The miracle of adoption

Eight years ago, a beautiful discussion took place between our daughter and our then 5-year-old grandson:

Drew: Mommy, what is adoption?
Melaina: Adoption is when a baby grows in one mommy’s tummy but she can’t take care of him so another mommy and daddy adopt the baby and become his new mommy and daddy. Uncle Nate is adopted. He grew in a different mommy’s tummy but then we adopted him.
Drew: So Gram and Grandpa still got to be his mommy and daddy?
Melaina: Yes!
Drew: Wow! That is like a miracle!

Yes, Drew, yes it is! And now, many years later, Uncle Nate is himself the father of two adopted children!

When this conversation showed up as one of my Facebook memories recently, I was reminded of the many “miracles” in our extended family, but my mind also went to Romans 8:14-15a

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.” (NLT)

and Ephesians 1:5

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT)

Wow! Nate’s adoption story is an amazing one, but is there anything more amazing than being adopted into the eternal family of the Creator of heaven and earth? How can that be?

When we brought Nate home at three days old, it wasn’t a temporary or part time commitment. We weren’t just babysitting. It was for life. He was 100% ours! That’s how it is with God too. He wants 100% of your life for all time. That’s why He sent His Son to die to take the punishment for our sins, so that by accepting that amazing gift and surrendering our lives to Him, we would receive His Spirit and be adopted as His children.

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With Christmas time fast approaching, that’s really something to think about, isn’t it?

Ethics and fashion blogging

LogoIf you had told me ten years ago that I would someday write a fashion blog, I’d have laughed. In fact, I probably would have told you that you were crazy! Fashion just wasn’t my thing. Then I discovered fashion blogs, followed several of them, started to take a greater interest, and eventually decided to add this weekly feature to my own already established blog. Now I’m in the process of unsubscribing from some of those blogs that first caught my interest.

Why? 

Has my interest in fashion waned? Not really. It’s about ethics and excess and what the fashion industry is doing to the planet we live on.

I’m not naming any names, but over time, some of the fashion bloggers or influencers that I’ve followed for a long time have become little more than advertising arms for the retailers that they are affiliated with. They’ve decided to make their blogs their careers; in some cases, their only source of income. It’s all about selling stuff. Some have moved beyond fashion to hawking cosmetics, health care products, exercise programs, you name it. Anything that will make them a dollar. They make a small commission on every item that is ordered through links on their blogs, so it’s all about buy, buy, buy!

Then there are those who post new looks, new items every single day. How do they do that? Well, in the words of one of them, “I order a TON of things for photos, but I like to order when there is a sale so that I can get the best price available on items that I keep.” In other words, she constantly orders clothes for photos for her blog, but sends most of them back. She’s not alone in that. In fact, that’s a common practice amongst many fashion bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers. Do they not know that much of what they return ends up in the landfill, not back on the shelves? Do they not care?

There are also those who just buy a lot of clothes, more than any woman could possibly need. If I hear (or read) the phrase “shopping haul” one more time, I might scream! One blogger recently posted a photo of a beautifully organized section of her closet. It contained 28 long-sleeved button up shirts! 28! Why would any woman need 28 shirts? Nine of them were white. I will give this particular woman credit. She abstains from buying fast fashion, buys only quality items, and keeps them for a long time. She also shows the same items worn in different ways as opposed to wearing something new every time she posts. But 28 shirts? Come on! That’s excess to the extreme. 

So who are some of the bloggers who are not on my cutting room floor and why? Fellow Canadian, Sue Burpee, who writes High Heels in the Wilderness, is one of my favourites. In fact, she wrote about this same topic in this recent post. Sue and I have a lot in common. Also a retired school teacher, her passions include books, fashion, and travel. When she’s not writing about fashion, she might be writing a book review, an intelligent opinion piece or telling about a recent hike or a trip back home to New Brunswick to visit her mum. Sue encourages her readers to be ethical shoppers and to shop their own closets for new looks.

Through Sue’s blog, I discovered Frances, another Canadian, who writes Materfamilias Writes. Also a retired academic, Frances and her husband traded life on a small coastal island for a home in the heart of Vancouver a few years ago. Though she includes an outfit photo in many of her posts, she also writes about family, books, and travel, and offers many interesting observations on life.

Are you beginning to see a trend? No, I’m not talking about the fact that both these women are Canadians or that they both retired from teaching careers. I enjoy bloggers who lead interesting lives, who read, travel, and sometimes think deep thoughts, and who also happen to have an interest in fashion.

More recently, I’ve been following Dutch blogger, Greetje, who writes No Fear of Fashion. She posts once a week, on Sundays, and I find myself looking forward to her entertaining posts. She features one outfit a week and again, it isn’t always something new. Instead, she looks for new ways to combine pieces that she already owns. She’s not a bit shy about having her picture taken in public and looks for interesting locations for her fashion shoots, so I get to enjoy glimpses of European life and architecture as well as her outfits. In each post, after sharing her outfit, Greetje writes a bit about what she did that week. She’s a very social gal, so her mom, who she visits almost every week, and several of her friends are regulars on the blog. She often takes photos of what they wear as well and shares snippets of her life with them.

Each of these women has a style all her own. Of the three, Sue’s fashion style is most similar to my own, but I enjoy Greetje’s flamboyance and Frances’ unique style and I love reading about their lives. These are the kinds of blogs that I will continue to follow, not those that promote excess consumption with little or no concern for its long term effects on the planet.  

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Image: Eluxe Magazine

It’s a start

LogoI was thinking about a topic for this week’s fashion post when I came across a news article that fit very well with what I said last week about boycotting products that are made in China.

The Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) recently intercepted a shipment of women’s and children’s clothing that originated in China on the grounds that the garments were made by forced labour. This was the first interception of its kind since new federal laws came into place in July 2020 officially banning the import of goods made partially or wholly by forced labour. Just as there is no way for us as consumers to know what conditions our purchases were made under, there is no visual indicator to show a border services officer the labour standards by which a particular good was produced. This makes this a very difficult situation to deal with, but the CBSA says that it will continue to investigate complaints and allegations pertaining to imports made using forced labour. Hopefully this will lead to further interceptions of this kind and will ultimately result in retailers ensuring that they don’t order goods that have been produced unethically. At least it’s a start. 

So what exactly is forced labour? According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), forced or compulsory labour is “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.” It refers to a form of modern slavery in which people are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as manipulated debt, retention of identity papers, or threats of being handed over to immigration authorities. In China, Uyghurs and other Turkic minority ethnic groups are being subjected to forced labour in Xinjiang province. As well, a recent CBC Marketplace investigation found that several Canadian retailers, including one of my favourites, had brought hundreds of shipments of clothing into Canada from a Chinese factory suspected of secretly using North Korean forced labour. The factory is located in the city of Dandong, just across the Yalu River from North Korea.

The more I learn about unethical clothing production in China, the more convinced I am not to support it with my fashion dollars! I know I’m only one and I’m not even a big spender when it comes to clothing, but if I can convince even one of you to consider not purchasing clothes that are made in China, it’s a start. 

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And now, are you wondering how the six items or less challenge is going? At the end of the second week, I must admit that wearing the same things over and over again is a bit boring, but there are also advantages. Getting dressed in the morning is easy and so was packing for a weekend away to meet our brand new baby granddaughter! I simply wore two items and packed the other four along with some socks, underwear, and pjs. Easy peasy! No thought involved. 

He completes me

Have you ever thought about what you’d like to be able to tell your much younger self? If I could, I’d tell the naive young woman that I once was that the romantic notion that a woman needs a man to complete her is absolute balderdash!

After 45 years of marriage, does my husband complete me? No! Absolutely not. He has a different skill set than I do and different spiritual gifts, so we are better together than individually, but he does not complete me nor I him. In many ways he complements me, but he cannot possibly meet all of my emotional and spiritual needs. There is no man on this planet who could do that and to expect otherwise is to put a load on another’s shoulders that there’s no way they can carry. I wish I’d known that sooner. 

In the 1996 romantic comedy/sports drama of the same name, Jerry Maguire uses the line, “You complete me” when trying to win back his love interest, but in the real world a partner or spouse should not define who you are. While “I love you” speaks of genuine affection, “You complete me” reeks of dependency, of needing another person to fill a gap, solve a problem, or heal a wound.  

So who completes me? Am I complete in and of myself? In some ways yes, but not entirely. 

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I am not a theologian or even a Bible scholar, but I do know that only God, the one who created me and knows me more intimately than I even know myself, can truly complete me. 

So what does complete mean? In this context, the dictionary defines it as to make something whole or perfect

Does that mean that I think I’m perfect because I’ve surrendered my life to Christ? Absolutely not! That will never happen this side of heaven, but God has imputed His perfection, His righteousness to me. That means that when He looks at me, He sees Christ’s perfection in me, not my own human imperfection. His estimation of me is equal to His estimation of His Son! 

Being completed by Christ means even more than this though. It means that because I am united with Him, I can lean on His absolute sufficiency. Hard as he might try, my husband can never be my ultimate source of peace, joy, or security. He is human. He will fail me. If I look only to him for meaning, significance, and value, I will be disappointed. No, these are the things I gain when I allow Christ to complete me. 

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These are things I would like to tell my younger self. 

More about the six

LogoFacebook comments in response to last week’s post about my self-imposed “six items or less” challenge ranged from “I could absolutely NOT do this!” to “I’ve been living in the same set of clothing since I retired.”

Today, after one full week, I thought I’d share a bit more about each of the six pieces that I’m wearing for the duration of the one month challenge. None are new and they’ve all appeared on the blog at one time or another in the past. First, let’s take another look at the photo…

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From left to right:

  1. Grey skinny jeans  –  cabi  –  purchased new in fall 2018  –  made in China
  2. Dark wash jeans  –  Old Navy  –  gifted in early 2018  –  made in China
  3. Patterned blouse  –  cabi  –  thrifted in fall 2020  –  made in China
  4. Navy striped pullover  –  cabi  –  purchased new in fall 2017  –  made in China
  5. Denim shirt  –  Uniqlo  –  purchased new in early 2021  –  made in Bangladesh
  6. Cardigan  –  cabi  –  purchased new in late 2016  –  made in China

It wasn’t until I’d carefully chosen all six pieces that I realized that four of them were cabi! In addition to the fact that I simply have a lot of cabi, I think that there are a couple of other good reasons for that. First of all, cabi intentionally produces clothing that coordinates well with previous and future seasons. This makes building a cohesive wardrobe very easy. Second, cabi clothing is good quality. It lasts! I suspect that many fast fashion pieces that are sold today wouldn’t hold up to a month of steady wear and washing. Instead, they fall apart after a few wearings and end up in the landfill.

As someone who is attempting to be an ethical shopper, I was also surprised and somewhat alarmed to see that five of the six items were made in China! While shopping in Superstore last week, I passed up a super cute pair of leopard print sneakers. The deciding factor, in addition to not really needing them, was the fact that they were made in China. Having lived in that country for several months, I’m conflicted about buying anything that is produced there. I know that the majority of the population is extremely poor and that garment factories provide much needed employment, but I also know that the conditions in many of them are abhorrent. Men and women work in unsafe surroundings 10 to 12 hours a day, 360+ days a year for a mere pittance. In addition, there are political reasons for boycotting Chinese products. I see China as a threat to Canadian security and although the two Michaels were released in September, it’s clear that they were held for almost three years on trumped up charges in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou. That’s simply not a country I want to support with my fashion dollars!

My justification for having five made in China items on the list of six is threefold. First, two of them were thrifted or gifted. My intention is to try to avoid purchasing new items that are made in China. Second, the new items were purchased prior to 2019 when I made a commitment to begin shopping more ethically. And third, four of the five items are cabi. I’ve been assured by two independent cabi stylists that their products are made in socially and environmentally responsible factories. In spite of that, I was happy to see that my most recent cabi purchase, which you’ll see on the blog later this winter, was made in Vietnam. I suspect that this means that cabi, like many other companies, is moving their factories out of China, not for political reasons, but because the cost of production there has risen significantly and other locations in Asia are more cost efficient. In any case, I’ll feel better about buying cabi in the future if it’s made elsewhere.

And now, before I close, here are a couple of the outfits that I wore this week. On Tuesday, when I went to my weekly Bible study and ran some errands, I layered the denim shirt over the patterned blouse and paired them with the grey skinny jeans. I dressed the outfit up with my newest boots and a necklace, both thrifted.

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Though I’ve never worn the cardigan this way before, I knew when I decided to include it as one of the six that I would probably try buttoning it up and wearing it with a scarf. When you only have six items to work with, you have to be creative!

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I wore it this way on Wednesday. We bowled in the morning, so I needed something that was comfortable and easy to move in. This Wednesday was also NET Cancer Day and since the zebra is our symbol, I wanted to wear a touch of zebra stripes that day. Interestingly, I purchased the scarf in a shop on Russian Street in Dalian, China when we lived there, but it was actually made in Taiwan! According to the somewhat sketchy instructions that came with it, it can be worn ten different ways, but I’ve yet to figure out most of them.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I was freezing during the taking of these pictures! The temperature was barely above 0ºC (32ºF), but as you can see, we don’t have any snow yet, so we decided to take advantage of that and squeeze in a couple more outdoor shoots.

NET Cancer Day 2021

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Once again, today is Worldwide NET Cancer Day, a day set aside to increase awareness of neuroendocrine (NET) cancers and to promote improved diagnostics, treatments, information, care and research.

The theme of this year’s campaign is

Know the symptoms.

Push for diagnosis. 

Less than 30% of neuroendocrine cancer patients receive a correct diagnosis the first time they reach out for help. In fact, it often takes five to ten years from onset of symptoms to correct diagnosis. During that time, of course, the cancer quietly spreads. Thankfully, compared to many other cancers, NETS is slow growing, but like many of my fellow patients, I was Stage 4 at diagnosis. This means that my cancer had already spread from its origin to distant parts of my body. At this point, 8 years after diagnosis, treatment has halted it’s progress and resulted in some shrinkage, but there is no cure.

Know the symptoms. 

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Once considered rare, neuroendocrine cancer is actually the fastest growing class of cancers worldwide. Unfortunately, many health care professionals have never seen a case and know little or nothing about this complex disease. In order to achieve early, correct diagnosis for every patient, we need every primary care physician to know and recognize the symptoms. When they are presented with stomach pain, it makes sense for them to suspect gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), but we also need them to wonder if it could be neuroendocrine cancer. When the stomach pain is accompanied by severe diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome is a definite possibility, but we also need the doctor to be aware that it could be NET cancer. When a woman complains of facial flushing, rather than simply assuming that it’s due to menopause, we need her doctor to ask himself if it could be NETS. Depending on the location of the primary tumour, other symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, skin rash, shortness of breath or wheezing, lack of appetite, unexplained weight loss and/or lack of energy.

Push for diagnosis. 

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Diagnosing neuroendocrine cancer is complex. In addition to recognizing the symptoms, we need doctors to order the correct laboratory tests and scans. It’s also important for patients to push for correct diagnosis. One of the most important things I’ve learned since my diagnosis is how important it is to advocate for yourself. Know your body. Know what’s normal for you. Pay attention when something feels off. Take note of unusual symptoms and talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for, PUSH! Don’t give up. Years before I was finally diagnosed, I remember thinking “at least it’s not cancer” but I was wrong! If I’d pushed for answers then, perhaps it would have been caught much sooner and the outcome might have been very different!

Know the symptoms.

Push for diagnosis. 

Six items or less

LogoFor me, today is Day 1 of a self-imposed fashion fast. For the next 30 days, I will wear only six items from my closet. That’s right! Just six! 

Why would I do such a crazy sounding thing, you ask. Well, first of all, because I love a challenge and secondly, because I hope to learn something from the exercise. 

The idea of a “six items or less” challenge is not a new one. In fact, they’ve been around for a decade or more. I’m not sure where the idea originated, but as early as 2015 and perhaps before that, a not-for-profit organization in the UK called Labour Behind the Label has been promoting an annual six items for six weeks fundraising challenge. Participants select six items of clothing from their wardrobes and pledge to wear only those pieces every day for six weeks while collectively raising funds to support Labour Behind the Label’s efforts to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry. The annual challenge takes place during the season of Lent, a period of fasting and penance for many Catholics and other Christians. For many, that seemed a suitable time for a fashion fast. 

While there has been no single dictating thought or reason behind similar challenges, most of which are one month in duration, those who have participated have often done so to promote mindful consumption. In addition to the reasons that I gave above, I see value in seriously considering what we purchase and why as well as what effect those purchases have on the environment and the people who make them. Last time I walked through a mall, I had this challenge in mind and I was overwhelmed by the number of clothing stores, particularly for women. The options available to us are staggering! We have so much while so many in the world have so little. Perhaps this exercise will also be an opportunity for me to discover how little I really need and to see how creative I can be with what I have. 

The rules for all of these challenges have been essentially the same. Thankfully, underwear, socks, pyjamas, workout wear, coats, and footwear are not included in the six items and unlimited accessories are allowed. Though some challenges also include a rule forbidding participants from shopping for clothing for themselves during the challenge, I’m not sure if I’ll stick to that one. Living where I do, I don’t have many opportunities to shop and we do have some Christmas shopping left to do. If I happen across something that fits a gap in my wardrobe while we’re doing that, I might buy it, but I promise not to wear it until the challenge is over. 

So how did I select the six items that I will wear exclusively for the next 30 days? After much thought, this was my criteria:

  • must be able to mix and match to create many different looks 
  • requires a coordinated colour palette
  • must be pieces that I love wearing
  • must be able to layer
  • must be versatile, able to dress up or down
  • must be able to create at least one somewhat dressy outfit in case of a funeral or other unexpected event

 I decided to use a 3-2-1 formula: 3 tops, 2 pants, 1 cardigan. I realize that I have an advantage over many in that I’m retired and don’t have to think about a work wardrobe. My choices would have been somewhat different if I were still teaching. Also, since Covid is still raging around us, we aren’t going out a lot which will also make the challenge easier than it might otherwise have been. 

And now, for the big reveal, here is what I will be wearing for the next month. 

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I wonder how many people will even notice? 

My biggest concern going into the challenge is laundry. While all of these garments are machine washable (some on the hand wash cycle), the denim shirt is the only piece that I put in the dryer. The others are hung or laid flat to dry. To help with the laundry concern, some of these challenges do allow duplicates of the same item as long as they are exactly the same colour. I doubt that that comes into play very often though because most of us don’t have identical items hanging in our closets. I do, however, have a second pair of the dark wash jeans. If I find myself without pants to wear, I will put them into rotation, but it almost seems like cheating so I’ll try to avoid having to do that. 

Over the month, I plan to document my experience and share a bit more about the pieces that I chose, so stay tuned for more about “six items or less” in the coming weeks!