Your family is a Christmas tree 


Wikimedia Commons

A newsroom argument over whether colored lights or white lights look better on the Christmas tree:

“Colored lights make a tree look messy,” I said.

“Christmas trees are like families. They’re supposed to be messy.”

It effectively ended the debate, and those words have been jingling around my head since.

Family drama can place a strain on this mistletoed holiday. When people bounce from house to house, relative to relative, old arguments are dredged up, new ones spring to life.

As we near the cusp of Christmas, remember this is a season of great love, of the greatest love. No earthly thing can overwhelm that.

I encourage you to remember the reason we gather these next two days (or, for those with larger families, for the next week, repeatedly). This is a time based in love. It is a time to put aside squabbles and arguments and drama. The homemade ornaments on the tree are far more important than what is under them.

A Christmas tree is like a family. It may be big or small, messy or neat, picturesque or haphazard. No matter the kind, it is twinkling and loved all the same.

Merry Christmas. Peace on earth.



Bullet Journaling

Staying organized has been a challenge for me at school, simply because there is so much happening. Last semester, I relied on separate notebooks for each class, an assignment notebook, a calendar planner, and my phone for everything else. I found out, though, that I am apparently the kind of person that thinks of their entire to-do list in the middle of class.

Enter the bullet journal.

The bullet journal has a few main sections: the index, the future log, the monthly log, and the daily log. The index is an ever-growing table of contents, the future log is a yearly calendar, the monthly log is a monthly calendar, and the daily log is a daily to-do list. I don’t personally use the future log extensively, and use the monthly log more as reference, but I love the daily log. Whenever I think of something I need to do, want to buy, or want to look into, I just write it down. Then, I go back to whatever I was doing, knowing I won’t forget it.

I love that the bullet journal is constantly changing and adapting to what I need. I don’t have to worry about buying the absolute perfect planner because I can just change my bullet journal. I can do things like add a module for a personal project, so I can keep all pertinent tasks and ideas in one place.

A prime example is the goal-tracker. After deciding I wanted to know my sleep and exercise patterns, I added a chart to my monthly spread. It’s a great visual, and I can decide if it works for me and if I want to keep it next month.

There is also something intensely therapeutic about going through and having a to-do list that is always getting checked off. Because I put everything in it from household chores (throw out the flowers) to more intensive projects (apply for scholarship), I am always marking off something I completed that day.

A shameless plug for the guy who put me onto bullet journaling. I only looked into it after seeing his Instagram post. You can check out his (new!) Instagram dedicated to bullet journaling at @minimaljournal.

If you are interested in starting your own bullet journal, check out It is a great resource for learning the ins and outs of bullet journaling, with detailed explanations and lots of pictures.

Let me know if you start bullet journaling. How does it go for you? Do you love it as much as I do?

I’d do it for free 

My co-editor copyediting on a Wednesday night

“All you get is $200?” My friend asked incredulously. “Why would you work for so little?”

I leaned against the wall. “I mean, I guess I just love doing it. I would do it for free.”

“Still!” She said, spinning slightly in her chair. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

“Well, I don’t know. I guess I just really like it. I mean, journalism is what I want to do. Working for the paper is part of that.”

I walked home that night from the newsroom at 2:30 am.

This year, I will spend every Wednesday night locked in a back room of the student union, furiously reading, editing, re-reading, re-editing, panicking slightly, then reading again. Once the paper is sent to the printer–sometime between 11 and midnight–we start uploading the stories to the website, scheduled to be published in the morning.

At 1 am, it’s often me and my co-assistant editor blearily copy/pasting stories into WordPress, our editor-in-chief sticking it out with us until the end. The room is quiet, except for a few questions and maybe some soft music.

For some, there is nothing appealing in these long nights, and I understand. Sneaking into your room at 2 am leaves little time for homework or sleep. Stuffing interviews between classes and rewrites into scraps of weekend means your calendar is your best friend.

But I can’t imagine doing anything else.

It becomes addicting. I have the opportunity to attend events and speak with people I normally wouldn’t. I get to poke around in the inner workings of people and places and times.
Journalism is not just about politics or crime or the latest news. It is about stories. Those aspects are part of that, but journalism is essentially story-telling.

Well-written, fact-checked, AP-stylized storytelling, but storytelling all the same.

Journalism has granted me the privilege of telling the stories of the people around me. I am a voice for those who need it, a lens through which people can read about the interesting bits of life. Even when I write on things that aren’t of explicit interest to me, I still love it. When you get the opportunity to talk to people passionate about what they do, about what they love, you cannot help but get excited too. You cannot help but want to tell their story.

Journalism feeds my sense of adventure, but gives it a purpose. The adventure is no longer for its own sake, but to share it with others, too.

Seeing people read my articles, knowing I told a story they hadn’t previously heard, that I possibly inspired action or brought up emotion, is why I want to be a journalist. Through journalism, I am a storyteller, and stories are a powerful tool.

Being a storyteller makes the odd hours, late nights, stressed rewrites, long events, and, yes, even the low pay worth it.

All of it, somehow, means my favorite place in the world is the little back room on Wednesday nights, stuffed to the brim with papers and people, sipping on coffee, sharing stories with the world.

Perhaps, they pay me too much.

Photoshoot: The River

As promised, the second installment of my all-day photoshoot.

We went out that afternoon after shooting at the lumberyard to find a dress for this photoshoot. Within twenty minutes of getting to the thrift store, we found this gorgeous, floor-length, dark gray dress. It fit like a dream and was absolutely perfect.

Although the shoot was originally going well, a thunderstorm soon started rolling in, and we had to cut it shorter than we planned. Despite this, we still got some gorgeous shots, even if there weren’t as many to choose between.


Photoshoot: Abandoned

I have never shot somewhere abandoned before, but I think it makes for some of the most unique photo locations. A local lumberyard near my house has been closed for some time now, and most of the buildings are starting to have that run-down look that I love.

Before I left for school, I was able to do an all-day photoshoot with two friends. We were only able to shoot in two locations, due to being rained out partway through the day, but we got some great photos before the storm hit.

The second photoshoot will be uploaded later, but enjoy this gallery from the lumberyard. And tell me: what are some of your favorite types of locations to shoot?


Five things you absolutely need for your dorm room

Regardless of what school you are going to in the fall, there are five things you must have for your dorm room.

1. Ten-foot phone cord.

It doesn’t matter how you set up your room or what spot you snag in the library, you will always be too far away from the plug. Or, if you’re like me, your cord will start to fray from being bent at a weird angle between the bedframe and the wall. Solve that with a ten-foot phone cord. I ordered these. They’re two for $10, so I have a spare if the one I use ever breaks. Being able to roll over in bed and still be able to charge your phone is seriously life-changing.

2. Hot pot

Even if you have a full meal plan or access to a dorm kitchen, I really recommend purchasing a hot pot. They’re different than a hot plate, so most schools allow them. They’re great for making soups, Ramen, tea, and oatmeal. I used mine to make hard-boiled eggs for in-room breakfasts, which seemed to work pretty well. I have this one.

3. Jars

In a small dorm room, labels and cheap containers can be visually noisy. Even though this might not consciously add anxiety, transferring small items like paperclips and thumbtacks into miniature desktop jars can calm down your room. I used a large mason jar as a toothbrush and toothpaste container and smaller ones to hold things like hairties, desk supplies, and makeup brushes. I even bought a small candle holder to serve as a stand for a makeup sponge, replacing the plastic, labeled one it came with. I found that cutting down the amount of labels visible in my room helped to create a cleaner, more relaxing environment, which, in turn, helped me focus on homework and studying.

4. Plants

Regardless of how many posters you hang, dorm rooms can still feel sterile, plain, and lifeless. Adding a plant (or seven) can help to add a little bit of greenery back into your life. Depending on where you live, something like a succulent might work. Succulents need a lot of light, so they might not be best if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sun. I personally suggest a money tree (formally known as Pachira Aquatica). My boyfriend gave me one as a gift for Christmas and not only did it stay alive, but it actually thrived in my dorm room.

5. Sleep mask

Roommates suck. They stay up late and get up early, somehow always on the opposite schedule of you. Instead of suffocating under a blanket to block out light, buy a sleep mask. You’ll be able to sleep, and your roommate will be able to study or get ready for class. A sleep mask is also incredibly useful for those Saturday afternoon naps you take when you’re avoiding homework. To become an impenetrable nap fortress, buy a pair of earbuds, too.

Returning students, what are some things you would recommend for incoming freshman?

Try it Tuesday: Complimenting Strangers

Year sixteen was rough for me. It is for everybody, but a bumpy couple months had left me feeling particularly self-conscious and down. So when a random girl about my age told me I was pretty, it made my day.

Words are powerful, and, for better or for worse, words stay with you.

Words, ironically, had been causing my troubles in the first place. For that brief moment, though, words distracted me from it.

Compliments have a way of sticking with you, and compliments from strangers have a way of sticking with you for years.

It is easy to feel invisible running errands or doing homework or going to class. The daily drudgeries of life can leave us feeling unimportant and unnoticed. We live in a world of anonymity, and we often don’t care to pay attention to those around us. At the same time, we are all striving to be noticed, even if unconsciously. People thrive off positive attention, and many are not getting it.

So I like to give it to them. One of my favorite things is to compliment people I don’t know—telling them I like their shirt or hair or shoes. Most of the time they look startled, say thank you, and go on their way. Sometimes they tell me where they bought the item. Occasionally, it starts a conversation.

Perhaps it’s partly selfish. I feel like I am making some sort of impact in their life, that I will stick around their mind like others have stuck in mine.

At the same time, what does it hurt? You never know what someone is going through or what kind of day they are having. If one compliment out of a hundred does brighten someone’s day, then it was worth my time.

This post comes with a challenge: Be a positive light. Tell people—strangers and friends—what you like about them. It can be something as simple as you liking their shirt, or it can be something more personal.

Words are free. Be liberal with the kind ones.