My Bucket List

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Since yesterday was about resolutions, today can be about the items on my bucket list. Here are five things I’d like to do before I die:

  1. Attend a papal Mass: To be honest, I’d like to have the whole Vatican experience seeing the holy see, especially the Sistine Chapel. I’d be happy to see any pope, I’m sure, but Pope Francis was pope when I was baptized and is part of the reason why I joined the Church. Seeing him preside over liturgy would be very special.
  2. Go on a safari: Elephants are my favorite animals. I have great respect for rhinos, giraffes, and all the many African wild life. I’ve only ever seen them at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, to see them in their natural habitat would be amazing.
  3. Scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef: The coral reefs are in really big trouble because of pollution. I’d like to see one of the greatest places of colorful diversity our planet has to offer before it disappears forever.
  4. See all 50 states: I guess I should say the 49 I don’t live in. There are so many natural wonders I’d like to see like the volcanoes of Hawaii, Niagara Falls, and the Rocky Mountains. There are also plenty of cultural wonders like Freedom Tower, Mardi Gras, and the Hollywood sign. We have a beautiful, vast, diverse country that I would love to experience.
  5. Travel Europe: London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Rome, Milan, Venice, Paris, Madrid, Prague, Amsterdam, Budapest, Barcelona, Vienna, Florence, Athens, Krakow, Stockholm, Munich, Lyon, Bucharest, Warsaw, Naples, Geneva. I want to see the art, music, architecture, and most importantly, the FOOD. Culture, language, and books, it would be so nice to get out of my little corner of the world.

These are my top five bucket list items. Have you been adventurers and done of them? Or are they on your bucket list too? I wonder how ours compare. If I ever have the spectacular opportunity to do any of these things, I will happily share the with all of you.

Have a sparkly day!

New Year’s Resolutions

It is that time of year again, the time of New Year’s Resolutions. Part of me wanted to write this last week; but then I thought, by week two, many will have already given up (unfortunately), and saving this for week two may provide you with some encouragement to stay devoted to your resolutions throughout 2017. Here are my there:target-1747236-copy

  1. Attend an extra daily Mass: I used to go to Mass everyday, lately I haven’t been as devoted to daily Mass and only doing the required Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. I know there are a few days during the week where I will be unable to attend but I’d like to make it a priority to go at least twice per week.
  2. Run a 5k: I loathe running, I always
    have. I enjoy moving and I love lifting weights, but running is not my thing. The older I get,t he more I’d like to make it part of my fitness routine. I know it will improve my heart and cardiovascular health, so I’d like to make it happen. My hometown does a Thanksgiving 5k every year so hopefully 11 months is enough time to prepare.
  3. Learn a new language: Several years ago, I started learning Italian and gave up after a couple weeks. A couple months ago, the girls at work started teaching me Spanish. I’m doing okay, but I’d like to be fluent. I’d love travel, see the world, and knowing another language would be helpful.

These are my three resolutions for this wondrous 2017. Let me know what yours are, I wonder if we have any in common.

Tips for BTR (back to reality)

Well the holiday season is over, children are going back to school, and we are traveling back from Grandma’s house. I’m a little bummed out the season is coming to a close but it is time to get back to reality. Here are my top 5 tips on how to snap back to real life:

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  1. Go to bed early. I’m sure you’ve heard, “early to bed early to rise, makes you health, wealthy, and wise.” That means going to bed early is a good start to your BTR. If you’re like me and have a tough time winding down and warming up when your schedule has been disrupted, try doing a routine. For example, take a bath an hour before bedtime, make yourself a cup of chamomile tea, do a few stretches and say your prayers. It may also help to put up some blackout curtains and turn on some white noise to help relax yourself. Now when it comes to waking up early, also have a routine and a plan for the day. For example, say your prayers, do a quick workout (10 crunches, 10 pushups, 10 squats, 10 lunges each side, 50 jumping jacks), and take an invigorating shower. Then, grab your to-do list of the day and commit yourself to completing the first three things. When you start to crash, grab a cup of green tea and keep on truckin’!
  2. Make a (realistic) to do list. I have a habit of making ridiculously long to do lists which sometimes discourage me. During this time of year, it can be detrimental to my productivity. Instead, I make a list of three things that MUS be done, three things I’d like to get done, and 3 things it would be awesome to get done. Breaking up my list this way is amazingly helpful because I will usually say to myself, the top three things must be done before 11am. That way, if I hit a wall after lunch, I haven’t set myself up for failure. Then for the rest of the list, I do something similar for 3pm and 6pm.
  3. Refresh your New Year’s Resolution. Chances are you made one and statistically speaking you’ve already given up. Well don’t! The first week is the toughest especially since we don’t go back to work and school until the second week. So renew your commitment to your resolution starting in week two.
  4. Do something new. Do something that you can get excited about: learn a new language, learn a new skill, go on an adventure to your local state park. Finding something that you fin fun and new and fresh will help you power through the dreaded transition BTR.
  5. Be patient with yourself. You may need a nap, take one. You may need to skip a day for your New Year’s Resolution, that’s okay, but get back on the bandwagon after your one free day. You may not get your top three things done on your list, that’s okay. Just realize 2017 is a long year and as long as this time next year you can look back and see the big picture of things you’ve accomplished, then you’ve done what matters. Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re only human after all.

I hope you use these 5 tips to help you rejoin society at work or school after a well deserved holiday break. My last recommendation is to remember the things you learned this holiday season. Like being thankful, not taking life for granted, spending more time with family, and the recommended internal temperature of a turkey.

I hope you have a very sparkly year!

Word Association Game

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I think word association games are so much fun! Here are 50 words I found online and my first thought about them. Please feel free to judge me for these.

1. scrap: book
2. coupon: book
3. mystery: novel
4. static: electricity
5. a place that would need volunteers: humane society
6. fallen: angel
7. lilac: purple
8. string instrument: violin
9. pepper: salt
10. archery: Katniss
11. rainforest: cafe
12. grape: strawberry
13. icy: cold
14. lucky charm: magically delicious
15. telescope: stars
16. radio station: what
17. butterscotch: candy
18. bouquet of: flowers
19. boiled: potato
20. pottery: barn
21. youngster: kiddo
22. vanilla: chocolate
23. lock: smith
24. upwards: downwards
25. legal: ly blonde
26. attire: fashion
27. register: voter
28. frothy: Starbucks
29. credit: card
30. squirrel: YES
31. shaving: cream
32. brand: new
33. furniture: couch
34. flavor: scent
35. limited: edition
36. low: cut
37. island: beach
38. card: holder
39. licorice: yucky
40. art: history
41. hall: of fame
42. contest: loser
43. opinion: piece
44. futile: hopeless
45. remarkable: amazing
46. crab: dirty
47. mischief: Loki
48. broom: stick
49. solo: so, no
50. squeamish: blood

This was so much fun and I’m definitely judging myself right now. I’d love to see your associations so put them on your blog or social media and tag me @TheGenFem.

Have a sparkly day!

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The Day for Birds

Happy Bird Day! For today’s post I’ve decided to give you a list of some of my favorite birds.

  1. Dove: I love doves because they represent the Holy Spirit. They also represent love and relationships. Aren’t they beautiful?
  2. Flamingo: I fell in love with flamingos on my first visit to Walt Disney World. They are gorgeous and PINK! This comes from the crustaceans they eat, isn’t that fascinating–and a little scary to think about what I’m eating.
  3. Blue Jay: These delightful little gems remind me of my favorite gem, the sapphire. Their blue feathers amaze me.
  4. Crows: Probably a surprising choice for this list but they remind me of Game of Thrones, so I have great respect for them.
  5. Peacock: Let me specify, the male peacock. They re so grand and boisterous, I love how they spread their feathers to attract a mate.
  6. Cardinal: As a Chicago girl, I both love and hate cardinals. On the one hand, they are the state bird of Illinois. On the other hand, the St. Louis Cardinals are a rival of the Chicago Cubs. They are beautiful and their gorgeous red color compliments the snow in early winter.
  7. Puffin: I think puffins are precious, mostly because they are like penguins that can fly! How cool is that?

Let me know which birds are your favorite, and check out the sites below about bird conservation, and have a sparkly day!

American Bird Conservancy
Bird Conservation Network
Bird Conservation Research

My Favorite Quote

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There are so many wonderful quotes out there, especially in fandom. I find myself saying this quote all the time, especially as a Catholic. There are a lot of misconceptions about people of faith. St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Saints are sinners who keep trying.” No Catholic should claim to be perfect; if we were, we would be in heaven already. Even Pope Francis, when asked who he was when he became pope, he answered, “A sinner.” We are all striving to live imperfect love with God and neighbor. This means we have to act on the light side of ourselves. The side that feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, shelters the homeless, visits the sick, visits prisoners, buries the dead, and gives alms to the poor. It is a difficult battle we all face, but it is one that must be fought.

At the same time, our culture demonizes certain subgroups: cops, black people, Muslims, etc. Again, we all have light and dark within us. Sometimes, some people, make decisions that lean toward the darkness; things like hate, greed, intolerance, violence. We often talk about how not all cops are bad or not all Muslims are terrorists. But the reality is, cops aren’t all bad, even the bad ones. Many of them have spouses and children, moms and dads. Surely someone loves them and it’s probably for a good reason. God calls us to love all people even those that have different views and circumstances.

Terrorism cannot be tolerated. Shooting unarmed people cannot be tolerated. But if we approach a conversation about how to solve our country’s problems, with love, respect, kindness, and generosity. We may be able to get things accomplished. We have to first recognize we all have light and dark inside us, but what matters is the part we choose to act on. We have to always strive to act on the light and not judge others by the dark.

The Impact of Drinking Straws

strawsToday is drinking straw day. I have have to admit my confusion when I first saw this on my Google of strange days to celebrate. I didn’t think much of it until I saw Trevor Noah’s interview with Adrian Grenier on the Daily Show a while back. He is an actor turned Hollywood environmentalist. Typically, these folks annoy me with their existential crisis about the global climate change while they fly around the world in their private jets, while the rest of us cant’ afford organic produce, but saying no to a straw is a small, simple thing I can do that can have a huge impact on the world. Here are a few of the things I learned:

  • Not all recycling facilities can handle straws. Although they are made of plastic, they aren’t labeled individually as to what sort of recycling procedure to take. Each facility determines whether they can take straws so call your local one to find out.
  • They’re only used once. When was the last time you washed and reused a plastic straw? The answer for me is never. I throw them away with my takeout cup. They can’t be put in the dishwasher because it is too hot and chemicals will release and probably give you cancer eventually.
  • They contain BPA. I remember learning about bisphenol acids which are some horrid chemical that mimics estrogen and, in high amounts, can cause infertility, sexual dysfunction, breast cancer, prostrate cancer, early puberty, and more.
  • They are made of plastic, which is notoriously bad for the environment because it takes so long to degrade. Unfortunately this means they end up contaminating natural habitats, especially the ocean. According to the Ocean Conservancy, it is in the top 10 pieces of litter found on beaches with over 600,000 picked up.
  • They are made using fossil fuels. You know, the CO2  that is killing out atmosphere causing violent storms which are killing people all around the world and causing droughts which can cause starvation. Environmentalist have been warning us about the dangers of fossil fuels for years (generations, actually), and now I find out this is how straws are being made.

Now that we know all the bad things plastic straws have to offer, let’s look at some of the lovely alternatives:

  • Just say No. When you go out to a restaurant, you can just politely refuse the offer of a straw.
  • Use a biodegradable straw like bamboo or paper. Science has brought us straws made of plants which aren’t as detrimental to our oceans because Mother Nature can break them down.
  • Use a reusable straw like glass or stainless steel which can be washed and used over and over again.

The challenges our planet faces are colossal but, with small changes to the way we all live, we can slow or even reverse our long term impact on the world. Today, use a straw alternative, or no straw at all, and share it on social media to help bring awareness to the problem with disposable plastic straws. #RefusePlasticStraws

Have a Sparkly Day!