Why Debate is a Necessary Part of Our Society

debate
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I’ve mentioned before that one of the biggest things college taught me was to have an opinion.  As a communications student, I sat in classrooms where the students spoke more than the professor, where speaking up and sharing your opinion was a part of your grade, and if you walked out at the end of the semester not having changed your mind about something the professor felt as if they’d failed you somehow.  More than anything else I learned in my four years in college, I value this lesson: that sharing our differing opinions is one of the most important things we can do as a society.  That without debate, we can never move forward or change as a society.

Last week, while having a discussion about abortion on Facebook, a girl I was friends with commented that we should both shut up before we upset someone with our opinions.  Before our ability to have a civilized, grown-up discussion about an incredibly important subject insulted someone.

The thing is, we weren’t fighting over what color to paint a room.  For that matter, we weren’t fighting at all.  This discussion was between me and my best friend, whom I’ve known since the 9th grade and whose opinion on the subject I already knew.  We were sharing opinions, pointing out flaws in one another’s arguments.  We were reaching a middle-point, a center on which we could both agree.

It’s a problem I’ve seen more and more lately, this idea that opinions should be kept to oneself and we should all go through life imagining that we all agree on everything lest we should find that someone have an opinion differing from our own.  Just the mere suggestion of a debate, a professor asking his law-school students to have an opinion – whatever that opinion may be – on a controversial subject is apparently so upsetting as to cause petitions to be signed, tests to be forfeited, and professors to apologize for breaching the subject lest they should lose their jobs.

It’s a subject that’s particularly upsetting for me, as someone who thrives on debate and knows how important it is to our continued society.  Who knows that without it – without differing opinions and the sharing of those viewpoints – we would never move forward together.

Without opinion, Rosa Parks would never have sat at the front of a bus.  Without debate, women would never have gained the right to vote.  Without difference of opinion, freedom of the press would not exist, and you and I would not be here writing every day.

If you take nothing else away from what I write here, I want it to be the same thing I took away from college: that your opinion matters.  Voicing that opinion in a civilized way, discussing it with people who don’t necessarily agree, is important.  Because without disagreement, we would never find a middle ground.

Interview with a Blogger: The Lady Errant

Interview Lady Errant
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Kelly over at The Lady Errant has long been one of my favorite bloggers – she writes on a lot of really interesting topics in a thoughtful and educational way. And by now you’ve probably heard about the monthly link-up she and I host – The F-Word – to discuss feminism with other bloggers out there.

So it probably comes as no surprise that I’m really excited to be able to share this interview with you today, where Kelly talks all about her time teaching English in Korea and China and the familiar itch to travel again soon, her new blog design business, and blogging.

Interview Lady Errant
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Q.  You spent time abroad in Korea and China – what was it like to pick up and leave America for so long?

A.  The first time was pretty intense.  I had only studied abroad for a summer in Europe, so I was pretty nervous about living abroad for a year.  I also had zero teaching experience, and didn’t know how I’d handle classes of 40 middle-school students.  I spent my first week hiding in my room because I had no idea where I was in the city and it was all overwhelming.  I actually felt like I had made a huge mistake during those first few weeks and seriously contemplated the “midnight run” – which is when you pack up and randomly leave without telling your school or refunding the airfare they paid to get you there.  But really, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  And then I went on to do two more year-long stints.

When you’re abroad, you miss odd things.  I’d get these crazy cravings for ginger ale (a rare find at Western restaurants), lemonade (sometimes carbonated in South Korea), and iced tea (that wasn’t Lipton mix and sugar).  I, an extremely reserved, shy, and antisocial person, actually missed American small talk.  When I taught adults, I often had to give lessons on how to small talk.  Be proud of your skills, Americans!  I always felt behind on the news – but it was funny to see how American coverage of South Korean news was so sensationalized.  I missed American personal space and peripheral vision after being literally packed into subway cars or having countless people walk into me.  And even though it was an interesting experience to not be that highly visible minority for the first time in my life, I wanted diversity.

Sometimes, no lie, I’d just get fed up with Asian people and how they could never give you a definite time for anything.  I’ve never been sure if they just don’t make definite schedules, merely neglect to tell foreigners, or truly do things at the absolute last minute.  One morning, I walked into class ready to teach, and no one showed up – and later that day, I got an email saying the students were on a field trip in the neighboring province and might be back next week.  Or the week after.  It “hadn’t been decided yet.”  Stuff like that happened all the time, which really sucks when you could have slept longer if only you had known.

Interview Lady Errant
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Q.  Speaking of your time abroad, what was your favorite part of that?  And the hardest part?

A.  My favorite parts were probably the cheap transportation and long vacations.  With most public school jobs, winter vacation is about four to six weeks.  Paid.  It was amazing.  I spent that time escaping the snow and travelling around Southeast Asia.  I also spent some time in the summer out west in Gansu Province, China.

And in retrospect, I always felt very safe.  Whenever I told people back home that I was going abroad, comments about safety concerns were really common.  But it was never an issue for me.

My students (children through adults) would ask in hushed voices with wide eyes if everyone in America had guns.  And then be shocked and aghast when I confirmed that yes, many do.  But there were times at night when I’d walk across half the city and never felt a qualm.  Not that crime doesn’t happen – or just go unreported – but even here in my hometown, I just wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that.  I’d make sure to walk faster, to call someone, to stay on busier streets in the nicer neighborhoods if possible.

I wouldn’t call this “hard” per se, but it was a constant thing throughout my three years abroad.  there was almost always some weirdness involved with being an Asian-American in Asia, no matter who I met. Native Asians wanted to know where my ancestors were born and why I didn’t speak the language. White people/Westerners wanted to know why I was in Asia if I didn’t have family there – and they never saw the irony. I ended up having to tell a huge percentage of the people I met – fleeting encounters or otherwise – about my birth and upbringing. It was just weird. I do get it often in America where people still equate looking Asian with being an immigrant, but it was on a larger scale abroad.

Q.  You’ve recently started doing blog designs – what made you interested in that?

A.  My boyfriend had been telling me for a long time that he thought I would enjoy learning coding. I resisted, since I’ve never been that tech person. But I’ve always done all of my own blog stuff, although that was mostly limited to CSS styling and tweaking premade themes. About two months ago, I moved to a new domain and redid my site, which meant learning more about WordPress, PHP, jQuery, and more advanced CSS stuff. Surprisingly, I really liked doing it – it’s that perfect mix of analytical and artsy that I’ve always been looking for.

I’m not an expert by any means – I’m still learning, and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of what’s possible in web development. The typical blog, for example, barely requires a fraction of the functions of full-fledged websites; instead, it’s mostly about styling. And I’m a complete beginner at Photoshop. But I’m enjoying the process and making real progress, which is so refreshing after months without direction.

And honestly, I eventually decided to start doing blog designs because when I’d see some designs out there, I’d think “I could do that – or better!” Not in the sense that I’m a better graphic artist, because I’m just not. I’m basically approaching this just from the coding side. I mean in the sense that I could do a layout without relying on plugins for coding shortcuts, image mapping, or externally hosted images – the kind of things that can make it hard for a blogger to do tweaks, or even just add widgets with matching titles, without going back to the designer. I randomly jumped into doing blog designs over the past few weeks in a disorganized way, to see if I could handle it, and now the next step is to try to be a bit more systematic and set things up for real.

Q.  What’s your favorite part of blogging?

A.  I really love the community. My friends are scattered around the world now, and it’s been hard to form close connections in my city. Blogging has really helped me find my people: my fellow travelers, feminists, writers, and dreamers.

I did something unusual for highly reserved and vague me about a month ago, and opened up about some of the difficulties I’ve been having with unemployment in the post-expat life and finding some kind of career path. As much as it kind of made me cringe to put myself out there like that, I needed advice from other people who were pursuing non-traditional paths and I just couldn’t have gotten that from anyone in real life. And this past month has basically been great for me because of that.

Q.  I know you were saying that you want to travel again soon.  Where’s your next destination?

A.  My boyfriend and I are planning on going to the Netherlands next fall. We’re basically planning out trip around Ayreon – a progressive metal project – concert. At this point, I haven’t travelled in almost a year and a half, so I’d like to get in some weekend trips before then. A few of my friends from abroad are actually living in America too, so I’d love to visit them, but cross-country plane tickets are expensive.

Meet Lady Errant
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Q.  You mention in your About Page that you got into blogging because someone told you that you had no intellectual curiosity (which, by the way, is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard about a person who spent years teaching English in another country and has her graduate degree). How do you think your blog’s purpose has changed since then, if at all?

A.  Hah! My wildly incompatible ex told me that. I don’t feel that my personal purpose has changed that much. I started blogging as an outlet, for a creative exercise, and to start writing regularly, and those reasons still apply. These days, now that I’m no longer a student, it helps me sharpen my critical thinking skills, and is kind of serving as the starting point for some freelance ventures. Another difference is that now I’m aware that I no longer have an audience of one, and my writing has changed to reflect that, in terms of formatting, direct address, or using excessive qualifiers to avoid people misconstruing my meaning.

My topics though have changed a lot, as well as my “niche” since I’m no longer an expat or travelling regularly. If you’re ever bored enough to wander through my early archives, all you’ll find are vague journal-like paragraphs and photo dumps. I didn’t start mixing it up with more meaningful stuff until about a year after I started blogging.

Meet the Sponsors: Simplicity Relished

Meet Simplicity Relished

Simplicity Relished is about living a simple life that brings joy and creativity into the community. While I share good stories, wardrobe tips, good recipes and reflections, the main theme is to live in a manner that values relationships, dreams, and becoming who we want to be!”

Meet Simplicity Relished
Alison Yin Photography

Over the last month, I’ve had so much fun getting to know Daisy and the things she writes about, from blogging tips and tricks to relationship advice and travel stories! Without revealing too much of herself, Daisy lets her readers in to get to know her and you can always tell that simplicity is exactly the word to describe her lifestyle, whether it’s in the clothes she wears, the places she travels, or the things to cooks for dinner.  If you’re looking for a little inspiration to live simpler and happier, Simplicity Relished is the place to start!

10 Things to Avoid During an Argument

8 Questions to Ask Before You Sponsor

4 Reasons to Travel More

Blog // Bloglovin // Twitter // Facebook // Pinterest // Instagram

Friday Favorite, vol. 27

Friday Favorites
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// Tumblr.  For a year or so in college I loved this site and then at some point, I just kind of stopped checking it.  Recently though, I made a new account and am back in action.  Do you have a Tumblr?  I’d love to follow along!

// Feeling uninspired lately? Jenny shares this great post filled with her go-to inspirations!

// I’ve always loved spoon rings, and I’d love to make my own.  For the most part, I’m too lazy to attempt something that not-easy in terms of crafts/art, but if I ever do try it – this tutorial from Caitlin at The Merrythought is perfect!

// A really important reminder from Mary that not being in a relationship does not make you wrong, or mean that you need help. Being single is not a bad thing, or something that you should apologize for.

All I Want for Christmas

By now, most people (read: not me) have finished their holiday shopping, and are hunkering down for a weekend of festive music, cookies, and wrapping presents.  But just in case there’s anyone out there who hasn’t quite finished up yet, here’s what I’ve been adding to my Christmas list for the past couple weeks.

Christmas List
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Ticket to BlogHer ’15

Last summer, I attended my first conference – Boldface.  It was a creative writers’ conference in Texas, and my attendance was sponsored by my alma mater’s English department.  I had an amazing time and learned so much, and since I’ve been dreaming of attending a blogger conference.

BlogHer ’15 is being held in NYC, a city I love visiting, and have never had a chance to see in the summer.  It’s a well-known conference with some great speakers, and amazing opportunities for networking but unfortunately, even with the student rate (which, since I’m still enrolled in school for my paralegal license, I’m pretty sure I’m eligible for) it’s a pretty expensive weekend once you add in the price of a hotel room.

Yarn

For the last several months I’ve been pretty much neglecting my crochet projects.  Now that it’s getting cold out though, I’m ready to curl up in bed with a ball of yarn and a new pattern.  The only thing I need now is more yarn.  (Okay, I always need more yarn)

Christmas List
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A New Wardrobe

Seriously.  If anyone ever accidentally stumbled over here thinking they were on a fashion blog, they’d be immediately corrected by the mere sight of my closet.  Especially now that I’m working in an office, my clothing is seriously lacking and I could use a trip to Ann Taylor to fix that.

This Calendar

Great Musicians, 2015 calendar.  I ran into this beauty on Pinterest and basically fell in love right off the bat when it lured me in with a Fleetwood Mac quote.

Christmas List
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10 Blog Post Ideas to Beat Writer’s Block and Start a Conversation

Last night, after days of procrastinating the process of writing a blog post, I took to Twitter (and had a pretty fun conversation with Mary about abandoning our blogs to write about ponies and kittens instead), Pinterest, and Bloglovin‘ in search of some inspiration.  After reading through several “20 foolproof blog post ideas” posts, I started to experience deja vu in the extreme. Most of the “ideas” I was coming across were “what’s your favorite food,” “name an embarrassing memory from middle school,” and “what’s your favorite color?”

It took me a minute before I found the connection: they all were questions I’d been asked on the first day back from summer vacation in elementary school.  I’m sure that better writers than I could come up with a thoughtful, worth-500-comments type of post to one of those questions but me?  Nope.  Not at all.

So while none of the suggestions made their way into today’s post, reading all those articles did give me an idea: write a list of  10 non-fluff, non-middle-school-essay post suggestions for writer-blocked bloggers to check out.10 blog post ideas

1.  What made you start blogging?  We all started somewhere – something triggered that desire to open up a blank web page and call it our own.  So what’s your reason, and what makes you keep writing today?

2.  Write about something you feel strongly about.  Around here, you’ll find plenty of posts on feminism and other controversial subjects because that’s my thing: I love debate, argument, controversy.  I love figuring out my opinion on something and teaching others about it.  So what about you – what is your passion subject?

3.  Share some of your favorite bloggers/blogs.  But don’t stop there – share why they’re your favorites.  What makes you go back to those spaces day and and day out?  (and if you’re looking for some inspiration in this department, I cannot get enough of The Lady Errant, The Style Dunce, and Hello Neverland.

4.  If you went to college – what’s one thing you learned there that had absolutely nothing to do with your syllabi or text books? For me, college was an incredibly eye-opening experience – it was complete culture shock and I’m a different (I think better) person because of it.  If you didn’t attend college, what did you learn in your first years out of school that no classroom ever could have taught you?

5.  As a blogger, you’re also a writer.  What does this art form do for you – why do you continue to write, and what do you think you gain from it?

6.  What is something you struggle with?  Why do you struggle with it, and how do you handle that?  My biggest struggle is my personality, hands down.  Most days, I hate being an introvert – and writing about it has been both cathartic and eye-opening (and beyond that, one of my more successful posts).

7.  If you had to narrow your entire life down to one core focus, what would it be?  Not just where do you see yourself in 10 years, but why?  How are you going to get there, and why is that space so important to you?

8.  If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, you’ve probably learned a thing or two.  Share some lessons you’ve learned from blogging, or tips you have for fellow bloggers.

9.  I know I can’t be the only Netflix binger out there.  I’ve wasted a lot of time watching shows on Netflix, but I’ve learned things from some of them, like Doctor Who, Law & Order, and Gilmore Girls.  Those shows mean something to me.  What shows have been important to you, or have taught you something?

10.  Inspire me.  Build a mood board on Pinterest and share it.  Curate your favorite/most inspiring Ted Talks or slam poems on Youtube.  Share your tips for getting inspired/creating ideas.  Anything.  Blogging is, more than anything, a source of inspiration for both the writer and the reader so – inspire.

Meet the Sponsors: Musings of a Creative Writer

meet musings of a creative writer

“I started Musings of a Creative Writer in November 2010 for my creative pursuits. Earlier in 2010 I had a spiritual blog, but deleted it because it wasn’t my style and well, I moved in another direction and wanted to focus on that. When I created Musings of a Creative Writer, I was about to release my third self published book: In the Strawberry Patch, and wanted something to advertise my writing. Over the past four years the blog has expanded to everything creative: photography, scrapbooking, traveling, cooking, and writing. In the four years I’ve reached some surprising audiences from people contacting me to write their personal stories of illnesses and fundraisers they have started to bring awareness from people commenting me saying they used my party ideas and it made their parties much easier. Musings of a Creative Writer has become my baby and writing it is a pleasure for me. I’m glad it has helped people in the process.”

Ready to read more of what Jess has to say? Check out these few posts on her travels and on getting ready for the holidays to get you started!

Visiting Detroit for the First Time

Baltimore Museum of Dentistry

Tips for Decorating Your Christmas Tree

Charities to Add to Your Christmas List this Season

Blog // Bloglovin // Twitter // Google+ // Instagram // Youtube

A Discussion of the CIA Report and Finding a Moral High Ground

Disclaimer: I know that this is going to be a controversial post, that there will people with more information than me, and people who do not agree with me.  However, at 23-years-old I feel confident that my opinion on this subject is not going to change.  I believe in debate and the power it has to spark conversation and growth, but I ask that you keep your opinions civil and that this not degrade into the likes of a Rush Limbaugh talk show segment. 

CIA Report
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I can remember in third grade, my teacher telling me that one day I would understand war.

This was about a year before September 11, so looking back I can’t remember what war she was talking to a third grade class about, or why she thought to tell an 8-year-old that war makes sense and that one day, she would agree.  I just remember feeling confused and obstinate.  Utterly sure that at no point in my life would I understand killing people to make a point.  For the first time in my admittedly short life, I doubted an authority figure and what they were telling me.

I don’t know why I thought of this on my way to work Wednesday morning, other than the recent situation with the CIA and the sudden realization, all across America, that we never really had the moral high ground after all.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the CIA released a report earlier this week detailing the tactics they’ve used over the last 13 years in the fight against terrorism.  The release of the report was a conflict in itself – the left saying that we need to admit to our mistakes and grow from them, and the right saying that all this report could do is make matters worse.  If that was bad, the report itself was even worse, filled with details about the just-barely-within-Geneva-Convention-laws torture that our CIA has been using to find information that debatably, they never did find anyway.  Waterboarding, anal feeding (I don’t know either, so don’t ask me what that is), sleep deprivation, chaining a person with broken legs into a standing position against a wall…

I’ve read very little about the report and the debate that it’s sparked.  All I really know is what my mom and I discussed briefly, the few articles I’ve read since, and what my daily email from The Skimm told me.  But for me, that’s enough: names of torture tactics that I can’t even guess what they might be.  Tactics designed to break a person, to get information that we never were able to get.

To fight for a moral high ground that, as it turned out, we never really had in the first place.  And while I realize there is a fight for the greater good at stake, that there’s a lot I still don’t know and may never know, I think I know enough to say that I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how, in 2014 we’re still at a point in society where our go-to response to a disagreement – however big or small – with another country is to grab our weapons and kill until we see who has the least men and women left standing.  I don’t understand how we’ve yet to overcome this most base instinct of ours as human beings, that which is supposed to separate us from animals.  As someone who subsists off of words and knows the power behind them, I don’t understand how language isn’t enough to stop us from this. 

I always have, and always will stand behind the men and women who risk their lives to fight for our country and my freedom.  I am grateful beyond words for what they have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice.  But I don’t understand what they are sacrificing for, why this is the only way we know to solve a problem.

10 Blogging Lessons: A Collaboration with Living in Yellow

I’ve mentioned before how much I’ve learned from and about blogging in the five years since I started, like what SEO means (hint: not short emo ostrich, which is what my 17-year-old self would have guessed), how to make friends online who aren’t 50-years-old, bald, and living in their mother’s basement, and that sponsorships aren’t just for PBS Kids.

Today, I’m teaming up with Erin from Living in Yellow to share 10 more blogging lessons we’ve learned over the years.

10 blogging lessons
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1.  There is absolutely no shame in this game. You will come to terms with this once you find yourself laying on the ground to get just the right angle of the Christmas tree – at the mall.

2.  Twitter is basically full of politicians trying to get the younger crowd.  And bloggers.  Mostly bloggers.

3.  By the time you reach around 1,000 blog posts, you will have a butt that resembles that of a pancake, a larger midsection, and many many empty bottles of wine to show for it.

4.  Those grammar rules you learned in fourth grade and promptly ignored really do matter, particularly when you’re writing for a potentially large audience.

5.  A blogger’s favorite thing to write about is blogging. That and what they did this weekend.

6.  YOU ARE BUSY NOW. Why? Because it takes approximately 38 minutes to look for the correct affiliate link to include in your post for that Goody hair tie that you accidentally had around your wrist in the midst of an outfit photography section. And why? For 12 cents in revenue. On a good day.

7.  Looking for a new way to style your favorite maxi skirt this winter? Blogland has about 20 ways.

8.  Other people are cooler than me and you. Don’t believe me? Scroll through your Instagram feed. The proof is in the filter.

9.  If you thought the SATs expanded your vocabulary, you’ll be shocked by what blogging can do. Words like “sponsor,” “giveaway,” “blogiversary,” and “SEO” start to take on meanings you didn’t know they had.

10.  Parking lots, yards, and any other place that is deemed good enough for an outfit post are full of funny things. Just look down, to the side, or up in the air and you’ll see it. If you can’t figure out what’s so funny then you aren’t looking hard enough.

6 Ways Blogging is Like Elementary School

All those years we spent in elementary school, one of the first questions we always asked was “when will I even use this?”  Well, now that we’re in the blogging community, the ghosts of teachers’ past are coming back to remind us why we studied our textbooks all those years ago.  Don’t believe me? Here are six ways that blogging is like elementary school.

blogging is like elementary school
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Math Class

Stats Nobody wants to admit it, but we all do study our follower numbers and page views religiously.  The dedication some of us have to comparing last month’s pageviews and bounce rate to this month’s, complete with percentage increase and average daily readers, is something many a grade-school math teacher would be proud of.

SEO Remember fifth grade when your teacher walked into class one day and asked you “if Train A is travelling from Philadelphia to New York, and Train B is travelling from New York to Philadelphia, how long would it take them to meet if Train A is travelling 55 MPH and leaves an hour before Train B, which is travelling at 70 MPH?”  SEO is a little like that, bringing statistics, English class, and analytical reasoning together to come up with the best three-word phrase to bring all the bloggers to your yard.

English Class

Grammar Back in the third grade, your English teacher told you how important the difference between there, they’re, and their was.  But you probably didn’t believe her until the first time you started blogging. Now I bet you’re realising you should have paid more attention.

Reading Your mother would probably be proud of how much reading you do now that you’re following 50 different blogs on Bloglovin‘, but in grade school? It might have been a bit more difficult to get you excited about library day back then, though.

Essay Writing I know how much time spent complaining about introductory paragraphs, but now that I blog? I realize how important it is to introduce your reader to a subject before you start going on about it.

Art Class

DIY Art class used to be that “special” subject you waited all week for and now that you’re in blogland, art-day is every day with DIY, Pinterest Inspiration Boards, and more how-to’s than you could ever help to hit the “like” button on.

Social Studies

Current Events I don’t know about you, but one of the homework assignments I used to dread more than anything else was coming up with a current event to write about each week.  I love keeping up with this stuff now, but when I was 14 and more interested in having my best friend teach me to apply eyeliner, you could usually find me furiously paging through a two-day-old newspaper in homeroom come Monday morning.  We might not all love writing about current events in Blogland, but when something big happens you can usually count on the community to keep you informed.

Business

Sponsorships You might not have had this class until high-school but when you did, you started to learn about supply and demand, trustworthiness, and product worth.  In the world of blog sponsorships there’s nothing more important.

Recess

Building Relationships No day at school was complete without double dutch and tag on the school’s playground, and there was not a single friendship that didn’t find its start in those 30 minute breaks from class.  In the blogging world, there may not be a playground, but bloggers flock to the comment section and Twitter to build relationships with one another, and no blog is quite complete without it.

Cliques Recess may have been the most important part of the day, but it was also the part where the cliques started to come out. In blogland, we may not be as mean to those outside of our group as the 12-year-olds on the playground were, but there’s no denying that the community is broken into sub-groups: Fashion, Food, Parenting, Beauty…