Link Love Wednesday: Let The Holiday Cheer Begin!

know-secret-santa-anything-christmas-ecard-someecards_largeCan you believe that we’re already in the thick of December? On Saturday, I tuned in to ESPN to watch my university’s football team battle it out amidst an ice storm in Texas, and found it crazy to think that winter is quickly approaching (even if winter merely consists of cold fronts where I live). With Christmas and the New Year looming dangerously ahead, it’s time to break out some of the holiday link love!

Link Love Wednesday: Goodbye, Google Reader!

google-reader-closedHappy Wednesday, friends! Today is June 19, which means we are less than two weeks away from the discontinuation of my favorite RSS reader, Google Reader. Ever since before I started blogging (my third WordPress anniversary was this week!), I have used Google Reader to track all of my favorite blogs, but on July 1, this feature will no longer be available. For all of my fellow nerds, July 1 will be a very sad day. This week’s links not only focus on our usual array of eclectic topics, but on how to cope with the end of Google Reader!

  • Are you following blogs on Google Reader? Check out BGR’s list of the best RSS readers to switch to before July 1. (I know I need to start moving feeds over, myself!)
  • Andrew from Shut Up Dad compiled a bachelor party checklist that everyone needs to consult, bachelor or otherwise. From fun hats to fanny packs, this bachelor will be one you won’t soon forget.
  • My best friend sent me this list of four life lessons that one blogger’s mother taught her, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. (Always pack your liquids in a Ziploc! I am a stickler for that one.)
  • This article poses the question, “How ready is America for gay-themed advertising?” A few of the bigger brands have released some LGBT-related ads that have set off a debate among consumers (read: bigots) on how visible the gay community should be in commercials. It is definitely an interesting article no matter where you stand on the subject, although I personally don’t understand what the big deal is!
  • Disney is cornering the market on Day of the Dead. This article discusses some of Disney’s more controversial choices, including its presence in the Mexican holiday and the transformation of the latest princess, Merida.
  • I’ll admit it – I’m just as guilty of taking selfies as the next 20-something girl! Of course, our love for snapping photos of ourselves has not gone unnoticed by marketers.
  • International Picnic Day just took place! Even if you missed it, Gala Darling poses some must-read advice for throwing the ideal picnic.
  • Here is a throwback to my indie music-loving early teen years! I just rediscovered this instrumental song by The Album Leaf and I can’t get enough. Enjoy!

What have you been reading lately?

Your Breakup Kit: 10 Songs to Ease the Pain

I will surviveAlthough Valentine’s Day is in a couple of days, some couples are not basking in the rays of relationship bliss. For those currently in the middle of breakups, mid-February is an especially difficult time to process your feelings, as the entire country glamorizes the idea of proving your worth to society based on whether anyone was willing to hold your hand in public on that day. So to help you all out, I’m bringing in a few song favorites and links – some sad, some upbeat – that could help cheer you up.

And yes, most of these are very mainstream songs. Enjoy!

Sad Songs for Wallowing in Self-Pity

Sometimes it’s your party and you can cry if you want to. This list is for the people who just don’t want to get out of bed, the heartbroken ones who keep replaying “what if?” scenarios in their minds, the people who need to let themselves feel the heartbreak a little bit longer.

1. Almost Lover – A Fine Frenzy (song).
The lyrics “You sang me Spanish lullabies, the sweetest sadness in your eyes,” always stick in my head when I hear this song! The artist sings goodbye to a significant other that almost was.

2. California King Bed – Rihanna (song).
I’m not the biggest Rihanna fan, but I wish this song had gotten more airtime when it first came out. This super sad song is all about a relationship at its end, being torn apart by emotional distance.

3. The Reason Why – Rachael Yamagata (song).
This song is not really about a romantic breakup, but more about the artist’s breakup with her band and journey into working a solo act. Beautiful piano accompaniment with lyrics that you can totally apply to your own heartbreak.

4. Set Fire to the Rain – Adele (song).
To be fair, every song by Adele is a breakup song. Set Fire to the Rain in particular always resonated with me as one of the sadder ones – although I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her soon!

5. Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley (song).
This is my favorite cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and I think it has such a profound sadness to it. After all, Shrek and Fiona listened to it when they parted ways in the first Shrek movie, didn’t they? If it’s good enough for Shrek, it’s good enough for any of us.


Empowering Songs for Your Inner Warrior

Sometimes, we don’t want to host our own pity parties — instead, we want to move past the heartbreak and feel the freedom of a bad relationship shed. These songs reflect the strength we might embody when we overcome a difficult situation.

1. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (song).
How can you not love this song and immediately start dancing when it comes on? I Will Survive is the pre-Single Ladies anthem for single ladies everywhere.

2. Picture to Burn – Taylor Swift (song).
Make as many jokes about Taylor Swift’s relationship status as you’d like, but this song – with its original country charm that many of her newer songs lack – easily gives We Are Never Getting Back Together a run for its money. Spiteful, yes, but totally fun to listen to!

3. I Look So Good – Jessie James (song).
In this song, the artist sings about all of the good things the breakup has done for her – including a boost of confidence! Definitely gives the breakup a more positive spin.

4. Miss Me – Andy Grammer (song).
I’ll admit that this one is a little sadder than the others, but the song does lean toward the sentiment that your significant other will miss you when you’re gone. For the still-sad-but-leaning-toward-empowered ones, this song provides hope of a happier tomorrow.

5. Happily Never After – Pussycat Dolls (song).
This song is all about leaving an unhealthy relationship for good and knowing what you deserve – a very uplifting way to start anew.


What are your favorite breakup songs? What songs have helped you get through some of your toughest moments?

The Weekend Five: Things That Pop Culture Taught Me to Expect About Falling in Love

25.1T073.mindyc--300x300As Valentine’s Day looms dangerously close by, we begin to think more and more about love and relationships based on our current frames of reference. Even if you have a significant other, you might still be a sucker for  cheesy romantic comedies, and this could potentially affect your own beliefs about what “love” really looks like. In my own life, pop culture has played its role in shaping my expectations, for better or for worse.

In honor of Singles Awareness Day/Valentine’s Day (depending, of course, on your relationship status and/or feelings about Hallmark), I would like to present the five things that pop culture taught me to expect in the world of relationships.

The Weekend Five: Things That Pop Culture Taught Me to Expect About Falling in Love

1. Every social encounter is a potential meet-cute.
It doesn’t matter where you are or why you’re there; any time you meet someone of the desired gender, you have the chance to find real love. This allows you to turn an awkward situation, such as running into each other and dropping all of your belongings on the ground, into something more meaningful. If your eyes meet for more than a few seconds as you laugh and help each other to pick up your things, it’s a sign of good things to come — and if your hands brush against theirs, it’s obvious that you’re soulmates. You can apply similar logic to other situations as well: meeting someone at a bar, admiring the same painting in an art gallery, reaching for the same book in a library. It doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t see all of this as reason to exchange numbers or break up with their current significant other; as long as you keep your mind open, any moment can become a meet-cute.


2. The one who has been around the longest is the one you’ll end up with.“I’ve been right here in front of you the entire time!” the romantic female lead exclaims as she plants herself in her male best friend’s doorway. “I was here all along!” This rule can go two ways: either you will end up with your best friend, or you will end up with the person whom you met in the very first episode (a la Carrie/Mr. Big) of Your Love Life. Either way, longevity will trump all else in the game of love.


bachelorette_ver23. If all else fails, you can broadcast your search for love to the entire world.
By becoming the next Bachelor or Bachelorette on ABC, you will not only have countless attractive dental assistants and entrepreneurs of ambiguous backgrounds vying for your attention, but you will also have access to an unlimited wardrobe of evening wear. Falling in love on television is totally genuine and foolproof; even if you don’t end up married later down the road, you are at least contractually obligated to get an engagement out of it, and your entire courtship will be littered with poorly disguised metaphors. Who wouldn’t want that?


4. Your relationship will have its own montage.
Every memorable moment that has led up to your declaration of love will flash before your eyes. This montage will be relatively short – no more than three minutes – but will highlight your relationship’s “Best Of” moments. This also happens when you aren’t in a relationship but considering confessing your feelings for someone with whom you’ve developed a close friendship. This montage is a mental one, so don’t be creepy and put anything together in iMovie.


5. Your relationship will be scored by a mix of 1980s love songs and modern indie music.
I always imagined that The Glory of Love by Peter Cetera would start playing the moment I realized I’d found “The One” (okay, maybe not always, but at least since I watched last season of The Bachelorette). The truth is, if pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that our relationships will take up entire soundtracks – and bands like Foreigner, Death Cab for Cutie and Sparklehorse will be the main attractions. Our relationships will consist of sweet if not slightly poppy melodies, smarmy songs that came out the year before we were born and a few songs by obscure bands we’ve never heard of. Get your iTunes ready.


What are some of the things that pop culture has taught you to expect about falling in love?

It All Makes Sense Now: Living So The Words Have Meaning

Taylor SwiftWhen my best friend and I were in high school and our earlier years of college, we constantly compared the boys in our lives to the boys in Taylor Swift songs. From the guys who were perfect in every way who simply didn’t notice us to the guys from whom we had drifted apart, we loved rocking out to T. Swift’s music in the car because we knew that, at any time, we could relate to at least something on her album.

Music often has the power to bring us back to a single moment in time, reminding us of the emotions — both good and bad — that came along with it. But little do we realize that those pivotal moments in our lives are exactly what give the lyrics their meaning. If we hadn’t met that one person, been in a particular place at a particular time, or experienced heartbreak, we wouldn’t truly comprehend those life events about which the songs were written in the first place.

musicAfter one break-up, I was listening to a few old favorites of mine, and one song – an older song written in some sort of extended metaphor that has been covered by probably a hundred artists since its inception – began to play. It was a song I’d always thought was beautiful, but I was never really sure why. This time, I felt an intense sadness as I meditated on a few key lyrics, as I realized, I finally know what he’s singing about. In a strange way, this simple realization made me feel that much more connected to the artist, the song and even to the world.

It goes like this: you can read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and think that you know what it means to be “infinite,” but eventually you will end up in a situation that actually makes you feel infinite, and suddenly you have a greater appreciation and understanding of the book itself.

I believe it is important to take that leap of faith and live so that the words have meaning. It might not turn out the way you had hoped – it might sting – but you owe it to yourself to enter relationships honestly and to remain open to unfamiliar opportunities.

Until You Learn To Love Yourself

Last week, with Ne-Yo’s Let Me Love You playing in the background at the gym (yes, I like Ne-Yo), I started to let the song’s lyrics sink in for the first time. For those unfamiliar with this song, the basic premise is that “I will love you until you learn to love yourself.” As much as I find Ne-Yo’s lyrics incredibly sweet and romantic, my practical side can’t help but question whether or not the song describes a particularly healthy relationship.

Ne-Yo sings to a girl who has never known love and who doesn’t have a particularly high opinion of herself, either. In the song, he promises to serve as the self esteem and love that she’s missing. However, although our significant others should build us up when we’re down and believe in us when we have our doubts, we shouldn’t be in a place where we need them to do this for us all the time.

This may sound harsh — and it would imply that a lot of people who are currently in relationships shouldn’t be — but until we learn to love ourselves, we shouldn’t call upon someone else to do that for us. If you are unhappy more often than you are happy with the world around you, then it doesn’t matter how perfect someone is, because you’re just not ready to be in a relationship. If you don’t love yourself (or, at the very least, like yourself), then you can’t reciprocate the wonderful support that you receive from your significant other, regardless of how willing that person is to be there for us. Is that fair to the person you care about?

Your boyfriend or girlfriend should seek to boost your confidence, but that shouldn’t be the primary goal. A relationship should be mutually beneficial, and as mentioned before, that can be nearly impossible when Person A is always questioning himself or herself, and wondering what Person B sees in him or her. Similarly, when we aren’t happy with ourselves, we don’t always pursue the healthiest relationships. As Stephen Chbosky writes in one of my favorite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Therefore, if we don’t love ourselves, we might remain in relationships with people who treat us poorly because we don’t think we deserve any better.

Ultimately, building your self image is difficult, and often a work in progress. In fact, most of us have a long way to go before we realize how much we truly deserve. Until you learn to love or like yourself, it’s best to take some time to yourself and reflect upon what makes you happy. Develop yourself in the best way you can, strengthen your platonic relationships, discover a hobby, and think about everything you are thankful for. Only after you’ve rebuilt yourself and found your version of happiness on your own can you accept the love of another person.

The Weekend Five: Blasphemy Day Edition

September 30th is Blasphemy Day, a day in which people are encouraged to speak openly against religion. Of course, I don’t like to bring political or religious issues to my blog in respect to my lovely and diverse readers, but in honor of the so-called holiday, today’s Weekend Five will focus on some of my less popular opinions and interests as they relate to pop culture. (See, it’s loosely related to the idea of blasphemy!)

This post isn’t meant to offend or cause arguments, but rather to share with readers! Feel free to post a comment with your own words of blasphemy. :)

The Weekend Five: Blasphemy Day Edition

1. I’m not a fan of The Beatles.
I say this with the slight fear that all of my friends will read this and subsequently disown me. The Beatles made a huge splash in music, and the band has a strong following to this day, but I just can’t get into it. While I like a few of their songs (namely Here Comes The Sun and I Wanna Hold Your Hand), the rest of their work is just background for me. I appreciate the impact they had on our culture — and I couldn’t resist snapping an Abbey Road-style photo with friends while in London — but I will probably never choose to listen to several of their songs in one sitting.


2. I have no interest in video games.
I should preface this by mentioning that at least half of my friends in college are engineering majors and that video games are very important to them. Of course, this makes it slightly awkward when I casually mention that I’ve played Halo maybe once (and had no idea what was going on). Growing up, I was never allowed to have video games, so my only gaming experience consisted of Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo-64 or in the waiting room at my dentist. Because of that, I never really developed an interest when I was older, and now when people are playing it in social situations, I usually find myself staring at my phone instead.


3. Squidward is my favorite character in Bikini Bottom.
I will never forget my (now ex) boyfriend’s reaction when I told him that Squidward was my favorite — “I can’t believe I’m dating a Squidward sympathizer!” I haven’t seen an episode of the Nickelodeon show in a long time, but Spongebob himself always made me extremely uncomfortable because of the chaos that followed him. I always pitied Squidward for having such inconsiderate neighbors. Sure, he’s a bit of a grouch, but can’t he just play his clarinet in peace? I would be grumpy too if a sponge with bad teeth and a barely functional starfish were constantly at my door, throwing me into situations I didn’t want to be part of.


4. I think Nicholas Sparks’ work is overrated.
As much as I cried reading A Walk to Remember and watching the film adaptation of The Notebook, I’m just not a huge fan of his other work. Not only did I not enjoy the novel version of The Notebook (le gasp!), but I find the love stories in most of them to be too melodramatic and maybe even formulaic for my taste. I’ll admit that I love romantic comedies as much as the next girl, but I have trouble thoroughly enjoying a book that uses the term “making love” more than once in the same paragraph.


5. I liked the newer Star Wars trilogy.
I’m not going to get too specific about my Star Wars history, but in spite of everything that every real Star Wars fan has ever said, I will admit these three things:

a) I liked the new movies.

b) I think C3PO is charming and adorable, even though most people I talk to seem to dislike him.

c) I don’t care what they say about George Lucas not being able to write a love story — I enjoyed the love story of Anakin and Padme (even though she seems a lot older than he is). Maybe this has something to do with the fact that Hayden Christensen is extremely attractive, but I’m sticking to my opinions and don’t feel the need to defend them. ;)

What are some of your unpopular opinions or likes/dislikes that you would like to share? (No political or religious posts, please!)

The Weekend Five: Depressing Remakes of Pop Hits

As hardcore as some of us claim to be, there’s no denying that we have all been fans of bubblegum pop music at one point in our lives. I may be known to scoff when certain songs are played on the radio, but I am proud to know every word to certain songs from the 90′s. After all, these are the fun, happy-go-lucky songs of my youth, and who can resist the cheesy allure of the overly-choreographed, pre-packaged boy bands?

Of course, I had to ask myself — what if these sweet, entertaining pop songs lost some of their pep, and instead left us with a strange, empty feeling? Then, of course, the “depressing remakes of pop hits” were born.

The Weekend Five: Depressing Remakes of Pop Hits

1. As Long As Somebody Will Love Me — Backstreet Boys.
In this new version of As Long As You Love Me, our favorite Backstreet Boys delve into the ongoing loneliness they must endure as each member (mainly Howie) searches unsuccessfully for a soul mate. At this point, the boys don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, because they’ve decided that you’re probably out of their league anyway and they just want to find someone who will love them.


2. One More Lonely Girl — Justin Bieber.
Although his music is not among the joys of my youth, I can concede that the teen pop star won the hearts of many girls between the ages of 11 and 15 with his song One Less Lonely Girl. However, in this remake, J. Biebs will sing about the many demands of his life on tour, concluding that any girl who dates him will be “one more lonely girl” who will have to fight other middle schoolers for his time and attention.


3. Born To Make You Unhappy – Britney Spears.
This depressing pop remake chronicles the life of a young woman who just can’t do anything right. The song is essentially the story of a girl with terrible self esteem who recounts the many reasons why she would make a potential boyfriend unhappy. The backdrop of the music video features footage of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.


4. Blue — Eiffel 65.
Readers will note the lack of a title change here. Although I can honestly say I never really understood what this song was about, its energy always struck me as that of a happier song. This version of Blue, however, refers to the “blue” feelings that the narrator experiences when he realizes that the blue people, Corvette, and various material possessions aren’t enough for him and that he’s  just waiting (but somehow unable) to transcend all of that.


5. Digital Digital Letdown — NSYNC.
No longer is this a creepy song about Internet relationships! Instead, it’s a much harsher sequel — the story of how one man’s expectations, heightened by the Web, wind up completely crushing him as he realizes they can never be attained. This digital digital letdown is exactly that – the realization that he can never replicate the perfection he found on the Internet in his real life.


Okay, so maybe I have a warped sense of humor! Feel free to add your own in the comments.

Putting Faith in Walls: A Lesson in Strength and Vulnerability

“You know the difference between strength and imperviousness, right? Well, a substance that is impervious to damage doesn’t need to be strong. When you and I met, I was an impervious substance. Now I’m a strong substance.” – Bones


Whether or not we choose to admit it, every single one of us has put up a metaphorical wall at one point or another. When we separate ourselves from difficult situations and keep others at arm’s length, we use these “walls” to protect ourselves from the world around us. By not allowing anything to hurt us, we are (as Dr. Brennan of Bones might suggest) impervious to damage.

With the threat of possible failure in mind, a lot of people choose to never step out of their comfort zones or try new things. After all, why would anyone logically want to enter a relationship if they were aware of the risk of heartbreak that comes with it? Likewise, why apply for the job you want without a 100 percent guarantee that you will get it?

All too often, we believe that by avoiding any possible situation that could lead to disappointment, we are doing ourselves a favor — in essence, we think that we are “maintaining our strength.” Little do we realize, however, that being strong does not mean lacking vulnerability. Our strength lies in the unexpected disappointments, the harsh rejections, the complicated and messy breakups, and the way we handle them all. We become strong when we cope with the challenges that life presents us, usually when we open ourselves up and accept that we cannot control the outcome of every situation.

As Ray Lamontagne sings in his song Be Here Now, “Don’t put your trust in walls ’cause walls will only crush you when they fall.” To me, this means that the walls you put up now will not protect you forever. Eventually, we will all struggle with something, but if we have never truly opened ourselves up to failure before, we haven’t already built up that strength that allows us to overcome our circumstances. In this case, without our impervious shells, we are unable to fend for ourselves.

It is easy for us to put our trust in walls and distance ourselves from the world. However, my dear readers, this week I would like to challenge you to take a small leap of faith in just one area of your life. Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

The Friday Five: Best Valentine’s Day Posts

Valentine’s Day may be behind us, but that certainly doesn’t make relationship-themed articles and posts any less timely! From the romantic to the practical, these pieces celebrate that crazy phenomenon we call “love” and give us a greater insight into some of its mysteries. Check them out this weekend – you may learn something new! (Links to these articles are in the parentheses after each headline.) Enjoy :)

The Friday Five: Best Valentine’s Day Posts

1. Literary Mixtape: Romeo and Juliet (Flavorwire).
As part of its “literary mixtape” series, Flavorwire attempts to discover what songs that present-day Romeo and Juliet would play on their (obviously shared) iPod. Not only does this playlist feature Taylor Swift and The Smiths (I had assumed I was the only person whose iPod had both artists), but it also pokes fun at the star-crossed lovers and provides plenty of laughs.


2. Facebook knows Your Favorite Love Songs and Breakup Tunes (Mashable)
As social media continues to play a significant role in the way we communicate and share ideas, so too does it allow researchers to gather new information about humans that they never before were able to observe. When Facebook users change their relationship statuses to “In a Relationship” or “Single,” they often post popular song lyrics to express their feelings more eloquently. (Admit it — you’ve done this before, too!) Check out the list to determine if you’ve been seeing these song lyrics around your News Feeds.


3. Valentine’s Day Kisses Continue Odd Human Tradition (Chicago Tribune)
Although no love story or romantic comedy is complete without true love’s kiss, we seldom consider where it came from and why. This article discusses the kiss from a cross-cultural and evolutionary perspective, and gives us quite a bit more background.


4. Kim and Krickitt Carpenter: Second Time Around (LA Times)
If you’ve seen the trailers for the movie The Vow, then this story should sound familiar. In 1993, a young couple experienced a serious car crash, in which the woman (Krickitt Carpenter) suffered serious memory loss and could no longer remember her husband, Kim. However, through courting over time, the two managed to rekindle their love and renew their vows. If nothing else, the story will reaffirm your faith in a love that can withstand all obstacles.


5. A Dating and Investing Guide For The Relationship Averse (Hello Giggles)
This article compares relationships to investments, and discusses the “risks” associated with dating from a financially-worded standpoint. Although it does not tell you how to literally manage your money, it does draw figurative parallels between dating and financial concepts, such as diversification and emerging markets. The article is not only clever but it also provides excellent advice on relationships.


What were some great Valentine’s Day articles you read this year?