The Story behind the Stocking: Fabric in Hmong Culture

  A global mantel

A global mantel

Update, 10/16: This post is now live on Noonday’s blog, Flourish! I am honored to be a contributor this year. Click here to see all my writing on Flourish.

I often say that the beauty of Noonday’s products is on the surface as well as beneath it. Just like each of us, these treasures have outer beauty - clear in the designs that rival anything found in a trendy boutique - as well as inner beauty that comes from story, from culture, and from being made with love and with dignity.

Knowing the story enhances our appreciation of these pieces, which is refreshing as we push back against a culture that is all too materialistic. I know that the older I get, the more I want my possessions to be things that matter, that house connection, impact, and story beyond just looking nice as they adorn my body or my home. But in the case of artisan-made pieces like those from Noonday Collection, knowing the story is also something we owe the makers. Far beyond enriching our own experience, it honors them, reminding us to be grateful for what they share with us and humbled to now be a part of their story too.

The Journey of the Hmong Stocking

  Hien’s workshop was full of Hmong skirts waiting to be repurposed, and shelves full of finished items that we could purchase - which we gladly did.

Hien’s workshop was full of Hmong skirts waiting to be repurposed, and shelves full of finished items that we could purchase - which we gladly did.

The Hmong Stocking is a perfect example of this. Women in remote Hmong villages in northern Vietnam create fabric for the purpose of clothing their families. When their garments are worn out, they barter (they live a communal lifestyle and have no currency in these villages) and pass their clothing along to groups such as Hien’s seamstresses. Hien is one of Noonday’s artisan partners. Her workshop near Hanoi houses mountains of fabric waiting to be recycled into bags, stuffed animals, and more. As I shared in my post about our Ambassador trip to Vietnam, Hien had to let go of half her staff when a large buyer pulled out - which means we have an opportunity this holiday season to send more orders her way and support the growth of her business!

  I was thrilled that the purse I purchased from Hien complements the assorted stockings so well! The pillowcase they created showcases the variety of fabrics they work with.

I was thrilled that the purse I purchased from Hien complements the assorted stockings so well! The pillowcase they created showcases the variety of fabrics they work with.

Noonday has partnered with Hien to design this beautiful stocking. It comes in assorted fabrics, which adds a touch of whimsy and surprise. It’s a reminder of their handmade and recycled nature, and the journey the fabric took from the Vietnamese mountains to our mantels.

  During my visit with Hien (right). Mai (left) is from Au Lac Designs and translated for us.

During my visit with Hien (right). Mai (left) is from Au Lac Designs and translated for us.

  Hien’s employee, Lien, sews a zippered pouch. This job has provided her with steady work for over 8 years.

Hien’s employee, Lien, sews a zippered pouch. This job has provided her with steady work for over 8 years.

Hmong fabric: Global connections and cultural identity

Our trip to Vietnam did not include a visit to the remote villages where this fabric’s story begins; after all, we don’t partner directly with the Hmong women, but rather with the seamstresses who recycle their fabric. However, between talking with our partners in Vietnam, as well as my Hmong-American friends, the meaning of textiles in Hmong culture has captured me.

The history of the Hmong people was characterized by a nomadic lifestyle which has given way, in large part, to life as refugees or in isolated villages. They have historically been a marginalized minority group within China and then Vietnam, Burma, Thailand and Laos. They are among the poorest in Vietnam, where there are 54 recognized ethnic groups but the vast majority of people are from the Kinh ethnic group; only about 1% of the population in Vietnam is Hmong, a similar percentage to my home state of Wisconsin, where many have resettled. Their support of the United States during the Vietnam war led to worsening oppression that drove many out of the country, or into isolation within it, in the years that followed. Yet, in spite of the Hmong people’s lack of a central government and their ongoing oppression from those in power, they maintain a strong ethnic identity even as they’ve been pushed out and scattered throughout Southeast Asia and then across the globe.

  Hnub (right) and her sisters wearing traditional clothing for the Hmong New Year. Hers features the hand-stitched fabric she’d created as a child, along with silver jewelry, saved for New Year celebrations.

Hnub (right) and her sisters wearing traditional clothing for the Hmong New Year. Hers features the hand-stitched fabric she’d created as a child, along with silver jewelry, saved for New Year celebrations.

I see this in my friend Hnub (pronounced “new”), who left Laos as a baby when her family fled the Viet Cong to seek refuge in Thailand before settling in the US. Her pride in her ethnic identity has strengthened as she’s gotten older; in fact, she sits on the board of the Hmong Institute in Madison, to advocate for the flourishing of Hmong people in our community. I’m so grateful she helped me with this post, even inviting me over for a traditional meal to chat. As she fed me stir-fried chicken, a pork-broth soup, and loads of fresh bok choy from her garden, we discussed a crucial cultural marker for the Hmong people: their fabric, which is a tradition that persisted through her family’s displacement.

“In our culture, as young girls, we were taught how to stitch these fabrics. My mom taught me that if I wanted to have an outfit for the Hmong New Year, I had to make my own.” She described how she’d spend entire summers, starting at age seven, meticulously stitching her fabric.


  Hnub’s daughter during Hmong New Year

Hnub’s daughter during Hmong New Year

The Hmong fabric in Noonday’s stocking was not hand-stitched, but created on a foot loom, and was more for everyday use than reserved for special occasions like the technique Hnub describes. But, the theme remains: these are textiles made with love, featuring patterns unique to the Hmong people and, at times, indicating their clan. And in both cases, we see the fabric being about family and relationship.


According to Noonday’s partners in Vietnam, an NGO offered the Hmong women a chance to commercialize their craft for a broader audience. They even offered wider looms to make this happen. After all, this is entirely appropriate in many instances of working to empower people through job creation: in the nearby village of Bat Trang, for instance, businesses whose workers have traditionally created ceramics for a living can benefit greatly from connections to new markets through fair trade. (Their inaugural piece for Noonday is the Llama Tray from our new winter line.) Noonday’s partner in Peru needed new leather stitching machinery and technical training to improve production and execute complicated designs, and Noonday invested over $8500 to make it happen through our Flourishing World Initiative. This investment made the incredible Mossflower Weekender Bag possible - and, in turn, more employment opportunities in vulnerable areas.

But unlike those examples, the Hmong women at their looms have never seen their weaving as work, as something to earn a living from. For them, it’s about providing clothing for their loved ones, tradition, family, and socializing as they sit in a circle. And so they declined the well-intentioned offer of the looms that would enable them to create fabric in larger quantities for sale; you see, that would require them to sit further apart, unable to socialize as well.

Hnub nodded as I shared all this with her. “This is the thing about Hmong people and their culture: their fabric is not meant to be commercialized. It’s meant to be a tradition that’s between a mother and a daughter, that’s passed from generation to generation to generation. A skill and a trade that’s taught as a relationship between the two...the intent of Hmong clothing is not to be capitalized, because clothing is so entrenched in our culture, our way of being, our identity of who we are...it’s our narrative, something we’ve given to our children, our legacy, our history, our identity.”

Instead, a more appealing business arrangement arose: selling used clothing. Once they are done with their garments, they barter, on their own terms, for things they find valuable, such as new sewing materials, produce they don’t grow locally, or useful kitchen tools. In so doing, they offer groups like Hien’s the opportunity to innovate and re-purpose their beautiful fabric. In so doing, they invite you and me to enjoy their work in new ways.

  Also pictured: Velveteen Earrings, Turquoise; Parallel Ring; Ruffled Scarf

Also pictured: Velveteen Earrings, Turquoise; Parallel Ring; Ruffled Scarf

Only after their fabric has been handcrafted and worn with pride is it passed along for us to enjoy, knowing it first adorned a sister across the globe. As I shared with Hnub about this, she said, “that’s beautiful...that’s a different approach to capitalism.” What a great reminder of how important it is to listen well and not impose Western ideals of capitalism into well-intentioned efforts to empower. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to global empowerment; rather, the key is having a posture of listening and fully valuing others as partners, not projects.

A hello across the globe


Knowing the soul of this stunning, vibrant fabric is humbling. I don’t take it lightly that the women who created it at their foot looms invite me to enjoy their work and the rich tradition of their fabric. I don’t forget that the women who sewed it into its stocking form are able to live flourishing lives because of their jobs. And so it’s important that we credit those who created the stocking, just as it is important that it was created in a way that ensures their voices are fully valued and their pay is fair as they pass it along on its journey to you and me.

(Note - “Hmong” is pronounced using a silent H by all the Hmong people I know, although our partners in Vietnam tended to pronounce it with a hard “H.” When speaking of the ethnic group, I recommend keeping the H silent.)


Gift with Love

Don’t you love giving and receiving gifts that have story behind them? Don’t you love adorning yourself, or your walls or mantel, with pieces that are meaningful? Unsurprisingly, I’ve got you covered. Come explore our newest winter/holiday line - a lovely little collection of home decor, gift items starting at $14, ornaments, and more.

This is my third winter season with Noonday, and it’s the best yet, with a huge variety of styles and types of items. Why not put your wallet to work this holiday season, and spend in a way that is creating opportunity around the globe while creating a meaningful experience for your own celebrations? Everybody wins. Check out Noonday’s gift guide at my site, and scroll below for some of my highlights.

#1: Perfectly Cozy Scarves

As the weather cools, I’m obsessed with my Ruffled Scarf. It’s navy with a deep pink trim, and the perfect amount of feminine frill. We also get the return of last year’s super-popular Cozy Cables Zip Scarf, in the most perfect soft persimmon shade. Both of these feature an alpaca blend from Peru. Lean in close, Wisconsonites: alpacas know how to dress for the cold.

 Cozy Cables Zip Scarf photo credit: @abbiefosterchaffee

Cozy Cables Zip Scarf photo credit: @abbiefosterchaffee

 Also pictured: Bazaar Bells from India

Also pictured: Bazaar Bells from India

#2: A Global Mantel

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Let’s stay on Peru a moment. Hilos y Colores, the artisan group behind our Peruvian Pom Wreath, has created jobs for hundreds of women in the war-torn Ayacucho region. These jobs had centered on embroidery, but when they encountered women in need of jobs who were elderly and whose eyesight was too poor to execute the intricate designs, they decided to get creative. What work could they create for these women? Poms. They taught them to make poms, which are all over our incredible new wreath - which I hope will adorn your home all year round. What an amazing example of truly creating opportunity through understanding the needs of those in vulnerable communities. I so admire our artisan partners for their leadership and innovation that led to this design - and I’m thankful that people like you make their work possible by giving it a market in which to land.

Also featured in this photo is the Hmong Stocking, created from recycled, authentic Hmong clothing. Our partner group in Vietnam repurposes the clothing into all sorts of items, meaning this item creates income for those who made the fabric as well as the seamstresses who repurposed it. But the fabric isn’t created for commercial use - and I love knowing that it first adorned a sister across the globe before making its way to me. To see the whole beautiful story of what traditional fabric means to the Hmong people, check out my newest blog post on Flourish! Due to the recycled nature of these, they’re in assorted patterns (all with red and orange tones), reflecting the variety of patterns the Hmong women create.

Note that the lamps in this photo aren’t Noonday; I purchased them from a lantern shop in downtown Hanoi while visiting our artisan partners there in April! In fact, on that trip we got a sneak peek at the stocking as it was being made. What special, personal touches would you add to your own mantel?

#3: Impactful Gifts for All, starting at just $14

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Did you know every handmade Noonday item comes beautifully packaged and includes a card about those who created it? What a special way to honor your gift recipient and connect them to a bigger story.

Whether you’re giving the sophisticated Dainty Shapes Photo Holders to your brother, the Tapestry Journal to your niece who loves to sketch, or the Patina Ornaments to your kids’ teachers or clients you want to celebrate…I’ve got you covered. Check our my site for the full winter line, which includes great gifts starting at $14.

Who’s on your list?

Kindergarten for her...back to the office for me?

Well, the day has come. I’ve said for years - even since before having kids - that my Life Plan was to have kids, stay at home until they were both in school, and return to work, part-time perhaps, upon my youngest starting Kindergarten.

That day came last week when my daughter started school, so it’s time for some cute pictures and some reflections on this new season of motherhood I’m now embarking on.

Her Week

Let’s all pause a moment to take this in:

 First day of Kindergarten. The short necklace is Noonday’s Ethereal Necklace; click to shop.

First day of Kindergarten. The short necklace is Noonday’s Ethereal Necklace; click to shop.

And this…

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Okay, okay, if you insist: a couple more. Since the world deserves to know her preferred method for brushing her teeth and her triumph at rock climbing.

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C said all summer that she was super excited and a little nervous for school. But the morning arrived, and getting out of bed to face her first day of kindergarten - in a dual-language program, so half the day is in Spanish - was harder than we’d anticipated. She voiced some fears to me, and I suggested that she could wear a necklace of mine (you can see the shorter necklace in the first photo…hooray for vintage Noonday), so that if she felt scared or sad or lonely, she could touch it and know I’m thinking of her. She has been wearing it every day since.

Her fears come out of her heightened awareness, years ahead of her time, of social interactions and who’s friends with who and who’s excluding others. Her huge heart is such an asset, but was a source of overwhelm when going into this new space. Oh, how I long to bubble wrap her against all the unpleasantness she could encounter. But most of all, how I long to build up her resilience. When she came home saying a kid had said she was too skinny to be strong (what??), it was clear she was more indignant than hurt. When I reminded her that no one, ever, should comment on what they think is wrong with her body, her exasperated “I KNOW, Mom” showed me that I’ve hammered this home. And I’ll continue to do so.

She’s an avid reader, a great question-asker, a creative soul. A girl who loves wearing frilly pink while crossing the monkey bars like a boss. When she grows up, she wants to be a dancer, a singer, a Noonday Ambassador, and a Ninja Warrior.

His Week

T, who just entered second grade, doesn’t stop moving long enough for a good photo. I tried, y’all. But the first thing you should know about my boy is that he’s always moving, usually in an upward fashion: climbing doorways, or in this case, rocks. When he’s not climbing, he’s meticulously drawing ninja courses, thanks to the kids’ obsession with American Ninja Warrior. Both are hooked and love pretending they and their stuffed animals are on the show.

He wasn’t very nervous about school, and one thing that is a huge help is having the same classmates each year, thanks to being in the Dual Language Immersion program. He does have a new teacher to get used to, but she’s so lovely, and immediately won him over with her news that she is friends with one of the people on ANW. So, yeah she’s the coolest. And she is super fond of him. My gosh, is there anything better than knowing the people in your kids’ lives truly love them and treasure their relationship with them?

When he grows up, he wants to be an architect and a builder. In addition to ninja courses, he’s currently working on blueprints for an apartment complex that will include a pool that will include a big water slide. It will be in Florida, since somehow both kids have their minds set on moving to Florida when they grow up. He said he’ll send me pictures of construction and let me come visit to see the apartment when it’s complete. Thanks, kid.

Two Peas in a Pod

When they’re not at school, my kids are playing together pretty much non-stop. Instead of a thousand words, I will show you (you guessed it) a picture.

 Ninjas.

Ninjas.

My Week

 Pictured: Pirouette Earrings in red, Woven Dreams Bracelet (click to shop)

Pictured: Pirouette Earrings in red, Woven Dreams Bracelet (click to shop)

People have been asking me how I feel having both kids in school, and I’m not gonna lie: this was my face as I headed into long stretches of uninterrupted work. I mean, sure I miss them, but let’s be honest; I still see plenty of them. So being able to get work done, run errands easily, work out more consistently, and re-read the Harry Potter series (for the fifth time…maybe sixth?) is a beautiful thing.

It’s pretty surreal. For years, “Fall 2018” was this faraway concept, the point in time at which I would return from years at home with the kids and re-enter the working world, which, I assumed, meant an office job. Something related to insurance, risk management, or data analysis. It would be natural to return from whence I came, right?

Instead, my husband brought it up a few months ago as fall loomed nearer. He noted that even though we’d planned for me to return to an office job, he saw the joy and success I was finding in Noonday and wondered if this next phase would be a chance to move even further into that.

He knows me so well.

That is in fact what I’ve decided to do. In addition to evening trunk shows, I can pour more daytime hours than before into things like booking shows, writing, training, and my favorite, coaching my team, which is about to add its tenth member. This week alone, I had two meetings with new team members during the kids’ school hours to walk with them through their game plan as they gear up to launch their businesses. Coaching is my way of pouring into them, and of having a front row seat to an amazing phenomenon: collective impact through a supportive sisterhood. Coaching is how I can expand my impact even further, through not just having my own sales, but empowering others toward a business that blesses artisans around the globe and their own families at the same time. I knew when I started, when Noonday was nearly unheard of in my area, that I wanted to support growth for our artisan business partners through growing a team. Seeing them succeed and cheer each other on is truly a delight.

Of course, I started growing my business two years ago while having my youngest still at home with me full time - it can be done! But I now know that instead of being something I fit in here and there in those preschool years, to then evolve into a “side hustle” in addition to an office job, I am all-in on a career with Noonday Collection. This brings together everything I could want in a job: connection with awesome people, flexibility, being my own boss, income, impact, personal growth, leadership, a chance to be creative, global travel, and always having just the right accessories for every outfit. (I never knew that last one was part of my dream job description, but there ya go.)

And as I reflect on this, and how Noonday has fit into my life during two very different seasons, I also think of my new teammate who is recently retired. And ambassadors who work full-time jobs. There is no single story here; instead, we are women of all ages and stages, finding our way forward. Some have one show every couple of months, some have 10+ per month. Some coach, some don’t. We all work for a better world. If you want to know more about my team, how I coach, and a career with Noonday, see my page all about it here. There is a place for you here.

So there you have it. It’s been a big week around here - well, except for my husband, whose week was pretty much the same as always. And we’re all settling in, finding our place, and loving each other along the way.

Noonday for Kids: 10 Books that Connect

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I am so, so honored to have my writing featured on Noonday's blog, Flourish - and it's a post anyone with kids in their life will find useful! I rounded up ten of my favorite books for kids that are set in Noonday's partner countries (and many written by authors from those countries). And I'd gotten most of them from my local library! Take a look at this tiny glimpse of the vast world of global literature, and how it can help our kids (and us) see that the beauty, curiosity, sadness and joy all over the world all make up the rich tapestry of being human.
 

Read the post here - and see how beautiful these illustrations pair with the Noonday jewelry and accessories made in these countries!

Book Review: Imperfect Courage

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Let me tell you about the first time I met Jessica Honegger, the founder of Noonday Collection.

You see, I had started my business without ever having met another ambassador, let alone going to a trunk show. I slowly connected more with others, and especially with the vision Jessica laid out for us: sisterhood, collaboration over competition, and boldly stepping into our story and owning our voice. Through seeing her relationship with Jalia and other artisan leaders around the globe, I saw what Jo Saxton described to us as "partnership, not projects." The way Jalia regards Jessica shows that true friendship and mutual respect underlies Noonday's foundation story - as well as the way I want to regard others and characterize the message I bring through my voice. And their friendship, and parallel stories of owning their voices as leaders, has driven my own story - and now it's embedded in a book that takes this story and turns it on the reader.

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Starting my Noonday journey had been a step of courage. I saw myself as a sales failure. My chronic fatigue surely made it ridiculous to even consider starting a business. But I decided to start even though I didn't know how the whole journey would play out. I decided to listen to the voice inside me that said, "Go scared," instead of the voices that said "sit back down." That "yes" changed my life - and this community has kept me on a journey toward making courage a part of my everyday life.

So when I went to Noonday's conference for the first time, about a year into my journey, Jessica opened with an invitation to take her "courage quiz." As I took it, and saw my results, it hit me how far I've come. The results said what I intuitively knew: I am courageous, far more than in my pre-Noonday days.

And so when I met her that night, I just about burst into tears. I told her that my answers to the courage quiz were vastly different than they would have been 18 months earlier - and thanked her for creating a community that isn't just changing lives around the globe, but is changing lives right here at home.

I had the pleasure of traveling with Jessica to Vietnam just a few months later, where she made sure every one of us felt seen and included on the journey, and to Nashville after that, where she poured into 40 coaching leaders to encourage us forward.

And now that she's released her first book, here's what I need you to know: this book is very Jessica and very Noonday, but it is not about Jessica and Noonday. It is about you. Through her story of adoption, scrappy beginnings of what would become the biggest fair trade jewelry company in the world, body image struggles, and more...as well as stories of Jalia and other world-changers and changed lives she's met along the way... she takes specifics and makes them general and accessible to anyone interested in living a life of impact. 

And that's why I want you to get your hands on this book. In its pages, you'll find a gentle kick in the pants - or rather, a hand reaching out, beckoning you away from comfort and into a life where "going scared" is an everyday thing. You'll find inspiration to start with love and compassion for yourself, continue with seeking community where you can be vulnerable and find belonging, and finish with a life filled with compassion for all people - and a plan to step into your calling as you discern what exactly that will look like.

To anyone interested in entrepreneurship, impact, or courage, you'll find wisdom and inspiration to make your dreams a reality through a journey of self-love, community, active compassion, and going scared. 

I feel this book is an opportunity for those outside of Noonday's ambassador community to get a taste of the inspirational Kool-Aid we all drink every day, and experience a transformation like what I've found and continue to journey through.

And so my review of this book is intertwined with my own story of being gentle with myself while being bold to push myself to greater things. Of finding a place of belonging in collaborative spaces where intimidation could make me feel small, such as my time in Vietnam with "Noonday-famous" ambassadors who regularly top the sales lists. Of not comparing my Chapter 2 with someone else's Chapter 10. 

This book helps me continue my journey - and I want it to help you on yours as well.

What people are saying

An exec at International Justice Mission, a fashion CEO, an expert in bridgebuilding across racial lines, and Brene Brown, a leader in research on shame and vulnerability...these and more have weighed in. Scroll below to take a look!

 

How to order

This book is available wherever books are sold, as well as on Audible - but if you purchase it through a Noonday Collection trunk show in August, you'll get free shipping on your whole order! Need a show to shop? Go to bit.ly/NoondayForEveryDaughter and your purchase will also support local outreach to exploited and trafficked women here in the Madison area.



 

Noonday's Fall Line Favorites

If you've been around here for more than one or two posts, you know that there is one key place where I find an intersection of ethical business, empowering women, cherishing children, connection, leadership, writing, travel, sisterhood, trafficking prevention, poverty eradication, AND (as if that weren't enough!) beautiful fashion and fun. All of that comes together for me in my business as a Noonday Collection Ambassador.

So I will be unashamed about that thing we all shy away from: promotion. I won't mumble about it because it's not self-promotion, it's promotion of a movement. I can boldly say that when you show up and say yes - yes to shopping, yes to hosting, or yes to joining my team - you are adding beauty, story, connection, and impact to your life and those around you. I won't be ashamed because I know that my success is intertwined with the artisans' success. I take seriously my commitment to market on their behalf, and they deserve me shouting from the rooftops about the pieces they've created, inviting you to fall in love with them as much as I have.

And so this post is my standing ovation to the handmade pieces that I am so, so honored to share with you. Pieces made by the hands of those rising out of vulnerability and into flourishing. The artisans we partner with, and the entrepreneurs who lead them, are immensely talented - and all it takes to turn their talent into transformation is a marketplace. In other words - YOU.

So enjoy this little round-up of what's new and exciting in the world of Noonday and its artisan partners! Click any image to shop and learn more. Want more? This post is basically a written version of a trunk show - I have plenty more styling and storytelling where this came from. Book your in-person or online show today at juliegodshall.noonday@gmail.com to enjoy style, story, and impact with your friends while you earn Noonday!

1. Eldorado Necklace and Earrings

How it's made: I have never seen anything like the El Dorado pieces, made of capim dourado grass. This piece is from our newest partner group in the Jalapao region of Brazil, the only place in the world where this golden-colored grass grows. They harvest the grass, weave it into crafts, and replant the seed from every blade harvested.

Why it's beautiful: The golden shimmer of the Eldorado pieces adds a touch of bling, but since they're made of grass, these pieces also have an earthy feel. They'd be at home with a little black dress or a t-shirt. Plus, they're incredibly lightweight. Ever been intimidated by statement earrings? Give these a try; I seriously forget I have them on.

Why it's meaningful: Fabiana is the leader of this artisan group. Her background was as an architect, and she has a passion for environmental sustainability. She brought together her love of planet and design to make a career shift, creating artisanal jobs for single moms in her community. By providing orders to her group, you can help sustain these jobs. And there's more: the fact that Noonday has added on this partnership is a great thing. Why? Because our primary commitment is to our existing partners, ensuring that we are helping sustain their growth. We only add new groups, with great care and planning, when we are confident our market will support it. In other words: because women like you show up, there is space for groups like Fabiana's to join our existing partners and grace the pages of our Look Book. It's a sign of health for Noonday and its partners, whose success goes hand-in-hand.

 

2. Monterey Bag

How it's made: all our leather products are from animals not killed for their hide. Artisans in Agra, India use sustainable practices to tan and weave this bag.

Why it's beautiful: I mean, it doesn't get any better than a classic leather bag. The woven detail, tassels, and sheen of quality leather elevate this piece, which is in a "doctor bag" silhouette. While the Rustic Leather Tote is still my daily go-to bag when I need to carry my laptop, the Monterey will be a favorite when I crave a smaller cut that can still hold a lot and go with everything. Better yet, the paisley pattern inside can bring a smile to your face every time you open 'er up.

Why it's meaningful: India is our biggest partner country, with over 1,400 artisans across the country employed by Noonday's partner businesses. Anurag leads this group in Agra. We seek out groups that are committed to providing opportunity to the most vulnerable in their communities, especially women, who often face violence and discrimination in the workplace. Anurag ensures artisans receive profit sharing, credit and pay advances, education, health training, and more to improve their quality of life while promoting crafting traditions.

Model is also wearing the Dune Necklace from India.

 

3. Threaded Chain Choker

How it's made: bundles of silver and gold chains are brought together with a bolo-style tie and maroon tassel.

Why it's beautiful: this piece is at once delicate and impactful as it catches the light. Better yet, it's adjustable - so if you don't want to go all-in on the choker trend, this piece will work with any neckline, any mood, any time. Plus, the slinky chains are super comfortable against your skin.

Why it's meaningful: This is another piece from India, where Arun leads a group of artisans and ensures safe working conditions, equal pay for women, and more.

Model is also wearing the Kaleidoscope Earrings from Peru and the Darling Wrap Bracelet from India.

 

 

4. Alma Earrings

How it's made: the metal in this piece is from recycled oil drums which are cut and hammered to create jewelry. It's resourceful, it's creative, and it's earth-friendly. Maroon-colored threads are added for a fun flair.

Why it's beautiful: Noonday is no stranger to fringey crescent earrings from Haiti, which we've carried in several colors - but these darlings are in a smaller "midi" size, making them a more approachable and lightweight statement option. Smaller size, with all the flirty, fringey flair. And the color is just divine for fall.

Why it's meaningful: Click here to read about Renal, who lost his metalworking workshop and storefront in Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, he found work with our partner business, Haiti Design Co, and is now able to provide again for his family. He even restored a broken-down tap-tap truck to provide transportation for his kids and their neighbors to school. It's just one of many stories about artisans taking the opportunity they've been given, and passing it forward to others - which is exactly what I strive to do. Might these earrings inspire that in you too?

Also pictured: Plum Rope Necklace from Uganda and Woven Dreams Bracelet from Guatemala

 

5. Golden Arrows Necklace

No favorites list would be complete, for me, without a highlight from Vietnam. Ever since I first laid eyes on this piece in the workshop where it was made outside Hanoi, I was in love.

How it's made: ethically-sourced water buffalo horn has been recycled into crafts for 800 years. Click here for my detailed blog post about the Calypso Earrings, which are made using a very similar, multi-step process. The chevron-shaped horn pieces are paired with mixed metal from another group as they synergize and collaborate to execute this design.

Why it's beautiful: pendant-style necklaces are super wearable, and this chevron shape is classic as well as trending right now. Plus, I always love seeing different materials come together in one piece to add interest.

Why it's meaningful: in my blog post for Noonday about my trip to Vietnam, I described how innovation and collaboration are yielding pieces that are at once ancient and brand-new, which is exciting from a design perspective as well as an impact perspective: when ancient craft meets modern design and innovation, job opportunities grow. Furthermore, the fact that this is made from a natural material means each piece will truly be one of a kind, and a reminder of how this crafting tradition recycles and honors the animal so integral to its culture and agricultural economy.

Model is also wearing the Geo Necklaces (sold separately) from Vietnam, Echo Cuff from Vietnam (50% off in August with a $75 trunk show purchase), and Reflection Earrings from Peru.


An Invitation

I invite you to think about how these special designs can become a part of your life as you reach out to your sisters across the globe. Shop any time at my site. Host a show to expand your impact by sharing Noonday with your friends in a fun setting - and earn Noonday. (Remember - we do adoption fundraising shows, plus, if you're not local, we can partner to do an online show!) At a trunk show, I'll share similarly to above and bring to life these pieces and what makes them meaningful.

Or maybe the idea of earning an income through supporting artisan work intrigues you. You'd like to earn income with a flexible schedule, or a chance to travel the world, or to be part of a compassionate sisterhood. Maybe you'd like to challenge yourself to grow personally into entrepreneurship, or the sweet feeling of your accessories always being on point. Maybe it's all of the above! If so, I'd love to support your decision on joining as well as coach you toward success once you join! There is a place for you on my sweet, growing team of passionate, courageous, creative women. You can learn more at the button below - or better yet, set up a coffee or phone date so we can chat. Just shoot me a message at juliegodshall.noonday@gmail.com.

That's three ways to connect. Choose your adventure below!

Which will it be, world changer?

 me with Noonday's founder, Jessica Honegger, and the artisan behind the Golden Arrows Necklace, Calypso Earrings, and more

me with Noonday's founder, Jessica Honegger, and the artisan behind the Golden Arrows Necklace, Calypso Earrings, and more

Fighting Sexual Exploitation: Local Meets Global

I had the honor of meeting recently with Kayla, who founded a local non-profit ministry called Every Daughter. The purpose of Every Daughter is to provide outreach for sexually exploited and trafficked women in our area and to connect them to resources and programs that can support their exit from prostitution. A mutual friend had connected us and we immediately knew there could be beautiful synergy if we came together: the non-profit and the business; the local and the global; the opportunity for guests to participate in change through how they donate as well as how they spend.

Sexual exploitation is a problem everywhere. To better understand what it means, and the subset of "trafficking," see this excellent article from Exodus Cry.

Volunteers with Every Daughter build relationships with women and connect them with services in the community such as legal advocacy, medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, employment resources, peer support groups, and assistance to meet their basic needs. Every Daughter provides ongoing support and care for women through the ups and downs of the journey as they bravely step into a fresh chapter of their lives.

 Women Behind Noonday's Storyline Collection

Women Behind Noonday's Storyline Collection

This outreach reminds me of what Noonday's partner group in East Asia does, as they go into brothels to invite women out and into dignified work and job training. When Noonday placed its first order of their 10K gold plated accessories (collectively, the Storyline Collection), we provided over 1,500 days of work for the women they employ as well as support for the social programs provided such as educational training, housing, and childcare for the women. Now, thanks to women like you supporting our sisters across the globe, our partner was able to hire its first full-time outreach coordinator, to pour into women even more. To read more about this partner, click here.

 Cherry in Ethiopia

Cherry in Ethiopia

Every Daughter's work also reminds me of Cherry, whose heart for prostitutes in Addis Ababa grew into a beautiful organization, Ellilta Women at Risk. Ellilta provides skills training, counseling, education, childcare, and more. The beautiful jewelry they create for Noonday is made from upcycled bullets, transforming tools of destruction into tools of empowerment and beauty. Just like the metal, the women are experiencing a new chapter in their lives, proving that while their past is always a part of their story, it does not define them or limit what they can become. To see Noonday's collection of bullets-to-beads pieces, sourced from Ellilta as well as a group providing employment for people with HIV/AIDS, click here. Read more about Cherry here.

In addition to these groups that work directly with exploited women, all of Noonday's partners are in the fight to prevent exploitation simply by ensuring women are empowered and safe, and providing jobs that are helping sustain healthy families where all children are in school and have support for a bright future.

 

A New Collaboration


In an effort to fight sexual exploitation and trafficking on multiple fronts, Every Daughter and I are announcing a collaboration: Empowering Women Near and Far events, where guests are invited to support Every Daughter through donations while supporting Noonday's partner groups through purchasing. These events will be in homes, and will be a hybrid of a Noonday Collection Trunk Show and an educational fundraiser all about Every Daughter's work.

We are kicking off with an event on Sunday, August 26 in Sun Prairie. Guests will hear from Kayla about what Every Daughter does and how they can get involved. I will share Noonday's style and story, especially as it relates to women emerging from prostitution and violence and into flourishing. It will be an invitation to get involved in changing lives, near and far.

Click here to learn more about these events and how you can shop with local and global impact!

The Power (and Evolution) of Gathering

I've shared before that I'm a recovering sales failure.

Some of you knew me when I feebly attempted to sell with another company years ago. I never felt super comfortable, and concluded sales just wasn't for me. Meanwhile, I saw others dip their toe into direct sales only to be disappointed and fizzle out. And so when I joined Noonday, it was in spite of it being sales; I figured overcoming my past and my fears was a matter of prayer and guts, which I could do, for the sake of the artisan partners whose work I would be supporting. After all, the whole point of fair trade is growing opportunity through business, and sales is an essential part of making that happen. Someone's gotta do it, and it was a way for me to engage in the fair trade movement right in my own neighborhood.

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A year into this business I found myself in a room with other fair trade vendors who were in town for Madison's Fair Trade Holiday Festival. At this social mixer, another entrepreneur lit up when I said I was with Noonday. You see, Noonday is well-respected in the FT world for the impact and growth felt at our artisan partners. She didn't know how our sales model worked, though. How has Noonday been so impactful? she asked. I found myself enthusiastically claiming that dreaded, baggage-laden term - Direct Sales - because I believe it's a powerful model that is key to our growth - and, in turn, the artisan businesses' growth. 

That power lies in gathering and relationship, in hostesses and ambassadors. You see, not everyone seeks out a brick-and-mortar store or an online shop selling fair trade goods. But when a woman is invited to share a glass of wine and a fun evening with friends, she shows up - and there, she sees beautiful handmade items, and I have a platform for casting a vision to her in a way that's more relational than you would find in most sales models. A vision of using our spending money, not just our giving money, to create a better world. The vision that if we're buying a necklace or a handbag, it's amazing to know we can do so in a way that is impactful, that helps a mama feed her baby, helps bring economic independence to a woman in an abusive relationship, and more. The trunk show guest gets to not just shop, but enjoy a shopping experience.

When we gather, there is power. We gather at trunk shows around purpose and style. We gather around stories and friendship. We see gorgeous handiwork up-close, trying it on, playing with it, laughing, admiring, connecting across the globe and across the living room. We know that when that package arrives in the mail, it will contain something we can cherish, for its aesthetic beauty and the beauty that comes through story and impact.

Being right in the thick of this is one of the things I love most about my job. Embracing my role as not just the "sales lady" but the connector and storyteller has made all the difference in the world. It's shown me why direct sales, when it's a good fit, can be an amazing career option. I am honored to be in sales, showing off gorgeous pieces and engaging customers with this brand and this movement. I get to partner with a hostess so that together we can engage people in a powerful way. I love my hostesses, and seeing many of them host two or even three shows already shows that they find it to be a meaningful experience!

It's amazing that I went from joining *in spite of* this being a "sales" job, to embracing it with joy, maintaining energy and excitement that haven't waned, several dozen trunk shows in.

And now, my trunk shows will expand and evolve: starting July 1, we will begin offering online trunk shows! For local hostesses, I will continue emphasizing the in-person show, which just can't be beat. But having an online hosting option for those living afar will offer a way for them, too, to partner with me in creating impact.

The challenge, of course, is that in a live video I can't fully convey the beauty of the products, and we miss out on the all-important eye contact. But I'm ready to use the power of online tools to spread the word far and wide, and engage with you the best way I can!

And you know what? Whether a show is in person or online, there is one key component that makes it a success: the hostess. I don't take it lightly that a hostess is sharing her friends with me, trusting me to show them a fun and meaningful time. When she shares her excitement and engages her friends, across the kitchen island or through her computer screen, she is creating a space of belonging where something beautiful can happen. So beautiful, in fact, that the barrier of miles and screens can't stand in our way!

 photo: Jessica Honegger

photo: Jessica Honegger

If you've been to a trunk show, what was the experience like for you? If you've hosted, what made you say "yes"?

If you're local, will you share a few hours with me to create a marketplace for artisan business, have fun with friends, and earn Noonday? Do you wish to support an adoptive family with an adoption show? 

If you're not local, will you say "yes" to gathering friends online for a shopping experience with impact? Let's set a date!

Learn more about hosting here and contact me (juliegodshall.noonday@gmail.com) to get started!

Conscious Curation is the New Minimalism

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In a friend's living room a few months ago, I couldn't take my eyes off the huge photograph on her wall, depicting a bridge crossing to a foggy forest. It wasn't just the massive size of the canvas that caught my eye; somehow, I just knew there was a story to it.

So I asked my friend, thinking maybe it was a photograph she had taken, or was a place that was special to her. It was neither of these things (it was from Ikea) but there was a story there. The photo reminds her of her walk with God. As she walks her path of life, it can feel like she's on a wobbly bridge, and she can't clearly see what's ahead or how far it is - but she does know there is life there on the other side, trees rising in the fog, and she's emboldened to walk through fear and uncertainty because it will be worth it.

There were other things on her walls, too, that had a special meaning to her. Have you ever been in someone's home and sensed this too - sensed that everything there was chosen with care and love?

A few minutes later, we were chatting about ethical shopping and how it can mean so many things. She brought up minimalism, and I shared how I feel a bit torn: I like the idea of it in part, but are we bad minimalists when we want to buy things we don't need? That doesn't feel right. The quantity of decorations on her wall couldn't be considered minimal, but each was chosen with care. Is there not a place for things like a huge photograph with a special meaning, or items that truly bring us joy because of their beauty - particularly if we make an effort to purchase ethically made goods? Ever since our conversation, I've continued chewing on this.

We have all watched our society place far too much emphasis on our stuff. We all know that Americans use our stuff to find a sense of security, to feed our egos, to make us feel valuable, powerful, beautiful, enviable. And we abuse the planet and its people to feed the addiction.

In recent years, I'm glad to see us talking about these things. Many are pushing back against materialism, with very good reason. We're rejecting the way our stuff, it seems, degrades our souls, our values, and our planet. Rejecting the way we base our identity and our worth on what we own.

And yet. 

I, for one, find some strands of minimalism to fall a bit flat. I saw a graphic online once that said something along the lines of, "The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you."

Really? Is it really that simple? This seems to imply that our relationship with our surroundings is a mathematical equation. Apparently, bringing home a great pair of quality fair-trade shoes means compromising my soul - unless I discard another pair of shoes that very moment, you see, to maintain equilibrium.

I think the reason minimalism can fall flat is when it feel like it's still all about chasing a number. It feels like a ham-fisted reaction to the problem of materialism, that doesn't address the heart of the problem. Now, instead of trying to be the girl who owns 45 pairs of shoes, I'm supposed to strive to be the girl who owns 4 pairs. Oh, but wait! Mrs. Jones gets by with 3, and that makes me feel less-than; I'd better keep up with her. (See what I did there?) 

The problem with materialism is deeper than numbers, so the solution to materialism should be as well. What if instead of just chasing a new number, we chase something else - something I like to call Conscious Curation. You see, Conscious Curation is something I've felt intuitively for a while, except it always felt like it was just me being a "bad" minimalist. (Fortunately, Marie Kondo helped me develop a healthier understanding.)

**To be fair**, I think most minimalists are, like me, after more than just chasing a small number. So maybe it's mostly the name that bothers me. "Minimalism" feels very soul-less, like the goal is just having less, rather than emphasizing things like meaningful and ethical (which, if we achieve it, likely will give us "less" thrown in for free).

 A few of my purchases from Bat Trang, where artisans have produced hand-made ceramics for 1500 years (and, now, for Noonday). Like me, their beauty is more than just skin-deep.

A few of my purchases from Bat Trang, where artisans have produced hand-made ceramics for 1500 years (and, now, for Noonday). Like me, their beauty is more than just skin-deep.

I don't deny that our stuff can suck us dry. But what if, once we strip away all the vanity or insecurity or greed that motivates us to accumulate stuff, we find underneath the gunk that we are beings, made in the image of a creator God, who crave beauty and story around us that can come from (dare I say it) our stuff?

Under the vanity, I am a being who loves beauty: I engage my God-given senses. The part of my soul that enjoys the bloom and scent of a beautiful flower is also allowed to enjoy a beautiful painting on my wall, a sparkly bracelet adorning my wrist, or the beautiful comfort of the perfect blanket or bar of dark chocolate as they delight my senses.

Under the insecurity, I am a being who loves story: The part of my soul that fondly remembers baking cookies with my Nana or walking through the ancient ceramics market at Bat Trang in Vietnam, is also allowed to hang onto Nana's jewelry box and bring home beautiful ceramic bowls, which I don't *need* but I do want. They bring me joy and help connect me to those stories.

Under the greed, I am a being who appreciates creators: The part of my soul that admires God's handiwork is also allowed - even encouraged - to appreciate great human-made design, bring it into my home, and support and elevate this valuable work.

And so I try to practice Conscious Curation: curating, over time, a collection of belongings that I find useful or beautiful; putting thought into each purchase; defining beauty as aesthetic as well as derived from story and appreciation for creators; appreciating the value of having a few meaningful items rather than many meaningless ones, without obsessing over numbers; and doing all this in a way that is conscious of the way my belongings were created or acquired, to avoid exploitation of the planet and its people. What I'm describing is not idolatry of stuff, but it permits us to find joy in our stuff in a healthy way.

What if instead of chasing after either more or less, we instead chase after a consciously curated life, where the things we let in - our accessories, our home decor, the scents we smell - contain a deep beauty that speaks to us as humans? After all, if we do that, we'll likely end up with less anyway - but we'll do so in a way that deepens our connection with our purest, God-given wiring and our relationship to the world around us. And our belongings will be reflections of us: we are beautiful both inside and out, and they can be too.

Stay tuned for more on how Conscious Curation can create positive impact through fair trade, and what it looks like in my life!

6 Lessons from Vietnam on Entrepreneurship and Life

I was so honored to be chosen to create a one-time post for Noonday Collection's blog, Flourish, all about our trip to Vietnam. (And just this week, I was chosen to be a regular contributor for the next year, so you'll be seeing more of me there soon, posting about all kinds of things about life and impact!)

This post was a labor of love. How on earth could I distill thousands of moments, memories, laughs and lessons into one post? How could I express the talent I saw there, all we learned from our artisan partners, the fun we had, and how compelling this opportunity is for anyone wanting a career that offers global connection and impact through local influence?

So I got practical: I thought about how everything I experienced there pointed to a takeaway that I wanted to bring into my own life and business here, which means maybe you'll be inspired too. I distilled everything down into 6 practical lessons for me and for you. This trip wasn't a week away from reality, to be stored away to gather cobwebs in my mind; it informs my life going forward in tangible ways.

At Noonday, we always say things like "we are all connected," "we are better together," and "when we look across the globe, we don't see strangers; we see ourselves." So in that spirit, I invite you to experience Vietnam with me: the sights, the sounds, and most of all, the wisdom offered by our artisan partners who I so admire. Read on! And, HUGE thanks to everyone who ordered, hosted, and joined my team last year; you truly are impacting lives, and it's thanks to you that I was able to earn this opportunity.


 Continue reading to learn all about Mai's story

Continue reading to learn all about Mai's story

Across an ocean, across the supply chain, we piled into small workshops and lush courtyards to watch some of our favorite pieces come to life. In the Artisans, and on noisy streets and quiet beaches with friends, I encountered wisdom I want to emulate in my own business and life, and share with those I coach. And as our Artisan business partners commit so fiercely to their work, I’m compelled to step up in mine so that together we can grow this movement. I hope these six takeaways will inspire you along your own path too...

Continue reading here, and if you want to make a purchase with impact, see my site! (Photo credit: Caryn Noel)

Want to learn how you too can earn a trip to meet Noonday's artisans? Join my sweet and growing team of world-changers. There is more work to be done, plenty of room for you, and a unique opportunity to earn an income through flexible and meaningful work! Email me at juliegodshall.noonday@gmail.com and learn more here.

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What Hanoi motorbikes taught me about goals

The streets of Hanoi are filled with far more motorbikes than cars. Loaded down with all kinds of things - like produce to sell in the city - they come fast, honking freely, seemingly without much regard for things like, you know, stop lights and pedestrians.

 (Photo: Kristin Early)

(Photo: Kristin Early)

To a novice - like me, when my fellow Ambassadors and I were on a Cyclotour of the city - it’s miraculous there aren’t frequent accidents or dismemberment as motorbikes zoom through intersections. So crossing the street is daunting. But by the end of the week, we'd all generally figured out how it's done. One of my roommates from the trip, Michelle Woo, reflected on how the key is to plan your path and step into it boldly. If you hesitate or abruptly swerve along the way, you’ll just cause confusion and chaos (because, despite appearances, the motorbikes are watching what you do - and they anticipate you walking relatively straight). If you’re unsure of your path, you find someone experienced to stick with and learn from. (I *maybe* crossed streets a few times by quietly allowing a pack of locals to act as my shield. Maybe. I mean, who can say, really.)

This is like life, isn’t it? As Michelle pointed out, sometimes we have to “go scared” and stay focused on a path toward our goal, anticipating but not panicking at the noise, dangers, or setbacks that make us think maybe we're doing it all wrong. We have to learn from others. And we have to believe that a well-planned path to a worthy goal is worthwhile even if it's scary.

When I started this journey as a Noonday Ambassador in 2016, I wasn't thinking about earning a trip, ever. That seemed too much for me; it was something for those other women to do. You know, those women who had something I didn't have. So I set a more modest goal, in terms of the impact I could make in my first 90 days. I wouldn't have said it out loud, but I saw it as a trial period - because I didn't really believe I could succeed in this business. I am a direct sales failure, after all.

 It was an Ambassador Cyclotour parade!

It was an Ambassador Cyclotour parade!

Once I hit that 90-day goal, I started to crunch some numbers and chat with my husband: what if I could go for a trip? It seemed so scary. I could see dangers on the road ahead...and in fact, I did run into setbacks that made my business feel as noisy and chaotic as a Hanoi street at rush hour. Trunk shows that flopped. Giveaways that flopped. Fears that existed solely in my head but seemed valid nonetheless.

But I didn't have to cross this street alone. I had the support of so many who had gone before me, who could cheer me on and show how it's done. I'm so thankful for this community of women who cheer each other on.

And now I know that when we reach the other side of the street, we’re exhilarated, emboldened to do it again.

As someone who has overcome failures and fears to earn her first trip with Noonday, you’d better believe I’m exhilarated and aiming for another. And this time, I want to help others - like those I coach - find their path there too.

Are you curious about what a path with Noonday could look like? There could be a spot for you across the street at #noondayvietnam2019, where you too can meet the artisans, hang out with amazing Ambassadors (just sayin'), and see the world. We’ll cross with you.

 The wise and hilarious Michelle. She was an awesome roomie and one of many who have been on multiple trips with Noonday, but showed me I belong too.

The wise and hilarious Michelle. She was an awesome roomie and one of many who have been on multiple trips with Noonday, but showed me I belong too.

Whatever your big dream is, whatever the street is that you're trying to cross, where do you stand? Maybe you feel like you're in the middle of it, swerving, panicking, just seeing everything go wrong around you, unable to focus on the goal. Or maybe you're still standing on the sidewalk, hoping that a huge, gaping hole will open up so that crossing won't be so dang hard. If life is anything like Hanoi streets, then honey, it won't. You have to find the smartest way through the barriers, noise, and fears. You have to commit. And I promise you, getting to the other side is worth it.

 #nobigdeal (Photo: Laura Choy)

#nobigdeal (Photo: Laura Choy)

Handmade in Vietnam: Calypso Earrings

The week after returning from a whirlwind, life-giving, life-changing trip to Vietnam has been interesting. I was there with Noonday Collection, with our founder and other Ambassadors who earned this opportunity. We got to meet the artisans who create the pieces we love to share, and thank them. We had adventures and great food. Busy times shopping the noisy streets of Hanoi, and calm times gazing out at Ha Long Bay from the beach of our gorgeous resort. We learned about crafting culture in Vietnam and belted out Katy Perry at karaoke, and so on in that fashion.

But my return has been interesting for two reasons.

#1: My time there included information - and inspiration - overload. I came home with a million ideas floating around in my head, unorganized, unruly. I finally tamed them into a blog post that will soon be shared on Noonday's blog, so I'll be sure to post here when that's up!

#2: Jet lag. It's a thing. A 12-hour time difference, and total travel times exceeding 24 hours each way, are NO JOKE Y'ALL.

But as I continue to process all I learned, and let my body return to CST, I can tell you this: this is a movement across the globe, and I want to bring you into it. And what better place to start than Noonday's iconic Calypso Earrings, made of ethically sourced, recycled water buffalo horn.

 Calypso Earrings, Songbird Scarf, massive hat, swimsuit, breathtaking views of Ha Long Bay.

Calypso Earrings, Songbird Scarf, massive hat, swimsuit, breathtaking views of Ha Long Bay.

These earrings stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on them when I joined Noonday, and were one of the first samples I ordered. They've been top sellers for so many years: made with a natural material, bold but light, and inexpensive. What an honor it was to be part of the first group of Ambassadors to visit Lanh's workshop where the magic happens. You can read more about our impact in Vietnam, and Lanh's story, here.

 I always tell my customers about Lanh and other artisans. Now the tables turned as I shared with her about you, complete with a photo book. Several of us shared with her about the impact her group's products have made on our businesses, and how thankful we are for the opportunity to share them.

I always tell my customers about Lanh and other artisans. Now the tables turned as I shared with her about you, complete with a photo book. Several of us shared with her about the impact her group's products have made on our businesses, and how thankful we are for the opportunity to share them.

 #ruralvietnamlife (although chickens were spotted on the sidewalks of Hanoi, too)

#ruralvietnamlife (although chickens were spotted on the sidewalks of Hanoi, too)

After a bumpy, winding ride away from the heart of Hanoi, we walked to the place where the magic happens. This is in what's informally called the "horn village." Centuries ago, emperors established areas that would specialize in specific skills, to create beautiful crafts like what they saw in China. They brought in master craftsmen to establish artisan movements in Vietnam, and skills were handed down generation to generation, continuing today. As such, the horn village has been home to horn artisans for some 800 years.

For most of this history, horn was recycled into sculptures and serving tools for use in Buddhist pagodas. It's been a recent evolution to see other goods like jewelry, combs, trays, and salad tongs - all part of an effort to evolve the craft to reach a broader audience. Cultural preservation is a key principle of the Fair Trade Federation. And as we visited, I loved knowing that we've been invited into the story of preserving this ancient crafting tradition.

 What horn workshop would be complete without a mascot?

What horn workshop would be complete without a mascot?

There are millions of water buffalo in Vietnam. They're not killed for their horn; in fact, they're quite valuable alive, as they're essential in rice farming. But when a buffalo dies, the Vietnamese - who have a stronger culture of recycling than we do - desire to use as much of the animal as they can. It's a way to be resourceful, to provide income to the farming family who lost their animal, and to honor the buffalo.

And so it is that Lanh and other artisan groups obtain their raw material. Behold the mighty horn:

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 I had to. #sorrynotsorry

I had to. #sorrynotsorry

The horn is cut in half length-wise.

 Huong is from Au Lac Designs, who connects artisan groups like Lanh's to buyers like Noonday. She translated for us and described the process.

Huong is from Au Lac Designs, who connects artisan groups like Lanh's to buyers like Noonday. She translated for us and described the process.

Next, the horn is buffed and then dipped into hot oil and flattened between two metal plates.

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An artisan reviews these flattened pieces and, based on their color, determines which item each piece will become. She traces from a template so that the correct raw shape can be cut.

Next comes the most mesmerizing part. Although the process includes so many manual steps, a CAD-programmed cutting machine intricately and consistently cuts out the lace-like design.

 Starting to look familiar?

Starting to look familiar?

 They let me take home a leftover piece. So fun!

They let me take home a leftover piece. So fun!

Artisans buff these for a final touch...

...and finally, a matchmaker performs a final inspection and creates a perfect pair to send on to you.

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It was fitting to be in Vietnam leading up to Fashion Revolution Week, when activists are asking, who made my clothes? Who made my jewelry? After meeting Lanh and her employees, I can say that those who make our jewelry are part of a thriving crafting sector, thanks to Lanh's leadership and commitment to their well-being.

 Lanh, Jessica Honegger (Noonday's founder), and I joined the women who performed a final check on these beauties.

Lanh, Jessica Honegger (Noonday's founder), and I joined the women who performed a final check on these beauties.

To see these and more designs from Vietnam, head here (and don't forget to choose your hostess at check-out if you're shopping a trunk show).

Want to travel with us next year? I never would have known, when I started with Noonday in September 2016, that a year later I would earn a trip around the world. And this movement has room for you - in fact, we need you. We need to send more orders so more communities can flourish. And through it you'll find a space of belonging with us, and a meaningful way to earn extra income as we and our partners around the globe grow our businesses together. Learn more here and let's chat.

Ethical Business at 30,000 Feet

Something about impending air travel puts me into survival mode. And something about an impending 27+ hours of trans-oceanic air travel puts me into packing-for-a-month-in-the-wild mode - at least, when it comes to snacks. One of my projects lately, as I prepared to travel to Vietnam with Noonday, was to pare down my snack situation...because the list of snacks I feel like I *need* to bring really is a thing to behold. 

But as I did this, I started to notice a theme running through my snacks. And my clothes and more. A theme of brands with purpose. It's a theme I've been intentional about, but you know what? It never has really been that difficult to introduce into my life.

When it comes to buying more ethically, it doesn't have to be difficult. I'm a huge believer in taking small steps, as they come up in your life. Because if you do, you'll look around some day and realize that tweaking a brand here and a decision there adds up, and you'll be inspired to find more ways to infuse kindness into your everyday through more little changes.

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And here's a great way to explore brands you can trust: B Corps. The B Corp, or Benefit Corporation, certification probably isn't as familiar to you as Fair Trade, but I hope it will become widely known in the coming years. You see, B Corp is all about the power of business. We all have seen when businesses amass power in ways that are driven by greed, but I truly believe that when business is done right, it has immense power to change the world. And to quote the shoebox my new Dansko sandals came in, B Corps is "an organization that unites businesses who set high standards for social and environmental performance. It's good B'ing aligned with fellow leaders who have created profitable, competitive companies that also take good care of employees, the community and the environment." Business as it should be.

Gaining certification as a B Corp is a rigorous process, and those who can cut it have opened themselves up to transparency and proven themselves to be operating with social good at their heart. And this is good news for us consumers, because B Corp encompasses numerous industries - meaning the next time you need new glasses or office supplies or a travel agency, perhaps there's a B Corp for you.

I want to share with you some of my favorite B Corps that will be joining me on my journey - not to toot my own horn about all the brands I support, but to show you that a change here and a tweak there can add up over time to a big impact.

So, I now present to you: the B Corps companies that will be making my month-long safari - er, my 21 hours of air travel - and my stay in Vietnam a bit more comfortable, tasty, and stylish.

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Dansko - I had a pair of Dansko clogs over a decade ago that I just about lived in. I loved the arch support and they lasted for years. So when looking for some great, wear-all-day sandals for Vietnam, I fell in love with these red beauties, and the fact that Dansko is a B Corp. They have a foundation and support volunteer work for their employees, creating a beautiful picture of an ethical, for-profit company linking arms with the non-profit world to create change.

Warby Parker - I wear contacts most days, but absolutely not when flying - especially this time, when I might have a weird sleep schedule on the plane. Glasses are key and I was due for new ones last month. I was thrilled to learn I could buy my new glasses from a B Corp! Warby Parker has super stylish frames, a simple try-at-home program (with a quiz to help you decide which frames to try), and a commitment to provide glasses to people in need, thereby increasing their productivity and income.

Noonday Collection - Obviously, this is far and away my favorite B Corp, which is why I joined! While our Fair Trade certification speaks to how our products are produced and our relationship with our artisan partners, our B Corp certification speaks to other aspects of operations: how Noonday's own employees are treated, how we make decisions, and more. In addition to awesome jewelry, I'll be bringing along my favorite work-horse bag, the Rustic Leather Tote, and the Songbird Scarf, which I can compactly fit in the bag and then throw over my bare shoulders when entering a temple or feeling a bit chilly.

Beautycounter - My Beautycounter pouch will be filled with some favorites from this company, like their cheek color, hand cream, and charcoal cleansing bar, which will be so refreshing for a quick clean-up during my layover in Seoul. Beautycounter's message is all about transparency, and I love their emphasis on education, so everyone can learn to care for themselves with clean and safe ingredients. Plus, they're a fellow direct sales company, which means they provide the opportunity for entrepreneurs to run their own flexible businesses and earn an income as part of a well-established brand, which I think is pretty great. Shop with your consultant, and if you don't have one, click below - my friend and fellow Noonday Ambassador Hannah will take great care of you.

Dang Foods - Dang makes incredible coconut chips. I may bring these as-is, or turn them into a little snack mix with some chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Numi Tea - Numi empowers their farming communities and helps bring clean drinking water to them. Their Honeybush tea is one of my favorites of all time, and they also have a great Jasmine Pu-Erh. Being on a plane makes me crave my creature comforts, so I always pack a tea bag or two to steep in some hot water. (Edit: Did I say one or two? That's cute. I just counted and I have set aside no fewer than 13 tea bags, in several flavors, for a 10-day trip. Get a grip, Julie. I'm pretty sure they will have tea in Vietnam.)

Patagonia - although many of my clothes for the trip are from a great consignment store, I'm bringing along an athletic top from Patagonia, in case a group of us ends up taking a hike. Patagonia emphasizes buying quality pieces (this top has lasted a couple of years already) and taking care of them. Many of their product lines are Fair Trade, and they're heavily involved in environmental activism.

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of my Ethical Shopping Guide below, which covers lots of brands I love and includes some referral codes for you!

Want to follow along on my journey to Vietnam? Be sure to join my Insiders group on Facebook and follow me on Instagram!

What are your favorite ways to bring some joy into a long day of air travel?

 

Tired Girl Blogging

I guess I'm a writer.

My fourth grade English teacher, Mrs. Haywood, told me so, after all. "Julie," she said, "never stop writing." She also happened to teach our math class, so hopefully she'd be pleased to know I majored in math and continued to get my Master's. And yet here I am, writing. I fell in love with math in the eighth grade and never looked back until grad school (that's another story for another time), then went down the route of actuary then internal auditor then risk manager then SAHM then children's ministry then sales, and now I'm combining sales with something I'm realizing I've always craved: writing. (That's a whole, whole lot of other stories for other times.)

But somewhere in all that, I got tired. I don't just mean "I'm not a young adult anymore" tired, or "well, I'm a mom so of course I'm tired haha" tired. I mean autoimmune disease and adrenal fatigue. I mean the kind of tired that, some days, makes me have to seriously psych myself up to make a PB&J for my kids, and the kind of anxiety that makes me want to hide under a blanket because I feel paralyzed by the need to make even a simple decision on something. To make things worse, this kind of tired looks an awful lot like laziness, so brings on an awful lot of shame.

Yet, a couple years into getting help with all of this, I did something I never would have dreamed of when I was at my worst, and which was still a bit surprising - or foolish - considering how tired and NOT put together I still felt. I started a business with Noonday Collection. My role is focused on empowering people in vulnerable communities through fair trade, so I can make an impact while having a platform for sharing something I care about.

And now I want to share what that "yes" taught me about myself.

You see, when I started, I didn't know how I'd pull this off. But sometimes God shows you your Why before he shows you the What, and shows you the What before he shows you the How. Sometimes faith means taking just the next step, trusting that the ones beyond that will fall into place.

In Genesis 12, God tells Abram his Why and What: God will bless all nations through Abram's family by making him into a great nation. But he says to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you." Abram doesn't know the exact spot to settle. He surely doesn't know he'll be waiting another couple of decades before that kinda important procreating step would begin. The How is hazy, but the next step is clear and is all he needs to step into his story: pack up and go.

My Why started a few years prior to starting my business, when I felt drawn to the intersecting issues of human trafficking, global poverty, and ethical consumption. My family changed how we spent money and our relationship with our stuff. I felt strongly that there is so much untapped potential in our society for us to be engaging this conversation more, to be putting our wallets to work for a better world. I had no idea What I would do to lend my time or skills to that space, and being an extra-tired mama home with babies made me feel pretty okay with just entering a period of discernment about it. I assumed I'd get my health in order and get both kids sent off to school and have an effortlessly clean and calm house and then sit down one day, crack my knuckles, and begin some kind of new role. But instead, I heard about Noonday Collection in the thick of tiredness and busyness and a light bulb went off: this was what I'd been praying toward for years. Of course, this happened when I was still two years away from having both kids in school, and I assure you my house was not (and still is not) in order, ever. My health, while better than it had been a couple years before, was not (and still is not) in order. I didn't know how I'd carve out the time or manage my limited tank of energy. But when I couldn't stop thinking about Noonday, I realized that if I waited until I knew exactly how I'd make it all work, I would never say yes. I realized that although there's often a need for more "nos" in our life, we have to pay attention when we feel a tug toward a yes that truly matters to us.

How many times do we stay on the sidelines because we're waiting for a perfect moment that may never come?

I dove on in, and found that even with limited energy and time, I could make it all work (close enough, anyway). So now I'm a tired girl who has a business she adores that creates impact and allows her to travel the world, instead of a tired girl pining after impact, community, and adventure she thinks she's disqualified from. I'll take it.

And as time has gone on, I've felt a tugging again, one that never entirely went away after Mrs. Haywood's class. A tugging toward writing more. And it reminds me of how I said yes before, even though it might not have seemed reasonable at the time.

Do I have the How nailed down? Nope. I don't yet have a shiny, perfect content creation calendar all planned out for the next six months. I don't even know how frequently I'll blog, or exactly about what, or whether more than one or two people will read it (hi, Mom! Miss you!). But stepping into my story at Noonday has emboldened me to keep saying yes to the right things. The community of women has emboldened me, with our founder, Jessica Honegger, at the helm. She often says "courage corners you," and that's exactly how I've felt. Taking a new step still can feel scary, but it also feels doable, because now I know that if I have a What that aligns with my Why, I will figure out the How as I go - or at least fumble my way through something meaningful and joyful.

Let's not leave impact, joy, creativity, and entrepreneurship to those people who wake up full of energy every day, or who are super organized, or who have the right education, or whatever lies we may tell ourselves. Let's shuffle our way in to join them, coffee in hand, one step at a time.

What do you need to say "yes" to?