Monthly Archives: December 2015

Be The Change

This year, I’m wishing Merry Christmas to my customers at Summit Coffee by walking my talk and giving the gift of sustainability. In the spirit of Gandhi, and Summit Coffee, I’m being the change I wish to see in this world by forcing reusable plastic travel mugs on all our regulars.BeTheChangeI love the coffee shop I work at, and I’m proud to caffeinate Redwood City’s finest coffee fiends, but I would be prouder without the hundreds of paper cups and plastic lids we fill our trashcans with. I’m just as responsible for contributing hundreds of paper cups as our customers are. If I want the world to be more sustainable about consuming coffee, I can’t wait for everyone else to decide to switch to travel mugs. I, the barista, have to be the change. If I don’t want to see to-go cups go to waste, it’s my job to refuse to waste them. It’s my responsibility to offer an alternative. So I’m converting customers to travel mugs, one cup of coffee at a time.QueenOfCupsThis marks the first year of a hopefully lifelong tradition I plan to carry to my future coffee shop. Most coffee shops offer some kind of customer loyalty reward, but why not reward regular customers with a free reusable travel mug? They’re the ones who come in every day. Sure, it’s not cheap. It’s an investment. Just think of the money you’ll save on the long-run on hundreds of single-use to-go cups. Just think of the business your commitment to sustainability will bring you. Just think of the waste your coffee shop won’t be contributing. One person behind the counter in one coffee shop touches the lives of hundreds of customers every day. It’s that easy to make a difference.

edroLargeDecafMediumLatteAdorableAlmondSoyLatteJamesRobertoPickingUpForWifeMeleLouSmallCoffeeSumitViceMayorRWCFatherDaughterJessAmigoOnTheGoCupsTheBoyzTheUsualsTheBoysIf you want to see a change in this world, you have to be the change. So be it.

The Fabric of Sustainability

Consumer driven holidays make paper. We the people pour billions of dollars into the holidays, and paper is made, indeed. But that’s not the paper that this blog post is about. Lots of paper is spent buying gifts, but lots of paper is also wasted wrapping them.

Every Christmas, you can find me scavenging the family room floor for reusable scraps of wrapping paper. When I unwrap my gifts, I carefully untape the paper and fold it neatly in a stack. I cringe every time someone else rips their wrapping open, because I know the paper is wasted. But whatever I can salvage, I do. I’ve hoarded quite the collection over the years. At this rate, I should never need to buy a another roll.

But I’m just one person, and most people don’t hoard used wrapping paper. The vast majority gets shoved in the recycling or garbage, or fireplace. But maybe it’s time for a new trend. A cute one, too. This year, instead of wrapping my presents in customary Christmas paper, I’m wrapping mine in fabric. Why? Because it cuts out so much of my waste. As usual, I will be found sifting the rubble of my family’s traditional Christmas-present-opening ritual for less-traditional leftover fabric, and scraps of other people’s wrapping paper for next year.FabricWrapUse what you have left of last year’s wrapping paper, by all means. But whenever you run out, instead of buying a new roll of paper, consider replacing it with a roll of fabric. Fabric comes in all varieties of prints and colors, just like paper, but unlike wrapping paper, fabric is washable and durable, and, thus, easily reusable.

Considering your gifts will vary in size, one disadvantage of using fabric is that, unlike paper, you cannot trim the fabric to fit it to each gift. Instead, I just fold it to fit it, and tie it up with a ribbon. Cutting the fabric to fit a gift this year means it’s less likely to fit another gift next year. If you decide to fabric-wrap, I recommend you keep an assortment of small, medium and large pieces. Large squares should be big enough to cover boxes. Medium should be big enough to cover folded clothes. Small should be big enough to cover something small. If you’re left with extra fabric, tuck it under the ribbon you use to tie it, to keep it folded tight. And voila, environmentally sustainable gift-wrapping.

Lastly, one thing that’s key to reusing wrapping fabric is actually getting it back after distributing your gifts. Just be weird and tell your friends and family you need to hoard your fabric back for future reuse. If you’re sending gifts long distance, or they won’t be opened in your presence, just ask their recipients to a) save the paper and return it back to you when they next see you, or b) save and reuse that shit themselves.FabricOutOfTown

Give the gift of sustainability. It’s that easy.

My Abortion Story – I’m Not Sorry

This fall, Bill Nye spoke up about abortion. A lot of people have extremely different things to say about it. Although, until recently, most of the people speaking up, or at least the ones shouting the loudest, have been rich white men, naturally, who possess the most power and influence. So it’s always reassuring to me when somebody of influence (say, Bernie Sanders or Bill Nye) speaks up for the ones who are not dignified a voice. In this case, women.

But if an influential rich white man, of the highest social standing, like Bill Nye, can say that it’s okay for women to have abortions, why can’t I? Am I any less entitled to that opinion because I’m a woman? Because I have a womb? Because I’m the one who’s body is in question? Because I’m the one who has to decide if I can or I can’t or I should or I shouldn’t or will or I won’t have this child that I can’t afford to support, that I’m not prepared to nurture in the way a child needs and deserves? So why should I have anything to say about it… right? The fate of my life as women is for rich white men to decide, and me to live with.

In Public Speaking, my professor, a profound and deeply inspirational woman, (bear with me on this tangent) emphasized the importance of persuasive rhetoric—broken down into pathos, logos, and ethosethos being the credibility we bring to our argument, as speakers. For our final, we presented a persuasive speech on any topic of our choice. Two students spoke in favor of the illegalization of abortion. One was a wealthy white male, conservative. The other was a young Latina woman, single mother of one. Between the two of them, the latter had all the ethos. She had all the credibility because she spoke from personal experience, unlike the other, who spoke from ignorance.

But this year, women are finally speaking up, and so am I, even though this news will come as a surprise to some, and an unwelcome one to many. I had an abortion. A year and a half ago, at the end of a bad relationship. My boyfriend had already left me. I hadn’t known that I was pregnant, and it was not a healthy pregnancy. I was underweight. I had been smoking and drinking during. I had continued taking birth control, not knowing I was pregnant. In all likeliness, I would have miscarried, but I didn’t want to leave that fate to chance. I couldn’t care for a baby. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want to be tied to my ex, and nothing anchors you to someone like a child.

My ex begged me to keep it. He told me he’d take care of it. Even after leaving me, he wanted me to carry his child inside me for nine months just to hand it over to him and let him raise—or rather, neglect and verbally abuse the kid, like he did me. If I had kept it, I would never want my ex in contact with my child, or in my child’s life in any way. But who am I—a woman—to deny my child’s father custody? Keeping it would have meant condemning myself and an unborn child to a life I wanted to protect us from.

I know my relatives eventually will see this. Some of them will be disgusted and ashamed. Maybe some of them will have something to say to me about it. Or maybe they’ll just call my mom or dad. Maybe they’ll tell them that they’ve failed as a parents, or I’ve failed as a daughter and deserve to be disowned. Maybe they’ll just unfriend me on Facebook, or cut me out of their lives, or stop including my name in Christmas cards addressed to the rest of my family. Maybe some of them will be confronted by a reality they never thought they’d face. Maybe some of them will question their beliefs. Maybe some of them won’t give a fuck. Maybe some of them will be proud of me for doing the right thing. To each their own.

But to whoever’s reading this, and whatever you believe, this is just to say that I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry I didn’t have a kid I couldn’t raise. I’m not sorry I didn’t bear the baby of a bad man. I’m not sorry I decided not to fight an unfit father for custody of a kid I didn’t want him to have. I’m not sorry I ended a pregnancy that was threatening my health. I’m not sorry I chose my life, and I’m not sorry for how my choice makes you feel. It wasn’t your choice to make, and I’m not sorry you didn’t make it for me.

 

As far as cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, one might want to consider how many more abortions the clinic prevents by providing contraception than the number of abortions they perform. Shutting down Planned Parenthood would only result in more unplanned pregnancies.

As a friend and loyal customer Michael Vargo so eloquently put it, we “all have points of view that come from personal experience. And that [we] feel strongly about them shows how much [we] care. Let’s all make that assumption about the other “side”. They are not villains and we are not saints. We all just people.” Many of the people protesting Planned Parenthood are the same ones defending guns, and they raise a valid point about gun laws, that restricting our legal rights to possessing guns will do nothing to stop people who want guns from getting them. The same goes for abortions. Criminalizing abortions won’t prevent women who need them from getting them, it will only increase their risk of getting sick or infected from an operation performed improperly (which many will be if women are forced to resort to their own means of aborting pregnancies without the services provided by PP).

If Planned Parenthood had not been available to me when I discovered I was pregnant, I would have still sought an alternative. Without Planned Parenthood, I would have had to resort to a) somehow self-inducing or b) illegally obtaining a pill or operation from some other source. If abortions were illegal, I would be a criminal, assuming I was able to survive.

Criminalizing abortions will only result in more criminals, more babies abandoned at their birth, more under-privileged children whose mothers lack the means to support them, more mothers who would otherwise have been able to provide for themselves but no longer can due to the financial burden of their child, and more women dead or injured from improper, unsafe abortions.

Before I found out I was pregnant, I never thought I would have an abortion. I never thought that I would be in that position. I never expected to have to make that decision. Being in that position, being faced with that decision changed my mind. And nobody can claim to know from the outside, but I know now, my choice was right, and I’m not sorry for it.

When you say #ProLife, consider the quality of life. The quality of the child’s life. The quality of the mother’s. Nobody’s forcing women who don’t believe it’s right to have abortions to have abortions. But who are you to deny others their right to make that choice?

Scam Bam

Scrolling through my Facebook news feed earlier today, I landed on an ad for weight-loss supplements. This happens all the time. Facebook must really want me to lose weight. But this ad stood out to me because it claimed to be the secret to Adele’s new, slim figure. I clicked the ad, something I rarely do, but only because I knew it had to be riddled with photoshop and fallacies. It was.

ScamBamA quick Google search revealed this sort of scam is pretty common. According to DailyMailUK, “An internet celebrity diet scam which uses fake endorsements from famous names such as Adele… is raking in millions of pounds” (Poulter). (Translation to all my American friends, pounds refers to the currency, not the unit of weight. I can see how this might be confusing in the given context.) Said scam occurred over two years ago under the guise of a different drug, or at least a different name, and resurfaced today on my Facebook news feed. A sacrilegious blow to #TalkBeautyToMeTuesday, so naturally, I took this as a personal attack, against Adele, myself, and women everywhere.

I admire Adele for many things—her voice, obviously, her intelligence, her elegance and class—but mostly because she doesn’t give a fuck about what people think about her body. So when confronted with this highly suspect claim against Adele, I didn’t buy it for a second. But, sadly, a lot of people probably did.

In my gut, I knew the claim couldn’t be true, simply out of love and admiration for Adele, but the detective in me wanted to properly and publicly debunk this myth. So the investigation persisted. Did Adele flip the script on women everywhere? Adele would never… But that got me thinking, even if she did endorse this drug, why is her endorsement buying this operation so much business? What difference does it make to the average consumer what Adele does with her weight?

There’s no use exposing these scams and shutting them down. They just resurface under different names, different made up celebrity endorsements, different photoshopped before and after pictures showing different fake results. There’s no stopping the scheme because the formula is foolproof. It plays to people’s fears and insecurities. The problem isn’t the scam itself; the problem is our receptiveness. It may not have worked on me, but many people fall into this trap. Why do they buy it?

They buy it because they love and admire Adele as much as I do. And it’s sad, but true: Monkey see, monkey do. If Adele can’t accept her body, why should you? The ad alleges that, “Adele expressed in an interview how she always felt insecure about being the ‘fat singer,’” and that, “One of her producers went as far to say that ‘Her weight was getting a little out of hand.’” Thus, not only did Adele consider her body inadequate, her producer deemed it unacceptable. Now Adele’s career is at stake.

Adele supposedly goes on to say, “I don’t know what was more rewarding, my amazing weight loss transformation or seeing the look on those producers faces!” And voila, Adele’s slim new figure secures her future happiness and musical success. All thanks to this weight loss supplement dream drug.

The beauty industry profits off our insecurities, however, as Jes Baker once boldly told us, “Self-loathing is an advertising hoax.” The insecurities this industry relies on in its customers were planted and enforced by them, the beauty industry. Not you. You weren’t born hating your body. You learned to hate it. You were taught to hate your body. They tell us to correct our imperfections, and they sell us everything we need to fix them. They supply the products, and we buy them, but who’s the one creating the demand? They’re selling us beauty as if we don’t already have it, and it’s up to you if you believe them. I’d venture so far as to say the beauty industry in its entirety is as much a sham as this scam is, built on the myth that we’re not beautiful enough, and I don’t buy it. Do you?

Adele doesn’t buy into that beauty bullshit either, but even if she did, celebrities succumb to this kind of pressure constantly. That doesn’t mean that you should too. The things that other people do with their bodies, and the way others feel about your body has nothing to do with you. Next time an impulse beauty purchase finds you, next time you catch yourself about to buy, ask yourself why.

Behind the Bars of Beautiful

A friend shared this image on Facebook, and I’m sharing it today because it’s true, and it’s #TalkBeautyToMeTuesday.AudreyHepburn

Audrey Hepburn was a lot of things, but mostly, we know her for her beauty. Beauty is something women consider themselves lucky to have, and unlucky not to. Beauty is something women are conditioned to strive for. Beauty is something any woman would be #blessed to have, but beauty is a burden of it’s own.

Physical beauty blinds people to the beauty that lies beneath. The beauty we wear on the outside only takes a moment to notice, but our accomplishments, intelligence and wit are hidden deep under our skin, and generally the investigation only extends as far as that first glance. Many women are shrugged off as just another bangin’ body, just another pretty face.

And sure I want to be beautiful too, but when the credits roll at the end of this show, I want to be remembered for a legacy of art and poetry and music and perspective, and this website, and contributions to my community, accomplishments, achievements that I leave behind, not a legacy of sexy images.

In its own way, beauty is just another brick in the wall standing between women and the recognition we deserve. Our external beauty steals all the thunder from the wonder underneath, and we, the women living in these bodies, remain invisible. Worse yet, women who aren’t considered obviously beautiful aren’t seen at all.

So next time you see a pretty woman, or any woman for that matter, take the time and make the effort to find out who that woman really is. She isn’t just a pretty face, she is a person, with passion and aspirations. When you describe a woman, don’t define her by her physical appearance, define her by her actions and beliefs.

Same goes for sexy gentlemen, and not-so-sexy gentlemen, and any other gender in between. Make sure you see beyond their skin. All of us have diamond minds trapped deep inside our bodies, and they take some digging to find, so damnit, dig.

Beauty isn’t an accomplishment, it’s a physical condition. Don’t let your beauty be the bars you hide behind.

Featuring Samantha Mitchell @selismitch (left), and Dakota Snow @codabun (right)
Featuring @selismitch (left), and Dakota Snow @codabun (right)

Across the Universe

MusicHorseMy favorite class in (community) college was Astronomy, instructed by Professor Andrew Fraknoi, an Einstein of our time. And by far the most terrifying, panic-stricken hour of my life was Fraknoi’s lecture on the death of the universe. I’m no astrophysicist, but the gist of it went something like this:

The universe began with the Big Bang (debatably, or God, or both, depending on what you believe, but if you could please just roll with me for the sake of this article). And naturally, so too, the universe must end, which we expect it will do in one of two ways: In the first case, gravity wins, when the momentum of the Big Bang that birthed our universe subsides, and eventually all the matter that burst out into the verse will collapse in on itself in a hot rage, reducing our entire universe to a single point in space, or a black hole or something. Very scary. In the second scenario, the Big Bang wins, and its momentum will disperse the matter of our universe so far apart from all the rest that there can be no hope of contact in the vast expanse of frozen, silent space between each world, and the heat that lights our stars will all burn out, and life as we know it will be lost.

The metaphorical genius I am, I can’t help but notice some striking similarities between the second scenario and my own experience as a blogger. More human beings are born into this shitshow every day. But no matter how many people we cram into this planet, none of them are likely to read my blog. It doesn’t matter what I post or how revolutionary my words may be. I could be writing the next Bible and nobody would know because nobody reddit. And no matter how much I espress myself, I remain invisible amidst the vast and growing universe that is the worldwide web.

With so many people surfing, clicking, scrolling, sharing and so-called connecting, you’d think a few of them might stumble upon my blog. And granted, a few of them do, but the clicks and views that trickle in are flowing slowly with no sign of speeding up, and can mostly be traced back to friends and family who only visit out of love and obligation. Thank you, by the way.

Yet something unreachable remains between my blog and the massive audience I know is out there. Popularity. Familiarity. The gravity that pulls matter toward me, and connects me to the rest. Without it, the words I publish are lost in space. But why then, do some get all the clicks and views and follows, and I don’t?

Maybe because they’re superstars, and they have all the gravity, diverting any and all traffic in the vast fabric of space away from me, a flickering white dwarf on the fringe of the universe. It’s getting cold on this island, guys. Castaway out in the vastness. I’m shooting flares, but they’re just swallowed in the dark. I’m shouting loud, but sound can’t travel through this space. I’m burning out, and I’m not the only one alone out here. I’m one of fucking billions.

After shattering the hearts and shitting the pants of a room full of students, Fraknoi ended his lecture with a small, faint ray of hope. As far as we can conceive, he concluded, the death of our universe will play out in one of these two ways, neither of which particularly appeal to me. However! One factor remains unaccounted for. We can account for gravity, and the inertia of the Big Bang that’s expanding outer space, but we cannot account for the unknown force causing our universe to expand at an accelerated rate. Because this force remains unknown, so does the fate of our universe. So fingers crossed we never figure that shit out because not knowing means there’s hope for something not so shitty.

I thank Fraknoi every day for that X-factor, that unknown, that inexplicable driving force. I like to think it’s the same driving force inside of me, the same one driving me to write this blog that no one reads, the same one driving all of us worldwide to do whatever we may do, as if to protest the notion that it’s all for nothing. So fuck if no one hears my words. The universe still put me hear to say them.

You’re Beautiful

Has someone told you that you’re beautiful today? A lover? A father / a mother? A sister / a brother? A creepy stranger? A not-so-creepy stranger? Try as we might and want as we do to be beautiful, and even to be seen at all, we don’t hear it enough because people don’t say it enough. But Shae Glover does—she told a heap of people at her high school how beautiful they are, and recorded their reactions in this video you’ve probably already seen.

I fucking love this because it shows 1) how easy it is to tell someone they’re beautiful without coming onto them in a nasty way, and 2) it shows how much you could be making someone’s day. It also shows how reluctant, embarrassed and even offended some people might be to accept your recognition of their beauty. Maybe this is due to our insecurities and doubts about our beauty. If we don’t believe we’re beautiful, then how can someone else? But they do, and we are. So tell someone how fucking beautiful they are (and don’t be creepy). Create the same moment Shae Glover captures in her video.

PS. You’re beautiful.

Fuck It

A lot of us are insecure about our bodies, even the ones with figures the rest of us consider perfect. Physical imperfection, as we perceive it, is universal to us all, and nobody’s immune to the resulting insecurities. We all have a voice that tells us we’re not beautiful enough, not toned enough, not tan enough, not defined enough, not tight enough. But the volume we give that voice varies from person to person, and rises and falls dramatically throughout our lives. Some days the voice is a whisper in the back of our minds, and other times, it rings so loud we’re deaf to any other noise. And maybe we can never mute that voice completely, but we can sure talk back to it. But what to say, you ask? Two words.

“Fuck it.”

Let “fuck it” become your mirror-gazing mantra. Next time your shoulder demon takes the mic, you have every right to boo that little bitch back off the stage. You call the shots in your own mental open mic. So find your inner-child and cover your ears and scream, “La-la-la-la I can’t hear you,” or try the trending, “Look at all the fucks I give.” (Zero.) Your fucks are precious, and you only have so many to disperse, so don’t waste your fucks hating your body. Save your fucks for lovers, family and friends (not those kind of fucks, you nasty bastard), your education, your passion, the world you live on, the obstacles you conquer, the things you create and the thoughts you espress.

The best thing about “Fuck-it” is it instantaneously foils any argument. It’s foolproof. Whether the criticism comes from you or someone else, your refusal to give a fuck renders any such criticism irrelevant. Not applicable. “Fuck-it” allows you not to be affected by body-negativity, whether internal or external. So say it. “Fuck it. I don’t give a fuck.” Embrace it. Save your fucks for something worth your while.

And if you’re wondering what “Fuck it” looks like and how to apply it to your life, this brave young woman dares to show you how it’s done.

Your turn.

PC Haley Snyder
PC Haley Snyder

We All Just People

Espress Yourself is the child of two of my favorite things—freedom of self-expression, and coffee, obviously. Advocating self-expression as I do, I consider it my civic duty to impart the wisdom of the people in my life upon you, my faithful reader. Today’s words espressed by a local musical artist and cappuccino-drinker, Michael Vargo:

“Hello my friends. I know some of you are pro gun and some of you are anti gun. I think we are all pro coffee. But even then, tea is OK too.

The belief I have is that you all have points of view that come from your personal experience. And that you feel strongly about them shows how much you care. Let’s all make that assumption about the other “side”. They are not villains and we are not saints. We all just people.”

Michael Vargo – Thursday, 3 December 2015

Michael Vargo
Michael Vargo – Picture stolen from his Facebook profile

As a devoted cappuccino drinker, Vargo’s radical inclusiveness of tea, despite clearly favoring coffee, sets an empowering example to us all—to set aside our differences and respectfully agree to disagree.

That said, we’re all entitled to espress our opinions, and as Vargo mentioned earlier, we all have our opinions about guns, and I have mine, musically espressed in the video below. And I have Foster the People to thank for these words, and Haley Snyder to thank for these harmonies:

PS. It was actually that dark.

Open Letter to My Body

PC Haley Snyder
PC Haley Snyder

Dear Body,

These are hard times for a girl who wants to be beautiful. Just look at all our competition. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are dripping with sexy women, teaming with images of women’s bodies that are sexier than mine. Barbies. It’s hard not to compare with tits and asses everywhere. I remember when my sister, one and a half years my senior, sprouted C-cups in fourth grade. I couldn’t wait for my turn to get mine. It’s been fifteen years since then and I’m still waiting.

But you wrote to me last week, and you sounded upset. And you were right to call me out. You may not have given me my sister’s perfect tits, but you gave me mine. You give me everything I need. You’ve given me the hands of an artist. You’ve given me the feet of a Hobbit. And it’s okay that you didn’t give me a dancer’s hips or Einstein’s brain because you gave me my brain, which as anyone can clearly see is a gem of its own. Just look at this website. It’s shittin.

So for all the times I bitch and moan about my tits and ass, or lack thereof, and muffintop and tummy, and breakouts, and bad haircuts that I have only myself to blame for, this is just to say I’m sorry. I was wrong. My judgment and criticism of you was misplaced. And even though you’re no Victoria’s Secret Angel, you’re fucking sexy. Whoever may have the privilege of getting their hands on you should consider themselves lucky just to be in your presence. I do. You’re perfect just as you are, and I consider myself lucky to live in you. I fucking love you.

Yours truly,

Dakota Snow

I don't know about you, but I'm a huge fan of my body
I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge fan of my body