Author Archives: Nicole

The Blessings and Payback of Being a Mother

Tonight my oldest daughter Alexis is celebrating her 17th birthday at home with a group of her closest friends. Some of these girls she’s known since kindergarten, others from middle school, and a few from her first few years in high school. Regardless of how long they’ve all been friends, each and every one of them holds a special place in my heart. One of the amazing blessings of being a mother is watching your children grow up and develop friendships that could last a lifetime. 

This is the first year she won’t be having all of her friends sleep over. I refer to our home as the Fishbowl or the home of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, because of its location amongst the city’s condos. Every window is a spy glass into our lives for the surrounding yuppie community. Not to mention the absence of a room large enough to house 17 sleeping teenage girls. And I think we all realistically know 17 year old girls don’t actually sleep at sleepovers! 

Times have changed, or have they?

In my day, my parents would have freaked out about a group of us sneaking out in the middle of the night. Now social media posses a much greater risk. Boys can be invited live to the party in unlimited numbers, without actually having to leave the comfort of their own private bedrooms. And cameras can capture every moment, suspended in space for an eternity.

I’m reminded of the time my parents allowed me to have a small backyard party for one of my middle school birthdays. They spent the night peering out the upstairs bedroom windows, as people came and went, and cars arrived with boys much older than myself. Tonight I’m reminded that payback is a thing, and I my friends am living it! Hidden away in my bedroom, I’m hoping that the last two years of being an outstanding neighbour will make all the difference in whether or not my own neighbours decide to report me for the noise violation disrupting their peaceful summer Friday night. 

Every year Alexis’ birthday is a reminder of one of the three best Mother’s Day gifts I ever received. As difficult as being a parent can be, especially now that I’m on my own, I’m reminded that it’s these moments that make life worth celebrating!

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend (Sunday cannot come soon enough!)

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Losing My Virginity to Online Publishing

“Crysalis” by Loui Jover – Ink on Vintage Book Pages


 10 Things I’ve Learned as an Online Publisher

  1.  Trolls exist everywhere (not just under dark bridges).
  2.  Millennials are driven and inspiring.
  3.  You can OD on coffee. Green tea has magical powers.
  4.  Online reading will never replace the smell and feel of a real book.
  5.  Inspiration only comes in the middle of the night.
  6.  I have OCD. I can’t live without punctuation.
  7.  I’m a nerd. And always have been!
  8.  Being online disrupts one’s ability to feed and relieve oneself.
  9.  We can all learn from each other (even the trolls).
  10.  Writing isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.
Losing my virginity to online publishing has changed me in unexpected ways. 

Today I awaken from my short relationship with PUB101. A little longer than a one night stand, but short enough to leave me yearning for more. And yet, somehow I know everything will be alright, because there’s so much more to come. This term has stripped me of all unnecessary layers, exposing my vulnerability and opening my eyes to the things that really matter in my life.

They say that once you lose your virginity you can never go back. And who would want to. Sure some innocence is lost, but I would argue some wisdom is also gained. Nothing has ever been gained from moving backwards, except perhaps for reflection; a method of moving forward in a more positive way for personal growth.

Online Publishing – Developing a Vision and Voice

As I reflect on this term and my experience with online publishing, I take my place among other coffee goers. Seated comfortably, latte in hand, with others who’ve found some time in their busy day to leave the confines of the office or classroom, construction site,  household of children and dirty diapers, or wherever else their job takes them.  Becoming a student again and following my dream of becoming a writer and publisher has been both terrifying and empowering. This term PUB101 has given me a vision and a voice to share online. The ability to talk more openly to strangers educating, inspiring, empowering others to make positive changes in their lives and the lives of others.

Finding my voice online has allowed me the freedom and outlet for self-expression that I could never have imagined. I’ve struggled throughout my life to find this outlet.  Public speaking was always too terrifying. In my early twenties art school provided some creative expression, but only until I discovered teaching. This was quickly replaced by motherhood. This restlessness can only be described as a constant biological need to keep moving forward, creatively and intellectually expressing myself in any way I could. 

Becoming Comfortable with an Audience

Before my blog nicolejameskestila, everything I’d ever written had been either hidden discreetly in diaries and journals or torn apart before others could read it. When I began my blog in January I struggled with the permanency of it. At first I wrote in a separate journal, transferring assignments and articles only after they had been edited and re-edited. As I became more comfortable with my writing I began sharing more of my personal thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, expanding my audience to include more than just my classmates and devoted mother!

Honesty and Authenticity

One of the most important goals for me in online publishing was to develop a blog that was as honest and authentic as I could make it. With false news, the exploding phenomenon of self promotion and branding (van Dijck, 2013), and clever corporate marketing techniques consuming social media, I wanted to educate, inspire, and empower readers using the publication of my “true” self in everyday life. 

According to Erving Goffman (1959) self-presentation is nothing more than a performance we put on in our daily lives; public and private masks we deliberately wear in different social settings to shape our identity and achieve particular social goals (van Dijck, 2013). This may be true of certain groups or individuals, especially concerning status or elitist ideals, but it certainly can’t be said for everyone. I’ve met plenty of people I admire and respect for being true to their selves in both everyday life and on social media. It believe it depends on the individual. With that being said, authenticity may be more difficult for minorities who continue to struggle for equality in a world still contaminated with racism.

For me, choosing my name as the title of my blog and refusing to remain anonymous in my publishing was intentional. Not for the purpose of promoting or branding myself, but more for transparency and authenticity. I continue to support the idea that social media can be used for self-expressive, creative, educational, inspiring, and empowering means; especially concerning social change in a world so desperately in need of it. Will I eventually use marketing tools like “Adsense” to support or develop my blog as a business? It’s hard to say. 


As a professional and mother of three, privacy in my personal life still has a lot of value. According to one study, what you publish online can be open to judgement by future employers. As someone trying to make an important career change to support my family, this will always be something I need to keep in mind.

"A 2011 Reppler survey among 300 hiring professionals showed that 91% 
of employers somehow screened prospective employees through social
network sites - almost 70% of these recruiters...admitted they had 
rejected candidates on the basis of what they saw."

(van Dijck, 2013 p.212)

 I also need to keep in mind that while expressing myself and communicating authentically with others is important to me, the safety and privacy of my family’s life will always take priority. 

Losing my virginity to online publishing has been a turning point in my growth and development as a writer. I would encourage anyone searching for a way to express them self or considering a change in their life, to give online publishing a “role in the hay” (for lack of better words)!  Jesse Thorn’s article, “Make Your Thing” is an inspiring article driven by just this kind of empowering climax. 



Thorn, Jesse. (2012). “Make Your Thing.”

van Dijck, José. (2013). ‘You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn.” Media, Culture, & Society 35(2).

Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books.


“Crysalis” by Loui Jover

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Blog Peer Review #3 – Audiences and Channels


Design, Content, and Marketability


Alicia Dang’s Blog

Alicia Dang is a second year Communications and Interactive Arts & Technology student at Simon Fraser University. She’s grown up in Vancouver Canada where she’s developed interests in fashion, beauty, travel, design, and culture. Her personal fashion style and inspirations for this blog can be found on her Tumblr account, linked directly to her “inspiration” page.


According to Alicia in her weekly process posts, she wanted to design a blog that was “clean, elegant, and easy to navigate.” I think she’s accomplished that very successfully. I really enjoyed navigating through her user-friendly, well organized and professionally designed pages. She has written about spending some time choosing the right photographs and font for her aesthetic style, which I think was well worth the effort. Her blog images are crisp, clear, and aesthetically pleasing, as is her choice of font.


Alicia has demonstrated a lot of creative and authentic self-expression in her choice of blog content. Under the “Looks” tab in her pages, Alicia’s monthly fashion posts include events and restaurants she’s attended locally and the outfits she chose to wear to them. They also showcase her trip to the “fashion city” of Paris France last summer, highlighting worldly fashion differences and the “Parisian craze” that people are aspiring to globally. Alicia’s articles on her trip to Paris include some history on the places she visited. She mentioned in week 4 that she’d like to include some history of fashion on her blog. Therefore, her trips to places like Paris would be a great place to incorporate this type of content.

Alicia’s process pages including her vision board, weekly process posts on the development of her blog, peer reviews, and her first PUB101 essay are full of honest and helpful information for anyone who may be starting a blog themselves. I was particularly impressed with a photographic remix she designed in week 7 using make-up and body paint to express her obsession with moons and stars.

Adding Interactive Components

One suggestion I have for engaging and expanding Alicia’s audiences would be to include more interactive components in her blog reviews and essays. I think readers of all ages could gain some incite into the development of their own blogs through her own personal process and the process of her peers. Including images and links to other websites and articles might improve the length of time readers spend on her blog, encourage traffic to other new websites, and increase the shares she receives on social media. I really recommend using the “Jetpack” plugin to optimize traffic and social media sharing, and make use of SEO tools.


I love Alicia’s minimalistic and professional approach to monetization. Each of her “Looks” is followed by hyperlinks endorsing events, local businesses, and brand names. This is a really smart way to encourage businesses and brands she already loves, to support her website, encourage more traffic, and hopefully make her some money. I hope Alicia can stay true to herself and her public by continuing to portray her authentic self through this means of marketing.

Please take some time to visit Alicia Dang’s beautifully inspiring website and share with others. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of this SFU student’s talents in the near future!

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The Pain of Divorce – A Lesson in Compassion

The pain of divorce is unimaginable. So much so that even finding the words to write about it seems an impossible task. For those of you who’ve been through divorce, I hope you find some relief in knowing someone else understands your grief. For those of you who haven’t, maybe reading this piece will help you understand and allow you to be more compassionate of those who have.

Strength and Determination

It’s been almost nine months since my children and I packed up what we could take of our previous life and moved out on our own. Yet, each day continues to be almost as painful as the last. I say “almost” because every day since that unforgettable moment, we have continued to take tiny baby steps forward, which is a sign of our strength and determination.

I never planned on taking this route in my life. Like everyone else who marries and has a family, I had dreams of happiness and success. Having children has been the biggest blessing in my life so far, and I continue to cherish every moment with them. Yet, there are things in our lives we can’t predict. Things we can’t always control, regardless of what others may tell you. Divorce is not a failure, but more of what I would describe as a series of “unfortunate events.”

These events have carved such a division in our family that moving forward in a new direction is the only option we have of finding the relief we so desperately need. Especially for my children.

Reimagine What You’re Capable Of

For me, starting over has meant a new home, new responsibilities, new everything, but also a new chance to change the direction of my life. I’ve been given an opportunity to reimagine what I’m capable of, and I’ve taken the challenge head on. Because, not only do I owe it to my children, but to myself as well. Last spring I went back to university to upgrade my skills. Now, I’m working towards a degree in Communications and Publishing, and I’ve never looked back.

Going back to school has allowed me to escape from the pain of my divorce by focusing on my personal growth and independence. It has given me something positive to focus on, as well as provided my children with some security about our future. I hope to teach them that anything is possible. And I hope they will grow up to understand that even though some things in our life are out of our control, others are well within our reach.

As painful as it is, sometimes divorce is the only option to healing a family. I know it will take time, but day by day things will get better. Most importantly, I’ve developed an understanding of what so many couples, children, and families suffer from on a daily basis, and this lesson had taught me to be more compassionate of others.

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Data Trails and Google Analytics – There’s no going back!

Ignorance is Bliss

I have to admit that sometimes ignorance is bliss. No, I’m not talking about a particular US president who’s name I won’t mention. That type of ignorance has no place on these pages. What I’m referring to is life in the digital age before learning about Google Analytics and all those damn data trails! It’s kind of like believing in the stork, until some ass hole decides to fill you in on where you really came from and how it all happened. It’s confusing and something you’d like to tell others about, but a bit creepy! Too much information and NO going back!

Analytics and Data Trails

For someone starting their own blog or wanting to be successful with their business online, analytics can be the key to finding an audience, keeping them engaged, and having them return with others. Yet knowing as a reader that I’ve left a trail of information about who I am and what I’ve been doing online can be a bit intimidating. Especially if my genuine interest in a site has the potential of making me look like a stalker!

I’m also uncomfortable checking the analytics for my own site. I’ve never been comfortable with security cameras and spyware in my home and this doesn’t feel much different. It’s helpful to know if anyone is visiting and what they’re interested in, but I don’t wanna know who’s peaking in the cupboards! As far as my personal blog goes, I think I’ll keep the data checking to a minimal.

As for my own data trails…I’d like to think of them as my mark on this planet. Perhaps something someone from the future or another planet can find and analyze. A little piece of the puzzle for alien scientists or future archaeologists. This time digging in cyber space for evidence of the past. Some may consider me a techno junkie or an optimist flawed by naivety. I prefer to think of myself as a fearless cyber explorer, opportunist, communicator, and publisher leaving a trail for those who dare to follow!

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Website Design – SFU Peer Review #2


Art Bar is the name of SFU student Sarvin Samei’s website, found at My intention for this review was to continue exploring website design. I hoped to discover more creative ideas for my own blog, as well as provide Sarvin with some design tips of my own.

As somewhat of a minimalist, my first impression of the layout and website design of Art Bar was positive. I liked the crisp white canvas that served as the background to this blog. It reminded me of the white-washed walls of an up and coming art gallery in the process of a new exhibition. This may or may not have been Sarvin’s intention. I have to admit, I had expected something a lot more colourful from an art blog. Yet, the Astrid theme really worked. It resembled the art of black and white photography, with its bold black header, typography and white spaces. These design features were an effective backdrop for some original artwork posted by Sarvin on her pages.

Website Design Suggestions

Two sites I’d suggest for content design and picture editing include, and; they’re free and user friendly with helpful tutorials. The artwork displayed on Art Bar should really make a statement. I would suggest larger images and a short description of each piece, like at a real gallery. It would also be interesting to have workable links to each artists’ history, gallery, showings, or website, in order to see what else they’ve done.

The links to Art Bar‘s articles and pages were designed with a splash of electric purple colour, lighting up as the reader hoovers over them – a nice artistic touch. I liked the addition of a Twitter Link for readers to share the site’s content. I’ve discovered that a Facebook link works really well in allowing readers to share content as well. Uploading a free plug-in called Ultimate Social Media will provide some creative options for social media integration.

Where Will She Go From Here?

Like all of us beginning a blog, Sarvin’s pages contained a lot of white space waiting for more creative content. I’m really looking forward to seeing how her ideas and work will develop from here. Her About Me page was beautiful and professional, with a portrait of her that really ties in to the whole website design. On the What To Do In Vancity page it’d be helpful to see a list and/or description of galleries and art centres in the Vancouver area, as well as upcoming art events for those who’d like to be tourists in their own city.

Thanks for sharing your interests and ideas with us Sarvin. I know they’ve helped me in my process this week.


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The Internet is Shutting Down Forever – What Would You Do in its Last Hour?

The Internet is Shutting Down? Imagine. What Would You Do?

Something to think about

I think it’s fair to say that most of us have become quite reliant on the internet in our daily lives. We use it to store our information in the cloud, communicate with others, shop, research, find out what’s happening in the world, search where we’re going, and the list goes on! But what if we were to learn that in less than an hour, all this would end forever.

What would you do in that last hour? And what does this say about you?

From the reaction I get when our Wi-Fi goes down at home, I know the effects would be disastrous for my family. We’ve already given up our house phone for iPhones, and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who gets calls. The purpose of our phones is no longer for phoning at all, but the use of the internet. We have cable, but this too is becoming obsolete. Netflix has completely taken over our lives, and yes for this we need the internet.

Everything worth saving I’ve already saved on external drives for such a disaster, but wait…have I? Pictures…yes, files…mostly, contacts…no! passwords…? Wait, what will we need these for? Maybe I’m not as prepared for this as I think I am. Yet part of me feels a kind of relief from the possibility of a shut down. But then again, I grew up with televisions, telephones, radios, record players, movie rentals, newspapers, typewriters, notebooks (not the laptop version), paper maps, libraries, and yes…books. I still love books!

My kids didn’t grow up with any of these things. The internet is their social connection to everything and everyone of any importance to them. Except maybe their great grandmother, who still sends handwritten letters and paper cheques! Even their grandparents have slowly and patiently learned to text them (on handed down iPads). In fact, when my mom left for Vegas this week to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday she stated, “ I won’t be taking my phone, because I won’t have any use for it there, but I’m taking my iPad, so text us…there will be Wi-Fi in the rooms…right?”


I know I’d suffer from a shut down of the internet like everyone else. After all, I’ve chosen a new career path that completely relies on it! Yet, I think I’d use my last hour to reach out one last time to my contacts, leave a goodbye. Kind of like a time capsule for future visitors of the planet, if the internet is ever turned back on. And I think I’d remind everyone to be kind, stay connected in anyway they could, slow down, enjoy life, and spend time with those they love. What does this say about me? 

What about you?

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Inspiring Websites – Audience Engagement

The Search Continues for Inspiring Websites

In my search for inspiring websites, I came across a unique parenting site called Scary Mommy 2. My focus this week for improving my own blog centered around audience engagement. I was interested in discovering what else I could do to expand and interact with my audience, as well as create more content. Since Scary Mommy 2 was continually coming up with articles I was reposting each week on Facebook, I figured this site was a great place to start.

Scary Mommy 2

Scary Mommy 2 was originally started by stay-at-home mom Jill Smokler in 2008. According to the site’s “About” page, Jill began her blog as an online baby book and simple record of days at home with her children. In 2015, Scary Mommy 2 was acquired by Vinit Bharara (media company – Some Spider) and now has hundreds of contributors. The site includes additions by video producers and editors, staff and news writers, and essayists. It also produces video and multimedia content for advertising partners.

As I mentioned already, Scary Mommy 2 was continuously posting articles on Facebook I found interesting enough to repost. This week I decided to go directly to the site by clicking on its link through my Facebook account.  I wanted to see what this site was really about. What I found was an interactive platform so engaging and collaborative I became lost within it for two straight hours. It literally took a desperate need for caffeine and a bathroom break to release me from its grips.

Audience Engagement

Like similar websites, Scary Mommy 2 had its link to Facebook, which was obviously working to draw audiences like myself and others back to its pages. I had already added this feature to my own blog and was noticing more traffic because of it. This site also included an email and mailing address for comments and questions. This was a detail I had overlooked on my own site but wasn’t sure I was ready to publish yet. I have some privacy concerns with working from home. Another interesting feature was its “Updates Sign-up,” which allowed readers to receive updates and new articles straight to their mailbox. I think this feature will be something I’ll want to add to my blog when I have more content.

What really caught my attention on this site for audience engagement was a page called “Confessional.” The Confessional page was really a message board or forum, fostering interaction and conversation, as well as stimulating collaborative discussion. Categories included a “Welcome Wagon,” for new members to introduce themselves; a “General Daily Discussion;” a “News” section; and various categories like “Kids,” focused on parenthood. It resembled a kind of chat room for readers wanting to ask questions of the writers and other members, discuss articles, and/ or share ideas of their own. I really liked this idea, especially for a site of this nature.


Because Scary Mommy 2 produces media for advertising partners, I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of advertisement on the site itself. The ads weren’t that prominent, and I didn’t find them distracting from the content at all. With a site of this magnitude and such a large audience, the ads made sense. I’d have to have quite a large audience myself before I considered advertisement on my site, and they would have to make sense to my content. I’m more likely to promote the advocacy of social change through my blog than anything else.

Searching out inspiring websites like Scary Mommy 2, to improve audience engagement and create more content on my own site, was a process well worth the time and effort. I would encourage anyone beginning their own blog to do the same. The learning curve has been steep so far, but well worth the climb!

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Yoga Generation – A Welcoming Website Design

Yoga Generation

One of my favourite places to unwind in the lower mainland is Yoga Generation. Co-owned by Nicole Whitman and Prestonne Domareski, Yoga Generation is the only aerial yoga studio in the lower mainland – offering yoga in a hammock!

As part of my journey in beginning a website, I’ve gone from exploring other personal blogs to taking a closer look at online sites offering services in my community. has been designed using elements that represent everything I’ve grown to love about this studio.

After searching through and comparing Yoga Generation’s online site to others in the lower mainland (and there’s plenty to compare it to), I was impressed by how personal its theme, layout, and customizations are. I also loved its interactiveness and usability through links, social media connections, and event invites. This site has a welcoming and inclusive characteristic about it, completely true to the atmosphere of the Yoga Generation studio itself.

What Sets this Site Apart from the Others?

What stood out immediately about their site was all the pictures and videos used to illustrate every aspect of the studio and its services. Unlike other similar websites, I wasn’t bored with endless columns, pages, and posts describing what the yoga experience is about. has a storybook type design begging visitors to click on images of teachers and classes, events and workshops, examples of aerial yoga, and news coverage. The pictures even included regular studio participants taking part in classes, bringing a personal and authentic feel to the site.

The home page works almost like a book cover, suggesting what can be found deeper inside the pages – with an interactive, slide show type header and floating tag lines, prices, and promotions. What I really liked about the home page was the welcome section, briefly describing the Yoga Generation studio and intention of the owners and instructors. A calendar of upcoming events and a search button have also been included for the customers’ convenience. has a clean and comfortable layout and great use of space. Like the Yoga Generation studio itself, I am compelled to make myself at home in its domain, cozied up in my comfies with a warm cup of herbal tea.

Oh…and it offers discounts to students too! I’m sold!

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Peer Review #1 – Developing a Blog; the Online Self












Peer Review 

In developing my own blog, I’ve found it extremely helpful to browse a variety of others, in order to get ideas and learn what works. That’s why I found reviewing one of my classmate’s blogs so enjoyable. It was helpful to see how someone at a similar stage of development, was working through their layout ideas and using their writing to express what they enjoy most about life. is a beautifully feminine blog about the author’s passion for baking, beauty, and fashion. I was drawn to the handwritten title, personalized with Sukhi’s own name and the positive tag line, “Live, Laugh, & Love.” The homepage is creatively designed in soft pink and grey, with a slide show type header highlighting each of the blog’s main pages. The latest posts are neatly organized with pictures illustrating what each is about. Sukhi has already included social media links and a place to follow her on Twitter and Instagram. She has also added an interactive collection of her Instagram pics, which I thought was a nice personal touch.

Baking, Beauty, and Fashion

I enjoyed learning a little about Sukhi on her “About” page, which included a bit of history about her and her passions for baking, beauty, and fashion. After reading this page it was clear to me what her blog would be focused on. She included a link to Twitter, allowing readers to share her blog, which I thought was a great way to direct more traffic to her site.

Like most of us in the first few weeks of development, Sukhi’s main pages remain relatively undeveloped. She’s started out with her weekly process posts and put a lot of thought into her design and layout, and I think this is really important in developing a blog that she will find suits her own personal needs and style.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In reviewing Sukhi’s blog, I got a few ideas to incorporate into my own site, including more socially interactive links. I look forward to seeing how her blog will continue to develop in the coming weeks. I’m also hoping I’ll have some suggestions or ideas to share with her further down the road, as I become more familiar with design techniques and writing practices that work for me.

Thanks for Sharing Sukhi!

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