"Protest is exactly what we need."

Ferguson is indeed a microcosm – of all the narratives about race and America that we fear and suppress. Still: it is not enough to say that, yes, of course the promise of justice – the promise of America, of democracy – has failed its black citizens, again. It doesn’t make the disappointment any less disappointing, nor the rage any less real. But it doesn’t make the moment any less mighty either.

Last night after putting my kids down to bed, in between following stories and retweeting voices and listening and shaking my head and feeling angry and heartbroken and frustrated and--unable to find the words to explain to my kids, let alone myself, what was going on--I remembered a confrontation I had with the police when I was 21. It wasn't the first time I got confrontational with the police.  I grew up in a place where they routinely busted us for being out past curfew or for driving with tinted windows or for "listening to music too loud"... but I never felt afraid of them. Or even intimidated--even when, at 21, a SWAT team cuffed me and my friends for "kidnapping" a friend on his birthday. Which we did, but, like, "ha ha, we're going to kidnap you and take you to a nice dinner!" (In the police's defense, we had a pillow case over our friend's head and someone driving by saw, called the cops, and they surrounded us within minutes.)

I was dressed up that night and when the police told me to put my hands up I said, no.

"I didn't do anything. This is insane," I said.

 "GET DOWN!" the policeman said, pulling a gun on me.

"NO! I am not going to lie down in the middle of the road. We did nothing!"

This went on for WAY longer than it should have and, yes, I was an idiot. I was young and fearless and didn't think for a second that anything would happen to me. Because, let's be real, I was a white girl in a party dress in the passenger seat of a BMW.

I knew this inherently, which is why I didn't hold back. I felt violated and frustrated and I told the cop that I WOULD NOT lie down with my face in the road because I WAS INNOCENT AND YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, THIS IS BULLSHIT. As a young white woman, surrounded by officers with drawn guns, I assumed he wouldn't harm me. That was the assumption. That was always the assumption and it still is...

I hadn't thought of that night in a long time. And maybe that story is arbitrary within this context. Or maybe it isn't. The point is, I talked back to an officer of the law and an hour later, I was at dinner. 
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I often write about what it's like to be a woman in 2014, but seldom think about what it's like to be a white woman in 2014 -- what it's like to raise a white son and white daughters -- how to broach the subject of race and privilege. I feel like this is a pivotal moment in time -- because we're all here, watching, witnessing, listening and hopefully hearing our sisters and our brothers, doing what we can to fight back, support, learn, elevate--each other and ourselves. Our faces are pressed against the windows and we can't believe what we're seeing. Because WHAT THE FUCK!?

Color blindness used to be the talk of the town. "We're all equal. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, we're all pink on the inside..." Those were the kinds of conversations we grew up having -- in our classrooms and communities. And we all nodded our heads because, of course. It is only now that I realize how detrimental that was--the "we're all equal" talk--especially when coming from white mouths. Because color-blindness is a myth. We see each other's outsides and make judgements based on what we see. And those judgements come from how we're raised, what we've learned to be afraid of based on the media's portrayals--the news, movies...  all of the above.

- Fear is the culprit here.

- Fear is what makes police officers make terrible snap judgement decisions.

- Fear is what makes teenagers lash out at police officers when they feel cornered like animals.

- Fear is what makes many parents (and I am in no way innocent) steer conversations with their (white) kids away from race. Because why bring it up if it isn't an issue? Why bring up consent with young boys who are not yet sexually active? Why bring up any conversation that a child doesn't need to be having? Why break the bubble? 

Because, others... 


If we were only as concerned with other people's children as we are with our own...



***

A friend texted me last night, asked me how I planned to talk to my kids about Ferguson.

"I don't know," I texted her back. "I'm thinking..."

And then this morning it occurred to me how to explain privilege and what happens when power and fear bleed into each other...

"Elsa," I thought. "Holy shit, ELSA!"

Elsa is a perfect example of what happens when people in power are afraid -- when people with GREAT power they cannot control are afraid.

At the end of "Let it Go," Elsa, flashes us a look and says, "the cold never bothered me anyway."

The thought doesn't even occur to her that the rest of Arendelle is actually very bothered by the cold. Everyone is freezing and the boats can't sail and life is very difficult. But Elsa? She's all good! She has her castle and her freedom and her power and the cold, which doesn't bother her so no worries.

Elsa is the very PERSONIFICATION of what happens when  privilege and fear and power mix. And Elsa is awesome, by the way. She is nuanced and complicated and cares deeply for others, but she is also a human who only knows from her own experience... and that is what makes her so dangerous.

Because SHE's comfortable in the cold. It doesn't bother her so NBD.

Sounds familiar right?

The cold doesn't bother me anyway... 

But the world is frozen. It's frozen because TOO many Elsas are, like, "eh."

And that's where Anna comes in. And yes, they're both white (which in ITSELF should motivate a discussion on the homogeny of characters in film and on TV and how important it is to broaden the strokes -- to include MORE women, more people of color, more mixed race families, friendships... ) but they're also both sisters, their hair being the thing that differs them - white and brown. Elsa is BORN into power based on the privilege that is birth order, not to mention the MAGIC she possesses without knowing quite how to control it. Anna is powerful, too, but hers is not "magic"... it is something that she must cultivate inside herself and build and battle and, yes, protest with... in order to get her sister to HEAR her. She must climb a mountain and SHOUT and FIGHT and almost die... to be heard. She must give her life to save her sister, who has almost KILLED her, by the way, several times. Even though she didn't mean to. Even though it was an accident. 

And maybe this is just me reading into something because, as a parent, I try to find ways to talk about the big issues with my small children--ways that are on their level, that empower them to empower others and look at themselves and the characters they worship with new insight. Because stories and myths are our guides. Because raising ethical people who SEE race AND recognize privilege is one of my goals as a parent and FROZEN has been an incredible tool for me to talk about a gamut of issues with them, so cheers to FROZEN. Truly. 

"You were born an Elsa. And it is important for us to recognize what that power means and WHY the cold, even when it doesn't bother us, bothers OTHERS."

It isn't the perfect analogy by any means, but it's something--when talking about race and Ferguson, immigration and the treatment of Mexican and Central Americans (which is another conversation nobody wants to have) and ANYONE who isn't white and wants to live here.

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Fear = denial = silence = looking the other direction. And in those moments where denial spreads and silence permeates and a new view replaces what we all should be watching with open eyes and open minds, together--that's complacency. I don't want to hear this... I don't want to talk about this... I don't want to think about this -- it's too upsetting. I don't want to talk about consent with my sons or race with my black friends... I'd rather just ignore that these are huge DEAFENING problems pervasive everywhere.

Privilege is the bullet proof glass that we, as white people, are born to be surrounded by because of where we come from and how we look. And that is nothing to feel ashamed about -- or guilty for -- but it is something to consider on a daily basis. Because as white people, we don't have to

I will never know what it's like to be in the body of someone who has walked different steps on roads that were less inviting. Ever. All the more reason to keep my face pressed firmly to the window -- and to do what I can to support its eventual cracks. Because change will come. It has to.

How? By talking. By listening. By allowing our children to RECOGNIZE that being the same color INSIDE means nothing in this conversation but where we come from DOES matter. It does. Even if we don't want it to, even when we REFUSE to believe that it does.

The window is large. It's infinite, really, and the more we gaze within its vast expanse, the more we see... not only of ourselves but of everyone around us... behind us, in front of us, to the left and the right...  In the meantime, in the words of Syreeta McFaddem (whose post I excerpted above and below) "Protest is exactly what we need."



I stand with Ferguson tonight -- with the peaceful protestors who have every right to speak and scream and chant and sing and march and write and right. 

I am grateful to live in a time where these conversations are recognized by many parties as mandatory. Where "color blindness" has been replaced with an urgency to see, or at the very least, the collective need to take a closer look...


***

If you are looking to contribute some positivity to Ferguson, you can donate to the public library, which is open for business. And if you're looking to read some thought-provoking pieces, please read this by Roxane Gay and this by Kristen Howerton and this by Kveller about raising race conscious kids and this by Tristan D. Lalla (via Tracey) and this by Carol Anderson of the Washington Post. Also this John Stewart clip is required viewing. I would also love to add links to the posts that any you have read and been moved by and/or posts that you wrote on your blogs. Thank you in advance. I know that there are so many incredible voices singing their truths and I would love to read them.
GGC

Live Colorfully: Eat the Rainbow (& Giveaway!)

The following post was sponsored by Munchkin. Thanks, Munchkin!
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One of the things my mother taught me as a child (what's up, WWW!) a la healthy eating was to "eat the rainbow," and I have held on to that through my life, introducing my kids to colorful foods that look beautiful-- not only on their plates but in their bodies... inside and outside and insideoutsidealloftheabove. Colorful foods make our bodies beautiful. They make us healthy and strong and empowered and, yes, even happy.

My kids are not perfect eaters by any means and I do not love cooking. We do easy meals most nights like "taco night" and "spaghetti night" and "chicken breast night" which I have only recently learned to cook without gagging. (Tamara eased me into cooking chicken before she left and it has become a weekly go-to main course for everyone in my house except Revi. And me. Revi won't touch meat or fish of any kind which I, of course, respect. She, like me, gets the majority of her protein from legumes, almonds and eggs.) 

Bo and Archer, on the other hand, are carnivorous. Bo will eat two entire chicken breasts in one seating. She's like a professional athlete in that she craves meat, so I have learned to cook chicken. (No beef or pork, though. I will never have the stomach to touch that. No sir.)

ED: For those of you who live in LA and are looking to buy humanely raised meat, I buy my chicken from a food vendor at my farmer's market, who also delivers to your home. Here is his order menu.  He's
THE most passionate food vendor I know. Also, his website is currently under construction.

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Anyway, for today's post, I want to focus on meals-on-the-go, especially when you're setting off on a family adventure day (which is what we do once a week in order to stay sane.) Somehow, leaving the house makes everyone not want to kill each other, which I find refreshing. I used to pack sandwiches but then it became a massive undertaking to make six sandwiches, each made slightly differently, and then they got all mixed up and everyone was bent out of shape because I marked Bo's sandwich Fable's and Fable's Bo's...

So my NEW thing is to pack fresh fruits and veggies and let the kids pick out their main course when we go out because it's never hard to find a PB&J or pizza or noodles on the road but it's ALWAYS a challenge to find fresh fruit and veggies that aren't, you know, apple sauce in a thing or a banana. (We were at Disneyland over the weekend and I packed an entire backpack full of apples, almonds, cucumbers and carrot sticks. The kids ended up eating pizza for dinner but at least they had some veggies and fruit, as well.)  


Here are two bento boxes that I recently filled with rainbow snacks for on-the-road munching: 

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Every Sunday, I take a girl or two (or three) with me to the Farmer's Market. It's my one constant every week and it makes me feel like I have some order in my court.  It also gives me the opportunity to have one on one time with my kids (or one on two or one on three). The kids pick out our weekly flower bouquet(s), sample the merch, and help me pick out all our fruits and veggies.

Here is a selection from a recent Farmer's Market Haul:
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(It's the same picture as above, just... rotated to look... like it's not the same picture from above.)

Also, a little something about the cabbage and eggplant -- both of which filled my purple quota. The kids will not eat these. They will eat everything else in this spread, save for the radishes, but I want to call attention to the eggplant and the cabbage because last night I cooked stuffed eggplants (for Hal and me) and they were delicious. All you have to do is slice them in half, spoon out some of the flesh, and fill them with whatever sounds good to you. We did herbs and goat cheese and it rocked. 350 degrees for an hour and BAM.

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As for the cabbage, I cut it into steaks and fried them in olive oil and garlic until they browned--which took about three minutes. They fall apart, sure, but taste delish.

Also, just after I took these pictures, I left the room for a few minutes and came back to this scene:

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Bo ate both Bento boxes full of fruit and an entire plate full of carrots. Girlfriend puts. it. down. 

***

Munchkin is generously giving away one "Eat the Rainbow" lunch-packing kit full of rainbow amazingness that includes:


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(These cups are truly miraculous and I wish they existed ten years ago because we spent many a day dealing with the angst of leaks in backpacks and beds. These are the only cups I let Bo and Revi sleep with and they are completely leak proof and you can hold them upside down for ten hours and nothing will happen. Good news.)

- A Bento Box (pictured above)
- Munchkin multi plates (also pictured above)
- Multi Bowl Set ( " ")
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To win, comment below with your healthy eating tips. I'll pick one winner next Monday, December 1st! And while you're at it, you can follow Munchkin on Instagram, here and Facebook, here. Thanks in advance and happy rainbow... eating! Thanks, guys! And thanks again to, Munchkin for sponsoring this post. Check them out at Target, Babies R Us and and Amazon. Heart.
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GGC
Tracking Pixel

On Unexpected Pregnancy, In Film

First came Knocked Up, then came Juno, and now, Obvious Child which I wrote about this week on Mom.me. 


When I first started this blog, it was assumed that because I kept my unplanned pregnancy, I was not pro-choice. There is an assumption that women who support choice are not mothers themselves—certainly not young, unexpected ones.

And I know that many of you disagree with me. You disagree for religious reasons or personal reasons and while I respect that, I also feel it is more important to stand behind what I BELIEVE than it is to sit quietly and say nothing, --which is what I almost did after seeing this movie and wanting to write about it and then being, like, "Wait. Is this going to bum people out? Is this going to hit a nerve? Is this going to create too much conflict?" Never mind. 

And then I read this, in Cassavetes on Cassavetes, which I am currently reading, and after underlining the passage, highlighting it, circling it and tattooing it to the side of my body, I was like, WHOA, HOLD ON, WAIT A MINUTE, WHUT? It applies to filmmaking for sure, but also to life and being a human person who has relationships with others, specifically competitive ones:

"Television isn't crap, it isn't. It is only if it's handled badly. The theater is not dead. It is only if it's handled by people who don't love it... Theater throughout the country is not dead. It's really there -- even in California! There are little theaters all over the place! Movies are not dead. The artists in our business have to be encouraged! And if somebody says to you, "Ah, I don't know. This picture's not going to make money" or "That play's never going to make it," you've got to attack them!... Because they will only get away with that social custom if you don't protect your art. And if you don't, next year you will come into a dead business and you're gonna suffer. Find the people that you want to emulate and support them. No matter where they are and what form of art -- whether it's music or anything. Support them because they are later on going to be your support -- by keeping the thing alive..." - John Cassavetes 

The unfortunate truth is that there are very few people out there REALLY going for it - risking all to portray women honestly and articulately, and they need our support -- otherwise feminism becomes a word banned by Time magazine and female-made female-centric stories become as obsolete as they... well... already are. 

"Obvious Child" is a love story. It’s a romantic comedy about humans doing human things to each other and getting into human predicaments—a film about a twenty-something woman/comic (played by Jenny Slate who is incredible) who gets pregnant via a one-night stand and knows immediately that she wants to terminate her pregnancy. She isn’t ready to be a mother and that’s okay. She knows it’s okay. And her friends support her and her mother supports her and even though the situation is shit, she steps confidently onto the stage, in front of an audience of strangers, and tells her story with sarcasm and grace, wavering between confidence and vulnerability on behalf of the millions of women who have been shamed into silence and must tip-toe in and out of their appointments out of fear—alone, isolated, and confined.

So, yes! Let's hear it for the girls! Let's hear it for the mamas and the not-ready-to-be-mamas and the voices and bodies of those who have lived in shame for FAR TOO LONG.

ED: As I write this, I am realizing that this post is becoming a sort of continuation of Thursday's post, and while I promise to take it down a notch, tomorrow and the next day, I wanted to go here (again), because I feel that so much is being overlooked these days because of projected agenda... Because EVERY STORY is important, even the ones that express a different idea of opinion than the one we possess via our own experiences.

Everything is offensive. That is clear. But the most offensive thing of all is the personal projection of me on you and you on me and them on us and us on them, etc. To seek out and support the people and projects that allow women to be women -- flawed, real, NUANCED humans with voices and experiences that may or may not differ from our own--and to come together with these stories to better understand each other and ourselves -- would be the goal in a perfect world. (In mine, anyway.)

Because while "privacy" and "secrecy" and "silence" have a place and should be respected, acknowledged and adhered to, they have never motivated anyone outside of themselves. And trying to shut women up by shutting them down is an antiquated concept that must be flipped the bird. WE ARE HERE TO SHARE OUR STORIES. To tell them, to hear them, to pass them on. To listen and learn from each other's choices, ideas, experiences... and to grow our own ideas from there.
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You can read more of my column, here, and go rent Obvious Child on VOD. It's great. 


GGC

"Make, not Break."

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I wrote that quote inside my brain several years ago after reading something that made me angry. I said out loud, to the wall, "THIS MAKES ME WANT TO BREAK SOMETHING!"

Because it did.

A lot of things have made me want to break things over the years. I've wanted to break voices, specifically anonymous ones (who aren't so anonymous anymore thanks to commenting systems like disqus. I love disqus) and computers (specifically mine) and the ambush-style mobs that select their ambush-du-jour and blindly follow the Emperor's New Pitch Fork without thinking for themselves.

"Make, not break."

Because we all have a choice in this space... we can make something or we can break something. We can be constructive with our criticism or we can become hysterical, hateful, creating false identities to attach our own destruction. 

Make, not break... 

It isn't hard to write a post that people will love. We all know how to do that by now, don't we? And those posts are important to write because there is beauty everywhere. There's also a lot of shit. And when we gloss over the shit, we kill the magic in those truly epic moments. We become numb to nuance because  there can only be two camps, GOOD and BAD.

"You are a good mother. Wait, no. You're are a bad mother."

Fuck that, there is no such thing.

There is no such thing as either because the words themselves are empty and polarizing and uninformed.

Sometimes I choose to focus on the positive, address the beauty in all things, highlight a moment where I have succeeded and my kids have succeeded and we all have succeeded.

But that isn't the whole story. The story is the bedtime struggles and the ER visits and the trying to figure out how to parent four distinct (and very much themselves) personalities all at once while trying to maintain a marriage, a job, a dream, a house, a brain, a heart... all while rats invade and bathrooms cave in and lice is a thing and lunches need to be made and bills need to be paid and everyone wants something needs something, always...

My heroes in and beyond this space are not heroes because they get their kids out to door on time, but because they recognize their own humanity and do not bash others for theirs. That includes all writers and memoirists, essayists and speakers who share fearlessly online because there is no other way -- who open themselves up for criticism every day. The kind that is not constructive. I actually think criticism is important in this space and I hope everyone feels comfortable enough, here, to disagree and participate in an exchange of ideas that are not marginalized by ambush-style hate. We shouldn't have to pretend to share the same perspective "just to be nice." Harmony can only come from numerous voices who sing in different keys and I applaud the conversations that happen between those who respectfully disagree with each other. But this year (more than most) I have been blown away by the mob mentality of the Internet and how blindly rage-filled it has become. 

I have witnessed, time and again, women come out with their stories, tell their truths only to be ambushed into silence. Not only on their websites and books but in the comment threads of blogs and social media until suddenly the best this space has to offer is gone because, it's not worth it...or as one friend said to me the other day, "I don't have the skin for it anymore."

What a loss to lose that voice. What a loss to lose ANY voice that feels she cannot contribute out of fear -- who feels she cannot tell her story and not be shamed by it, misconstrued, ridiculed, or cut down... who must argue for her place to speak from her own platform. 

"Don't read the comments," I tell young people who want to be writers. "Don't ever read the comments at the end of stories. They will scare you away from telling them."

That's awful, isn't it? And yet... the option is, what, to hold back? To write less? To say nothing? To respond? To scream into a pillow because WHAT IN THE...!?? COME ON!!???  (This post is for all the times I didn't respond, by the way. A sort of epiblogue to last week's Mom.me column. And the one before that. And the one before that and that and that. Sometimes there are words that need to be said and these are they.)

Because, if we can't talk openly with one another out of fear of being ambushed... if we can't stand up for each other out of fear of being criticized... then what stories could we possibly be telling each other? And in their place, what stories will we have scared away?

It is far easier and much less time intensive to break someone's idea than it is to build your own perspective. However. It will ALWAYS be more effective to build. 

I use this analogy with my kids when they're playing "who can build a better Lego structure." You can destroy your opponent by crushing their building or you can destroy your opponent by building something stronger.. taller... more colorful... interesting... Wouldn't you rather use your brain than your fist? (Some people can't, is the thing. And I get that, too. But if they tried? If we all tried?)

MAKE... DON'T BREAK. 

It will always be more effective to build OUR argument than it will be to break someone else's. 

***

I have developed a fairly thick skin over the years but for those just getting started -- for the young women and girls who are launching their voices in this space, sharing their ideas, trusting an audience of strangers (of us?) to hear them and respond, how can we, the adults, elevate the conversation so that it MAKES?

Trolls do not speak from platforms, they speak from basements. And yet all that knocking from below our feet takes its toll.

"I can't do this anymore," I hear myself say.

"I can't do this anymore," I hear friends say -- incredible friends -- storytellers -- writers who change lives with their truth -- with their willingness to open themselves up, to share their triumphs and failings, be imperfect and fucked up and weird and late and different and out of the ordinary.

"It isn't worth it anymore..."

BUT IT HAS TO BE.

It has to be worth it.

You can't win, here, in Internetland, friends. Even more reason why we MUST write of our losses!

Make... 

We need your voices, ladies. We need your ability to SPEAK up and SPEAK out and SPEAK honestly... even if it's imperfect and messy and frowned upon-- hell, ESPECIALLY if it's imperfect and messy and frowned upon. Because nuance is the only true voice of reason within this space, and without it we're all going to die and explode into a million pieces and be dead and gone and dead. Death by dying deadness...


GGC

Gifts that Give: To The Market

I met Jane Mosbacher Morris at the AYA summit in DC and was blown away by her story, efforts and the work she has done both past and present, specifically with To the Market, a survivor-made goods website that launched last week.

In Jane's words: 


I founded TO THE MARKET because I believe in the power of economic independence and the impact that the dignity of work can have on transforming a survivor's life. I spent the first part of my career focused on the intersection of women and security. I worked on (and continue to work on) issues ranging from the elevation of women in the national security sector to the impact of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault on women and their communities. When studying each issue, I continued to come back to the fundamental role that economic independence played in the determining the status and security of women. Similarly, I observed that some degree of economic independence greatly reduced a woman’s vulnerability.


I wanted to partner with organizations that are serving a specific vulnerable population—survivors—because I felt like providing this opportunity for employment was especially crucial to survivors.  I have said that economic independence helps to ensure that the survivors of abuse don’t return to their exploitative relationships; that survivors of conflict can forge a new life without relying on charity; and that survivors of disease can afford the care that they need. I continue to say that, but would even expand it to say that economic independence also helps to change the trajectory of the survivors’ children, especially their daughters.
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TO THE MARKET partners with organizations that believe that employment is an effective way to empower survivors of abuse, conflict or disease. Our model is threefold, all of which aims to help these organizations thrive and if appropriate, expand and employ more survivors.  This includes;   

1.    Promoting survivor-made goods TO THE MARKET via multiple distribution channels, including pop-up shops, custom sourcing, retail partnerships, and our online marketplace.
2.    Offering a platform for survivors and their champions to share their stories with a new, larger audience of eyes, ears, and hearts including through TTM’s Stories and Huffington Post blogs.
3.    Providing tailored services to our Local Partners with resources such as trend forecasting and basic mental health resources to improve production and management...


***
I am THRILLED to introduce you to TTM and feature some of my favorite pieces available to purchase for EVERYONE on your holiday list(s).  It was hard to pick, hence THE VERY LONG LIST. SO much beauty and kick-ass lady power up in this action. To read the story about the piece, where it's from and what your purchase means to which community, click through the below images and select "the story."

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Sari Blanket $100
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***

...And if you're interested in further supporting the To The Market mission, you can go here for more information. All the love and Happy Shopping! 

GGC