Irreverent Guide to Holiday Giving

At this point, I may have to change my name to “Unsolicited Advice on the Internet!” (Were you expecting more snark from this? You’re not alone, I was too).

I’m late on this one, apparently “Giving Tuesday” comes after cyber Monday. Donations make great gifts, and some places allow you to actually buy something tangible that then goes to a person in need, making it a little more personalized than just a dollar amount (though it’s all important). I can be a little skeptical when it comes to donations. It’s not that I don’t want to help, it’s that I worry about sending my hard-earned dollars someplace that isn’t going to appropriate them responsibly. Hearing about things like the suspected misuse of donations at organizations like Wyclef Jeans Yele Haiti Foundation make me nervous, and I also refuse to support any organization that discriminates against the people receiving the aid, so that rules out the Salvation Army. As an atheist, I also try to pick non-denominational charities, as those are the ones that I am more comfortable with, however if I think the group is doing good work for all people (and not just Christians) and doesn’t seem to have a hard-line evangelizing component they are good in my book. You’ll notice that some of the places I list are technically “Christian” organizations, but they lack a preachy or discriminatory element so I have no problem with their missions. So without further ado, here are my top picks for awesome organizations that are great to donate to, any time of the year.

1. Kiva Microloans– A microloan is just that, a small amount of money that is lent not given. The people do have to repay these loans, but at rates far, far lower than they would probably be able to get at a local bank. They use these microloans to start businesses that will help them and their families earn a living, attend schools that will help them get a career, and such. It’s the whole “teach a man to fish” attitude. You get to pick who you loan your money to (and you can loan as little as $25). The money IS repayed to you, and you can either pocket it, or reinvest it in another person. This gift can keep on giving as long as you want it to!

2. Heifer International- In the same “teach a man to fish” vein, we have Heifer International, one of the most popular organizations. With Heifer, you buy all or part of an animal (or basket of animals) that is donated to someone. These animals provide food and clothing for people, and often provide extra income (selling things knitted with the wool of a llama, selling the milk of a cow, etc). Heifer requests that the second generation of animal is gifted to another in the same area, so that a whole town can benefit from the original gift of one animal. Last year, I got my environmentalist best friend the Earth Gift Basket, and it was the perfect gift for someone who cares about activism and didn’t want useless trinkets for the holidays. Heifer may technically be a Christian organization, but in their mission statement they make it clear that “[…]Heifer works with people of all beliefs—and no belief—to overcome poverty and hunger.” Awesome!

3. Reece’s Rainbow– Ermahgerd, it has “ministry” right there in it’s full, official name. And honestly, I find they can be a little off-putting with the faith side of things. But there it is, in their Frequently Asked Questions: “There are no faith based restrictions on our adoption grants or donations.” That’s all I ask for. Reece’s Rainbow is an advocacy group for special needs adoptions, and their primary goal is helping families afford the high cost of adoption grants. I’m a person who is very, very passionate about adoption as a family building technique, and also a person who cares a lot about making sure people with special needs get the accommodations and potential medical treatments they deserve. Poverty is often a death sentence for a special needs child (especially one who may have expensive medical issues). I’m not one of those people who thinks that bringing a child to America is the best thing that could ever possibly happen to them, but I do believe that every child deserves a stable, loving family, and if they have to leave their home country to get that, then they have to leave their home country (I could write a whole post about my thoughts on adoption, but not today). Your donation (and you get to pick an amount) can go to a waiting child (so that a family interested in them knows there is already money available to help bring them home) or to a family that has already chosen/been matched with a child and needs that money to help with costs. You can browse all the children, or if there is a need close to your heart (as Down Syndrome is to mine) then you can donate specifically to children like that, and if you chose to donate to a family, you can pick which stage of the adoption process they are in. I really like that my money isn’t going to the organization, but to a family and a child, helping them directly. I find a lot of the language used on the site to be problematic in terms of my worldview, but still think it’s a valuable resource for these children and families and it’s one of the first places I head when I have some extra cash.

4. World Wildlife Fund– Haven’t we all wanted a three-toed sloth for Christmas? No, we haven’t. I think grown-up sloths have creepy, demonic faces (annnnd there’s the snark!). My partner, on the other hand, loves him some sloth. Whatever wild animal you’ve wanted for Christmas (like, say, a beautiful tiger or your very own blue-footed booby). Know someone who just don’t give a shit about Christmas? Get them a honey badger! You can chose from over 100 species of animal, and their gift options run from $25-$250. These “adoptions” help the preservation of the animals represented in the gifts. My aunt and uncle like to gift my family these, picking animals from places we’ve traveled to or are planning to travel to. Thanks to this program, I have my very own giant tortoise!

5. Your local charities- This one is such a cop-out. I have my favorites, but I’m committed to secrecy. You can do a lot of good in your own town by donating to you local food pantry, homeless shelter, animal shelter, nature preserve, your local chapter of Planned Parenthood. To quote a cliche “think globally, act locally.”

Not seeing something that piques your interest, or that of someone you need a gift for? A few years ago awesome website Cakewrecks did a charity challenge, asking all their readers to donate $1 to a different organization a day. With Cakewreck’s large reader base, they were able to do some serious good! I hope it’s an exercise they repeat this holiday season, but here is a list of the charities they endorsed,  check them out. There’s some overlap with my personal list, but they have lots more than I do.

Wishful Thinking

I’m attempting to write a letter of interest for the job I’m apply for, the real, career-oriented, non-grocery store job I’m applying for. A job I really want.

I’m coming up short on ways to make myself sound awesome and competent but not desperate and self absorbed.

My cat is laying on my one arm, making typing in general difficult.

I keep getting distracted by thinking what I would do with the kind of financial stability this job would offer me. Not think so much of frivolous things like clothes and shoes (though I’d love to have the extra money that buying those could be a reality). Instead I’m thinking about things like buying plane tickets to see my grandmother for her birthday, buying awesome baby presents for some friends who recently found out they’re pregnant, buying an awesome wedding gift for a friend who recently got engaged. Buying a vaccum cleaner and a bin I can use for recycling! Having the money to start shopping at the locally owned grocery store, instead of at Wal-mart, organic veggies for my food snob guinea pig, natural gluten-free cat food for my cat with allergies. A couch (or at least a second chair so that one of us doesn’t have to sit on the floor!). The opportunity to work at a job that will give me real, career experience that will help me to break into the field I want to work in (archiving/records management).

It really is the little things I get excited thinking about, but if I don’t buckle down and finish this letter, I have no chance of getting this job, and that would be very bad.

The Irreverent Guide to Ordering Coffee

I work at a grocery store coffee bar. Which is probably the bottom of the barista barrel, I don’t actually know these things. As a former student, my relationship with coffee has primarily been trying to find places that will inject it straight into my veins. As far as I know, those places don’t exist. The moral of the story is that I survived college without a caffeine addiction, and now I have one.

The worst part of any job that is even vaguely related to retail is the customers, and anyone who is being honest with themselves will tell you that. Not to say that there aren’t amazing, awesome customers who consistently brighten my day, but I also feel like the punching bag for customers who are mad that I can’t read their minds. So let’s talk about ordering coffee, and how to do it!

1. USE YOUR WORDS: I am going to present you two ways to order coffee. Both are wrong, but one is more wrong, see if you can guess which it is!

A: Um. I need a coffee.

B: I need a small mocha with three shots and soy milk, you stupid whore.

If you said that option B is preferably to option A, then you are correct! I do not advocate calling your barista a whore, because that’s rude, but option B has all the important parts of a coffee order. Let’s break it down: “I need a small mocha with three shots and soy milk, you stupid whore.” Small– this conveys the size of the drink you want, which is very important. Mocha– this tells me what kind of drink you want. I know you don’t want a house coffee, or a regular latte, you want a delicious, chocolatey mocha. Three shots and soy milk- Here you have conveyed any special instructions! This is important because now I’m not going to pour whole milk into my little pitcher, steam that, and then when I start pouring it into your cup have you yell “oh but I wanted soy!” It saves time, product, and makes everyone happier. When someone walks up and says they want a coffee, I assume they mean a houseblend, usually they do, sometimes they change to a latte. People have gotten angry with me for asking what size beverage they want. When the election was on, I went home, called my mom and said “the future of this country is in the hands of people who get angry when they have to pick a coffee size.” It’s ridiculous. If you don’t know what you want and need a minute to think, say that, it’s appreciated! If you want to see a cup to gauge how much 16 ounces is, that’s fine! When you have to order a coffee, tell me exactly what you want, and ask any questions you have, but don’t stand there and expect me to read your mind.

2. THIS AIN’T STARBUCKS (unless it is): tall, venti, and grande. Do you know what these sizes means? I only do if I see them arranged in size order on the Starbucks order board. When you go to a place that is not a Starbucks, it’s good to refer to their order board and see how things differ. Our macchiato is listed with espresso shots and not lattes? Hm, before ordering one, double check that it is actually what you think it is (It’s not. A macchiato is traditionally espresso “marked” with a small amount of milk and some places still make it that way). Also check to see what sizing method your current joint is using. Some places keep to the Starbucks sizes, some use ounces, some have smalls, mediums and larges. Just give it a look. The place I work measures in 12, 16, and 20 ounces. The most common thing that happens is a customer comes in and orders a tall. According to the Starbucks website, a tall is 12 ounces. So why is it when I ask a customer to clarify what a tall is, they throw out anything from 8 to 20 ounces? I’ve come to believe that the average coffee drinker just goes to Starbucks, yells some random words, and hopes to walk away with an enjoyable beverage.

This segues nicely into 3. READ THE MENU BOARD- ALMOST everything you need to know is up there, basic drinks, prices, sizes, and what we have available for options. Sure, we don’t have a list of flavors up there so you have to ask me for that, but we DO have a line on our sign that says “flavor shots .50 cents” so you know that they’re an option. We also list all the milk substitutes we have available, so when you ask for your latte with rice milk, you don’t have to add on a snotty “if you even have that.”

Be nice to your baristas, if you use your words to tell us exactly what you want, then you will get exactly what you want, and everyone will be happier for it.

I Won’t be Home for the Holidays (and that’s OK!)

I live on the complete opposite coast of the US than all my family (with the exception of one Aunt, who I don’t know how to contact, and I’m not sure if she’d even want to hear from me). This is not the first time I’ve been an extreme distance from my loved ones, from July 2010-June 2011 I lived in South Korea. During that time frame I left Korea exactly once: To spend New Years in Japan with some friends from college. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, my birthday, all spent at an extreme cost and distance from my immediate family.

Last year was only slightly different. I was a grad student then, and I only got 2 days (plus the weekend) off for Thanksgiving, so I spent it with some amazing people celebrating “friendsgiving”. I also had my first vegan Thanksgiving meal, and with no disrespect to the vegans out there, it’s not an experience I’m looking to repeat. I spent Christmas proper on the right coast, but with my partner and his family, and didn’t see mine until after the true holiday.

I don’t remember the last time I was “home” for my birthday, but then again, “home” hasn’t felt like home since I moved to a different state for college when I was 18.

So now we’re up to date, and my partner and I find us going nowhere near the “right” coast this holiday season. He’s a poor graduate student, and I’ve dropped out of grad school and am a full-time employee at a grocery store… so I’m still poor, and I don’t get any time off for holidays. Therein is the crux of why there will be no holiday travel: time and money.

Therein also lies my current annoyance. Customers who think they have any reason to know about and editorialize your life are one of my number one pet peeves. There’s also a heavy dosing of coworkers included in this.

The state I’m in is heavy on the friendly and the small talk, which I’m not used, and while making lattes before Thanksgiving I was consistently asked about my plans and if I was going to see family (by people I don’t know. I loved it. Not.) I simply replied with no, I was spending it with friends, my family didn’t live in the area. The pity that was heaped on me by strangers!  It got to the point that I just responded with “yup.”

There question was not ok in several ways. First of all, it’s no ones business but mine and my family’s if I spend the holiday with them or not. And if I were horribly broken up about not being able to see them on Thanksgiving? Well thanks for rubbing it in!

Truth is, I had an amazing Thanksgiving with my partner, a friend, her partner, and her family who came to town for the holiday. The food was delicious, the company was excellent, and it was so relaxing because there were none of those awkward family pressures or judgements. No on insulted my weight or appearance. No one brought up the face that I had dropped out of grad school as a positive or negative. No one interrogated me about my life choices or decisions. And I loved it.

The holidays with my family usually involve my mom being stressed out and grumpy about obligations she puts on herself, such as making everything perfect. In reality, my family would rather have a flawed, imperfect holiday with a mother who was a pleasure to be around, instead of one where she is yelling about dinner, or complaining that she is the only one addressing Christmas cards. The last few years I was home, I ended up taking on the bulk of holiday preparation simply to keep the attitudes in the house pleasant. Yet even with me doing the bulk of the cooking and shopping, there were still things that did not go according to my mother’s plan, and that always left me resentful of her and the holidays.

Spending the holidays alone, or with small groups, sounds lonely, but I’ve come to prefer it. This low-stakes version of Christmas and Thanksgiving can focus on the delicious food and a quiet holiday atmosphere. I love my family and I miss them, it’s hard being so far away. I look forward to having the time and money to go visit, but I’ll plan that visit for a time of the year when there is less going on. I’ll be able to enjoy their company that way.

Irreverent Guide to Holiday Shopping

Christmas is my favorite holiday! I love the lights, I love the food, I love the giving and receiving, and I love the snow when I’m lucky enough to have it.

I only have two presents left to get, and I know exactly what they are and where to get them. Then I can start wrapping and shipping them.

My yearly goal is to have my shopping completed by Thanksgiving, this year counts as a partial success as I know what I need to get, I won’t be wandering around a store frustrated looking for the perfect gift. See, I won’t set foot in a mall on Black Friday, and I try to avoid doing it after Thanksgiving. I love the holidays, and going out surrounded by crazy people destroys my holiday zen.

I can’t begrudge people who don’t walk around seeing every shopping opportunity as a chance to complete Christmas shopping, and my technique has it’s disadvantages, as I’m usually not getting someone something they asked for.

But then again,  I don’t end being part of the masses that trample people on Black Friday. See, Black Friday offends me to the deepest depth of my core. From one atheist to all of you- this rampant consumerism is the true war on Christmas (and part of the midset that led to so many living outside their means). So here’s your Holiday Shopping Guide, to you, from Irreverent on the Internet.

1. SHOP LOCAL: You hear these two phrases a lot “shop local” and “vote with your dollar.” Small business is one of those things that gets thrown around a lot every election season, and many people vote for [X] party because they believe that that is the best choice for small business. I won’t get into politics here, but I can drop a fact bomb on you: Tax breaks are completely irrelevant to small business if they aren’t getting revenue from people shopping at them! AND the more you shop at small businesses they are able to adjust their markups so they don’t have to charge as much to make their profit. Small, local businesses have amazing, unique gift selections and they benefit the American economy, your local economy, and help out average people such as yourself. I’m lucky to live in a city that has a fantastic weekend market for holiday shoppers, look for similar events in your area!

“But Irreverent,” you say, “I want to do my shopping on the interwebs, I have to go to places like Walmart.com for that, don’t I?”

Negative darling, but that leads us to point two:

2. WATCH YOUR WEBSITES: Ever heard of Regretsy? Well, obviously etsy has some trash in with it’s treasure, but there’s a bigger problem, and that’s resellers. Spending your hard earned money on real etsy craftspeople is AWESOME and super encouraged. But make sure you’re NOT supporting a reseller! If it looks like it came from Forever21, it probably did. Check sites like Regretsy and Callin’ Out on Etsy to make sure you’re supporting the work of a real person. This same vigilance can be applied to a site like ebay. There are also great independently operated sites Shiro Cosmetics.  I haven’t had the chance to personally try their make-up, but it seems well reviewed, and I’d be remiss to not promote something awesomley geeky and made by a student.

This brings me to my last point:

3. WATCH WHEN AND WERE YOU SHOP: It may be too late for this piece, but DONT SHOP ON THANKSGIVING. Every person that is staffing a store on Thanksgiving is a person not spending time with their family. I had to work Thanksgiving morning, and it was just depressing. Unlike Christmas and other holidays with religious implications, Thanksgiving gets to be for everyone (there’s a discussion on colonialism to be had, but not in this post). Stores aren’t going to stop these insane hours until YOU STOP SHOPPING DURING THEM. Respect the holidays, and respect other people. Stand against human greed and the rampant consumerism that leads to people being trampled to death the day after Thanksgiving. It’s disgusting. It makes me ashamed to be American. It makes me ashamed to be human. Think about your priorities, is it your a family, or that weird-looking Wii thing? Also, stand with Wal-Mart employees in their strike. These employees have just as much right to be home with their families, be paid living wages, and have decent health-care, as every other person. I’m neither Mormon nor a housewife, but I think this post on Feminist Mormon Housewives makes some excellent points. And check out this site as well. “Reason for the Season” makes it sound religious, but I promise it’s not.

Vote with your time and your dollar this holiday season, show your support for workers and their families by supporting small businesses and supporting the sanctity of family time. It’s time to euthanize the false-god of consumerism. You can have shopping and a great holiday without keeping workers from their families and participating in the mentality that allows for people to be injured and killed for a good deal.

Peace, love and pie. Happy Thanksgiving.

Irreverant Reviews: Smashbox Photo Finish Primer

(If this post ultimately reads like it was typed with my butt… well, it wasn’t, but a feline butt was pretty adamant to help. Also, claws.)

I have opinions! Surprise, surprise! I don’t actually get paid or solicited to review anything (as of this moment, blog has NO FOLLOWERS and an incredibly inconsistent update history) but well, my opinions are valid and I’ve given makeup/fashion advice to people before. Mainly my best friend and my mother. I’m by no means an expert, I don’t really have any tips or tricks, but there are products that I know and love and so I’d like to take some time to make a feature in which I talk about some of those things I adore.

The first is something that is painfully pricey (especially on my salary!) but last a long time if used sparingly, and I cannot get enough of it. It’s Smashbox’ Photo Finish Primer (Light). Smashbox is a well received company and this is a well-rated product already but I cannot get enough of this product. It is like a rubbing a baby cloud on your face. I have extremely oily skin, and the oilyness only gets worse if I don’t moisturize my face properly. That’s what is so amazing about this stuff. This particular kind is oil-free and actually manages to balance my skin so perfectly that I can go out and dance and party and SWEAT and my face won’t get that gross oily sheen/feel. It’s a serious miracle product and I wish I could afford to use it all the time instead of just budgeting it to special occasions. In addition to helping control my skin, it also makes my foundation go on smoother and last longer. My make-up generally looks better after I prime with Smashbox than if I use one of my regular (cheaper) moisturizers and my skin feels better too. At almost $40 for an ounce it’s… extravagant, especially for me, but I’ve had my tube of it for about three years now and it’s still going strong (a little bit goes a long way) and I love it enough that I will absolutely have to replace it when I finally run out (hopefully I have a better-paying job by then!). I’m wearing it right now, as it were (because going out with your boyfriend’s coworkers has come to represent a special occasion in my sad little life.) If you’re a make-up wearer (even casually) check out the other products in the line, as there should be something to match whatever skin problem (if any) you have, and if you can swing the price tag, buy this product.

Actually, I Will Call You On Your Shit, Ann Coulter Update

The buzz of Ann Coulter, the ugliest* person alive, calling the President of the United States a “retard” has died down in the weeks since it happened. Perhaps it’s because winning an election is enough to smooth over any feelings of ire at being called such a slur. Most likely, I think it’s out culture’s collective ADD for important issues. Sure, we can all quote Socially Awkward Penguin, or Gangnam Style (and butcher the Korean, really people!) but our attention span for social justice is miniscule, and I’d be wrong to NOT include myself in that group. I mean, raise your hand if you remember anything about the Kony 2012 incident that ISN’T about that dude who started it getting arrested for masturbating in public.

So my point is that I am not at all surprised that the buzz over Ann Coulter being a hagfish (again) has died down, and it was amazingly naive of me to think that anything lasting would come of the conversation that erupted in the wake of John Franklin Stephen’s “Open Letter to Ann Coulter.” 

Here’s what hurt the most for me, a relative of the “retarded” community: EVERYONE who is even moderately liberal leaning at least 25% of the time thought that Coulter’s behavior was (and always is) reprehensible… and then, a few days later, there it was on my Facebook. The same people calling Coulter a horrible person were back to throwing it around themselves.

Here’s the bottom line folks (with all apologies to Dr. Seuss):

You cannot say it in a car, you cannot say it in a bar

You cannot say it here or there, you cannot say it anywhere!

You cannot say it to Obama, you cannot say it my mama,

It’s a horrible offensive slur,

If you want to use it, there’s the door.

 

Lady Gaga and President Obama have both slipped up and apologized for marginalizing the disabled community, and Coulter should have the decency as a public figure to do the same, but more importantly, everyone should realize that it’s not OK to say it, that it ACTUALLY, REALLY HURTS PEOPLE. People like my brother, people like Rob Rummel-Hudson’s daughter (I would seriously love to get coffee with that man, and I think Schuyler and my bro would have a good time together despite a significant age difference). President Obama is not the person hurt by your use of this word, even if you direct it at him. The people you hurt sometimes lack the most basic ability to speak for themselves.

I am Irreverent on the Internet, and I speak for my brother and other broken kid’s like him: You don’t have to be a pundit and you don’t have to be malicious to hurt me and my family with your thoughtless language, and everyone, pundit or not, needs to start being held accountable. The use of this word as a slur needs to stop.

On one final note, I’ll just leave this here: Spread the Word to End the Word

 

 

 

*”Ugly” referring to the nature of her soul, which is hideous. As far as physical appearance, all I can tell you is that she’s blonde, and I really can’t comment on if I think she’s attractive or not

** I just had this post declared “Super awesome” it probably isn’t, but I want to know what pushing that button means, it’s complete self-indulgence.