Book Review – The $100 Startup

So it’s no secret that I own an Etsy shop (psst, click here), and recently I’ve been on a kick of reading any and all advice I can get my hands on as I try to scale up. With that goal, I picked up this book, because minimum monetary investment is what this poor college kid is looking for.

The quality of this book really depends on what you are looking for. For me, reading this book put me in the “ready to work” mode; it’s inspiring. The book is full of success stories that started in the smallest ways.

If you are looking for guidance you might be missing out. I only suggest picking up this book for the sake of guidance if plan on selling a service rather than a product. Most of the book’s actual advice is geared toward those people who want to sell consulting or some other service.

However, the resources on 100startup.com are helpful for establishing a business plan. As the philosophy of the book goes, there is no point in a twenty-page business plan that no one will ever see; the website provides a single sheet that will get you together.

All in all, the book is inspiring but rather unhelpful. John Doe quit his corporate job, opened up shop, struggled and then succeeded. The stories are personalized enough that you care about him; they don’t provide you any concrete guidance. I suggest picking up a different book if you are looking for any actual help.

Wednesday Warriors – Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft is our Wednesday Warrior for the sake of her work A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which I highly suggest everyone read. It is an early review of the socialization of women and how their perceived “inferiority” is largely a product of society, in particular, a lack of education. That is, women fitting the paradigm of the weaker sex only occurs due to social conditions. However, Mary’s unconventional life made critics lessen her credibility during her lifetime.

In London, Wollstonecraft persued artist Henry Fuseli, already married, and proposed a platonic living arrangement that his wife rejected. Following this rejection, Wollstonecraft left to travel France. There she fell in love with Gilbert Imlay, becoming pregnant and giving birth to a girl she named Fanny.  When Britain declared war on France, he registered Wollstonecraft as his wife though they were not married.

Imlay left Wollstonecraft, and she attempted suicide. He saved her life, and in an attempt to win him over again, she went on business to Scandinavia for him. When it became apparent that their relationship was over, she attempted suicide again. She was rescued by a stranger.

She eventually started a relationship with William Godwin, and became pregnant. The pair decided to marry to grant their child legitimacy. This revealed that she had not been married to Imlay, and lost Wollstonecraft many friends. The marriage also reflected badly on Godwin, who had advocated ending marriage in his treatise Political Justice. They moved into conjoined houses.

It was upon her death that Godwin released a memoir of Wollstonecraft, and this memoir revealed much of her unconventional life, including her illegitimate child and her suicide attempts. These were used to delegitimize her work, however, I seriously suggest reading it. She was clearly a woman who felt very deeply and passionately, and her work, especially Vindication is well-crafted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Yes, this contains an affiliate link. I am a poor grad student, forgive me.*

 

The Magic of Sharing Food

This week I’m writing about food. A general passion of mine. I will forego gifts, clothes, even museum tickets if yummy food is at stake. Some people enjoy the activities or the shopping while the travel, I, on the other hand, prioritize les repas. But very rarely have the expensive meals (few and far between) or even the delicious solo dessert enjoyed in front of a monument or park, those have not been the great food moments. Nope, the ones I remember most are the brief moments of a shared package of store bought cookies, the extra apple purchased for a stranger, me, on a train, the simple dinners of pasta shared at a large, filled table.

Food has always held an important place in each culture. It’s where we meet, where we break bread, share the day, develop our own culture, introduce and make war or peace, it can connect in ways that few other shared experiences can. Nothing proves this more than in the little, poor moments. There’s the quotation from the New Testament Christian text, echoed before and after by many other similar sentiments, “It is better to eat a crust of bread in peace, than a grand feast with enemies.” And what a powerful statement that is. Below I share just a few of these moments. These are excerpted from my travel journals.

Mfangano Island, Kenya

For dinner, I had meat for the first time in 3+ years. Well, fish, actually. Not sure I could stomach red meat or chicken, but the fish was served w/ugali and stewed cabbage, all of it was delicious. Yunis, the mother,  asked me what I did and didn’t eat, and started talking about other volunteers who only ate “greens” and how she didn’t understand that. So I felt really and I said I didn’t eat meat.

“But fish, yes?”

“Uh, I haven’t for awhile, but I try it.” Slight regret already.

I attempted to explain that the meat in the States and elsewhere isn’t like here, it’s full of hormones and antibiotics, but all this was irrelevant to her it seemed. We prayed before dinner, a genuine giving of thanks, and I prayed with them. I added a silent prayer to the fish, thanking it for it’s sacrifice. Eating with them felt like the right thing to do. It was full of respect and in fact, had I refused, would have been the opposite. So I ate.

 

Kathmandu, Nepal

We’ve been eating breakfast in the guesthouse kitchen every morning. The cute Nepali hostess makes amazing vegan breads, crepes, and potato-heavy curries. We sit and sip tea on the floor pillows and read The Himalayan newspaper, smudgey ink and all. Chatting with whomever happens to be taking their breakfast at the same time. Two college Aussie’s trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC). A Holland jazz teacher.

The owner told us about the earthquakes, how their house stood through the shaking, but they spent many nights under the rain and stars on the street outside “Stars, no rain and very happy. But rain made very hard.”

St. Julien de Genevois, just outside Geneva, on the French side

Tuesdays the maid comes, and we had a nice chat over her lunch and my tea. She’s a slight lady, who at first glance appears much younger than she really is. Up close you can see the wear and tear of life on her. She has a calm, but kind aura about her. Invited me to share her sandwich, a simple repas of cheese and yoghurt, wrapped in cellophane. It reminds me me of a school lunch I would have packed up and brought myself.

We sat there talking about how it’s hard to learn French (but complementing each other on our skills), my textured, multi-colored wool pullover and her maids uniform stark contrasts to the black marble and stainless steel appliances of the modern kitchen. Our laughter and her warmth filling the large, empty apartment where we both work. She laments about how hard it is here in France, but how money is much better here than in Portugal, where she’s immigrated from with her family.

“Very lucky to have nice family, they are good,” she tells me. “Not all are good.”

I’ve been very fortunate to meet many people, to extend and be extended a veritable encyclopedia of foods from around the world. These are the moments when my emotions have turned from loneliness and uncertainty, to feeling welcomed and accepted. The gift of offering food transcends language barriers and shows, even if only a brief moment, a connection from one human being to another.

Wednesday Warriors – J.K. Rowling

This lady needs no introduction. Author of the Harry Potter series and universe, she’s the lady who single handedly raised children’s literacy rates as none has done before her. But with all of her popularity, I believe many of us have forgotten what an underdog’s tale she is. And, she did it all without the use of magic. At least, as far as we know.

The success of the Harry Potter series followed only after her mother’s death from multiple sclerosis, miscarriage of her first child, an abusive marriage and subsequent divorce. Rowling was unemployed and with her daughter on welfare. But what she writes and speaks about now is how those very dark times, especially the shrouds of death in her life, made their way into the books in ways that spoke to millions of people.

Rowling epitomizes who we all so desperately would like to be: someone who can turn the moldiest of lemons into lemonade. A person with so much character and heart that she can learn from the very dark and ugly feelings, and make them into a way to connect with others. She, through her characters and novels, has helped us feel a little less alone and misunderstood in the world.

J.K. Rowling may have most of us beat on the scale of connecting and encouraging people, but that doesn’t mean we cannot do the same each and every day in our own circles. A smile, and hug, and friendly word or the hundreds of ways that we can express ourselves make a difference. It doesn’t have to be through words, although that is certainly a great medium. Other methods of art, not just literature, can channel those thoughts and feelings.

And hey, this is how I’m starting, a big smile and hug from me to you!

Crystal Spotlight: Citrine

Could this also be titled Danny Wasn’t Prepared to Write a Blog Post? Yes. Yes it could, but here we are, strap on in and learn about citrine, one of my faves.

 

Citrine_Macro_-_Large_Vug
I mean look at that, how can you not love it?

 

Citrine is a type of quartz, turned yellow/orange by its high iron content. Citrine, true to color, is a solar stone, energizing and healing. It is also a good stone for the Solar Plexus chakra, having to do with self-confidence and will power, which is again energized by solar energy.

Physically, citrine is good for issues of digestion, including stomach troubles, as well as the pancreas, endocrine problems, urinary problems, and immune problems.

Mentally, citrine, with its strong positivity, is good for self-confidence, alleviating depression, preventing self-destructive behavior, combating self-doubt, and avoiding anger.

It is an extremely positive stone and will not absorb negative energies. It is good to have around to promote positive energy in the area, and does not require cleansing. However, if you want to cleanse it, sun-cleansing is best for this solar stone. Use early morning light and do not leave the stone in direct, strong sunlight for any long period of time, as it will lose its color.

Most market citrine is heated amethyst or smokey quartz, but I personally do not believe that harms their quality in healing or spell-making.

Bonus fact: I sell citrine bracelets and earrings on Etsy, and will soon be adding more citrine listings. Sorry for the self-promo! Happy crystal using!

Wednesday Warriors – Shoutout Edition

This weeks Wednesday Warriors is what I like to call “shoutout edition,” where we give a big virtual round of applause and hug to contemporary people doing awesome work. In this case, Madre, a NGO holding hands and partnering with grassroots women’s organizations around the world.

It was started a few decades ago during the US-led Contra Wars in Nicaragua. Mothers there reached out to other mothers in the States and asked for assistance. When the US women responded, they realized that despite traveling to go help, they were actually gaining more than they were giving.

As they say, the rest is history. Madre continues to be a women-led organization working with others to reduce inequality, sexism, poverty, and injustice wherever it is found.

You can check out there website here. And how do I know about their awesome work? I am very proud to say that I interned for these wonderful people a couple summers ago.

A Letter to My Friends with Anxiety

Everyone has experienced anxiety or stress, but anxiety orders are completely different animals. They often go unannounced and unrecognized, even by friends and family close to the people who have them. Where our culture fails to consider mental health to be just as important as physical health, we must step up to even the score. This is a letter of support and solidarity, genuinely written to each and every friend I have who has such a disorder.

 

To my friends with anxiety,

I write this letter as someone who may not always understand what you’re going through, but who wants you to feel understood. I may not always get “it”, but I want you to feel like I get you. And I like you a lot. I sometimes get irritated, because your tolerances for certain situations aren’t the same as mine. You have to fight to overcome so much more than I do, and I take that for granted. I know there have been times when I haven’t understood what you were going through emotionally, and I may have even said something that put you down or made you feel less-than because of it. A friend should never make you feel that way.

Like any other physical or mental struggle, some of the best medicine (but certainly not the only!) is the support and encouragement of those around us. I apologize for when you haven’t felt supported. Or when you were unable to reach out, and I didn’t meet you halfway. When I didn’t notice that you were feeling down or struggling. When I was too caught up in my own sh!t to notice that something was not quite right.

I hope you know that despite all of these shortcomings I really, truly care. You make me a better, more compassionate person. I’m super blessed to have you in my life. You prove each and every day that human beings can overcome incredible challenges, reaching out to others even when those other people aren’t accepting or understanding of you in the same way. You’re some of my role models, and the bravest people I know.

 

Mad love to each of you,

Natalie

Wednesday Warriors – Elinor Ostrom

Don’t you want to be friends with this lady already? I mean, look at that smile and that sweater!!

As if you needed any more reason to like Elinor, she happens to be the first and only female winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. Now, any Nobel award is a big effing deal, but did you know that only 48 women compared to 822 men have received these awards? And Ostrom won in Economics no less? This field has all the patriarchy and bias of mathematics and politics put together. Not a great combo.

It’s been challenging for female economists to be accepted or recognized even today, no less in the ’60s and ’70s. Ostrom was actually denied entry to an Economics PhD program since girls had not been allowed to take certain (required) advanced math courses in high school. So, she had to enter the Political Science department instead. Ouch.

Despite setbacks, she went on to do amazing research on the (get ready for some fancy phrasing) success of small to medium-sized collectives maintaining and sustaining public goods. In less fancy words, she and her team studied how communities across the globe took care of their lake, or farm land, or any other communal resource, aka “the commons”. It is fascinating and says a lot about human beings’ ability to be sustainable, if we try and work together.

Ostrom passed away in 2012. Watch any lecture she’s given and your spirits will be lifted, even if you have no clue what she’s talking about. She has left a bright spot in the economics field not just for those who believe in the power of cooperation and community, but for many women like myself. Heroes come in many forms. Not all are social activists and flag-wavers. Some lead by simply following their path no matter what comes their way.

Thanks, Elinor.

Wednesday Warriors – Maximillian Kolbe

So, I spent this spring break in Poland studying for a class on Religious dialogue after the Holocaust. We visited Auschwitz I and II, and everything about the trip hit powerfully. I wanted to do this week’s Wednesday Warrior on someone we heard a lot about.

Maximillian Kolbe was a Catholic priest and a Franciscan. He was the only one of his brothers to remain in the monastery in Poland after the beginning of the WWII invasion. He was in prison for three months before release, and later arrested, sent to prison again, and then transferred to Auschwitz.

As a priest, he experienced great violence and harassment in the camp. There is a rather well-known quote that new prisoners heard from Newly arrived prisoners were greeted at the camp by SS-Hauptsturmführer Fritzsch: ‘You have arrived not at a sanatorium but at a German concentration camp in which the only way out is through the chimney. If someone doesn’t like this, he may at once go to the wires. If there are any Jews in this transport, they have no right to live longer than two weeks. If there are any priests, they may live for a month, the rest only three months.’

During his second month in Auschwitz, there was an escape attempt. Prisoners, including Kolbe, were forced to stand before Fritzsch as he choice 10 prisoners to punish to deter further attempts. One of the men chosen cried out about his children and his wife, and Kolbe volunteered himself because as a priest, he did not have a family to be there for after the war. The substitution was allowed.

These prisoners were taken to a starvation cell, too small for the number of people. After two weeks in the cell, Kolbe still survived, and was killed with lethal injection. Later, he was sainted as a matyr.

There are two major ways to respond to the types of horror that people experienced in the camp. There is complete selfishness, self-preservation, a thing that none of us can blame anyone for truly. Then there is the attempts to maintain goodness and kindness, to be selfless and help those who are suffering even as you suffer. Those who make this choice exist to remind us that it is possible, in the hardest times, in the worst times, for there to be good.

And yeah, I just wrote about a Catholic guy in the Holocaust. So I want to say: the Holocaust is a Jewish tragedy and to say otherwise is utterly ridiculous regardless of the other people who died and were targeted. Of the few people approaching the level of targeting the Jews were at, the Catholics were certainly not one. But I am a Catholic, and we do love our saints.