Musings: Outside a Georgia Chipotle

It was outside a Georgia Chipotle on a grey day–a heavy, humid, sad-feeling one.

Dad was inside a nearby store grabbing something, and Mom stayed in the car with us kids. Naturally, as a six year old girl, I had enough curiosity to kill nine cats and then some. I stared out my car window at a homeless man and his dog across the parking lot. The man held a cardboard sign. I don’t remember what it said.

I watched, fascinated, as a man in a nice outfit–if my foggy memory allows me, it was a blue button-down shirt, tie, and slacks–came out of the Chipotle with a drink and a bag. I assumed that it was his lunch.

It wasn’t his lunch.

He walked right over to the homeless man and gave him the drink and lunch sack. 

“Why did that man give him his lunch?” I asked. Mom gave some answer about loving others and asked if I wanted to give the homeless man something. Frightened at the thought of approaching a stranger, I said no. Besides, he and his dog had a nice lunch now… Right?

Soon, Dad came back to the car and we drove away from the homeless man and his dog. It was a small thing from a long time ago, and yet all these years later, I can still remember.

I will never forget the man that gave that lunch away, because ever since then, he has inspired me to be like him.

Hope that you all are inspired by these musings of mine. Stay stellar, my friends! ❤

I Failed… And That's Okay

I failed…. And that’s okay.

I had so many plans for this blog for 2020, plans that I shared with you all in this post. Included in all of those plans were plans for some fun posts this February talking about romance in fiction, as well as lots of other plans and ideas for later. And guys, I failed. I haven’t been able to keep up with any of those plans.

A friend once shared this with me: You can do anything, but not everything.

I’ve been trying to do everything. Because I’ve been so busy with high school, preparing for college, work, and life, I haven’t prioritized time to do things that I love: Write, read, and blog. Not doing this has been another failure of mine.

Part of this is because of the pressure that I have put on myself and my blog.

My blog used to be something that I LOVED to do. I loved putting together a post, adding some pictures, and answering comments. But recently, I started putting pressure on myself to be more “professional” and “put together.” I went from sharing my ramblings to trying to create structured posts that people would actually find “interesting.”

All of this takes more time and energy, and honestly, it made blogging less enjoyable to me. I miss sharing my random thoughts and little stories with you all.

So from now on…. I’m going to share more of my stories and more of what I want to write on this blog, not just what I think other people want to see.

I’m not going to be a perfect blogger, and that’s okay. I’m not going to be perfect as I navigate trying to juggle all of these exciting new aspects of my life and trying to keep my priorities straight. I’m going to fail even more, even in my new endeavors. But you know what?

It’s okay to fail sometimes. We’re all human. We’re all bound to fail in some way.

When we do fail, let us remember to give ourselves grace, get back up, and try again (maybe even in a different and better way).

And let us also take comfort and rest in the fact that we serve a God who loves us no matter how we fail, a God who will never ever fail us.

Maybe this is random and scattered (who am I kidding, it is!). But it’s something that I want to share with you all, in case anyone else feels anything like this. If you do, you’re not alone.

Romance Cliches That I Dislike (And Some That I Love!)

Ah, romance in fiction. I’ve got a serious love-hate relationship with it. On one hand, all of the cute moments have me begging for more. But on the other hand, one of the things that drives me crazy about romance in fiction is the sheer number of clichés I’ve read. Some of the clichés drive me crazier than others, and yet some I find myself asking for more of. Without further ado, here are three romance clichés that I dislike and three romance clichés that I love.

Dislike: Instantly Falling in Love

“And then their eyes met from across the room and they just knew that they were meant for each other…” It wouldn’t be entirely untruthful to nickname the cliché of “insta-love” as “Disney-love.” After all, nearly every Disney princess movie has moments of insta-love (although in Frozen, this cliché is flipped beautifully). Yes, attraction happens, but falling in love with someone in a matter of minutes is utterly ridiculous. 

This idea of “love at first sight” is not only unrealistic, but it also is super shallow (and not the smartest thing in real life, if you know what I mean). Who falls in love with someone after a glance from across a coffee shop or a quick conversation about the book you’re reading? How can you know it’s really love if all you know about the guy is that he has nice blue eyes? 

Love: Damsel in Distress

I LOVE THIS CLICHÉ SO MUCH. I blame it on the Disney princess movies that I will never get enough of. Just ask my siblings. But honestly, what can be more romantic than a prince saving his princess from a fire-breathing dragon, a poison-apple induced sleep, a sea-witch, or an evil stepmother?I’M KIDDING I’M BEING SARCASTIC. Or am I? 😉 

I like this cliché because it totally goes against the “strong” women cliché (check out this post to see my rant thoughts). However, I will say that sometimes, this cliché can make women look weak. It has to be done right, or not at all.

Dislike: Love Triangles

Newsflash: LOVE TRIANGLES ARE KINDA DONE. If I have to pick up another book with a love triangle in it, I might cry. Yes, love triangles can be done well (or even be enjoyable), but honestly, we’ve seen it a thousand times before. Nothing seems to have changed. It’s so easy to figure out which guy the girl is going to pick! Not only are love triangles super predictable, but they add weak (and unneeded!) tension to the plot. 

There have been books I’ve read that have love triangles in them just to have love triangles. The love triangle adds nothing substantial to the plot. In some cases, all of that unneeded baggage about which boy the main character is going to the dance with can take away from the story. I don’t want to know about Suzy’s inner turmoil about Eddie and Bob. I want to care about something more than the love triangle in a book and see something more original, something more real. 

Love: Hate to Love

Don’t you love it when two characters start out hating each others’ guts and then end up falling madly in love? I know that I do! Not only is it slightly humorous, but it is also so stinking adorable when it does happen. ESPECIALLY if a good dose of sarcasm is thrown in the mix. For example, Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is my favorite hate-to-love relationship. Another book that had a great hate-to-love relationship was Unblemished by Sara Ella (read my review by clicking here). Read it and then we can fangirl together, okay? =)

Dislike: Insecure Girl Meets Prince Charming

This cliché is so common it’s not even funny. We go from a main character thinking that nobody loves them to suddenly meeting their “true love” and then suddenly having extremely high self-esteem levels. In this cliché, characters feel worthless without their love interest. But when Prince Charming comes along, the mirror is no longer as harsh. The critics’ voices become muted. They’re happier. They’re content. They feel worth something, now that someone so wonderful loves them. This is cute, but isn’t this cliché teaching readers to find their worth in what others think of them? 

Instead of encouraging readers to find their worth in what the Lord thinks of them and the beautiful people He made them to be, this cliché teaches readers that their worth comes from having a Prince Charming to tell them how lovely they are. Truthfully, our worth comes from the God who created us and loves us more than we can imagine, not a tall, dark and handsome guy. 

Love: Romeo and Juliet

What I mean by Romeo and Juliet is FORBIDDEN LOVE. But this cliché does need to meet some conditions for me to love it. For example, I actually have to LIKE the characters. Other conditions include their love being forbidden for a good reason. For example, a family feud is not a good reason to not fall in love. Just saying. Another condition is that I would like for it to have a happy ending (I’m looking at you, Shakesepeare). Please. Happily ever afters make me VERY happy. 

What are some romance clichés that you love? What are some that you hate?

Repost: Giving Thanks in Everything

Thanksgiving is here, and, to most of us Americans, that means turkey dinners, a couple I’m-thankful-for statements, the Macy’s Day parade, and football. It’s easy to be thankful when there’s a giant turkey on the table with all the trimmings, family and friends gathered around in a jolly mood, and your favorite team is winning on the big screen. But what about when there’s no pumpkin pie, fuzzy feelings, or smiling faces? What happens then?

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ some final instructions before closing. He says this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see that? Give thanks in all circumstances.

But wait a second there, Paul, you may say. Are you sure about that? Giving thanks in ALL circumstances? What about when my grandma dies or I have to move to another state? What about when my grades are low and my best friend just starts hating on me for no reason? You want me to be thankful when everything is, well falling apart and going downhill?

Yes, actually. That is what Paul is saying.

More Than A Hiding Place by Emily S. Smith chronicles the story of a woman who lived during World War II in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This woman’s name was Corrie ten Boom. The daughter of a watchmaker, Corrie loved Jesus with all of her heart. When WWII came to her country, she and her family helped many Jews escape the clutches of the Nazis (I actually got to visit Corrie’s house and saw where they hid the Jews!). Sadly, the ten Boom family was caught by the Nazis. Corrie and her sister Betsie punished by being sent to a concentration camp, Ravensbrück.

The barracks where the women in the camp slept were filthy and crowded. Lice was a big problem amongst the prisoners. One day, Corrie complained to Betsie about their living conditions. And do you want to know what Betsie said?

“You must thank God for everything, even for the lice.”

And guess what? Those lice are the one thing that kept the German guards from searching the barracks. Therefore, Betsie and Corrie could hide a tiny Bible that they used to hold Bible studies twice a week in the barracks, even though the Bible was forbidden. The women of Ravensbrück found hope in the Word and studied it eagerly. It was then that Corrie learned to be thankful for even the lice.

Give thanks for everything. Isn’t it beautiful that a woman who’s been through so much can give thanks for a thing such as lice in the filthy barracks of a concentration camp?

Give thanks for everything. Give thanks in all circumstances. Two radical challenges in today’s world.

This Thanksgiving, I want to challenge all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to give thanks for everything no matter the circumstances. To adopt an attitude of thanksgiving for all we’ve been richly blessed with, though it may not seem like it at the time. Turkey or no turkey, great circumstances or not-so-great ones, let us all take Paul’s instruction and follow Corrie’s lead.

It’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus, after all.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21

Be sure to check back next week for some more of my thoughts on thankfulness and for practical tips on cultivating a life full of gratitude, even after Thanksgiving! In the meantime, I want to know… What are you thankful for?

The Truth About Chocolate

The Truth About Chocolate

Everyone knows that chocolate comes at a price.

A Hershey bar can cost a couple dollars, a container of cocoa powder five dollars, and a bag of candy six dollars. No matter what kind of chocolate you want, you’re going to be handing over some money in payment for it. Sadly, in most cases, there’s another cost for the sweet taste of chocolate. The chocolate that we eat costs more than money, but most of the people supplying us with our favorite treat don’t like to tell us about this. 

More than 60% of the world’s cocoa comes from Africa’s west coast, Ghana and the Ivory Coast, where many cocoa farmers live in poverty. They aren’t paid fairly for the cocoa that they produce, usually occurring in the supply chains of mass-producing companies such as Hershey. This poverty, as all poverty can, leads to human trafficking and child labor. 

The bottom line is this: The chocolate we normally consume comes to us at the cost of child labor and slavery. 

There are about 2.3 million children working on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast (Tulane University, 2015). Harvesting chocolate is no easy task, and 90% of these kids are being forced to work under illegal and dangerous conditions, such as using large machetes, lifting heavy loads, and being exposed to harmful chemicals. These children can’t go to school and are robbed of a future, further trapping them in the cycle of poverty and exploitation. In an interview with Dutch journalist Teun van de Keuken, four former child slaves describe being forced to work without being paid, not being allowed to see their families, and being threatened with beatings or death. 

Chocolate doesn’t seem quite so sweet anymore, now does it? 

Mass chocolate-producing companies such as Mars and Hershey are trying to responsibly source their cocoa. Hershey and Mars both aim to use 100% certified and sustainable cocoa by 2020. Nestlé is also trying to source its chocolate more ethically. Godiva, while not fair trade certified, does support industry and government efforts to identify and eliminate child slavery in the Ivory Coast, as well as requires their suppliers to follow labor laws and regulations. Ghirardelli, another big chocolate producer, did not respond to inquiries regarding child labor and human trafficking in their supply chain.

It’s good that these companies are trying, but in the meantime, something must be done.

Knowing the true price of a chocolate bar isn’t enough. We need to come together and change the chocolate industry by changing our demand. When the demand for a product changes, so will the supply. Commit to only eating Fair Trade certified, UTZ certified, Rainforest Alliance certified, or direct trade chocolate. These certifications and ways of sourcing cocoa do their best to ensure that farmers get paid fairly and no human trafficking or child labor is going on behind the scenes.

The second most important thing to be done, besides supporting ethically sourced chocolate, is to spread the word.

Many people don’t know the true price of the chocolate they enjoy. Telling others about the truth of the chocolate industry, about the human trafficking and child labor that occurs behind the scenes, and encouraging them to be responsible consumers can help change the chocolate industry, and therefore the lives of many people caught in slavery and forced labor.

Together, we can make the chocolate industry even sweeter for all of the right reasons.

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RAAKA // https://www.raakachocolate.com

TONY’S CHOCOLONELY // https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en//

GREEN & BLACK’S // https://us.greenandblacks.com

NEWMAN’S OWN // https://www.newmansown.com/

CHOCOLOVE // https://www.chocolove.com

TCHO // https://tcho.com

GUITTARD // https://www.guittard.com

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N O T E :
This is a list of all of the sources I used while writing this post, including some correspondence with a few chocolate companies. I invite you to do your own investigation on this issue. And please do share what you find!

Black, Karen, Nestlé Brand Ambassador. “Regarding your Nestle Contact.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.

Boyer, Chantal. “Inquiry to Guittard Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 22 January 2019.

Harris, Alex and Brett. Start Here. Multnomah Books, 2010.

Maria, Hershey Consumer Representative. “A Message From the Hershey Company.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 16 January 2019.

Mars Wrigley Confectionery. “MARS Chocolate.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 17 January 2019.

Spencer, Godiva Customer Care Department. “[EXTERNAL]Inquiries on Fair Trade and Child Labor.” Received by Micaiah Saldaña, 15 January 2019.

“Buy Certified.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/buy-certified/ Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Traffik-Free Chocolate.” Stop the Traffik, https://www.stopthetraffik.org/campaign/chocolate/ Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Former child slaves witnessing for Teun.” YouTube, uploaded by Tony’s Chocolonely, 6 April 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PD7ePlz0awE

“Our Timeline.” Tony’s Chocolonely, https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story/our-timeline Accessed 25 January 2019.

“Our Mission.” Tony’s Chocolonely. https://tonyschocolonely.com/us/en/our-story
Accessed 25 January 2019.

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