Sunday, January 30, 2011

Try Something New: Hot Yoga

I actually tried two new things this week, Hot Yoga being the second. Yesterday, we headed to the West Hartford Yoga club (WHY for short--or Why not?!) who was having their grand opening and providing free yoga classes all day, and I'm always up for a free class. What's Hot Yoga you ask? I asked the same thing. It's yoga in a hot room. Why would anyone in their right mind do that you ask? I asked the same thing. Because it gets all the toxins out of your body and boy do you feel g-o-o-d (so I'd heard from those that did it)! I opted to wear a tank top and some shorts, and this seemed like a reasonable decision being that I knew I was going to be hot. By the way, I hate being hot, so I don't know why I decided that this would be a good idea in the first place, but I'm game for anything, so why not? Anyways, as I looked around at all the members in the class, I couldn't help notice that many of them were dressed in long yoga pants, and some in full t-shirts. Many were carrying towels. Why are all these people so fully dressed? Did they know that they were coming to Hot Yoga? They're going to be hoootttt--suckers I thought. As the class began, I soon realized that I was the sucker. The sweat poured out of my body, creating something resembling a slip and slide on my mat--and with no material to absorb it, I was slipping all over the place. The t-shirt I was wearing over my tank top quickly turned into a makeshift towel as I tried to keep from taking a spill as I went into my Warrior 2 pose. I somehow managed to make it through class, but by the end I resembled someone who had been thrown into a pool, and I felt somewhat out of place knowing that there was foot upon foot of snow outside--I think if I would have gone and jumped into a snow bank there would have been a Jess-shaped hole into it following a sizzling sounds as my body would have surely melted it.

Try Something New--Ethiopian Food

Oh gracious. I'm not really one for eating a variety of worldy varieties of food (as in ethnic food)--I tend to stick fairly close to your average Mexican dishes--I've had Chinese food, but tend to stay away from it now that I'm a vegetarian, and things got REALLY crazy when I started eating sushi. And I love pizza. But that's about as global as it gets. So when I mentioned that I was attempting to try something new this week a coworker asked if I'd ever eaten Ethiopian food and I said "Nay!" So, we traveled down to gun wavin' New Haven (I guess there's a lot of crime there) and sampled a DELISH Ethiopian platter. Lentils! Collard Greens! Carrots! Potatoes! A vegetarian's Heaven in New Haven! The best part--you get to eat with your hands--I don't know why I didn't see more kids in that restaurant. You get this bread that looks like a mix of a pancake/crepe, and you use that to pick up your food (you can see if slightly in my picture). I hope my adventures come out this delicious every week!

Boy-C not Boy-Z

Get it?! Having lived in Boise, Idaho for a number of years, I can immediately tell an outsider when they say "oh, Boy-zee?" That's an "S" folks, not a "Z." You can imagine my pleasure when I stumbled upon this post card by local artist Ward Hooper (above) as the pronunciation of my city's name has been a point of contention between me and outsiders at many times. Read 'em and weep. Read 'em and weep.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it STOP!

BRING IT ON, SNOW! Actually, I'm over it...I spent 45 minutes digging my car out of its parking spot, which then got stuck maybe I'm okay for now...but I did enjoy the three snow days and the late starts...I'm so conflicted as to my allegiance to you!

Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what we've been putting up with around here. All 54 inches of it...

Pre-snowball fight...when we were all friends...

War begins.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Try Something New: Learn to Jump a Car

I fell upon my TRY SOMETHING NEW for the week today when one of the RA's needed help a) pushing her car out of the parking spot it was in because it was dead and b) jump starting it. Now, I'll admit, I am indeed a woman who knows very little about cars (I fall into the stereotype in this way, bleh) much to the chagrin of my father, however I have learned more and more since owning my own card, thanks to this same father. Today, opportunity knocked, and I answered. Another RA and I headed out to the snowy parking lot, and took a look at the situation. I knew enough that the car should be in neutral, and we all got in front and...started pushing. The snow presented even more of the problem, as it kept building up behind the wheels (did I mention Connecticut has received FIFTY FOUR INCHES?!). However, we finally got the little bugger out of the spot, and I only took a bad spill on some black ice once. I felt so very successful, and then the plow guy who drove buy offered to show us how to jump the car. So, I learned! I'm one step closer to being completely self-sufficient when it comes to automobiles! Take that Valvoline guys who rip me off and charge me $55 for an oil change! In your FACE!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Do Something New!

I've been reading the book "The Happiness Project." The book isn't really that great to be honest with you, but I tried to see the silver lining anyways. There were certainly aspects that I enjoyed as far as new ideas of things I could do to jazz up my own life and make things more interesting. The academic side of me loathed it, as the author kept writing "studies show" and then didn't cite ANYTHING, and there was definitely an unacknowledged white middle class viewpoint. Blech. Damn you sociological imagination!!! (and yet I love you!) Her whole point of the book (I think, sometimes it got lost) was that we should challenge ourselves, and savor the simple joys of life and work. I will say that this past year or so I've really learned to take in the pleasures of simple things--riding my bike, reading, a great latte, walking around Whole Foods and finding the newest green thing, going to the library, playing games with friends, etc. According to Gretchin Rubin (author of aforementioned book), I'm pretty happy. The thing about me though is that I tend to stick to what I know, and it's not that I don't branch out, but it's not my first inclination. I was telling my friend Beth today (as we sat in a new found coffee shop) that I need something for this blog to be ABOUT. I like when people have challenges that they are pursuing, and they journal about them along the way, or ones where they say, go to various bakeries and then write about the best one. We decided a good goal might be to blog about something new that we do once a week. So there, that's it! My goal is to make more of a habit of exploring all of the exciting things that the East Coast has to offer. Whether its something as simple as trying a new drink, or as extravagant as going to get acupuncture, I will make an attempt to try something new...and tell you about it of course! It's those little moments that make life so worth it.

Unbenownst to me, I actually did TWO new things this week. Hookah and yoga (I feel so relaxed!). Yoga might be my new thing--I'm not quite sure. As I was standing in the "Warrior" petition I thought to myself "this is so easy!" Ha ha ha Mr. Yoga laughed at me--just you wait! Halfway through I started sweating like one of the perps on Law and Order:SVU. And I left relaxed, rejuvinated...and sore (well, at least the next day or two). And hookah was...erm. Interesting. I mean I guess if you like smoking things I suppose it might be for you, but I looked anything but classy as I took a deep break and nearly hacked up a lung upon my exhale. I did enjoy the atmosphere though--lounge-y couches and good conversation. At least I tried, right?

These are some ideas that the RA's and I came up with that I might pursue:
*Belly Dancing (one of the RA's is doing a program on this--I'LL BE THERE!)
*Spinning Class
*Run a 5K (on my goals list anyways)
*Try a new restaurant (Whole Foods Guy suggested a vegan one in Middletown I want to go to. He also told me it is legal to be nude there and is teeming with sounds very similar to Seattle.)
*Visit a new city
*Try online dating (only go on one date...not in hopes of meeting anyone, just to say I did it. Something tells me it would provide me with good blog material. Rule is after one date the profile IMMEDIATELY comes down!)
*Bake a new kind of cupcake
*Full body massage
*Dye my hair a new color
*Get a tattoo?!
*Give someone my phone number (I only have ever done this once, and it wasn't even to the guy's face, so I don't know if that counts. That might be like Month 8 before I get up the courage to do it)
*Go to an 80's club
*Learn to knit

Got any more suggestions?

People For Bikes

I love riding my bike. L-O-V-E loooovvveee it! (See when I bought my bike: HERE). The benefits of cycling are endless, the top of the list being good for your bod, reduces road congestion, and it reduces your carbon footprint. I'm getting a little stir crazy, as the snow has dumped foot upon foot upon us, severely deterring my ability to ride my bike. Anywho, what I'm REALLY asking you to do is sign this petition to make things better for bikers everywhere:

Reasons you should sign this petition:
1. It's SUPER easy--it took me about 30 seconds!
2. One of the biggest ways to make a change in the world is by being politically active and signing petitions!
3. The goal of the petition is for the government to make things safer for bikers (like me!) everywhere--YOU could help make that happen!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Goodbye for now...

Yesterday was a sad day. We said goodbye to one of our friends here at SJC. His name was Mike, and he was one of the Adventure Education guys here at the college. I can't really even describe the experience of participating in a Mike and Justin (his coworker) training session. They did a lot of team building, ropes course, all sorts of activities to get students (and staff and faculty) involved in their teams and community, inspiring them to take a different perspective, challenge each other, and look at each other and life differently. Time and time again, they were the highlight of student leader training. And you really couldn't have known two more stellar guys. Mike passed away suddenly on Friday, and I have not felt such a great deal of sadness in such a long time. Sadness for his family and coworker Justin. Sadness for the students that will never get to experience his wisdom, and all those who got to, but will now feel the void of his presence.

I'm reading this book called "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. The book is about how social movements spread, and one of the essential ingredients are people called "Connectors." These are people who know everyone and easily connect with others. Their networks are widespread, their roots run deep. I think Mike was a Connector. Every week he'd inevitably ask me, "So, what'd you think of Glee?" I know he asked me this because he knew this is how he could connect with me. We'd often shoot the breeze about television or pop culture, he offering his opinion (which was usually quite similar to mine.) What I cannot help but think is that his connections were so widespread and he impacted and interacted with so many, the loss to our community is truly unprecedented. Within a matter of hours on Friday morning, before it was even publicly announced, facebook was filled with condolences. I had talked to a student over the phone later that day and she said, "I heard about Mike." The hole is too big to be filled.

At the same time I feel so tremendously indescribably blessed (and perhaps undeserving) because his last day on earth he did training with Justin for the RA staff. As Justin said yesterday, he got to spend his last day doing what he absolutely loved--his work. We were the last group who got to experience the "Mike and Justin Show." The focus of the training was talking about how to change your thinking, how to take something seemingly negative and look at it positively. Both Mike and Justin lived this principle--you could sense the genuineness and positivity in them both--their care for students and their thirst for fun. I remember sitting through training thinking, "They are so great. I have so much to learn from them." In the midst of this tragedy I tried to think about the positive, as Mike would surely ask me to do. While I would of course never wish this tragedy to ever have happened, I cannot help but think about how, even in death, Mike will teach so many how to truly live, just like he did.

All yesterday, when we learned the news, I couldn't help but think how we never really know how much time we have left, how important it is to express your thankfulness to those you love, how little time there is for hate and pettiness, and the importance of making other's lives better. I only had the privilege of knowing Mike a year and a half, but I will savor those moments with him and the wisdom that he shared with me. I'm so sad that I will not get to experience more of that, but as Tamara said, his work here on Earth was finished, and God wanted him for some reason we cannot see. I have a feeling he is having a great time up in heaven, and is probably looking at all us crying folks and thinking, "I don't know why you're so sad! It's a hoot up here!" Someone said maybe he was on a heavenly ropes course. I suggested he is probably playing a practical joke on Jesus, but that would be hard to do because of the whole omnipotent thing, but I'll bet Jesus would probably just laugh and play along.

Mike, thank you for all you taught our community. You will be missed--but I am positive you will continue to live on through all of those you have touched. Though your life was shorter then so many of us would have liked, I have a feeling you did a whole lot of living in those years. I hope we can all learn to do the same.

"Praise be to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

Well, I've been in Boise for three weeks now (HOLLA long A VACAYYYY!!!), and I depart tomorrow. It's been amazing to say the very least. Leisurely strolls with Mom and Cooper (See our new dog!). Playing cards with the Kastma family. Small vacation to Portland. Coffee at Rembrandts and The Flying M. Dancing the night away with friends. You know. And I've loved every minute of it. This vacation has made me appreciate Boise much more then I ever did as an ungrateful teenager (how did no no ever slap me upside the head and tell me to get over myself!?). Maybe it's because most of the stores and restaurants I frequented were all about sustainability and buying local, as there seems to be a burgeoning push in this direction--and these things always excite me (easily pleased). I'm not sure if Boise was like this when I was in high school, and I never noticed it, or if it's recently grown this way--or maybe a little bit of both. Or maybe it's simply that I've learned to take pleasure in those "small" things--these are the things life is made of after all. As my neighbor and I sat over our cups of coffee--he with a mocha and I with a latte--we discussed what it means to be truly happy. How do you find that peace in the midst of the chaos that is life--between the demands of job, family, friends, meaning? I think I'm discovering the answer to that more and more--it is taking pleasure in those simple things--the foam on your latte (yes--it was REALLY that good), the joy of talking with a friend, delighting in a book, the leisure of sleeping in late when you can, being still. Maybe this trip hasn't been so much about Boise itself, but about slowing down, re-evaluating where I'm going and why, and taking some time to breathe.

I suppose there's a reason they call it "The Gem State" and also a reason why I live in the "Treasure Valley."

What's Been Cooking in MY Kitchen?!

THESE little gems:

Mouth watering.

See: Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Bars: You won't be disappointed (except you should actually make the butter room temperature and not think that all those chunks of butter will sort of melt and just "work themselves out"...rookie baking mistake. Sometimes I think this is how I live my life...). I cut the recipe in half, because these bad girls are RICH! You might look at the picture and think, " looks slightly appetizing." YOU WOULD BE W-R-O-N-G. Try to stick with that New Year's resolution with these in your cupboard! Go on! I dare you!!! You can send me a note of appreciation for making your life ten times better because I introduced you to this recipe!

STILL one of the most memorable desserts I've ever had. MMMMM GOOD!!!

Flying M Coffee

This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Best. Foam. Ever.
Vanilla. Coconut. Latte.
And good company=even better!
Need I say more?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Follow that Blog!

Follow my friend Amanda's blog! She always finds the COOLEST stuff! I don't know how she finds these things! She's like a sleuth when it comes to finding anything green or crafty! She's how I know about half the things I know (does that sentence make sense...?)

Off to ride my bike to the mall to recycle my ipod! What a green day! :)

Two Things I Didn't Know About Recycling

I know, I know, you'd think I would know everything there is to know about recycling, right?! Well, you would be horribly wrong. I mean, really horribly wrong. But now I know two more things about this splendid third R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle):

1. Nike recycles running shoes! In general I hate Nike. They have been added to my list of Stores I Boycott along with Forever 21, Wal Mart and Abercrombie and Fitch, mainly because of terrible labor practices. But they've gained a few points back in my book because it turns out you can recycle your old running shoes there! Yes, you can drop them in a bin, and they will turn them into astro turf or a new indoor track or something like that. Neat! Learn more here:
2. You can recycle your old ipod or laptop at the Apple store! And get 10 percent of a new pod! And I checked out their recycling vendor and they make sure that the parts are safely disposed off, not shipped off to another country where the people in said country are exposed to all sorts of dangerous toxic chemicals (BLEH). Anyways, I'll be peddling off to the Apple store tomorrow to drop off my old non-working ipod. AND if you recycle your laptop Apple might give you a gift card! Coolio! Learn more here:

People That Change You

I've been thinking a lot lately about the people in my life and how they've changed me. How some of them were a friend to me in just the right time, listened to me in a time of need, or said something I desperately needed to hear, even when they didn't know it. The fact is, people don't always know how they've changed us--what they've taught us or how they've helped us. And that stinks. I mean, imagine a world where people actually know how great they are--don't you think they'd stretch themselves even further and do even more great things if they knew that they mattered and that their actions counted?! I'd like to think so. I guess I've been thinking about this because recently some close family friends had their grandmother pass away--I knew their grandmother and she was absolutely wonderful and taught me a lot about what it means to have faith. Plus she was a really good card player. But it gets me thinking--why did I never tell her those things when she was alive on earth--and why do we wait until the funeral for the eulogy? I've been running out of blog material lately, mainly because I've been holed up in my apartment writing graduate school essays. My goal is to feature a snippet about people who have changed me, and the ways that they have. Maybe it's overly sentimental, and maybe it's not. But I'd like to people to know what they mean NOW. Granted, I have SO many people that have been good to me, loved me because of and in spite of all my flaws that there really is no way to get to all of them, but for now I'll do the best I can. It will take awhile and I can't possibly get to everyone, but I'll do my best!!! Maybe those people I write about will inspire all of us in some way...who knows?!

Today I shall start with: My mom.

This probably seems entirely obvious, but is in no way any less understated. If I began to list the ways that my mother supports me and loves me, well, it'd be enough to write an entire book about. I mean that list would be LOOOONNNGGGG. I think when I was 13 or so for Mom's Day I wrote a list of "50 reasons I love My Mom." I typed it out on our 1997 computer--it was so hot. That list was created when I was 13, so you can imagine how that little monster has grown since then, as I'm now the ripe old age of twenty-freaking-five. Let me begin though: the other day while trying to clear out a bunch of the clutter in my old room, I came across a letter my mom had written me when I went off to college. It brought tears to my eyes. This being because in general, I tend to think of myself as pretty horrible sometimes (i.e. selfish, prone to moodiness, too busy to slow down sometimes, you know, the basics of horribleness), but this letter reminded me that someone always loves me even in the midst of all my flaws. This means a lot, and I think is essential to human survival and health. The thing about parents is that they see EVERYTHING--not when you're your fun bee boppin' self in front of your friends--they see you in the midst of your brooding teenage years, your bad days, your temper tantrums--all of it, and they still, for some reason not only love you, but keep on giving. I don't get it. And frankly, if I had a child that was anything like myself (especially the younger version of me), I'd probably run in the other direction (did I mention that I was a PILL, and on top of that fact talked absolutely INCESSENTLY. It was grim). I suppose stories are always more illustrative of a person's character, but take this example: My brother couldn't come home for Christmas this year. He works at a certain company that did not allow him to take time off on the 24th and 26th because evil capitalism exploits workers but that's besides the point, and Christmas was sandwiched right in the middle. Lovely. There would be no "I'll Be Home for Christmas" dressing up like Santa Claus like that Jonathan Taylor Thomas movie--he was bunkered down in Portland until the 27th. When my mom found this out, she said, "This will not do!" She called me immediately, wanting to know if I thought it would be a good idea to surprise him in Portland, and I could tell how excited she was. And that's exactly what we did. We showed up, got a hotel, and had Christmas in Portland--and it was one of my favorite Christmases to date. Really. But this is a picture of my mom--she'll do anything to help anyone out, be it surprising Matt in Portland, making dinner for the neighbors, doing art projects for the church, LOVES finding the perfect gift for someone (maybe that's where I get it?!) whatever needs to be done. And the same goes for me--she's there to talk when I need it, she sends me care packages (my favorite!), always loves me--I hope that I can reciprocate some day. Plus, she exposed me to Bon Jovi AND took me to my first (and second! and third!) JBJ concert! Too fun! Anyways, thanks Mom, I can't list all the things you've done for me, but know I appreciate them, I hope I'm as good of a person as you are someday!!!

Matt, Mom and I in Boston
My hands are oddly placed.


I've been reading some fun blogs about minimalist lifestyles (see: or as well as some great books about living a greener life ("Green Chic: Saving the Earth in Style" by Christie Matheson, "It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth Friendly Living" by Crissy Trask and "The Green Book" by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen). These books, combined with other life events, have all gotten me thinking about who I am, who I want to be and how I'm going to get there. A lot of people probably think I'm a hippie because I've been really into environmentalism the past oh...year or so, and that's fine with me because if I'm going to be associated with peace and love then thumbs up (though I realize the stereotype of a hippie comes with a lot of other images, but we're all about breaking stereotypes around here so...), and maybe some just think I'm a nag. But I guess all that to say, and I've said it before and I'll say it again, I care about these things (i.e. social change, poverty, the environment, gender issues, sociology) because 1) I believe in responsibility, especially as a Christian, and 2) I'm a firm believer that if we don't do something now it's all going to come back around and bite us in the ass. Plus, it's fun and interesting! It really comes down to what I want to be known for I suppose. I don't say this to be pretentious, I say it because I really believe it's true, and vitally important. I want meaning. With all of that in mind, I've been re-visioning my future and where I want to go. What that comes down to is breaking down who I want to be which is a person who cares about others and the world around her. I hope to teach others about living out their passions and using them to make things better. I'd say I've figured out my passion (Sociology), but the application part can be super hard sometimes (it's so much easier to sit on your butt!). But there are tons of people to meet and help, and our world is too small to not do something (anything!!!). I often think about the accomplishments of others--the things they've done to help others and I want to be like that too. Thusly, I've thought over my goals for the next year: I figure I'd start small, and work my way up to something big.

1. Buy less, and only the necessities (this will reduce my environmental impact, and the amount of trash I produce, also will try to reuse what I have before buying more)
2. Call companies to tell them to STOP SENDING ME JUNK MAIL (too many trees and too much waste!)
3. Use an eco-friendly option if available

2011 GOALS:
1. Run a 5K for some sort of charity
2. Cycle! (Mom and I have been thinking of bike riding from Seattle to Portland--wouldn't that be neat-o?!)
3. V-o-l-u-n-t-e-e-r. This one can be a challenge with the nature of my job and its unpredictability (i.e. being on call a lot), but it's necessary: I think I'll start small (maybe twice a month) and hopefully work my way up to a bigger time commitment
4. Encourage, encourage, encourage the people around me (spending more time writing letters, tell more people "thanks!")
5. Talk to someone I love/write someone a letter at least once a week (this can be hard when things get busy)

OTHER GOALS (the "eventuallys"):
1. Get my PhD! Become a professor and teach super awesome and engaging classes and inspire the lives and minds of students everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2. Publish an article
3. Get thee to Italy!
4. Take a West Coast bike tour (maybe with my brother; he's an avid cyclist)
5. I'm not sure, but I want to organize something BIG. I've thought about ways to do this: i.e. organizing a trip for students to help alleviate poverty when I become a professor or something like that. I'm still waiting on what that's "supposed" to be...