Thursday, October 30, 2014

In the Arena: an update from Carol

Dear In Pursuit of Pretty Things readers,

It has been a very long time since Kathryn or I have posted here. In fact, the world of blogging is something that feels like a distant, though very pleasant, memory. Some of you may remember I started writing about social issues here and elsewhere. Around the time of the last presidential election, I got heavily involved in community activism, which then took an unexpected turn when I decided to run for San Diego City Council over a year and a half ago.

It has been a wild ride and an all-consuming mission, working to make sure the voices of everyday community members are well-represented in the City Hall of California's second largest city, and the eighth largest city in the United States. So I hope you, who have been such loyal readers and collaborators, will understand and forgive me for not updating this site in months.

A few of you have followed my journey into local politics, and I really appreciate your support. We are literally 5 days away from Election Day, and my team and I have been working to the bone calling voters, knocking on doors, and getting our message out there.

Ironically, in recent days, my opponents have been sending out badly photoshopped campaign mailers portraying me holding multiple shopping bags.

From our campaign press release:
Barbara Bry, founding President of Run Women Run, an organization that encourages women candidates to seek political office, believes the mailer perpetuates stereotypes of women that have no place in campaigns. "Would the Lincoln Club use a picture of a man grinning happily with shopping bags on his arms in a political mailer? I seriously doubt it," she said.
Even more incredulously, some supporters of my opponent are pointing to this blog as an example of my lack of seriousness as a candidate.

This is a terrible double standard we face as women in society. It's almost as if we're not allowed to engage with other women (and men) about things that make our lives a little brighter, like the clothing we wear, while still being taken seriously. Those of us in this community of bloggers know that what we do is not about frivolous consumption, but about being conscientious consumers who share information and inspiration with each other. My blogging sisters, you should know that you've been a big part of me finding my public voice, which has led to bigger and better things.

Here are a few links that convey what my candidacy is all about:
I know that not everyone in our blogging community shares the same political views, but I think many of you have gotten to know me as a person who is thoughtful and considerate, and I would be honored by any support you can offer. Even at this late stage of the campaign, we need to raise money to keep things going (especially since the other side has deep pockets and has managed to spend over one million dollars in an attempt to shut me down. We've only spent a fraction of that amount, but our message is getting out there. If you can spare a small donation of 10, 20, or 50 dollars so the voices of everyday people aren't silenced, I would be so grateful.

I am so proud to be part of this community, and proud of the community I am seeking to serve on City Council. Thank you for your support and well-wishes. In a harsh world where people are so callously and casually mean-spirited, we rely on each other to build the future we all imagine.

Warmly,
Carol

www.carolkimd6.com

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy Holidays!

We know it's been a while, but we still think of you and are hoping you're all enjoying a happy and safe holiday season. 

And just for a little fun, here's my family's holiday card from this year:

Photos by Haseeb Omar; Card by Minted.



And Kathryn's family's holiday card from this year:

Card by Love Paper Paint

I'll be checking in really soon, to let you know what we've been up to. In the meantime, eat lots of tasty things, laugh a lot with your friends and family, and shine your lovely lights all over the world you live in.

And let us know how you're doing - we've missed you!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fast Fashion and Other Dilemmas

A few weeks ago, I stopped in at Old Navy. I picked up some things for my kids - pants for Rowan for $15 a pair, tees for Kate, on sale for $4 a piece. I browsed the women's section, and picked up a mint-colored cardigan for $22. It was a simple, and pretty harmless way to scratch the itch for a little something new.

At least, that's what I thought then.

A little over a month ago, a garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed and killed over 1100 people. Rescue and recovery efforts are still going on but the chances of finding any survivors in the rubble grow slimmer by the hour. I can't even begin to imagine the ordeal that those not killed immediately must suffer through, as they wait - many of them in vain - to be saved. This is not the first tragedy of this kind to occur in Bangladesh and other developing countries, where factories packed with laborers in poor working conditions hearken back to the U.S.'s own shadowed history with unsafe working conditions and related deaths in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

I like a good deal as much as the next person. But not enough that I'm willing to put people's lives in jeopardy. Turns out that I'm not alone and the majority of surveyed Americans feel much the same way.
  

(I ordered a couple of these silk blouses - they're really lovely and the quality is good. Just an FYI, the lighter colors, like the gray, are a bit sheer, so I'll be wearing that with a cami underneath. The navy was great as is.)


So, with that in mind, I'm paying more attention. And in doing so, I was disappointed to note that only two American companies (Abercrombie & Fitch and PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and IZOD) have signed onto a new factory safety agreement that has been signed by some prominent European companies, including H&M, Inditex (owner of Zara), C&A of the Netherlands, and Primark and Tesco from Great Britain, among others. The new accord is a legally binding contract that calls for independent and rigorous safety inspections in all Bangladeshi factories, with all mandatory repairs and renovations underwritten by the western companies who are signatories.

There's some controversy about whether such an agreement is putting the cart before the horse. For instance, critics of the plan say that there's no point in stressing worker safety in a country that has no legal provisions for worker rights as it is. Others point out that it should be the responsibility of the factory owners, not the companies contracting the factories, to pay for safety improvements.

It seems to me, however, that in a country as poor as Bangladesh, where the average factory worker makes $37 a month, it's not entirely unreasonable for wealthy multi-national companies who are contracting the factories to help protect the well-being and safety of most vulnerable in this system. 




This is not to say this is problem that's easily corrected. There are a lot of systemic changes that need to be made to ensure that workers' safety and rights are protected. Still, it's important not to feel defeated by the complexity of the issues, or the complications that may arise. We, as consumers, have an important role in this - we can "vote with our pocketbooks" as it were by shopping with brands and retailers who utilize ethical and sustainable practices, as well as actually call or write companies and ask explicitly about what they're doing to prevent future tragedies as well as human suffering, in the production of their garments.

As an example, I reached out to one of my favorite retailers (Nordstrom) to ask them what they do, and was relieved to hear that they actually have a company policy about this (you can read it here) that includes standards of workers' rights, providing fair employment practices, and ensuring safe work environments; audits of building permits, maintenance records, and safety procedures prior to entering into contracts with factories; and monitoring and auditing processes that include direct management of relationships with factories, auditors, and agents on the ground by Nordstrom team members.




I have to say that while researching for this post, I found it discouragingly difficult to find fair trade, ethical, sustainably made fashions that I actually wanted to wear. There are lots of accessory companies, but not as many clothing ones. In the meantime, I'll keep looking and will post here, occasionally. So far, I came across the following brands who are making clothing in Los Angeles, using thoughtful and sustainable practices: Everlane (blouse pictured at near the top of the post), Kristinit (see dress pictured), and of course, AG Jeans (above) of which I've long been a fan (yay for AG Stevies!). 

So, what about you? Do you know of any good fair trade, ethical fashion brands that you'd like to share? Is this something you consider when you shop?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kate Spade Surprise Sale! (And it included a Serious Surprise!)

Hi everyone!

I'm here to break my long silence (so sorry about that - things have been moving merrily along in Carol-the-activist-and-public-servant-world, and I'm still trying to find about 6 more hours hidden in the day to get everything in, that I'd like) because a shopping miracle of sorts occurred today.

I know, I know - it's a little silly. But you know how we all have those things "that got away?" Because we couldn't afford it at the time, or because we hesitated, or because we had other priorities - whatever.

So, one of those things for me is the Kate Spade All Typed Up Clyde. Back when I first saw it, I felt like I couldn't justify the full price purchase for such a quirky bag. And then, later, when it went on sale, I hesitated because I was on a shopping ban at the time. And shortly after that, it disappeared from view completely, and despite sporadic checks on eBay for it over the years, I never saw it again.

UNTIL THIS MORNING.

That's right!!! This morning, my inbox greeted me with the notification that Kate Spade is having a 48-hour Surprise Sale. And what did my eyes behold in the "handbags" section but this?




Two and a half years after I first laid eyes on it, I found (and purchased - as a belated birthday/Mother's Day gift for myself) the handbag that got away. There's a part of me that knows it's still not the most practical purchase and there's a part of me that also thinks that I should be updating my professional wardrobe (more on that later) and that a candy-apple red handbag emblazoned with an old-school typewriter keyboard isn't contributing to that. But I also know that this fun, playful bag has indelibly wormed its way into my life somehow and well, there you have it. When something as unique as this comes around over and over again, I imagine we're allowed.

And speaking of Kate Spade, here are some of the latest offerings that have piqued my interest:

1. 'Elaina' Jacket (Love the retro-silhouette, geometric pattern, and how it'll go equally well layered over a dress, slacks, or jeans.)
2. Natural Trompe L'oeil 'Mariella' Dress (There's nothing like the combination of a bateau neckline, cap sleeves, fitted waist, and flared skirt, is there? And the neutral colors make this dress understated while the print makes it memorable.)
3. 'Fresia' Sandal (I love the black-and-cream combo - so classic - and the flash of gold in the heel? Perfection.)

What about you? Are you checking out the Kate Spade Surprise Sale?

Hoping you're having a great day. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where I've Been (Checking in)

Hi everyone!

I have been a really bad blogger lately. I think it's been nearly a month since I posted last, and really, that's just ridiculous. I'm sorry. I've been meaning to check in with you for weeks on what I've been doing, but time keeps slipping away from me. But finally, here I am. And I want to share with you what's been going on.

A few months back, I wrote a post talking about discovering my vocation.

I'd discovered it - but you know what? I hadn't committed. I thought I had, but not really, because I wasn't really talking about it with many people. Just a close circle of friends, the DH, and a few others. I was afraid to talk about it too much, for fear of upsetting people. Instead, I stealthily, fairly quietly, went out and started dabbling in it.

Just dabbling. A little volunteering here. A little organizing there. But essentially treating it like a hobby - something I did in my spare time, when I wasn't working my job or caring for my family.

Remember that thing about spending a lifetime diminishing myself (and therefore the value of my interests, beliefs, etc) and how hard that is to overcome? Yes, that. I call them my "gremlins," and I'll write more about them later. But even though I knew - knew - that this was IT - the thing I'd spent nearly all of my adult life and most of my young adult life trying to discern, I was still hesitating.

"I'm just exploring," I told myself and others. "Just trying things out."

It's an incredibly hard thing to really own who you are and step into yourself. There's so much exposure in that place! No armor, no protective shells - just you.

You and your raison d'etre.

My raison d'etre? (Deep breath.) Public service. And its erstwhile attendant, politics.

I love it. I just do. I love the service. I love the work. I love the organizing. I love the ideas. I love what being American means to me. I love the range of issues encompassed within its scope and I love the passion it draws from people.

Oh, and that's what I love best of all - the people. I've met so many in these past couple months and they're just wonderful! Generous, hard-working, idealistic, pragmatic, vehement, timid, but all stepping out and stepping forward to try and contribute and do something good. Sure, there have been one or two with particular agendas that don't seem to be about serving anyone, or who I passionately disagree with - but, they're all just...amazing. And I know that in the news, we read stories every day about people who do really horrible and even evil things, but my interactions with the larger community have disproven the popular notions that strangers are likely to be baddies. Maybe I've just been lucky so far, but all the people I've worked with have just been lovely.

So as for the work, I decided that as part of this stepping into my Self and living my truths, I would take on some community organizing. Where better, than with "average" and "ordinary" citizens to start connecting with the courageous, creative, generous, and driven spirit of our country? I started with a couple of service events in support of Operation Gratitude, and then moved on to starting a chapter of Organizing for Action in San Diego. I like this particular group because while we definitely tend to lean left in terms of political orientation, we identify as non-partisan. This means that we're able to reach out to all of our friends, neighbors, and family and find those intersections of caring - those things on which we can agree and care deeply about - in order to start making meaningful progress towards solving problems together. It means that we can step away from the pissing contests policy-making can sometimes be (you know - the part that makes everyone grimace and roll their eyes) and be positive, constructive, and supportive.

Those are the things we need in politics now. Along with kindness, consideration, and love. I believe they're there - but they just get buried under all the noise and bluster and anxiety.




Can you imagine what public service and politics would be like if we just remembered how loving, kind, and thoughtful we actually already are?

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know where I've been. And I'm hoping to continue my blogging - style blogging here and issues-and-personal-development blogging on my other blog, Material Good. But getting a chapter of grassroots volunteers doing multi-track issues activism up and running while simultaneously working a full-time job, being a mom and wife, daughter, sister, and friend has been a lot to juggle. My hope is that things will settle down a bit soon and I'll be able to check in here with you more regularly.

Wherever this takes me - and whatever it is I eventually end up doing - I want to thank you all wholeheartedly. This blog and your interest, care, and company have been a constant source of creativity, joy, and support to me for the past three years. I wouldn't be where I am now, without it or you.

I'll be back soon with our regular programming!