The Power of My Family in My Life

It’s Father’s Day.

Cue up the dad jokes!

Why did the Clydesdale give the pony a glass of water? Because he was a little horse!

HAHAHA!!!

Now that I got that out of the way, family is foremost on my mind today, so I want to share with you some of the most powerful moments I have shared with my family—my parents, two sisters, and two brothers—where they have let me know everything is all right and, when the chips are down, they are the rock I stand on.

That time I totaled a car and Mom let me sleep in bed with her. When I was 18, I got into a car accident (my fault) that totaled the other driver’s car. My father was out of town and I was freaking out how mad he would be. My mom told me, over, and over, things would be OK. Being an anxious person, I couldn’t get it into my head. So Mom did something I hadn’t done in years—she let me sleep in her bed, let me cry out my fears, and somehow managed to assure me things would work out. And they did.

That time I was hospitalized in France and my parents were right there. I was 23 and got appendicitis in Paris. My appendix ruptured and I got a blood infection. By the grace of God my parents were already there on a scheduled vacation. Well, their vacay was cut short as they spent the next 10 days with me as I struggled to get my health back. Even though they don’t speak French and didn’t really know what was going on, I never would’ve made it out of their with their comfort and care.

That time my siblings helped me furnish an apartment after I left the convent. After I left the convent, I lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment near where I worked. I had used furniture I managed to cobble together from different places, but I needed sheets, pots, pans, cleaning supplies, etc. That’s where my sibs came in. They pooled their resources to buy me a card to cheer me up and a Target gift card so I could buy the basic necessities. They didn’t have to do that, but it was certainly the most thoughtful gesture. I still have the card and it makes me smile every time I read it.

That time I had a nervous breakdown and had to be institutionalized. Long story short, I was living in another state and I had myself committed to a mental hospital for suicidal ideation. My parents dropped everything to come take care of my cat, get me out of the hospital, and stayed with me until I was well enough to look after myself. That was a very dark time in my life, and it was only my family looking out for me that got me through that very scary time.

That time I lost my job and practically moved in with my folks. I lost my job last summer, and my family saved me from being home alone, freaking out about the future. My sisters invited me over to watch TV to take my mind off things. My brothers took me to movies to cheer me up. I went over to dinner at my parents’ place five days a week. During all that time, they let me laugh, cry, share my frustrations, and were the first to celebrate with me when I got the job. They helped me more than they will ever know, nor will they ever know the depth of my gratitude.

So today, stop and think about your family—biological, adopted, friends, pets, or anyone else close to your heart. Remember how they helped you in the rough spots. And cherish the time you spend with them.

How has your family impacted your life for the better? Comment below!

Why You Need to Maintain Long-Distance Friendships

I am in the process of losing my best friend from elementary school.

Just writing that is a punch to the gut.

I’ve known this woman since 1985. Though we haven’t lived in the same town in fifteen years, we have seen each other through high school, college, job changes, moves, countless boyfriends, a husband (her), a kid (her again), a nasty divorce (still her), and medical problems. But we always maintained a strong friendship and have been there for one another.

That is, until her divorce was finalized. Then she vanished.

I know where she is, but between her work, her kid, and her new boyfriend, maintaining contact with me has been put at the bottom of her list.

The way bottom of the list, somewhere next to scheduling a root canal and doing her taxes.

I might sound like a whiner when I say it’s not fair. But it isn’t. I listened to her cry on the phone, vent, yell about her ex, and I invested my time to be there for her while she was in the process of getting a divorce. But when she found a new sweetie and the divorce was finally over, she ghosted on me. I call or text to see how she’s doing, I never hear from her. No Facebook, no Skype. Nothing.

I finally told her how I felt completely left out and that our friendship is dying. I don’t know what the next chapter of our friendship is—or even if there will be one—but I do know why it is critical to maintain relationships with your friends, even if they live in other states or countries.

Life is too short to dump someone you’ve been friends with for years. Unless the relationship is toxic/abusive or the “friend” is an emotional drain, why would you not cultivate your long-distance friendships? What good does it do to cut people you love out of your life?

Few people understand you like your best friend. Yeah, your significant other and/or family know a lot about you. A lot. But if you’re like me, your best friend knows the darkest side of you, and still loves and accepts you for who you are. That I something that is so rare and special, you owe it to yourself to maintain the friendship bonds.

You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends. There is something so unique about friendship. Of the 7 billion people on the planet, you picked this special someone to walk arm in arm with in this thing called life. Your close friends who live far away may not physically be there, but they are the special people who choose to love you and will do whatever it takes to be there for you.

A little communication goes a long way. It really doesn’t take much to tell someone you’re thinking of them. A Facebook message, a text, a phone call, even a card. Don’t be like my friend—invest five minutes of time into someone you haven’t talked to in months. You will reap rewards that pay off in years to come.

Friends come in handy when you travel. One of the greatest pleasures in life is traveling to visit friends in different cities. Not only can you score a free place to stay, but they will show you all the local great local sites not mentioned in the tour guides.

Life happens. This is the biggest thing. When the chips are down and you need a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, or you just need the comfort of knowing someone cares, that’s where friends play the biggest part. Think about the last time a friend offered support or helped you solve a problem.

Seriously, where would we be without friends?

Take some time to think if there is a friend you have been neglecting. What can you do today to let them know you are thinking of them? Pick up the phone and call or message them. I promise you won’t regret it!

Who is your best friend in the world, and why do you love them? Comment below!

How Wearing Masks Is Stopping You from Living a Full Life

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Phantom of the Opera super-nerd. One of my favorite lines comes from the beginning of Act II:

Masquerade…

Paper faces on parade

Masquerade…

Hide your face

So the world

Will never find you…

Think about those lyrics, and I’m not talking about fancy-dress balls. I mean masks you wear to protect yourself and your true identity. How many different masks do you wear every day? Are you shyer, more complacent, more self-conscious, more cautious, than you want to be?

Today I want to talk about the different masks we wear as women, and why we need to take them off in order to live our very best life. Because if we go through life too cautiously, our lives will be very empty and unfulfilled.

Are you holding yourself back from deepening relationships?

There is probably someone in your life that you want to see more of. Maybe there is a coworker you want to invite out to lunch. Or the cute neighbor you see every day who you want to ask out for coffee. But for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to say what is really on your mind or take that first step. You hide behind the mask of shyness, of keeping the status quo.

What are you accomplishing by not letting more people into your life? What can be gained by pining for someone from afar, thinking about what might have been, and not enriching your social circle? Take off the mask, be brave for 20 seconds, and ask that person out to lunch or for coffee. The WORST thing that can happen is that you get a “no.” And is that really the end of the world?

Is there a problem you know how to solve?

You’re in a meeting, people are trying to solve a problem, and you might have a solution, but you don’t want to look stupid. Or you may feel passionate about a cause, but don’t know how to get involved or you don’t want to offend anyone. The mask of self-assurance prevents you from helping people – not getting involved is easy. And safe.

But you have the power to make a difference. It takes 20 seconds of courage to volunteer an idea. A little more courage to find a group to connect with about the cause you care so much about. Take off the mask of keeping up appearances. Allow yourself to be vulnerable for the sake of others. 

Are you preventing yourself from living your best life?

Maybe your job has golden handcuffs – the pay and benefits are good, but the work is unsatisfying. Or you want to explore changing careers or starting a business. Or you have always wanted to live in one part of the country (or world) and never had the courage to move. Or maybe you want to try a different church, but never had the guts to try. The mask of comfort keeps you from making radical changes in your life.

This is probably the hardest mask to take off because as single women, we have a very real need to feel secure. We are the sole breadwinners, after all. But think to a time in your life – there had to be at least one time – when you made a drastic change, and it was for the better.

Getting that new job. Making that move. Dumping that lousy boyfriend.

How much better was your life after that? How did you summon up the courage to do it?

You owe it to yourself to take off the mask of complacency and make a plan. You have had it in you before, and you can do it again.

I know it is hard to take off the masks and step outside the status quo. But what would be possible if you were your best, authentic self? What would be possible if you stopped hiding your face and the world actually found you?

What was one time you had to step outside your comfort zone to improve your life, or someone close to you? Comment below!

An Interview with the Curvy Fashionista, Marie Denee

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to bring you this interview from Marie Denee, aka the Curvy Fashionista. With over 550,000 Facebook  and 64,000 Instagram followers, there is absolutely no doubt that she is the biggest plus-size fashion blogger in the United States.

Since she launched her blog in December 2008, Marie has been at the forefront of all trends curvy and fashionable. Her blog and vlog serve up fresh helpings of the newest and greatest in plus-sized fashion, and the Plus One Woman sat down with the Atlanta-based blogger to get her insights on classy and trendy pieces. Enjoy!

  1. Not counting nightwear/underwear/loungewear or accessories, what are three things every woman should have in her closet or her dresser drawer?

Ohhh this is fun! I think that she should have an amazing Little Black Dress that she can dress up or down, that allows her confidence to beam through! A kickass pair of jeans. Ones that make you booty feel and look amazing, that do not cut off circulation, and that can be worn in more than a few ways… versatility is key here. The last? A go to wow or hero piece. This can be an amazing blazer, unique blouse, or sexy skirt. Basically, something other than the staples that immediately brings life to an outfit, gives you that extra boost of confidence and attitude!

  1. If a woman usually sticks to the classics, how would you advise her to add some trendy items into her rotation?

Play with accessories! Bring color into your handbags, get a little daring with your shoes, layer on the bangles! Basically, it is all about accessorize to maximize! To take it up a notch, try a different or new blouse print or silhouette with your trusty skirt or slacks. Pair your favorite blazer with a bold printed or full skirt. Here, it is all about i moderation, and when you step out of your box, it is best to do so in baby steps or with items that still make you feel amazing!

  1. What are two pieces you believe in paying a little more for, and why? (For example, I will happily pay more than $100 for shoes because my feet are awful, and I usually buy expensive jeans because my Silvers last for YEARS!).

Ohhh I do love my Silver jeans and do agree on the quality and how long they last! For me, I would say a blazer and slacks. If these two items serve as a foundation for your wardrobe, you will wear them a bit more frequently than others. It is important that the integrity of the garment will hold up to your daily wear- armholes, buttons, thigh friction… you know what I mean! I have found if I spend a little more on these staples, they give my wardrobe a longer shelf life!

To find out more about the Curvy Fashionista, click here!

Photo credit: http://thecurvyfashionista.com/2016/11/christian-omeshun-holiday-collection/

Why Mae West Was a Trailblazer and a Badass

Many people have heard the name Mae West, but very few people know much about her outside of her blonde bombshell image and her classic one-liners like, “Come up and see me sometime.”

Beneath the platinum blonde hair and super-tweezed eyebrows, did you have any idea that Mae was a Hollywood pioneer, one of the first unconventional sex symbols, a shrewd businesswoman, an ex-con, and made movies clear up to the age of 85?

She was, and this week’s blog is dedicated to a strong, single, curvy Mae West, who was the highest-paid woman in the world and led a life few know about.

Not deemed a “classic beauty,” she knew how to work it. Only 5’0”, Mae wore six-to-nine-inch heels (depending on the source). That gave her her signature hip “wiggle.” While women like Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, and Greta Garbo had willowy figures and smoldering gazes, Mae West was curvy and brash. She sang, she danced, and her one-line zingers were full of double entendres that she used from her old vaudeville days. She knew what looked good on her, and she never complained when she was literally sewn into every costume she wore.

She was a convicted felon, and she used that to her advantage. In 1926, Mae was arrested for writing, producing, and starring in a play in New York simply called Sex. Censors called on her to stop. She refused and was convicted of producing an immoral theatrical performance. She was given the choice of a $500 fine (about $6,800 today) or 10 days in jail. Shocking her family and fans, she chose jail time. She wanted the publicity and she was genuinely curious about prison life.

She had an atypical experience – she insisted on wearing her own silk undergarments, claiming she was allergic to the prison-issued undies. She also dined with the warden every night and was given VIP treatment by her fellow inmates. She recounted the her jail time with fondness in later interviews, and despite being a felon, she left jail more popular than ever, and people lined up around the block to see the latest plays she wrote and produced.

She played the Hollywood game – a man’s world – on her terms. And won. Mae starred in her first movie at the relatively late age of 39. She negotiated her own contracts and had a lot of leverage in rewriting the scripts she was sent.

She didn’t flinch even when confronted with a scandal – her husband (who she married at age 18 and while they never lived together, they never divorced) tried to extort her for thousands of dollars. This was at the height of her career in 1937. Mae refused to give into his blackmail, since her husband had remarried, making him a bigamist. She finally divorced him in 1943.

Mae was sexually liberated at a time women were supposed to conform. Her easy, breezy sexiness was never crude, with no swearing, just lots of bawdy jokes to keep audiences wanting more and declaring sexual liberation before that was even a thing.

Despite having only a third-grade education, she was smart and savvy. Mae wrote many of her own plays she performed in New York before she moved to L.A. in 1932. She drew on her experience from vaudeville and stock theater, and she knew how to write plays audiences loved. It wasn’t Shakespeare, but it was about sexually liberated women who fought for them men they loved, or they knew when to cut their losses and run.

She also wanted to learn everything she could about the business of filmmaking. Mae spent countless hours learning about lighting, camera angles, editing, and other aspects of film production at a time few women did.

Mae mostly retired from acting in the early 1940s, but her money wasn’t idle. She was a real estate investor, and she knew exactly where to buy land in the booming southern California real estate market, and that made her more money than she ever earned at the box office.

She took care of everyone she loved. Mae’s beloved mother died before her Hollywood career, but she brought her father, brother, and sister out to California with her. Her father had retired from being a private investigator, and Mae ensured he was financially independent, which was a rarity during the Great Depression. She got bit acting parts for her brother, Jack. When that didn’t pan out, she bought a ranch so he could train horses. Their sister lived there, too.

Though she never drove, she bought herself a new limo every year. She gave the old ones anonymously to local convents.

She also remembered her staff very generously in her will when she died in 1980 at the age of 87. She had a very small inner circle, but she loved her peeps and ensured they were cared for.

So many memorable quotes.

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”

“To err is human, but it feels divine.”

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

“I’m no model lady. A model is just an imitation of the real thing.”

“Cultivate your curves – they may be dangerous, but they won’t be avoided.”

“I believe it is better to be looked over than it is to be overlooked.”

“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”

“I didn’t discover curves, I only uncovered them.”

“It’s not the men in my life that count, it’s the life in my men.”

“I’ve been things and seen places.”

I hope this short blog entry gives you an idea of what a badass Mae West was. She was so much more than diamonds and one-liners. She was a playwright, producer, unconventional sex symbol, screenwriter, and real estate investor. She shattered glass ceilings and her legacy is felt in Hollywood to this day.

Who is your favorite old-timey Hollywood actress, and why? Comment below!

Can We Talk about Ashley Graham Posing Nude?

OK, I’m going out on a limb here.

I don’t care when celebs take off their clothes.

For example, there was recently a kerfuffle when Emma Watson posed almost topless in a Vanity Fair article while she was doing press for Beauty & the Beast.

“She’s a feminist! How dare she pose in nothing but a (very) chunky knit sweater!”

Honestly, I don’t care. Posing for a national magazine not wearing much? Wouldn’t do it myself, but live and let live.

However, Ashley Graham posing nude in the latest issue of magazine actually got me pretty excited. (WARNING: Clicking on the link will take you to naked pics of her. You have been warned.)

The purpose of the interview was to plug her new book, A New Model: What Confident, Beauty and Power Really Look Like. The article, written by Diana Ross’ daughter Tracee Ellis Ross, is a little confusing, rambling, and a bit too focused on the interviewer (Ross), and not enough on Ashley. But Graham manages to hit it out of the park with her views on being a trailblazer and role model:

…[B]eing told, “You’re fat,” “You’re ugly” or “You’re just not good enough,” and trying to live in these model standards…I hit bottom around 18. I was disgusted with myself and told my mom I was coming home. And she told me, “No, you’re not, because you told me that this was what you wanted and I know you’re supposed to do this. It doesn’t matter what you think about your body, because your body is supposed to change somebody’s life.” To this day that sticks with me because I’m here today and I feel that it’s okay to have cellulite.

Think about all she has done and how her body has changed lives. Ever since she burst onto the scene as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model last year, Ashley has been modeling’s “it” girl, and has expanded her brand to include swimwear and a lingerie collection, just to name a couple ventures.

And I agree with her that her body has changed lives. Check her out here:

I admire the power, fierceness, and confidence with which she walks down the catwalk. Her butt jiggles, she has cellulite on the back of her legs, and she even has back fat. She knows she looks good, and she absolutely owns it. And she slays it.

If I had 1% of her confidence, I’d be doing all right. But Ashley speaks with a wisdom older than her 29 years would suggest:

If you say, “I’m fat,” that’s how you’re going to feel. If you say, “I’m stupid,” that’s how you’re going to start your day. I wake up sometimes and I feel like the fattest person alive, but I’m not going to let that affect the rest of my day. Say to yourself, “I like this day. I am bold, I am beautiful, and I am brilliant.” For me, that hits the interior, the exterior, and it makes me feel smart.

That’s where she gets her confidence. It all comes from within, and the power of being beautiful truly lies in your head. I am bold, I am beautiful, and I am brilliant.

Thank you, Ashley!

In looking at her V magazine photos, for me, it’s not that she’s nude in the photos, it’s that she’s nude and she looks like the rest of us. She has cellulite, fat rolls, and stretch marks. And if she embraces the way she looks, why can’t the rest of us do the same?

Oh, and I’m totally buying her book when it comes out which, as of this writing, comes out tomorrow. SQUEE!

What are your thoughts on Ashley Graham’s photoshoot? Comment below!

 

Photo Credit: Ashley Graham for day 13 of LOVE Magazine Advent 2014 by Daniel Jackson, accessed May 14, 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashley_Graham_(model)#/media/File:Ashley_Graham_(model)_2014.png.

Video Credit: Lane Bryant, accessed May 14, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_eiNCCHv94.

Why This Plus-Sized Blogger Is Trying to Lose Weight

My name is Annie, I have been fat since I was a child.

At first glance, that title may sound like a total oxymoron. Why would a woman proud to be plus-sized want to lose weight? I want to share why I am on a weight loss journey, even if I may never get there.

The reasons people are overweight stem from very individual factors. In my case, my PCOS and eating as an emotional crutch are probably the two biggest factors in why it is so hard for me to lose weight. But I still want to lose it.

“Just put down the fork,” I hear over and over, usually from jackwagons with no medical training and who like to fat-shame. I already have two strikes against me: a hormonal imbalance that makes throws my metabolism out of whack, and clinical depression that leads me to overeat, and often. If it really were as easy as putting down a fork, everyone would be thin. But my hormones and depression are greater than my willpower. I wish there weren’t, but that’s the reality of my life.

“Wait…You’re a plus-size blogger. Why are you trying to lose weight?”

I’ve heard that one before, too. Usually from well-meaning friends and family. If I blog about issues as a fat person, why would I attempt to lose weight?

  1. Pain management. I have chronic back pain and can’t exercise like I want to. I do yoga and walk a little, but I really like running. Though I could take up swimming or biking, neither one excites me as much as lacing up my sneakers and going for a jog in the cold dawn. I can’t do that now because of my weight. And for the first time, my weight is affecting the quality of my life.
  2. Decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. Though (knock on wood) I have great blood pressure and am relatively healthy, I have lousy cholesterol. I see people who are my size with health issues like irregular heartbeat, sleep apnea, diabetes, and respiratory issues. Quite frankly, it scares the crap out of me.
  3. I have never been this heavy in my life. As the scale has inched upward about 35 pounds in the last three years, my heart almost broke the last time I weighed myself. While I have stopped beating myself up for my size, there is something very real and very visceral about those numbers on the scale. I gained every pound myself. Me.
  4. A dream trip. I am planning a backpacking trip to Scotland – the trip of a lifetime. Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to walk the Highlands and stay in charming bed & breakfasts along the way. I can’t do that at the current weight I am at. Not with pain being a factor in my everyday life.
  5. A Chanel jacket. I bought a Chanel jacket and it really wouldn’t take losing a whole lot of weight for me to button it up. And this jacket is bomb. It is pink and the lining is as soft as a baby’s butt. I fully plan on wearing the shit out of it when I can fit into it.

Maybe some of these reasons – a blazer and a vacation – sound like frivolous reasons to lose weight. But they are my reasons. Just like everyone has their own demons in dealing with their weight, they need to embrace the why. The why of their weight loss motivation.

Or, more importantly, the why of why they love themselves. Because self-acceptance and inner peace can only come with keeping the why front and center. There’s no shame in working towards a goal.

What is your biggest goal, and what is your biggest motivation for that goal? Comment below!

The Power of One: My Experience with Kiva.Org

When you think of volunteering, the expression, “Think global, act local” may come to mind, right?

Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Walk animals for the Humane Society. Become a Big Sister. Work with Habitat for Humanity.

There are countless ways to get involved in your local community, but what if I told you there was a way to get involved, make a global impact, and you could do it at home in your jammies?

I first heard about Kiva.org when I was teaching high school Spanish. My colleague who organized the Spanish club asked the students what they’d like to spend some of their funds on. Instead of a Cinco de Mayo party or a video and pizza after school, one of the kids suggesting donating funds via Kiva.org to an entrepreneur in Latin America.

After that, I became hooked.

Who: Kiva gives funds to entrepreneurs all over the world, and more than 80% of them are women. Kiva likes to focus its efforts on women because they are more likely to suffer poverty in developing countries. With Kiva’s microloans, they are able to educate their children, renovate their homes, and have a greater impact on other local businesses.

There are currently almost 2,700 loans posted on Kiva, ranging from $1,000 to $30,000. The minimum crowdfunding commitment is $25.

What:

  1. Entrepreneurs apply for field loans from Kiva’s field partners (partnering non-profits who work directly with the loan applicants in the country).
  2. The field partner underwrites and approves the loan.
  3. The loan is put out for crowdfunding on Kiva.
  4. Once the loan has been funded, the borrower repays the loan to the field partner, who repays Kiva in turn.
  5. Kiva returns the money to the crowdfunders, who can either withdraw the funds or use them for another loan.

When: Founded in 2005, Kiva has helped more than 1.6 million entrepreneurs and raised nearly $1 billion.

Where: Kiva is currently distributing funds in 82 countries, from the United States to Zimbabwe to the Solomon Islands.

Why: This was a no-brainer for me. As an entrepreneur, I like to see others succeed in creating and sustaining small businesses. My very first Kiva loan was to a Haitian woman named Marie-Josiane who needed $1,850 to buy a supply of beans, rice, flour, and other staples for her market stand. The photo showed her looking extremely proud of her inventory, like she had control of her destiny thanks to the power of microfinancing.

The $25 I donated was repaid in $4.16 installments over 6 months. After which, I was free to do on and re-invest in another female entrepreneur in Africa.

Is Kiva.org perfect? No, it isn’t. While 97.1% of their loans are successfully repaid, almost 3% of the loans do not get paid. So there is a risk when you lend.

Some of the loan interest rates are pretty shocking. Field partners can charge over a 15% interest rate for repayments, which is I think is almost predatory. While Kiva’s investors don’t feel the difference, that definitely makes a difference to the entrepreneurs’ bottom line.

While it is a case of “buyer beware” with a small percentage of loans, I love Kiva.org and what it does to sustain local economies both here in the States and overseas. I love the idea of empowering women to take charge of their own affairs and lead their families to a place of economic environment.

Do you have $25? What are you waiting for? Hop on Kiva.org and make a difference today!

Have you ever helped out with an overseas charitable organization? What was your experience? Comment below!

You Should…Sell Your Stuff on eBay

How is a girl supposed to make extra cash?

It’s hard to get ahead when bills pile up and you work 40 (or more) hours a week and you still need some extra money. What can you do that’s easy and won’t take a ton of time?

Have you ever considered selling stuff on eBay? Founded in 1995, Pierre Omidyar sold a broken laser pointer for $14.83. What began as an experiment in his living room turned into a business that leveled the playing field for selling your old stuff. No longer do you have to take out ads in the paper or post flyers around the neighborhood. You can sell clothing, jewelry, handbags, and anything else you want to get rid of on eBay, ThredUp, or any number of similar sites. You can do it from home in your jammies, and here are some reasons you should consider selling your stuff:

  1. Clean out your closet. I bet there is half a closet full of things you never wear anymore. What easier way to simplify your life, create more room in your closet, and live clutter-free than by selling some of your unused stuff?
  2. It’s easier than consignment. There are lots of places to sell clothes, jewelry, furniture, etc. on consignment. But you get a smaller slice of the pie than by selling on eBay. By cutting out the middle woman (or man), your profits can grow exponentially.
  3. You can do it in your spare time. Got 20 free minutes? Put a shirt on a hanger, take a couple photos, write up a paragraph about it, and post it on the eBay app. You may have just made $30 in those 20 minutes!
  4. Listing couldn’t be any easier. Once you have a template listing, you can have things listed on the app in as little as five minutes.
  5. Give your items good homes. Have you ever taken a bag of clothes to the Salvation Army or Goodwill and felt more than a twinge of guilt? Those are good organizations, but let’s face it…sometimes we get attached to stuff. That book you got as a present you’ll never read. That dress you wore to your best friend’s wedding. If there’s emotion attached to these items, is it easy to part with them? Maybe not. But selling them on eBay gives them a second life, and they are going to people who really want and will appreciate it.
  6. Eliminate the creepers on sites such as Craigslist. I’m not a huge fan of Craigslist, though I know lots of people are. Personally, I like being able to sell items to people who I don’t have to meet in a Wal-Mart parking lot. I just slap the item in an envelope to a winning bidder and post it. No fuss, no muss.
  7. You can create an entire side business around selling. If you get really good at selling a particular item, you can have a whole second income from selling items on eBay. My sister’s good friend sells ugly Christmas sweaters and gently used baby clothes she finds at garage sales and makes hundreds of dollars to supplement her family’s income. A friend of my brother’s has a fulltime business selling Pyrex cookware and Fiesta dinnerware to hipsters, and he makes a good living at it.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about why selling on eBay is such a great idea. Take one item and try to sell it on there – you may just discover a new way to generate income.

Have you ever used eBay? What was the best thing you ever bought? Comment below!

How to Check Out a Non-Profit Before You Donate

TAX RETURNS!!! SQUEEEEEE!!!

I bet you can think of a hundred different ways to spend the automatic deposit or check that you’re getting from Uncle Sam, right? Are you saving it? Paying off some debt? Going on vacay?

Allow me to put a bug in your ear…Have you ever thought of giving some of it to a charitable organization?

I think a lot of us love the idea of giving back to a non-profit with either our time or our talent, but unfortunately the non-profit world is like the business world – you have to do your due diligence to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Here are some simple tips to ensure your donation is going to a reputable organization, and that it’s not being wasted:

  1. Is the charity a 501(c)3? In order for your donation to be tax-deductible, it has to be registered as a 501(c)3, which is the IRS’ non-profit code. Go to IRS.gov to determine if the charity you want to donate to has this tax-exempt status.
  1. Examine the charity’s annual report. If the non-profit is truly transparent, they will have their annual report either on their website or will readily send it to you. If they have pie charts or bar graphs, you can literally see where the cash is going. If they are hemorrhaging money, that’s a bad sign. If they rely too heavily on volatile grants, that can be another red flag.
  1. Read the organization’s 990. The 990 is the non-profit equivalent of a 1040 that they file every year. This is where you find the real dirt. FoundationCenter.org is hands down the best place on the Internet to find out where the non-profit *really* spends their money. For example, the Los Angeles Opera Company spent $35 million in its 2014 filing. The famous opera tenor Placido Domingo made over $900,000 for being their general director, and the form even indicated he sometimes used first-class travel for “business purposes.”

The famous opera tenor Placido Domingo made over $900,000 for being their general director, and the form even indicated he sometimes used first-class travel for “business purposes.”

Wait, what?!

  1. Determine what percentage of their budget directly impacts programs. Continuing with the example of the LA Opera company, their 990 shows that $3.5 million went to the top eleven salaries. That’s equivalent to 10% of their operating budget. That’s a big percentage for such a small portion of their staff. I wonder what they pay their musicians…?

This isn’t an exact science, because of course non-profits’ biggest expenses are salaries. And people who work there deserve to make a living they are often hardworking and very underpaid.

But is an appropriate amount going to programs in the community? Are they making an impact among people you know or have heard about? Can the non-profit give you evidence of its footprint with statistics and press packets? Because if they can’t, something is probably fishy.

  1. Consider an in-kind donation. Give an old bridesmaids dress to a charity that provides prom dresses to those who can’t afford it. Donate books to a literacy center, or gently used toys to a shelter that takes in families. Or offer a donation to a silent auction fundraiser. That way you know your items go directly to support the organization’s mission, and receive a donation form come tax season.
  1. Or, better yet, give your time. Money is great, but time is even better. Play with shelter kitties. Cook a meal for soup kitchen. Pick up trash along a bike path. Do Meals on Wheels. There are hundreds of ways to donate your time and get some real skin in the game. Nothing will show your passion for an organization like the time you spend there. 

What non-profit is nearest and dearest to your heart? Comment below!

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