And for once I was SuperMom

Monday, March 25, 2013


“How much for these earrings?” I held up a pair of tear drop shaped teal blue beaded earrings.
“Two thousand shillings,” he said, a price of nearly twenty four dollars.  I guffawed,
“For those?” He picked them up off the cardboard display, and clicked the beads together,
“You see, they are amber,” um, amber is orange, not teal blue.  Eventually through the course of haggling I walked away paying five hundred shillings for those earrings and a beaded key chain, about six dollars.  I still use the key chain and still wear the earrings, they have withstood some wear and I still remember them as my first bargaining challenge in the market while we lived in Kenya.  Whenever we braved a market my collection of jewelry rose exponentially.  One of the wares that Africa does offer the world market place is colorful unique jewelry. 
I did always wonder where, exactly the goods came from. Some of the vendors told you that they made them themselves, and I believed that just as much as I believed that those earrings were the semi-precious stone amber. 
When we grew tired of the haggling we would go to a shop in downtown Nairobi that carried all the wares of the market.  The prices were labeled and we knew we weren’t getting taken for a ride.  For one Christmas I found some woven handbags, they had good handles and looked perfect for the beach, at about four dollars the price was right, we bought ten of them for family and friends.  And one more, of course, for myself.  While packing it later with towels for just such a trip to the beach I found something inside the basket I hadn’t noticed before,
“Hey, Scott, look at this,” I held the basket out to him and pointed to a label I found.
“Made in China,” he read.  So it seems that some of the precious items sold in the market aren’t from around here either.
When I heard about Noonday Collection I was of course intrigued.  Noonday is a new company that is selling jewelry and accessories that are actually made overseas, by real people, living real lives, in real poverty.  Many of the designs that I saw reminded me of the jewelry that I haggled over in Kenya.  Only with Noonday I know that my money is going to help real people not fill the coiffers of a businessman back in China.  The prices are more than I paid in the market but I don’t mind that, considering that you are getting handmade jewelry, that you know was handmade.  Noonday carries some jewelry with a stone called chrysoprase, I’d never seen the beautiful sea green stone before, so I looked it up.  In the margin on Google I saw a chrysoprase necklace being sold at Barney’s for $799.  Noonday’s offering is $299.  So I might not buy a three hundred dollar necklace, but it helps to know that the equivalent is much more expensive. 
When I learned that the ambassadors from Noonday also will make money off of the trunk shows that they do I was originally uncomfortable.  Shouldn’t this just all be non-profit?  Then I thought about it…one of the things that rang true for me when we returned from Kenya was that Africa does not take place on the global market place on a large scale.  For the most part we are pouring money into the continent and they are not selling and exporting the goods that they do have.  So with Noonday we all benefit, the jewelry makers are making a profit, and so are the ones selling the jewelry. 
The "Olivia Necklace is so named because a  woman that started making jewelry for Noonday was at the point of poverty where she thought that she was going to have to give up her child for adoption.  Her job with Noonday allowed her to keep her daughter.  If that doesn’t give one hope I don’t know what does.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Hello, vernal equinox, the day that brings us verdant spring.  You greet me with a lovely blanket of...nasty wet ice and snow.
All my memories of spring come with a chilly prickliness to them.  The season of goosebumps.  My first few transitions out of winter I tired of wearing my coat in March, there were many shivery drives across towns, as I remained in denial of the still freezing temperatures.  So far I have kept judgement at bay, waiting to see what a true New England spring would bring.  
And today on the first day of spring, the official calendar marked, real, first day of spring I fear tripping on the frozen ice that coats our apartment stairs.
Is it necessary to say that I am done?
A few days last week were warmer, I could feel the notes of warmth underneath the wind, the promise of shorts and tank tops in the sun that hit my back.  The hope of beach days in the spot of sweat that developed on my back as I walked pushing stroller, with baby strapped to my back.  The hope that I could let my children run around near naked instead of cornering them and covering their precious skin in layers of fleece. What's more joyous than watching my daughter run barefoot through grass?
The tree at the bottom of our walk has already started to bud.  Spring is coming, the tree knows it.  Knows it better than I do.  Nothing makes me more fatalistic than this time of year, I turn Eeyore and find myself in the corner of a room, 'It will never be warm again, no never,' my droll voice goes on.  Saying something I know not to be true.  

It will come, though, it always does.  The warmth blows away the chill, the trees bud, flowers bloom.  I will see the skin of my arms again and the sheer thought of wearing a scarf will me sweat.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


“What is this?” Scott is holding a plastic container, lid off, refrigerator door ajar, and nose crinkled. 
            “Oh, it’s Apple Cinnamon Quinoa.  It’s a breakfast recipe from a friend’s blog.”
            “Well, it is rotten,” he declares.
            “Yeah, I thought I would try it.  It’s supposed to be a super food, apparently I didn’t like it.  I would eat it in place of oatmeal…” I explained away the beigey food.
            “Which is another super food…” my husband finished as he was scraping it out into the compost.
            “Yep.”  There it is.  I tried it.  I didn’t like it.  We’ve given quinoa the good old college try before.  The germy, squishy texture didn’t pass.  I like super foods, I use them a lot in our diet.  I replace yogurt for mayo, not because we eat low fat, but because yogurt is a healthier more power packed food that mayonnaise.  I like the idea of quinoa, a protein packed grain.  Most power foods I do prefer the taste of; but not this one.
            Then Scott read that South Americans could no longer afford quinoa because the demand in the west had grown so great that the cost had skyrocketed.  People who rely on the grain for protein can no longer buy it.  I don’t rely on the protein in quinoa; we live in a nutrient dense country.  I can get protein in other healthy sources.  Here we are denying a people group of their food because we think it will make us healthier, or skinnier.  Usually skinnier.
            I’m as guilty of this sin as any other American.  Coffee is my favorite food.  Have you ever tried to order coffee in a developing country that grows coffee?  Usually you get a packet of instant Nescafe and hot water.  The demand in America and European markets has driven up the prices so the people that grow it cannot even afford it.    I like to pat myself on the back that I am better because coffee is a luxury, but it’s the same principle.  If all Americans drank less maybe others could have it too.
            I am not telling you to boycott quinoa, I will, but I don’t like it.  Those friends of mine who do eat quinoa are doing so very mindfully, they are feeding their family with health in mind and there’s nothing wrong with that.  I just wonder if maybe we can find other sources of nutrition and let those that need it have theirs.