The benefit of our free market economic system is that, theoretically, the consumers have control. If we’re not satisfied with a product, we can stop buying it. If a company has questionable ethics, we can boycott it. We don’t have to allow fast fashion to exist. To say that we can end fast fashion by simply refusing to buy from big brands may be an idealized notion. But we have to try; we have to care; and we have to educate. And rest assured that if the fast fashion industry dies, these garment workers will not be left without jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’ve decided to make a major change in where I buy my clothes, and instead of supporting unethical clothing companies, support those that are fair trade. Honestly, I don’t know whether it’s even possible, given the current system, to completely swear off buying products from the big brand companies, but I’m going to try. I’m going to buy less and buy smarter, and I encourage you all to do the same. And yes, it will be a little tougher on my wallet and it will mean sacrificing some of my favorite stores, but a $10 shirt is not worth another person’s life.

Leave a comment and let me know some of your favorite fair trade companies.

– Lauren

More Information:

Other bloggers dedicated to ethical, fair trade fashion:

Thankful

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Thankful for big cups of coffee. For really great socks. For parents who let me study the least lucrative things and defend me to their coworkers who are concerned for my future. For words. For all the good books I’ve read. For all the good books I haven’t read. For the fact that I will never run out of good books to read. For the smell of fall. For the changing leaves. For the rain and rain boots for splashing in puddles. For roommates who listen to me say the weirdest things. For pen pals who continually show me Jesus. For naps. For scented candles and handmade soap. For cuddles with a nice cat. For sweaters. For music. For dessert. For art that makes us less lonely. For stories to remind us of our sameness. For new experiences. For growth.

A Checklist for 21

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Don’t say it’s okay if it’s not. Be vulnerable. Be honest. Tell people how you feel. Don’t put yourself down. Stop calling yourself awkward. Be the empowered woman you say you are. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Say no. Write everything down. The future is uncertain, and it is scary. Feel the fear, and do it anyway. Get your hair cut more often. Spend money sometimes. Spend stupid amounts of time in the bath tub. Spend time doing things just for fun. For the love of all things, exercise every now and then. Stop being embarrassed by the things you like to do. You don’t have to be the best at everything, but don’t settle for mediocrity. If you want to sing, sing. If you want to dance, dance. Don’t worry about how it makes you look. Your caffeine addiction is getting out of hand. Switch to decaf. Stretch sometimes. Call your grandparents. Remember that you always look better than you think you do. And even if you don’t, no one really cares. Wear incredible shoes. Don’t talk yourself out of dessert. Be kinder to people than you think they deserve. Forgive. Be thankful. There is beauty in nuance that you will miss if you don’t pay attention. Pay attention. Never stop paying attention. The fact that you have been on this earth for 21 years is amazing, so remember that life is like your favorite pair of socks. It’s meant to be lived in, worn out, treasured.

To My Third Apartment

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To my third apartment:

From the unreliable air conditioning unit and perpetual mold problem of the first and the strange and uninvited visitors of the second, I really really hope I’ve found my match. Third apartment, you’re no luxury resort, but you’re charming in your own way. Sure, you get a little sketchy when the sun goes down, and there was a gigantic mystery stain on the carpet when I moved in, but I can look past that. You’ve tested me. You’ve showed me what I can live with, and what I can live without. Like a bed. A mattress on the floor, covered in my favorite quilt and lots of pillows, will do just fine. I like that it makes me feel like a bohemian, as weird as that sounds. There isn’t much room for furniture, and in that respect you’ve taught me the art of space-saving. Vintage tables and salvaged wooden crates are good bedside tables, and large woven baskets that can slide under my desk hold all my miscellaneous items. Wall hooks for jackets and cardigans and bags are essential. Thanks to you, I know that if there is a space-saving contraption that can hang over a door, I need it and to never ever say no to a full-length mirror. Practicality aside, you’ve taught me the things I need most to make you feel like my home are few. Pictures of family, tiny plants that I’ll probably kill, lots and lots of books, and a friend or two. And luckily, those things are the easiest to come by.

I wrote this post in collaboration with Parachute and their Dorm Room Essentials series. The bedroom items I’ve included in the post are those that I consider to be my college dorm/apartment essentials. I hope you enjoy!

-Lauren

My Creative Process

Hello

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My name is Lauren, and I’m a writer. Here’s my creative process.

StepOne

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Read

The primary way that I get ideas for the pieces I write is by reading the work of my favorite writers. I like to see the narrative decisions other writers make, as well as their uses of form and diction.  Reading is a great way for me to find different techniques to appropriate (not copy) in my own writing.  For instance, if I read a prose poem by Richard Siken about a bunch of people named Jeff that explores the theme of possibility, I might get an idea to write a prose poem about a fictional town where no one can speak that comments on the places where we derive significance.  Some of my favorite writers are Kristopher Jansma, Donna Tartt, Anis Mojgani, and Sarah Kay.

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Get Inspired

When inspiration doesn’t come naturally, I go look for it, and that can take a variety of forms.  Sometimes looking for inspiration means going on a hike in nature (how Romantic-with-a-capital-“r” of me), and sometimes it means exploring the streets of a new city.  I believe there is so much to be found in the spaces around me whether it be in the plants overtaking a dilapidated wall downtown, street art on the side of a building, or an overheard conversation between two people in a coffee shop.  Anything can be inspiration.

StepThree
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Caffeinate

This is essential.

StepFour
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Write Write Write

Now that I have an idea, inspiration, and caffeine in my bloodstream, I can get to work.  I like to write by hand to begin with, because it makes everything I write just a little more intentional than typing does.  If I can tell that the piece is going to be a long one, then I’ll switch over to my computer.

StepFive

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Don’t Look At It

After I’ve written as much of a piece as I can over a few sittings, I read through it, and then put it away for several weeks.  During these weeks, I don’t look at it at all.  I do this because I find it very difficult to revise something when I’m immersed in it.  When a couple weeks have passed, I open my notebook to a blank sheet and try to rewrite the piece from memory.  Because I haven’t seen the piece in a while, I tend to remember only the most important images and ideas.  As a result, I know that these elements are essential to the interpretation of the piece, and I can discard the rest.  Once I’ve done that, I write some more and repeat the process over again.

StepSix
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Feedback and Revision

Once I feel like I’ve written everything that I possibly can, I take the piece to someone whose opinion I trust and let him or her read it and give feedback.  When I need feedback, I take my work to my friend Caroline (pictured), because she isn’t afraid to hurt my feelings and tell me if something is stupid or doesn’t make any sense.  That being said, she also tells me what about the piece works extremely well, and she entertains all of my ridiculous questions about my writing such as “Does this poem make you feel flowy?” or “When you read this, what color do you think of?”  It’s also nice to have her tell me what she thinks the main points or themes of the piece are, so I can see if I’m effectively communicating what I’m trying to say.  Since criticisms of writing are often highly subjective, I consider the feedback I receive and try to decide if I agree with it.  If so, I make some changes and adjustments to the piece until I feel as though it’s finished (it never is).

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Comment and tell me about your creative process!