Public Service Announcement

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

There was a time when I could sit on my bed with a notebook and write for hours, or simply get lost in my own thoughts. Now I’m constantly reaching for my phone out of boredom or fear of my own thoughts. My cellphone addiction began the moment I added unlimited texting to my plan. I was 17. Between the ages 18 and 22 I went through more phones than I can remember: I always wanted the latest gadget. When data plans became an option and I learned how to use apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and later on Instagram, my entire social life was no longer based on 3D tangible people, who could talk to me or touch me. It became a vast world that I could hold in the palm of my hand. Over the years I’ve gotten into many fights with my friends, boyfriend, and family over ALWAYS having my phone on me. I realized late last year that I am addicted to my cellphone, social media, and the way I am perceived on such platforms. The internet has taken over my life. It’s made me feel small and useless.

From Pinterest

From Bloglovin

I decided that in 2015 I would take control of my life and my social media habits. As a start, I deleted Facebook. Why? Facebook is a creeping mechanism where I look at people from my past and feel sorry for myself. It’s been about two weeks since my last Facebook sign in and I don’t miss it one bit. It gives me one less reason to reach for my phone, one less excuse to put off this article, that story, or my job hunt. The next step is removing Twitter from my phone and only using it when I go on my computer. I love Twitter and have connected with so many brands and bloggers because of it, but I have a problem: NO ONE SHOULD SPEND 7 HOURS ON TWITTER TRYING TO WIN A NEW PHONE. No one.

After Twitter the next mountain to climb will be Instagram. I share everything on Instagram only the good things on Instagram. I’ve written about this before and it still irks me that I find myself obsessed with capturing, filtering, and sharing every moment. When I scroll through my 1300 photos I see a happy book-obsessed woman, with a loving boyfriend, great friends, and wonderful family. She doesn’t have any bad photos of herself, nor does she have photos documenting the fight she had with her boyfriend over something stupid. She doesn’t have photos representing her insecurities or her failures. She is a photoshopped and filtered version of me. I feel like Instagram has made me lose sight of who am I and what I want. I’m obsessed with other people and what they’re doing. I compare my relationship, job, milestones, and friends to theirs. One of their accomplishments belittles mine, one perfect selfie makes me feel hideous. I realized that Instagram and I had an issue when on the stroke of midnight of New Year’s Eve I was clicking away on Instagram instead of making out with my boyfriend in front of my family. I was too busy looking for the next “I said Yes” photo so I could “like” it and feel utterly jealous. What a way to start a new year.

The truth is that I’m tired of keeping up with the Joneses. I’m tired of trying desperately to be a top blogger (mucking with my content because I think I want to be like this blogger or that one). I’m tired of feeling like I owe the world my privacy. I’m tired of feeling anxious when my phone rings because I don’t speak on the phone too often. Something must change. I’m only a week into the new year and I must say that I find fewer reasons to pick up my phone. Apart from sending out a few tweets and pinning on Pinterest, my phone has become a, well, a phone. Phone calls and text messages only. I haven’t been carrying it around with me, I’ve been looking at phone plans with less data, and I’ve actually had more time to write, work, and read. I feel lighter.

There are some days where I wonder if I’m going the right way about this. I’m a blogger, I SHOULD be on social media. I mean how does a blogger who’s taking a step back from technology, blog? There’s no way I can approach companies or brands and ask to try out products or work with them if I don’t have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It’s bad enough that I don’t have Google+, Foursquare, or Snapchat. It’s jarring to think about but I am still committed to reviewing only products that I love (especially books), sharing things that I use, and working with brands that truly understand the sentiment behind my blog. I may not have the same reach as I once did but this blog has never been about gaining validation or reaching the whole world. It started as a place to write, to learn, to grow, and to remember.

That is how it will remain, until my very last post.

Love always, 
Vanessa XX

Samsung Galaxy Alpha [Product Review]

Products and Brands

Back in September, I got to test out the Nokia Lumia 1020. Since then I’ve been drooling over three phones: the LG G3, Moto X, and the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Well my Christmas wish has been signed, sealed, and delivered because Samsung sent me a beautiful sleek white Alpha to test out for two weeks.

Photo from the Samsung Website

Photo from the Samsung Website

First Impressions

  • it’s a great looking phone, reminds me of the iPhone 5
  • light, sleek, and great aesthetic
  • the camera lens pops out in the back (but slightly)
  • it seems fragile, feel like I need a case on it (I’m a klutz)

What I LOVED

  • the interface is crisp and easy to use/function
  • obsessed with the font
  • the calendar is so much more functional than the iPhone and super easy to use. You can colour co-ordinate events and shifts at work to ensure that you know where you have to be and when (a OCD person’s dream)
  • has tonnes of options when it comes to editing and filtering photos. You can add stickers and draw on them too
  • apps are easy to download and due to the 4.7″ (119.0mm) display, tweets, Instagram photos, and Facebook statuses are easy to read
  • there’s a blinking light for notifications, which I’ve secretly missed from my Blackberry days AND when you slide open your phone, the notifications are sitting nicely at the top so you know exactly what you’ve been missing
  • S Health is downloaded and ready for me to keep track of my fitness
  • although I might never use it, there’s a fingerprint log-in
  • ULTRA POWER-SAVING MODE, do I need to say more?
  • VIRTUAL TOUR MODE for the camera  = AWESOME
  • selfie’s just got easier to take with their “beauty face” mode — it adds a bit of airbrushing to the photo
unnamed-1

Every time you try something new, a screen pops up to show you how to use it!

 What I Didn’t Love

  • although the camera is 12 MP — I didn’t find the photos as crisp as the ones on even my iPhone 4, but HECK I COULD GET USED TO IT BECAUSE THIS PHONE ROCKS!!

Thank you to Samsung Canada and Lianne for making this trial possible! Looking forward to working with you again in the future!

 – Vanessa

THE CELLULAR DEBATE: Lumia 1020 vs iPhone 5

Lifestyle/Personal, Products and Brands

I have a love/hate/love relationship with technology and social media. I love connecting with people but have to force myself to unplug every once in a while. I have to remind myself that the world doesn’t need to see or know everything I do. I need to remember that privacy is precious and it demands protection. I also know that it’s important to your resume, your network, and your job to connect with people online. It gives you a place to stand out, it allows you to “meet” people, and it just might help you start your career. Technology is all about balance.

“Life without a phone is riskier, lonelier, more vivid.”
― Eloisa JamesParis in Love

That being said, today, a phone is an important commodity. I LOVE my iPhone, it’s easy to use, the camera is awesome, and I am all for FaceTiming my niece, but lately I’ve been yearning for a different kind of smart phone experience. I’m searching for a phone that can take even better photos than my iPhone, a phone I can blog from, a phone where I will actually use the calendar (I get annoyed with the iPhone calendar), a phone that I love to hold (it isn’t too large but not too small), a phone that will help me to connect with people and capture memories, most importantly a phone that I love but am not attached to.

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 8.05.33 AM

I have an upgrade with Rogers in November and before I run to the store to pick up an iPhone 6 I want to explore my options. I got to try out the Lumia 1020 for a few weeks and was really impressed with its camera, how easy it is to use, and the amazing battery life. My only issue is the app situation and the awkward camera lens. I can’t download apps properly because I don’t have a Windows account and even after creating one I had a difficult time figuring out how to take off the parental controls. Also, there wasn’t an INSTAGRAM app — I had to email the photos to myself to post them on Instagram. The camera lens is a little weird, it sticks out the back of the phone forcing you to keep the phone faced down (I was too scared I would scratch the screen to keep it like that).

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 8.05.35 AM

Generally, I do like the look of the phone. It’s smooth, not too big, and the screen doesn’t get as many finger prints as my iPhone. However, with the new iPhone 6 on the market I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I LOVE the rounder, smoother look of the new iPhone and even though I don’t love big phones, the 6 is only a  bit bigger than the 5. I’m not a huge fan of the digital wallet and won’t be using it, BUT I already KNOW how to use the iPhone and I can easily switch over all of my information. So the ultimate question is will I be waiting in line with the other Apple fanatics for my very own iPhone 6 OR will I be switching over to something new?

iphone_6_iphone_6_plus1

Talk soon,
Vanessa

 

* I stand corrected! There is a BETA version of INSTAGRAM for the Lumia 1020! Check it out here!

Thrive [Book Review]

Book Reviews, Lifestyle/Personal

9780804140843

Arianna Huffington is the cofounder and editor-in-cheif of the Huffington Post Media Group. I’m sure we can all imagine what kind of life she must lead, being one of the most efficient media outlets doesn’t come without its consequences. Thrive begins with the moment that Arianna Huffington realized she was completely and utterly burnt out. Brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep Huffington fell, hitting her eye and breaking her cheekbone. Is this what success really looks like? she wondered. There has to be more to success than just money and power, she thought. And so she is redefining success by adding a third metric to the equation: Well-being, Wonder, and Wisdom.

I’m at an impasse in my life; an infuriating and stressful impasse. As such, I sought out a book that could help me get out of my funk — Thrive was the perfect choice. Weaving her personal stories with statistics and facts, Huffington shines a light on the issues facing the modern generation. She helps you answer questions like what kind of life do I want to have? and re-invents what it means to be successful. Thrive opens your eyes with an in-depth look at lack of sleep, technology and the affect that being connected 24/7 has on a person.

image

Famous quotes are scattered throughout the book adding an extra emphasis on certain points (my favourite is above). The quotes add a certain wonder and wisdom to the book (two important elements of her third metric). Filled with pointers on meditation, ideas and websites to visit for volunteering, personal stories and anecdotes, Thrive has something for every business woman and man out there. It’s also great for millennials like myself, to make us aware of the kind of world we’re walking into and how WE can make a change.

Thrive comes out March 25th — I urge you to pre-order a copy!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

Disclosure: I chose Thrive from a list of Random House Canada titles and received a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Connecting or Distracting

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

IMG_0629

The more I read the more I wonder if I use technology to connect or to distract. I’m addicted to sharing, to tweeting and Instagramming and I don’t know why. It’s an amazing way to connect with people, to share my adventures and to keep people up to date with my life (if anyone actually cares I mean) but lately it’s been more of a tool for distraction. Sometimes when I’m looking on Pinterest or sliding through tweets, a headache starts to form. Crawling up my neck and setting up shop at the back of my head, sometimes pounding so hard that I feel it in my eyes. That’s when I put my phone down and shake my head.

large

There is such a thing as being on your phone too much. Using it as a tool to distract yourself from life is just as unhealthy as being under the impression that you need to be connected 24/7 to have a meaningful life or a successful career. An important question that I’m trying to answer is not ‘What do I want to do?’ but ‘What kind of life do I want to have?’ (Thrive page 27). I don’t want the kind of life that is controlled by technology. This morning I turned off all of my notifications — email, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest — now I get to decide when I want to receive information. NOW I’m in control. Now I decide when I want to pick up my phone. The next step in toning down my social media/phone obsession is keeping my phone in my purse when I go out and choosing a day where I go tech-free!

large-1

 How does technology affect you or your job?

LMK in the comments!

Talk soon,

Vanessa Xo

BIG NEWS : #HTCOne – Everything your phone isn't

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal

 

In April I entered Casie Stewart’s HTC One Influencer contest and just this week I received an email letting me know that I WON! So what exactly did I win? Well, shortly I’ll be putting away my iPhone5 and trying out my first Android, the HTC ONE, which you know is a pretty big deal for this iPhone-lover. With this new phone I’ll be documenting my life, as well as the other part of my prize — a social and blog mentorship with the one and only Casie Stewart (THIS IS MY LIFE). I’m so excited for that part of the contest, apparently I get to guest post on her blog too! I cannot wait to meet up with Casie (notebook, pen, and laptop in hand) and learn how to take my blog to the next level.

HTC-one-logo-640x250

Thank you to Casie, HTC, and Say Media for this amazing opportunity, I am so excited to be the next HTC One Influencer!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Stay True.

Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal
Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

The most difficult thing about blogging (writing) is staying true to the voice of your blog. It’s difficult to stay true to the brand you created when there are so many other blogs and brands to be intimidated by. I created this blog as a space for my personal thoughts, as a space to practice and improve my writing, as a place to learn more about myself, as a place to share great books. Admittedly I’ve lost sight of my voice a couple of times. Sometimes I didn’t even recognize the woman holding the pen, I didn’t hear my own nasally soften-spoken voice when I read my posts over again. The important thing is that I noticed and I put myself back on track.

large

Another difficult part of blogging (writing) is privacy — what do you share? What do you keep to yourself? I’ve had people tell me that they follow my blog in a tone that makes me feel like they know more about me than I think they do. I’ve had people tell me that I should be careful. That my generation doesn’t know the importance of privacy. Well, that’s what social media is, letting people into your life, into your home. It’s scary how BIG social media has become in my life, I’m even applying for jobs with SOCIAL MEDIA in their description.

Sometimes I sit back and think oh my gosh, I’m sharing my thoughts with who knows how many people. On top of that it’s on the INTERNET, FOREVER. After the initial nausea from that thought subsides, I allow myself to think other thoughts. My Pen, My Voice is a brand. It is a brand that I created. It’s ME, it’s who I am and what I represent BUT I get to choose what I share. Along with this blog I have two other notebooks with me at all times. One is a diary and one is the rough beginnings of my novel — neither of which I share on my blog.

I think people forget that there’s a person behind a blog, a twitter account, an Instagram account etc and what they share is only fraction of their lives. They let you see what they want you to see.

I am my truest self when I write.

 I write with honesty, intention, passion, and determination, but please don’t forget —

My Pen, My Voice is just one side of me.

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Birthday Recap

Family Time, Just for Fun, Lifestyle/Personal, Uncategorized

Below you will find today’s post. You’ll notice that the formatting is a little different, that’s because I typed it up on this bad boy:

image

image_1

image_3

My aunt and uncle scoured the streets, flea markets, and various stores to find me the perfect, working typewriter. Although, it may be more of a novelty than anything, I couldn’t wait to give it a try this morning. It’s heavy and it smells old but this 1964 Royal Safari typewriter is what I’ve been dreaming of for quite a while. It clinks, it clanks, and it even dings when it’s time to move to a new line. It’s perfect and needless to say, I’m in love.

photo-1

Obviously I need more practice on my typewriter :P. What I love most is how it slows down your thinking, rather, how it makes you more conscious of what you’re thinking. You need to be aware of what you’re going to write next, you need to plan out your next sentence so that you don’t make a huge mistake and have to start all over. With time, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it, perhaps I’ll start writing on it often.

Anyways, I hope you’re having a wonderful Sunday!

Love Always

Vanessa Xo

Letter to Mama

Family Time, Lifestyle/Personal

I’ve heard that when you’re angry at someone you should write them a letter and never send it. So by the same token does that mean when you’re happy with someone you should write them a letter and send it? I think so.

Dear Mama, 

Sometimes I don’t understand why we argue or why we don’t see eye-to-eye and sometimes I know exactly why. You and I are too much alike. Stubborn and always right. 

I look up to you, Mama – even when we argue – and each day I try to be more like you. 

Xo

 

See, a simple letter to my mom, that I wrote in my head this afternoon while we were texting each other. I was out pretty much all weekend and when I’m not home, Mama Dukes and I tend to text a lot. Today she sent me pictures of the cookies she baked with my sister and of my favourite muffins that she made this morning – she’s the bomb. We also talked about what we were up to and ya know we COMMUNICATED.  I know that some people are against texting, saying that it’s a lazy way of communicating, that we’ve lost our ability to talk to people face-to-face. I disagree. It’s because of texting that I can talk to my parents, sister, brother, and friends and still feel close to them. It’s because of texting that I know what’s going on at home even if I haven’t been there in 2 days. Don’t get me wrong TEXTING will never replace FACE-TO-FACE conversations or arguments, but it still keeps you connected when you need to the most.

So, send a text to someone who makes you happy.

Better yet, a long email. Better still, a handwritten letter.

Words = LoveWrite them. 

Love Always
Vanessa Xo