What is Culture?


I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately: what is culture? With the cancellation of event after event, game after game, gathering after gathering, we’ve been forced to withdraw from our collective culture piece by piece. It’s odd. Because we don’t feel like we are actively participating in culture on a daily basis. We just live our lives and run our errands and think about the next day.

But when ‘our lives’ come screeching to a halt, we realize that we were in fact participating in our country’s culture every single moment of our lives. Work is culture. Play is culture. Language is culture. School is culture. Relationships are culture. Sports are culture. The list goes on and on. It’s all encompassing. At the end of the day, we are all slaves to our culture. We don’t realize it, but we are. Having lived in Germany for over two years, I became hyper ware of the influence of culture. I actively felt like a fish out of water at all times because, well, I was.

I don’t have any particular point with this rambling post other than to say that maybe this season could be a time to reflect on our country’s culture: what about it works? What doesn’t? How can we improve it? Are we contributing positively to the collective whole or detracting from it?

And lastly, a lovely poem for you:

And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.

–Kitty O’Meara

PS. Photo of me trying and failing to act Parisian in Paris a few years ago 🙂

Stop Over-Glorifying Youth (Please!)

Processed with VSCO with hb2 presetHi! Remember me? Good. I’m back to rant about something that has been bothering me lately. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

If I had a dollar for the number of times someone has said to me, “You’re so young! The world is your oyster! Oh to be young again!” or some other wistful, care-free cliché, I would have approximately 105 dollars. Which isn’t even enough to replace the breaks of my Honda. But still, it’s a lot.

Our culture is obsessed with youth. We glorify it like nobody’s business: young love, beauty, sexy bodies, travel, wanderlust, wild spirit, no responsibilities, spring break in Cabo, nary a care in the world. The list goes on.

Well, I am almost 24. I have been out of college for two solid years. And I want to tell you that being young is not. always. that. fun. Examples for your review:

-Need a job? Not enough experience.
-Need professional clothes to get said job? Not enough money.
-Not sure what you want to do? There are millions of options to disorient you and confuse the living daylights out of you until you have decision fatigue and are paralyzed.
-Who are you going to marry?
-Student loans. Yeah.
-Where should you live? Choose wisely, because it will “set your path”…
-An old lady at church just asked if you’ve graduated high school yet…
-Here’s another UNPAID internship (AKA slave labor) to “build your resume”.

Being young has less responsibilities than, say, being a parent. I’ll give you that. But it also has far less stability and support. No one else is going to get the groceries, not even once. It’s all you. I have moved seven times in the last six years. It’s exhausting. But you know what’s more exhausting? Trying to buy into the youth-glorifying culture that our society sells. I get caught up in what people think I should or should not be doing. I have friends that say “You shouldn’t tie yourself down! Just be single and go backpacking through Europe for the next five years! It’ll be great!” Then other friends who say, “You should start your career already! You’re behind the rest of us who jumped in the day after graduation.”

I honestly don’t think there is a right or wrong. Everyone has to struggle through this decade of immense transition and change. I just wish older people would stop making me feel bad for not enjoying it all the time. Because the truth is, there’s a 99.99% chance that if they could push a button and go back to age 24, they wouldn’t! My mentor and friend in her 50’s, when asked, said, “I do not envy you! So many big decisions to be made at your age. I wouldn’t want to go back.” WORD.

Listen, I know getting older has its negatives. No doubt. I’m just saying that every age and stage of life, without exception, has its negatives. And I want to work to change our culture to one that is more open and honest about those challenges. Maybe this blog post can make a dent in the conversation.

Are you with me? Let’s start together.


The Getty Center

fullsizeoutput_3c4dHave you been to the Getty Center? If you love art and architecture, this is the place for you. Plus, admission is FREE (besides parking). There were gorgeous paintings, sculptures, photographs, objects, etc. from all over the world, and the building itself is a masterpiece. The grounds are extensive, complete with gardens, waterfalls and panoramic views of L.A. (or as I’ve been calling it lately, La La Land). Really, friends, you should check it out if you’re in the area ;pfullsizeoutput_3c4e^My friend Mike!fullsizeoutput_3c51fullsizeoutput_3c52fullsizeoutput_3c53fullsizeoutput_3c54fullsizeoutput_3c55^My friends studying the oil paintings like prosIMG_4669.jpgfullsizeoutput_3c56fullsizeoutput_3c57^The French furniture section was insane…can you say opulence much?!fullsizeoutput_3c58fullsizeoutput_3c59fullsizeoutput_3c5bfullsizeoutput_3c5cfullsizeoutput_3c5efullsizeoutput_3c5f^Trying to be poshfullsizeoutput_3c60fullsizeoutput_3c61fullsizeoutput_3c62fullsizeoutput_3c63^Love the soft colors in this one!img_4722fullsizeoutput_3c64img_4736img_4740fullsizeoutput_3c65^Magazine covers, oh my!img_4744img_4746

Do You Have A Theme Song?

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 9.29.05 AM

The other day I read this post on the blog Cup of Jo, and it got me thinking. Is there a song (or songs) that I consider a sort of theme or anthem for my life? That is, when I hear it, I think this could have been written about me, or it simply came to define a certain time in my life for whatever reason. Below are a few songs I might call my theme songs if I had to choose!

Rivers and Roads by The Head and the Heart
The song starts out with the lyrics, “A year from now we’ll all be gone, all our friends will move away. And they’re going to better places, but our friends will be gone away.” This immediately makes me think of college and how I will be graduated in less than a year. The song also croons, “My family lives in a different state! If you don’t know what to make of this, then we will not relate.” My parents and brother just moved to Texas, and right now just feels like a big time of transition in general. So this song touches me in a very literal way.

Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
There is one line in this song that always makes me chuckle– “It’s a long day living in Receda, there’s a freeway running through the yard.” I drive past the city of Receda all the time on the Freeway, and know exactly where he’s talking about when he says, “I wanna free fall out on Mulholland.” These words really capture what it’s like to life in Southern California. I love this song because the speaker is a ‘bad boy’ who pretends not to care/regret that he broke a ‘good girl’s’ heart. There’s also a great version by John Mayer (swoon) if you’re interested.

Tiny Dancer by Elton John
I’m sorry, but the description, “Blue jean baby, LA lady…dancing in the sand,” had to be written about me, right?! I remember doing Irish dance and Ballet at the beach growing up, twirling around on the shore avoiding the waves. I’m a big fan of Elton John in general, and even learned to play this song well on the piano.

Vienna by Billy Joel
Joel sings this song to a young person who is chomping at the bit to accomplish everything they dream of in life right now. Basically, he says slow down, take a deep breath and practice patience. You don’t want to burn out before your time, so sit back and enjoy the ride. “Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?” I think everyone at Pepperdine needs to hear this song– we’re so young, there’s no rush to conquer the world!

Gypsy by Suzanne Vega
I first heard this song in the soundtrack of the movie Perks of Being a Wallflower. I listened to it on repeat in Frankfurt this summer because, for some reason, it just struck me as particularly insightful. “You come from far away with pictures in your eyes of coffee shops and morning streets and the blue and silent sunrise.” I find the guitar in this song so beautiful and touching. Listen to it, you’ll see what I mean.

Never Coming Back Again by Austin Plaine
My parents might not appreciate this title (haha!) but I really felt like I could have stayed in Germany forever and been perfectly happy. This song expresses a longing for adventure, excitement and discovery. It’s the perfect summer anthem. Go on, give it a listen, I promise you’ll like it!

So what about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Oh, and of course I claim every song written about California girls as my own 🙂


Are We Sluts Or Prudes?

The other day I watched the iconic movie Mean Girls and one of the scenes (pictured above) got me thinking.

Usually the opposite of a negative is a positive– dark vs. light, evil vs. good, sad vs. happy, you get the picture. But where female sexuality is concerned, the opposite of a negative is another negative. If you’re not considered a slut, you’re a prude. Both terms have negative connotations and force girls to constantly walk the blurry line between experience and inexperience.

Women are extremely over sexualized in our culture, but often they don’t know what to do when faced with an actual sexual situation. The media places unrealistic expectations on them as if they’re normal. Their partners in turn place these expectations on them or they place them on themselves. Talk about mixed messages! I’ve heard girls my age say, “I’m proud of my body and will show off as much of it as I want to!” But that confidence soon comes off with their clothes. It’s not more than skin deep.

I recently read the article, “On Girls and Sex: The Importance of Talking to Girls about Pleasure” by Peggy Orenstein. She has spent the last 25 years interviewing girls on their sex lives and gained some interesting insights. She says girls are not having intercourse at a younger age, but they are engaging in other sexual behaviors such as oral sex earlier. Many girls saw giving oral sex as a way to postpone actual intercourse or maintain power and control. A particularly interesting finding was that while most men tend to measure their own pleasure based on their own pleasure, most women tend to measure their own pleasure based on their partner’s pleasure. Girls do not receive oral sex nearly as often as they give it, and end up largely ignoring their own wants and needs in the process. Maybe that’s why Orenstein reports that women in homosexual relationships orgasm more regularly than women in heterosexual relationships.

Like many things in life, children start learning these lessons at an early age. Orenstein says:

Parents don’t tend to name their infant baby’s genitals if they’re girls. For boys, they’ll say, “Here’s your nose, here’s your shoulders, here’s your waist, here’s your pee pee,” whatever. But with girls, there’s this sort of blank space — it’s right from navel to knees, and not naming something makes it quite literally unspeakable. Then they go into puberty education class, and girls have periods and unwanted pregnancy, and you see only the inside anatomy — that thing that looks like a steer head, with the ovaries and everything — and then it grays out between the legs, so we never talk about the vulva, we never talk about the clitoris. Very few girls explore, there’s no self-knowledge, and then they go into their sexual experiences and we expect them to be able to have some sense of entitlement, some sense of knowledge, to be able to assert themselves, to have some sense of equality, and it’s just not realistic that that’s going to happen.

If girls don’t even understand their own anatomy, what makes us think they are going to be able to tell their partner what they enjoy or don’t enjoy?! Interestingly enough, the idea of one’s ‘loss of virginity’ still carries weight in our culture. It is a symbol of maturation and one of the entry points into adulthood. But several of the girls Orenstein interviewed said they viewed it as ‘something to get over with,’ not necessarily to enjoy. Many of them didn’t lose it with someone they loved or even mildly cared about, and it wasn’t a physically pleasurable experience.

So my question is, what if we redefined the idea of ‘loss of virginity’ to include multiple virginities? What if we placed just as much emphasis on oral sex, or anything that produces the same physical response (i.e. certain hormone release), as we do on intercourse? Or what if we broadened it to include the first time you orgasm with a partner? The traditional, narrow definition is not doing young people any favors.

As someone who grew up in the church, I believe I bring a unique perspective to this conversation. I do believe sex should be saved until marriage. But I also believe it should be talked about more within the church before marriage. It’s clear the church doesn’t like saying the S-E-X word, so they just preach abstinence and move on with their sermon. But the Bible never says explicitly don’t have sex, it says avoid sexual immorality. Now that’s a much vaguer and broader concept that needs to be explored.

It’s so easy to justify your behavior by saying, “I didn’t have actual sex, I just gave him head, so I’m good.” Are you really good? Do you know what that act means for your body and your relationship? I know it’s a hard topic and there are no clear cut answers to these questions, but can’t we at least talk about it like adults?  The church needs to stop throwing around antiquated terms like ‘purity’ and ‘wholeness’ and get down to the nitty gritty details.

So parents, talk to your children about sex. And women in particular, talk to the young women in your life about their own pleasure. Fight the social taboos and tell them they are neither a victim nor an object nor a slut nor a prude and never will be, no matter what. Chances are the conversation will bring you two closer in the end and she will feel less confused and alone. And isn’t that worth a little initial awkwardness?

I believe wholeheartedly that it is.

Five Inspiring Women


If you know me, you know I’m all about female empowerment. It can be a little much sometimes– but what can I say? It’s one of my passions! I make a point to keep up with news regarding break throughs made by women in society, and try to read as many books as possible on the subject. It’s an exciting time to be alive. I feel as though we are the middle children of history. Something is shifting, and I can’t wait to see what magnificent things women continue to accomplish during my life time. That being said, I thought I’d share five women who have inspired my recently in some way or another in hopes that perhaps they will inspire you as well. Enjoy!landscape-1451322311-younghillary.jpgHilary Clinton Okay, I know the jury is still out on this one for many people, what with the election and all, but I personally believe Hilary Clinton is an example of a woman who puts her self out there despite her imperfections. She is obviously flawed, but she doesn’t let that stop her from following her passions and making a difference in the world. Just think about the positions she’s held in her career: first lady, senator, secretary of state, and now possibly president. She has broken glass ceiling after glass ceiling for women and, regardless of your political views, that is something to be admired.lana-del-rey-interview.jpgLana del Rey Singer Lana del Rey is one of my personal favorites. With her bluesy voice and 1960’s vibes, she is a true original. Her 2012 album Born to Die reached number two on the US charts and was the fifth highest selling album of the year. Her following three albums have achieved similar success, and she is currently the most streamed female artist on Spotify in the US and the fifth worldwide. As someone who’s been a fan longer than most, I can say I am truly inspired by Lana del Rey. She is breaking records left and right and paving a new path for female vocalists the world around.static1.squarespace.png

Amy Poehler If you don’t already know who Amy Poehler is, you may have been living under a rock for the past few year…just kidding! But seriously, Amy has been killing it lately. She began her career in improv, staring on SLN and eventually founding the Upright Citizens Brigade theater school. She then went on to write, direct and star in shows and movie such as Parks and Recreation and Mean Girls. Her most recent book Yes Please was received exceptionally well and was one of my personal favorites. In all her spare time, she is the mother of two young boys! As an aspiring writer myself, Amy is a picture of what it means to pursue your passions no matter how tough the going may get.Misty-Copeland-Workout.jpgMisty Copeland In June of 2015, Misty Copeland was announced as the first African American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, which has been around for more than 75 years and is one of the top three ballet companies in the US. Rising from a tough childhood and tense custody situation, Misty rose to fame and is now considered one of the most graceful, sophisticated dancers in the sport. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine as part of their 100 most influential people issue and is the author of two autobiographies and a documentary. Needless to say, this woman has been busy in her 23 years! She is a true inspiration in a field that is largely lacking in diversity.mindy-kaling1.jpgMindy Kaling Mindy is a gem. After reading her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? I garnered a new appreciation for this actress, writer, and spokes woman. Surprisingly few people know that she was a writer and producer on The Office, one of the most prolific shows in TV history, before moving on to direct and star in her own show The Mindy Project. She is also a pioneer for minority women in a largely male dominated field, and carries herself with enough grace and charm to make anyone jealous!

5 Culture Shocks I’ve Experienced So Far

1. Bed sheets- The beds in Germany don’t have thin sheets- just a fitted mattress cover and a Decke, or comforter. I stared at my bed at home like What am I supposed to do with this thin little blanket thing? 
2. Driving everywhere– First of all, I think I might have forgotten how to drive after three months of exclusively bike riding! I used to ride my bike or walk everywhere in Hildesheim, no matter the distance. Here, we drive five minutes around the corner to the post office no matter the distance.
3. Louder voice volume- This is a stereotypical part of American culture, but it honestly is true in my experience! People’s average voice volume is louder than in Germany, and as a naturally soft spoken person, I’ve had to crank up the volume a bit to be heard!
4. Being able to understand everyone- In Germany, I could turn off my brain and completely tune out from a conversation if I didn’t feel like trying to understand. But now, I can’t help but understand, so I hear everything everyone is saying! I was sitting in a restaurant the other day and thinking why am I getting so distracted by the people next to me’s conversation?! Then I realized it’s because they were speaking in English!
5. Politics- I watched the GOP debate last night, and felt overwhelmed by culture shock! The political atmosphere here is totally different than in Germany. Not better or worse, just different. This is the first election I can vote in (scary for America, I know) so I tried my best to pay attention. P.s. if Donald Trump is president, I might just move back to Germany… :p

Also, a few photos from the other night at the beach. Love me some SoCal sunsets!
IMG_8166IMG_8165IMG_8160IMG_8159IMG_8155IMG_8151IMG_8147IMG_8131IMG_8126IMG_8125IMG_8120Question of the Day
Have you ever experienced Reverse Culture Shock? If so, what is an example?