This is one of my most favorite posts of all time. The women, the mission, the product - all so freakin' amazing. I am proud to say we donated a nice sum of money to Thistle Farms, thanks to all of your comments and tweets and spreading of the word. It makes me so incredibly proud and happy that this post is included in The Best of The Thirty-Something Bride 2010! It gives me hope that all of us are here to do more than post pretty pictures or bitch about our lives, that in truth we are far more blessed than we can ever imagine.
And don't forget...Monday I'm announcing a KICK-ASS contest!
OK, so a couple of years ago The Candyman and I were invited to a backyard wedding in East Nashville. This East Side wedding was lovely, as all weddings are. The bride wore a lacey white top and a light colored, long suede skirt and cowboy boots. The invites were paperless, as was the RSVP. A friend officiated. The couple requested that no gifts be brought. However, since people are insistent (and they are), they allowed guests to bring a bottle of their favorite wine for the reception (brilliant idea) or they could donate to Thistle Farms.
Uh. Wait a second. Donate WHERE? I looked it up online and their website was crap and I didn’t understand it and so I opted to bring the wine.
Fast forward a year or so. The Candyman and I were engaged and one weekend I popped into The Frothy Monkey for a much needed latte and the line was just killer long. As I was waiting to order I was browsing some of the shop’s items for purchase and l noticed some Thistle Farms product. I made the connection and did a little reading about the place. I was floored. And I knew RIGHT THEN that The Candyman and I needed to include Thistle Farms as part of our registry.
So that’s what this introduction leads us to: ALTERNATIVE REGISTRIES and specifically, Thistle Farms.
The ladies of Thistle Farms, Ashley's Bride Guide and The Thirty-Something Bride!
I had met Carolyn Snell, one of Thistle Farm’s volunteers at the ABG Sex and the City party. We talked excitedly about how I had come to know them and I just KNEW I had to blog about this and tell everyone I possible could about this amazing place. So what is it? Here we go:
The Story of Magdalene and Thistle Farms
Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville Tennessee in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.
At no cost, we offer women a safe, disciplined, and compassionate community for two years, paid for by the gifts we receive from individuals and private grants. Magdalene stands as a witness to the truth that in the end, love is more powerful than all the forces that drive women to the streets.
What is Thistle Farms?
Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.
Through Thistle Farms, the women of Magdalene gain much needed job skills, and learn responsibility and cooperation. Into every product goes the belief that freedom starts with healing, and love can change lives. Our dream is that people will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.
Considered a weed, thistles grow on the streets and alleys where the women of Magdalene walked. But, thistles have a deep tap root that can shoot through thick concrete and survive drought. And in spite of their prickly appearance, their royal and soft purple center makes the thistle a mysterious and gorgeous flower.
Carolyn Snell, our wonderful Thistle Farms liaison!
Our group was invited to tour Thistle Farms. At 9am, a large group of people circled a lighted candle and started the Daily Meditation. A woman read a passage from a book about secrets, the topic for the days’ meditation. From there, we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, much like an AA meeting. Sometimes that’s all that was said: a name. Other women elaborated about who they were, the secrets they had kept in their lives and how it became toxic in both body and soul. It was one of those moments in life where I absolutely know for certain that I:
- Will never be the same.
- Recognize the courage it takes for a person to truly acknowledge themselves, faults and all.
- Am overwhelmed that places like this exist and were built to help.
There were a few comments made that rocked me hard and I wrote them down to share:
Freedom ain’t free.
Turns out, the only person I was keeping secrets from was myself.
I’m not ashamed of my past, I'm proud of my future.
I learned early on that I don’t have to dance with everybody, but I have to dance with somebody.
I am breaking the cycle of secrets.
When you put these statements into context – a long history of abuse, drug addiction, crime, broken families and lives – they MEAN something. Something big. It was truly an amazing experience.
Once the mediation time was over, they went into some general business and house-keeping issues: pick up your trash, make sure the back door is locked, thanks to the candle folks who worked overtime – just like any other staff meeting at any other business. There were ladies who were clearly ready to get to work, others who wanted to socialize – just like any office.
The "no nonsense" supervisor. As a graduate of the program, this lady knows what she's doing. I was impressed.
A Thistle Farm employee prepping bottle for labeling.
Happiness found in candle making!
We got a lovely tour of the work space, the packaging and shipping areas and I had the opportunity to stop and talk to two women. Neither of the women is considered a graduate yet, but I was moved to share their stories.
“Mary” is 32 years old and had been at Magdalene house and Thistle Farms for 9 months. She had been on probation for drug use, got caught using and the courts took her son away from her. In order to keep her son out of child services and with her mother, Mary entered the 2-year program at Thistle Farms. She got her GED and was just accepted into cosmetology school. Her number one motivation is her son.
Listening to Mary's story.
“Alice” is 39 years old and has been at Thistle Farms for 2 months. She started using crack cocaine at 13 years old. After 8 years of addiction, she was able to kick the crack habit, but switched to alcohol. This is her 5th program and she was order by a judge to Thistle Farms. The judge pulled her order, but Alice has decided to stay. It’s her goal to “break the co-dependency cycle.” Her big news? She’s just gotten her driver’s license back.
Inspired by Alice!
Thistle Farms creates a myriad of amazing products. They have yummy smelling candles, lip balms, shower gels (my personal fave), lotions, body balms and essential healing oils. The products are all natural, made by hand and smell and feel great. Honestly, they do. I was scared to try them because I have really sensitive skin – but they are glorious! They feel and smell so good! And you know what else? They have built partnerships with other women’s groups in Rwanda and Uganda to import the little bags they sell their “Summer Survival Kit” in! So cool.
So what is the point of this blog post? You can help. Today. Right Now. For every comment, tweet, Facebook post or link to this article from your blog (either here with The Thirty-Something Bride or on ABG or BOTH!), Ashley and I will team up and donate a $1 to the women of Thistle Farms. That’s right! Do what you gotta do – we’re picking up the tab.
What I want to stress the most about this post is the fact that you CAN register for something other than stuff. You can link directly to Thistle Farms and donate on-line. I would love for you to choose Thistle Farms. But if you choose another, more personally meaningful charity, that’s great too! While I was in love with the idea of Thistle Farms, we actually ended up choosing The American Cancer foundation. The Candyman’s mom died of cancer and my aunt was unable to come to my wedding as she was undergoing chemo at the time (she’s now in remission!). We made a tough personal choice on this one. Hopefully, your choice will be easier. And I can’t tell you how happy we were to get cards from our friends and family who donated. It felt so wonderful and I encourage all brides to do the same.
Some other choices that Thistle Farms is offering:
In lieu of favors – framed signs and post cards for donations made in the names of your guests. Printed on handmade, thistle paper (natch).
Wedding Favors – Lip balms and postcards.
Gift Baskets - Perfect for your maids!
Bridal Showers – Thistle Farms employees will com come to you to share their personal stories of hope as well as samples of goodies to buy! You can also bring groups to Thistle Farms for tours, just like we did!
The easiest way to support Thistle Farms is to leave a comment and help spread the word! When you share today's post on Twitter or Facebook or as a link on your blog, The Thirty-Something Bride and ABG will donate $1 to Thistle Farms. Fan-fucking-tastic, right? So share and mention @T30SB and @thistlefarms and link to this article (http://bit.ly/cgFQAP). EASY-PEASY!
Celebrate your wedding day with products that truly say, “Love heals.”
Just to clarify - this post is a "Best of 2010" and while I would LOVE to open up comments for donations, that boat sailed a while ago. However, your donations to Thistle Farms are MUCH appreciated. Check out their awesome product as well!