Sunday, June 22, 2014

the divorce

This is a topic that I've longed to write about for months, but never had the guts to. It's something really difficult to write about because you can't pick and choose who reads it, whereas when you tell someone, you choose who to tell. But here I am, writing about it, because I can't keep hurting like this.

Here it is: my parents are getting a divorce. I'm 21 years old, and my parents are splitting up for good. My mom filed after Christmas, and now all that's left is to sign the papers and get it approved by the judge. For the past 6 months, I have been in either a conscious or sub-conscious state of turmoil. It's hard to have your parents split up, but it's about 1,000 times harder when you're older because then they feel obligated to tell you everything, from how they're feeling to how terrible the other person is to every little detail of the proceedings. Something's I ask, but most of it I just don't even want to know, and yet they tell me anyway. And nothing hurts more than one parent attacking the other. Nothing.

People try so hard to empathize. The problem is, it's so different having your parents divorce when you're young. They sit you down and tell you everything is going to be alright and that it's not you, it's them. They might get remarried and you'll get step-parents and step-siblings and two Christmases doesn't feel like a big deal. You graduate high school and college with everyone sitting together because by then, everyone is happy with their lives again and there's no more pure hatred to ruin your big day. You get married and they're both there and everything is great, albeit a little awkwardness, but everyone makes the day about you still.

But when you're 21, they don't even bother. My mom told me over margaritas because my dad didn't see the point in all of us sitting down and telling my brother and I. It would be weird for my parents to remarry, and I would never consider them parental figures in any way. I'm graduating in 6 months and my parents will sit on opposite ends of a large basketball stadium because my dad can't be anywhere near my mom for a couple years, he says. I don't know who will take me out to dinner, but I'll have to pick who does. Then I'll get married down the road and everything will be super awkward because there's still this lingering animosity hanging around between sides of the family. They will bicker about who is responsible for paying for what, but they'll do it through me because they won't talk to each other.

Is it even worth having a wedding at that point? Is it even worth getting married at all? The likelihood of my own marriage ending in divorce has skyrocketed now, so what's left for me? A future full of the torment of listening to one parent diss the other for years to come? Awkward family obligations? Always having to mediate between parents when it comes to reaching agreements?

The hardest part, though, is never knowing who's lying and who's telling the truth. I have heard both sides to many stories, and each time, I've been left feeling confused. One parent says this, the other says that, and the stories never match up. Who am I supposed to believe? They tell me don't pick sides, but I can't help it when both sides are different all the time. I can't be impartial when one parent says spiteful things about the other and the other doesn't retaliate. But they're both my parents and I love them and I know they both love me. I just wish I could decipher truth from fiction more easily.

My dad told me, "We're gonna finish this while you're in Spain, you won't worry about it over there." Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your problems don't say goodbye to you at check-in like my dad did. They follow you wherever you go. Whatever you do, they're there, creeping up on you when you least expect it. I'm thousands of miles away and I still can't help but cry when I think about how everyone has handled this divorce, how I feel like family is made up of individual people and not a group of them anymore. Everyone is supposed to choose a side except me. I'm just meant to always be torn into pieces I guess.

I hope I haven't pointed fingers at anyone or put anyone in a bad light with this post. The people who I've talked to know all of what's going on, and I'm thankful for their continuous support through this. I want to heal, but I know it will take time. I know my parents will be happier after time, too. I feel better after writing about this, and I hope someone else in a similar situation can feel better, too, knowing they're not alone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

what i've learned from not yet studying abroad

Let me tell ya - preparing to study abroad is NOT fun. Maybe it's just my crazy brain, but I have been thinking of EVERYTHING for a while now. What should I wear? What should I bring? What if this? What if that? It's exhausting. So, in order to make your lives easier, here's a list of things to do/think about for your study abroad trip!

1. Money

Oh, goodness. The root of all my problems. So the big question is, how are you going to have money while abroad? After countless research and talking to my friends who have gone abroad, this is the best method I can think of:

  • Carry and use cash. It's so much easier than wondering if the place you're going accepts plastic. Just take out what you need at the beginning of each week and be done.
  • Open a Charles Schwab account. There's no minimum balance, and it's fast and easy to do. The reason why you want Schwab is NO ATM TRANSACTION FEES WORLDWIDE. *Cue the Hallelujah Chorus* This means that you're not limited by how many times a week you take out cash/you're not burdened with ATM fees. I still say don't withdraw too often, but this gives you a little more leeway.
  • Hook up the Schwab account to PayPal, and then have your parents (if they're the ones sending you money) transfer it over. It's fast and free, unlike a wire transfer, which could take days and charge fees to do. 
  • Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One Venture card or the Discover It card. I would recommend the Discover because it has no annual fees, cashback, and a lot of other cool perks. For more info on credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, go to and do some research. This card is for emergencies/big purchases while abroad, and can be used later for your regular credit card.

2. Electronics

If you know anything about me, it's that I have to live next to an outlet because I'm always using something that requires a plug - my phone, my computer, my straightener, my blow dryer, etc. However, if you go abroad, the outlets/voltage is going to be DIFFERENT. You can't use all your stuff in the same way, so it's important to know what to do in order to keep your electronics intact. 

  • There are two things you'll need - a voltage converter, and an outlet adapter. The outlet adapter turns your US plug into another country's plug. However, that's not all you'll need. The voltage in the US is 120v, but the voltage in other places (namely Europe) is 240v. That means, if you try sticking your straightener into the socket with just an outlet adapter, it's gonna be toast. Which means, you also need a voltage converter for many of your items.
  • That being said, don't bring things you wouldn't want accidentally ruined. Buy a cheap straightener there. That way, it won't need a voltage converter OR an outlet adapter. Or, buy products where the voltage can be converted. I just bought a hot air brush, and it turned out that you can change the voltage from 120v to 240v on the product itself. Ebay is a good place to find things that people used when going abroad and don't need anymore. 
  • Good news - Apple products are built in with universal voltage conversion, so they will only need the outlet adapter. 
  • I recommend buying a kit with a voltage converter and outlet adapters, just to get you started. After that, there are several things you can get to make your life easier. You can get universal power strips with voltage conversion on Amazon. That way, you can plug in all your American stuff and not worry about it blowing up. Or, if you have products that are already converted to the right voltage (Apple products, for example), you can buy a big pack of outlet adapters, also from Amazon. Basically, Amazon is going to be your new best friend.
  • If you're going abroad for the summer and you won't be writing lengthy dissertations, I highly recommend not taking your laptop. They're heavy, they're bulky, and they're the first thing that could get stolen. Instead, invest in a tablet of some sort and get a keyboard attachment or a stylus. Or if you just HAVE to take your laptop, have a way to lock it up when you're gone, just in case.

3. Phones

I felt like I had to make a separate category just for cellular devices. I know it's going to be hard to part with the extension of your right hand, but it's just not practical to use. Doesn't mean I said don't take it with you...

  • If possible, take an old smartphone or iPod Touch instead of your usual phone. That way, if you lose it, it's not the end of the world. The good thing about old phones and iPod Touches is that they have no cellular connectivity, so you're also not tempted to turn it on, or turn it on by accident. They will only work on WiFi, which is what you'll need most of the time. But the good news is, WiFi is EVERYWHERE, especially in Europe. 
  • Take pictures of important lists, maps, guides, etc. so when you're not able to get WiFi, you can have access to things you need. Download handy apps for when you do have Internet connectivity. 
  • For calling, most study abroad programs will provide phones. Or, if they don't, you can always pick up a cheap-o at a hypermarket (their version of Walmart) and load it with minutes. You probably won't use it much, but it's good to have for emergencies and getting ahold of fellow students/staff quickly.

4. Packing

And, of course, you're going to need a way to pack all this stuff up and get it on the plane. Here are some things you should/shouldn't pack:

  • Already said before, laptop is not recommended, but if you must take it, keep it with you on the plane, either in your carry-on bag or personal bag. 
  • You'll need 3 bags - a large rolling suitcase (whether you stay in one place or move around will determine how large that suitcase will be for practicality), a carry-on that will go in the top compartment on the plane, and a personal bag with your ticket, passport, snacks, medicine, and plane entertainment. 
  • Your carry-on should act as a "If my luggage gets lost and I'm stranded for a couple days without it, this will get me through" bag. Put in an extra outfit, pair of shoes, small toiletries, and anything else you wouldn't want to lose. But make sure it fits TSA standards (i.e., travel sized products).
  • Don't bother bringing full-sized toiletries - they'll just be heavy and take up room in your suitcase. Instead, go to the drugstore when you get there and buy the products there. Unless you absolutely HAVE to have a certain kind of shampoo, you'll be fine with what is in the country you're staying in (and if you're in Europe, it's probably better for you anyway). A full-size bottle or two will last you for the duration of your stay, and you can throw it away when you leave and be done!
  • Don't pack anything you wouldn't want to get ruined. Your $100 hair straightener? Buy it when you get there. Your favorite pumps? Those cobblestone streets will ruin them. Just think, "Would I want this ruined?" and if the answer is no, then don't bring it. 

5. Clothes

Depending on where/when you go, what you bring to wear is important. And what may be cool and in style here may not be there.

  • Europeans don't wear athletic wear. They don't wear shorts very often. They dress up. They always look presentable. That being said, bring one pair of norts for working out/sleeping and be done with it. Life is too short to go to Europe and look like a tourist! 
  • If you're going to bring jeans, don't. It gets hot there in the summer. "But you just said don't wear shorts!" You're right. Therefore, buy your jeans abroad. Europeans make their jeans of a lighter material during the summer, so they'll be more comfortable than your hot American winter jeans. 
  • You want clothing with a little stretch in it. Most people abroad don't have clothes dryers, so they line dry everything. If your clothing has no stretch, it will stay large because the heat from the dryer normally shrinks it. I don't think this is a big deal, this is just what I've heard. 
  • Cobblestones + high heels = dead. Don't even bother. If you want height, go for wedges. You'll be able to walk better and be more comfortable in them. 
  • Bring things that can go with other things. What I'm trying to say is, make many outfits from few pieces of clothing. Make that shirt go with different pants and those pants go with different shirts. Here's a great article that has packing tips for making outfits.
I know this is a lot of information. I know. And some of it may come in handy, and some of it may not. But this is what I've heard to do for studying abroad and what I intend to do when I go. I hope this helped answer some questions you may have been having!

Have you studied abroad? Do you have any tips I may have forgotten? (Or did I get anything completely wrong?) Leave a comment! And if you want more inspiration, check out my Pinterest board :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

a weighty conversation, part two

Over Easter break, I went shopping with my mom, which is usually where I try on a bunch of stuff and she MIGHT get one thing for herself. This time, however, she was the one who brought more than 6 items to the Target dressing room, some of those items being swimwear. My mom, despite the fact that her nickname was "Slim," is very conservative when it comes to her swimsuits because she is a mom of two older children, and therefore doesn't think she can wear anything that would expose her midriff (although she totally could).

I decided to join her and picked out a cute pair of shorts, a swim top, and two pairs of bikini bottoms. My mom asked me to look at something she had tried on, so I went next door to her dressing room wearing the bikini top and bottoms. Upon seeing me, she said, "I don't think you look good in that." I retorted, "Why, because I'm too fat?" and she made a face with wide eyes and nodded solemnly.

I'm not gonna lie - that right there kinda broke my heart. I have never thought of myself as "too fat" for anything, although I will admit I do prefer a certain level of modesty and agree that some things look better on size 2s than on me. And it is important to note that she said I was the one who didn't look good, not the swimsuit, which made it so much worse.

I like to think I suffer from body dysmorphia in that I think of myself as thinner than I actually might be, which is opposite of how most body dysmorphia works. When I look in the mirror, I of course see things I don't like, but I also see myself as proportional. Nothing is too big or small or ugly. But when she said that, I began to question whether I was physically attractive at all. I asked my boyfriend and he of course rejected my mom's remark and said I wasn't fat at all.

So which is right - my perception of my body or my mom's? Should I be allowed to continue wearing bikinis, or will I be banished to one-piece purgatory because of her comment? It really comes down to two things: whether I care more about what my mom thinks or my own comfort level. I know she meant well, but it's comments like that that destroy girls' self-confidence, and it hurts more coming from the ones we love than from strangers.

Whenever I'm feeling discouraged about my body, I list things I like about myself: my hair, my freckles, my eyes, my ears, my nose, my mouth, my teeth, my boobs, my waistline, my back, my forearms, my hands, my fingers, my hips, my butt, my legs, my feet, my toes. There are more items on that list than there are on the list of things I don't like about myself. So why should my perceived level of physical attractiveness be determined by the small list of things I don't like about myself when there are so many more things I do like about myself? The only person who gets to decide how you feel about yourself is you.

So in an attempt to compromise with my well-meaning mother, I have been shopping for more modest two-pieces that enhance my favorite features rather than accentuate my least favorite. But one-pieces are gross and make my shoulders look manly so that's going to remain a no-go. The point of this is, if you feel comfortable wearing a bikini, wear one. And if you don't, don't. I feel fine in a bikini whereas my mother does not, and THATS OK. Don't let others define you, YOU define you. As Kevin Gnapoor says, "Don't let the haters stop you from doing your thang." And please, love your body. It's the only one you've got.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

a weighty conversation, part one

Lately, the topic that has most interested me is the War on Weight. Women (and some men) today are struggling with everything from fat shaming to thin shaming to thigh gaps to fitting into clothing and even more. Everyone has issues with their body, and don't let anyone ever tell you they don't, because it would be a lie. "My boobs aren't big enough," "I hate my arms," "I have so much cellulite on my thighs and butt," and "I wish I were more toned" are things even thin people say to themselves when they look in the mirror. We are all at war with our bodies.

Personally, I go from being fine with my body to hating it from day to day. Shopping is frustrating because my boobs and waist are too big to fit into some clothes, such as bralettes and dresses. I hate looking at pictures of myself after they're taken because I never know whether my arm or my face will look fat or fine. I feel like I can't wear a bikini because of my pancha. I'm having to buy new jeans because my favorite pair has holes in the thighs from mine rubbing together when I walk. My grandma said that my dad shouldn't be so hard on me about my weight because I have his frame and broad shoulders, and my dad actually apologized for my being "built just like him." I'm sure a lot of you are able to relate to some of the things I've said, which is why I don't mind sharing them with you.

My best guy friend (with whom I share just about everything) will attest to the fact that I complain about my body to him way too often. He's a good sport for listening and encouraging me, but I know he gets frustrated with it sometimes. Many times, we feel a pressure from our loved ones to lose weight or fix the things about ourselves we dislike, but they only do it because they know that deep down that is a concern of ours and they want to help us achieve our personal goals. If we're not happy, they want to encourage us to be happy. And if that happiness can be more closely achieved by losing weight, then that's what they want for us.

We also, of course, feel a pressure from clothing companies (which tend to feel more personal to us than celebrities in the media) to be a certain size, weight, or build. Companies like Target and Hollister have recently come under attack for too heavily promoting the thigh gap. Abercrombie's CEO has been blamed for being personally responsible for the company's decline in sales for saying that not everyone was meant to wear A&F clothing. Plus size models are starting at size 6 when plus size itself begins at size 14.

The Target faux-thigh gap

Meanwhile, other clothing companies are trying to combat this by showing that are more representative of everyday women. H&M has been using bigger models to promote their swimsuit line, and Aerie is using models of different bra sizes to model bras and not retouching them. They see there's a problem and they are trying to change the way girls think about themselves as well as society's pressures for all girls to be a certain size. But they certainly can't do it alone.

H&M model Jennie Runk

Un-retouched Aerie model for DD cup size

Even more so, we feel pressure to look like people we know. Our Facebook acquaintances are our biggest enemies when it comes to putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to look a certain way. They are practically strangers, so we don't feel any emotional connection to them, and then when they post pictures of themselves at the beach, we see them and compare ourselves to them and the other people in the pictures with them. With friends, we feel a little different because they are people we care about and want to succeed, but jealously can still arise. It's just a lot easier to not judge someone when you're both eating pizza and drinking wine and watching Frozen together. But Facebook can be a poisonous place for insecurities to root and grow.

So how do we fight the War on Weight? The first and most important thing we need to do is to make peace with our bodies. Fall in love with your frame. Be at peace with your booty. Forgive your stretch marks. Cherish that little roll of fat between your boobs and stomach. Whatever it is, be ok with it. This doesn't mean that this is an excuse to let yourself go or to be satisfied with the body you're in, but to instead forgive your body for how it is. You should be able to look in the mirror and not hate yourself, because hating yourself is more unhealthy than eating junk food everyday.

Next, we should cut out the weeds of negativity about our appearances from our lives. Do you have that one Facebook friend that makes you see green because she is constantly posting bikini pics? Cut her out of her life - she's not good for you. How about a friend from high school who works out to the point of obsession? Delete him - he's not helping you. I'm not saying you should delete actual FRIENDS. But people who don't know you don't care about you, so they're just excess weight that will burden you.

We should be encouraging each other to be the best we can be in all aspects of life. If you and your friend both want to lose weight, work out together. Keep each other accountable. Cook together instead of going out to eat. Go shopping when y'all both lose x-number of inches. Share your victories and frustrations alike. THESE are the people you need to keep around because they will support you. They will be there for you through your successes and discouragements.

And finally, we need to stop comparing ourselves to models. They are photoshopped, we know, but more importantly, they have flaws that they camera can't see. They are insecure about something, too. They need support, too! Thin shaming is just as bad as fat shaming. We need to all be OK with how we were made and work to be healthy, not just necessarily thinner or fatter. That means loving ourselves and taking care of our bodies and minds because of it.

The War on Weight will be a long-fought battle, but every little thing helps. If we just stop comparing ourselves to others and start loving ourselves more, a big step will be taken towards ending it. And if clothing companies continue on the uphill trajectory they're currently on, before long, we may all learn to be less insecure and more satisfied with just being ourselves.

One final thought - my roommate and I were discussing this post, and she said she found a picture that showed me what she considered to be the "perfect body," the body she herself wanted. The picture was this one of an MMA fighter - strong, muscular, ripped. And then I described my "perfect body" to her - soft, hourglass figure, flat stomach. Our ideas of the perfect body are so different, because there is no such thing as the perfect body. We are all have different perceptions of what perfection and beauty are, but when it comes down to it, we are all beautiful creatures. And the sooner we realize that and embrace it, the happier we will be.

My roommate's "perfect body" - Rosanna Garcia

My "perfect body" - Beyonce Knowles 

Friday, March 14, 2014

black diamond ball

First, congratulations to Erin Raymond on winning the GoGreek app! I'll be emailing you with details. :)

I know it's still a little ways away, but since the Social Chair is mentioning every chance she gets, I figure it's OK to go ahead and post about it. For those of you who are not ADPi's, we have this tradition called Black Diamond Ball, which is a fancy name for something you all know and cherish:


What differentiates Black Diamond Ball (hereforth to be abbreviated BDB) from regular formal, however, is the dress code. At BDB, you can only wear black or white. NO color whatsoever. Now, I don't know about you, but I love color, so this is going to be a little hard for me. Shoes have to be black, white, nude, or metallic, and jewelry can't be colorful, either (think silver, gold, black, and white). I'm feeling a little...restricted, honestly. If you're feeling the same, not to worry - I have some great ideas for how to add color to the otherwise grayscale BDB.

First things first, though: Here are some pretty dresses that are black or white that are BDB-appropriate.



Both! (Yes, both is allowed!)

Some great sites to find even more BDB dresses are Macys, Dillards, JCPenney, Windsor, and David's Bridal. Or, if you're feeling fancy, you can rent a dress from Rent the Runway. I'm actually wearing the dress I wore to formal freshman year, which I found at White House Black Market.

Now for accessories. I suggest first picking what shoes you're going to wear - black, white, nude, or metallic. This will determine which jewelry will look best. Here are some good pairings for reference:

Black dress - black shoes - gold jewelry
Black dress - black shoes - silver jewelry
Black dress - black shoes - rose gold jewelry
Black dress - black shoes - pearls (with silver or gold metal)
Black dress - black shoes - rhinestones
Black dress - nude shoes - pearls
Black dress - silver shoes - silver jewelry
Black dress - silver shoes - rhinestones

White dress - white shoes - gold jewelry
White dress - white shoes - rose gold jewelry
White dress - nude shoes - pearls
White dress - silver shoes - silver jewelry
White dress - silver shoes - rhinestones
White dress - gold shoes - gold jewelry

Black and white dress - black shoes - silver jewelry
Black and white dress - black shoes - rhinestones
Black and white dress - silver shoes - silver jewelry
Black and white dress - silver shoes - rhinestones

As you can see, a black dress with black shoes has the most versatility. It's kind of hard to find gold shoes so I didn't include it except for white. Also, pay attention to the detailing on your dress - silver detailing equals silver jewelry, for example. I personally wouldn't put black shoes with a white dress and vice versa, but that's up to you. It might even be fun to find black and white shoes!

Now for the fun part - makeup! THIS is how you're going to be able to add color to the otherwise black and white ensemble. Here are some fun, colorful makeup ideas to try:

Personally, I'm a HUGE fan of the bold lip. I love subtle/neutral eyes paired with bright lipstick. Be careful not to overdo it by doing a super colorful eye with a bold lip, as it will make you look clownish. If you're having trouble, feel free to ask a makeup consultant at MAC or Ulta what they think (or you could just ask me...ya know...)

I hope this gives all of you ADPi's a better idea of what you're going to wear to Black Diamond Ball. And if you're not an ADPi, maybe you got a good dress or makeup idea out of this. If you have any questions or need help finding a dress/picking out accessories/doing your makeup, let me know!

And if in doubt, you could always take a bedsheet and a couple of belts and pull a Jennifer Lawrence a la the Golden Globes.

Just kidding, I love JLaw.