Istanbul: Day One

OMG. OMG. OMG.

I love it here. I’m never going home. You can’t make me.

(Ask me how I feel in about seven days when all my clothes are dirty and I’m tired of people trying to sell me carpets by shouting at me in Turkish, Spanish, and Russian after incorrectly guessing my nationality.)

Istanbul is gorgeous. My first impressions are that it’s a clean, well-planned, and diverse city. I get the sense that I came at the right time of year–there are other tourists, but not as much, as I’m told by the locals–as there would be had I come later in the summer. The weather has been perfect–it’s mid-70’s and sunny all week. Being right next to the sea results in a nice breeze every few seconds, which is welcome, because it is also humid. I’m reminded of that each time I climb the extremely steep cobblestoned hills and immediately am rewarded with a sheen of sweat.

So far I haven’t met any other Americans here. The only other native English speakers I’ve met are from Australia and New Zealand. Most other tourists are from Spain, Germany, Nigeria, Russia, China, or South Korea. It’s kind of refreshing to be in a part of the world that is less-traveled by my countrymen. However, I can’t really blame them for not coming because our governments have not been friendly to one another. In addition, this city has a reputation for being unsafe at the moment, which based on my limited experiences so far, is undeserved. There hasn’t been split second when I’ve felt unsafe; the locals are are reserved but kind, and there are armed police everywhere who all speak English. (I don’t talk enough about how incredibly lucky I am that English is my first language, and how grateful I am that others take the time to learn it.) At the same time, however, the presence of the same armed police does remind one that this country is still technically in a state of emergency. This city has always had a tumultuous history, and I don’t think that will change.

Soooo before I get into what I did today, let me preface it with the fact that the wifi at my hostel is absolutely horrible, so I haven’t been able to upload as many pictures as I’d like. I will make up for it once I find a better connection/get back to the States. To recap the day:

I woke up late because I am INCREDIBLY jet lagged. Like, so jet lagged that I thought I was sick and had to go to the hospital until I remembered that my body just has to adjust to the hell I’ve put it through. To make things worse, I hardly ate at all because I was so excited. Queue me almost passing out in a park this morning before realizing that I need food and water. I had a tasty simit–a fresh bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds–and a European Coke (I’ve missed you guys!!!) to stave off the blood sugar crash, and that did me right for a day packed with sightseeing.

My first stop was obvious: the Hagia Sophia. The exterior of this building is so huge that you can’t even fit it into one frame when photographing it. My anticipation built up as the line waded through fragments of ancient columns and tombs and inscriptions. My heart started beating rapidly as I entered the doors, and then BAM–there I was, inside the single most beautiful building in existence. I actually cried. Yes, you heard me–just hours after crying because the Golden Knights made the Stanley Cup Finals, here I was full-on bawling in the Hagia Sofia. (I really need to find more important stuff to cry about.)

I had read this countless times before, so I was prepared for this to be the case, but there really is no way to photograph this building properly–you absolutely have to see it in person. I took dozens of photos and they all suck. Two that I don’t hate as much as the others are below:

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Just looking at these photos again makes me so upset that I couldn’t even get close to the beauty of that building 😩

Next, I went to the Basilica Cistern. A cistern is a Roman-age water reservoir, essentially, that was used to bring water to the citizens of the city. This one is particularly huge and located entirely underground, which makes it super eerie and cool.

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On my way to Topkapi Palace I stopped by Hagia Irene, Hagia Sophia’s little sister. Although much smaller and not nearly as impressive, I actually found Hagia Irene more interesting because it was never converted to a mosque like Sophia had been, so you get to see what Sophia would have actually looked like if it had never been restored.

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Topkapi Palace is HUGE–a sprawling complex of chambers and harems and quarters, built first by the Roman emperors and then refurbished by the Ottoman sultans. A couple of my favorite scenes:

Believe it or not just those four places took me over six hours to get through, and my feet are killing. So I wrapped up the day with two of my favorite street foods, Balik ekmek (literally just “fish bread”–simplest and tastiest fish sandwich sold right off the boat) and baklava. The chocolate was my favorite đŸ€€

I just finished this post at 3:00 AM Istanbul time, and I’m wide awake. My poor body has no idea what’s going on. I’m off to get some sleep/possibly end up watching the Lightning-Capitals game if I can’t. Tomorrow I’ll be back with more photos, assuming they don’t take so long to upload!

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My Wedding Advice

I’M MARRIED!

The day of, my cousin Andrew informed me: “The two questions people will keep asking you after your wedding are: ‘How’s married life?’ and ‘So, when are you going to have kids?’” Let me preemptively answer these questions so you don’t have to bother asking them:

  1. Married life is pretty much exactly the same as non-married life. I know that’s a disappointing answer, but it’s true. Scott’s and my relationship hasn’t changed much except that we refer to each other as “husband” and “wife” now, and I like to remind him that he married me whenever I do something stupid. The other difference is that I now get to go around to all my unmarried friends and give them unsolicited relationship advice, as was given to me each time one of my friends got married.
  2. Scott is insistent that we have eleven kids. No, I don’t know where he got that number from, but until I’m able to negotiate him down a little you shouldn’t hold your breath until we start reproducing. Also, please don’t ask that question.
Scott and I on our wedding day. My mother did a fantastic job on our pictures, as she does with everything.

Scott and I on our wedding day. My mother did a fantastic job on our pictures, as she does with everything.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can start reflecting on my wedding day, which is the main topic of this post. It went by, as so many people say, in a blur and I tried to savor every moment but by the end of the day I was so exhausted that I passed out immediately and woke up greeted by half of my wedding-cakeface on my pillow the next morning. (Speaking of which, my hair and makeup turned out great. Thanks to Brooke and Rachel!) It was a happy day for sure, and I had a great time, and I hope everyone in attendance did too. However, it wasn’t without its moments of drama and stress, and the day before my wedding did include a couple bouts of tears, and even one of vomit. Occupational hazards of being a bride.

The question I keep returning to is: Would I do it differently if I had to do it all over again? (This has been a good exercise for planning my second wedding to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.) I had a somewhat unorthodox wedding that various people believed to be anything from sheer genius to a reprehensible break from tradition. Here are the results of my grand experiment, or in other words, my wedding advice to future brides:

  • Weddings are inherently stressful events, and there’s not a lot you can do to change that. There are so many people involved in planning and executing a wedding—lots of moving parts, lots of opinions, lots of clashing personalities. The problem is that EVERY SINGLE person you know is involved in some way, or wants to be involved even if you don’t want them to be. Bottom line, wedding planning is hard—for these reasons and the others listed below—and almost any bride will tell you that. Keep your expectations low in this regard.
  • Your wedding is not about you. Your wedding is about your guests. Unless you are a narcissist, you will spend about twice as much time fussing over menus and seating charts and trying to remember which of your cousins is allergic to gluten than you will on yourself. I’ve gotten wedding advice—and life advice, for that matter—to the tune of “Forget what everyone else says, just do whatever you want!” This attitude sounds great in theory but most of us know it’s not that simple. If you care about your guests, you’ll want them to enjoy themselves. If you care about your loved ones, you have to make compromises with your wedding plans just as you do in your relationships with all these people you’ve invited (or been pressured into inviting). Which brings me to my next point

  • Choose your battles wisely. There are certain things that Scott and I put our foot down about. The basketball court in the church was not to be utilized in any way. No wedding party, no reception line, no bouquet toss or garter thingy. Only family and close friends in attendance. I didn’t want to wear a white dress, and Scott wanted to wear a blue suit instead of a tux. Those things were important to us, and for the most part, we got our way. However, as I mentioned before, this day that is meant to celebrate you is not in fact all about you. Scott and I also agreed that there would be no speeches or toasts. But then Scott’s dad approached us and said he’d prepared something and would like to say a few words. Since it seemed important to him, we agreed, and then my dad chimed in, and we ended up including several speeches and it was probably the highlight of the night and I’m so glad we did it. Another lesson: Your way might not always be the best way.
  • People care. I was shocked by how much other people cared about my wedding, including people I am not close with. Because of this, it’s almost inevitable that feelings will get hurt. I had a surprising amount of friends not-so-subtly inform me that they were upset they weren’t invited to the wedding. These were people that I didn’t even think would be interested in coming. I belong to the minority of the population that doesn’t like weddings, and through this process I’ve learned why it is that people care so much: It’s their way of showing that they love you and they’re happy for you. That’s the whole point of all this silly pageantry in the first place. If you remember that, it’ll help keep you sane.
  • And last but not least
None of this matters. What matters is that you and your spouse get to spend the rest of your lives together. Remember to BREATHE when the inevitable wedding crises hit. Have someone designated to calm you down when things feel like they’re careening out of your control. (I had my trusty un-bridesmaids for this.) And of course
HAVE FUN!!!

Soulmates

I’ve blogged plenty about romantic relationships here. However, until recently, I realized that I’d never thought in-depth about another set of relationships in my life: my friends. And specifically, my girlfriends.

I wasn’t great at picking friends in high school. Qualities like “dependable” and “trustworthy” and “honest” aren’t really super appealing to a teenager, especially when compared with qualities like “cool” and “popular” and “wears studded belts.” It wasn’t until I went to college and got in better touch with myself that I met a majority of the people most important to me, outside of my family and Scott (who will legally become my family in 8 days).

Friendship is a truly remarkable thing. Because, compared with family relationships–which are based on biology and blood and law and lineage–and romantic relationships–which are also based on biology (but in a different way), and also based on the law if the couple chooses to marry–there is no biological, legal, or other type of binding force that compels a friendship to occur. There are no tax breaks, no certificates, no genetics involved. A friendship is made possible completely and totally by the mutual agency of the two parties. Friendship is the purest form of love, because love and love alone is what binds two friends together.

My clique.

My clique.

I had my bachelorette party in Portland last weekend, which I could not have done without my BFF Katie, and I was lucky enough to have friends from around the country–Vegas, L.A., Washington state–go the distance to meet together. It was fascinating and heartwarming to see women I had known since I was 9 years old meet each other for the first time, get along, and even form new friendships amongst themselves. Each one of them went through a different stage of life with me: the 5th grade geography bee, high school swim team, my part-time job in college, even the Peace Corps. Each one of them helped me move apartments, gave me back rubs, pulled over to let me throw up out the window while driving home from a party, brought me ice cream after a break-up, wrote me a heartfelt note after the death of a friend, listened to me cry after retelling a traumatic event. I would not be who I am without these people. And it’s crazy to think, as Carrie Bradshaw says in Season 6 of Sex and the City, “What if we had never met?”

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Friendship is absolutely, positively underrated. And though I’ve found a man that I love and loves me, who also happens to be my friend, that does not diminish the presence of the incredible female forces in my life that have been there for me and will continue to be there for me. There are different types of love in this life, and we need them all.

Two Becoming One

It is Thursday…how ’bout a Spice Girls throwback? 🙂

I’m used to being alone. And I don’t mean that in a “poor me, I’m the female protagonist in a romantic comedy,” kind of way–I’m happy with myself and I’m happy with my life. Yet despite the fact that every personality test I’ve ever taken has labeled me an extrovert (WTF, Meyers-Briggs?), I’m really comfortable being by myself, and I even prefer being alone in certain situations. I am a very independent person–to a fault, as some people might tell you.

That’s another factor that makes my transition from “single” to “married” more complicated. I’ve spent 25 years living my life as an individual. Although I am a daughter and a sister and a friend, I usually think of myself as just, well, me. When I make decisions I think of how it will affect the people close to me, but I am not accountable to anyone to the extent that I would be if I were married or had children. But that’s all about to change. More and more often, Scott and I are faced with situations that require us to make decisions about how to merge our lives together when we’ve both lived as successful adult individuals for so long. It feels weird, knowing that after September 5th, it’s not just “me,” it’s “we.” And although that’s one of the challenging but healthy things about marriage, how do two people go about combining two lives into one? Or to what extent do we combine some aspects of our lives, but leave others separate?

What to do about my last name was the beginning. Now that we’ve rented an apartment together and will soon be shacking up, that opens a variety of other doors. How do we pay bills? Do we join our bank accounts? Do we keep them separate? How will we determine who does the housework? Who prepares meals? Will Scott be sufficiently impressed with my wifely sandwich-making abilities, or will he divorce me to be with a younger, hotter woman who can cook sammiches better than I can?

I know you’re thinking, “But you’ve lived with other people in the past, right?” (And you’re also thinking, “Kate, you cook very delicious sammiches so you shouldn’t worry.” Very true.) Yes, but this is a whole different ball game. My dad always gave my brothers and I stern lectures about emptying the dishwasher, and then we’d act guilty for a second before running off to play Legos, but that kind of behavior doesn’t exactly fly when you’re in an adult committed relationship. Similarly, griping about your roommates is a naturally accepted part of the college experience, but to some extent things are more clear-cut because there’s a landlord or property management company collecting your checks each month, boundaries are established legally and/or socially, and–depending on the situation–there is more of an implicit understanding about personal space, privacy, sharing belongings, etc.

As soon as you have two people in love, things get weird. The problem is, a husband-and-wife (or husband-and-husband or wife-and-wife) unit not only has a romantic relationship, a physical relationship, and an emotional relationship, they also must have a financial relationship, a logistical relationship, a life planning relationship, a decorating taste relationship, etc., etc., etc. If your relationship is challenged or failing in one of these aspects, it can affect some or all of the other aspects. We sure expect A LOT from our partners.

And as with every other decision Scott and I have made preparing for marriage, every option becomes increasingly relative and politically charged. “Kate, are you gonna change your last name or keep it?” “You guys should definitely start having kids right away.” “You should freeze your eggs and then grow your baby in a tube after you turn 55.” “What are you doing renting an apartment? You should buy a house. It’s a buyer’s market!” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE WEDDING COLORS?!” Maybe part of the problem is that, unlike being someone’s lazy kid or someone’s college roommate, there’s no one set of rules for how to approach marriage in this diverse modern world. Back in the day when people got married significantly younger, things were easier–or more accurately, simpler–because both parties spent less time establishing themselves as individuals before they got married, a.k.a. merged their lives. And, not to mention, it was usually the wife whose life just kind of fused in to her husband’s identity, the product of which is “Mr. and Mrs. [husband’s first and last name]” and other stupid traditions that are stupid.

Among the many things Scott and I agree on is that although we are happily progressing towards a marriage, we want to maintain our individuality. This means finding a balance between being a couple and being two people that happened to say “hey, I like you, I wanna enter into a legally binding agreement that means I’ll do most stuff with you but maybe not everything with you.” In my opinion I think we’ve done a great job of that so far. Scott goes to NBA Summer League games with his buddies and I have brunch with my girlfriends, we take turns treating each other to meals and running errands and doing favors for one another, and we’re planning on opening a joint bank account for bills while keeping our existing personal accounts after the wedding. I remind him of stuff when he forgets it, and he cools me down when I get all worked up about dumb stuff, like receiving envelopes addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Scott Rogers.” We’re two different people, but we’ve agreed to be a team.

Things are bound to get more complicated the longer we’re married: right now we both work and we both have good full-time jobs, and that may change. We don’t have kids, and that will probably change too. We get along easily, and that is bound to not always be the case any given day. So until then, just like with everything else, I’m taking it in stride. Or, I should say, *we’re* taking it in stride.

Name Change: The Verdict

As my wedding day looms closer (only six weeks!!!), I’ve been thinking more and more about whether or not I should change my last name after I get married. Plenty of people have asked me about it, too, since my last post. I got some really interesting feedback from both sides that I hadn’t considered before, but unfortunately it didn’t help me make a decision. The way I see it, I am still stuck with choosing to give up my name, which I like a lot, or being weird because I won’t give up my name. There’s really no way I can win.

Several people suggested that I hyphenate my name. While it’s a good compromise, here’s what I have against hyphenation: If you’re going to go through the effort to change your maiden name to a hyphenated name, then you might as well just change it altogether. And again, there’s the nagging assumption that while you’re hyphenating your name, your husband probably won’t hyphenate his.

"To be, or not to be? That is the question." Or is it?

“To be, or not to be? That is the question.” Or is it?

As I’ve spent more and more time deliberating, it finally occurred to me that the question is not “Should I change my name?” but “Why is my last name anyone else’s business in the first place?” Since Scott and I got engaged, people have asked us about our future life plans, including but especially children. I’ve gotten questions like, “When are you planning on having kids? Are you still going to go to law school? Will you keep your job? What are you going to do about childcare? Who’s going to watch your kids if you’re not at home?” Guess how many people have asked Scott these types of questions? ZERO. Because he is a man, and our society has not laden him with the responsibilities of caring for a family, but primarily for providing for one financially. Generally speaking, he doesn’t have to choose between being a parent or an attorney or a student and feel guilty about that choice. He doesn’t have to choose whether or not to change his last name when he gets married. And of course, this is through no fault of his own (or any one man’s, for that matter), it’s just the world we live in.

Just in case you weren’t aware, there is a double standard that exists for modern women in this sense. If I change my last name, I will be giving in to the antiquated patriarchal norm. If I keep my last name, I will be a stuck-up, self-righteous feminist who doesn’t love her husband enough. There’s really no way I can win, just as traditional, well-to-do families scorn working mothers and elite, ultra-progressive women who think their farts smell like roses belittle and insult stay-at-home moms.

So, here’s my decision: I refuse to make a decision at all.

I do, however, have a game plan. I’m going to use my maiden name professionally. On social media like Facebook where I currently use my full name, I’ll use both last names. (Or maybe I’ll make up a super awesome last name like “The Rock” Johnson.) However, in social situations, people are welcome to assign my husband’s last name to me colloquially if they want to.* I’ll be Kate Snow in the office and “Sister Rogers” at church and “Mrs. Rogers” at fancy restaurants and Not Your Mommy’s Blogger online. As far as what’s on my driver’s license, my passport, my social security card? It’s nobody’s business, not the government’s, not my peers’, not people ready to judge me for making a choice that’s unfair in the first place.

Am I making this a bigger deal than it needs to be? Probably. Actually, definitely. But that’s what I’m good at, and that’s why you’re reading this word vomit.

*The only thing that really makes my skin crawl is when people say “Mr. and Mrs. Scott Rogers.” Really?! I don’t even get a first name anymore??? Come on, society…

FAQs: My Wedding Day Look

Unlike “colors” and decorations and awkward slow-dancing, one aspect of wedding planning I can totally get in to is fashion and style. And although I’m not having bridesmaids or flowers, I’ve been very excited about finding a wedding dress and choosing my own hair, makeup, and accessories. Because I’m a girl and I’m getting married and sometimes it’s okay to forget about things like drug cartels and ISIS and refugee crises for a minute and just have fun getting pretty!!!

The Dress

My dress...The Preciousssss...

My dress…The Preciousssss… (Source: Nordstrom)

I would never, ever wear a long, white dress to anything. Especially not on a day when I want to look my best. There are some beautiful white wedding gowns out there, but I don’t find the combination of the color and the length to be very flattering on me. (Maybe if I was blonde and skinny and tan, but I am not any of those things.) So, as I am wont to do, I started thinking a little bit outside the box.

Full disclosure: I found my wedding dress before Scott and I even got engaged. We had been talking about getting married (obviously), and I was just curious, so I hopped on Nordstrom’s website and found a gorgeous Adrianna Papell gown in about five minutes. They had my size, I ordered it, I tried it on, and it was perfect. BAM. Done.

I love the blush color and the sequin details on my dress, and the best part is, it’s something I could wear again if I wanted to.

Accessories

I love me some Steves.

I love me some Steves. (Source: Nordstrom)

I wanted my wedding day accessories to scream “I’m a white girl in 2015” so naturally I chose rose gold, the big trend these days. All joking aside, I do think that rose gold is stunning, and it’s the color of my engagement ring so I decided to go with it. I got some rose gold Steve Madden strappy sandals which are sooooo uncomfortable yet sooooo beautiful and a pendant from this darling Etsy shop to match.

I don’t think I’m going to get a wedding band. I love the unique shape of my engagement ring, and it looks great alone. Scott has plans to get a matte rose gold band for himself.

For my “something old,” I’m wearing my mom’s diamond stud earrings which were given to her by her mom. And for my “something borrowed/something blue,” I was graciously lent my late great-grandmother’s aquamarine ring for the occasion. See?! I don’t hate all wedding traditions!

Hair

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(Source: Pinterest)

My hairstyle was somewhat of a controversy in my family. My mom insisted that I get a fancy updo, “because it looks more bridal.” However, I almost never wear my hair up because I have a round face and having my hair gathered away from my face makes it appear fuller and, in my mind, chubbier. So, with the support of my dad and my fiancĂ©, I chose to leave it down in waves, but as a nod to the wisdom of my mother, I did elect to try something new. I’m in love with this “side-swept” style and have chosen a rose gold comb studded with rhinestones in order to, as she suggest, make it look “more bridal.” 🙂

Although I’m notoriously cheap when it comes to beauty (for example, I’ve never ever had a pedicure), beauty rockstar and high school friend Brooke has agreed to do my hair for me, because I don’t want to deal with the stress of doing my own hair on my wedding day. Best to leave this stuff to the professionals.

Makeup

Why yes, this is in fact exactly how I look every day.

Why yes, this is in fact exactly how I look every day. (Source: Pinterest)

I am awful with makeup. I wear the same combination of BB cream, eyeshadow, and drugstore mascara every day. When I do try to implement a full makeup regimen, the result is full-blown blackface that rubs off on peoples’ sleeves when I hug them. So, like my hair deal, I enlisted the help of friend and co-worker Rachel to remove any fretting about my face on the big day as well. I picked a light, classic look because 1) it goes well with the rest of what I’ve got goin’ on and 2) whenever I try to “highlight and contour” or a “bold lip” or a “smoky eye” I end up looking like somebody put a Barbie in the microwave.

What do you think of my choices? Any advice? What did you look like on your wedding day?

Wedding Cake Win!

Last time I wrote about wedding cakes, I predicted our tasting would be a “hilarious disaster.” And I was actually looking forward to it. So even I am surprised to be writing a glowing endorsement of our little downtown bakery, called Chef Fleming’s, rather than relating a customer service horror story like what happened to Scott on the phone a couple weeks ago.

For some reason I imagined the Mean Cake Lady to look just like the blue fairy from Sleeping Beauty.

For some reason I imagined the Mean Cake Lady to look just like the blue fairy from Sleeping Beauty.

We entered the shop early Saturday afternoon. (It was approximately 23498092 billion degrees outside, because it’s June in Vegas.) There were two women behind the counter, and as Scott informed them we were there for a wedding cake tasting, I was wildly speculating which one of them was the woman who was so testy with my fiancĂ© over our lack of a color scheme. When one of the women said, “You’ll want to speak with the chef. I’ll go get him,” I was confused? Him? But I was so looking forward to making this woman cry!

Then out stepped the most adorable Danish man I’ve ever met in my life. He was carrying the most beautiful little cake I had ever seen. Encouraging us to each take a slice, I dug in. Breaking through the buttercream icing and fondant, I found a rich chocolate center with mousse filling. My tastebuds immediately lapsed into a sugar-induced panic attack. I knew at once that this was my favorite–and possibly the only appealing–part of wedding planning.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 5.53.20 PMWhen I remarked to the Chef that it was the most delicious cake I had ever tasted, he said with a slight accent, “Yeah, there are a bunch of guys around here who will make you a beautiful cake, but it tastes like crap. Mine don’t.” This guy was quickly gaining points with me.

Then we got down to brass tacks, and he started asking us what we wanted the cake to look like. Of course, “color” was pretty high on the list. When he asked us what our wedding colors were, Scott and I glanced at each other nervously and clasped hands under the table. I was the one to break the news to him: “We don’t have wedding colors.”

There was a short pause. The Chef blinked, then said, “You guys are a couple o’ rebels! I like it!” Then he continued jotting down notes.

Needless to say, we adopted him that day.

Scott and I walked out of the shop happier than I expected to, and carrying a cake that was devoured within hours as soon as I brought it home. I am happy to declare this experience a wedding cake WIN and can wait to see the finished product in September!