Sunday Slowdown: sisters

Stephanie + Valerie Echeveste Here's the truth: the hardest part about moving is not the physical move, but the psychological one. I moved to DC mostly to be closer to my sister. There were other reasons, many other smaller reasons, but the main one was to take advantage of a time when we're both able to hang out and do our thing, together. I had no idea this would be the most challenging part of the move.

I miss my friends in SF. I miss the food in SF. I miss the way it feels when you look out on Dolores Park and can inhale the bay, even if it is too foggy to see it. But I don't miss the feeling that I'm missing out on getting to know one of the most important people in my life: my sister. We'd talk on the phone, visit each other and spend time together at home home on holidays, but we weren't able to grab a drink together or casually get coffee or work out together or make dinner on a whim. And, the hardest thing to wrap my head around is that now that I am here, we still don't get to do all those things as often as I would like. And when we do, we realize how much we still have to learn about each other, how much we still have to make it work, how much our childhood-selves have bleed into our adult-selves, and how much we've left behind. We're getting better at learning how to fit each other in, as ridiculous as that sounds. How to be ourselves when we are around the person that knows us the best. Accepting that the person we know is constantly changing and yet, still exactly the same. I'm thankful I have the time to learn from my sister, and the comfort of knowing that we won't give up.

Some of my friends aren't even in SF anymore, or weren't around enough to see all that often anyhow. It's the strange thing about growing up, people get busy, you get busy, schedules get complicated and regular hang out time is often lost. Some of the people I've meet in DC are already moving out west to SF. It's a fact of life: people just move, things just change. This is why it's so important to me to have a strong relationship with my sister, and why it's so hard. We are both the best and worst versions of ourselves in the safe space when we hangout with each other. It's a blessing and a curse.

We're so different, and so similar. We get annoyed with each other and laugh with each other and compete in a very non-conscious way with each other. Being the oldest, I never had to deal with things that she had to growing up, but in the past five years I've developed my own issues that I never thought I'd ever have. It's strange and uncomfortable and makes us both crazy, but somehow we are working through it and becoming closer than ever. Even if we still have a long way to go.

And blogging together helps--it helps us carve out time for each other, and helps us learn about ourselves and each other in ways we didn't really ever have a chance to learn. For such a long time we were in completely different places (LA/AZ, SPAIN/PHX, LA/ROME, LA/DC, SF/AZ, SF/DC, etc.) and now here we are, DC/DC until, who knows? Anything can happen, anything can change. We're lucky that right now we have sometime to work it out. We have some room to learn.

What we've been up to this week:

  • Spending sister time at a MSMR concert at the 9:30 club in DC.
  • Trying a spiked shake from Satellite and wishing they used almond milk
  • Trip to Disney World.
  • Family time visiting Georgetown + the Veteran's Fund Memorial ceremony .
  • Going to a friend's wedding.
  • Remembering to send a card to our amazing dad for Father's Day (this is not the card, but a photo of our Dad).
  • Saying goodbye to new friends, making space for new memories.
  • Yoga, gym, TJ's, The Coffee Bar...the normal.
  • Unpacking, laundry, and repacking for next weekend.

Hope you are having a great Sunday!

What did you do this week? How's your relationship with your siblings?

Millennials. It’s complicated.

There are statistics and figures, opinions and speculation, but the fact remains that when it comes to millennials and politics, it’s confusing. The confusion stems from the makeup of the demographic itself--millennials are the largest demographic and the most diverse. We aren’t just different from one another, but we think very differently about issues than any generation before us. Our concern about the world around us is sometimes misunderstood, to say the least, and our efforts to organize have often failed. When they don’t fail, they are criticized. Yet, as a whole, we’re supposedly optimistic and interested in making a difference.

So, why aren’t there more of us involved in politics?

Well, many of us are, and many of us have flocked to DC to create change--within or outside of politics. Idealistic and ambitious, we want things to be different, so many things.

If you look beyond the gentrification we’re partially causing and the mass stereotyping we’ve sparked, you’ll see a deeper interest in learning about where we live, where we came from, and the communities we want to help build. In DC, many of us are trying to understand the neighborhoods we are moving into, volunteering our skills to help local students or simply celebrating the history and diversity of where we now reside. We may be coming from all over the US (and world), but the desire to add to the history of our country, in the capital of our country, is definitely evident, if sometimes disruptive, misinformed or short sighted.

Last week we attended the Political Town Hall put on by Millennial Week DC, hosted by the Washington Post. I couldn’t stop thinking about the difference between those of us involved in politics and those of us that aren’t. And then I thought, does it even matter?

Because, who’s really calling the shots? Who’s making the decisions and lobbying the decision makers?

It’s not millennials. It’s the (mostly) men in leadership positions. And the (mostly) men heading up the corporations paying the lobbyists.

Sad, but true

If you actually keep your eye on congress everyday, it's disheartening to see the reality. I don’t know what is more depressing: the fact Congress doesn’t actually create much change, or that most people don't contact their congressional representatives to voice their opinion, or that the people that do aren't the most well informed.

Even those that make the effort to call Congress often don't know who their representative is, or how to communicate to them.  And I wonder, why aren’t more millennials contacting their congressional representatives? Can we really say the system is broken if we haven’t even tried to use it? It’s like we’ve all collectively forgotten High School Government. We’ve forgotten how it all works (in theory & practice).

So here’s my advice to millennials. Let’s give it a try. Let’s see what would happen if we flooded the phone lines, we wrote the letters and we dominated the internet regarding issues that matter to us. Some of this may feel uncomfortable and strange (I know I am one of few that still enjoys talking on the phone or hand writing a note), but we can’t say it doesn’t work if we aren’t even trying.

Create the change you want to see in the world, by trying to contact the people that make the decisions


Step 1: Assess your situation

  • Where do you live?
  • Are you registered to vote? Where are you registered to vote? Where do you want to be registered to vote?
  • What district do you live in?
  • Who are your Senators? Who’s your member of Congress? Who’s your mayor? Who’s your governor? Who’s making decisions for where you live?

Step 2: Know who to contact * how

  • Who is calling the shots?
  • Who has the most influence?
  • Who do you contact to get a hold of these people?
  • What’s the best way to contact them?

Step 3: Know your issues

  • What do you care about?
  • What do you want to change?
  • What is important to you?
  • What can you learn about these issues?
  • What’s taken place historically regarding these issues?

Step 4: Find your people

  • Who do you know that feels the same way about these issues? Find these people.
  • Who feels differently about these issues? Find these people and force yourself you listen to their arguments. Be open to difference of opinion and informed -- maybe these are the very people that can help you create the best change.
  • Use all your tools (online and offline) to connect, collaborate, discuss and define your position on these issues.
  • Talk about it. Share your views and listen to what other people have to say.

Step 5: Make a plan

  • What can you and your people do to create change regarding this issue?
  • Use the internet to show you what has been tried before-- what’s worked? what hasn’t worked? Why?
  • How will you do it?
  • Be creative. Be disruptive. Be you.

Step 6: Try it out

  • Remember: even the smallest action can create change.
  • See what happens when you put your plan into effect
  • Talk about it, share it and work at it
  • Analyze your results
  • Then do it again and again until you’ve creating the change you and your people envision


Let us know how it goes.


In the meantime, I’ll be pondering the fact that even if I did want to run for a political office, there is no place that would make sense to do so. There’s no place I’ve lived long enough to have a community to fiscally support me, and sadly, I highly doubt (here’s my millennial skepticism) that a conservative Gilbert, Arizona would elect a minority female in any office. But that’s a whole other issue.


How have you tried to change your reality? Do you know who represents your district? Are you registered to vote?

Back on campus ...

Stephanie at USC Campus I cannot believe how long it has been since I graduated from USC. Being back on campus for 2014 graduation is absolutely amazing! I am so thankful to work for such an wonderful company that really is changing the face of education. #outcomes #nobackrow

I visited the USC Fisher Museum of Art, where I spent a good chunk of my undergraduate years. I started as a gallery assistant and by Senior year was working for Art in the Village, their non-profit that planned art projects that correlated with the LAUSD curriculum for neighboring schools in South Central LA, organized art exhibits for the students and provided art supplies for all participating classes. The non-profit is no longer around, it ran out of funding last year I believe, but it was an amazing experience. I loved the staff at Fisher and was so happy to see a friendly face when I was visiting yesterday! It really is like a second home.

Things I've learned since graduation

  • Be open--you really never know where life will take you.
  • If you are happy, keep working at it even if it feels like you aren't getting anywhere.
  • Your real friends will always be there for you. No matter how far away they are, or seem to be.
  • Life happens fast. Don't miss out by dwelling on the past, even if you have amazing memories.
  • Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Your path is your own and it won't look anything like anyone else's.
  • If you believe it will happen, it will happen.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Do you. No one else can do it better.
  • Don't forget where you came from, but be open to all the places you will go.

I never dreamed in a million years I would have lived abroad, traveled alone to many, many places, worked for a start-up in one of the best cities in the world, created things that people actually wear, or have friends to visit all over. Nor did I think I would end up (for now) living blocks away from my sister in the capital of the US, loving my job, living in the best neighborhood and able to blog from a hotel room in downtown LA.

I'm missing all my friends from Annenberg and USC ... we are now quite literally all over the world, but I know I'll be seeing you all soon.




How To Use Instagram In ESL: Lesson For Adult Classes

I wrote this piece about how to use instagram in ESL classes for adults for the ESL Chronicles.When teaching English to adults, it’s sometimes hard to find activities that reflect real-life situations without being too overwhelming. Using simple source materials and boil down the lesson to have one main objective is essential. If you can incorporate social networks that your students may already be using, it may help to encourage learning outside the classroom.

One idea is to create a lesson around Nametags. For a non-native English learner, the vast variety of nametags can be daunting. Using real examples of nametags can help explain the different ways you would introduce yourself in a variety of settings, and also allow room to develop a more advanced lesson.

Read the full article on ESL Chronicles...