February 27, 2013

empty chairs at empty tables

Death has been way too prevalent of a theme in my life lately. I am lucky enough that I never really experienced the passing of someone I was close to prior to this year. My grandfather passed away when I was nine, but I think that because I was so young, I didn't understand how sad it was. I knew that my father lost his father, now I realize that there's nothing more that can make my heart ache than thinking of existing in a world without my siblings or parents. I understand how tragic that loss was for him now, but when it happened, I think I was too young to grasp it. 

I've been thinking about death a lot lately because of the passing of my Uncle Tony. To know Uncle Tony was to love him. Sometimes I forget that he is gone. I think about going to California, going into his restaurant, saying hello and receiving the biggest hug/kiss combination, then I realize that he's gone. I realize that his physical body now resides in a cemetery near my home and that if I want to visit him, that's where I'll go. Sometimes I forget about his passing until I see the mass card in my wallet. It's there to remind me to live a life of love and giving, just like Uncle Tony. It's there to remind me of how important family is, and how I need to take every opportunity to let people know that I love them. 

I'm not sure that I've talked about my Uncle John as much, but he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer the summer before I moved to Korea. We were told that the cancer was so aggressive that things would be over shortly. I saw him before I left for Korea and I felt like that was the final goodbye. He held on and I was able to see him when I came home from Korea. Seeing him provided a physical representation of the deterioration that I knew was occurring. He was sick. I saw him in the summer and as I said goodbye, part of my heart knew that that was the last time I'd see him. I was able to see him twice over Christmas break and unfortunately he looked worse than I imagine. He was frail, he was weak, and you could tell the chemotherapy had done a number on him. He just seemed exhausted. He's been holding on, but I think just long enough to get his wife settled. His wife, my Aunt Gail, had a five brain aneurysms seven years ago and was left without the ability to care for herself. Since then, Uncle John has been her caretaker. He's been so gentle, tenderhearted, and good with her. He has loved her with a truly selfless love, one that is beautiful and whole. 

I got a text message from my brother earlier this week telling me that my father was having a hard time. It had been exactly a month since Uncle Tony had passed and Uncle John was doing so poorly. They anticipate Uncle John passing within the next week. Isn't that just the craziest thing to hear? One minute he'll be here, and the next he'll be gone. His passing is tragic, it's been a slow and painful road for him and his family, but the passing of Uncle Tony has been equally as tragic as it was shocking and completely caught everyone off guard. 

I honestly don't know how I or my family would cope with this all if it weren't for our faith in the Lord. I don't want to be preachy, but as a Christian, I know that death is not the end for me or my loved ones. I know that our lives have been redeemed and that death will not separate us from each other or from God. My heart is broken as I've had to say goodbye to too many people lately, but knowing that the goodbye is temporary has helped me greatly. 

February 26, 2013

travel chat

Hi friends. The lovely Chelsea from Lost in Travels is hosting me over on her blog today where I talk about living in Korea and some of my thoughts about that experience. You can read about it all here. I feel like Chelsea and I are soul sisters because we've both lived in the same country and share a lot of experiences. Reading her blog definitely makes me homesick for Korea!
 Go checkout her bloggy blog and say hello. She's a gem, friends. 


February 24, 2013

i'd like to thank the academy

I am a drama queen. There's no other way to put it. I love the stage and the silver screen. I was bitten by the theater bug when I portrayed Mary in the Saint Francis of Assisi Preschool production of the Christmas story. I took my role very seriously. I'm pretty sure I wrote my first Oscar acceptance speech in elementary school and often put on shows that I made my family watch. I was definitely a ham. I've known for years that if I were to attend the Oscar's, I'd obviously wear Zac Posen and I'd definitely end up on all of the best dressed lists. There's no way that Joan and her gaggle of outfit haters could find one critique of my ensemble. They'd love me. I've always been in love with Hollywood and so when big awards shows roll around, I'm smitten. I've got to watch. I want to see what everyone wears, I want to see who wins, and I want to pretend like I'm there. 

I have to say that I'm SUPER impressed with the Oscar's this year. I feel like the hosts are always pretty dicey, unless it's Billy Crystal or Steve Martin. You know those gents will always treat us viewers right, but there's something about a bad host that really ruins the entire night. I was definitely apprehensive when I heard that Seth MacFarlane would be the host. I don't know much of him, but I know he's created the things I wasn't allowed to watch as a child (Family Guy). I also heard that Ted was super yuck, so I was convinced this year would be filled with awkward moments and inappropriate jokes. He totally surprised me. I laughed a lot. I thought he was a great host. There were a couple "blah" moments, but overall- he was great! 

Let's talk Oscar fashion. I definitely thought that everyone was pretty on point this year. There are usually a handful of people who you wonder how they ended up wearing something so heinous when you know you could do better with a hundred bucks and a David's Bridal prom dress. Here are my absolute favorites from this year:

Jenna Dewan Tatum in Rachel Roy. 
I thought she looked absolutely breathtaking. The dress was beautiful, it was the perfect baby bump gown, and her hair/makeup was spot on. She absolutely knocked it out of the park with her look. 

Amanda Seyfried in Alexander McQueen.
Look at her. I can't even handle it. Her lilac and silver gown was just perfect. It has enough detail to make it interesting but isn't overwhelming. I love the neckline and the silhouette is just to die for. 

Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta.
If you're going to do a big gown, this is the way to do it. I love the color and Amy is doing a great job of looking young, playful, but simultaneously so elegant. I think she looks absolutely perfect.

Here are the two that I think needed to step it up the most: 

Melissa McCarthy in David Meister. 
This dress is just a disaster. Melissa is way too lovely and wonderful to settle for wearing something like this. I can think of so many styles that would be infinitely more flattering on her figure. This literally looks like a glitzy trash bag. 

Brandi Glanville in BrandB (her own line).
I get the concept behind this dress. I do. But homegirl, your showing too much of your chest. I am pretty sure that during the pre-show, I saw her nipple. That's gross. You are lovely and have a great figure, but your dress looks like you just didn't pull it up enough. It just looks like a major wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. I'm not a fan. And also, why was she invited to the Oscars? 

You know what I noticed about this year? Everyone's hair was messy. Very few people had polished locks and Kristen Stewart was the queen of the bedhead. I just wanted to take a few bobby pins and tame it! I get the whole "beachy" hair look. I love that, but I think that you need to put your best foot forward at the Oscar's, and messy hair is a tricky thing. Sometimes it looks perfect, and other times it looks like you stuck your head out of the window the entire way to the red carpet. 

I loved that they featured a lot of music this year. I died when Jennifer Hudson came out. She is incredible. She is a stinkin' powerhouse. I had chills the entire time she sang. She deserved another Oscar for her incredible performance. I tweeted tonight (@jessnovello- come hang out with me!) that Les Mis has a direct line to my tear ducts because any time they showed a bit from the movie, I was weeping. I can't look away though. I must endure it. 

Let's just talk for a minute about how precious Jennifer Lawrence is. I feel like she is so genuine and down to earth. What you see is what you get, and I respect that so much in an environment that turns people into robots. I love Hollywood, but it has a way of sucking the life out of people and turning them into robots void of personality. She absolutely biffed it on her way to accept her award for Best Actress. You know what she did? She stood up, walked up there, and cracked a joke at her expense. She played it off to wear we all loved her even more post fall because of how endearing she is. Also, did you catch that Hugh Jackman ran over to help her because he is the ultimate stud muffin? If I fell at the Oscar's, I can think of no one I'd rather have help me up than Hugh. What a gent. 

I loved hearing other people's opinion of the evening via twitter. My favorite tweet of the night?

I also decided that I want short hair. I know that I don't really want short hair, but a very dumb part of me believes that I'd look cute with it. The truth is that I'd probably cut it and then realize I looked like a boy. I don't know if I'd ever be brave enough for a short Anne Hathaway-esque style, but I just think it'd be so fun. Ugh, I am just realizing that if I did that, I'd just look even more like Elton John. Okay, that settles it, not doing it. Can't be mistaken for Elton anymore. 

So tell me, who was on your best dressed list? Do you love Jennifer Lawrence as much as I do? Spill. 


February 18, 2013

twenty five before twenty six

I enjoy lists. I also really like adding things to my to-do lists that I've already accomplished so I can cross something off and feel like I'm the most productive person in the world. I celebrated my 25th birthday last week which is really weird because I remember turning thirteen like it was yesterday. I remember starting high school and graduating high school. How can it be that I'm already 25? I was sure that by this age I'd be married, have kids, and work some really awesome job that all of the popular girls I went to high school would envy. 
I'm twenty five, as single as I was when I was thirteen, have no kids, but do have a pretty great job. One out of three isn't bad, right? 
I've decided to make a list of twenty five things I want to do before I turn twenty six. Some of these are goofy, some of these are serious, and some are things I've wanted to do but just never have made the time to do. 
Here goes nothin':
1. Get my nose pierced.
I have wanted to get my nose pierced since I was sixteen. That's nine years you guys. I haven't done it yet because I've been too afraid of the pain. That's so silly. I just need to do it!
2. Read/finish 25 books.
Like I said in my last post, I start so many books and never finish them. I am going to start and complete 25 books before I turn 26. I AM GOING TO DO IT.
3. Learn to knit or crochet.
I'm actually going to just choose whichever one is easiest. Is that bad?
4. Print pictures from Korea and Vietnam.
I love the convenience of digital photography and the ability to catalogue all of my pictures on my computer, but I hate not having pictures in albums. Call me an old lady but I'd love to show you the pictures in an album from my adventure, not have you sit in front of my computer.
5. Go on a trip. 
This one is a little bit of a cheat one because I know I'm already going a few different places this year. This is one of those ones that I'm adding just to cross off, but also, traveling is fun and I love exploring new places!
6. Ride my bike. 
I got a seriously bitchin' beach cruiser for Christmas a couple years ago. Guess how many times I've ridden it? Once. I fell off in front of my theology professor and vowed to never ride it again. That was two years ago. It's time to suck it up and ride. Gosh, I could so be on Sons of Anarchy.
7. Hike up to Tablerock.
Tablerock is a hilly region that looks over the Boise valley. I have never actually been up there but I've always wanted to go. As soon as the weather gets warmer, I'm going to head up there with some friends.
8. Try more local restaurants.
Boise has so many great restaurants, but I always end up going to places I know instead of venturing out and finding new places. It's time to make some new favorites.
9. Go to a concert.
I want to make it a point to see more live music this year, whether it be a small local band or a big show at a large venue. 
10. Complete Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred (more than once...)
I started it in Korea and never finished it, which shouldn't surprise anyone because I'm a great started but a horrible finisher. I'm going to do the 30 days consecutively and then I'm going to be really trim and hot and everyone's going to be in love with me.
11. Use my crock pot.
I have a really great crock pot and I want to be more intentional about using it. I've pinned so many delicious looking recipes lately that I should probably start trying them out. 
12. Throw a dinner party.
Three courses! Cute name tags! A fun, swanky playlist! Dresses and fancy clothes! The whole enchilada! 
13. Listen to new music.
I have my favorite musicians and I'm completely fine listening to them and only them, but I need to be more open to new music. I know I sound like a Great Depression era Grandmother with my preferences and unwillingness to change, so it's time to start listening to some new tunes.
14. Go on a date
Okay, this one needs explaining. I've never been on a date. I have a bunch of friends who want to "set me up" for fun and I've always been afraid of going and the person not liking me or it being awkward. Who cares, Jess? If it crashed and burned- it would still be a great story. No one said dates have to equal marriage, so I'm going to let someone set me up this year! 
15. Learn to play the guitar
My guitar is so neglected and so sad. It's probably full of weepy songs about abandonment since it hasn't been touched in forever, so it's only fair to brush up on my skills (and by brush up I mean learn) and set those songs free.
16. Send more cards
I love sending cards and I love receiving them. There's something so great about a handwritten card coming your way, especially when it's "just because." My friend Sam (HEY GIRL!) is so great about this. I need to get better and use cards as a way to let people know how much I love them and how thankful I am for them.
17.  Do more DIY projects
I've got a pinboard (dang you pinterest and your lofty aspirations!) filled to the brim with some relatively easy DIY projects. It's time to do some- there's no way that no sew fabric bunting can be that hard, right? 
18. Bake more
I used to love baking. I would do it when I was happy or sad... and I rarely gorged on the end results!  The process was just therapeutic and a great outlet! 
19. Be more honest with people
I wouldn't say I'm a liar, but I think I'm often not honest with how I'm feeling because I'm afraid I'll be rejected or I'm afraid of causing an issue. I think that things would work better if we were a little more honest with people- as good 'ol John Mayer said "say what you need to say." Does anyone remember the card commercials with that song in it? They ruined that song. They ruined John Mayer.
20. Collect family recipes
The best cooks in my family are getting older. My grandma is celebrating her 90th birthday in March. She is a wealth of information when it comes to authentic and delicious Italian recipes. I know that she has shared them with my aunts, but I want them. I want to make homemade ravioli on Christmas Eve for my family. I want to make that incredible potato bread thing that my dad and grandmother made together who's name I'm surely pronouncing wrong and therefore refusing to spell. 
21. Run a 5k
I ran a 5k when I lived in Korea. It was a huge step in getting healthy for me, it seriously encouraged me to abandon thoughts of self doubt and accomplish a goal. If you want to read about the first 5k experience, you can do so HERE! I want to run another race, and by run, I mean "Jessica Run" not "Olympic Run." There's a big difference, okay, let's be real, there's a HUGE difference. 
22. Be more intentional with my money
It's time to budget. I could only survive so long with spending my money however I wanted to. I am really interested in taking one of those Dave Ramsey Financial Peace courses. I know a lot of people who have done it and said that it's been life changing. 
23. Invest more in my church
I've been going to a small house church since September and I am seriously loving it. It is the first church in Idaho that I've felt entirely connected with and completely comfortable at. I have gotten involved with a women's study through the church and absolutely loved it. There are a few people who give so much of their time and efforts to see that the church continues growing- I want to give my time and talents to assist in their efforts. 
24. Be more consistent in reading the Bible and praying
I have this problem that I think a lot of Christians share in- I get so great at seeking the Lord when things are rough, and then I tend to draw away and become self reliant when things are going well. What a fool! Like I am somehow responsible for things going well but God is responsible when things go wrong. I couldn't be more off base. I want to seek the Lord all the time- in the good moments, the bad moments, and the stagnant times. 
25. Spend more time in silence
This has been weighing heavily on my heart lately. I fill my down time with reading, listening to music, or texting. There are very few moments where I'm entirely disconnected. I need more of those moments. I need to be okay with the discipline of silence. I need to incorporate it more into my life. That means unplugging and just being. 

February 9, 2013

in defense of love

I love Valentine's Day. I love it. I love the colors, the candy, the balloons, the flowers, and the big romantic gestures. I know people always hate on it and call it a consumer holiday, but I love it so I will continue to consume it. If you don't like it, you can just keep those sentiments to yourself. I've never had a boyfriend or a love interest over Valentine's Day, so I've always celebrated in other fun ways. I will not let the fact that boys don't like me (scientific fact- you can't convince me otherwise!) deter my from celebrating this love filled holiday.
In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I'd share my five favorite romantic gestures from movies. I feel like big incredible things like this don't happen in real life. I am sure someone can fight me on this and has a beautiful story about a lover who did the most romantic things on a regular basis for you. If this is the care, great. Pat yourself on the back. I'll just continue crying into my Lemon Sorbet while youtube-ing "Saddest song ever." Sometimes I do that and I always end up listening to Taps by the Marine Corps Band. How depressing is that? Okay, by "sometimes" I mean, maybe I've done it like three times. That might be three times too many. 
No Taps this Valentine's Day! Only Love Story by my girl Taylor!

Here goes nothin'!

1. Glen Hansard gives Marketa Irglova a piano in "Once."

This movie is just so beautifully heartbreaking. The first time I saw it, I just wept at the end. I just want to say exactly why it's so beautiful and tragic but I'm afraid of someone getting mad at me for going into detail about a movie they haven't seen. Okay, I'm gonna do it. The movie is so sad because they don't end up together! Ugh. Heartbreak city. The reason his gesture of giving her a piano is so romantic is because he gives it to her as they are parting ways. That's true love. I haven't even touched a piano since second grade but I'd learn in like five seconds if a man with an accent gave one to me. 

2. Lloyd Dobler stands outside Diane Court's window in "Say Anything."

My mom introduced me to this movie when I was in high school as part of a "the movies of my generation are so much better than the movies of your generation" type of bonding experience. She was right. There is nothing more romantic than when Lloyd stands outside of Diane's window hoping to win her back by blasting the song that they had adult relations to. Since seeing this movie, the song has become a fixture in my life and whenever I hear it, I have to stop what I'm doing and take a moment of silence for Lloyd and that beautiful movie gesture. I think that the moment is even more perfect because Lloyd is just so loveable. He's so normal and I mean that in the best way possible. He was just looking for a dare to be great situation. I'd marry him.

3. Edward climbs up Vivian's fire escape in "Pretty Woman."

This movie is just so great because he's a young, successful, handsome businessman and she seems like she could be your best friend, aside from the fact that she's a prostitute. Though we're taken on a roller coaster of emotions through this movie, Edward wins us over in the end when he comes to whisk away his princess prostitute in a modern day fairy tale. He arrives in his limo, standing in the sun roof with a bouquet of roses. I am so in love with him in this movie, I totally don't blame Vivian for letting him kiss her on the mouth. I would. So would my mom. Any my grandmother. He's just got that kind of charm. I need a fire escape and I need a businessman to come rescue me! 

4. Landon makes Jamie's dreams come true in "A Walk to Remember."

Thank God for Nicholas Sparks. Seriously, that man is a genius in the way that he has mastered the art of lady emotion manipulation. He can make my cry no matter what. He's such a guilty pleasure. This movie made girls all over the world want a bad boy. If Landon could be reformed into the perfect boyfriend, I could find a real life Landon to be really mean to me at first and then fall deeply in love with me even after I had instructed him not to. This is all I hoped for throughout middle school, high school, college, and now grad school. I may or may not be a little bit kidding or a little bit serious. You decide. I haven't met my Landon (insert sobfest here), but I still get chills every time he takes Jamie out on her bucket list adventure. Shiver me timbers.

5. The Beast gives Belle a library in "Beauty and the Beast."

This has been my favorite movie since seeing it as a three year old. A lot of people give Belle a bad rap but I firmly believe she's the most underrated Disney princess. I mean you see everything under the sun adorned with the faces of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and those other bimbos, but why not Belle? She's obviously the smartest. Those other girls were satisfied with shoes and kisses- not Belle. She yearned for a library. She's a smart cookie. Disney movies are full of romantic moments, but the most romantic moment of them all (ask the mirror from Snow White if you don't believe me) happens to my girl Belle when the Beast makes her close her eyes and leads her to her own freaking library. The library is huge, has massive windows, and a fireplace. That's my happy place right there and this is basically the best present ever. I'd love nothing more than to curl up in front of that fireplace with the Beast and read a book. Obviously animal version of the beast, not long haired post-transformation prince version of the beast. No thanks.

What's your all time favorite romantic movie gesture? 

February 8, 2013

i'm not lucky, i'm blessed, YES.

I just had to include that "Yes" in the title because I always end up shouting that part in the song. That's really the only reason. But recently I have just been feeling so stinkin' blessed. The kind of blessed that's like "What in the hay could I have done to warrant such extreme outpourings of love and support?" I have such a great support system here in Idaho, I truly have a family away from my family and a home away from home in this community. When my uncle passed away, my friends were there to make sure I knew I was cared for. It was nice to know that my friends were thinking of me, praying for me, and available if I needed anything. 

My 25th birthday was the day after the funeral and so I got to spend it with my family. That was so nice. I never get to spend birthday's with my family anymore and it was a little treat during that period of mourning. 

I got a text from my friend Stacey who works at the school that I work with saying that she and another friend wanted to take me out to dinner when I got back. I agreed and was totally excited to spend some time with these two women! They picked me up last night, we went to Red Robin simply because Lauren said she wanted to embarrass me by making me stand on that chair with the spoon above my head and a sundae in my hand. If you want to embarrass someone on their birthday, you know that Red Robin is the place to do that! 

When we walked in to the restaurant and were being taken to a table, all of my closest friends were there waiting and shouting surprise. It scared me! As soon as I saw them I wondered why they were all there and remember quickly thinking that it was such a coincidence. It's crazy how in that moment you rarely realize exactly what is happening. 

Well, Lauren got exactly what she wanted and I was so embarrassed standing up on that chair. For someone who is generally outgoing and extroverted, I was super embarrassed! I think it might be because the whole evening caught me so off guard! I have never been surprised like that because somehow my spiritual gift is unintentionally ruining surprises, but man, I was feeling all sorts of shy! 

Those are the two little masterminds. They were super proud of themselves for being able to pull something off without me having the slightest inclination! I just felt very special last night because my friends all have jobs, academic requirements, homework, etc that seems to pile up every week but still, every single person I would have wanted to celebrate with what sitting right there. 

So Nicki definitely got it right when she said, "I'm not lucky, I'm blessed." Thank you Jesus for my sweet and thoughtful support system!


February 4, 2013

book review: is everyone hanging out with me? (and other concerns)

I love reading and one of my goals for this is to see more books through to completion. I'm the queen (please read that in the way Jennifer Lawrence says it this video) of starting a book and never finishing it. I can think of five different books that I'm doing that with right now.

Sorry The Hobbit... I really want to finish you but you make me tired every time I start reading you!

I sort of cheated with this most recent book I finished. I've actually read it before, but it was a year ago and I found it in my sisters car as I was leaving to go to the airport and I decided that it'd be a good plane read. 


There were quite a few parts in this book where I was laughing out loud and I'm pretty sure the snooty lady next to me who shook her cup at the flight attendant so she could get a refill absolutely hated me, but guess what? I don't care if snooty cup shakers like me because I don't like them. 

This book isn't one that will take you long to get through, in fact, Mindy says if you're reading this book for more than a couple days, there's a problem with you. I was able to finish it on my two flights yesterday. 

Favorite Passages:

"He didn't play that season, and was never as good at basketball after the injury. He dropped out junior year, and I heard he got a girl pregnant. Part of me now feels a little bad for Duante Diallo, but not at the time. I was so happy. That f***ing mean Senegalese kid."

"Unlike other athletes, Frisbee people won't let it go. My theory is that this is because there's a huge overlap between people who are good at Frisbee and people who do Teach for America. The same instinct to make at-risk kids learn, which I admire so much, becomes deadly when turned on friends trying to relax on a Sunday afternoon in the park."

If I kept going with my favorite passages, this post would be as long as Mindy's book because the whole thing is my favorite. It's so funny. I know a lot of people were like, "What a wannabe Tina Fey!" after she published her book, but let's be real, just because they are both two incredibly funny women doesn't mean either one is copying the other. I hate that we have to pit people against each other and compare them until we combust. Mindy is great. Tina is great. I enjoyed both books. 

I feel like Mindy is my really funny best friend that will eat ice cream with me for dinner after a boy did something stupid or she'd watch Law and Order SVU reruns with me instead of doing anything productive. She seems like she's the best best friend. I am sure she has a lot of really cool Hollywood BFF's she could choose from, but I swear if she gave me one sleepover, she'd realize we should be besties, then we'd prank call BJ Novak, and laugh all night.

If you want a funny, light, but still heartfelt read, pick up this book. It felt more like a conversation and there were so many times where I just wanted to tell Mindy that I knew exactly what she was talking about because I too create somewhat dysfunctional fantasies while working out, not always about revenge, but sometimes about Ryan Gosling spilling his coffee on me at a coffee shop in LA and then feeling so badly about that he ends up taking me out to dinner. After our dinner out on the town he realizes how funny, endearing, and precious I am (and humble. so humble) and dates me in a "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" sort of way but where we end up married because he is way better than any guy I know. Mrs. Gosling- I like the sound of that.

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