An Open Letter to My Readers

An Open Letter to My Readers

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy. /

Ouvre ta bouche pour celui qui ne peut pas s’exprimer,
pour la cause de tous les délaissés!
Ouvre ta bouche, juge avec justice
et défends le malheureux et le pauvre!

Proverbs 31:8-9 / Proverbes 31:8-9

Do you ever think yourself into a headache?
As with everyone else, my heart is heavy.

I don’t have the words. And I don’t think anything I can say would be good enough. I am disheartened, angry, and hurting.

I genuinely think humanity desires justice in the heart of our being (because we were created by a perfectly just God). Justice, in some form or fashion, was embedded within us. I think of Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo when he says, “Je me suis substitué à la Providence pour récompenser les bons… que le Dieu vengeur me cède sa place pour punir les méchants!” (I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked.) I think of allll the Bible verses discussing the need to seek justice, live justly, etc.

The truth is, we all desire to see evil extinguished and yet we know each of our hearts is capable of the evil we see in others. Injustice is everywhere. And we must not turn a blind eye to what makes us uncomfortable.

Problems of racial injustice are not new. Let us be quite clear about that. However, that does not diminish the gravity of the current situation. I have struggled to put my thoughts into words for weeks now, but I feel burdened.

As though I need to speak up.

As a Christian–first and foremost–and secondly as someone who grew up very much sheltered from the realities of racism in action. I grew up in the South of the United States. I had one (let me repeat.. ONE) black friend growing up. She died of cancer when I was six or seven years old. I carried with me an unconscious incompetence in my understanding of the lived realities of my fellow Americans. It was not until college that I began to understand this. COLLEGE.

Posting a black square on your Instagram or Facebook feed does absolutely nothing if we are not willing to simply have conversations.

So, let’s talk.

But not merely you and me.

I want to leave space in this post for voices that aren’t mine.

Voices that have experienced first-hand racial discrimination. And more importantly, people I love and care about. Let me introduce you to people who can say things much more eloquently and passionately than I. These dear friends of mine were willing to share with you their words of wisdom and their experiences as black men. And I want you to hear quite clearly and blatantly what they have to say.

Brandon Beneche

From: Massachusetts
Currently in: Georgia
Age: 25

Brandon and I met in college while working on the newspaper staff together.

It feels odd to share anything about myself considering the historic weight of this moment (our country is in upheaval, our president sucks, we’re reaping the consequences of an unjust system that’s been defended, supported, and perpetuated for generations.), yet I believe that we must value and learn about each other’s backgrounds now more than ever.

I’m biracial. My dad is a Haitian immigrant, and my mom is a white New Englander. My heritage is something I’m proud of, but it gets complicated. We were closer to my mom’s family growing up, so I was largely raised in a white, middle-class home in Massachusetts. We didn’t have many conversations about race, and I didn’t claim any racial identity for most of my childhood and adolescence. 

As I got older, it was brought to my attention that I was brown, and I eventually began to explore more of my black side. I took better care of my curly hair, and I began consuming more black content. I’ve even learned to make Haitian food.

It has been a worthwhile process, but it hasn’t been easy. I see issues that a lot of the white people in my life don’t, but I don’t have the upbringing or experiences that a lot of black people I know have had. Some days I feel too colored to be with white people, and other days I feel ashamed for not being black enough.

Right now, we’re in the midst of a racially diverse mass protest of police brutality and systematic injustice towards black people in America. I’ve lost so much joy in our country these past few years, and while I’m certainly not happy about the state of our nation, I am finally hopeful. I have hope that people will demand change and that they will be heard. I have hope that more white Americans than ever will be empathetic towards people of color, and I have hope that black people will have their voices amplified and valued. 

Being biracial can feel like a constant state of division, but this moment is reminding me of something important: I’m living proof that unity is possible.

Romel Juba

From: Miami
Currently in: Tennessee
Age: 25

Romel and I became friends over a game of Rockband
(and I still admire his awesome guitar skills).

Sadness. Anger. Frustration. Being pushed to my limits. Nearing numbness.  My Christianity calls me to love my enemies and pray for those who treat me badly; but I continue to struggle with that challenge.

Racism has reared its head numerous times in my life, dating back as early as the third grade. The part that, in hindsight, is troubling? I shrugged it off like it was normal…like it was okay. It’s hard to look at the climate of the world/the general lack of compassion and feel an ounce of hope.  As a black man, I’d love to see the world become a better place for people who look like me. Being a part of some of the protests that have happened, it was refreshing and rejuvenating to see the wide range of support from all sorts of ethnicities and races. The new generation and the intolerance for oppression makes me smile.

Politically, things are happening. Laws are being passed. People are being held accountable for their actions at an increasing rate. I worry that for the sake of social acceptance, people may jump on the bandwagon of change. Maybe that is a little pessimistic of me, but the fact remains: laws can’t change the heart. What we need is love. People loving their neighbor as themselves. The question is, how do we go about creating this deep cleanse? How to we teach people to love?

I wish I had an answer…

Phillip Warfield

From: Southwest USA
Currently in: Washington D.C.
Age: 24

Phillip and I met because of our mutual love of Michael Jackson!

Black people are tired. After years of trying to tell people that these things were happening all around them, very many of us feel unheard and unseen. Last year, I was invited to a wedding in Miami, Florida. My girlfriend and I piled into my car for the long ride and had an incredible weekend. On our way back, something happened that soured the entire trip. There was something in me that broke down in frustration. We were stopped by a police officer for doing absolutely nothing while parked at a convenience store near Orlando.

It was nighttime, so the police officer flashed his light into the passenger seat—on my girlfriend’s side. I froze and told her not to lower her window. I opened the door on my side and asked if there was a problem. The officer asked me what I was doing and why I was doing it. His facial expressions quickly gave away his distrust as I told him we were on our way back to our university in Tennessee after a late wedding in Miami. He asked for my license and registration. After sitting and waiting for what felt like half an hour, he returned and asked me something that left me dumbfounded: “Is there anything illegal in your car?” When I answered in the negative, he pressed me again, “Are you sure?”

I’ve never had anything illegal in my car. All I was doing was calling a family member to make sure we could come over. Instead I was caught minding my own business in front of a store and asked to surrender my identification. I felt powerless. I still feel powerless.

As I take a daily walk around my neighborhood, I think of Ahmaud. When I’m in my house at night sleeping, my dreams wander to Breonna. When I’m at school studying for my doctorate in United States history, I’m pained that our country has never cared about us. I just need everyone to take this time to think, read, and learn. Sometimes I’m tired of teaching, but if this is what it takes, then I’m willing to help people see. But I’m tired, so give me space to recover too.

Just believe me—believe us, and please listen to our stories.

Friends and acquaintances, let us “weep with those who weep” during this time (Romans 12:15). If we truly believe that Jesus “loves the little children of the world,” let us act in that.

I am extending an invitation to any of my black followers or friends: if you would like to contribute to my blog, sharing your experiences or information that my audience might not otherwise hear, please write to me. I will be happy to give you a platform to speak. I am in your corner. I am fighting for you.

Black lives matter.

So, What Do We Do If Uncertainty Is Our Destiny?

So, What Do We Do If Uncertainty Is Our Destiny?

I have this Spotify playlist.

“Listen kid, your life is about to change forever.”

The description of the playlist is as follows: just take a breath and enjoy the now. watch the sunset from your porch and take night drives down the highway and remember who you are in this very moment. you will never get this back.

Turns out I was right about the title. Life did change. Drastically.

One year ago today I graduated college, so sure that if I could simply secure a career path, I would never deal with uncertainty again. (Please join me in laughing at this naïve child…)

One year ago I drove down the freeway in Tennessee, blasting my Spotify playlist and crying until the street lights became blurry. Today I listen to the same playlist in my apartment in France, feeling the same emotions yet unable to bring myself to tears (not for lack of want).

Will I carry this feeling with me year after year?

Change + Uncertainty = ???? (Depends on who you ask.)

Change and uncertainty have defined my first year out of college. The result to this equation? Gratitude. The divine beauty of the path I am on has never been more apparent to me. I am so grateful for the experiences and (more importantly) the people I have encountered. These precious souls I never would have known if I had not, one year ago, taken a leap of faith and stepped out of my comfort zone into a place I wasn’t sure I wanted to be.

I realize that almost every single thing I wanted a year ago never worked out. The jobs I applied for, the relationships I pursued, everything. Looking back, I am so thankful for that. I learned so much during that time–lessons that have become invaluable to me.

I learned to find value in myself and others. That we are all a mix of sinful humans and creatures created in the glorious image of God.

I learned to let open myself up to love and vulnerability. And I learned that true love (on our part) demands the uncertainty of reciprocity.

If I had not been honest with myself, pushed myself and trusted that God would work in my life despite my own failures, I have no doubt that I would not be where I am.

Perhaps uncertainty is the path we must tread in order to live with an open heart and true faith. There are so many things we cannot and will not ever know, so we must be open. Thus in the midst of these same emotions, I will remember this one certainty: I have a peace that “surpasses all understanding.”

On Pain

On Pain

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.”

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

When I was in 3rd grade, my friends and I would play on this weird thing at recess. They were like spinning monkey bars, with three big, rotating rings. You climbed up, jumped onto the first ring, swung your body to jump on to the second, and so on. We would all see who could go the fastest, do the most tricks, and even swing their legs up onto the rings while spinning.

One day I decided that I wanted to try and jump to the second ring instead of the first. I was ready to up my game. Plus, my best friend could do it, so surely I could.

The problem was that my best friend was probably 5′ 2″ at the time, and I was probably 3′ 2″. However, my blissful ignorance completely blocked out any fear I had, and I was determined. So I climbed up to the little ledge, got on my tip toes, and took a deep breath.

I completely missed.

Like, not even close.

I was a dramatic child, but I could have sworn I broke my wrist. I was lying in the mulch, crying and screaming. No bones were broken, just a little bruising. But all I remember was that it hurt.

That’s a silly example. But the hurt we all experience in our day-to-day lives isn’t quite as silly as a tiny little girl thinking she could defy the laws of physics. For some, the hurt is constant. For others, it is sporadic. It is intense, it is mild, it is a mix of many things. And yet, we all have one thing in common in the midst of our hurt: avoidance.

Humanity has avoided pain since the beginning of time. Which is somewhat funny, because pain is the only indicator of something being wrong in our lives. If humans could not feel pain, a toddler could very possibly burn its hand off the first time it touches a flaming hot stovetop. If humans could not feel pain, we may not realize when we are really sick. Sometimes pain is the one thing that keeps a human physically aware of his need for something to be fixed.

And if we could not feel pain or loss or heartbreak, happiness would most likely mean nothing to us.

Pain isn’t bad in and of itself. Just like anger or sadness isn’t bad. Pain–whether physical or emotional–is merely a symptom or sign of something else. I would argue that not only is pain not bad, pain is necessary. We must use it to carve out the bad and make room for more goodness. I can’t really word it eloquently, so check out a couple quotes from people who can.

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky

“The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.” -Lord Byron

“It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference.” -The Lumineers

“In most cases what Epicurus said should help: that pain is neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination.” -Marcus Aurelius

Obviously, this is not some revolutionary idea or even theory developed by a philosopher/scientist/theologian/etc. This is the mere “research” of a woman who is longing to learn and grow. And on my journey, I am learning to stop running from pain.

Five Delicious Recipes to Try if You’re Tired of Making Bread

Five Delicious Recipes to Try if You’re Tired of Making Bread

I’m just going to call the next few blog posts my quarantine diaries. Because they basically are. So prepare yourself for quarantine diary #1:

Kristen is now a foodie. Une petite gourmande, if you will.

I know, I know. I never thought I’d live to see the day. I mean, for the first 12 years of my life I didn’t like any food that wasn’t Ramen noodles or peanut butter sandwiches. I was really that picky… ask my mother. As the years have gone on, however, I’d like to think I’ve grown out of it. I like almost any type of food now (except seafood and pizza. Ew. I will never like those two things, I promise you.)

I mentioned in my blog post last week that I have tried making so many types of bread while in quarantine (I also made pasta from scratch thanks to a dear, proudly Italian friend). I realized that cooking is definitely both an art and a science (don’t even get me started on French cuisine…), but I never thought I could be so interested in how to properly store vegetables or how certain spices mix perfectly. Cooking has become both a hobby and a stress reliever for me.

Though I still enjoy baking bread, I’ve decided to expand my horizons a little bit. And if you’re tired of making a sourdough loaf or the easiest Pinterest bread recipe you can find, here are some other ideas.

Crunchwrap Supreme : I made this for the first time the other night, and it satisfied a craving I didn’t even know I had. Why have normal tacos or burritos when you could make a crunchwrap? Pair this dude with a nice homemade guac or salsa for a slightly healthier rendition (and no, it’s won’t cost you an extra $0.99).

Crunchwrap courtesy of Pinch of Yum.

Mediterranean Sheet Pan Chicken with Homemade Tzatziki : Can someone say YUM? I don’t know if I have ever tasted a better chicken marinade. It’s so simple, so delicious, and so fresh. The best part is how versatile it is! Make it carb-free, dairy-free, or have allllllll the yummy ingredients you want!

Chicken Tikka Masala : This just might be my ultimate comfort food (besides mac n cheese). The process is kind of long, but the result is a well-earned and not insanely unhealthy meal! The velvety coconut sauce is so delicious. (pair it with a homemade naan if you’re really feeling adventurous!)

Chicken Tikka Masala courtesy of 40Aprons.

Power Bowls: Read that again. One more time. What do you think of? That’s it. Whatever you think of. Throw it in a bowl, and it’s a power bowl. Obviously, you want to stick to ingredients that are relatively healthy (I normally do quinoa, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, and a hummus or other creamy sauce). Experiment with different veggies, grains, and even add some protein if you don’t want it to be a vegetarian meal.

Greek Sheet Pan Chicken courtesy of Pinch of Yum.

Falafel : This was a tricky one, not going to lie. It took hours to get the batter right (and I’m still perfecting the crispiness since I don’t have a fryer). If you’re up for a challenge, try making this yummy Middle Eastern staple. Adjust the amount of ingredients to fit your needs, and even though she says you need dry chickpeas, you can get by with canned. Pair with couscous, pita bread and/or veggies.

I think I’m going to try tackling a shakshuka recipe next… For now, I’ve got to go get a snack because this blog post made me hungry. Until next time.

What are your favorite recipes? Are you a baking/cooking enthusiast now or are you missing restaurants right about now? Let me know if you try any of these! For more recipes, check out some of my favorite foodies below!

Kennedy Haffner
Pinch of Yum
Christina Robinson

P.S. None of the photos are mine. They come from the original creators of these delicious meals. All credit to them, for both the food and the photography.

The New Normal

The New Normal

I was watching Seinfeld last night with my roommate. (I’ve been trying to convince her it’s the greatest show ever, but you know, these things take time.) “Stop, Jerry, don’t touch your face! You’re on the subway,” we laughed. “This was definitely in a pre-quarantine life.”

I paused.

A pre-quarantine life.

I had just admitted it. That things have changed. Things are not what they used to be. Life feels different now.

There’s been a sense of it lingering in the air since this all started, but my fears were confirmed when that statement left my mouth. Will things ever go back to normal? Is this the death of the handshake? The hug? La bise? (Noooo!!)

Photo courtesy of

My mind is so scattered. I feel like I barely even remember what life was like before all of this. I’m living in a bubble, belonging neither to country nor city nor even community. Going to the grocery store is exceedingly stressful, leaving the house is more of a hassle than a thing to be enjoyed, and life being entirely virtual is something I only read about in dystopian novels from the 1940s. But it’s real.

We all know that even when country borders are reopened, when work starts back, when people are allowed to go out in public freely, things will not be the same. I would argue that it will not be the same for a very, very long time. Can we truly be prepared for how this might impact our communities in the long run? What will be the emotional, psychological and even philosophical response in our communities and nations?

The Coronavirus Culture

It’s no secret that people have been slightly panicky since the rise of the novel coronavirus. Fear creeps into our minds as grocery store shelves empty. We hear talk of not enough testing, not enough food supply, not enough, not enough, not enough…

What’s scary about this collective fear is how difficult it is to break the cycle of it. It’s like a cement that hardens into the crevices of society, leaving no room for any other way of thinking. It soon becomes all we know and all we project to know going forward.

We’ve stopped nearly all forms of face-to-face interaction (or at least, most people have). We are cautious of germs and people being too close to us, and some people even freak out when someone sneezes in public. Clinical psychologist Steve Taylor discusses current coronavirus culture in an interview with Discover Magazine. “Fears will wax and wane depending on what happens. There was a spike in fear when the [World Health Organization] started using the “p” word — pandemic. That caused a spike in people’s anxiety,” Taylor said.

Though fear is prevalent and understandable, we cannot let it control us. If we do, we run the risk of falling into a worldwide groupthink.

Groupthink and the psychology behind pandemics

Groupthink is the psychological concept in which individual members of “small cohesive groups tend to accept a viewpoint or conclusion that represents a perceived group consensus, whether or not the group members believe it to be valid, correct, or optimal.” Groupthink essentially dumbs down the part of the brain that effectively problem solves, resulting in a weaker collective mindset rather than a stronger, individual one.

Combine this psychological phenomenon with a pandemic and what do you have? A perfect storm.

And yet, this storm must be weathered. How can we overcome this overwhelming epidemic of fear?

  1. Use perspective: When looking at statistics or reading articles, keep in mind the various populations, perspectives, sources and relevant information. Do not diminish the tragedy of the epidemic, but make the numbers or news more comprehensible and manageable in your brain.
  2. Feel your feelings: It might sound counterintuitive when you are trying to be logical, but give yourself a set amount of time per day to feel the fear, anxiety, anger and whatever else you feel. And after that time is up, it’s up. Move on to other activities. This will prevent you from letting those emotions seep into other important aspects of your life, such as your interpersonal relationships.
  3. Analyze: I cannot say this enough. Analyze your thoughts. Analyze your actions. Analyze others and the situations around you. Do not fall into the numbness of groupthink nor any other type of complacent thinking process. We simply cannot afford it in times like these.

So, humanity, this is our test. We either sink or swim. We either adapt to the new normal or we spend our lives in fear. How long do you think it will take for us to get back to a pre-COVID life? (I’m not sure that we ever will.)

How are you feeling during all of this? What questions have been on your mind? How are you handling this new way of life? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below! Stay safe everyone. For more articles related to psychology and pandemics and all that jazz, check out this one, this one or this one.

P.S. Please wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, even after all of this is over. I am shocked at how many people don’t do that???? (Including Poppie).

Quarantine Activities for Everyone!

Quarantine Activities for Everyone!

Ahhh yes, another day full of random activities I really never saw myself doing before this.

I sit on the couch, cup of coffee in hand, trying to plan out what I would like to do.

Being that I not have ample time on my hands, I’ve started so many new hobbies since all of this began. And I’ve made so. much. bread.

Scones, banana bread, naan, baguettes, you name it.

Here, look at all these attempts I made to be a food photographer!

Anyway, in my search for fun recipes, I stumbled upon a cool New York Times Travel article showing what people’s weekend plans were while in quarantine. So I wanted to do my own version. I asked my Instagram followers how they were handling this strange period of life, and here’s what they had to say.

“My moment outside the house is a daily walk in the park with my roommate. Live for those.”

“I work a lot.”

“Reading and running!”

“Obsessively trying to learn German on Rosetta Stone.”

“I’ve been planning out my career future as much as I can.”

“Been meditating, reading books, cooking and cleaning. Staying busy is key.”

“I’ve started streaming video games on Twitch and found a great community!”

“Some days it’s Animal Crossing all day, others I create videos for YouTube.”

“Watching a TON of movies, which I never do.”

“Writing excerpts for a book. And binge watching community and Alison Roman vids.”

“Netflix and baking.”

“Applying for a Fulbright Scholarship and Master’s program in Asian Studies.”

“Playing a lot of Angry Birds and cooking!”

See? We’re all kind of doing the same things. Cooking, baking, working out, working, studying, relaxing, stressing. It’s a giant conglomeration of everything all at once. Which is kind of fun? But kind of not? (But hey, it’s weirdly bonding for everyone.)

Happy quarantining!

P.S. I’d like to say thank you to all the health care workers that I know personally (and even those I don’t) for your continued hard work during this stressful time. You are all making such big sacrifices, and my prayers are with you.

Though distance separates us physically, I am in your corner. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any help. I am eager to provide whatever I possibly can, even if it’s a simple word of encouragement!

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

I meditated for 30 days. Here’s what I learned.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor a psychologist. I am simply sharing my experience.*

It all started because I was curled up in bed one night, getting over some sort of stomach virus. I was sick of being sick. I couldn’t catch a break. And my anxiety was beginning to cripple me again, both mentally and physically.

I remembered “Eat, Pray, Love” and writer Elizabeth Gilbert’s meditation journey in India. The thought of meditating always intrigued me. I grabbed my phone and started looking up guided meditations on YouTube.

I chose a Christian meditation on anxiety and figured it would easily solve all my problems.

That’s what meditation does, right?

To my dismay, I was still outrageously anxious after the 10 minutes had passed. Not to mention that I could not stop thinking about literally every other thing in the world.

Come. On. Kristen.

Let’s try again.

I took a deep breath, opened another one and closed my eyes.

Nope. Not working.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I concentrate?

A million questions suddenly flowed into my mind as I tried to empty it. I laughed at how paradoxical this entire situation was.

It was 1 a.m., and I was thinking about my meal plan for the next week.

That night, however, I made a promise to myself.

Stick to it for a month and see if it’s even worth it.

Is meditation just a fancy buzz word or some little scam created by self-help gurus? What does it even entail?

What is meditation?

The word meditation stems from the Latin meditatum (to ponder). Essentially, the word encompasses any technique used to practice mindfulness and improve focus or awareness. According to many historians, meditation was first documented through art in ancient Indian culture around 5,000-3,500 B.C. Though the earliest written records of meditation come from Hinduism, most religions have some form or fashion of a meditative practice. It is not, however, a solely religious practice today. Western meditation moved from a religious focus to a philosophical and even scientific focus beginning in the 18th century. A growing number of psychologists believe that meditation is very beneficial for stress-reduction and physical healing.

There are six well-known types of meditation: mindfulness, spiritual, focused, movement, mantra, and transcendental.

My Meditation Journey

I’ll admit that I didn’t do a ton of research before jumping into this. Based on the research I have now done, I would say I practiced a mix of spiritual and focused meditation. I chose to listen to Christian guided meditation videos on YouTube, with the exception of one or two focused breathing routines. Here’s a little glimpse into my brain during this whole process.

Week One

I’m super excited about this whole meditation thing. It feels trendy. It also feels like a solution to my problems. So I lay in bed every night, clutching my pillow, listening to some sort of guided meditation. I treat is as some social experiment. I’m determined to do this and I’m prepared to share my results with the world. My mind still isn’t focusing like I want, but I feel good for trying.

Week Two

Okay, scratch that. This is stupid. All this effort is proving to be futile. I don’t feel any different, and it feels like a chore. Also, I keep falling asleep during my nightly meditations… Oops. Not very good at this whole focus thing. I might just have to change up the routine. Or maybe I should forget this whole thing.

Week Three

Okay, now we’re meditating in the morning! I still don’t feel like doing it all the time, but I have better concentration this way. I change my pose. No more lying down. I sit up straight and do deep breathing exercises. My meditations become more scattered and distracted. I pray and desperately try to clear my mind to no avail. It seems like the harder I try, the more my thoughts fight back.

Week Four

My brain still has a hard time sitting still, but I definitely can feel a difference. I can bring my focus back to the rise and fall of my chest with each breath. My prayers are less desperate. Time seems to pass quickly. When I close my eyes, I feel like I’m not even in my bedroom anymore. My inner monologue quiets as I appreciate the silence and stillness.

Final Reflections

I started out this whole thing near tears, covered in blankets, clutching a pillow. Reflecting back on that night, I think it was a symbol of how afraid I was of opening my heart to anything. Now I meditate on the edge of my bed, eyes closed, hands out. 100% still. Furthermore, meditation is now part of my daily routine.

Yes, I am still in quarantine and currently have plenty of time to meditate.

Yes, I know a mere 30 days of meditation is nothing compared to those who spend their lives doing it.

But I do plan to incorporate this practice into my life going forward.

It helps prepare me for the day, mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel so much more refreshed if I take even 15 minutes to meditate in the morning.

I guess my main takeaway from it all (thus far) is that it is so evident to me that my soul is longing for another place.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Got questions? Comment below! If you meditate regularly, I would be interested to hear your routine.

Les philosophies de la mode: Mathilde

Les philosophies de la mode: Mathilde

Salut mes abonnés français, je voulais vous écrire mais je suis toujours en apprentissage de la langue française et du coup mon écriture n’est pas toujours très éloquente. Mais je vous présente une amie à moi qui a écrit un post pour vous! Cela fait partie d’une série que j’ai fait sur mon blog (cliquez ici pour les autres). Bonne lecture!

Je m’appelle Mathilde, j’ai 25 ans et suis professeur des écoles, remplaçante en attendant l’obtention de mon concours. Je suis aussi danseuse et j’assure des cours de danse fitness. 

J’ai toujours aimé la mode et m’y suis toujours intéressée. Étant petite je prenais les foulards et les chaussures de ma mere. Elle tenait un magasin de vêtements pour enfant et faisait toujours en sorte que je sois bien habillée. Elle m’a appris à ne pas mélanger les imprimés ni certaines couleurs comme le bleu marine et le noir ou le rose et le rouge .

Si aujourd’hui tout est possible dans la mode et ces règles ne sont plus vraiment d’actualité, elles m’ont enseignée à prêter  attention à ma tenue et à éviter d’envoyer un mauvais message aux gens car la mode c’est pour moi un moyen d’expression et de présentation, mon style  donne une première idée de qui je suis. 

Je vis à 100 à l’heure donc je ne pense pas seulement à l’esthétique mais aussi au pratique lorsqu’il s’agit de m’habiller. En tant qu’addict du shopping j’adore faire les magasins et surtout fouiller dans les friperies ou je trouve souvent des trésors. Ce que je préfère dénicher sont les vestes.  Je collectionne les vestes surtout les perfectos en cuir et les vestes en jean. Le fait qu’elles soient vintage, qu’elles aient déjà vécu des moments de vie sur les épaules de quelqu’un d’autre les rend encore plus belles a mes yeux. au delà d’un moyen d’expression j’aime le fait que du tissu puisse mettre en valeur un corps et une personnalité.  Les vêtements donnent de l’assurance. Lorsque je suis sure de ma tenue je suis sure de moi, c’est plus que du simple « materiel ». Au même titre que la danse, la mode est un art dont j’apprécie les couleurs, les matières et le mouvement des tissus sur le corps.

Etant danseuse je suis souvent en tenue de sport. j’adore porter des sweat larges, des joggings et leggings avec des chaussettes qui dépassent des baskets. Je suis très inspirée par les années 90 avec beaucoup de couleurs, les vestes larges en matière parachute, les baskets à plateforme etc… A l’inverse je m’habille aussi de façon plus classique pour le travail car , en tant qu’enseignante je me dois de porter une tenue plus adaptée face aux institutions et aux parents d’élève. Dans ce cas , a l’inverse de ce que je disais plus haut, j’aime porter des couleurs nudes comme le blanc, beige, crème , rose pâle et bien sûr le noir. J’ai donc deux styles complètement différents mais ce qui reste commun sont le confort et la simplicité.

Mathilde is a replacement professor and fitness instructor in Normandy, France. For more information, check out her Instagram here! This is a French blog post that is part of my Fashion Philosophies series.

Is celebrity culture killing fashion week?

Is celebrity culture killing fashion week?

As I finished dinner with some friends near the Trocadéro plaza, we rushed over to get a glimpse of the YSL show for Paris Fashion Week. Before we knew it, we were just another one of the faces in the crowd pushed up against the barriers. I kept joking about how it felt like The French Revolution 2.0, with us as the peasants and the elites of fashion week as the bourgeoisie. “Let’s storm the bastille!”

I mean, it was totally worth it though. I saw Anna Wintour a mere 10 feet away from me. Joe Keery (Steve from Stranger Things) waved at me. We also caught a glimpse of Hailey Bieber and Rami Malek. So, we walked back to our hotel super excited at all we had experienced.

The next day I was reflecting on everything I saw.

Why are we so obsessed with people? People who are just like us but rich?

I would venture to say it’s human nature. We admire, add perceived value to, and aspire to be like those people because it’s glamorous (amongst other reasons).

The conversation continued when I sat down with LA photographer (and newfound friend) Jason Renaud in a Paris café a couple days later. We discussed celebrity culture, fashion week, social media, and everything in between. Here’s what he had to say about it all:

“As a photographer for 6+ years now, it’s been interesting to watch the phenomenon of influencers explode (and begin to wane), especially having only been on the fashion week circuit for just a little over a year now. 

With the rise of Instagram and overall accessibility to fashion in general, it opened up a new market–a market for people. The day-to-day person is so busy, so influencers became a way for someone to open their phone, and go to a trusted source for fashion advice, trends, and soon enough, fashion week itself. 

While there’s no inherent problem with people sharing fashion week and the experience of fashion week online to their fans–it soon became clear that half of the influencers going were only there for the “clout,” to make money, and to just show off outfits that they were wearing. And as more and more influencers emerged, it became even harder to tell who was genuinely there for the love of fashion, and who was there to capitalize on the trend of influencing in general. 

Having worked directly for many influencers before, I’ve seen both the good and the bad–those that care about fashion and have followed it since they were young, and those that just liked the prestige of going to shows and getting their photos taken. In order for influencers to be viable long term, I think something has to change.

In order to truly influence someone (the term influencer I think has been taken far to liberally in the past couple years), you need to have true care and understanding behind wherever it is you’re coming from.

Which doesn’t mean that you know the most recent Gucci make up and go to its event. It means you understand the overall ethos and style that Gucci Beauty has tried to curate over the years.

The term influencer needs to be redefined and reshaped, by those who truly care. 

It’s slowly begun to change I think. The over-saturation has begun. There’s only so many angles of a fashion show you can watch in a row. And with that comes fatigue and, soon enough, disinterest. With a lackluster AW20 season, I think brands will be forced to reconsider the role of influencers in overall brand messaging. It’s a crossroads, and I think next SS21 in September will be the true indicator of where this influencing culture is at, or if it’s time for fashion to move on.”

What are your thoughts on celebrity/influencer culture? Leave a comment below! Featured image by Jason Renaud. To see Jason’s work from PFW, check out his Instagram here.

FPWTF: Kristen V.

FPWTF: Kristen V.

I figured I would end this fashion philosophy series with some brief thoughts on my personal style evolution.

Anyone who knows me knows I love fashion. I always have. I think if I could have chosen the outfit I wore out of the hospital at my birth, I would’ve.

In elementary/middle school, I was obsessed with gauchos and platform flip flops and rainbow earrings that touched my shoulders.

In high school, I wore a choker necklace and converse high tops with my private school uniform and I tried so hard to fit that “soft-grunge” aesthetic.

In college, I could count the number of times I wore leggings to class. (Three. Three times. All three because I woke up insanely late and practically walked into class crying.)

I have tried every print, color, and fit of clothing possible throughout the years. And yet I still have a hard time defining my fashion sense. It probably doesn’t help that I tend to completely rotate my closet once every four to six months. I’ll come home with giant Goodwill bags full of clothes, only to find myself making a giant pile to give back to Goodwill the next month.

I love a good vintage blazer with shoulder pads, but I also want to sport a floral sundress with espadrilles. I want to look edgy and girly and simple and extravagant all at once. Sounds about right.

I think the main thing I realized from this series is that fashion is so dynamic and fun. My fashion inspiration can come from anything and everything, making it that much more spontaneous and exciting. Like all of the people that contributed to this series, I find myself seeking expression through the clothes I wear. And whether I’m rocking my leather mini-skirt or my favorite men’s Levi’s, the goal is to feel comfortable with myself. And to look good while doing it.

P.S. Enjoy these cringe-worthy photos of me. Quality content.

If you’d like to see more of my style, check out my Instagram @kristen.v!

Thanks so much for tuning into this series. Hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did! And thank you to everyone who participated. If you would ever like to contribute to my blog, feel free to DM on Instagram or shoot me an email.