On Network Marketing, Heaven Help Me

*Before you de-friend me, PLEASE join the conversation (do this 2 second survey I made) and give me a different perspective. I am very open to having my mind changed or learning more about some of the positive sides of things from you personally (not your brand's PR materials, or sales -speak).  I hope this doesn't come off as slamming or condemning!

I would also love to hear from folks who maybe know more from the inside of these things and aren't involved anymore about why you stopped.  I am no expert, and have done only moderate research on a fraction of the companies out there. 

ABOVE ALL this might just be me! I don't have the sales gene and can see how this isn't WRONG across the board. I am attempting to speak 100% from my own weird little heart about how I feel when I'm on the receiving end of these MLM invites and how I think through things if I were to consider becoming a rep of one. 

I have been struggling with this for a LONG time. But just like the Chick-fil-gay thing, election night nonsense, and a few other hot-button issues that my brain REEEEALLY didn't want to write publicly about...the nagging feeling in my heart that I need to speak out just doesn't go away--until I do.

Deep breath.

I made a hard and fast rule a few years ago to never attend a Multi-Level-Marketing party, presentation, sales pitch or recruiting meeting. This has been tricky because there are some brands that have products that actually seem interesting or to fit my style. But the blanket NO is more important to me.

Here's the catch: many women I love and respect and don't want to hurt or piss off are involved in these businesses (and have managed to do them without making me feel the ways I am talking about), so I have found myself incredibly conflicted working through my feelings openly regarding MLM without feeling like I am condemning their choices. 

I feel prayerfully led to write about this for a few reasons:

1. To let folks in MLM be aware of how your customers and friends could possibly feel. These 12 things are churning around wreaking havoc in my brain every time I am contacted about this, so just be careful where you cast your net and think about potential risk/rewards. It wouldn't be fair for me to be mad at or hurt by you in our friendship if I never spoke up!

2. To give a voice to a topic that's tough to talk about (I've been afraid to even share funny articles about MLM for fear of offending people I love). I bet there are more than a few folks who feel like me on this but don't advertise it because you don't want to be "anti" anyone. If I stay quiet for fear of offending, and doing so mean I am hurt or a relationship suffers, that sucks and isn't worth the fake peace of shutting up.

3. To work out and put words to the angst this has given me.

There are a few angles at work here for me that make this stuff a problem (again, I'd love to hear if/why I'm operating under incorrect assumptions).

As an Informed Customer 

When a soliciting stranger comes to my door, or into our office and tries to cold-sell me something that I didn't ask for and don't need, and I have to turn them away, I am left with blood pounding in my ears, flushed face, and elevated heart rate. I feel sad that this is their job and must be told NO so often, but I also feel angry that they are putting me on the spot and not respecting my boundaries (my initial No, thanks)--in hopes of getting some money out of me. I feel dirty afterward.

(1) I hate that feeling and I never want to make ANYONE feel like that, and definitely not a loved one.

So when it's a friend or neighbor or Facebook acquaintance who approaches me, things get even more complicated. Do I believe you that you love this product? Yes, I usually assume my friends tell the truth and aren't snake oil charlatans. Do I think you care about me? Yes. (with the glaring exception of people who never speak to me in real life but try to recruit or sell to me on FB). 

But if these two things are true, then (2) why do I not seem to hear about these products BEFORE someone starts making commissions from selling them?  Often, the first time I hear of someone's enthusiasm for a business is when they've already become a seller. It's a lot more believable to me if you have been a brand enthusiast for some time and talked about how you love buying/using something AND THEN LATER decided to then turn that passion into a job.

This excellent, well-balanced, rational article says it great:

Is there ever a reason to join up with an MLM company? Actually, I think there is! If you and/or your friends are fanatical supporters of a company or product, by all means, save yourselves some money on the bulk purchases you’d have made anyway!

So stop there if that's you. I'm not really talking about these folks.

There is nothing new under the sun. I didn't make that up; it's from the Bible. When a new drug comes out from a big Pharmacy company, there is almost always a generic version soon to follow. When there is a new kind of cosmetic made by Clinique, there will be an Oil of Olay version in Target in a month or two. So the businesses that are pushing products with proprietary ingredients or technology that only they have just seem like liars to me (the businesses who know it, not my MLM friends). (3)but if the formulas are so miraculous at making you skinny, wrinkle free, full of energy, gorgeously hairless, then why aren't the mass production companies reverse engineering/wooing away their scientists to help make similar ones? 

And moreover (4) why isn't my expert--doctor/dentist/nutritionist/trainer prescribing them? Why should I trust a chick I knew one summer at volleyball camp in 1997 on how to moisturize over my Board Certified dermatologist?

As a Fellow Internet Seller:

I get the appeal of network marketing. Hello, this is my blog that has ads on it. A large chunk of people who read this blog are my friends--they are in my network--and every time I link to a post on my personal Facebook page, and a friend clicks it, I do get a tiny amount of money. If you sign up for Stitch Fix from here, I get $15!

TRUTH: I am happy when I get more pageviews because it makes me money. I am happy when a friend buys something from my Etsy shop. Let's be clear: YALL MAKE ME MONEY AND I LIKE IT! Doing something (sewing and writing) I love and helping may my billz? Yeah, it's cool, I know, because I do it too.

But my blog and Etsy shop both have a little red X somewhere up top, and you can make my words and my ads disappear forever with one little click. You don't have to email me personally, or look me in the eye and say 'No thanks' repeatedly, or ever worry that you're fracturing our relationship by opting out of my jibber jabber.

I can guarantee that I will never email, text, call, or approach you in real life to say, "would you like to read my blog?" or "can I tell you about the things I sew and sell?"  (5)You can opt out of my "business" or brand without unfriending (literally or digitally) me. The gift of the anonymous "No thanks, not interested, but I still want to be friends" is a courtesy everyone deserves

I have been hurt to discover this isn't the case with some of my MLM friends who have used our relationship as a shield to protect them against me getting rude or short. Their companies will equip them with scripts, a la telemarketers, and train them in how to get around my polite refusals. As another woman who conducts business online, it angers me to see aggressive tactics at work that seem to rely on pressuring a potential customer/current friend to choose between keeping her money or keeping her friend.

From conversations I have had with friends who have been sold to, (6) it seems that the product with the most allure is often guilt-relief ("I'm just supporting you in this because I love you") or breathing room ("ok, fine, I'll buy something so you will just stop bringing it up"). 

As Your Friend

The #1 feeling I get when I walk away from a MLM pitch or encounter (that went beyond my first "No, thank you," or came out of nowhere pretending like we're friends to make a sale off me) is USED. I feel used that you wanted my money (or the money my friends would eventually give you) and were willing to leverage our friendship to get access to it.

I have sweet, sweet friends (AGAIN, I dearly love many MLMs!)  who say (and mean!) "you can totally say no and I won't ever bring it up again or be offended." I am envious that they can move on so easily, but I CANT! I think I could make a pretty comprehensive list right now of  every friend who has tried to sell us something and I have had to tell them no. Because (7) it sticks with me and leaves me with a bad taste in my heart for a long time afterward (did they use me? did I offend them? what are they really in this  friendship for? can I dare ask them for anything in the future?). That may just be my introverted non salesman personality, but there ya go.

PLEASE don't tell me you want to share a business with me because you know I'd be great at it and just want to bless me. That might be part of the reason, but in reality these business models can only sustainably profit reps when they have more and more people beneath them/on their team/in their "family"/in their downline. 

That supplement that I get my coworker to buy for $150? It's making a profit for me, the person who recruited me, the person who recruited them, and up and up to the fat cat who spent $7 to manufacture a green tea powder with some added cool-sounding ingredients.

The straight up truth is that whoever got you into a MLM is making money off of you. If they are smart business people they will recruit people who would be great at recruiting others (no shame in that game!), but the problem I have is that it's almost never advertised that way. (8)  I'd so much rather hear "If you start selling this stuff you will make money AND I will too!" than just the promises and flattery of "you would be so good at this, and these products will change your life." (to be fair, one R+F rep did try to recruit me and said she would make money off my skills, and I respected her a lot more for it!) 

(9) If I feel like my friend is willing to be less than candid, shade the truth or even lie to me to make money, I lose respect for him/her and the friendship is strained (MLM-ers: take care to nott just copy and paste the same "hey girl" message to me repeatedly. Or to people I talk to because when I realize that's what you did I feel extremely used and uncared for.

(10) It's cliche because it's true: mixing money and love/friendship can be a dangerous practice.

As a Christian

Oh this one is so so tricky. I am going to write this one first person, and not assume anyone else feels the same and say outright that it's totally okay to feel/do differently from me. But how I would or would not do things does tend to shade how I feel about what's being done to me (also a Biblical principle).

As someone who publicly loves Jesus and talks about him in hopes of showing him to others, one of my most valuable asset to people in my life is my voice (in Christianese my "witness"). Am I authentic, am I truthful, would I tell you if there were yucky things about it? Am I believable in what my personal experience has been? Do I care about you? Do I love you for who you are?

If I do something along the way that makes someone doubt these things, then it's going to be a lot of work or even impossible to earn that back, so (11) I want to be jealously protective of my voice/influence/circle and am very hesitant about appearing to leverage it for any gain that isn't Jesus himself and could therefore tarnish or call into question my motives when I am talking about him.

Another aspect of this related to my faith is an economic one. For everyone to be as successful as the success stories that go along with recruitment/sales pitches (free cars, vacations, enormous paychecks, freedom, family time), there ALWAYS has to be downline (and mathematically downline has to expand EXPONENTIALLY to maintain up line profits I need 3 people to make money, they need 9 more, and on and on). At some point the market (be it your neighborhood or your planet) is saturated and there simply aren't enough people buying at market price to sustain profits for the people above who get a cut of your sales and discounts themselves. (12) So from a wisdom perspective, I don't want to invest my time, money, voice, efforts into an unsustainable business model, or encourage others to. 

UPDATED: (13) The product that is raved about most seems to be the "stay at home, make my own hours, freedom and money." It's the money and the job that seem to get marketed, NOT the products. And it is simply impossible to offer that kind of success (even if youve had it or known those who have) to everyone the same way you would offer a jar of jelly or whatever the product is.

I wish I had been less serious in this entire post so I could make a joke about a pyramid versus a cross here, but it feels too soon.

Repeating my disclaimer and request for a conversation: 

*Before you de-friend me, PLEASE join the conversation and give me a different perspective. I am very open to having my mind changed or learning more about some of the positive sides of things from you personally (not your brand's PR materials, or sales -speak).  I hope this doesn't come off as slamming or condemning!

I would also love to hear from folks who maybe know more from the inside of these things and aren't involved anymore about why you stopped.  I am no expert, and have done only moderate research on a fraction of the companies out there.

If you are a CUSTOMER (only buy and never sell) of these companies, please tell me which ones and why and how your experience has been. This feels like a rare breed to me due to pricing structure versus selling discounts and would love a perspective of someone without a downline who ENJOYS this business model (versus guilt purchases).

Ok. Talk to me.

Lord, beer me strength.


Dewey YESimal!

I had longed for a real card catalog for years. Liz Lemon has a behemoth one in her apartment, and she is my life coach and Swami. All the cool makeover projects I found for them on Pinterest started with "I found this for $10 at a local rummage sale," which produced in me a charming bitter envy-rage. 

No one is so naive as to price a real library card catalog for a mere $10 anywhere around these parts. A weekly search of craigslist showed me that people who had these babies KNEW what we the crafty would give to possess them. Here's one I just found on craigslist nearby. 

But to be fair, Jo Ellen deserves to be compensated for having her head spun. The poor dear.

$475?! Mama can't play dat. And while I am a HUGE proponent of affordable hacking/DIYing I just couldn't bring myself to fake this instead of having the real thing--even though this DIY version looks crisp!

Why? I am a staunch defender and consumer of actual books. I have never read an eBook because I think a real, made-from-a-tree, printed-with-ink, feel-the-heft-of-the-pages, book is a magical experience too good to pass up for pixels (yes the irony that you're only reading this because of pixels isn't lost on me). 

I actually USED card catalogs and learned about the Dewey Decimal system in elementary school *yikesface*.  I remember the vertiginous, Mary Poppins Carpet Bag feeling of pulling out one little bitty drawer and it being longer and deeper than any drawer I had ever encountered. I felt so grown up (like an archivist! or Egyptologist! or Treasure hunting preteen Indiana Jones!) flipping through the hundreds of little cards and find the magic number for the book I needed (The Courtship of Princess Leia, for the record. Not joking) --and then getting distracted because my friends were playing M.A.S.H. nearby and inevitably forgetting the number and having to start over.

While computers are obviously a far more efficient system for library users now, I still think these massive fossils deserve better than to rot in school basements like some kind of sad rodent tenement. I think card catalogs should be honored, or at least given a cushy retirement where they can be treasured, remembered, and revered. And that reverence to me would come in the form of having juice spilled atop them, crayons scribbled on their sides, and all manner of action figures, pacis, and ossified string cheese stuffed in their hallowed innards. RESPECT THE PAST.

There were actual tears when a teacher friend texted me 2 years ago: "you wouldn't be interested in our library's old card catalog that we are getting rid of, would you?" I screamed. It's not like I had even told this beautiful Saint about my longing. Clearly this was my destiny's child. 

When I first saw it in person my reaction really bordered on crazy cat(alog) lady talk, "Awwww, it's so tiny!" "It's even more beautiful than I had imagined!" and "Oh, but so heavy! What a healthy boy...yes you are! Who's a healthy boy?" Because yes, my newborn dream come true was only 2 feet square, but weighed more than an Imperial Star Destroyer.

I got it home with only like 5 slipped disks and Jesse was like, "What now? What are you gonna do with that? Where will it go? You realize our house is tiny?" And I covered the catalogs impressionable ears and scolded him, "We'll make room! This is a blessing! I'M KEEPING IT!"

And then I left it in the garage for 2 years to be a spider habitat until we moved. Shut up.

But here we find ourselves with lots more space, and finally the motivation from me to take on the restoration.

This is the state he was in after his stay in the garage. 

That bottom piece of trim had fallen off somewhere along the way. The presence of MDF underneath the trim also let me know that this wasn't totally solid wood like I had thought--despite weighing  more than the Forest Moon of Endor. Bummer. Or swomp-swomp (as Layla says when you drop something thrown to you). I lose vintage-antique points there, but who cares, the thing held freaking Dewey Cards, yall. I'M KEEPING MY POINTS.

The veneer is a shiny flat doo doo brown and had HAD to go.

He is almost a perfect cube. Short and stocky and frisky and fine. Too little to be a stand-alone piece, but to big and deep to really fit comfortably on a normal table.

 Beside a book, for scale. (1 of about 300 Star Wars books that I own. Because awesome).

Last week I sat down and took all the hardware off to assess the situation.

Michael Scott is my constant DIY companion. I will never be defeated at "Office" trivia, btw.

I found that the hardware was solid brass (not plated...via magnet test), and gave it a brasso bath to take off most of, but not all because VINTAGE, of the tarnish.

The next day I got down (girl, go head get down), on sanding the beast. The yucky brown veneer IS real wood so I could strip and stain it like a solid wood piece (being careful not to sand all the way through the veneer which would expose the MDF and my secret shame).

The drawers are plastic (oh the ignominy!) and metal bolted on to solid wood fronts.

Sweet boogers, it was hot that day and I laid down a preliminary stain with my sweat. I was batter-dipped with the sawdust by the end of this.

I moved the show into the blessed AC to try out stains. 

I tested each of the colors on a drawer front. This was so stupid. HELLO KEIGHT, IT'S STAIN. I knew I'd have to sand off the 2 losing shades, but didn't plan for how deep that would be. Total pain. Next time I will test on the back side.

 I wiped the whole thing down and started staining (went with the golden oak...even though I typically hate oak colored stuff, it looked the best by far).

A coat of finishing wax and the hardware went back on. Here's where the giddyness began. Jesse cut me a strip of thin plywood to cover up the bottom trim piece that had come off. Itf fit so perfectly and took the stain just the same as the catalog did.

Wood glued and weighted down overnight and that little strip is now an inalienable member of the piece.

I got a set of 4 hairpin steel legs on eBay (from this seller) for $45 (the best price of all 13 places I looked).  These are 14", tight profile, and unfinished steel.

I screwed them on last night, lickety split.

Turned him over and put him in a place of honor in the foyer! 

Yeah, I am freaking jazzed about this guy. The catalog itself is so heavy and solid and stout that the dainty (looking, but solid to hold the weight safely!) legs set it off so well. Besides looking great, it really does have tons of storage space and is a great height for cute things to display and as a drop zone for keys. This bibliophile is all heart-eyes for her restored biblio-file (#sorrynotsorry).

 Welcome to your forever family, baby!


Adventure of Islands

YOUGUYSYOUGUYSYOUGUYSYOUGUYS. I have had my first true Thrift-Steal-to-DIY-Treasure moment.  To the tune of $35 for the raw materials turned into a golden nugget that would probably have cost $1000 to have had professionally made/installed. 


It all started when I was in an area of the thrift store I usually don't even glance at. Do you see anything worth $1000 here? (well there's not...yet!)

Tanks a lot, amirite? (sorry)

It was those torn out kitchen cabinets. There were exactly 5 of them and they were $25 for the bunch. I thought they would be perfect in my workroom/studio/sewing sweatshop. This room right here is it:

So, yeah. It's not the worst (even without Baby McHugginLovinStuff parked there)

If you're not impressed with the riches of this space, maybe I need to rub your nose in the rags from whence my DIY/sewing career began in 2010:

She was so eensy and adorable. And I was beyond proud of her! My little starter nooklet.

Anyway, I always knew that if I had the space I would love a cutting island/table. Sort of like this: 

But since my studio is actually built to be the formal dining room (We don't formally dine. What we do at our normal kitchen table can barely be called "dining."), I did want to make a space that wasnt ultra outwardly crafty and could still serve a purpose if/when we do entertain (like a buffet line for the potluck!).

I brought the cab frames into the garage and started toying around with how they would be laid out.

Hello, boys.

 Note: this configuration was not the answer. I might not be gifted at Tetris, yall.

 But the main problem I kept running into was the table top. I wanted something sturdy and solid. Ideally a chunk of solid wood. But dannnng if thick, solid countertop material isnt expensive!

It would kind of defeat the coup of my $25 cabinets to have to shell out $500 for the top. Even my blessed Swedish Godmother couldnt help me. IKEA's best option was this guy who was only real wood to a depth of 1/8" and STILL cost $270. 

And then I went to another local thrift store on 50% off day and stumbled upon a recent donation they had received of SOLID. WOOD. DOORS. 

Not the actual one I ended up getting.

Technically it's just a solid core (like real wood but all mish mashed together and not from one tree) under a soild wood veneer. Good enough! I realized I could have had one of these from Home Depot all along for only $63, but I was so glad I didnt discover this until after I found the brand new (still with its barcode sticker on) one at the thrift store for $10!
And the added bonus was that we only had to make one cut through this monster (so. heavy) because he came the perfect width already. We also now have 1/3 of the door left over for another project.

On Saturday we Jesse solved the arrangement conundrum and we bolted the 5 cabs together and backed them where needed with plywood. Then we got some trim for Home Depot for the baseboard and the edges. I stayed up waaaaaay too late nail-gunning and wood-filling to get us to this point:

I put the finishing touches on the bottom with sanding and paint, and then screwed the tabletop-formerly-known-as-door down atop the cabinets (nearly herniating myself in process because I was too giddy to wait for Jesse to get home to help lift it):


This is the ONLY photo I have of it right now because I wasnt planning on posting about it yet, but I got so so excited that I just whatever-ed and here we are.

I still need to decide on a stain for the top (tricky because of the reddish wood of the floors, sigh) and cut more custom shelves and fill in the pre-fab shelf-peg holes that arent in use.  I am undecided on whether or not to put cabinet doors on the long sides (the front short side here will definitely stay open and be filled with pretties--not supplies).

I'm loco, ha-ha, banana-flavored bonkers over it!

If you ask me if you can take it from me, I will tell you: