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
here

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
here

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
here

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…

On Struggling to Understand: A Discussion on Michael Brown and Eric Garner

struggling with race

A couple weeks ago, when a Ferguson police officer was not charged in the death of a black teen who he had shot to death, I said nothing.  It was hard to take a stance with so much conflicting evidence, opposing witness accounts, and inconclusive ballistic evidence from Michael Brown’s autopsy.  I had no idea how to take a stance because frankly, I hardly knew what my opinion was.  Last week though, when I opened my email from The Skimm telling me that another black man had been killed by a cop – this time on camera, and with absolutely no reason at all, and that the cop in this case had not been charged either, I nearly cried.

I’ve spent days trying to wrap my head around the situation.  Trying to understand what made an officer – a man who is supposed to be serving and protecting us – choke a man who had done absolutely nothing wrong (except maybe sell some cigarettes tax-free – which I’m fairly certain that even that didn’t happen) to death, despite his cries that he couldn’t breathe.  What made his partner stand by and let it happen, and a Grand Jury find him innocent of all charges.  I’ve tried every way I can think of to imagine what made a Grand Jury find that man innocent for a crime which has been ruled a homicide, and for which they had video recorded proof, but I’m still coming up blank.

And that breaks my heart, that somehow I love in a country where officers can kill for absolutely no reason, with no provocation at all, and not be charged with any sort of a crime.

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a lot of opinions on these two situations, and a lot of people saying that this isn’t a race issue.  It’s a human issue.  And they’re right – it is a human issue, a condition of our existence which somehow we can’t seem to overcome.  But at it’s heart, this is also a race issue – both in the actual crime itself, and in the discussions which we have about them.   The issue of race is hidden in the hundreds of members of Facebook saying “well he did rob a convenience store” and in the officer who saw absolutely nothing wrong with watching while his partner held an innocent man in a chokehold.  It is in the people saying that justice needs to be served, regardless of how petty the crime – up until that crime is murder, and then it’s somehow okay.

The race issue here is so ingrained, so a part of our society and our thinking, that we can hardly see it when it’s right in front of us. It’s in two white cops killing two black men, and being found innocent by a mostly white Grand Jury.  It’s in our discussions which somehow focus on the bad things a black 15-year-old did, and not on the even worse things that a grown white man did.  In the discussions that popped up about Brown’s robbing a convenience store, but those same people being silent when an innocent man is choked to death.

I still don’t know how to talk about this, because I still can’t wrap my head around it.  My closest comparison is in dystopian novels, in Thought Police and legally-required curfews, so I’m struggling to relate this to the real world, to the country I thought I lived in.  I don’t know what to say about a man being killed in cold blood, and the man who did it being found innocent, because I didn’t think that could happen in America. I don’t know what to say to the people saying “there must be something we don’t know” with regards to a video-recorded murder that otherwise, they would see as absolute binding proof of a crime committed. I don’t know what to say about a justice system that allows this to happen and does nothing about it, or the people in my news feed convinced that this isn’t about race.

I don’t know what to say about what’s been done, and how it’s been handled. But I do know that this is not our entire society.  This is not the world we live in, just a piece of it, just like the protests are part of it, and the people standing up to say that this is wrong. It is a sign of something needing to be fixed, but there is something beautiful in the people standing up the make that change.

Meet the Sponsors: The Chronicles of Chaos

Meet The Chronicles of Chaos

“The Chronicles of Chaos is definitely a lifestyle blog where I talk about a little of everything. But, this past summer, I made a decision to narrow down my niche and focus on a few topics that I’m really passionate about, which are: reading, writing, inspiration/creativity, and clean eating. But there are still some random posts thrown in – the word “chaos” is in the title, after all! :)”

Meet The Chronicles of Chaos

Write or Die Wednesdays: A Writing Prompt Link-Up

Using My Voice: A Work in Progress

Ding Dong Ditch: A Halloween Story

Maria vs. Mia

Blog // Bloglovin // Twitter // Google+ // Facebook // Instagram

Friday Favorites, vol. 26

Friday Favorites
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// This gorgeous new blog layout that Elle designed for me! In a matter of a few days, she got this awesome site up and running and filled with my favorite color: yellow.

Elle is gearing up to start designing other blogs, and if you’re looking for an affordable designer she’s perfect for the job! Head on over and check out what she’s offering.

// Have you ever had a great idea for a blog post, only to realize that somebody else has already written about that? Jenny knows the feeling, and she’s got some tips.

// I was recently introduced to the beauty that is Shane Koyczan’s spoken word poetry, and I’m in love.  If you haven’t heard of him, you should check him out.  But first, start with this great piece – one of my favorites so far.

// Have you linked up for fifth installment of The F Word Link Up yet? This month Elle and I are talking about sexism in the media, and so far we’ve gotten some incredible posts linked up, like this one from Lynsey.

If you haven’t linked up yet, you have until Thursday to get your feminist posts – on media or anything else your feminist heart desires – written and linked!

// If you’re like me and have a million things going on right now, you might be trying to figure out how best to get it all done without falling apart or forgetting something.  If that sounds about right, you’ll want to check out this awesome post from Daisy.

Linking up with Crystal from The Happy Type for the fourth installment of her Currently Loving Link-Up

Sexist Media Beyond the Mad Men Era

sexist media
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Elle and I talk a lot about feminism, sexism, and everything in between.  But one thing neither of us have mentioned too much is how the media contributes to that.  The media is such a huge part of our culture though that it only stands to reason that something which is so pervasive in our daily lives would be rampant on TV, in advertising, and online.

In fact, I’d argue that sexism in the media is a big reason behind sexism in our daily lives because, believe it or not, advertising and the media do affect how you look at the world around you (I know, I know. You’re impervious to advertising. You don’t notice it and it has absolutely NO effect on your daily habits or beliefs).  From the time we’re children, we’re bombarded with advertisements, TV shows, movies, tabloid covers, and everything in between telling us that women are good for one thing above all else: sex.  Somehow though, that same thought process doesn’t apply to men.  You could flip through a magazine and find plenty of examples of women being degraded, but almost none of men, and this fact shows in our cultural norms and beliefs.

As far as the media goes, we’ve come a long way in recent years, and if you don’t believe that just watch one episode of Mad Men and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Still though, we have a long way to go – and the reason most people don’t realize that is because it has become so normalized over time so that we can’t even see it when it’s right in front of us.

These examples though, show exactly how far advertising has gone in using sexism to promote their products.

sexist media
BMW
sexist media
PETA
sexist media
Burger King

So what about you? What sexist ads or other parts of the media have you shocked that they made it out of the advertising office? Do you think these ads have an effect on our culture, or the other way around?

sexist media