make-believe: january sunshine.

January 10, 2018

January. Such a paradoxical month, isn’t it? At the same time that I’m raring to start fresh and forge ahead, I’m tempted to cozy up, hunker down, and nap through the duration. You too?

In the spirit of embracing both sides of the January coin, here’s a make-believe that makes room for a little bit of both. Dangly earrings alongside a cozy sweatshirt. A fresh calendar alongside a new novel. A pink tea and yellow pillows and a fluorescent pencil, cause we’ve got months to go before there are blossoms on the trees and a little bit of color might help us get to the other side.

A salmon-colored sweatshirt for a bit of rosy cheer.

simple calendar for making plans and a fluorescent pencil for ticking off days ’til spring.

A special foot scrub and incense for sloughing off and clearing out.

Bright yellow pillows for channeling the sun.

Golden earrings for feeling fancy while reading a novel from the comfort of bed.

A print magazine about a warmer place.

Warm tea for cold days and a glass tea pot for brewing it.

In an effort to ground all of this make-believing in something a bit more down to earth, here are a few things we might do to help folks in far greater need this January.:

To comfort a prisoner: Send a letter. Become a penpal with an LGBTQI prisoner through The Prisoner Correspondence Project. By starting correspondence with an incarcerated person, you can make a prisoner feel less isolated and more emotionally supported. The Prison Correspondence Project’s resource library provides important information about healthcare in prison, information about safe sex and HIV/AIDS, and resource guides for minorities like this guide for incarcerated Native Americans that can be printed and sent to incarcerated penpals. For more information on LGBTQI issues faced in prison, read Coming Out of Concrete Closets.

To support formerly and currently incarcerated women: Donate to organizations doing the hard work. Justice Now supports people in women’s prisons, working to end incarceration and gendered violence in the justice system. They provide legal advocacy services to incarcerated women in California, especially in support of women facing terminal illness and other medical crises. You can support their cause by donating here. For formerly incarcerated women re-entering society after imprisonment, A New Way of Life helps folks find permanent housing, enroll in educational and training programs, rebuild relationships with their children, and apply for jobs. You can donate to A New Way of Life right here.

To keep folks out of jail: Pay bail. The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund raises money that contributes to a “revolving community bail fund” to pay bail for New Yorkers. The inability to afford bail keeps people in jail as they are awaiting trial, whether they are guilty or not. In order be released from jail as they are awaiting trial, many plead guilty, harming families that are already struggling. When it comes down to it, this organization ensures that “the right to a fair trial is not dependent on your ability to pay bail.” To support this cause, donate here.

To stay informed: Open your laptop and turn on your radio. The Life Inside series by The Marshall Project, features first-person essays written by people who have first-hand experience in the criminal justice system, whether they are imprisoned or working with the imprisoned. Likewise, the podcast Ear Hustle shares “stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny and always honest” about life inside the American prison system.

Many thanks to Anna Jacobs for contributing editorial research for this post. 

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  • Reply Jess January 10, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    Erin, you manage to create the perfect blend of fantasy and reality, beauty and activism! Love this post and the resources you’ve shared.

  • Reply Kristy January 10, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the information! On the subject of helping the incarcerated, my friend, Amanda does amazing work running a women’s prison choir, Voices of Hope. Here is a link to her fundraising page, which also has a recording of the TEDx talk she gave about the choir.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm

      Amazing! Thanks so much for mentioning!

  • Reply Claire January 10, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Another great resources to support people who are incarcerated is the College Guild. It’s a correspondence class that inmates may enroll in, completing educational ‘units’ on myriad of subjects. The organization is volunteer-run and depends on volunteers to read the inmates’ units and offer insightful and constructive feedback. I’ve read units on and off (student life gets in the way of making a deeper commitment for the moment) and it’s an incredible project. Their motto is “respect reduces recidivism”

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 10, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply Madeleine N. January 10, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    What a beautiful balance here Erin! I’m considering becoming a penpal. Always grateful for this space, and especially enjoying the new spin you’ve put on this section.

    Also – I’m reading the book ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ and it made me think of you – both the writing and the subject.

  • Reply E January 10, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    I’m sorry. I love your blog. I do.
    Big fan.
    I even purchased your book.
    So I mean this with kindness…
    I really do…. but sometimes this make believe- even padded with social activism seems a tad pretentious.
    Listing a 170 dollar shirt while advocating for others seems a tad tongue in cheek.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 10, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      I love the chance to play around with shapes and colors of things made by folks who I admire, and I especially love an opportunity to ground that fantasy in something more down to earth. It’s tricky business to find a way to incorporate activism into a lifestyle blog and I’m not sure I always get it right, but I am trying.

      • Reply E January 10, 2018 at 9:26 pm

        I respect that. And you do have a wonderful eye.
        I apologize if it came off snarky.
        You are a person at the other end of this blog after all…
        You have a wonderful blog.
        Keep doing what you are doing. 🙂

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 10, 2018 at 9:30 pm

          Thanks so much.

    • Reply Sam January 10, 2018 at 10:28 pm

      Another perspective – the addition of activism to these make believe posts (I don’t think it was always included?) has made it more relevant to my budget. I really appreciate what I learn here about what it truly costs to produce things ethically and sustainably but I am not going to buy any of these items of clothing (I’m at the bottom of that ethical pyramid from a few posts back.) But I do donate, so adding in these thoughtful and well researched ideas of places to send my $ is helpful!

      • Reply E January 10, 2018 at 10:52 pm

        Good, well thought out point Sam.
        Erin does do a wonderful job of making people aware of organizations doing incredible things!
        I should have prefaced more by saying that I am a long time reader and lover of this blog.
        I could recommend it all day every day. 🙂

        But something about this post hit a weird/awkward chord for me. I can’t explain it.
        It felt odd to recommend something extravagant by most people’s standards and then back it up with a post about activism.
        That being said…
        When I reflect on my original post, at least Erin is bringing up these organizations for a greater good.
        Her intention is to make the world a better, kinder place…. but for me, the juxtaposition seemed off. May be better as two separate posts?
        I don’t know.

        However. You do make a fair point.

  • Reply A January 10, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Erin addresses these things genuinely and with an honesty and depth that doesn’t feel contrived. There’s also something to be said for someone who is in a place of comfort enough to buy a $170 sweater and be well aware of being privileged while still considering activism a way of life, and not just a bloggy buzzword. It is ingrained into her life down to the books she picks for her children. So to be honest and with respect, to admit to being an avid reader of her blog and not seeing that is puzzling. Erin, thank you for being one of the few people who do it right.

    • Reply E January 11, 2018 at 6:54 am

      I get what you mean A.
      I want to apologize if it came off as an attack to Erin personally. That certainly was not my intention.
      Something just felt “off” for me in this post. That’s all.
      Also “bloggy buzzword” is my new favorite phrase. 🙂

    • Reply Carly January 11, 2018 at 9:07 pm

      Did you happen to edit this article?
      Because criticism on a stand-alone article should be considered.

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 12, 2018 at 7:33 am

        Hi Carly, Not totally sure I’m gathering your meaning here!

        • Reply Carly January 12, 2018 at 11:43 am

          Hello Erin.
          My reply was address to “A”.

          • ERIN BOYLE January 12, 2018 at 11:47 am

            Oh, got it! I’m the editor of the post, so just checking in case you had a question!

  • Reply Joanne January 11, 2018 at 1:52 am

    This post is really fascinating and compelling, I’m definitely gonna give those podcasts a listen! Thank you for writing about such important and often overlooked subjects and stories. x

  • Reply Аnn January 11, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Let me ask you, in the United States used a written commitment or house arrest instead of collateral?
    I do not understand the logic of collecting money for bail – why bail out a person dangerous to society before bail or keep a person safe (if they are ready to release him on bail)?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 11, 2018 at 10:58 am

      Ann, please check out the work of the organization! They’re collecting bail money for folks who are awaiting release but who lack the financial wherewithal to pay their own bail. These aren’t folks who are dangerous to society. They’re folks who would be allowed to continue their daily lives if only they had the financial resources to pay their bail.

      • Reply Аnn January 11, 2018 at 11:47 am

        Of course I read it. As far as I understand, the money pledge with which they work is intended to ensure that people awaiting trial are at home, and not in prison. And the Foundation is struggling with the very practice of using collateral.
        I did not understand why bail is so often used. I thought that if a person is ready to be released before trial for a bail, then he is obviously not dangerous. Is it not enough in this case simply a written commitment to come to court?
        The Foundation does a great deal for society.
        I wanted to ask whether there are any other tools in the US to provide for coming to court, except for bail. After all, the pledge instrument, as a guarantee of participation in judicial consideration, must be replaced with something.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 11, 2018 at 11:59 am

          Got it. I can’t pretend to be expert in the criminal justice field, but as you can see, organizations like these are hard at work to help an inherently flawed system.

        • Reply Genevieve January 12, 2018 at 3:19 pm

          Ann, there’s actually a lot of work being done out there to help institute alternatives to cash bail, for some of the reasons you point out. If you search “bail reform” and your home state or city you may find one doing work in your area and there are nationwide reform efforts as well. They haven’t gotten too much traction so far. The bail industry is large and powerful. But we can hope and talk about it and contribute to the work.
          And thanks Erin for these links.

          • Аnn January 14, 2018 at 2:24 am

            Unfortunately, I can help this work only with donations, if it is convenient, since I live in another country.
            In this situation, as described on the Fund’s website, the work of these people is respected.


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