Blog · Lifestyle

My Checklist for April 2015

Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Learn how to better prevent sexual violence during this month.  Use this month to have candid conversations with the people around you about the best ways to work together to stop sexual violence. No one should ever be subject to this kind of treatment.

Write during National Poetry Month
With a whole month dedicated to reading, writing, and learning about poetry, it’s the perfect time to stretch those creative muscles. Here are 30 ways to celebrate! Have fun with it and let me know what you do.

National Walk to Work Day: April 3
Walking is an everyday activity for most people, but you probably didn’t realize that walking comes with many health benefits. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s 2012 Urban Mobility Report, the average American commuter spent 38 hours stuck in traffic in 2011. Besides, walking isn’t just good for your health, it’s good for your finances, too. Save your gas $$.

World Health Day: April 7
This year, the World Health Organization is using World Health Day to focus on food safety. Here are 10 facts about food safety. Check them out and spread the word or start a discussion at your next Happy Hour.

Equal Pay Day: April 14
Another important event for women, worldwide! Even as women continue to make progress in the fight for equal pay, there’s still work to be done. Always, #Ask4More!

Tax Day: April 15
It may be scary or boring, but it’s one of those things must be checked off. Finish filing those taxes and then treat yourself! I suggest making a night of tuning into Amazon’s Transparent. Brilliant show!

Celebrate Emma Watson’s BDay: April 15
Emma has had quite the exciting past couple of years as she wrapped up her Harry Potter days, graduated from Brown University, and was appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador. In her honor, support HeForShe, a solidarity movement for gender equality, with a tweet or encourage someone to join!

Mother Earth Day: April 22
Go on a bike ride, plant a few flowers in the yard or just simply appreciate how beautiful our planet is by taking some time to watch the sunset or sunrise. Take in the scenery and breathe.. It’s our turn to lead! If you’re in Washington, DC, be sure to attend Global Citizen on the Mall, Saturday April 8th. Hope to see y’all there!

Blog · Lifestyle

My Checklist for March 2015

Celebrate my all-time favorite, National Women’s History Month.
With so many incredible women to choose from, we know it’ll be hard to celebrate all your favorite ladies in only 31 days. Grab a little one and show her the strong women out there making change and progress in their fields. I’ll be starting with Mindy Kaling (actress), Madeleine Albright (diplomat) and Kat Cole (Cinnabon).

Put your tech away and take a break on National Unplug Day. March 6th
The concept has caught on since the first unplugging day in 2010, which is incredible, considering today’s reliance on technology. So, let’s us all take a mini-break from the tech world and use this day to read a good book or go for a long walk. Take the pledge, here and spread the word.

#MakeItHappen this year on International Women’s Day. March 8th
Wear purple to raise awareness for women’s equality, get inspired to #Ask4More (thank Reece Witherspoon) and celebrate women’s achievements from around the world. Think Malala Yousafzai, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ellen Ochoa.

Head out to see Disney’s new Cinderella. March 13th
Seriously, where do I sign up, so that Helena Bonham Carter can be my fairy godmother? Grab your girlfriends and make it date night!

Go GREEN for St. Patty’s Day. March 17th
Pretend to be Irish and drink like one. Be safe! Cheers!

First day of Spring (fingers-crossed). March 20th
Somehow, I just know, I’ll be hibernating indoors, if this weather keeps up.

Wish Sandra Day O’Connor a happy birthday! March 26th
As the first woman to ever be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice O’Connor (born in Texas) is a vigorous defender of the citing of foreign laws in judicial decisions.

Blog · Lifestyle

Habits That Make Me Happy

Most of our conversations, my brother never fails to ask me why I have my heart set on a life in the Mid-Atlantic region. The truth is, I do miss the South, especially the cooking and weather but life in Maryland has proven to be happy, especially with the current habits and passions I’ve picked up. I mean, we all have different explanations and definitions of what happiness is and what it means to each of us. No matter what challenges, crossroads, and lifestyle changes that come across in our lives, at the end of the day, our happiness is what truly matters most.

These habits of mine also act as anchor activities to keep me both happy and sane:

1. Practice self-love.
Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. When you stop thinking about how other people can make you happy and practice self-love, you will soon realize what it feels like to be happy alone and be able to learn to love and accept yourself from the inside out. For example, I’ve created a zone in the house called “No Judgement” on what is being said about yourself and on what you eat. This is my happy place where I connect with myself and let others inside my weird bubble.

2. Make time for silence.
Silence is a precious commodity nowadays—as is its bosom buddy, stillness. Not to boast, but I can go a whole weekend without uttering a single word to anyone. This experience taught me to make room for self-awareness and to be in control of my actions, rather than under their control. Being aware led to being in control. Since I’ve mastered this aspect, my next challenge will be to clear my mind in meditation. I hope to visit an Ashram one day, so I might as well try to get a jump start on this.

3. Reading.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

Reading takes you places, need I say more. Books are always there for you and never hurt you. As an adolescent, when I moved to a teeny tiny town, I would devour Roman and Greek Mythology after the other and ended up reading everything at least twice. I would then spend hours at my local library (Summer Reading Program), often sitting on the floor cocooned by the solace of new friends around me. I read my way through the children’s classics, then graduated to fiction histories and authors such as Phillipa Gregory, Tamora Pierce, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and afterwards to grittier books by e.g. Jhumpa Lahiri, Alexander Dumas and Margaret Atwood, as well as Jane Austen, Haruki Murakami and George R. R. Martin. In addition, there is a close thrift store that has an impressive book section, where books vary from $1-$3, which serves as therapeutic shopping for me.  At this point in life, reading and shopping for good reads, still offers me an escape from reality and the opportunity to continue learning.

4. Writing about the good and bad in life.
The scientific research on the benefits of expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory. Every day we experience challenges great and small. Carve out one hour to analyze and synthesize the story of these difficulties in writing, giving yourself a blank page to explore how you feel about the hardships and what you hope to make of the situation. So let the words flow.

5. Volunteer. Help others.
Volunteering is the right thing to do — we all know that. And studies show that it boosts happiness; those who work to further causes they value tend to be happier and healthier, experience fewer aches and pains, and even live longer. Any activity is good activity. Recently, I volunteered with the DC Capitol Area Food Bank and enjoyed sorting canned goods, lifting boxes and socializing with other volunteers about our tasks. Startups like VolunteerMatch are letting you enjoy more of the give-back goodness without the pain of open-ended searches. This app is a life and time saver.

Blog · Lifestyle

February Checklist: Things You Gotta Do

Officially a month and some days into 2015, y’all! Congrats, safe to say we’ve beaten blizzards and taken on some of our New Years resolutions. And Groundhog Day 2015: Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, predicts six more weeks of winter. Checklist your datebook with these cool dates, so take advantage of each and every day of this short month.

1. Celebrate Black History Month all throughout February.
Thanks to the internets, there are endless resources to help you get educated during Black History Month. The story of Black History Month begins in 1915, half a century after theThirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

2. International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. (February 6)
This is a UN-sponsored awareness day. It is an effort to make the world aware of female genital mutilation (also called female genital mutilation or FGM) and to promote its eradication. Follow #endfgm to raise awareness and add your voice!

3. Finally get rid of that college Lit paper on Clean Out Your Computer Day. (February 9)
We know it’s been on your to-do list for forever, so thank goodness there’s an official day to get it done. Go through your old docs, photos, and floppy dics, saving whatever’s important on your Dropbox. Organize yo life!

4. Grab your gals and go see Fifty Shades of Grey. (February 13)
While it’s not exactly the ROM-COM you usually check out on V*Day, we won’t tell anyone if you’ve secretly already bought tickets to the midnight showing. NO SHAME HERE! Also, I will watch any movie at the AMC Theaters next door because they have recliner chairs. RECLINER CHAIRS!

5. Throw on your favorite sultry (mine is called: WICKED) lipstick and eat as many chocolate-covered strawberries this Valentine’s. (February 14)
Whether it’s your beau, your BFF, your parents, or your mailman, tell someone today how much you love them and how happy you are to have them in your life! (Sending something from the heart will just about make anyone melt)

6. Pay homage on Presidents Day. (February 16)
Celebrate by paying for your chi latte’s entirely in one dollar bills or simply reading up one of our country’s most celebrated leaders. I plan on dusting off my of 1776 by David McCullough and refresh my memory. So, go brush up on our history and learn a lil something.

7. Random Acts of Kindness Day. (February 17)
Leave a nice note for your BFF, buy an extra coffee for your co-worker, or even hold the door open for one extra stranger. A simple act of kindness goes a long way in making someone else’s day better AND will add to your day being extra-AWESOME!

8. YAY for colorful beads and king cake for Mardi Gras. (February 17)
Even if you’re not anywhere near a parade (or New Orleans), it’s a mid-winter excuse to celebrate with your friends and indulge in some sweet treats.

9. Lent Starts: Ash Wednesday. (February 18)
40 Days, y’all! Lent is a forty-day period of time that proceeds the Catholic holiday commonly called Easter. During this time, observers, like myself, tend to give up something they like (such as a food, like meat or a form of secular entertainment, like television) essentially as a form of “fasting” for the purposes of getting closer to God or for penance. OR you can take up something positive, such as do one act of kindness every day or contact a friend or loved one every day.

10. International Mother Language Day. (February 21)
This totally legit day is an observance held worldwide to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. It was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999. Respect your mother tongue or someone else’s.

11. Watch all your favorite actresses earn some well-deserved recognition at the 87th Academy Awards. (February 22)
All of your girl crushes coming together for a night of fabulous dresses and inspiring speeches—what could be better? Got my eyes trained on the Shondaland Gals! #HTGAWM

Blog · Lifestyle

2015 Resolutions for My First Post-Grad Year

Since graduating from Seton Hall University in May, I felt I was passed over for what I thought was my dream job. I busied myself with freelance or temporary experiences, all at the same time. I covered my first Social Media Summit in New York and attended my first NASA Social. Now, as my (fun)employment status position hopefully comes to a close along with my graduation year, I’m back in the job search game and contemplating what’s next along with thousands of other 2014 graduates.

Those like me, 2014 graduates, are facing our first full calendar year without the comfort of school. It’s our first full year of “adult life,” and we’re feeling like 2015 is the year things are supposed to start coming together. I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading, so here are some of my New Year’s resolutions for dealing with all of that—maybe they’ll help you too:

Never, ever, say the words “I should have been a (engineering, science or accounting) major.”
Hopefully, you and I majored in whatever we majored in because we enjoy it and are good at it. From what I’ve seen, no major is a magical guarantee of success. All of our choices have brought us to this point, and now it’s about what you and I do from here. I preach this to myself every night…like its a nursery rhyme.

Develop a passion project.
Pursue a “passion project” on the side. Take advantage of activities that you enjoy—you might take writing classes, go to plays, volunteer for a nonprofit, start a blog, freelance, or start a business. I’ve decided to add a lifestyle category on my blog because I needed a creative outlet, which will hopefully enable me to take control of my career this year! Explore what you enjoy doing—you never know where your passion project will take you. I’m extremely hopeful it will lead me to a career!

Take better advantage of my alumni network.
My number one priority. Over the past seven months I have gone out of my way to network a bit but I feel my networking skills are a bust. One of my goals this month will be to reach out to fellow SHU alumni on LinkedIn and really connect with them in person. With so many alumni events going on in my area, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be attending most of them. This is the time when your college alumni organization really wants to give you a hand, so I just need to get over “feeling awkward” and attend the events. Feel me?

Stay open for unexpected opportunities.
Like I said before, this fall I went through a long interview process for what I thought was the perfect job, and just barely lost out. Now, I’m relieved that I didn’t get that job, because another (cooler) opportunity opened for me. To be honest: none of us really know where we’ll be in ten, even five years. Even if you think you know, stay open and loose on your feet. Many of the greatest career developments happen when you maneuver into unexpected territory.

Say YES and figure it out afterwards.
A wise woman named Tina Fey (maybe you’ve heard of her?) once said: “Say yes and you’ll figure it out afterwards.” I agree with this statement (unless you are a doctor, in which case please figure it out way beforehand.) At my old internship, I was asked to update and monitor the social media accounts on my first week. I hadn’t managed any social media other than my own Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I said yes and figured it out afterwards—in this case, by going to online and stalking popular social media accounts like NYT, Gates Foundation, the World Bank and Mr. Alec Ross, formerly with the State Department. I studied how they formatted their tweets and ended up learning a lot, really quickly, and no one knew that I was learning along the way. muahaha.

Don’t fall into the comparison trap.
A good friend of my mom’s helped me with this one. You know, it’s great that your Facebook friends are: making it rain, backpacking around Europe, crushing it at his/her dream job. It really is great. I am happy for them and you should too. My point is, don’t fall into classic Facebook-induced jealousy. Everyone has their own struggles that don’t necessarily make it onto social media. Ring out congratulations and well wishes all over the universe, but don’t forget to give yourself credit, too. I do, all the time!

Blog · Lifestyle

January Checklist: Things You Gotta Do

January is both my month and a new year, and I want to make sure you start off right. Instead of letting the snow bring you down, think of it as a chance to start fresh! Here are a few good reasons to celebrate, even after the long holiday has come and gone. START OFF THE YEAR RIGHT!

1. Sign up to save lives during National Blood Donor Month.
It feels fantastic to make a difference, and blood donors ensure that there’s a plentiful blood supply for hospitals and medical centers. You can make a HUGE difference in someone’s life by simply donating blood. Plus, when it’s all over you’re guaranteed some sweets and one of those cool stress things. Search the American Red Cross’ site to find a donation center near you.

2. Sip a warm mug of tea during National Hot Tea Month.
Since living in the northeast, tea is the magical cure for any ailment. Headache? Drink some tea. Sleepy? Make tea. Emotional distress? Time for tea. Tea makes cold months and cold hands a little warmer, and I find its much gentler than a post-caffeine crash. Celebrate this month by finding new flavors to love. Let me know of your cools finds..

3. Take a soak on Bubble Bath Day (Jan. 8).
The Mother of all days in January is this one. To continue with the whole ‘soul healing’ theme, why not take that mug of tea into the tub? Bubble Bath Day is something I can rally behind. Get fancy with your bubbles, or add herbs to the water for extra soothing benefits. Your aching body will thank you.

4. Question everything on International Skeptic’s Day (Jan. 13).
Believe it or not, there’s actually a day to doubt everything! Can you believe it? Conspiracy theories abound! If there’s an existential crisis you’ve been holding off now’s the time to let it fly free, just make sure to reign in your doubts in by the end of the day.

5. Celebrate Michelle Obama’s Birthday (Jan. 17).
Apparently a lot of important women were born in January! Celebrate our First Lady’s birthday by recognizing her amazing work on the Let’s Move! campaign, brushing up on her bio (did you know she’s a Princeton graduate and has a law degree from Harvard?), and overall emulating her amazingness. Might actually hit the gym and try to emulate those arms..

6. Honor Dr. King’s memory on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 19).
Martin Luther King Jr. was a minister and social activist who fought for racial equality until his assassination in 1968. Inspired by the work of Mahatma Gandhi in India, King led peaceful protests and encouraged nonviolence. In today’s society, it’s more important than ever to take King’s message to heart, to remember his struggle for civil rights, and to live out his vision for the world.

7. Send positive vibes on Compliment Day (Jan. 24).
Sound easy? Cause it is: All you have to do is compliment someone! Choose something visible like a new haircut or some cute shoes to praise, or give a friend or coworker a confidence boost by recognizing their great qualities. Spread Love!

8. Oprah Winfrey’s Birthday (Jan. 29).
My gal and favorite talk show host turns 61 this year! Celebrate by watching every rerun of her show ever, devouring her book club list, or picking up a copy of O, The Oprah Magazine. First thing on my agenda is to track the book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed (the first selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.)

Blog · Lifestyle

A New Tradition to Start for 2015

The following questions will guide me in setting life goals that are key to achieving real long-term happiness and fun. Writing everything down will help me commit to making these answers a reality, a new tradition.

1. Life now is bland because I am (fun)employed.

2. If I were to describe my present state of mind at the end of 2014 as a TV program, movie or book title, I’d call it Indecisive & Restless.

3. What are you most pleased and or proud of in your personal life? At work?
– Personally, severing negative relationships and connecting with people who believe in my self-worth and following advice from people, especially women, who have my best interests at heart.
– Took a giant leap and began blogging my life and interests online.

4. What’s missing or on hold?
– A stable salaried full time job. Visiting family in the South has re-energized my determination to kick-start my career.

5. Imagine yourself in the ideal scenario and describe what your life will be like 5 years from now. What kind of job will you be in?
– The ideal scenario is to be on a field assignment outside the country, such as, on a humanitarian aid assignment or security risk assessment reporting. In 5 years, I hope to be with the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer to not only keep Americans safe but to bridge together both Americans and individuals from different religions and ethnicities. Wherever I may be, I hope to still be on travel assignments.

6. What skills do you want to develop?
– With all the TV shows and movies, i.e. Hunger Games and the Walking Dead, I’d like to acquire some survival skills. After seeing the movie Wild, I am determined to tackle a sizable chunk of land to hike (some 15-20 miles). Last year, I casually said yes to hiking a bit of the Stairway to Heaven in Vernon, NJ, but I was underdressed, in that I wore sandals rather than sturdy hiking shoes. This time around, I plan on being a bit more prepared and enjoy the thrill of an adventure.
– Also, I’d like to refine my language skills. In graduate school, I joined a Korean and Russian study sessions as a side hobby. It be great to have a full fledge conversation rather than just greetings and numbers.

7. Do you want to get more education?
– No Ph.D’s, but I am not averse to getting certified in another field, such as a science or medical certification. I understand that I never to old to keep devouring new information and skills.

8. Do you want to give back to others?
– Yes. Both in my undergrad and graduate career, I’ve had wonderful people who have served as gracious mentors. I hope to one day prove as gracious and helpful a mentor as those before me.

9. Do you have spiritual needs to attend?
– At this point in life, I would describe myself as “culturally Catholic but spiritually Agnostic”. However, this new pope gives me hope..

10. What interests will you continue to pursue?
– While in graduate school, I never read for pleasure and now that I’m out, I no longer read the fast rate I was once accustomed to. This year, I hope to change that. Reading a novel once a week is very ambitious yet unrealistic for me. My hope is that I will finish two novels a month and gradually reach the goal of one novel a week.

This will be interesting to look back on at the end of 2015. Here’s to accomplishing all my goals!