Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Blogging and the Internet (page 1 of 56)

Writing for Self, Writing for Reader

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This is a post about writing online. It is written for myself, just to clarify something in my own mind, but I’ll share it with you anyway because if you also write online, maybe you have had similar thoughts.

Yesterday, I posted about the trip I took with Jana to Walt Disney World.  I titled it, “Walt Disney World: World of Laughter and Tears.” Clever, huh? Originally, I named it  “Walt Disney World: A World of Laughter, a World of Tears,” which  better matches the lyrics of “It’s a Small World,” but when I googled the title, I saw it was already taken by TEN OTHER writers!

Still, I liked the post.   When I started out writing it, I had three objectives, and I satisfied all of them.

1) Show off some new photos of Walt Disney World since I didn’t feel comfortable posting a million of them on Instagram where I would be mistaken for one of those dreaded Parent Bloggers.

2) Prove to my friend Danny that I could effectively mock the Disney ethos AND kiss Disney’s ass at the same time, just in case I ever want free tickets to some social media event there.

3) Prove to my friend Tanis that yes, I could go away for the weekend with a bright and attractive woman, and not have her break up with me.

Mission Accomplished to all three.

But did I really prove anything? And is this real writing?   What type of writer am I?   The stakes are so low.  It’s almost childish.

Recently, I had bookmarked this article titled “6 Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your MEDIUM Posts.” (via Medium).  I read it yesterday while travelling in the subway.   The writer had very strong opinions about online writing.

You have to SELL your ideas in Medium, and the best way you can do that is to make it about people. Don’t say “I did this and that”. SAY, “You can experience this and that.” … why?… Because the viewer wants to learn something FOR himself. Not about you..

Let’s say you really want to tell a personal story about yourself and your horrible experience at a night club.

Don’t say, “I went there, I did this, and this happened, and then this happened…”

Start with something like,

“Don’t make the same mistake I did when you go to a NIGHT CLUB.”

See how that changed everything? ..The prospective? To other people?..

You can ALWAYS make any personal story about others if you told them what they can learn from the experience and how they can take caution so they don’t end up doing the same thing you did.

By the way, It could be a HAPPY story too.

But don’t write, “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing.”

No, you should start with something like,

“Here’s how YOU can maximize your trip to Disneyland with these simple (but essential) tricks.

I looked back over my last post. Immediately I notice that I failed to even write the traditional “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing” post.  My post is a slight of hand, nonsense to fill the space until I have enough nerve to say publicly that I had a nice time with Jana.

Now, let’s imagine I come home from Walt Disney World, but with a different perspective, one of professional writing. The first question I would ask myself if “Now that I’m home from my trip with Jana, how can I best use my writing and/or photography skills to make at least a measly $100 by sharing something about my experience?” I know.   $100.   But better than nothing, right?

Now to make some money out of this, I would need to pitch some story idea to an outside website or publication. Which one? And what is the pitch?

Of course, the story is already there, hidden in the middle of the post, when I write this sentence —

 “Can romance be found at a Disney theme park, a location crowded with crying children, stressed out parents, and senior citizens aggressively driving their rent-a-scooters like the extras in a Mad Max film?”

That’s it. That’s the story. Everything else is the piece is irrelevant to a reader looking for content.  This becomes a post about me using my experience to HELP OTHER PEOPLE decide if they should go with their girlfriend to Walt Disney World. That is a successful pitch for a travel or dating site, no?

Now is the bigger question.   Do I want to help others to “maximize the romance of going to Walt Disney World?”  Do I want to write this post?  Not really.

But that’s another problem.

 

The Tenth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

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Welcome to the The 2015 Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert! It is my honor to be with you here for the TENTH year of this concert.

Ten years!  Can you believe it?  Who knew that so many bloggers were also such talented singers and musicians?  And some even brave enough to sing so poorly?  I’m proud that we kept this concert running for ten years, and embraced the concept of diversity long before it was a social media trend.

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Munich’s Traditional Gay Christmas Market photographed by Marty of Deutschland uber Elvis

It’s been a fun run.   I’ve met some cool people during these concerts.  One year we  attracted an audience large enough to fill Radio City Music Hall!  I even turned down two offers of concert monetization; it just seemed wrong.   Commerce and Commercialization have absolutely nothing to do with the Holiday Season, right?  I know it sounds corny  because it is such a cliche,  but the concert was always about the community.

Jeez, that did sound corny.

Eh, what the hell.  It’s the holidays.  Embrace the corny.   So, to paraphrase Tiny Tim in the politically-correct version of “A Christmas Carol” – “A Merry Christmahanukwanzaakah to us all; God bless us, every one!”

Here are a few of the performers from the last decade who brought a little bit of joy each year:

Thanks again, and may we all be happy, healthy, and creatively productive in 2016!

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First Concert Poster, 2006, of Jamelah

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Holiday “Hamilton” performed  by Jenny of Oh Jenny Mae

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Second Concert Poster, 2007

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Silver Bells performed by Elizabeth Robinson  (Kizz) of  117 Hudson and Sara Stopek

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Third Concert Poster, 2008

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Cool Yule performed by Elly Lonon of BugginWorld

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Fourth Concert Poster, 2009

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Holiday Imagining by Angela of Fluid Pudding

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Poster 5

Fifth Concert Poster, 2010

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Little Toy Trains performed  by Marty Long of Marty Suttle Long

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Concert 6

Sixth Concert Poster, 2011

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Wouldn’t it Be Loverly? performed by Danny Miller of Jew Eat Yet and his son, Charlie Miller

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Poster 7

Seventh Concert Poster, 2012

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Away in a Manger performed by Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan with Beer and Hymns members Chad Markley and Lauren Francis

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Concert 8

Eighth Concert Poster, 2013

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I Love New York at Christmas Time performed by Neil of Citizen of the Month and Jana of Jana’s Thinking Place

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Con cert 9

Ninth Concert Poster, 2014

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It’s The Time of Year performed by Noel Katz of There’s Gotta Be a Song, with help with his family.

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Concert 10

Tenth Concert Poster, 2015

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Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabel by Sister Becky Swanson and Delaney

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photo by Tabatha at So Tabulous

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Ner Li performed by Tamar of Mining Nuggets

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pissing boy ornament photo by Veronica

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Can I Interest You in Hanukkah by Bonnie of Theoryblog at Crib Chronicles with Oscar and Posey

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photo by Alejna from Collecting Tokens

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Ava Maria performed by Cindy Louise Allen

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photo by Annette Kiesow

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Jingle Bell Rock performed by Ellen Bloom, from the first concert in 2006

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Thank you for another year of online friendship, debate, drama, following, unfollowing, Tinder dating stories, laughter, and comfort during times of sadness.

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Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013 2014

Come Ye and Sign Up for the 10TH and FINAL Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

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Outraged over this year’s Starbucks red cups not being Christmasy enough?

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There is one institution that never fails to produce the holiday spirit — yes,  it is time for the official announcement of the Tenth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, all new, all exciting for 2015!

The Last Concert.

TEN years!  Can you believe it?  This is going to be the blockbuster concert we have been waiting for!

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014

This year’s concert will take place on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 right here on this blog.

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   YOU are the CONCERT.  That gives you about a month to work your magic.

Interested?  Sign up in the comment to perform.    Bloggers past, present, and future are all welcome.   It would be a special honor to have former performers return one more time.   Be part of this long-running tradition!

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create a video (or audio) file of you performing a holiday song.  If you need technical help, ask me.

2.  You must be performing in the audio or video.   Don’t cheat and have your cute kids doing all the work.

3.  You can sing, play an instrument, recite poetry, dance the Nutcracker, or write a symphony.

4.  Once completed, post the video on a place like YouTube and send me the link. Or just send me the file via Dropbox or email, and I will post it on YouTube.   Try to get me all files and links by Monday, December 14, 2015, two days before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you are too wimpy to sing a song, send me a holiday photo for concert decoration.  It could be of your tree, menorah, or plain ol’ winter solstice if you are a heathen.

6.  The comment section is the sign-up sheet.    By signing up, we can see who is performing what, so we can avoid having ten versions of “Jingle Bells.”

7.  Most importantly — don’t be intimidated if you can’t sing.    We like to laugh at you.

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online — The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, in it’s TENTH and FINAL blockbuster performance!

Skating by Vince Guaraldi performed by Angela Reiner Downing of Fluid Pudding

The Hand

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Befriend the man who gives a hand, not shows his hand.

OK, I made that up. But it’s not terrible.

Welcome to my new blog template. At least for now. I suppose if enough people hate it, I will change it. I’m not married to it yet. This is my third blog template in eleven years.

Now for the bigger question — what to do with this blog? I’m human. I crave attention and validation. And I can get more interaction from most of you by posting on Facebook or Instagram. What makes this site special? A person might read one of my posts about kitchen sponges on Facebook because it is shoved at them on their newsfeed, but who in their right mind is going to click on a link to read the same material on my blog?

You will just say, “Talk to my Hand.”

Please do not take this as criticism of you, dear reader, but myself. A REAL writer will write whether there is an audience for his work or not.

“Then why not just submit your writing to other sites instead and make $ online?”

That’s a good question, internal voice! Which publication would be keen to publish articles about kitchen sponges?

Ten Years of Citizen of the Month – A Dedication

It was March 2005, and my first two weeks of blogging.  No one was reading Citizen of the Month, my “blog” named after a award that I frequently won in grade school for being such a goody-two-shoes. And without any comments, the idea of writing a blog seemed like a waste of time.

Then, a woman named Mary commented on several posts, writing notes such as “great post” and “you are a talented writer.” I was so excited; I was connecting with a stranger through my writing! This type of immediate feedback more satisfying that writing scripts for soulless Hollywood.

But then I noticed an oddness in the “IP address” of this Mary person. It was the same IP address as mine — not similar, but exactly the same.

This was because “Mary” was my wife at the time, Sophia, encouraging me under a false alias, not wanting me to quit.

This is a dedication to my first ten years of blogging.

I started my blog on March 7, 2005, on my birthday.

There are so many people to thank. Citizen of the Month has been a personal journey of my last ten years, and I have made countless friends along the way, like Frodo meeting the dwarves and elves while heading to Mount Doom. But there is only one person who truly deserves a special dedication to my first ten years of blogging — and that is Sophia.

If Citizen of the Month were a novel, it would start with my marriage to Sophia, proceed to my on-and-off separation with Sophia, my on-and-off divorce from my Sophia, and finally to the aftermath of my marriage, from my chapter with Juli in New Zealand, to therapy, to my first stabs at online dating.  Even my topical posts were filled with secret messages and personal details.

Even when Sophia wasn’t present in the online story, she was somehow in the background, such as when she hacked into my blogger address book and secretly arranged a virtual birthday party for me (with Danny‘s help) in 2007.

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My second decade of blogging will be a different story, one that I haven’t written yet, because I am not in complete control of the plot. My divorce is now further in the past and I live in another city. I haven’t been the greatest blogger of late, spreading myself thin on social media, but in my mind, everything I do online is a continuation of the personal journey that I started here on this space.

Thank you to everyone who ever stopped by, commented, or argued with me here on Citizen of the Month during the last ten years.  I promise to try to put the shine back on to my space.  Thanks to my mom, who has always been the most popular “character” on my blog, even back in 2005 when I got some laughs at her calling Citizen of the Month a “blodge.”   To Elan, who taught me everything.    To Martin, the best and most intelligent commenter that ever appeared on this blog.  Bon, Jana, Juli, Sizzle, Josette, Lotus, Megan, Pearl, Tamar, Sarah, Jenn — jeez, you know who you are.   Those names just came popping out and I apologize if I don’t mention you personally.  I even apologize again to  Liz from Mom 101 for calling her a Mussolini-type dictator for her “blogging with integrity” movement from years ago.

Throughout the years, I’ve always had an eccentric definition of a “blog.” I don’t see this space as writing or photography or a business. I’ve seen it as an extension of my life, as a living and breathing entity that expresses my inner soul, writing to myself, the wind, and sometimes just for Tanis, simply to annoy her.

And thank you, Sophia for always being supportive of my online life (except for the one time you called my favorite blogging friend, Veronica, on the phone and yelled at her for that one comment, but I promised I would never mention that), and for being my muse during the Golden Age years of my blog.

Now on to my second decade of blogging.

The Student of Arabic

It was a snowy night in the city. I traveled on the F-train, coming home from a literary reading in Brooklyn. A dark-skinned man with Mediterranean features sat across from me, reading from a book written in a foreign language. A strap-hanger, a college-age young man enclosed in a puffy blue parka, stood over the reading man, peering down at his book.

“I’m taking Arabic in college,” said the college guy to the foreign-born reader.

“Cool. But…”

“It’s hard. Arabic is. I could have taken French, but I decided to take Arabic. It’s more useful.”

“Yeah, probably.”

“Today, the teaching assistant in my Arabic class — he’s a cool guy from Saudi Arabia — took me aside, and said, “Trevor, you want me to teach you something new?” So, I said, “Sure.” And he taught me how to say ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Ha ha. You know what that means right?”

“No.”

“It’s “Look at that tight ass.” ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار.”

“Hmm.”

“How come you didn’t known that? You’re reading Arabic.”

“Actually, I’m not. I don’t know Arabic. I’m Pakistani.”

“Oh, well. Arabic is hard.”

“Yeah.”

“ننظر في ذلك ضيق الحمار. Look at that tight ass. I’m never going to remember that.”

The Pakistani guy looked my way, hoping to somehow end this uncomfortable conversation.

The college guy sighed sadly, as if he had always made the wrong choices in his life.

“Maybe I should have taken French.”

Truth Quotient:  90%

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In three days it’s going to be the 10th anniversary of Citizen of the Month.  For a week, I’ve been debating what I should say in my big “10th Anniversary Post.”  Blogging has been such a big part of my life.   Citizen of the Month never got any big awards or made me any money.   But I’m proud of the way I pretty kept to the same philosophy of writing throughout these years — write whatever the fuck interested me at the moment.   Sometimes funny, sometimes not.  In the real world, I’m a bit of a people-pleaser.   On my blog, I’ve wrote whatever.

Last night, I overheard a completely inane conversation on the subway, so I scribbled notes on my iPhone, and said to myself, “this should be one of the posts celebrating my ten years of blogging.”

Why?  Because no one else will like it.  That to me — is blogging, old school.

I’ll be back on March 7th to thank you for being such good readers and friends.

Wild and Crazy Dating Stories

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Conversation with my friend Craig, who I met in the street.

“Hey, Neil. How’s the online dating life?”

“It’s good. I’ve met some interesting women.”

“It must be wild. I’ve been reading the articles in the New York Times about all the crazy hookups on Tinder and sex with strangers?”

“That’s the media blowing things up to write salacious articles. They love to appeal to our fears about the internet.”

“I think it’s real. Did you see that video of the 89 year grandfather who fooled all these young women on Tinder? Their reactions will shock you!”

“That’s fake shit. A perfect example of the media using “hot topics” to get hits. I should know, I just wrote something titled “4 Lessons from My Month on Tinder,” which received more feedback than any post that I’ve written on my own personal blog this year. But the truth is, most people on these dating sites are just normal people looking for love.”

“Ha ha, yeah… you mean normal, single people wanting to bring their sexy back… with strangers! Come on, Neil, surely you must have encountered something wild so far?”

“Well, yesterday, I did get a Tinder offer to join a couple in a threesome.”

“Now, that’s more like it! What did you say?”

“I swiped no. I can barely handle one women. Who wants to also deal with her stupid husband?”

I thought when you said threesome, you meant two women.”

“No. It was a married couple. So far, no offers for threesomes with two women.”

“Anything else really wild and crazy?”

“Well, there was one woman who said that before we met for coffee she wanted to Skype.”

“Ooh, for sex talk?”

“No, quite the opposite. She gave me a third degree straight out of “Law and Order” – “Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you use drugs? Do you ever play cards for money?” I started laughing, thinking she was joking, cleverly being ironic, but she wasn’t.”

“I asked you for a story that was wild and sexy, not crazy and sad.”

“Well, how about this – I found this interesting.  As I am swiping on Tinder – yes, no, yes, no – I come across a transgender person.”

“How did you know?”

“She said in the text under the photo. I am transgender.”

“OK.”

“And I know transgender issues are big now, with that terrific TV show, Transparent. And you know how I am all for LGBT rights, but when I actually encountered a transgender person on a dating site, it made me stop in my tracks. I felt a little hypocritical, because there was no way I was going to swipe right and say yes, no matter what she looked like. I’m just not ready for it on a personal level. I believe in it for society, but I’m not sure I am ready to overcome my own internal bias over what is “male” and what is “female.” I’m not sure I am ready to date someone who is transgender. I thought about writing about this in a blog post.”

“No way. Don’t write that blog post.”

“Why not?”

“Because it sounds like you are anti-transgender.”

“I’m not anti-transgender. I’m just being honest about confronting my own bias. Maybe in ten years I will be able to date a transgender person, but not now.”

“Don’t write the post. You still sound like you hate transgender people.”

“I don’t hate transgender people!”

“So, are you saying that if Bruce Jenner publicly says, I am a woman, operation and all, you still wouldn’t date him?”

“I wouldn’t date Bruce Jenner.”

“The Olympic champion? Someone who has been on the front of Wheaties?”

“I’m not interested in Bruce Jenner.”

“It’s almost un-American.”

“You would date Bruce Jenner?”

“Bruce Jenner – sure. If he is fully a woman. I mean, when I was growing up, there were two posters hanging in my bedroom — Farrah Fawcett Majors and Bruce Jenner. Enough said.”

“Anyway, online dating is interesting because it make you confront your own stereotypes, stuff that we are always so progressive about online but never have to actually confront. Do I like blonds or brunettes? Is she too fat or too skinny? Will I date a woman with three children? A black woman? An Arab woman?”

“You sound very judgmental.”

“I’m probably more open than a lot other people. One woman said she doesn’t date men outside of Manhattan, as if Queens is in another country!”

“So are there any definite NOs for you — other than transgender people? What about dating someone gay?”

“Why would I date someone gay?”

“I always thought you were bisexual.”

“Why would you think that? I’m not bisexual. I’m straight.”

“You’re always talking about Broadway musicals with your friend Danny. I thought you guys had something going on.”

“Danny is straight. He is married with two children. Just because we talk about Broadway musicals doesn’t mean that we are gay. That stereotype is so old.”

“Ok, I get it. The secret is safe with me.”

“But that reminds me of one funny story about gays on Tinder.”

“Ooh! Finally. As a supposed “humor” writer, you rarely tell any funny stories.”

“I told you about that article I wrote for that online magazine titled “4 Lessons From My Month on Tinder.”

“Yes.”

“After I handed it in, the editor asked me to take a photo of someone swiping Tinder on a screen. I said sure, always up for a photographic challenge. So I took a photo of my own hand swiping the screen of my tablet. She said she liked the photo, but since her readership was mostly female, it would be better if the hand was a feminine one, and not one covered with strands of dark hair, inherited from my Eastern European grandparents. So, I went back to my photography studio (AKA the kitchen table), held my hand at a certain angle, and adjusted the lighting so my hand would appear more “lady-like.” I then went into the Tinder app and temporarily changed my preference from men looking for women to men looking for men. I wanted to create a photo of a woman swiping YES to a hunky man.  The photo came out perfectly, but in my zeal for the perfect shot, I accidentally swiped too far, so said YES to this man looking for love. I switched my preferences back to “looking for women,” but all day I was worried about this mysterious NYC gay man. What if he swipes yes back to me? What would I tell him? Would I have to apologize and say that I am not gay and swiped on him by accident? Would he believe me? Would he think I am trying to not hurt his feelings? Would he be disappointed if he found me very attractive and here I was – crushing his dreams? Luckily, and also rather sadly, I never heard from him, so apparently he didn’t feel the same way about me that I accidentally felt about him. Even though I am not gay, it stung to be rejected. I thought about writing about this in a blog post.”

“No. Don’t write about this either. Maybe you should just stay off your blog for awhile.”

16th Annual Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade

It was the Year of the Sheep (or Goat) – it was unclear to me – at the 16th Annual NYC Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival.  All I know is that, according to Chinese astrology, people born under the sign love creativity, so it was something to celebrate, even if everyone watching the parade had to stand in cold and dirty slush from yesterday’s snowstorm.    But what colors!

Three Days on Tinder

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1  Neil Kramer

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2014 Online Recap

January

In January, I visited my friend, Veronica, in Virginia.

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I wrote the first of many 2014 posts about my favorite topic, going to therapy.

Defense Mechanism,

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February

In February, a freeze came over New York City and much of the East Coast.

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It felt like an big accomplishment to sweep aside my fear of self-promotion to expand my photo “store.”

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March

In March, I increased my productivity by working in the library, which worked very well until I realized the library had internet service.

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I wrote about a breakthrough in therapy that happened when I needed to ask for the wifi password at a coffee shop.

The Password

On my birthday, there is a near-accident while trying to take a nude photo of myself with my iPhone.

The Story of the Birthday Selfie

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April

In April I attended the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park.

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I wrote about life in my apartment building in Queens, including this “scary” tale of apartment living.

Doorbell at 3AM

April brought an unexpected viral hit, a collaborative parody of a now obscure independent film titled “American Blogger.”

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May

On Mother’s Day, I participated in Listen to Your Mother at Symphony Space, NYC. It was a wonderful working with so many other talented storytellers.

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The Kindergarten Show

I also posted a video of my piece, titled “Glass Half-Full.”

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June

In June, I attended a fun 1920’s era garden party on Governor’s Island.

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I struggled with the fact that my special relationship I had with Juli in New Zealand had come to an end.

Three Months Later

I tried shopping therapy to cheer myself up, crowdsourcing on Facebook for weeks about which jeans I should buy.

Which Levis Jeans Makes My Ass Look the Best?

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July

July brought the big 10th anniversary conference of Blogher in San Jose. I was honored to c0-present a Pathfinder session on Visual Storytelling. I also got to hang out with my friend JC Little in Los Angeles.

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Blogher ’14

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August

I had a wonderful time at BlogHer, but I didn’t hear much that was inspirational about blogging. The excitement has moved to other venues — social media and more traditional outlets, where there was a better chance to been seen, heard, and read. I had seem my own traffic take a dive. So, I decided to change things up, and started to write short fictional pieces based on New York City photos.

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Fictional Characters of New York #1

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September

In September, I traveled to Nova Scotia to attend Kate Inglis’ Shed Photography Workshop. I had the best time there. I learned so much about photography from Kate and the other participants.  I also got to spend quality time with some of my favorite online friends from Canada.

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Kate’s Shed Photography Workshop

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October

In October, I toured the Ford Foundation and other interesting NYC buildings during the Open House New York Weekend.

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By now, my readers were familiar with my therapy-oriented posts.

M or N

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November

In November, I socialized way more frequently.  Jana from Georgia came to visit, and I attended  an art gallery opening with two visiting friends from Canada.

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By the end of the year, there was one undisputed fact about my writing — readers were much more interested in hearing about my mother than myself.

Mom, are you a Feminist?

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December

In December, most of my energy online went to “producing” the Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, which mostly involved reminding others over and over again on the deadline! Despite several who have never learned to read instructions, it was a huge success.

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The Ninth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert

It was a pretty good year.    Thank you for your friendship.   Happy New Year.

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