Fashion: Pardon Muah

Summer Trends to Try

Written by Amanda Marshall, Pardon Muah

Summer will be here soon and there are several new trends you’ll definitely want to try! If you haven’t done your Spring cleaning, now is the time to empty out those closets. Fortunately, many of this year’s popular warm-weather wearables are quite versatile! Which means you can mix and match them, wear them often, and hopefully keep them for years to come. Here you’ll find some of my favorites!

Blue & white stripes made their big debut (again) this Spring and will carry over into the Summer months. Blue and white striped pieces have never really gone out of style but this year they are bigger than ever. You’ll see lots of tops in all kinds of styles in light blue & white and navy & white. Button ups, off the shoulder, tees, embellished blouses, etc. It’s a trend you can take with you on vacation to the beach, wear casually on the weekend, or bring into the office when worn appropriately.

Bright pops of color are going to be everywhere! No matter the occasion or your style, you can easily incorporate your favorite hues in vivid shades. And if you’re not comfortable wearing brights for your top or bottom you can easily grab a colored shoe, bag, or cosmetic! It’s also easy to incorporate these items into your usual wardrobe. 

Ripped knee jeans may initially seem overly trendy, but there’s a way to wear them so that they are feminine and age appropriate. My favorite way to sport ripped knee denim is to pair them with a simple white button up and a pair of mules, either flat or heeled. It’s a casually chic statement you can wear without having to feeling too edgy. 

Floral embellishments are everywhere on dresses, tops, bag, shoes, and even denim shorts! Weather its embroidery, a pattern, or actual flower accents, you really can’t go wrong. This print is versatile enough for any occasion… bridal shower, wedding, a luncheon, hanging out with friends, etc. You can even mix a flower heavy print with another trend like ruffles or off the shoulder.

Clear components on bags and shoes are super popular. At first, this trend may seem strange, but hey, it goes with just about everything! My favorite way to wear clear is on the toe strap of a sandal. It gives them a fashion forward flair perfect for pairing with any color combo. Clear cosmetic bags and beach totes are also a great way to show you know what’s up this season!

For more summer trends and ways to wear them, check out pardonmuah.com or @pardonmuahinsta on Instagram. 

 xo Amanda

Amanda is a Kentucky native and author of the lifestyle blog Pardon Muah. She shares beauty products, motivational stories, and fab fashion finds weekly. www.pardonmuah.com

Earth Girl Wellness

Which Diet is Best For You?

Written by Tina Hatcher, Earth Girl Wellness

We are pounded daily with a plethora of diet options. Vegan, the New Atkins, Paleo, South Beach, the Zone, Volumetrics…the list goes on! How can anyone possibly know which way to turn! The answer is relatively simple. No single meal plan is a perfect fit for everyone. What may have been successful for your BFF may not be so grand for you. Variations in lifestyles including activity levels, current health, desire or ability to cook, and budget can make or break various menu options. Consider that some individuals have no trouble going on a strict long-term meal plan, while others simply can’t give up their evening glass of wine or weekend ice cream treat!

So where to begin? The following three questions should set you on a course for success! First, where are you now? What time do you have to commit to a new meal plan? What foods can you not live without? What does your budget allow? Do you want a strict routine to follow or more flexibility? All of these variables can change over the course of your life (or even several times a year!) Choose a meal plan that won’t cause major disruptions to your current lifestyle.

As you learn to eat healthier, you can always challenge yourself a little more! Choose a meal plan that will challenge you but won’t create an entirely new routine and lifestyle overnight.

Second, what are your goals? Weight loss? Improve fitness level? Lower cholesterol? Feel happier? Different meal plans are geared towards different results. A small, female cross-country runner will have a far different menu than a large, male weight lifter. A diabetic losing weight will have different considerations than a new mom hoping to take off the last five pounds of baby weight. Choose a meal plan that will provide the energy, protein, and vitamins and minerals that will, first and foremost, create a healthier you. Choose one that still provides you with a few “loves” but encourages you to make wiser choices.

Finally, does the recommended guidelines and meal plans make sense? Let’s go to a reality check here…no one can lose 10 pounds in a week. It’s physiologically impossible, so why set yourself up for failure to begin with? Does the plan eliminate entire food groups? If you are forbidden to eat healthy sources of carbs, where will your energy come from? If you can eat excess volumes of fat, does it make sense you can actually take off a few pounds? Most of us have enough common sense to know deep down when a book makes recommendations that just seem unhealthy! Follow your gut (literally) and choose a healthier option!

Earth Girl wants you to be successful! So choose a lifestyle that will set you up for success! If you can’t sustain a nutritional lifestyle for the rest of your life…it is not for you!

Tina Hatcher is the owner of Earth Girl Wellness, LLC. Her passion for overall wellness has allowed her to work in multiple disciplines from corrective exercise, sports performance and sports nutrition, weight loss, and nutritional counseling across all ages for the last 25 years. www.earthgirlwellness.com

Bella Finds

Raw Sugar Living 

Raw Sugar Living was started by a husband and wife team, Ronnie Shugar and Donda Mullis, who love to live a natural, real and healthy life. Raw Sugar products are made with sustainable ingredients and are all vegan friendly and cruelty free and come in some wonderful scent combinations (like “coconut and mango” and “pineapple, Maqui berry and coconut”).

Raw Sugar Living offers bath fizzers, shampoos and conditioners, body butters, sugar scrubs, facial care products, sensitive skin products and a hair masque. And even better, for each product sold, a fresh bar of soap is donated to a family in need. Raw Sugar living is only available at Target (nationwide) and Target.com. For more info on their entire product line and their mission, visit www.rawsugarliving.com

Get Outside!

Map out your summer with adventures from Blue Ridge Land Conservancy! 

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

Ready to get outside and enjoy the warm weather? We are too! That’s why we are excited for the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy’s (BRLC) schedule of events for the summer. Check out what they have planned below, and visit their website, www.blueridgelandconservancy.org, for up to date info on events, registration fees, and more!

Take part in a guided hike up Sinking Creek Mountain to Chimney Rock on May 20 from 9am-3pm. This journey will take place on Bruce and Elaine Ingram’s conserved property. Pack a lunch, bring bug spray, and prepare for amazing views! This is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public and $3 for friends of the BRLC. 

On June 2, check out the Pollinator Potluck from 4-5pm at Mill Mountain! This is a great opportunity to meet new friends who care about the land around you, watch a beekeeping demonstration, and take a guided walk through the Wildflower Garden as representatives from the Mill Mountain Garden Club share their exciting new projects. Bring a dish to share, as a potluck will follow! Registration for this event is free.

On July 14, the BRLC will host a Locavore Walk and Talk in Botetourt County. Enjoy a “locavore” meal, walk, and talk with Bruce and Elaine Ingram, noted conservationists in the area. Learn how to make your land more appealing to wildlife, identify edible wild foods, learn about living off the land, and see how the Ingrams have “gone solar.” Each participant will receive Bruce’s new book and a locavore meal! Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC. 

On August 19, bring your friends and participate in a James River Float! At 9 am, participants will depart from Buchanan and float along the James River. Disembark at BRLC-conserved property, and bring a sandwich and water! There will be a picnic at the conclusion of the trip. This adventure will be for intermediate to advanced floaters and is scheduled to end at 3pm. Registration is $35 for the general public and $30 for friends of the BRLC.

Join a Cahas Mountain Hike on September 9 from 9am-3pm. Hike to the top of Cahas Mountain, the tallest mountain in Franklin County, and experience the conserved property. The hike will end on House Rock, where hikers will see breathtaking views of the Roanoke Valley! This trip is for intermediate to advanced hikers. Registration is $6 for the general public, and $3 for friends of the BRLC.

Finally, on October 5 from 6:30-8:30pm, learn how to build a bat box! The Roanoke Unitarian Universalist Church and the BRLC will host a documentary on bats and teach participants how to build their own bat box. This event is part of the Unitarian Universalist Church Earth Friendly Fridays. Beginners are welcome at this event. Registration is $25 for the general public, and $20 for friends of the BRLC.

Human Trafficking in Southwest & Central Virginia 

Learn the signs & what one local group is doing to help save lives.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan

The Blue Campaign, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ‘unified voice’ to combat human trafficking, defines the crime as “modern-day slavery [that] involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.” Contrary to the myth, human trafficking does not require children to be smuggled across a border or kidnapped while visiting another country. Instead, this is a crime happening while children are still in school. Perpetrators can include people that parents know and trust in their community. Sometimes, they even include family members. The crime can happen unbeknownst to parents while a child remains under their roof. As a community, we have a responsibility to report signs of trafficking when we see them. With human trafficking on the rise, it’s important to know the signs and indicators that can help identify traffickers, and lead to the rescue of their victims. Here are a few from the Blue Campaign:

First, be aware of changes to a child’s physical state. Increased anxiety, symptoms of depression, nervousness, and submissive behavior can be signs that something is wrong. Victims may also defer to another person to speak for them in certain situations. Traffickers look for victims who are vulnerable, and often create the illusion that they are the only ones on whom their victim can depend. Despite the abuse, a victim will often feel loyalty to their trafficker. They begin to shut out friends and family and opportunities for socialization outside of their time with a trafficker often cease to exist.

Additionally, if you spot a child that could be in a dangerous situation, it is important to notice if they have been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care, or other life necessities. These indicators alone may not necessarily mean that someone is a victim of human trafficking. However, they are important warning signs to observe, document, and report if necessary. If you believe you have identified a victim of human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. In fact, take a moment right now to save that number in your contacts. You never know when you may have the opportunity to save a life. 

You may be asking, “What happens next? Once you report a potential case, how do victims receive the help they need to regain their independence?”

The answer is complicated. Human trafficking is a much bigger problem locally than many may realize. As more perpetrators are exposed every year, the need for resources for victims increases. Law enforcement are being trained to understand that those being trafficked are victims, not perpetrators. However, there are some services that law enforcement cannot provide to victims as this can be misconstrued as coercion to testify against their trafficker. Locally, organizations like Street Ransom play a huge part in helping victims take back their lives.

Street Ransom is a ministry of Straight Street, an inner-city outreach that has been around since 1994. Straight Street works on a variety of programming such as mentoring and operating a drop-in center for youth who are at risk. They provide a safe place to go have fun that includes programs specific for different demographics, teen parents, and Christmas programs for children with incarcerated parents. Over the years, they have developed a relationship with law enforcement. In 2013, local law enforcement rescued a victim of sex trafficking in Roanoke. By that time, known cases of human trafficking had escalated significantly, and they began to realize there were few options for victims, specifically those under the age of 18. 

Law enforcement reached out to Straight Street and asked if they would be willing to form a program or shelter for young girls being trafficked in our area, and, as a result, Street Ransom began in 2014. 

Their mission is, first, to educate the community through awareness and prevention education.“We talk to law enforcement and different professionals who may come in contact with victims. Beyond that, we do presentations in the community to the general public that include answers to questions like, ‘Who are these victims?’ ‘How did people get involved in this?’ ‘What is Street Ransom doing, and what can I do to help?’ We explain warning signs and what to do if someone believes they have identified a victim of sex trafficking,” says Rebekah Broughton, Street Ransom’s Communication Coordinator.

Next, Street Ransom wants to meet victims and survivors where they are and provide for their basic needs. They can do things like donate clothing gift cards, provide legal aid, and support survivors through court proceedings. They also offer access to services like counseling and therapy. Their connections with professionals in the community allow Street Ransom to help survivors get whatever counseling they need specific to the trauma they have experienced. 

Finally, Street Ransom is developing a crisis shelter for juveniles who have been trafficked in Virginia. Right now, victims of trafficking under the age of 18 do not have shelter care services specifically designed to meet their needs.

“The crisis shelter is the first place girls will come once they are recovered, unless they are highly addicted to drugs and need to detox first. The survivors we serve can stay in our shelter for up to 90 days, and during that time, we will assess what the next step is for reuniting them with their families or placing them in foster care homes,” explains Broughton. Each foster care home, of course, would need to be a trained therapeutic foster family. An alternative option would be to transfer survivors to a long-term care facility. 

Broughton emphasizes that victims do not always fit the stereotypical mold we see in movies or on television. Sometimes, it is as simple as a teenager with a significantly older boyfriend. 

“[A trafficker] will see an opportunity to get in their lives and gain trust. He will isolate the girl from people who care about her and exploit that need. She doesn’t realize she’s being trafficked and manipulated. She’s roped into this life, isolated, and he will exploit her over and over again,” she explains.

“He will make her stay, by either physical violence or threatening her in some way so she will comply with him. At that point, she’s stuck in that cycle, and it’s hard for her to get out,” she adds.  “We are pushing to dispel the myth that these girls are prostitutes, or that they chose this life for themselves. The fact is that there is no such thing as a child prostitute. You are automatically considered a victim if you are under the age of 18.”

Street Ransom offers many resources to help educate parents, teachers, and community leaders how to recognize victims and prevent sex trafficking of children within our community. Learn more about Street Ransom by visiting 

www.streetransom.com. For more information on the Blue Campaign, visit www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.

Hayleigh Worgan is an independent author, freelance writer, minimalist, and nomad. She enjoys adventuring with her husband and two dogs. Find out how you can support her work at  www.hayleighworgan.com.

Save Smarter

Four Reasons to Buddy Up with a Credit Card

Combined with responsible spending, these tips could help improve your financial wellness.
Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

High-interest rates, nasty fees, or the inability to pay back debt—all can leave you feeling glum when it comes to credit cards. Cheer up! Credit cards don’t have to be your worst financial enemy. If you educate yourself, you’ll discover how befriending your credit card, while spending responsibly, could actually benefit your overall financial health. 

Build and/or improve your credit. Are you planning to get a loan for a car or a home? That loan will depend on your credit score. By using a credit card and making monthly payments (or better yet, paying off the entire balance each month), you’re helping to establish good credit. You’ll also want to consider your credit utilization ratio—the amount you owe compared to your credit limit. Keeping this ratio low, usually below 10 percent, will make you more appealing to lenders.

Maximize the value of your dollar. If you use your credit card wisely, rewards can be a good way to maximize the value of every dollar you spend by earning cash back, points, or miles that you can later redeem. Why not benefit from purchases you’re already making? Just be cautious—don’t charge more to your credit card just to earn a certain reward, such as an airfare ticket or hotel stay. This could lead to significant debt if it gets out of control. One way to keep track of spending is to use your credit card for specific things like groceries and gas.

Keep your budget in check. Credit cards can be a great way to consolidate your debt. You can save yourself some money over time by rolling all of your debt onto a single credit card; however, make sure the card you’re putting debt onto has a lower interest rate than your other cards. This could make your life simpler by paying one bill each month instead of several, and the lower interest rate could help you save money.

Protect your money. With credit and debit card fraud on the rise, using a credit card as opposed to a debit card could help protect you and your funds. Debit cards are linked to your checking account, so fraudsters could drain your account quickly if your card is compromised. With credit cards, you have the advantage of fraud protection. Review your credit card provider’s fraud protection policy to learn more. Another great feature of credit cards is purchase alerts that notify you when your card is used. 

Credit cards don’t have to be a foe. With a little willpower and a bit of know-how, they can help you achieve financial ease and security. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Virginia Made: Sew Brave Designs

Meet May Gonzalez

Written by Faith Jones of Hill City Handmade

“April showers bring May flowers.” How often have we heard this old adage quoted? Every April, as we experience rainy days more often than not, we try to look on the bright side. We think about the reward and beauty the gloomy days will bring. That philosophy can be applied to May Gonzalez and the inspiring purpose that was birthed from her storm. 

Born in the Bronx and experiencing foster care in Texas, May eventually found her way to Richmond, VA. She jokes, “Oh boy, I have a Lifetime story, I’ve seen a lot in my 31 years.” In April 2012, May and her husband lost their first child to Trisomy 13, a genetic disorder which is considered incompatible with life. After receiving the news at 19 weeks, they made the difficult decision to go through with the pregnancy. Caleb was born “sleeping” at 32 weeks. Amidst the devastation and loss, May turned to sewing to deal with the grief. What began as hand sewing personalized pillows and baby moccasins soon manifested into much more.  

With her passion ignited, May began to focus on what she really loved, bags. Armed with a sewing machine (gifted from her mother-in-law), a few lessons from her husband’s aunt and plenty of YouTube videos, Sew Brave Designs was born. The name for the business came to her in a dream. “It was pretty clear from God. I wanted to combine my experience in life with my passion. I love sewing and I wanted to remind people that they too can be brave no matter what they face.”  

The handmade bags feature bold flowered fabrics combined with leather and are not only beautiful but make a difference. A portion of the proceeds for each one is donated to Noah’s Children in Richmond. The Bon Secours organization provides for the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Each donation is made in memory of Caleb and he lives on each time May sees someone carrying one of her creations. 

Though faced with the showers of life, May Gonzalez has found her flowers. She and her husband have since been blessed with two fun-loving boys, ages five and seven months. Life is not always easy but they face it together. Assuming there isn’t a Golden Girls marathon on, you might find May enjoying a date night involving tacos and movies or just hanging out and laughing with the family. Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing, you can be sure that May is counting her blessings and enjoying the flowers after the storm. 

www.sewbravedesigns.etsy.com

Faith Jones is a local entrepreneur, creative, and believer.  Her businesses include Faith Inspired and The Hill City Handmade. Faith has a degree in Art and Photography and is a former high school art and culinary teacher. She enjoys spending time with her family and travelling. Faith’s motto is, “Paris is always a good idea.” www.thehillcityhandmade.com

Young Female Writers Club

The Lyrical Side of Writing

Written by K.L. Kranes

The first time I read the name “Odessa Hott” I think it sounds like the name of a feisty, no nonsense protagonist in a YA detective novel. When I tell the real Odessa Hott this she laughs. You can tell a lot about a person by a laugh. Odessa’s is quick and soft, but sonorous. It’s my first clue Odessa’s much more than a 16-year-old girl from Mechanicsville, VA.

As Odessa and I continue to talk, I quickly realize I’m right. Odessa plays the Taiko (Japanese drums) and reels off opinions on Emily Dickinson with ease. When she discusses the writing process, effortlessly weaving metaphors and similes, I have to remind myself I’m not interviewing a seasoned English professor, but a young teenage girl. 

“Writing is a gateway into a multitude of new and used ideas. It’s similar to an enormous thrift shop!” Odessa explains, her enthusiasm palpable. Although Odessa and I speak over the phone or communicate via email, it feels as if there is a bright smile of excitement hiding behind her every word. “There are so many unexplored concepts. Even the ideas that have been used over and over can always be twisted into something never before seen. I don’t believe that any idea has been completely wrung dry. There is always a way to reinvent what has already been invented.”

Odessa has been inventing and reinventing stories since she was just 6-years-old when she began writing blogs on WordPress. Soon after, she discovered Storybird, a website where young authors can self-publish online using assorted work from global illustrators. In her teenage years, Odessa moved to new platforms, but continued writing, publishing over 30 works on the writing and fanfiction sites Quotev and Wattpad where she accumulated thousands of readers. 

“To this day, I get daily notifications of people leaving comments on my old stories, although I have since taken a break from online publishing,” Odessa says. 

As part of her creative growth, Odessa also participated in writing workshops with the Richmond Young Writers (RYW), based out of Chop Suey Books. Through the RYW, Odessa published her first picture book called Melting Tears, collaborating with local artist Sarah Hand. The story, along with stories from fellow RYW writers, is available on the RYW website. 

“Seeing not only my own book but everyone else’s in print was surreal,” Odessa says when discussing the project. 

Melting Tears is a fairytale about an imaginative rice paper girl and a morose king. Odessa explained her love for Japanese language and culture, which she has been studying for 4 years, inspired the story. 

The international influence of Melting Tears highlights the breadth of Odessa’s background. From K-Pop to Sherlock Holmes, it’s clear Odessa’s unique interests have continually influenced her life and creative process. If she were a song, Odessa would have a passionate drumbeat, a complex guitar riff and a dreamy harmony melding seamlessly with the melody of youthful optimism. I think Odessa would like this metaphor given writing isn’t her only passion. 

“For a long time, I thought writing was my calling,” Odessa says. However, as she got older, Odessa felt herself increasingly drawn to music. 

Although music had always been a large part of her life, Odessa’s father and mother are both musicians, it wasn’t until recently Odessa realized music is her true dream. And, if Odessa believes in anything, it’s the importance of following your dreams.

“I am a firm believer that you should chase your dreams for your own sense of fulfillment. Otherwise, it will leave you feeling exhausted trying to be what someone else wants you to be,” Odessa explains.

That doesn’t mean Odessa plans to abandon the writing side of her creative spirit. Even when speaking about her favorite artists, Odessa describes them with a literary undercurrent. 

“In 2017, my mother introduced me to Solange,” she says. “And ever since, I have been enthralled by her aesthetics, genre and voice. Her lyrics convey a powerful, poetic message.”

Odessa admits combining her two passions can be difficult. “My lyrics are mediocre,” she admits humbly when speaking about her attempts at songwriting. “I write poetry, but usually my lyrics sounds nothing like my poetry. I try to write a song but the lyrics don’t capture the real emotion I’m trying to find.” 

Even if Odessa hasn’t yet figured out how to merge her talent for writing with her talent for music, she certainly already understands how writing can influence music as much as music can influence writers.

“I think that having an understanding of different forms of writing can give you a powerful insight into lyrics you hear that you may have never considered before,” Odessa opines. 

It’s likely one day soon Odessa will turn that powerful insight into a beautiful music. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the combination of Odessa’s musical voice with her distinctive literary voice.

K.L. Kranes is a blogger and author of young adult novels. Her debut novel, The Travelers, was published in 2016 by Saguaro Books, LLC. See more from K.L. at www.klkranes.com/blog.

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