Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Evolution of Christmas--Miller Style

As a tribute to what is known as the "Christmas Season," I celebrate with a look back at the days of yore filled with holiday merriment.
We've been doing the ugly sweaters since the 90's--I don't know why it took everyone else so long to catch up.
I was NOT going to be cold.
Awkward family photo and personalized sweatshirt! YES!
I think this one says, "This shit is LEGIT!!!"
Hipster from the beginning.
(Below)...The evolution of my relationship with Santa...
Santa distracts me with a candy cane so I don't realize that it's weird that I'm in the lap of a strange old white guy.
I just figured it out.
Santa and I display mutual contempt for each other.
What's that? You give me PRESENTS?! You're not weird, strange old man!!! You give me stuff! Let's be friends.
I'll have an American Girl doll, a Barbie, a Nintendo, Super Mario Bros. 3 and one of those cars that you can actually drive.

Merry Christmas Eve from Portland, OR!

Greetings to you from Portland, OR which apparently, according to the picture on your left is the "City of Roses." Learn something new every day. From the City of Trees (Boise), to the City of Roses. Whatever city I live in, it smells delicious. Anyways, it has been a blast being on break, as you can imagine. As you know, my mother has moved to the Salem area, so this has been a break outside of the norm. My time in the Salem/Portland area has been filled with delicious food, coffee, wine tasting (Um, had a glass out of a $1400 bottle of wine. No big deal), bike riding, jogging, dog-walking, friend-seeing (BFF Holly), cookie baking, over-consumption of TV and Pinterest (it feels so right...yet so wrong...) and good ol' fashioned "hoopla" (you may use your imagination about what this means). Today, my brother and I were reunited, sharing in a long and varied conversation involving gender, trans-evaluation, and Seinfeld. Rich. Also, POWELL'S.

If you do not know about Powell's, well it is just about one of my favorite places to be, though it can be a bit overwhelming, if you want to know the truth. It is the world's largest independent bookstore, and it is a full city block. I think they have one million books, or some unimpressive number like that. The store is literally so large that it is divided into different sections, each a different color--like a rainbow of literacy. The reason I feel overwhelmed is mainly due to having essentially an unlimited amount of options. Do I want to read about L.A. Gang culture? A guy's trip across America? How to start my own business? Or perhaps how to work less and earn more money? Maybe I want to learn about the lifespan of a jaguar, or how to begin a career in parrot-raising. Whatever the subject, Powell's has a book for you. My personal favourite (I wanted to spell it the British way. This seems like such a classy way to spell "favorite") is the Purple Section, because it is the Sociology and Feminist section, and it also has the bathroom and drinking fountain, definitely making it stand out amongst all the other colours (British again!). A strong second place is the Orange section which offers a copious amount of books on sustainability. Ironically un-green because of all of the paper. You could essentially camp out here and not have to move for hours (unless you want something to eat, in which case you could go to the wonderful little cafe downstairs). I've contemplated hiding out in there after they close down the store, just like Natalie Portman's character does in Wal-Mart in the movie Where the Heart Is, however I can now never do this because I have publicly published this statement, and they will use this evidence against me in court. Powell's is an exciting place to truly experience Portland culture at its finest, and I saw some people with some amazing beards. As you can tell by the below picture, you know that anywhere that appears to have a perpetual issue with rollerbladers (since they needed to post it on a sign) is definitely a place where I want to spend my time.

Anyways, that is all for now. I have been thinking about other things, so I imagine I will write about those things in the near future. As they whisper ever so subtly in Wham's "Last Christmas" (Merry Christmas!) (Go listen to that song, and you will see what I'm talking about). Also, Happy belated Festivus!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Dear friend,
Hello! And the happiest of holidays to you! This year, in an effort to go green, my "gift" to you is this rocking Holiday blog in lieu of the traditional holiday card!!!
Remember to not be a scrooge and give a lot to others this year.
And make sure to spread a lot of Christmas-y cheer!
So the merriest of holidays to you, with love from West Hartford!
So I imagine this is the part where I tell you about my very exciting 2011 and all the cool things that happened to me. I feel very grown up having my own Holiday Blog, let me tell you think that having a holiday blog means that you're well on your way to making it as an accomplished adult? Probably. Definitely. Anyways, this year I started my third year as a Residence Coordinator at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, CT (and yes, I have an official school blog!). I took some Master's Classes this semester and got smarter. I ran a 5k. I finally saw "Wicked!" I survived Mother Nature including a huge snow storm, a hurricane, and a blackout (Climate Change is not a joke!). I discovered new obsessions in the form of black bean brownies, pinterest, and "Happy Endings." I met new friends. I traveled to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Vermont, Cleveland, New Hampshire, Sturbridge (Massachusetts), various places in Connecticut, Seattle, Portland, and Boise (home!). I won the lottery and had three children. Oh wait, that did not happen, that is a TV show and instead of three kids there are three sisters and they were known as "The Kardashians." Back to reality--real reality, not their reality. But I got your attention didn't I?! That would have been fun to have won the lottery. Probably not the 3 children though.

OK, but on a serious note, 2011 has really been a great year in so many ways. While there were hard times and lessons learned, there were also so many moments to be thankful for. There were amazing memories with some wonderful people who have changed me in so many ways, and I am so thankful for all that God has given me (it sounds cliche but it is true!). I was blessed with new friends, as well as I had the good fortune to keep building and deepening my relationships with others. My heart is filled with gratitude, laugher, and thanks, and I hope that 2012 brings you the same (unless the world ends. That might put a damper on things).

I'm looking forward to an exciting year ahead. My parents have moved to Salem, Oregon, so I will be spending most of the holiday season/summer in a new location exploring new places! I will am also excited to see Darren Criss in "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," with my friend Amanda, going to the Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont, eating at Bon Jovi's restaurant in Jersey, seeing Washington, D.C. and running up the Rocky steps in Philly, AND I am going to the 2012 Olympics in LONDON with my family! It's OK to be jealous. Get ready Europeans--the Miller/Troxell clan is coming! And we like pubs!!!

To all my West Coast friends, I miss you dearly! To all my East Coast friends, I am so happy I have gotten to know you these past 2.5 years!

I leave you with this final Christmas gift. Oh, and this one via my friend Beth, just to get you in the holiday spirit! Enjoy! Happy 2012!

Love, Jess

Monday, December 12, 2011


Today I found myself thinking back to a moment a few months ago that I was completely embarrassed about. Disappointed in myself, really. Not my shining moment. I immediately shoved it right back to the place that it came from...locked in a filing cabinet somewhere back deep inside my brain that only Jesus and I have access to. The fact is, I tend to be a fairly nostalgic person, so I frequently visit the past, and "getting over things" can be outside of my abilities, if you want to know the truth. I can find myself drifting back to the days of yore (cerca 1995), or perhaps my college years--you know, the good times. The days when I was footloose and fancy free, not a care in the world I say! Or so I might think. I think back to my childhood, the days before having to do taxes, search for a job, and all I had to do was play with my rollerblade Barbie and watch the sparks come out of her inline skates ( I'm writing this, I'm beginning to wonder if this was the safest toy for a child to's a miracle I am alive).

And when I think back on my past, even those years I associate with complete euphoria--those years that you think, "these are the things life was made for!"--I realize that they have been conveniently edited of the hard times. Because upon further examination and honest reflection, I realize there are quite a few embarrassing moments (oh my GOODNESS am I so glad that blogs were not the mainstream when I was a teen...the private journals are embarrassing enough), moments of great sadness, trials, tribulations, heartbreak and heartache, disappointments with myself, frustrations and fights with friends and family. And I find myself trying to brush these more painful memories off. There are things that I have done that I am not proud of, hurtful words I've said, moments that I'd rather leave in the past, buried somewhere deep and secretive. Because they might just expose me for all that I am, and that is something I'd just as soon keep dark and hidden, locked away for no one else to see.

Because the thing is that in so many ways, these are the memories that I need to embrace. That I need to reframe into something beautiful, because these times, just as much as the happy ones. The fights, those mistakes, the disappointments, these are the things that have made me who who I am, as well as shaped the deep, meaningful, beautiful friendships that I have today. I am a mess, and whether any of us want to believe that about ourselves or not, it's really by the grace of God that I have any of the wonderful people that I do in my life. Donald Miller writes about living a good story, and the thing is, living a good story means that you cannot edit out the parts that you want. You can't get the abridged version--it's so much more meaningful to have the whole thing at your fingertips. It is through the experience of something that we determine to be painful or non-pleasurable that we begin to truly understand the greatness in something else. Well now I'm just getting preachy. But I think these things are true--for how much more do we learn to truly savor bliss when we have experienced pain, love companionship when we have really lived being alone (or for that matter, appreciate solitude when we do not have quiet), or appreciate success when we have failed so many times before.

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately about zen and meditation and minimalism and living in the present. I appreciate these blogs for a variety of reasons, and they help me reflect and live intentionally. There is a big focus on living in the present, and only the present. We talk a lot about how we can't change the past, and of course this is true. But memories are so very important, and I imagine this is why God gave us a memory in the first place (though I find myself continually forgetting things, which is frightening because I am only 26 and have not abused any sort of substances that might explain this phenomenon...). I'll agree that it is important to not live in the past or dwell in it, but there is a certain value in memories--because it is our experiences and our pasts that have made us who we are in the present and who we will be in the future.