Monday, September 10, 2012

#10: Take a Road Trip

There's nothing like going for a drive... sunroof open... music blasting... and the open road ahead. Add a couple of your close friends, a snazzy GPS system, some snacks and a full tank of gas and you've got yourself a road trip right there.

Taking a road trip is perfect if you like traveling to new places and don't mind lengthy car rides, but here's a few suggestions to make sure your next road trip is an enjoyable one:

Have a Plan
It's nice to be spontaneous once in a while, but when you're dealing with unfamiliar territories, you might as well be prepared. Plan ahead of time when a perfect week for a road trip would be. Give yourself and your friends enough time to take time off from work if needed, or to clear their schedule in advance.

What vehicle will you be driving? Has it had a tune-up lately? Is there a chance it could break down? Will the seats hold the quantity of inhabitants comfortably for x hours? There's a lot to consider when it comes to planning for a road trip, so giving yourself enough time to do so is wise.

Know where you're going
Spontaneity will get you nowhere but lost. Have an idea of where you want to go. Once you have that in mind, you can then figure out the directions, places you'd want to stay, restaurants in the area, etc. It doesn't help to drive from New York to Georgia without having done any prior research on the town you're headed. GPS systems are really helpful, but it can only do so much. Gain some knowledge about where you're going first, before deciding to rely solely on a GPS.

Avoid "bad" company
If you didn't know, "bad" company on a road trip can go numerous ways. Here's a list, so you'll know what to avoid:

  • Bad company 1: The complainers. They're constantly unsatisfied and complaining throughout the entire trip. Are we there yet?... Why are you driving so fast/slow?... Why can't we go somewhere else for lunch?... Why do I have to contribute to gas, if it's not my car?... You get the point.
  • Bad company 2: The chatterboxes. This group loves to talk. Don't get me wrong, talking and laughter are essential elements of any successful road trip, but the chatterboxes are non-stop. Sometimes you, as a driver, just needs a chance to gather your own thoughts, or listen to the music and sing along with the others, or maybe just to be given a chance to speak once!
  • Bad company 3: The Humdrums. Imagine yourself on your first road trip with friends and are giddy with excitement. Now, imagine that you are the only one showing excitement for the entire x hours. Talk about boredom and the desire to take the next exit home! When on a road trip, it's a time to be excited, loud and have fun. If you surround yourself with a group that plans on reading reading the entire "Hunger Games" saga on the way, you can throw excitement out the window. Bring charismatic friends who like to have a good time.
  • Bad company 4: All others. Whether it's hygiene that needs to be improved or someone who gets car sick easily, there are a lot of things to look out for when choosing the right company for your road trip. Don't rush; think it through! The trip is meant to be fun, not a drag.
Side Note: If you're tempted to go on a road trip solo, at least try it out with one other friend or a close sibling. Seriously, it can get pretty lonely and uninteresting if there's no one else in the vehicle with you.

Include another licensed driver in the mix
Don't forget to have at least one other licensed driver in the car. If your stuck being the dominant driver, you might miss out on parts of the fun that goes on in the car. Sure, a driver can fun too, but he/she will be more focused on the road and the GPS directions that it can be easy to forget that the fun includes him/her too! Not only that, but we're only human and no matter how much we love driving, everyone needs a little break. Having someone take over after a few hours, or alternating between several responsible drivers will make the experience less strenuous on your part.

Have GOOD music backup
Silence is bound to happen on a long drive (unless you invited a chatterbox), so having good music is a must. One good song will help rekindle the energy that was originally in the atmosphere. The radio is great, but you can't control the songs that are played, so when the stations start to get repetitive, it's good to have an iPod or CD on deck with some upbeat music. It's also a great idea to throw in some old school jams to get everyone in the car holding an imaginary microphone and singing their hearts out.

Bring enough cash
"Cash" in this context literally means cash. As much as you hold your debit or credit card dear, it's never a wise idea to go anywhere without tangible cash on you. You may come across a gas station in an unknown town that only accepts cash, for example, so it's always a great idea to bring some good ol' 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s... and enough of it in case of emergencies.

Have a spare tire everything
Bring extra bottled water, an extra flashlight, first aid kit, batteries, clothing, etc. because you just never know what can happen. Oh, and always have a spare tire, of course. Better safe than sorry & stranded.

Planning a road trip isn't just about hopping in a car filled with friends and loud music and speeding off to the desired location, but it's about gas, mileage, rest stops, food and necessities needed. It's exciting planning a road trip, but when the driving and all financial burden is resting on you alone, it's definitely not so fun anymore.
If the trip consists of you and four friends, ask your buddies to pitch in--whether it's gas money or snacks for the ride, every little bit helps. Maybe Friend 1 can look up a nice, inexpensive hotel in the destination area, Friend 2 can determine the best route for you to drive, Friend 3 can make the mixes on a CD or in his/her iPod playlist for the journey, and Friend 4 can help with budgeting and making sure you all are good to go.

REST before the big trip
Yes, I said it, my fellow night owls... REST. There's nothing worse than feeling the lack of motivation to go on a trip that's supposed to be exciting! Get enough sleep the night before, so you don't wake up irritable and groggy, due to a long night of preparations. Once you're up, you'll feel refreshed and ready to go!

WHY take a road trip?
Because it's not only FUN and EXCITING, but an opportunity to visit a new place (or places) with people you care most about. It's great for any time of the year and you'll learn a lot about your friends and even more about yourself. After the trip, you will know if a trip like this is something you'd want to do again, and if with the same group of people!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#9: Create a Blog

People don’t give bloggers enough credit. Many think of blogging as such a mundane task that isn’t given much thought… while others may view it as a mere hobby without any meaning whatsoever. Of course, as a blogger, my response to viewpoints like those is that blogging is an art. It’s something you’ve got to make your own before you can even begin to appreciate someone else’s blog.

So, if you’ve ever considered creating a blog (and you’re up late anyway), then why not? Simply diving into a blog may sound like the first step, but if you do that, you might end up just staring at a blank page the entire night or write a bunch of nonsense.

Courtesy of

Consider utilizing the following tools as you begin your blogging journey:

Discover your Passion

What do I love? What am I interested in? These are questions that you should ask yourself before sitting down in front of your computer to start typing. For instance, if your passion is helping younger people and providing counsel, well then maybe a blog filled with advice for troubled teens can be something to consider. If you love staying up late, how about a blog dedicated to providing fun/productive late-night suggestions? (Hmm... that sounds familiar...)

Determine your Audience
Who exactly do you want reading your blog? Is it solely for women? Maybe targeting African-American women? What about the age group? What interest(s) must your readers have?

Be sure to question the direction of your blog and think about its goal. Knowing who your target audience is, will help keep your writing focused. A blog that's too obscure and all over the place will cause many readers to sway.

Have a Unique Plan
I threw in “unique” because you can have a plan, but if it’s not original in some way or define who you are, then reading your blog might as well be a waste of time.

If you have an interest in cooking, for example, a blog of recipes might be the first thing that pops into your head, but take a moment to think. There are plenty of prospective chefs and culinary geniuses out there that have the same idea.


How can my blog stand out in the midst of countless other blogs with the same subject matter?

Find and Create a Blog Site
There are various free blog sites to choose from. From Blogger, to WordPress, to Tumblr, there's a blog site for everyone. I chose Blogger because it seemed be pretty simple to use and looked a bit more professional than Tumblr (I registered for all three, and Blogger has always been my favorite).

Once you find a site that suits YOU, take the time to make the blog reflect who YOU are. Change up the theme and put some color in the background. There are usually numerous templates to choose from to spice up the look of your blog. Switch up the fonts and sizes and add some color to make things pop. You shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but if it looks soporific, then your reader will move on quite quickly.

Publicize your Blog
Having a blog is of little advantage to you if it’s not made public for others to see. It’s ok to use your blog as a platform to build a portfolio for prospective employers, but what about finding an audience first?

Publishing your post on Facebook and/or Twitter will allow for a lot of feedback. You will develop blog followers and be provided with various comments on your posts. Seeing the comments will encourage you to continue writing and sometimes certain responses will provide you with innovative ideas for your next post. 

Don't Be Afraid to Hit a Nerve
Yes, there will be comments that make you second guess your post or maybe your entire blog, but think of it this way: Tons of comments that question your post, means that you've hit some kind of nerve that gets everyone talking. The more they talk, the more popular your blog becomes. This often comes up with opinionated bloggers who may have something to say about politics, media or just life itself. When you're unafraid to hit the nerve every once in a while, you'll be surprised how many new hits you receive in a single week.

Be Consistent
So you’ve created your blog and you’re posting the link to your most recent post on Facebook. That’s great… but what good is it if your “most recent” post was written two months ago?


This is key, because so many bloggers get excited during the first few blog posts and the next thing you know, a month goes by without any updates. What about your listed blog followers? What about the followers you have that you had no idea was following your writing? Don’t leave your readers hanging. Keep your blog fresh.

Get Inspired
Everyone has experienced writers block at some point. It's when you want to write more, but the mental juices just aren’t flowing like they were the day before, or even an hour prior! So you feel stuck, fresh out of ideas... just staring at the blank page. Look, you’re never really out of ideas, but if you feel like you are or simply feel uninspired… well then, GO GET INSPIRED!

Set yourself free from the bondage of your desk and chair! Close the laptop cover and go somewhere. Go outside and smell the fresh air... or rainy air... or humid air... an air that isn't familiar. You need to be outside so you can witness that little kid across the street to fall off his bike and bravely get back on, so you can continue you inspirational blog... you need to smell the BBQ grill from the neighbors next door, in order to continue your blog of recipes... you just need to be in a new setting so inspiration can hit.


WHY create a blog?
Because it’s a chance to express yourself like you’ve never gotten a chance to do before. Have fun with your blog! Don't take it too seriously and don't treat it like it's of no importance either--a balancing act will help make your blog stand out as one that is always an enjoyable read.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

#8: Go Camping... anywhere

There's nothing like the great outdoors. Nature and all of the surroundings of night life are usually left outside and ignored within the walls of our comfortable homes. So why not gather some friends, snacks and venture outside for a chance to go camping?

Before you roll your eyes and wonder how on Earth you can go camping when all you see are concrete sidewalks, taxi cabs and building complexes... keep reading.

If you think the only place you can have a legit camping trip is in the middle of the woods, think again.

The Woods

Courtesy of
For those who have the luxury of heading on over to a nearby campsite, throw on some bug spray, grab some friends, and head on outside.

What you'll need:

  • Bug repellent 
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Flashlight
  • Map of the area
  • Two-way radio [Back in my day, we called 'em "walkie-talkies"]
  • Plenty of food and water
  • Marshmallows

You and your buddies will feel like your kids again; ones who are on an epic adventure. Camping in the woods or a camp site will make you feel one with nature, as you hear the crickets chirp, the owls hoot and count the billions of stars in the night sky. The peaceful sound of the night will probably reduce any stress you've been feeling prior and being surrounded with people you care about, will make for a great time.

Get some wood and build a campfire, share ghost stories or some laughs, play games and roast your marshmallows on sticks over the crackling flames.

Your backyard
Courtesy of
If you can't get to a camping ground and you have a yard, why not make use of it?

What you'll need:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Flashlight
  • Casa Moda "S'mores" Maker
  • S'mores necessities: Marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey chocolate

Sure, the lights from the neighborhood might not help in adding to the effect of a "real" camping trip, but you and your friends can enjoy being outside, share scary or funny stories all night and still eat those yummy roasted marshmallows. Since you're not on camp grounds, the law in your background concerning fires may be a lot stricter. Therefore, I suggest getting the Casa Moda S'mores Maker.

This S'mores Maker grill comes with ceramic containers for marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate, roasting forks (eliminating the need for filthy sticks lying around in the woods) and includes a burner for the fuel and handle and a snuffer to extinguish the flames. This thing is fully loaded with what you need to have a real camping night whether you're in the middle of nowhere or your own backyard.

Your Living Room
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So, if you look out your window and instead of a yard, you see concrete, lights, and yellow taxicabs zooming in and out of traffic... then camping out in your living room or spare bedroom might be the perfect option. It may not be what you had in mind, but no one said you couldn't enjoy camping indoors!

What you'll need:

  • Chairs and a large sheet for your "Tent"
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Sound machine
  • Microwave
  • S'mores necessities: Marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey chocolate

Your tent may be a sheet draped over several supporting chairs and your sound machine just might be an illusion of crickets chirping or a fireplace crackling, but there's nothing wrong with using your imagination. Surround yourself with some of your closest friends and plan to have a good time. Being indoors provides so many conveniences, and the microwave is one of them. Create your epic s'mores sandwiches, pop them into the microwave for just a few seconds, and enjoy. It's quick and easy! Turn off all the lights in the house and share the same stories you would if you were outdoors.

So, obviously, camping in the woods requires you to be much more prepared than your backyard or inside your home, but any way you look at it, you'll not only appreciate nature/your surroundings (wherever you may be), but the time spent with the people you care about. Not to mention, you now know you can enjoy marshmallows and s'mores anywhere! Yum.

Friday, June 29, 2012

#7: Have a Movie/TV show "marathon"

There's nothing like kicking back and enjoying the heat of the summer. Ok, so maybe the heat can be just a little bit too intense... but that's what air conditioners are for, right? So, the next time you're relaxing in the cool breeze of the AC, consider occupying your lazy days with a marathon of TV shows or movies!

Courtesy of

I absolutely love "How I Met Your Mother." That's a fact. However, I started watching it when the world was already six seasons in. My initial intention was to watch the first episode of the first season, solely to figure out why so many people I knew loved the show so much. I honestly didn't plan to go any further than that episode. Next thing I know, I'm all caught up and in anticipation of the 7th season.

Netflix pretty much saved the day (No, it didn't take me a single day to catch up; but you know what I mean!). I'm telling you, have a TV/movie marathon; you'll thank me.

Here's how to begin (Yes, I have steps on how to go about starting a TV/Movie marathon. Relax.)...

Step 1: Make a List
Create a "TV" list and a "Movies" list, with each having its own column on the page. I suggest writing down the top 3 (Top 5 max) TV shows you want to watch. In the Movies column, write down as many films as you want. I say Top 3  for television because you wouldn't want to overwhelm yourself with a plan of watching 20 TV shows that each have an endless number of episodes/seasons! It'll end up being a race and not a time to actually enjoy the shows

Step 2: Divide into genre (Optional)
I did this with my movie marathon. For a while I focused on Romantic Comedies because there were quite a few I hadn't seen before, so I just stuck with that genre, caught up on some new and old (mostly new) and then moved on to something else. Don't underestimate, Wikipedia... the site has super long lists of genres from television and from movies/films.

Maybe it's because I'm too organized for my own good, but I think having a movie marathon based on the genre can be pretty fun, instead of randomly skipping from a comedy to a horror film to a documentary. At least space it out a little bit, if you don't want to stick with the same genre for too long.

Again, this step is optional. If you prefer to mix up the genres one after the other, that's fine too, Spontaneous One.

Step 3: Remember, it's not a race
I call it a "marathon" because it's meant to either catch up on shows/films you haven't seen before or are behind in and OVER A PERIOD OF TIME eventually are 100% caught up.

Breathe. It's not a race to watch everything on your list in the shortest amount of time.

Sites like Netflix and Hulu can be really helpful in your marathon endeavors. (There are other other sites that I've stumbled upon, but let's stick to the legit ones, shall we?) Not only that, but if you're willing to make DVD purchases of the TV shows and films you'd like to see, that's definitely an option as well. Whether it be in-store or from a site like Amazon.

Step 4: There is no step 4; simply begin your TV/Movie marathon

Friday, April 6, 2012

#6: Learn Sign Language

“Just a thought….it is interesting to see that DEAF people can function in the hearing world very well while hearing people cannot function well in the DEAF world." –Gil Eastman (Gallaudet Theatre Art Professor 1934-2006)

Gil Eastman has a point there. (I'm hoping you actually read the quote above. Quotes with meaning are my thing, and I often find them to be a nice opening to an important topic... just saying).

Now that you've fully absorbed the quote, I'll begin again. *ahem*...

Gil Eastman has a point there. Individuals who are deaf often feel forced to adapt to the "hearing world" and are at times looked down upon and viewed as handicapped. "Handicapped" is such a strong term, especially when looked at from the perspective of someone who is deaf and living his/her life with a positive attitude. There are so many opportunities out there for those who are deaf/hearing impaired and even blind/visually impaired. Despite the difficulties in an atmosphere designed for the hearing (and seeing), they are able to "function" graciously... so why can't we try doing the same?

So why not turn off your voice for the night and practice communicating with your hands?

Photo courtesy of
Sign Language is all about gestures, facial expression and emotion, with the rise and lowering of the eyebrows being important to the full comprehension of a conversation. Speaking with your voice, versus your hands are clearly extremely different. I must say, it is unlike any other language because it's as though a picture of the conversation is being painted in your head.

Youtube is a pretty popular website for looking up millions of different videos by millions of diverse users; so how about searching for some Sign Language lessons? Since I'm in the U.S., I thought it only made sense to start off with American Sign Language (ASL) before branching off to another one of the two hundred [sign languages] around the world! Youtube helped me learn a lot of the basics, and books like "A Basic Course in American Sign Language" allowed me to understand the root meaning of certain gestures. If you need a more hands on approach, utilize the hours of the night doing research and looking up some ASL classes in your area. I plan to look into the Sign Language Center in New York City this summer and see what they have to offer.

Have an infant?
Photo courtesy of

Try learning some Baby Sign Language and teach the simplified words and phrases to your child that is too young to speak! Think about it; both you and your baby will be happy knowing that fussiness and crying won't be the only clue to indicate the need for something. With Baby Sign, you'll know if he/she wants  "milk" or "blanket" or even "Daddy." You'll no longer have to be stressed with guessing games. This seems like the perfect solution, if you ask me.

I know all about the cochlear implant (Clicking this link will take you to a website that has been widely acclaimed for its unreliable content; But yet, I visit this site almost every day...) and the advancements in technology that are giving the deaf community a chance to hear and speak vocally... but did you know that a majority of those in the deaf community view hearing technology (such as cochlear implants) as a threat to their primary language (ASL)? Many fear that in years to come, Sign Language will become extinct, due to the power of technology.

I am currently taking a Sign Language class at my university and it is definitely my favorite class this semester. I've tried teaching myself some basic signs before, but it feels great learning even more from a professional and developing my phrases and conversation skills. I can finally say, I will have no problem communicating (on a basic level) with my older cousin in Brooklyn who has been deaf since childhood. I've been looking forward to showing her what I know for a while now, and I think I'm ready!

If you know someone who is deaf, impress him or her by incorporating ASL in the discussion. There are many deaf people who can read lips and will simply vocalize their response, but you both will get a lot more out of the conversation if you decide to step inside of their world for a little while.

Why learn Sign Language?
It's fun! American Sign Language (ASL) is a very popular foreign language, but it's unfortunate that many people disregard it as such. The art of communicating with your hands and facial expressions is amazing and the only way you'll fully understand this, is if you try it out!