Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Year of Jess

I'm b-aaaaaa-ckkkkkk.

Oh, by the way, I moved to Oregon.

Anywho, as many of my friend knows, August 11, 2012-August 11, 2013 (pending Mayan doomsday doesn't happen) has been proclaimed the YEAR OF JESS (Y.O.J.) (#yearofjess.  Just kidding, I don't have Twitter, but I like to speak in hashtags just so I look like I can keep up with the youngsters).

To be perfectly honest, I cannot take full credit for the Y.O.J.  My inspiration came from one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite new shows: Penny (as seen here):

Or, one could also reference the ever classic "Summer of George" a la Seinfeld:

So, what is the Year of Jess, you ask?!  This is essentially my re-invention, Jess 2.0 if you will.  For Penny, in a scene not showed in the clip above, it was about taking control of her life, making her own decisions, and doing things her way no matter what might come.  For George, it was about discovering his passions, what makes life rich, and apparently embracing literacy.

If you want to know the truth, the Y.O.J. was inspired because I came to the conclusion that I hadn't really lived.  Well, maybe only half-lived (or I only went "halfsies."  Half-speed.  0.5.  1/2.  You get the point.)  Sure, I had traveled a lot, seen a lot of cool places.  I have done a lot of fun things.  But I realized, as I approached my 27th year that 1) I only had 3 years of my twenties left: *push panic button--I got some ish to get done! and 2) I haven't taken very many risks in life.  I have played it cool, like the obedient rule-follower that has been ingrained in me for years.  I've basically always walked the straight and narrow (boring).  Where was the rebel?  Where was the Ponyboy in me from the classic novel "The Outsiders?" (yikes.  Okay, I just remembered that he murdered someone in that book, so...I was going with the rebel theme and...yikes.  How does everyone feel about The Fonz?!?)  Somewhere along the way, I had lost the girl who had no problem standing up in front of the entire school and belting out a rap about the Presidents of the United States (the father of our country, George Washington was ONE.  TWO was Thomas Adams, then Thomas Jeffer-SON).  I used to be fearless.

I don't know how it happened.  I imagine middle school had something to do with it--it has the ability to really beat the tar out of one's self-esteem.  I blame the ugly vests and barrettes I wore, but I never seemed to feel totally comfortable in my own skin until well after college...(CUE POWER THEME MUSIC).

It's no secret that I watch a lot of TV (and I totally also read a lot of books, not that I had to say that to justify myself, but I felt like I did, so...there.)  Perhaps it is because being a twenty-something and not knowing where you're going in your life is the trendy thing to write shows about, but I'm super into "New Girl", "Happy Endings", and "The Mindy Project'.  And what is the common thread about all of these shows?  Ladies who are trying to figure it all out.  But what else do these ladies have in their lives?  Confidence (and if they get beat down, they get right back up), great friends (BESTIES), and a lot of mishaps along the way (sometimes I wonder if my own life is being filmed).  And not that TV is reality (thank GOD, because I just watched a "Breaking Bad" marathon...yikes), but there is something about watching these characters and identifying with them and seeing that, as much as they stumble along the way, things turn out okay.  At the end of the day, they have people who support them and love them (and laugh at with them.  Perhaps, because in our day to day we don't see other people's lives lived out like our own, we come to believe we are alone, but when you're watching another character, interacting with the world in much the same way that you do, you realize that there is a common experience.  And there is power in that.  There were many other factors involved in proclaiming this THE YEAR OF JESS!!! but in many ways, watching these characters and reminding myself that at the end of the day, everything was going to be okay, allowed me to open up myself to the possibility of taking risks and embracing adventure (and at the end of the day, I can use all of these stories to develop an Emmy-award winning sitcom, so win win!).

So, with my move back across the country, came a desire to live as authentically as possible, tell it like it is and take risks.  For far too long, I could reason exactly why I should or shouldn't do something.  Logic was my crutch, and it was my perfectionism that kept me from trying anything or making mistakes.  (NOTE: This does not mean I am going off the deep end people--Illicit drugs are still not okay, kids!  D.A.R.E.)

This year is about finding the beauty in simplicity, delighting in the unexpected, and the discovering the art of contentment.  To SUCK THE MARROW OUT OF LIFE! (who said that?!  I know someone said that!)  It is about conquering fear and living fully. And it turns out that failing isn't quite as scary as I once thought.

Enjoy this little gem/theme song of the Year of Jess, brought to you by Rachel Berry:

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dear Clergy, Please Keep Politics Off the Pulpit

Today I went to church for the first time in a long while.  I figured that Year of Jess probably should involve some spirituality, so I decided to branch out and try a different sort of church than the one I am used to.  I settled on one in downtown Salem.  I should have worn a t-shirt to explain these things, but I wasn't sure what the dress code of the church was.  Any who, there I was, finding myself enjoying the service.  The reverence.  The connection with God.  Prayers.  And then came time for the message.  These were my thoughts through the message:

Great point!
Le Sigh.
*wants to leave service and hit head into pew.

The clergyperson had decided to insert a very pointed political statement in the middle of the service.  Dear clergymen, women, priests, fathers, sisters, pastors, etc. please leave your politics OFF the pulpit! I recognize that my own faith feeds what I believe on various political topics--we all do this.  Our faith, no matter what we believe, shapes how we see the world.  However, when I enter a church, I am there to meet with a community that celebrates God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, not the fact that they hold the same political views as I do.  Perhaps my frustration is that, when politics are delivered from the pulpit, there is no discussion.  It is a close-ended statement, and I have no ability to say, "I object!" or, "Can you explain what you mean by that?" This is not to say that I don't think politics should ever be discussed at church--not at all, but it seems that the pulpit is not an acceptable place to do so.  In my experience, I have seen countless people of faith feel like their faith is less than, because I have seen it happen repeatedly.  The pulpit, in my eyes, should be a sacred place to talk about the Holy Text--it should not dictate who I vote for, or my politics.

What do you think?  Should the pulpit be used for politics?  Where is the line between a pastor sharing their opinions about politics, and it being defined as God's law?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

London Night Bike Tour of Terror

The sky looked slightly ominous as we approached the starting point for our bicycle night ride.  I had been looking forward to this trip the most out of any of our adventures in Europe.  All my hopes and dreams of my European vacation were mounted on this bike tour!!!  All of my life's moments had been simply preparation--training camp--for this!!!

A young muscular guy with a shaved head would be our tour guide.  He greeted us, but I was unimpressed immediately with his (lack of) people skills.  He seemed cold and distant, unlike many of the tour guides I have enjoyed previously, whose charismatic personalities made me excited to be exploring my particular destination.  Wayne, Dennis, Josh, Jenny--all of them had dazzled me with local lore and history of whatever city I was in, potentially preparing me for future pub trivia games.  They had captured my heart with one cheesy pun after another. Their horrible jokes were the sort of thing that I have come to not only expect, but treasure, as a tourist, much like socks with birkenstocks, fanny packs and visors, or making the “peace” sign or giving a thumbs up in photos.  It only enhances the experience.  Our current guide failed to introduce himself, but with his thick German-sounding accent and solid build, he earned the name “Sven” in my head. 

Sven corralled all of us together.  I sat there waiting for the safety talk, the liability waivers to be signed, the instructions about how to use hand signals (which would eventually almost cause a near collision on Tower Bridge due to our lack of education), reminders of what to do if for some reason you got separated from the group, the bright reflective night gear, the helmets.  But Sven wasn’t interested in any of that, and merely offered us ponchos in case it began to rain.  This would prove to be his most thoughtful gesture, and I could tell from his seemingly cold, stand-offish presence that I was going to have to work to earn Sven's affections.  Sven’s motto seemed to be look out for yourself!!!  I am merely here to tell you facts about this city, but your survival is up to you!!!  I shrugged it off, guessing that he knew what he was doing.  As usual, I trust far more than I should.  You know how to cut hair?  If you say so, go for it!  You have car insurance?  Well, I see absolutely no need to call the police after you hit my car!  What's that?  You have a medical degree?  Slice me open, and don't use the anesthesia if you think I don't need it!  MY personal motto might as well be, “If you say so.”

Sven led us on, and we began with a beautifully scenic view of the river Themmes, where he told us about the guy who invented the sugar cube.  “It’s quite interesting really, very veird,” he said through his accent.  It seemed that Sven cut to the chase—he had no need to woo us with dazzling wordplay or delight us with his puns.  No—he called it out for what it was.  Quite interesting.  Very weird.  And that was that.  Moving on.  Chop Chop.

As we continued, it seemed that Sven had no use for any other descriptors except for “interesting” or “weird.”  The Tower Bridge.  Buckingham Palace.  The London Eye.  Cathedrals.  Puke from someone's bad night on the sidewalk.  All of it "quite interesting and very weird."  But my confidence in Sven began to waver not in his seeming inability to utilize other adjectives to describe London’s landmark and their histories (magical, beautiful, fantastic, disturbing, fascinating, illuminating, all come to mind) but in his seeming determination to ditch his tour group.  As the tour progressed, Sven seemed more and more determined to get as far away from us as possible, in fact causing me to yell at him as we raced through the crowded boardwalk along the Themmes River that we had left three quarters of our group behind.  “Hey!  Excuse me!  WE LOST THEM!” 

Unfortunately, mid way through the bike tour, this caused my near fatal experience that would cause my life to flash before my eyes.  I was already concerned about the bike tour, seeing as I didn’t have health insurance, but again, I figured that they did tours all the time, knew what they were doing, so I would be okay, right?  I had forgotten to do any sort of investigation into this alleged "bicycle tour company" to scout out their death statistics.  As we were racing through the streets of London, we had encountered a major intersection.  We all crowded together to cross, but as we began to move, all of a sudden cars began turning into those at the rear of the group, rather than giving us the right of way.  I blame our lack of reflective gear.  I quickly stopped to avoid being hit rather than crossing with the other 3/4 of the group, just in time to see a huge double decker bus looming and honking at me as it turned the corner.   Well, I thought amidst my panic, at least if I am going to die, it is going to be by the iconic vehicle used to represent London culture and not something boring like a Prius.  Additionally, at least the girth of the double decker would get the job done quickly.  I was now on the other side of the intersection, separated from everyone who had somehow gotten across, the lone gazelle waiting to be picked off by the lions.  I finally was able to speed across the intersection, stopping cars left and right, and saying my prayers, but not wanting to be left alone on the streets of London as Sven left me in the dust.  When I finally caught up with the group, I mentioned to Sven that I had almost been hit. 

“The cars were turning right into us!”  I said, panicked by my experience.

“Yeah, they don’t normally do that,” he answered matter-o-factly.

Unfortunately, this experience somewhat tainted the rest of the trip for me, as I kept envisioning my brain matter being splashed across the cobble-stoned streets of London.  It was a gruesome picture, but not a far stretch from what could quickly become my reality with one wrong taxi cab turn.  When the British papers would report my death, the headline would read, “London's iconic double decker leads to American's tragic and untimely death.”  They would interview Sven about the incident.  “It was quite interesting.  Very weird,” he would say.  He would say it in a way that was devoid of feeling.  I was just a number to him--Woman Number 4 on his little tour of terror.

I began to privately curse Sven for his seeming lack of concern about safety and regulations, but it was difficult to be angry with him through all the glory that London at night has to offer.  The city was alive, dressed to impress in radiant colors to celebrate the Olympics that were opening that day.  Tower Bridge was breath taking, moderately reminding me of Cinderella's castle in Disney Land.    Fireworks lit the night sky in celebration of the Opening Ceremonies that evening, and projected images of great British athletes illuminated Buckingham Palace.  The sites were breath-taking, which was ironic in the sense that I had nearly taken my last breath only a half hour or so ago.  Seeing London at night via bike was perhaps one of the most magical moments of my life, and very much worth the near death encounter to see it.  It was a very interesting experience.  Quite weird, really.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Europe Here We Come!

Hi friends! My family and I are headed to Europe:you can follow our trip here! Cheerio!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jesus Gets Sassy

Every year around my birthday, time I log onto Facebook, I reflect on my life and where it's going.  Perhaps this is because I am in the middle of the waiting game, and I think things to myself like, "Wo, wo is me, where am I headed?!  Who am I?!"  Boohoo Jess.  Get a grip.  I used to reflect annually around these sorts of issues, especially through my mid-twenties.  What did I accomplish this year?  Where am I going?  Who am I becoming?  What were my values?  But it turns out that being in your twenties is a whole tangled mess of shoddy surface-y comparisons  (I blogged about this last year).  Career?  Check.  Relationship Status: Married: Check.  House or at least an apartment in the cool side of the city?  Check?  Traveling the world?  Check.  When we think about other people's lives, we might not pause to think about the quality of that check mark, or we might not have seen the trials and tribulations that came with it.

And every time I log onto Facebook, I am inundated with what everyone else is doing, or what everyone else has, and its easy to get caught up in the gaps.   I find that my unhappiness typically comes with whatever it is that I don't have at the moment, even if its a glass of red wine.  I log onto facebook, and someone has posted of picture of their delicious meal COMPLETE WITH RED WINE.  Well now I'm pissed.  That's a terrible example, but it could be that I'm lonely and I want friends, or a relationship, or a cool job, or a neat place to live, or a new car, or I need a vacation and I can't afford one or I'm too busy.  Take your pick.  And even if I have 4 out of 5 of those things, or even if the very fact is that I have clean water to drink, I focus on the few things that others have that I don't.

Because inevitably, I suffer from relative depravation.

Relative depravation is this crazy phenomenon where, when in comparison with others, we tend to look at what we DON'T have, verses all of the things we DO have--we compare upwardly verses downwardly.  Case in point: Facebook friend Amber (I don't think I have any friends named Amber, so I think this will work) got a cool job.  You sit and think to yourself, "But I want a cool job too!  This whole cleaning telemarketing thing is for the birds!  I'm tired of people screaming at me!"  Meanwhile, we might not sit around and compare ourselves to the gargantuan amount of people who are job-less.  And even being unemployed, I'm thinking more about the fact that I don't have a job, not so much thinking that I'm not homeless or have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.  Maybe we get a 40 percent discount on the things the telemarketing company sells, but we want the 50 percent discount our friend at another company gets, but we don't compare ourselves to our friends who get nothing at all.  It's a whole new meaning to the "count your blessings" saying.  The analogies are endless.  We are a nation that is always in want, and it seems our proverbial appetite is never whetted.  It's very exhausting.  The woes of the privileged middle class I suppose.

I love this little bit at the end of the book of John in the Bible, because Jesus gets really sassy with the disciples, and in my non-Christian script he screams at them or maybe uses some unsavory language (I hope that's not blasphemous).  He's giving all of the disciples a pep talk, you know, telling them "Follow Me!"  And of course Peter, being the complainer that he is (I feel like I would be the Peter of the group, and no one wants to admit that), is like, "Hey Jesus, what about John?  What's going to happen to him?"  And Jesus says, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You must follow me." (v. 22).  WAKE UP CALL PETER JESS.  Ouch.  Get your life together and stop comparing yourself to everyone else!!!  He says.  I guess things haven't changed much since 33 A.D.  I don't mean to sound preachy, but the parallels are just too strong.

I imagine Jesus told Peter to butt out of John's business, because God had something specific to teach each of them, things that they and they alone needed to hear.  Maybe, later on, their stories would overlap, and they might need to share an experience to help the other along, but maybe it would always be something that remained between Peter and God or John and God (this article I read got me thinking).  So many of our stories are very interconnected, and I love and use Facebook for the same reasons a lot of other people do.  It's not a bad thing, it's just a different entity than we have ever experienced before.  I imagine its just a new and easier way to compare, but comparison in and of itself is nothing new (I feel like I'm better understanding the reasoning behind the whole "Thou Shalt Not Covet" thing).  Perhaps so much of it is looking not at what others are doing and I'm NOT doing, but how other's own stories might seek to inspire me, change me, and move me to achieve my own dreams (which I shall promptly post on Facebook! :)

What do you think?  Has this been your experience with Facebook?  What are you thankful for?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Quinoa Muffins!

The best part about being fun-employed is that I get to enjoy the fun of baking.  And boy, do I love to bake (and eat my product!).  I've been really into quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) as of late--and it turns out its kind of a "trendy" food right now (or at least I've been hearing a lot about it, but maybe its selective observation?).  It's sort of like rice (at least you make it the same way), but it has more of a nutty flavor to it--it's nice to mix it up every once and awhile, and it's also chalk full of good things for you.  Woo!  It turns out quinoa is very versatile and can be used in everything from black bean burger patties (dee-lish!) to baked goods!  So I thought I would give it a whirl!  I called upon good ol' Martha for some help (here's the link):


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cook's Note

Be careful not to overcook the quinoa or to use more than the required amount of water. The grains of quinoa should be tender but separate, rather than mushy and clumped together.

Of course I HAD to make this recipe my own though-Martha just gave me the jumping off point.  I cut out the raisins (not a fan), and I wanted CHOCOLATE in my muffins!  I made the mistake, which actually turned out to be awesome, of adding chocolate chips when the quinoa was still hot.  Of course, it melted all together, making chocolate muffins instead of non-chocolate muffins with chocolate chips in them.  I also didn't have vanilla, so I replaced it with almond extract--so I got a DELICIOUS chocolate almond flavor.  My poor mom better get one before they're gone! :)

It turns out there are TONS of variations of quinoa muffins as you can only imagine, including lots of vegan varieties if you are interested in that (this chocolate avocado one looked particularly dee-lish).

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Just an FYI that in just a week in a half I will be going to (drum roll) LONDON for the OLYMPICS (I suppose it would have been good to follow sports this year.  I only know who Michael Phelps is from the Subway commercials, so my hope of celebrity sightings might prove more difficult).  So get ready for some kick ass photo collages when I get back!

On the docket:

1. Field hockey/basketball tickets for the Olympics
2. Eating lots of food
3. Bike tour of London at night (note to self: check up on health insurance benefits.  Not so fun.)
4. Paris--The Eiffel Tower!  Croissants!  Thin moustaches, berets and snobbery (stereotype much?!)!!!!!
5. Ireland!  Tour of the Guinness factory and the Jamison whiskey factory! (Matt: "Be sure to pack your extra liver.")  I think we are also touring a castle and kissing the Blarney stone.  WOOT!

I'm going to strap on my welleys, pull up my knickers and get ready to eat a lot of fish an' chips!!  Blimey ho, Brits, here I come!