By Gabriela Santiago-Romero

I remember the first time I found out we were poor.

I was sitting at our kitchen table, begging my mom for new shoes. All the girls at the middle school had new Nike Air Force 1’s, and I wanted to look fresh to death too.

“Mami, why won’t you buy me new shoes?”

“You already have a pair for school.”

“Yeah, but they’re old! I need new ones.”

“Just wash the ones you have now and take better care of them.”

“But why can’t I just get new ones? All the other girls have more than one pair? Why can’t I?”

“Because you don’t need new ones.”

She was right. I didn’t need new shoes. The ones I had worked just fine, but I wanted new ones. And I wanted more clothes and more purses and more things I didn’t need.

“Mami, can you buy me new shoes?”

“No, mija, I can’t.”


“All the girls at the middle school had new Nike Air Force 1’s, and I wanted to look fresh to death too.”


That’s when it dawned on me.

“Mami, are we poor?”

My mom laughed, “You didn’t know we were poor?!”

I sat there looking at my beautiful young mother, feeling silly. No. I had no idea we were poor. As far as I knew, we had everything we needed. We had food on the table, our lights were always on, and I never needed anything. I had no idea we were poor and struggling.

It was only later in life that I started to connect the dots. The food on the table was picked up from our local church or food pantry. My most memorable Christmas included bags full of toys and a new bike, which I later learned were donations given to my family from local nonprofit organizations. We were able to receive certain services because our income was so low, services that helped me and my family live with dignity.

My mother loves this country. For her, coming here from Mexico meant that I would receive the education I needed to become independent and self-sufficient. I would grow up in a nation where your wildest dreams can come true because we have better leadership, one that cares to create opportunities and take care of its residents. She worked hard, paid taxes and focused on us becoming citizens as soon as possible in order for us to begin to vote — a right we knew we would have and wanted. We wanted to become a part of America and build our future here.

I wanted to vote for Barack Obama during his first run for president. But I was 17 and couldn't. During his re-election, I was signing up everyone and their mom to vote — including everyone in my family who was documented, asking them to use their given right. I wanted to be a part of hope and by then knew how connected the government was to the services I was able to receive growing up. I wanted all of us to have a hand in picking leadership that would create more opportunities for everyone.

During Obama’s second term, after having hope and believing in his promise of change, my family lost three family members to deportation — the same family members I crossed the border with along with my mother when I was only 1 year old.

How did voting for our country’s first black president change anything for me and my family? How was the political system, which is able to provide funding for services for residents, also able to tear us apart?


“My mother loves this country. For her, coming here from Mexico meant that I would receive the education I needed to become independent and self-sufficient.”


That's when I realized the system isn't broken — it actually works really well — but the outcome fully depends on the input, and so far we haven’t been putting enough progressive leadership in place. We had an amazing president whose advancements were diluted due to the lack of support when he was in office — one who was a community organizer, understood our society’s structural issues and navigated his way through adversities to make it to the top. But what’s the point of being at the top if you’re alone with no one there who can see issues from your point of view, help you create solutions and work on implementing them?

Voting alone won't bring about positive systemic change for the marginalized, but organizing and creating a pipeline of new leadership will. If we as a country had encouraged and invested in producing grassroots leaders in the years leading up to the latest presidential race, we would have had more — and more diverse — candidates to pick from in 2016.

In recent months we’ve seen horror as hate is promoted, thanks in part to the encouragement of our current president. And as racism flares, many individuals’ economic situations aren’t getting any better either.

It’s going to take changing leadership across the country to shift power from the wealthy and corrupt to hard-working everyday people. Yes, we should respond to hate with rallies, but we also have to call for a seat at the table in order to create better policies. Yes, we must shut down streets if that is what’s necessary for our demands for justice to be heard, but we also have to galvanize our youth to become the public servants we need.

We all want to enjoy parks, have our choice of well-paying jobs, benefit from thorough health insurance, travel, relish our families and friends. I too would love to experience all of these things, but it has been difficult for my family to reach this proper quality of life. We pulled up our bootstraps; we worked and paid taxes, yet we encountered racism and disrespect along the way.

Will voting really create change? Not if we vote believing that only one person is going to change everything. One person can inspire many to take action, but it will not be one candidate, at any level of government, who single-handedly saves us. I believe that we can save ourselves.

Invest in yourself and your own leadership; volunteer for that nonprofit organization; mobilize your community; run for office alongside your neighbors; begin to create a pipeline of better public servants.

Then vote for the change you want to see — the change you have already begun to create.

Gabriela Santiago-Romero is pursuing a master of social work studying Social Policy and Evaluation with a focus on Community and Social Systems. She hopes to one day win a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives, or continue to build a pipeline of amazing women of color to do so.



By Taylor Lampe

It had been almost a year since my last Instagram post.

After graduating college in May 2015, I moved to Atlanta in August to start a year with the Episcopal Service Corps. Through this program of communal living and social activism, my world was expanding, my ideas were challenged and I was constantly growing. Five Instagram posts into my time in Atlanta, I knew that photos would never be able to capture the intense, beautiful and extremely meaningful things that were happening.

After a final post on October 26, 2015, I went silent.

For the most important year of my life so far, I was completely absent on Instagram — perhaps the most impactful social media platform of our generation. I didn’t know how to capture life in a way that felt true, that wouldn’t minimize it. I hated the idea of people only understanding pieces of my experience, but I also hated the loneliness I felt in experiencing something so significant without knowing how to share it.

During this time, I also began settling into my queer identity. Even though I was out to close friends and family back home in Indiana, feelings of fear and shame had kept me from living into my identity, or sharing it beyond my close community. When I came to Atlanta, I vowed to stop hiding. I vowed to be “out” from the start. So, I started meeting LGBTQ people, attending queer events and dating. It was glorious and liberating in ways that I never imagined.

On October 9, 2016, after my first year in the Episcopal Service Corps, I attended my second Atlanta Pride parade and had the opportunity to walk with the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Right before the route began, a friend snapped a photo of me. Wearing a rainbow luau on my head and a tongue-in-cheek homemade shirt proclaiming “God Save the Queers,” I looked giddy with joy and wholeness.


“For the most important year of my life so far, I was completely absent on Instagram.”


After the photo was taken, I acquired a gay flag to drape around my shoulders, and I was ready. I was in the front of the Episcopal section, and was first to see the looks of joy, hear the cheers of celebration and watch the crowd revel in a church participating in the parade. A rush of emotions coursed through me the entire route. It felt like freedom. When we finally entered Piedmont Park, I was walking on cloud nine.

I decided, somewhat suddenly, that I wanted to post on Instagram. I was so happy, and in that moment, my happiness was something that felt uncomplicated, pure, easy to convey via social media. It felt like something my friends and family would be glad to see, and could understand, even as I still felt like so much of my Atlanta life eluded even my best attempts at explanation.

But, I quickly ran into a challenge. I wasn’t publicly out.

It was almost easy to forget that small, but important, detail. Vowing to enter Atlanta fully “out” had totally altered my day-to-day life. I censored myself less, even with loved ones back in Indiana. I was newly open in ways that affected my posture, my relationships, my laughter. But, I was still keeping my queerness under wraps on social media until I felt ready to make it public.

As I stood there in the pulsing crowds of Pride, I faced a sudden and crushing dilemma. Here I had a picture of myself that I really wanted to share. But, if I did so, the picture would raise some strong questions that I wasn’t quite ready to face. The shirt specifically felt risky — I had never used the word “queer” before online. I realized that the only way to share this photo on Instagram without implicitly outing myself would be to crop out the shirt and write a caption that could have easily been written by an ally.


“I was so happy, and in that moment, my happiness was something that felt uncomplicated, pure, easy to convey via social media.”


I was heartbroken.

And yet, I was happy… still giddy and still happy. I wanted to share that. After many minutes of strategically cropping the photo and crafting the caption, I posted my safe, edited version on Instagram. As likes and comments started coming in, suddenly, unexpectedly, I had a strong urge to delete the photo. I still felt exposed. Even as I hated censoring my queerness, the fear of sharing pieces of my truth was stronger. What if someone suspected from the Instagram?

After that post, I started regularly sharing on Instagram again. I had begun to accept the limitations of social media, and I knew that Instagram posts could never fully convey life’s complexity. And yet, I still found that my posts felt incomplete — but in a different way than before. Now, by leaving out a huge part of my identity, I was willfully limiting what made it onto my feed. To my surprise, this felt almost more painful than what I had experienced after first arriving in Atlanta.

Five months later, I decided to come out publicly on Facebook and Instagram. I can’t say clearly what forces conspired to bring me to that point, but I was tired of censoring what I posted and thinking about who knew or didn’t. I was ready to be a more visible and vocal member of the LGBTQ community. Timing worked out perfectly, and I did an interview with a friend for her new blog project on life and love in the LGBTQ community. This avenue meant I wouldn’t have to craft the words entirely on my own: I could talk about the integration of my queer identity with the many other facets of my life, and hopefully, my words could reach beyond just my community and social media followers.

The support was overwhelming, and this new phase of liberation has been incredible. I can post whatever I want! My uncertainty and discomfort with Instagram will never go away — every post reminds me that most of our “truth” is too complex to convey fully, no matter the medium. But, I am posting. And I will never, ever crop out my queerness again.

Taylor Lampe recently moved to New York City to pursue a master of public health. She is still learning not to smile at strangers on the train.



By Emily Kasper

One year ago this June, I moved in with my significant other. A one-bedroom, 678-square-foot space on the 18th floor of an apartment complex (with balcony views of the Atlanta skyline, ooh la la) became our home.

We moved to Atlanta together after about nine months of dating. Living together, and in this space in particular, took a bit of convincing for me. I’m traditionally a live-below-my-means kind of girl. But now that we’ve been living this high life in our little house in the sky, I really can’t imagine it any other way.

I expected to learn a lot about each other during this arrangement (little privacy, after all), but I’ve learned much more about myself than anticipated — more specifically, about the partner I am today and the one I want to be in the (near) future. Having this sort of awareness has always been important to me but has played an even larger part in my life once I started living with my SO. The type of partner I am has begun to define the kind of person I am day-to-day: my mood, perspective and attitude. So, I am continually working to be better and to get closer to where I'd like to be.

I am happy to report that Bryce, my SO, has been surprisingly cool and supportive of my desire to share publicly my learnings in living with him. These learnings (ever-changing) come to you in a list of dos and don’ts, inspired by long talks about my feelings (very much in my nature) and reflecting on a variety of situations that have come up this past year.

Here is my report out (examples contain both strengths and opportunities — can you tell I work in HR?):

Do: Communicate. Often and intentionally.
It’s a holiday weekend, and we have four full days at our disposal! Our options are to stay in town or travel to family in Florida.

Staying in Atlanta would be relaxing. We haven’t had a staycation since we moved here. We could do some of the things we’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had time for.


“The type of partner I am has begun to define the kind of person I am day-to-day: my mood, perspective and attitude.”


Going to Florida would also be relaxing because family time is the only time I’m not running around doing household chores. There’s the drive though — five hours each way is a deterrent. But, there is the beach and good weather and the tennis courts we like to play at in the morning.

We eventually decide to stay in town. OK, on the same page. Then again, maybe not: When we talked about relaxing, Bryce meant no alarms, ease into the day, enjoy that cup of coffee, we'll do what we feel like doing when we feel like doing it. I, on the other hand, wanted to have a rough plan for each day to ensure we were taking advantage of our time. 

This is representative of how we value our time differently. Thankfully we talked this one through and found middle ground before the weekend came, but preemptive communication has not always been the case for us, and in those moments, we both end up frustrated.

Communicating proactively has helped us make good choices as a team. If we need to discuss an important decision or a topic that could be adversarial, we try to select a time and place for that conversation. Talking about it in advance of when we need to act upon the decision gives us time to sort through alternatives and hear the other’s perspective. Also, getting out of our most comfortable position (the house), usually puts us in a better mood to listen.

Don’t: Stop being an individual.
We are six months into our Atlanta life, and I find myself waiting on the couch for my SO to get home from work. I’m sad when his “one hour late” turns into two or three because there is a deadline he needs to meet. Suddenly, I don’t recognize myself: Who is this lady, moping around, lost without her man?

In Savannah, Georgia, where Bryce and I lived (separately) when we met, I had joined a choir; I went jogging around the park with friends after work; I was in a book club; I hosted dinner parties. But I didn’t pick these activities up right away when I moved to another city because I no longer needed to seek them out. I was living with my best friend, and every decision I made to do something on my own was now a decision to not hang with him. It became much harder to keep up with the things that motivate and excite me personally knowing that taking part in them meant leaving my SO at home.

I’ve since picked up a few new things I’m working on as an individual — not as Bryce's girlfriend — and it feels good. I can’t stay as busy as I once did because that doesn’t leave enough quality time for me and the roomie. However, selecting just a few intentional independent activities and making sure to consistently participate in them has put me back on track. I wish I would have done this sooner.

Do: Be patient.
The 3D printer has been on our kitchen table for a week and a half. Last weekend Bryce took it out to start designing on his own again. Now the massive contraption and newly formed plastic models take up the only designated place to eat in our house. His side of the bed remains littered with clothes from the week. He cooks an amazing dinner for us, but manages to dirty the entire kitchen in the process.


“I’m sad when his 'one hour late' turns into two or three because there is a deadline he needs to meet. Suddenly, I don’t recognize myself: Who is this lady, moping around, lost without her man?”


In this household, we each gravitate towards the chores we can tolerate and avoid the ones we hate. For us that means he cooks, I clean, and we take turns with the rest of it.

I’m continually working on being OK with the fact that not every “chore” will be done on my own timeline. If I want something to be done a particular way at a particular moment, I have learned to recognize that I’m cleaning for me because it will give me peace of mind to have it done now — I’m doing myself a favor, not him. The alternative is to allow my SO to do things at his own pace. This might mean something sits around the house for a week as he tinkers, but this makes him happy, and I can deal.

I learn a lot from him in this area as I watch him be patient with me. I have plenty of my own non-ideal character traits that I bring to the relationship, but Bryce never makes me feel like I need to change who I am. He is patient when I deliberate excessively over making a decision, when I take a long time to get ready and when I’m just being emotional. He doesn’t get frustrated but instead tries to put things into perspective in hopes of making my life easier.

Don’t: Hold onto a vision of what you thought your life would be like.
We wake up to another morning in the apartment. I’m a no-nonsense early riser, armed with a list of tasks to accomplish before the start of my work day. Bryce is not a morning person — he enjoys easing into the day, being silly and spending time together before heading out.

At the beginning, It was tough to find a balance that left us both feeling good and ready for our day ahead. Once I started adjusting my own expectations and allowed time for us to be together, to talk or read or whatever, we operated just fine, and I even started to enjoy our morning routine.

I found myself putting expectations on my SO that he was totally unaware of. I thought that since we were dating, he was now a reflection of me, and that the things he did or said that I would not do myself or did not agree with were a problem. I also found myself thinking, I don’t want future husband to do this or say that….


“I thought that since we were dating, he was now a reflection of me, and that the things he did or said that I would not do myself or did not agree with were a problem.”


Both of these mindsets are not productive. They are derived from this idea in my head that my SO and our life together needs to be a certain way — the way I always imagined my relationship to be, the way I have seen other couples engaging — but it doesn’t. He is not a morning person; he is not a serious guy; he, like me, can be an over-sharer of things in our life with others. His traits don’t always match up with my own or what I envisioned, but they are also the root of some of my favorite qualities about him.

When I remember this, and embrace these things, my life right now seems even better than the vision I had for it.

Do: Practice gratitude.
We do the daily grind: work annoys us, people annoy us, we annoy each other, and unexpected roadblocks, like a smashed bumper, take up our time. Bryce and I are grateful, of course, when the good things happen. But we live together now. Often it feels like just another day.

I say “practice” because gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. When I choose to recognize and verbalize (an important step when you’re talking about something that impacts two people) the good things in our life, we both feel better. There are a lot of things to be grateful for, so from time to time, one of the two of us needs to remind the other of that. I also find that when I look for the good things he does for me and verbalize his shortcomings less, we both do more of those good things for each other.

It’s like we are going on a jog around Atlanta’s Piedmont Park: When one person gets tired, the other needs to say, “You’re doing great — keep it up!” He shouldn’t run further ahead to increase the space between us; he shouldn’t slow down to my pace either. The goal is that we both become better versions of ourselves together. This means pulling weight for the other person knowing that the same will be done for you in the future.

We’ve spent many nights on the apartment balcony pictured above, watching the sunset and talking about the things that we have to be grateful for. It’s a habit I intend to keep.

We just purchased our first condo, making this couple living arrangement a bit more permanent. And we’ll keep living the high life, no matter where we reside.

Emily Kasper is a planner, a people-person, an avid self-help reader and new condo owner living in Atlanta.



By Dominick Meyers

There was no time for a proper goodbye with my closest friends the morning after my college graduation. I had agreed to go on a cruise with my parents to the Bahamas that was scheduled to leave early the morning following the ceremony. If I wanted to be part of this congratulatory vacation, I would have to skip the sentimental farewells meant to mark the end of the four-year vacation that, for many of us, is college.

I boarded the ship thinking only of the fact that this cruise would be my last hurrah before entering the real world and not once about how being at sea for five days meant no Internet, no cell reception and no one to talk to besides my parents.

When I realized this, much too late, I tried to stay positive. After all, I was a college graduate now. Gone were the days of me being an ungrateful little shit to my parents. Now, I had a piece of paper confirming that I was formally educated and could surely go off the grid for a few days without any problem at all.

This, of course, is a lot easier said than done.

☐ ☐ ☐

I had only been on a cruise once before, during a high school senior class trip to Mexico, and I expected the vacation with my parents to be a similar escape from real life. However, I found myself thinking about my college friends the entire time.

No matter what I did, I wondered what my friends were up to: while I relaxed on the beach and my cheeks slowly toasted; while I read a book finally not required by a syllabus; while I snorkeled among schools of iridescent fish. My curiosity about my friends, and the cost of cabin Wi-Fi, was constant. So much did I secretly wish to be with them that whenever I looked at my parents, I started to feel guilty.


“I was a college graduate now. Gone were the days of me being an ungrateful little shit to my parents.”


Adults weren’t supposed to act this way. In my mind, adults were supposed to be mature and easygoing. But instead of me being an adult, I was in misery over the fact that I had no way of communicating with my friends until our five-day vacation was over. It was not until the last day out at sea that I finally was no longer haunted by their absence.

I was wandering the ship alone, avoiding questions from my parents about what it was I planned to do with an English degree during a gap year before law school, when I passed by the impressive-yet-tacky lounge area.

I noticed that everything about the lounge felt familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why. When I did decide to return to the deck, unsure as to what it was in the lounge I was looking for, I saw the name of the cruise printed boldly across the ship’s funnel. Then I realized why I recognized the lounge: I was on the same exact ship as I had been on four years prior.

Once I saw the name perfectly matched with the senior class trip paperwork I remembered filling out and begging my parents to sign, I wanted to reexamine the ship. I confirmed my hypothesis about the cruise ship being the same (but now visiting the Bahamas instead of Mexico) when I went to the fluorescent and smoky casino I had lost $50 to playing blackjack, the ice cream machine in the cafeteria that had given me food poisoning, and the adult-only dance club that had seemed cool at the time but cringe-worthy now.

At first, I laughed to myself for not recognizing the ship sooner. Then, I considered the coincidence of my situation.

Here I was, celebrating a graduation for a second time on the same cruise ship, but instead of getting excited by the fact that me and my high school classmates could legally order margaritas in Mexico, I was anxious about the unknown future.

I thought about how everything on that ship still seemed the same as it was before. Everywhere I looked, I experienced déjà vu. Mentally I was in-between states, knowing very well that what I remembered was from a time before, and yet, the visions felt so real in that moment.


“I noticed that everything about the lounge felt familiar, but I couldn’t figure out why.”


As crazy as it sounds, being back on that ship, feeling like my 18-year-old self again, I wondered if I had somehow made up the past four years of college in my head. The memories of my college friends felt out of reach, like some distant mirage.

☐ ☐ ☐

The first thing I did once I got back on dry land was upload the picture above.

Though rather odd and rather pink, I uploaded the photo because I felt as though I needed to. I needed for my friends to see the photo (any photo, really) and “like” it, therefore validating my existence and the past four years spent with them.

Thankfully, my friends did what they always do when I upload a photo: “like” the photo and then roast me so hard in the comments section for trying to look cool that I begin to regret posting anything at all.

Before boarding the cruise ship for the second time, I failed to admit how much I would miss my friends after graduating. Skipping the cruise to have one last goodbye with my friends would not have changed our college experience, but being together at the very end would have been cathartic.

Not being with my friends those five days on the cruise ship after graduation was hard, and it continues to be hard to this day as I try to navigate the adult world without them close by. But as nice as the prospect of going back to a less-adult time before college may seem, I know I wouldn’t wish for it. Being back on that cruise ship for the second time, wondering if I made up my college experience, made me realize that the only thing I am more afraid of than the future is knowing that there was once a time in my life when my college friends weren’t a part of it.

Luckily, my friends are still very much a part of my life, despite college and the cruise ending — the phone calls and the text messages and the Snapchats and the FaceTimes and the weekend trips to one another’s new homes and the “likes” on embarrassing photos confirm that.

Dominick Meyers still plans to attend law school, but for now works at a bank and reads books not required by a syllabus. He lives in Florida.



By Livia Nassius

On Instagram and Facebook, heck almost on every social media platform, food is beautiful and everywhere. There seem to be countless food and travel bloggers (and wannabe bloggers) out there, crowding Instagram to the point that every search on the app contains them. And don’t get me started about the perfectly Instagram-ready bistros and brunch spots popping up all over the place, including in Barcelona, where I live. It’s too much picture-perfect Instagram/blogging candy to handle.

Food influencers aside, there are all the food start-ups, from Blue Apron to VizEat, bringing strangers together to share cooking experiences and meals together. Food + Instagram + the internet = a blooming, lucrative industry that can only go up from here.

What’s behind the iPhone lenses and alluring filters, the staged plates of food and cocktails in exquisite locations, the scrolling-induced food envy and the endless video watching of BuzzFeed’s Tasty feed? Take it from me, a self-proclaimed foodie and a social media marketer by profession: This sort of hype and cultural fixation on food in the digital realm has to be based on more than looks alone. 

I realized, upon moving to France for my Erasmus year (our student exchange program in the European Union) in uni, that student food can be good food (and that wine, in France, can be bought for 1 euro!). More importantly, I learned that the best way to make new friends is with food. Whether in your student residence, at a cheap takeout or at a very French bistro, candle-lit with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths and all, food brings strangers together.


“This sort of hype and cultural fixation on food in the digital realm has to be based on more than looks alone.”


Some eight years ago, before the golden age of #instafood, I remember sitting down to a spontaneous dinner with Erasmus friends I had just met that day. No one pulled out their phone — there was no holding people back to get the perfect shot before digging in. It wasn’t a glamorous setting, just humble student accommodation with stools and foldable chairs. We ate baguette, cheese and some simple salad, and shared a bottle of that 1 euro wine.

It was the most simple lunch ever, yet it’s rich in memory. Foreigners, all of us, we were basking in the newness of the most stereotypical French food we could find — it’s almost embarrassing to remember. But we were excited to be in a new place, surrounded by new people and kind of nervous. We were all vulnerable, cut from the safety nets of home. And that’s what made the moment, and many subsequent similar moments, so powerful. We made a momentary connection with one another and then solidified it over a shared meal.

That’s nothing new, I know. But, when one is a foreigner, in a new land, searching for new friends, it can be a rediscovered revelation. Food is key. (Alcohol helps too, but that’s another essay altogether.) 

Creating a new family, one you choose yourself, is the foundation of starting out in a new country (or city) from scratch. This family is not connected by blood, but by shared experiences, shared perspectives and values. How do you find it and build that? Dinners, lunches, brunches!


“When one is a foreigner, in a new land, searching for new friends, it can be a rediscovered revelation. Food is key.”


When people sit down to share a meal together something happens — a bond is formed. The happy bustle of people arriving at your place with their contributions to a dinner party or potluck, whether it’s cheese and wine, or dishes from their homeland; then, the best part of all — that delicious silence that descends on the table as everyone digs in. Even the simple act of handing dishes of food to one another or passing the salt and pepper — this basic and foundational act of sharing is the very thing that keeps us alive.

So no wonder we’re obsessed with food on our Instagrams, Facebooks and blogs. How could we not be? But vitally, we must not forget the essential why it takes up so much of our cultural space and why we value all these forms of content so much. It’s not just about the pretty digital pictures. It’s about real-world connection.

 Dinner is better when we eat together, as the old adage goes. But I’d like to push it one step further: Life is better when we eat together — and often.


P.S. The dish pictured above is calçots, the famous variety of scallion eaten grilled with a special dipping sauce in the colder months in Catalonia, Spain.

Livia Nassius is a marketer currently focusing on the ever-changing world of social media. A keen observant of the weirdness of human nature, she’s lived adventurously in Canada, Belgium, France, Poland and Sweden, and now calls Barcelona home. She’s an avid reader, traveler, foodie and craft beer lover.



From the Editors:


Hello Cropped readers,

We are SO happy to be back with a new issue.

I (Maria) am particularly thankful to offer Cropped to the world this time around. At a time when we’re grieving natural disasters and a lot of disagreement, it feels important to reflect on what makes us human — and, hopefully, create understanding that brings us all closer together.

Some of the essays in this issue provide a personal look into some of the most polarizing issues that have become points of debate lately. And some are about personal debates, the ones that happen inside our homes, within our families and within our own minds.

These debates can feel exhausting, challenging, draining. I personally struggle to feel joy when surrounded by sadness, either within myself or in others. And it makes me wonder sometimes what I should be learning from suffering.

Marina posted on our Instagram account this month a quote from author Neil Gaiman: “Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art.”

At first I wondered if that quote would resonate with those who don’t consider themselves artists. But I think we can all put it into practice. Maybe your art is a kind word offered to someone who needs it. Maybe your art is an Instagram caption. Maybe it’s telling a good story at a dinner party, or in a text to your mom.

Cropped is our art, and these stories are each so beautiful.

Stay strong, Cropped readers, even when things go wrong. And never hesitate to reach out to those who love you.

Maria (and Marina)  




I’m keeping my streak alive of recommending podcasts. Have you listened to “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations?” It has changed the way I think about the concept of spirituality, and how it differs from a concept I’m more familiar with, religion. I especially enjoyed the episodes with designer Nate Berkus, comedian Tracy Morgan and Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister.

Do you remember Monica Moser, who wrote about art as both a burden and blessing in Issue 8? I was able to watch her play a concert of her original music (along with her sister Mallory, who happens to be one of my best friends), and I left thinking, “She just gets it.” Her music is a perfect soundtrack to this stage of life, and it made me want to do more personal writing. This time is confusing and beautiful, so let’s make good art. You can find her music on iTunes, NoiseTrade and Spotify, or on her website at monicamosermusic.com.


I have been a dancer since childhood, so I always geek out during “So You Think You Can Dance” TV season. Dance is such a moving art form (literally, figuratively) — and one that I think foolishly the general public often overlooks. These are two dances from the recently wrapped Season 14 (fitting) that have been a major #mood as of late: “Still I Rise” by Sean Cheesman and “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Luther Brown.

I love just about every Vogue “73 Questions” video (what an ingenious concept), and this new one with Tracee Ellis Ross is particularly great. From her energy to her outlook to her style, Tracee is magnificent. For example, who does she look up to most in life? “Trees! I think they are earthly and ethereal and full of history, and they have a ton to teach all of us.”