Do you hear what I hear?

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know I’ll be making a pallet garden soon! It was my birthday present! I also was blessed to receive something else I asked for – wind chimes! Fair trade windchimes, to be specific. If you’ve never checked out the handmade treasures — that support women, kids, and men in other countries, directly! — you should really hop on over to SERRV where you can find many, many beautiful things.

My boys gave me the catalog and asked me to circle things for my birthday. I circled several windchimes, but, truth be told, the ones I would have chosen for myself were not the ones I received. Yes, its true, I can be kind of petty, or picky, or worse! I wanted metal, booming, hollow, almost-creepy windchimes. (Okay, my hub’band calls them creepy, not me). But, that’s the kind I wanted. I got a set that was bamboo, in fact, here’s the one, right here.

I did hang them up right away, and tried to be satisfied. My heart was saying, “metal clank”, not tiny hollow tube clink.

But, you know what? And here’s the really cool part –

As I was cutting up some carrots for supper, I had the window slightly open. I heard something – it sounded like a gentle rain falling. I looked out the window: no rain. I turned back to the carrots. I heard it again, only this time it sounded like rain, followed by wind blowing through a heavy, grassy field. I looked out the window again. Oh yeah – the new bamboo wind chimes.

As I chopped, and listened, my heart was won over, and I realized the preciousness of the gift. It was what my boys (hub’band and sons) could afford, without going into debt over $50 dollar “creepy” chimes. It was a beautiful sound, and one that was unexpected. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did – and to really embrace it almost so instantaneously.

I was honored by being humbled that day. The things I pick out for myself are not always what I’m meant to have. I could spin a few more words about that particular proverbial quote, but I will let each and every reader figure out what it means for them, today.

Is there something you desire and yearn for, or have in the past, that has gone awry — only to be replaced by an bigger, unexpected blessing in your life?

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All’s fair in love and … chocolate?

Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

I couldn’t resist switching up my posting routine this week just to hit Tuesday with a message about one of our favorite things:

Chocolate.

Equal Exchange Chocolate Lovers box

When you think of chocolate, you undoubtedly think about its creamy melt-in-your-mouth deliciousness. Dark chocolate, with a bazillion percent cacao. Good for your heart – riiiight? Yeah, that’s why we love it – its heart-qualities. I like milk chocolate, myself. Throw in a little toffee, or espresso, I’m a happy camper.The hub’and LOVES chocolate more than I ever have, even enough to buy something sort of resembling chocolate, called, “Two Buck Chock” at our neighborhood grocery store (which is entirely run by high school and college students, which means no one is really in charge, and is kind of a scary, scary place. Subject of a different post. I digress) Anywho– it was this gargantuan bar of “chocolate” of a questionable origin, taste, and quality. The price was cheap — and it tasted like the price.

But, we all like a good deal, don’t we? Would we like it so well if we knew the story behind that chocolate? How much are you willing to pay to help someone? How much would you pay to stop something unjust, if you could?

Chocolate’s history is quite interesting, with intrigue, mystery, and the pure delight we all know from the taste. Once equated with the food of the gods, and at times hidden for centuries from other countries who longed for its secrets, chocolate also has a dark past of child and forced labor, and unfair wages for those doing the work of cultivating, harvesting, and preparing the cacao beans. Cooperatives like Divine Chocolate have turned the land back to the farmers, letting them control the decisions, and earn the living wage they are entitled to.

When we learned more about the issues surrounding chocolate, we vowed to seek out better brands that we could in good conscience support. One we’ve found locally in Fargo is Green & Black’s, which we buy at Cashwise Foods.

This leads me to note that coffee, sugar, and even some fruits and vegetables *can* be labeled ‘fair trade’.

released Jan 2012 - the new fair trade certified logo.

A fair trade certified product ensures that those doing the work are getting the money — which in turn builds up their lives, their communities, and gives them a future.

If there is a fair trade alternative that can be had, challenge yourself to learn – what are the issues that would lead to such a designation? Is it an economic reason, an unjust labor practice, environmental issues, or all three? If a fair trade option exists, why would we support something UN-fair?

It does take time, it takes some energy and commitment, but our dollars can speak – let them speak with compassion for those who cultivate and care for the products we use and enjoy – and lets put the people behind them first – and not just put our appetite (even for something as delicious as chocolate) before the people.

Choose fair trade chocolate for your sweetie next Valentine’s Day – you will be sharing love with him/her, and also with people you may never meet, but are nonetheless unique and unrepeatable, just like your special Valentine.