Three Free Resources to Keep Up (or Catch Up) with the Election

Doesanyone else feel like this has been the longest presidential election cycle of all time? Since when have we followed along with not only the main election, but also the primaries? It’s exhausting. Personally I started to zone out when there were up to 16 Republicans vying for their party’s nomination. It was all too much to keep up with (at first, anyway).

With the first Presidential debate airing tonight at 9 p.m. EST,  it’s time for you to care. Here’s your way to catch up on all-the-political-things, quickly and for free if the headlines in your Facebook Newsfeed have informed most of your election knowledge. These outlets are more digestible than traditional press like The New York Times if you’re the type to spend more time perusing celebrity Instagram feuds than current political events (no judgement).

Use these articles to get informed before the candidates go head-to-head tonight.

Here’s your way to catch up on all-the-political-things, quickly and for free if the headlines in your Facebook Newsfeed have informed most of your election knowledge.


I’m here to advocate for Buzzed for being far more than a quiz website. Their coverage of news, current events and politics is fantastic and palatable for any Millennial.
Peruse all the articles in their Politics section under Buzzfeed News. One of my favorite long-form pieces is Inside the Fraternity of Haters and Losers Who Drove Donald Trump to the GOP Nomination… a thorough and humorous follow up to the now infamous 36 Hours on the Fake Campaign Trail With Donald Trump, both by McKay Coppins. Their podcast No One Knows Anything is pretty great, too.

The Skimm

I hate email, but The Skimm is an exception.

My sister mentioned our obsession with daily news email subscription The Skimm in a previous post and our mutual admiration goes beyond the inbox. Founded by former newsroom ladies Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg, The Skimm offers a concise and often humorous overview of the previous days’ news headlines. It’s brief morning read that truly keeps you looped in on current events, politics, social just issues, celebrity gossip and more.

Beyond the daily reads, The Skimm also offers robust, well-designed, well-researched “guides” on  intricate issues including this year’s election. Browse their Skimm the Vote election guide for a full run-down.

NPR Politics Podcast

This podcast is the BEST. NPR reporters Sam Sanders, White House correspondent Tamara “Tam” Keith, political reporter Scott Detrow, political editor Domenico Montanaro, campaign reporter Asma Khalid, and editor/correspondent Ron Elving get together to chat about the latest political headlines all the while explaining the context for the layman. This podcast comes out every Thursday with a weekly round-up of the top headlines from the campaign trail, and more.

Download the podcast here.

Pssst… are you still not sure how to download podcasts? It’s okay. You’re not alone. Here’s a play-by-play for how to download/subscribe if you have an iPhone:

1) Open the Podcasts app on your iPhone. This comes standard on your phone and you probably nestled it into a folder with the Stocks app and others you don’t use (see right).

2) Tap on Search icon and type in “NPR Politics” (in the lower right-hand corner as seen below). You should see a screen like this:

3) You’ll click on any of the NPR Politics icons and then click the ‘SUBSCRIBE’ button (shown in the upper-right as seen below). You should be able to access all episodes under the “My Podcasts” menu from here on out.

Bonus Read: Lenny Letter

Here goes any attempt to be bipartisan, but in case you missed Lena Dunham’s interview with Hillary Clinton on the (amazing) email-meets-magazine Lenny Letter, you can check that out here.


10 Phrases to Replace Saying “Sorry”

It’s time to eliminate “sorry” from your repertoire. Lena Dunham touched on an all-too-familiar feeling in a recent essay Sorry, Not Sorry: My Apology Addiction on a topic that so many of us can relate to.

“Apologizing is a modern plague and I’d be willing to bet (though I have zero scientific research to back this up) that many women utter ‘I’m sorry’ more on a given day than ‘Thank You’ and ‘You’re Welcome’ combined,” she says.

In fact, there have been studies on this very topic, according to Psychology Today. A recent set of studies conducted by Karina Schumann and Michael Ross found that female participants apologized more in their daily lives than male participants.

“Women reported offering more apologies than men, but they also reported committing more offenses. There was no gender difference in the proportion of offenses that prompted apologies. This finding suggests that men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.”

A classic example I see in the workplace is when during a discussion, someone misinterprets what’s being said. Often women will address miscommunications of this nature with “sorry, let me clarify,” when a simple “actually, let me clarify” would do. What’s up with that, ladies? Why do we feel the urge to apologize for our very existence? Let’s stop this madness and assert ourselves, please.

Women reported offering more apologies than men, but they also reported committing more offenses.

Muse writer Angeline Evans chimed in on the topic on why such behavior is problematic especially in the workplace.

“Picking and choosing what missteps are worthy of an apology demonstrates your grasp (or lack) of professional judgment,” she says. “If you offer the same effusive apology for not bringing a notepad to a meeting as you do for missing an important deadline, you’re essentially putting the two gaffes on the same level, though they’re not even close.”


I like to stay solution-oriented which is why I appreciated The Everygirl’s Lyndsay Rush’s suggestions in her piece Stop Apologizing: We’re Ending the Harmful Habit who shared these steps to begin weening yourself away from apology addiction:

4 Steps for Eliminating “Sorry”

1. Spend a day keeping track of your sorries. (Or, just take mental notes over time)

2. Ask yourself what you really want to express.

3. Know when a real apology is warranted.

To this list, I’d like to add my own step…

4. Use these alternative phrases 

It’s nice to have an arsenal of word tracks to choose from to eliminate such a long-standing habit. I’m convinced you can get rid of “sorry” altogether, no matter the circumstance.

For me, I’ve found that the best everyday replacement to “sorry” is simply “thank you.” For example, when I know someone has been waiting a long time for an email response from me, instead of beginning a reply email with “Sorry it took me so long to get back to you,” I’ll start by saying “Thank you for your patience.”

“Picking and choosing what missteps are worthy of an apology demonstrates your grasp (or lack) of professional judgment.” –Angeline Evans

I’ve actually been working on this habit for years, due in part to my little brother’s advice who advised me long ago to simply use the phrase “I apologize” in situations that truly warrant it. These are a few of my preferred go-tos in such cases:

Below is a complete list of alternative phrases to use inclusive of those pictured in this post. I know I promised only 10 but, congrats! You get a bonus list of 10 additional ideas for alternative phrases to replace “sorry” below. Did I miss any? What tips have you used to avoid saying “sorry” when it’s unnecessary? Let me know in the comments or better yet, tweet me. For the record, I catch myself saying “sorry” constantly. It’s a work in progress.

20 Phrases to Replace Saying “Sorry”

  1. It’s unfortunate that…
  2. Unfortunately…
  3. It’s too bad that…
  4. I’d like to apologize…
  5. Excuse me…
  6. Pardon me…
  7. How sad for you…
  8. I sympathize with your frustration…
  9. What a shame that…
  10. Forgive my oversight…
  11. I regret that…
  12. This situation fills me with regret…
  13. Yes, absolutely…
  14. I must admit that…
  15. It was not my intent…
  16. Actually, no…
  17. Thank you for your patience…
  18. How sad for you that (this) happened…
  19. I am unhappy about the inconvenience you’ve been caused
  20. This situation has filled me with regret…

Digital Toolbox: 5 Apps to Stay Organized in a Crazy, Over-Informed World

I’ll admit, I have a problem. A problem with absorbing and digesting information from the Internet. You’re here, too, huh? Welcome. Pull up a chair– I’m listening. I’m not here to judge you. Let’s all admit the truth of our Internet behavior, shall we? While we all publicly pretend like it’s shameful to waste time spiraling down the rabbit hole that is your social media news feed, you know as well as I do that we privately relish in doing so.

Trust me, I’m no stranger to discussing the tragic downfall of our narcissistic, over-indulgent, socially inept, headline-skimming civilization as shaped by our passive surrender to our technology (Text Neck is an epidemic, people). But, I’m a storyteller and as such, I love reading stories. And never in the history of mankind have we been able to share and absorb stories in the way we do now. My job in digital marketing doesn’t help the obsession, either. It’s my duty to be up-to-date on the currently trending videos and Bey gossip, along with current world affairs #amIright? I often get lost in the soft glow of my screens, exploring the depths of Buzzfeed News articles, perusing the archives of typography blogs, and binge-listening to NPR podcasts. It’s glorious and I love it. There, I said it. I fucking love the Internet, okay?

Can we all just admit how great it is to be able to read and devour so much great information on a daily basis? Great. Now that we’ve cleared that up… let me help you make your Internet consumption more organized.

The digital revolution has allowed us to consume information in such abundance that it’s overwhelming. To stay organized and relatively sane, I’d like to share my top five favorite tools to keep your digital life in order. Note that I am not being paid to endorse any of these companies and I do not take responsibility for feeding your Internet addiction.

While we all publicly pretend like it’s shameful to waste time spiraling down the rabbit hole that is your social media news feeds, you know as well as I do that we privately relish in doing so.

“It’s my duty as a marketer and Millennial to be up-to-date on the currently trending videos and Bey gossip, along with current world affairs #amIright?”

5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Pocket

1) Pocket

Use for: super easy bookmarking

When I first became a blogger, I found it challenging to deal with the pre-built Bookmarks options available in your browser, which is essential for keeping track of ideas and websites that I admire. It’s sort of sad that I can’t quite configure my browser settings to truly understand how they function properly– but really, who does? I blame it on the Dark Ages of the Internet– the dial-up modem era– during which time I can only assume that I tried to use Bookmarking for the first time, only to be met with confusion. Enter Pocket.

Pocket is an app and a website that offers the most seamless way I’ve found to Bookmark my favorite articles. It’s also synced with Twitter, Feedly and a few other tools that I use on the daily. Basically you copy/paste URLs of articles that you want to save and reference again later. You can categorize your articles and archive old articles you’ve already read. The articles are also readable without Internet access via the app, which is perfect for my commute on the train. I also installed it as a Google Chrome extension which makes it super easy to save when perusing on my computer. Below is a snapshot of my actual Pocket dashboard. I’m sure there might be a better way to organize the articles within the app, but I’m too lazy to dedicate that much time to my bookmarking game.


5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Pocket
5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Feedly

2) Feedly

Use for: subscribing to your favorite websites

It seems like such a short time ago that Google decided to retire its RSS feed function. This was a proper first-world tragedy to me at the time as I had painstakingly curated numerous feeds of posts being published by my fave websites altogether in one place. But, then came Feedly. While Pocket is for saving only content worth remembering, Feedly is for skimming the headlines of new content being published on your favorite websites across the Internet. The dashboard is beautifully designed and easy to use. You can categorize your website feeds and adjust how you browse headlines (below is an example of the “magazine” view). By organizing all your feeds into one place, you can skim all your content all at once sans advertising, and Bookmark your favorites via Pocket. Here’s a look at my dashboard:


5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Feedly
5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Dropbox

3) Dropbox

Use for: saving and sharing files

Isn’t it funny how long we’ve been able to send files via email? Right now we live in a time where Internet users can be divided in two camps: those who are still struggling to figure out what the paperclip-shaped attachment icon in their Hotmail dashboard is for, and those who have moved on to more seamless cloud-sharing applications.

It seems to me that Dropbox has almost become a universally adopted tool, but maybe that’s might only be true for the design community. There are a lot of other great file-sharing tools out there (Google Drive and Box, for example… the latter of which is not a nickname for Dropbox as I originally thought), but there are a few features that Dropbox offers that has the one-up on some of the others, for my use anyway.  Dropbox is for uploading, organizing, transferring and sharing files like photos, videos, documents and more. I pay for the upgraded version because I tend to work with a lot of high res images and video so it only makes sense. The key to maximizing your Dropbox usage is to make sure to download the app in addition to using the browser login. Working in social media means that I have to snap and share a ton of photos and videos constantly. Using the Dropbox app is helpful for uploading photos en masse to folders that my staff also has access to. I think that Box and Google Drive offer the same options, but I find that the average use has an easier time navigating, if not stumbling, around Dropbox to successfully download files that you’re trying to share with them. Less questions for me, which make it worth recommending. Even if you’re not in digital marketing, I find Dropbox a much easier way to share files vs. the dreaded email attachment.

Here’s a look at the Drobpox online dashboard… pulled from Dropbox’s website [and without their permission… I hope they don’t mind seeing as how I’m totally endorsing them].

5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Evernote

4) Evernote

Use for: saving notes, voice memos and more

I can’t get enough of this app. Evernote is the best place to organize all of your notes and ideas, especially if you compulsively write at the volume that I do. They recently announced a partnership with Google Drive, and has offered the ability to collaborate for a while now. All notes can be tagged and organized into folders, and the app syncs to your online dashboard. You can also add reminders and tasks within your notes directly, upload images, sketch and allegedly, you can also transcribe voice memos… although I haven’t yet tried this feature. I find this better than the default “Notes” iPhone app that we all tend to use, primarily because it’s super easy to pull up your notes online or on your computer if you download the app to your desktop, too.

5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Evernote
5 Digital Tools to Stay Organized: Asana

5) Asana

Use for: project planning

One day I’ll write my manifesto all about the evils of email communication and the inefficiencies that our inboxes have brought upon our work lives. While I’m not trying to damper this oh-so-helpful blog post with a rant, suffice to say, I loathe my inbox. Enter the game-changer that is Asana.

This app can be used in so many ways and honestly I’m still sorting out how to use all of its features. In short, you can create projects with categorized tasks, assignees and deadlines and within each task. You  can upload attachments, create sub-tasks, and write public comments to communicate with your team members about the specific task at hand. Asana syncs up with Dropbox and Google Drive and offers a number of other add-ons. You can drag and drop tasks across your calendar and also view the entire team calendar (if you want to grant that level of access). For someone who manages multiple projects that involve between three to six people, this has seriously been a godsend to my work life… although you could use it for personal projects as well. I can’’t recommend this product enough.

What did I miss?

I’d love to know what apps have made your digital life easier and more organized! If you liked this article, please leave a comment below and share it with your friends.


The Stellar Blog celebrates women of substance through original quality content on topics relating to style, humor and current events.
Mani O'Brien

Mani O'Brien

Digital Storyteller

Mani O’Brien lives in Los Angeles and is the founder of The Stellar Blog. She believes in good old-fashioned quality when it comes to producing content.

Life Lessons I Learned from Being a Salesperson (Week One): Rejection is No Big Deal

I believe that every person could benefit from working both in the customer service sector and the sales sector prior to pursuing any other career. This was my path– six years in retail followed by two years in outside sales. Both experiences taught me invaluable skills relevant to my job every single day. If you didn’t have the luxury (or as some might describe “horror”) of experiencing a sales job like I did, allow me to impart upon you some of the key lessons I learned that could benefit you today– immediately– in your own career, no matter the industry.

This is an ongoing series focusing on different topics… starting with what I consider the most valuable lesson I learned: which is that rejection is no big deal. 

Let me paint a picture for you of a young girl, clutching her audio recorder with sweaty palms and practically hyperventilating at the thought of interviewing sources (a.k.a. her own classmates and peers) about their opinion about hard-hitting news topics like the health benefits of drinking Jamba Juice smoothies. This was me at 20, studying journalism at Arizona State University and working myself into a crumpled, neurotic mess whenever I needed to approach strangers to engage in small talk, covering “serious” college concerns like on-campus style or whether Emo culture was a passing fad.

I’m glad to know that I had enough self-awareness to realize that my crippling shyness was going to hinder my career as an aspiring journalist/writer. This awareness was the most prominent factor that drove me to pursue a sales position in the first place, thus making fearlessness the single most importance lesson I learned from my outside sales experience.

So I went from sweaty-palmed college student, to an even more sweaty-palmed (but well dressed!) salesperson, masking my insecurities with a winning grin while convincing small business owners of the value of my company’s payroll administration benefits. It was a masochistic exercise in personal development. In the beginning I would hype myself up before walking into a building several times before actually entering. I choreographed what I like to call the “dance of apprehension” as I entered, left and re-entered offices, my car, etc., backing in and out like as if I were an SUV being maneuvered into a compact parking space.

Courtesy of Giphy

Courtesy of Giphy

I’d say that the worst moment I ever experienced was when a business owner screamed at me in front of all of his employees. The lumbering red-faced man bellowed at me, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see how important I am? Get the fuck out of here!”

Okay, actually that never happened.

In reality, I think the worst reaction I ever received  (a result of an unannounced in-person visit) was when a man assertively told me, “I don’t have time to listen to your sales pitch.” Fair enough. Of course I fled outside where I could burst into tears in the privacy of my car.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

– my cousin, Kelli.

(Also, apparently, the motto of Jimmy Choo CEO Tamara Mellon, according to The Guardian).

Here’s the thing– once you get used to the initial shock of rejection, it almost becomes fun to embrace failing– just because you had the guts to go for it. I’m not here to tell you that fear goes away– it doesn’t, actually. But as a salesperson, you learn to embrace the fear and roll with it. My cousin has a great mantra that has always stuck with me: “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” A great one because, for me at least, my sense of fear of talking to strangers never really diminished completely. But saying this mantra is like saying to yourself, “fuck it” and allowing your drive to overcome the discomfort you feel.

A sales career teaches you how silly it is to worry about rejection because you are rejected almost on a daily basis– typically in the form of polite, straightforward let-downs versus whatever your worst nightmare is. Once you get over the fear of the “worst case scenario,” almost any task seems worth pursuing because you’re no longer afraid of what the outcome might be. The thought of being rejected seems harmless once you’ve been there so many times.

Often people are so overwhelmed by their own fear of failure that they become frozen in circumstances that make them unhappy. Scared of what they envision to be a negative outcome, they take no action whatsoever. When you are rejected on a daily basis as a salesperson, you realize how much emotional baggage is tied to the notion of failure and rejection, and you learn to shrug it off. You shamelessly and unabashedly approach situations with a new sense of calm and detachment.

Today you might be afraid of not closing the deal or not booking the appointment (if you’re in sales), or perhaps you’re afraid of something more personal– scared of starting a new chapter in your life, worried about hurting someone’s feelings, feeling vulnerable about having your ideas criticized, or launching a project that turns out to be a bitter failure. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to be rejected– it burns, it stings… but it diminishes over time. And eventually, the thrill of the audacity of trying outweighs the bad.

And I’m not saying you won’t fail. You probably will. A salesperson knows that after experiencing various types of rejection, you realize that there isn’t ever just one opportunity to “succeed.” In my experience, one usually encounters multiple opportunities to achieve their goals. Which means even after you totally embarrass yourself at a meeting, botch a introduction, put your foot in your mouth, or hear “no” for the first or zillionth time– just know that you have many more opportunities to try again in your future.

When it comes to interviewing strangers, I’m not saying I’ve completely eradicated the sweaty palms from my method of operation, I’m just saying I now enjoy the thrill of it. And honestly, sometimes I do totally embarrass myself– but at least I have the guts to try.

Image: Death to the Stock Photo, Giphy

Woman Crush Wednesday: Nine Things You Might Not Know about Geena Davis

Some facts about the Academy Award-winning Actress who is also a serious advocate for gender equality and diversity in the film industry and basically our sher-o:

1. First off, let’s assess the astrology sign, shall we? Davis is a Capricorn-Aquarius cusp baby, born January 21, 1956 in Wareham, Massachusetts. Cusp people rule the world, Geena. Thanks for the reminder.

2. Her film roles include The Fly, Beetlejuice, Thelma & Louise, The Long Kiss Goodnight and The Accidental Tourist for which she won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress… But our favorite, of course, is her role as Dottie Hinson in A League of Their Own. Even though Dottie quit the game to scurry off to be a housewife, she still slayed at baseball and Geena showed us what life was like for the ladies in the dark pre-women’s lib era.


3. As if an Oscar wasn’t enough, Davis is also a Golden Globe winner. She took the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series for her portrayal of MacKenzie Allen in Commander in Chief. Collect those awards like a boss, Geena… You’re halfway to EGOT status, girl.

4. Random life skill: Davis was a women’s Olympics archery team semi-finalist. Ok now you’re just showing of, Geena.


5. She also had a long-standing guest appearance ABC’s medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy portraying surgeon Dr. Herman. Way to rock the positive-female-role-model vibe while working with another amazing crush-worthy goddess of entertainment that is Shonda Rimes. High five, Geena.

6. Her (fourth) husband in is an Iranian-American plastic surgeon with whom she has three children including a daughter and twin sons. No shame in the divorce game, Geena. Birthing two babies at once while raising another tiny human is no joke. Mad respect, Geena.


7. Davis spearheaded the largest research project ever undertaken on gender in children’s entertainment at the Annenberg School for Communication at USC that showed that there are 3 males for every 1 female character in nearly 400 rated-G, PG-13, and R-Rated movies. I mean, WTF is up with that? Thanks for bringing that to light for us, Geena.

8. Davis launched The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media in 2007, focused on reducing stereotyping females by a male-dominated film industry. Again, way to take it to the next level, Geena. You’re, like, inspiring us all over the place with your overachieving nature for a totally righteous cause, girl.

9. Just this week, Davis has launched an annual film festival to be held in Bentonville, Arkansas to highlight diversity in film, accepting films that prominently feature minorities and women in the cast and crew. The inaugural Bentonville Film Festival will occur May 5-9, 2015. Already kicking off 2015 with a bang, Geena. Making our vision board look pretty mediocre, girl.

Love you, Geena.

Image: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

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