Category Archives: Education

Our Favorite Books and Why We Love Them

There are some standard reads in here that everyone is recommended to read in high school honors English & college Literature classes. And, there are a couple others that I haven’t heard of. Good list!

The Daily Post

At Automattic, we have a plethora of book lovers. We love to read and we love to share. And today, we’re going to share books we’ve loved with you, in the hopes that you’ll return the favor and share your favorite books with us in the comments.

lorilooLori McLeese

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Joan Didion allows us into her year after her husband, Gregory Dunne, died. I read this book once or twice a year, and it always brings tears, though I know the outcome. It’s not a romanticized love story, it’s a real love story, and it’s about those incredible, raw, numbing, forgetful moments you find yourself emerged in as grief washes over you.

My favorite passage:

Was it about faith or was it about grief?

Were faith and grief the same thing?

Were we unusually dependent on one another the summer we swam and…

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Required Reading from Journalism Professors

I would love to take these classes. Each seem truly enthralling and worth my time.

Longreads

Below, six syllabi from journalism professors on what you should be reading.

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1. Journalism 494: Pollner Seminar In Narrative Non-Fiction With Esquire’s Chris Jones (University of Montana)

“The purpose of this course is to teach students how to write publishable magazine-length narrative non-fiction: In other words, my aim is to help you learn how to write good, long, true stories. The course outline will mirror a typical writer’s progress through the birth of an idea to a finished, polished piece, including reporting, writing, editing, and fact-checking. In addition to classroom discussion, course readings will help students understand the difference between good and bad work. My hope is that by the end of the semester, you will have written the Best Story of Your Life So Far (BSOYLSF) and it will help you reach your future potential as an award-winning literary journalist.”

2. Journalism 141: Professional Problems and…

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Ssssh, It’s A Secret.

Earlier this month (October), the retailer that I work for opted for stores to put out holiday products. The retailer next door to us has even played the occasional holiday song already. For those of you who don’t come from capitalistic, Christian dominated pockets of the world, my use of “holiday” refers to Christmas. When you work retail long enough, you’ll hear people say “the holidays come earlier every year,” and you’ll roll your eyes, understanding that truth, yet fervently hoping the opposite.

I have a feeling that in a decade, it is very likely that every single day, there will be a premium put on Christmas shopping. This is why I hope that in ten years, I can afford to escape from the states between the months of October and January. If I am running my own business, I plan on giving my employees the entire month of December off on top of whatever vacation they have accrued. If they want to stick around and work, awesome. I won’t stop them. But, I’d like to give them the option of enjoying life.

With all of that said, I have some secrets for everyone who has never worked retail (or in hospitality of some sort) a day in their life.

  1. It’s just stuff. Does your co-worker’s girlfriend who he’s been casually dating for three weeks really need the latest makeup palette from generic brand x? Is it necessary that your dog walker’s niece have the most recent variant of a celebrity fragrance? Sure, it’s one thing if the person you are shopping for works in a relevant field of the store you are in. Let’s say your fiancé is a personal trainer. Yes, please, buy him or her new workout clothes and/or state of the art exercise gear. How about your aunt who is a makeup artist? Go ahead and buy her pro gear from an upscale cosmetics brand. My point is, it really is just stuff. How much stuff do we really need? Do women really need five exceedingly similar versions of the same thing? NO! We definitely DO NOT!
  2. Know your audience before you leave the house. That means know who you are shopping for, what things they like, how much money you want to spend, and which stores will cater to all of the latter. Don’t walk into a busy store on a Saturday afternoon and ask a sales associate (who probably is already helping two other people in your same situation) what you should buy for someone. Especially a week before Christmas. We don’t like having to pick out presents for people we’ve never met. Sure, it’s our job to guide you. But, if you know nothing about the person you are shopping for, how can we guide you? Every year, my coworkers and I each have to help at least 20 of you clueless drones. And, we’ll tell you all to buy whatever we have excess of. We won’t spend an hour with each of you interviewing you about the recipient. We won’t make personal phone calls to them either. We have limited time to help you. So, HELP US HELP YOU! Please!
  3. I cannot emphasize the importance of the phrase “IT’S JUST STUFF.” I will repeat it over and over again until y’all wrap your head around that idea and truly understand it.
  4. People (yes, human beings) who work in the hospitality sector have lives outside their jobs. We don’t magically appear the moment the doors are unlocked. We don’t magically disappear when we lock the doors in the evening. We are not magical hospitality fairies. Most of us working hospitality are doing so to pay bills, put food on the table, support a family, etc. We aren’t doing it for the love of serving others. Most of us working hospitality would give an arm and a leg to have someone wait on us all day long. The only difference is that hospitality workers are genuinely grateful whenever they get any kind of service, even sh*tty service.
    1. Three Golden Words: PLEASE. THANK YOU. Even if you don’t mean any of them, just say them. And crack a damn smile when you do, even if it’s fake. We’re getting paid meager hourly wages to be on our feet anywhere from 6-12 hours a day (sometimes up to 18 for some people with families, mortgages, debt, student loans, etc.). A little bit of gratitude goes a very long way. Be grateful that you have the option of spending your money on STUFF and going to nice restaurants and staying in nice hotels. Many of us working hospitality don’t have that option.
    2. As we are not magical hospitality fairies, we’d really appreciate it if you plan your shopping wisely. Don’t show up to a store as the doors are getting locked and say “Oh, but I really need to buy ONE thing!” We know that buying one thing will take at least 15 minutes, usually extending the time employees need to be clocked in. Be aware of store hours. Even if you need to buy one thing, show up an hour before the store closes. That way, you can shop at a leisurely pace and we don’t have to say “we’re closing up our registers, so if you need us to grab you anything and take it to the counter, please let us know.”
    3. We do have lives outside our place of employment. We have families to go home to. We have friends we’d like to spend time with. Many of us cannot afford therapy, so our intimate relationships and social lives are incredibly important. We like having the option of going to the gym or sharing a bottle of wine with friends or taking our dog for a walk. Humans are social. So, after spending all day getting paid a meager amount to interact with people we otherwise wouldn’t outside of work, we need to be surrounded by a like minded community.
    4. Many of us who work in hospitality are, in fact, educated. Just because our yearly income usually falls below a truly livable wage doesn’t mean we are idiots. A lot of the people I work with have spent time at college and many of those people have degrees. I spent three years at a university before I started working retail. And, I am back at school finishing a Paralegal Studies degree. Even though we make significantly less money than most people who shop at our store, many of us are as intelligent (if not more) than you. Again, we are not magical hospitality fairies. We are human beings, with functioning brains.
  5. Don’t be that asshole that makes it a point to say Merry Christmas to everyone. If you are really that jolly, say “happy holidays! Thank you for working hard!!” We meet a lot of the adamant “Merry Christmas” agenda pushers every day during the holiday season. Your schtick is not original nor funny. Plus, if you tell me “Merry Christmas” during Hannukah, I will respond “Chag Urim Sameach! Hope you have enough oil!” If you say “Merry Christmas” to me on December 20th or 21st, I will say “Happy solstice! Blessed be! May the sprites be with you tonight!”
  6. For those of you living in the United States, never expect any sales associate to spend more than 10-15 minutes with you between Black Friday and January 6th, unless you are shopping at a tiny, exclusive boutique. If you are shopping at a major retailer, chances are the shopper to associate ratio will be 10 or 15 to 1, and that is including the six to eight cashiers ringing up an already horrendous line.
  7. Remember, IT’S JUST STUFF! Please, thank you, and a smile are all helpful.

 

With that said, have a wonderful Halloween and All Saint’s Day. Enjoy Thanksgiving. Ask the sprites and fairies and sky and earth to bring rain and snow. Live in the moment. Don’t focus all your energy on Christmas until Christmas is here.

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I’m Not Lost, Just Wandering

Those who know me well enough understand that I get bored quickly. Because of that boredom, it’s hard for me to settle into much a groove. For a brief time, I thought I had ADD. Then it dawned on me that I haven’t settled into my ideal life and I am completely terrified of doing so. While I’ll find something interesting to pass the time, I ultimately put it aside and move on to something else. Most of the time, I’ll find my way back to the unfinished business.

But, I’m too old for that.

Three things I would love to spend the rest of my life doing: writing, taking photographs, and walking.

If I could walk for three hours and take photos along the way, stop to rest, eat, and write, then walk for another three hours, I would be in heaven. I might just be happy living a (quasi) nomadic life. All I need is a camera (with a back up battery and extra CF cards), a notebook or two, some pens and pencils, and a PO Box address (and possibly someone to check the box a couple times a month).

A few years ago, I came up with two photojournalistic type projects I wanted to do. I keep coming back to them & toying around with the logistics. How will I get to the places to photograph the people I need to? How will I convince these people to allow me to photograph them. These are things I learned and could have learned while at art school had I stuck it out. They are things I can still learn if I just go out and do it.

But, I’m poor. I am (or will soon be) a starving artist.

Alas, I will continue to write, will continue to photograph, will continue to walk. And, I will continue to will some sort of success and be grateful when it arrives.

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Cultivating Joy

We are more than halfway through the year and the time has flown by. For the first six months, I barreled through a full time school scheduled and attempted to work 20-25 hours on top of that. I understand that there are people who work full time while going to school full time and are able to make that happen. For some reason, I can’t quite get that balance. I would love to be able to do that, but in the last few months, I seemed to sink back into an incredibly blue, lost place. I struggled to get out of bed every day. I found little joy in anything, even doing school work – something I had been enjoying thoroughly up until April.

A couple weeks ago, I became frustrated with myself for allowing myself to sink back into an uncomfortably comfortable depression. The frustration doesn’t help, it doesn’t solve any problem. So, in the last few days, a mild shift happened. Putting on jeans that felt fine now feel a bit too tight. My torso is rounder than usual, and that’s awful, because my torso is already too soft.

And, let’s be real: I simply don’t want to be unhealthy, mentally and physically. I need to be healthy.

I devised a plan. Every single day, I have to do something creative, I have to do something physical, and I absolutely have to be grateful for something. How will I accomplish that? Write somewhere what (or who) I am grateful for. If it is a person, I will tell them. And, if I have ten spare minutes, I have to write down exactly how I am feeling or have felt that day. Twice, if not three times, a week I will go to the gym, even if I get on the treadmill for just 20 minutes. Four or five times a week, I will pick up the weights I have sitting in my room and MOVE. Even if I just do steps back and forth with weights in my hand while I watch a movie, that’s still movement. Once or twice a week I will do one of the many doable workouts I found on YouTube. I will set up a reward system for every hour of school work I do each day. Another thing I need to do is write down everything I eat and drink. Mindful eating and consumption is a practice that is effective in my life. By being accountable for how I am treating my body, I will become happier with myself.

One thing I plan on doing that isn’t going to be a daily thing will be the upkeep of my blogs. Twice a week I will do a post at any three of my blogs. I will write about whatever book I have just read, new music I’ve been enjoying, exercise that is fun & effective, fun craft projects I’ve done, and many more.

With all of these simple things I am going to do, I am going to mark reminders on my wall calendar and I am going to set up reminders on my phone. If I don’t see or hear any reminders, I won’t stick to the plan. Right now, I am hopeful. The anxiety that was surging through my body earlier has subsided. I’m excited to go to the gym tomorrow before work. I can’t wait to finish my book this weekend.

What do you to keep yourself happy and excited about life? Please share!

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New Habits

Every year, I always tell myself I am going to write more. Somehow I seem to fall short a few months into the year. This year, 2014, I feel it is going to be different. Now I have three blogs going and am back in school, I have more passion in my life. The environment I have chosen to be in cultivates the habit of writing and learning and general curiosity.

On a friend’s Facebook page, she mentioned a site called 750 Words. I wish I had heard about it two days sooner! The premise of the site is that you are to write at least 750 words a day. No one (but the site admin, I assume) has access to what you write, so you can write whatever you want. Some people use it to help with their writing skills, others use it as a therapeutic tool, and some use it to get their creative juices flowing. I am so grateful to have found this site! Within half an hour of signing up, I was able to write almost twelve hundred words (I’m not a fast typer, I just have a lot to say).

For any of you who are creative in any way, please use this tool! It is a great way to help break up any blockage you may be experiencing!

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Small Business Bookshop

During my childhood, my goal in life was to be a writer and own a small bookstore that sold used books and independently published books and magazines (that were forward thinking and world peace positive). At 31, I still have that dream. But, in the technological, economically rough time we are living in, I understand how difficult and unlikely that dream is. During my teens and early twenties, I wanted the bookstore to also be a cafe & meeting place for students, radicals, progressives, anarchists, and all people non-mainstream. I wanted a place for people to feel safe, have a coffee, and somewhere comfortable to sit with a book to read or a conversation to be had. In Menlo Park, Kepler’s was the place to be. It started as a counter-culture meeting place a couple decades before I was born and became the intelligent, independent, book selling hub of the Peninsula (with Berkeley a 45 minute drive away). While I went to college in Washington State, Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane was the only real option I had for finding solace in my dream. And, I sadly only went in two or three times during the three years I was up there.

Lately, I’ve been itching to move. There’s a part of me that wants to move back to Cheney/Spokane and get some final closure. I left so abruptly when I actually did leave ten years ago. I want to go back to EWU, finish my degree, and start the ball rolling on some sort of progressive, positive hub/hive/social network that I feel that part of the state desperately needs.

But, with Auntie’s as the mainstay and iconic indie place of Spokane, I know my idea of an independent Salon/Bookstore/Cafe wouldn’t stand up to Auntie’s. There is no need for an identical business that is part of a dwindling business circle. But, what if I opened a Salon/Cafe? What if people would leave a book they’ve read and took a book they want to read? What if independent writers came and lead a Salon a couple times a month? What if…??

I’m partially on the way to fulfilling my dream. I’m actively doing part of my dream by writing this post. And, I’m cultivating the ambition to figure out a way to have my goals come to life.

I guess what I’m trying to say is HELP. If anyone out there want to join in on my fantastically fun goal of creating a Salon type Cafe in Eastern Washington, please, jump on the bandwagon. Let’s get this going.

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2013 Book Challange

As I am officially in my 30’s with little to show for myself, I am on a mission to change that. 2012 was supposed to be that year, but that didn’t happen. So, I am making 2013 the year that I hope to be the change…

Some of the things this change entails are
-the plan to go back to school to finish my degree in order to present myself as a more valuable asset to the human race, even though I don’t often agree with that sentiment;
-actually attending meetups of groups I’ve joined on Meetup.com;
-dropping 40 of the 55 pounds I’ve put on in the past five years through varied exercise;
-volunteer with the Half The Sky movement, and an animal shelter;
-making a dent in the two short stories I have started (possibly completing both);
-reading 25 books as well as any required reading for my degree; and
-reviewing said books, even if they didn’t do too much for me.

Now, I may end up reading more than 25 books. I’d ultimately like to read 50 books. But, I hate disappointment, and I’d rather not end 2013 feeling a failure. With daylight progressively becoming more abundant in the next six months, the exercise will be more doable and the story writing will be more frequent (I hope).

Please, universe. Allow me the creativity, energy, and health to complete my hopes and goals! Here is to a wonderful, hopeful year!

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This is a must read for young girls, especially when they are experiencing major physical changes. I remember loving the series as a young girl, and I hope to share it with my daughter(s) and students (if I become a teacher).

Blogging for a Good Book

Tamora Pierce is an award-winning and bestselling fantasy author of young adult literature.  She has written stand alone books and short stories as well as multiple series.  Her first young adult novel, published in 1983, was Alanna, the First Adventure.

This story opens with Alanna and her twin brother Thom unhappy about their father’s decision to send them away for school.  It’s not that they don’t want to leave home and have new experiences, it’s that they wish their father would consider what they want to do.

Alanna doesn’t want to go to a convent and learn all the boring necessities of being a lady.  She wants to be a knight, a warrior maiden.  And Thom really doesn’t enjoy sword fighting and battle strategy, he’d rather be a great sorcerer.

The two decide to take their fates into their own hands and switch places.  With the help of two…

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I Am Half The Sky

Two years ago, my mother bought me a book for Christmas. It sat on my bookshelf up until recently. Now, I am kicking myself for not reading it when I received it, as it has turned into this amazing phenomenon. On October 1st & 2nd, PBS hosted a four hour documentary, the visual tie-in to the book I was gifted.

As “Half The Sky” sat within walking distance of me for almost two years, I always made a note to start reading it. Now, with the PBS documentary aired and an amazing movement brewing, I vow to read the book & watch the documentary, all the while taking notes. I have signed up to become a Community Ambassador & hope to host screenings of the documentary in my neighborhood & community. If accepted, this will be a great way to do something of substance with my life. It will act as a form of education for me, as well as allow more people to get involved with a great movement and work together to build better opportunities for women & children to get the best lives possible.

Please, enjoy the trailer. And, subscribe!

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