What an Un-Belizeable Adventure!

Monday, December 16, 2013

So, when talking to a family friend today about my recent visit to Belize, I was describing all the different activities we did. She turned to me and said, "Zoe, wasn't this just a glorified vacation? What did you learn?" I was a little taken aback, to say the least. I had to attend lectures, I took notes. Granted, I also laid in a hammock for a couple hours on a private island... but there was plenty that I learned.

Being the list-maker that I am, here is a list of some of the top things I learned while in Belize!

1. I suck at football (soccer).

(Me. Covered in mud)

Seriously. There is a reason I played basketball in high school... and why I don't play sports now.

2. Tapirs are adorable. So are baby crocodiles named Rose.

Yeah, that's a real baby croc. Nbd.

3. I LOVE HAMMOCKS. I need one at home, stat.

So comfy. What a way to nap the day away....

4. Bug bites are itchy.

Yay bug nets and princess beds!

5. There are so many awesome puns.

Like, this is unbelizeable! You bettah Belize it! Oh Belize...

6. There is no concept of time on an island.

I wear a watch every day, and I am incredibly punctual. But that doesn't matter on an island.

7. Howler monkeys sound like dinosaurs.

(obviously not a howler monkey. But we heard them while visiting Xunantunich)

(Also heard them in our cabins)


8. Rivers are slippery. Always wear your chacos!



But for real, Belize was amazing, and there was a lot that I learned that cannot be quantified.

I learned that there is so much good in the world. Although it is easy to look at the problems that face us, like degradation of the environment, poverty, gender inequality and the myriad of other things that we must face, I am constantly reminded of the good in life. Swimming in a river in the middle of the jungle, dancing with a Creole drummer, flying over the purest blue water I have ever seen, watching high school students grow as leaders - all of these things have reminded me of the immense capacity for good we humans have, and how beautiful this world really is. With such beauty, and such capacity, I believe that we can not only tackle the problems we face, but truly succeed in making this world a wonderful, sustainable, beautiful place.

I learned a lot about myself as well, and what my priorities are. This quarter, I let myself be sucked into things that did not make me strong. I fed into my preoccupation with success, labels, and what other people think of me, and I feel like I lost a lot of myself over that period of time. I took on roles and tasks that I was not passionate about, and it made me feel angry and lost. Taking the time to disconnect from my life, the life I have created here, in Denver has helped me reconnect to who I am, and what I believe my essence to be. It has helped me to re-identify what I'm passionate about, and has given me a clear vision in my priorities and what I believe to be valuable for me. I can no longer feed into what I think others think about me. Most of the time, it isn't true. Nor is it helpful, and it is not who I really am.

My passions lie in connecting with other people - their histories, cultures, stories. That is what I want to do. Helping other people is where my passion lies, and I have found that to be what I can return to whenever I feel lost, as I did before Belize.

So, 10 days in a foreign country, disconnected from technology (for the most part) and completely connected to my sense of adventure, I had a great time and obviously learned a lot about not only my foreign host, but also about myself. I cannot wait to do it again.

As always, thanks for reading.


Belize, part 1

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's finally here. Something that I have been waiting for and thinking about for months now (the original application started in June) is going to happen TOMORROW.

I'm going to Belize.

I know it's a place that a lot of people go, but I don't think that too many people will see Belize the same way that I'm about to see it. I'm going as part of a Winter Interterm class through DU and PLP, and because of that, I think we are going to see a side of Belize that is much more raw and honest than the side that you might see on a cruise or something (not that cruises are bad... what I wouldn't give to spend a few days on a boat just floating around and having fun. #bucketlist).

In preparation for this course, I had to do a fair amount of reading, including The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift by Andres R. Edwards, The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman's Fight to Save the World's Most Beautiful Bird by Bruce Barcott. I also read the Lonely Planet Belize guide, and my copy is already thoroughly dogeared, even though I haven't even been to the country yet. Through these readings, I came to imagine Belize as a magical place; a place where Mayan emperors and magnificent scholars ruled, a place where wild animals roam and live, full of undiscovered wonder and awe. There is the giant blue hole, beaches so pristine, post-card perfect jungles, mystical Mayan ruins, and the clearest turquoise water imaginable. But there is something deeper than that: It is an incredibly lost country, facing several issues without really having the resources or know-how to manage everything it must deal with.

I like to think I'm an optimist, and in my research it has also become clear that the people of Belize are resilient, and they have the capacity to make Belize into a sustainable, beautiful oasis that locals and visitors alike can enjoy. :)

What am I looking forward to the most?

1. Hanging out with my PLP family.
2. Doing a service project at a Belizean High School, also getting my ass handed to me during a soccer match.
3. Mayan ruins. Xunantunich. Look it up. Do it, do it now.
4. THE FOOD. In Colorado, I don't eat seafood. It's like, would you like your sushi with a side of petroleum? No thanks. But being next to the ocean... imagine all the fresh seafood and amazing food. YES.
5. Relaxing in a hammock on a beach, on an island. A HAMMOCK. On a BEACH. What could possibly be more relaxing?

I set a vacation response for my email, and my 12 days of being relatively on the map (thank the Lawd) now commence. :) For those who I will see tomorrow, safe travels and I cannot wait!

As always, thanks for reading.


Control. Or lack thereof.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

If you know me, even a little, you know that I like to plan things. I have books and binders full of lists. My adorable Lilly Pulitzer print planner is glued to me at all times. If you are one of my closer friends, you have very likely witnessed a freakout when I misplaced it. Planning is who I am.

I can plan things until my fingers are numb from writing/typing. I can plan the you-know-what out of anything. What I struggle with, I have found, is the action. I am afraid of what would happen if things don't go according to plan.

So here's the thing. My first year in college did not go according to plan. At all. I mean, really. If you would have told me a year ago that I would do the things I did and experienced during my first year of college, I probably would have packed up my stuff and gone back home. I had this plan for myself, all of the things I was going to do and see, and in what order. Most of those things happened, and I saw the things I wanted to, sure. However, most (if not all) of my dearest and best memories are of things that I did not plan. My sorority is the perfect example of that. I did not plan joining a sorority, and I did not plan being so heavily involved in it. I surely did not plan living in the house my second year, and possibly through the end of my college career (not that I'm planning or anything... ;) ).

My point in explaining all of this is the idea that my incessant need to plan out every detail of my life is because I like to feel like I am in control. If I plan out everything that I am supposed to do, then there is not time for things to go off plan, right? Wrong.

So here's the moral of the story: I can't control anything. Just like I couldn't control how my first year of college was going to go, I can't control the rest of my life. I am realizing that more and more now. While at first that gives me great anxiety (no control? WHAT?!), it is also very liberating. The only thing I can control is myself, my actions, and my choices. By letting go of my need to control everything, I am free to focus on what really matters: my friends, my family, my sisters, my studies.

I am going to be perfectly honest. I haven't done a great job of controlling my choices in this past year. I feel like I tried to control too much, and ended up controlling very little. Just to be clear, I will continue to plan. I will make lists, and I will carry around my Lilly with me everywhere I go. But my goal is to not try and control everything. So here is my challenge to myself, and to anyone who wants to take part:

I will not try to control anyone or anything but myself. I can only control how I respond to events, and I will take responsibility for the choices I make.

My friends, sisters, family, or anyone who reads this (if anyone reads this), I will ask you to hold me to this challenge. Of course, I will do the same for you.

Thank you for reading. <3

Zoe :)


Thursday, August 15, 2013

What is sexy? It's a question that gets asked all the time, and one that has a lot of different answers. As a woman, I feel the pressure to be sexy, or what is the general perception of sexy, is big boobs, tiny waist, a butt that is big enough to be groped, yet small enough to fit into skinny jeans, toned legs, full lips, big eyes, long hair, etc. But for me, and for a lot of women, this isn't a reality. And it is damn near close to impossible.

For guys, it's not much better. Guys that are typically called sexy are the ones with nice hair, muscular arms, a sixpack, toned, fashionable. Again, I know a lot of guys who don't fit this bill, and some are never going to.

I know it is unfair to generalize, and it is unfair to claim that I do not have a perception of what is sexy - purely in terms of appearance. Similarly, there is not one single definition. Some girls find long hair on guys sexy, and I don't. Some guys like short hair on girls, but some do not find that sexy. The unfortunate thing is that appearance and how you dress is where it stops. For many, myself included, sexiness does not go deeper than how toned your abs are.

I'm sure many of you know where I am going with this by now. If you haven't seen the video of Ashton Kutcher's speech at the Teen Choice Awards, don't read any further. Go watch it now. Right here.

I was surprisingly rather inspired by his speech. I found it inspirational that he detailed his work experience, and all of the crappy jobs he had. For most of us, success is not a straight shot. And it is important to remember, especially now, that if you have a job you are never too good for it. Own it. I find myself doing this, but I feel like we often look for opportunities as if they are glowing, singing orbs that lead to perfect, lovely, beautiful paths to fulfillment and success. But they are not. Something that I have learned the hard way is exactly what Ashton Kutcher said... they look like a lot of work. But those are the best ones.

But the part of this speech that really spoke to me was the part about sexiness, and what is truly sexy. This is the quote:

"The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart, and being thoughtful, and being generous. Everything else is crap, I promise you. It's just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don't buy it." 

So then of course, I start thinking about what I consider sexy. And the ones that I remember as being sexy, like really sexy, are the ones that have a good heart. The ones who give a lot of their time in volunteering, who like to serve others, who are respectful and kind. They like to laugh, and they like to listen. And the guys I know that are extremely physically attractive, well some of them are jerks.

Then I think about whether or not I am sexy, or if that is how people see me. My gut reaction, and my automatic response is no. But if I am being honest with myself, then maybe I am. Maybe a little bit. Every day, all I can ask myself to do is to give a little more to others, to be a good friend, to think about my family and my parents. Devote myself to learning - not only from books, but from people - to be smarter. That is all I can truly ask of myself. And if I do that, I am on the road to sexiness.

But here is the deal. Appearances do matter. Before you judge me for being a raging feminist, just trying to encourage everyone to look at inner beauty, I will say this. Appearances do matter. Unfortunately, we live in a world of snap judgements. Within seconds, you already have an opinion of another person. And it is hard to change that opinion. I know that I dress a certain way at work in order to present a certain image, and I dress a certain way at sorority functions to present another image. I want to present myself the way in which I want to be seen.

So here is my challenge to myself (and for others, if you are willing): Look beyond the abs. Look for the deeper part of a person. Before dismissing another person for not being attractive enough, and therefore not sexy, learn about them. Take the time to see if they are smart, and kind. Then, that will be the true determination of sexiness.

Finally, my challenge to myself is to create my world - my life. I cannot look at the world anymore as a product of external forces. I have to refuse to tell myself that the world is the way it is, and resign to accepting it. For me, the world is a hard place. But it is also extremely beautiful. So I am going to create a life full of love and kindness (cheesy, I know). A place where I can be myself, and where people are treated with kindness. Because that is the world I want to live in.

What was your favorite part of Ashton Kutcher's speech? Did you like it? Did you think it was dumb? Let me know!

As always,
Thanks for reading.

Zoe (:

A four letter word

Saturday, June 1, 2013

If there is one thing that I can say has ever held me back in my life it would be fear. Fear of failure, rejection, judgement, pain, heartbreak, heartache, change... Whatever the form, I have come to realize one thing in life.

Fear is very, very real. 

It is crazy to think that such a simple, four letter word could mean so much. There is one thing that I have been afraid of for as long as I can remember. It is embarrassing, and some people think quite silly. But I am afraid of dogs. Or at least, I was.

This fear makes absolutely zero sense to me, probably less sense to me than to everyone else. I have never been attacked by a dog, never bitten, never even scratched. But for some reason, the sight of one of those adorable, fun, loving animals has been enough to make me shake. Even the sound of metal clinging together, like the tags or keys, is enough to make me cower. If a friend invited me over to her house but she had a dog, I would not go. I would find some way to get out of it. I don't run around the lake by my house because that is a popular dog-walking destination. Even walking down the street, if I saw a dog I would turn around and walk the other way or duck into a building. But in all my searching, and in all my questioning about why, of all things, I am afraid of dogs, I have never found a definite answer. I think it's something that I will never truly understand.

Before coming to college, I decided that I wanted to try and address this fear so that it would not inhibit me from living to the fullest. I absolutely never want my fear to dictate who I am, and where I can go and what I can do. One of the most generous women I have ever known graciously agreed to help me become more acquainted with dogs. I learned a lot of safety habits to form around them, what to do if there is a dog that makes me nervous, and how to be assertive if I need to ask someone to hold their dog when I'm outside.

Over the course of the past few months, I have been diligently working on this fear. Today, I went to a picnic for the Colorado Basset Rescue, and I had SO MUCH FUN. I did not feel nervous at all. I pet more dogs than I can count, and got a lot of little basset kisses. :) I have such a feeling of pride for being able to overcome a fear that has been so limiting in my life.

While this may seem somewhat silly, it has much larger implications for me. This step has given me hope that if I can overcome this fear, I can overcome all of my other fears that have kept me down.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this, and if there is one thing that I really want to share with anyone who reads this, it is that your fear does not have to define you. Whatever you are afraid of, be it dogs, or fish, or spiders, or even something abstract like loneliness, or failure - you have it inside of yourself to overcome it. Start small, and keep working. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of faith, especially faith in yourself. No matter how long it takes, I promise that you can do it! If I can, you sure as hell can too.

"Never let your fear decide your fate." - AWOLNATION

As always, thanks for reading. <3


New Quarter!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finally, I'm all moved back in and settled in my dorm room. Yay! It feels like I never left. :)

Before every new start in school (previously, semesters, currently, quarters), I like to reorganize and regroup. Here's how I've organized my desk for Winter Quarter!

Computer, iPad, iPhone, homework notebook, pencil bag, and framed bid card. :) 

The wall of postcards. Plus my letters. 

Bookcase right above my desk (yes, that's a fan. It's so hot in my dorm!)

Printer, books and binders under my bed. Backpack, tote bag, and purse hanging from my bedpost. 
I'm going to try using a tote bag this quarter. My parents got me this super cute tote for Christmas, and I love carrying it around. It's actually really spacious. But I always tend to put a lot of crap I don't need in my backpack, and using a tote forces me to think about what I'm putting into my bag, thus alleviating the stress caused by extra crap that I don't need! 

Every girl needs a good back-to-school nail polish, just because. My pick for this quarter is Julep's Amelia, a really pretty shimmery champagne color. It looks kind of gold against my skin tone, which for me means good luck! Victory! By which I mean, surviving a relatively heavy 18 credit-hour course load, work, Delta Zeta, extra-curriculars, and volunteering (it sounds so much worse when I type it).

I'm so glad to be back at school!

As always, thanks for reading!

-Zoe <3

Back to School (finally)!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

After seven long weeks, it is that time again, back to school! Which means moving back into my dorm. The only thing I don't like about having such a long break? I have to pack all my crap up, bring it home, and move it back again. Instead of packing for only one or two weeks. And my room and my mind is absolute chaos!

But that's okay, because less than twelve hours from now, I will be (hopefully) be on my way back to DU! I've been looking forward to this since about halfway through break.

Winter Quarter is going to be amazing. Here are the top five reasons I can't wait to go back to school!

1. I miss my dorm room and roommate! Those are words I never thought I would say, but there they are. Our room is so nice, warm, and homey. I've decorated my side with my favorite postcards, pictures, posters, and my letters. My window looks out onto a nice patch of grass, and there's a tree. It looks beautiful all the time, but especially when it's green, fall, or snow.

2. PLP familia... I miss you guys! I miss hearing my neighbor's music, and the people in the lounge, and the boys playing Mario Kart or whatever racing game they play down the hall. The fun sounds of the family I have become accustomed to! Being able to run down the hall and get someone to kill a spider for me. Or knowing that we all have a paper due the next day for leadership because the halls and lounge are really quiet. Gah, I just miss everyone so much! I can't wait to hear about BELIZE! I'm so insanely jealous.

3. Cute office supplies, and a more organized way of keeping track of assignments and deadlines. Plus, color-coding! I've organized my stash of post-it notes, and I'm following College Prepster's study tips for how to keep track of assignments. I have a little notebook in the same print of my planner, and a matching highlighter, pen, and pencil bag (I like matching things).

4. Delta Zeta. I miss my sisters! I miss chapter meetings, making the trek to the house every Monday night, wearing my letters every Wednesday (I had to work on Wednesdays, and wearing my letters wouldn't have been appropriate)! My paddle, all my Delta Zeta stuff hanging in my room, my big sis! I can't wait for when we're all reunited and squealing and hugging and swapping winter break stories. If any of my sisters are reading this, I miss you guys! Can't wait to see you! It's been wayyyy too long!

5. My classes. Nerdy, I know. But I'm really excited for the classes I'm taking this quarter! Anthropology, art history, war and the presidency, geography, leadership... All of my favorite subjects! Plus, my professors are apparently awesome. An extra plus, the TAs for my geography class *swoon*.

I can't wait to get back to DU and start Winter Quarter. Fall Quarter flew by!

Thanks for reading,

Zoe <3

Random Acts of Art!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

This evening, my parents and I took a trip to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It was one of my favorite exhibits I've seen there. I love Van Gogh. I like the colors he uses (although his early works were rather drab, and had a lot of grays and browns), and his very intense, raw style. I liked it so much, that I bought the exhibit companion (and some postcards to hang in my dorm room)!

Let me preface this next part by saying, I do not usually condone works of vandalism. While I appreciate various public artworks, including graffiti work, I do not condone it when it is done illegally. That being said, I do feel that sometimes, random acts of art occur for a reason, and that spontaneity in art should be encouraged. 

Tonight, something else happened. As we were walking out of the museum, my dad told us about a piece of spontaneous public art that was happening on the corner of 13th and Bannock. On that light post, people put their Denver Art Museum stickers after visiting. As we were approaching the light post, a man walked across the street and shouted "Don't do that! It's gets everything so dirty and now their doing it by my street! You art people..." to which I proceeded to smack my sticker on said post and smile at the man. My mom countered him, arguing that it's a pretty harmless random act of art. She acknowledged that his opinion is valid, but said that she disagreed. Then she told him to move forward, to which he disrespected our President, and she responded by telling him that she just didn't want to talk to him. Then, noticing that I was watching him, he turned to me and ask how I would like it if people put stickers on my car. I told him that firstly, it wasn't his lamppost, and secondly, if people put stickers on my car, I would take them off if I didn't want them there. Then there were some rude words on his part, and he ended flipping of my mom. Classy.

This bothered me for two reasons. First, I didn't know this man, and I didn't know why he felt he could tell us what to do, and he couldn't accept the fact that two people could peacefully disagree on a subject. Secondly, I believe in random acts of art. I again wish to express that I do not find vandalism acceptable, nor am I encouraging senseless vandalism, and vandalism of private property is never okay. I guess putting stickers on a lamp post is technically considered vandalism. However, I feel that stickers are pretty harmless, if the city of Denver has a problem with it, they will remedy the situation using any number of techniques. 

I find this random act of art, occurring on the corner of 13th and Bannock, really cool. I think it's fun that people who visit the museum are coming together to express it. Is it a masterpiece? No. But it's fun. I think Denver needs to have more creativity encouraged in public. More random acts of art. The stickers will probably come down soon anyways. 

Until then, I will enjoy the small random act of art that is currently on that corner. And I will continue to encourage random acts of art like that (again, not illegal, senseless, graffiti and tags, especially not on private property). I also welcome discussion. I could see the man's point. Some people don't like vandalism or stickers on lampposts. And cleaning it will probably suck. I respect his opinion, although I don't agree with it. I guess that's all I'm trying to say. 

I know this was a long, rather rant-y post. So a very extra special thanks for reading. And I completely, 100% welcome discussion on this topic, as it might be a bit controversial. 

Thank you again,
-Zoe <3

Here's to Reading...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When the first versions of e-readers came out, I wrote a scathing editorial and review in my high school's newspaper about how Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble nook would never, ever, ever in a million years replace a paper book. Not for me. I pledged that I would go to my grave defending the old school paper books.

I have a confession to make, my friends. I cheated. I bought a book on Amazon Kindle for my iPad... and I liked it. This makes me both overjoyed, and incredibly sad.

I love books. I love the smell, the feel, the idea of sitting in a big chair and reading your favorite book. Turning pages, feeling the paper, creating a connection to a book. I always thought that Kindles and nooks and such remove the personal connection a reader makes with their book.

But then I tried reading a book on my dad's iPad (before I had my own). The personal connection that I loved about reading was not as lost as I had come to believe.

Then there's the cost factor. Today, I went to the bookstore to buy my textbooks for this coming quarter. Due to the fact that I do not have a credit card and could not rent my books :(, I was ready to buy my books. Until the cashier announced the price. I just about cried. So I bought the books that I had to buy, and went home. I checked on Amazon, and the books I didn't buy I could rent on my kindle for almost half the price of buying them. Being the close-to-broke college student I am, I opted to get the books on my kindle.

So yes. I cheated on my promise. I bought my books on kindle, and I like it.

I will still read my paper books when I can. For me, nothing will replace the romance of reading a paper book. But the kindle books will remain part of my library-expanding experience. Plus, I put stickers on my iPad, and I have a really cute Vera Bradley case for it. :)

So here's to reading! In whatever form. :) 

As always, 

Thanks for reading. 

-Zoe <3

A Study in Green

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I am obsessed with color. So this year, I am especially excited that the 2013 color of the year is Emerald! I personally love this color. Plus, it's one of Delta Zeta's colors!

Today, I want to pick out and share with you some of my favorite things in this beautiful hue. My picks  for my favorite green things:

1. Julep Trina Turk Emerald nail polish: Hoch 

2. Nature

It's hard to find green in Colorado winters... so these are some pictures I took at the Denver Botanic Gardens this past summer.

3. Clothes
The green dress from Atonement on Keira Knightley (source)

J.Crew Matchstick jeans in vintage kelly (source)

J.Crew Janey patent flats in Dusty Jade (source)

Kate Spade Locked in Studs (source)

4. Food
Beautiful macaroons (source)

Beautiful fresh vegetables and fruit at a Farmer's market (source)

I'm so excited that this is the color for 2013!

Thanks for reading,

Zoe <3