December 15, 2014

home sweet home

I absolutely love seeing little sneak peaks into other people's homes, call me nosy, but there's just something so interesting about seeing how others have made their spaces their own. I've had the intention of sharing my space for a while, but I've always put it off hoping that things would become more complete and "share ready." I was contacted recently by Urban Compass about a project they've started called "Starter Stories." They've been sharing different people's starter homes, tips for creating a home, and information on how they found their places. Urban Compass is a website that helps connect people with homes/apartments in New York city based on their tastes and hobbies. You can find their neighborhood guide here where you can peruse different NYC neighborhoods and find information on what the culture of that area is like as well as what makes that specific area unique. I've always had this fantasy of living in New York (in a Brownstone of course!) so now I have a great resource in case that pipe dream ever comes true!

I've lived in my tiny little apartment for over a year now and it's amazing to me how quickly it felt like home when I moved in. I've never really had a place of my own before because I went from living with my parents, to moving to college, to moving to South Korea, to an intentional community house, to this little apartment inside of a residence hall. I guess I had my own place in South Korea, but it was smaller than a studio apartment inside of a high rise building and while it was comfortable, I knew that it was always for a short period of time which kept me from really nesting.

While this is technically "my own place" it's also technically not. You see, I'm a Resident's Director for freshman girls. I share my home with over 170 other girls, but I have my own self sufficient apartment on the first floor. I knew when I got this job that my life would be crazy so it was super important to me to have my personal space be calm, clean, and representative of who I am. It needed to be a place where I could recharge.

This is one of my favorite pieces in my house because there's all sorts of treasures on it!
I feel like I've been able to pull that off fairly well considering that I'm limited on the aesthetic changes that I can make to the apartment and also considering that I operate on a very strict budget (student loans are a doozy, am I right?). When I first moved into my apartment all I had (furniture wise) was a kitchen table, a mattress, a coffee table, and some second hand couches that had been gifted to me. The couches were in pretty bad condition and so one of the first things I did was start lurking on Craigslist to see if I could find anything I liked for a decent price. What I learned from that experience was that couches are crazy expensive and people have very different interpretations of the word vintage. I ended up finding this set that I liked for a decent price and purchased it right away. It's not my favorite pattern, but it's clean, the pieces are comfortable, and I got a screaming deal on them.

My best friend and I quickly scheduled a trip to Ikea and I began researching pieces I'd want. Ikea's website is awesome because you can put in which store you'll be purchasing from and they'll tell you exactly what aisle/section your goods are in. It helped me to not get overwhelmed by that giant Swedish Disneyland and to make sure that I kept within my budget.

One thing that I learned through this experience of creating a little home was that it doesn't happen overnight. You accumulate things, you find treasures, and you slowly add to your growing little nest. It's fun to look around this space and see different things that have been gifted to me or thrifted and be able to have a story to tell. There were pieces that I wanted in my home that were far outside of my budget (here's looking at you West Elm!) so I did my best to recreate them or find cheaper substitutes.

My favorite places to shop throughout this process have been local thrift stores like the DI, Savers, and Goodwill, Etsy, Ikea, and Target. If I had a billion dollars, I may have picked everything from Anthropologie, West Elm, and Pottery Barn, but I don't have that sort of income and I'm quite pleased with my budget friendly little abode. I've learned that a house is not made overnight, and while you can stuff your space full of beautiful things, that doesn't necessarily make a home. My favorite things about my home aren't necessarily the cute yellow barstools that I got for my birthday (although I do love them!), or the print of my favorite lyrics that I found on Etsy, but the people that have come through my home and created memories here. That's what I love most about my little starter home.

November 27, 2014

wednesday wanderings

I realize the title of this implies that I posted this on Wednesday, but it's a little misleading. I am definitely posting this on Thursday morning, but my intent was to post yesterday, so let's roll with it.

These past couple of weeks have been tough. My grandmother passed away unexpectedly last week. I'm still trying to process it all. Instead of sharing my own thoughts right now, I wanted to share some others that I've stumbled across. I have several friends that do posts like this and I love that I get pointed all over the internet. So now, I present to you, Wednesday Wanderings which maybe at some point in time will actually be posted on a real Wednesday.

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If you read one thing this week, read THIS. My dear friend Samantha from Little Petunia in an Onion Patch wrote an incredible post on the word "bitch" and it is my favorite thing ever. I sometimes feel this disconnect between wanting to be a strong, independent woman and also loving a little bit of tradition. It's almost like we're told that as women, we can't do both of those things. We have to choose. Well, Sam rips that to shreds and I'm just standing in front of my computer slow clapping. Get it girl.

Have you seen the trailer for "The Theory of Everything" yet? Do yourself a favor, watch the trailer and then get your booty to the theater and see the movie. I saw it last night and oh my goodness, it's incredible. It takes a lot for me to actually pay to see a film, but I'm so glad I made the investment to see this movie. If Eddie Redmayne isn't nominated for an Academy Award, then this whole entire world is rubbish. This movie was all over the board- I laughed, I cried, I got super angry, I laughed again, and then I just wept like a little baby. Isn't that the best kind of movie?

My big brother is a fancy pants chef in Seattle and was featured in this article a couple of days ago. He's the chef at a restaurant called Skillet that specializes in modern American comfort food but with a ritzy glitzy twist. When I go to the restaurant, I always let him order for me and I've yet to be disappointed. Grilled cheese (brie, american, AND cheddar) on brioche toast with bacon jam and a fried chicken thigh? Oh brother bear, you have outdone yourself. Everything on the menu is tops. If you're in Seattle, go see him and eat till you need a nap.

Also, ModCloth is having a huge sale on dresses. Excuse me while I go spend my entire paycheck. Go do the same so I don't feel as guilty please.


October 20, 2014

when it's time to say goodbye

I'm the type of person who likes their friends to be lifelong. Once you're in my life, with few exceptions, I want you to stay there. I've always been this way. I blame my mother and love of relationships for this rosy outlook on friendship.

I've never really been bullied. I mean, there were definitely girls who were mean to me, but I don't remember it being even a fraction of what kids are experiencing today. I remember Whitney picking on me at Winter Retreat. Ironically enough, it was a church camp and she was in my small group.

I've only had a "friend break-up" once and it was mostly just me taking a break. This person and I had been friends for over ten years. I loved this person, but it seemed like our friendship became something I tended to out of obligation. There wasn't much joy left in it. I felt guilty for the fact that things were different. I felt guilty for liking my life while knowing how unhappy this person was. Maybe those are things I projected onto them, but every time their name came onto my screen, I felt uncomfortable. I was always bracing myself for what came next. We finally talked and I explained that things just felt different and I was sorry that they were that way, but I wasn't sure what to do. This person and I, once inseparable, took big steps back from each other. We still have a relationship, but it's nowhere near what it was when we were younger. We see each other sometimes and to be honest, occasionally it feels obligatory, but I feel heaps healthier, mentally and emotionally, than I did when we were in the thick of it.

I met someone a while back who quickly became a good friend. We naturally clicked and I was grateful for this new addition to my life. About a year or so into the relationship, this person became a little snippy with me. It wasn't anything huge or devastating, but it was enough to where it felt strange. I brushed it off and attributed it to stress. It didn't happen again for a while, but then it did. It made me feel so small each and every time it happened. Things got better, seemed back to normal. We spent time together. We laughed. I felt connected to this person again. Then, the snapping, the snide comments, the shortness all started happening more frequently. There weren't the gaps in it that there used to be. It was hard to shake off. It was and is currently also very hard not to internalize. I'm far more sensitive than people can usually tell. I get my feelings hurt pretty easily, but I'm also able to bounce back quickly. My ability to bounce back with this person got harder and harder. It's like I was a stretched out rubber band. I lost my elasticity. I was getting worn out. I didn't really like who I was around this person. I felt more guarded, more aware of everything about myself, and it was incredibly stressful.

It finally came to a breaking point the other night.

I realized, after being hurt again, that this would be the new normal. This was becoming standard. I know that people go through seasons and sometimes we need to journey alongside people who maybe aren't being the biggest rays of sunshine, but this was different. This "friendship" was causing me more stress and anxiety than any other relationship in my life. That's not a friendship.

I've made a conscious decision to step back from this person. It doesn't need to be dramatic, it doesn't need to impact anyone other than the two of us, but it has to happen. It needs to happen. My health, my emotions, and my spirit depend on it. There comes a time in some relationships, I'm learning, where it is best to say goodbye. Sometimes it will come quickly and sometimes it will come years into the relationship. There's nothing useful in holding on to something that's broken. It just gets more frustrating as you clutch that broken thing wondering why it isn't working and how come it can't be fixed. Sometimes you just have to say goodbye to it. Move past it.

I'm learning that I'm worth protecting and keeping people in my life who do nothing but bring me down is not a good way of living. One of the biggest blessings in my life has been the quality of relationships that I've been lucky enough to make. I have truly hit the jackpot with friends. I'm so grateful for those relationships because they show me what friendships should be like.

Have you ever had to say goodbye to a friend? What did you do?

September 18, 2014

you'll need each other

"Hey friend, what are you doing right now?" I knew when she asked this that she wouldn't let me get out of pretending to be too busy to talk. Having friends that are counselors is sometimes the best thing and other times, it's really hard. This was one of the hard moments. We walked back to my apartment, parked ourselves in the office, and she asked how I was doing.

"I'm good, you know, just trying to get everything done." I forced a little smile, hoping that it might convince either of us.

"How's school going?," she asked. That's when I felt the thread snip, that little tiny thread that felt like it was holding it all together. I explained that I was overwhelmed academically. I talked about my internship, and although I've got three hundred hours under my belt, finishing these last hundred hours seems like a monumental task. I mentioned that I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above water right now.

School tumbled into work which then snowballed into life in general. I opened up about how I felt like I had been a bad friend recently, unable to make and keep plans with people because somehow school or work kept popping up. I explained, through tears, that I just felt isolated.

There are many words people would use to describe my job, but I doubt isolating would be one of them. You see, I live my life surrounded by 173 college freshman. I'm rarely alone, but for some reason, I've felt isolated in the midst of all these people.

My dear friend, bless her heart, reminded me of a very similar conversation we had two years ago, but where the roles were reversed. I remember sitting on the floor with her at our friends house as we were surrounded by bowls of lukewarm water, the idea of a girls pedicure night forgotten because life interrupted us. I remember her crying; she had just gotten married, was finishing up her Master's, and was working in the same department as myself but just felt so off balance. She talked about feeling isolated even though she was rarely alone. I remember not really identifying entirely, but sympathizing.

I have this really bad habit of retreating into myself when things feel off balance or peculiar. I hope that I can pull myself out of the slump or combat the feelings alone, but that doesn't work as well or as quickly as connecting with someone else. I have a hard time crying in front of people, which is strange seeing as how crying is practically my love language. I just don't want my problems to burden others, which is so silly because that's not a real thing. I tell my residents that on a regular basis. They are not a burden. It is a joy to go through life with others because we get to be there for the good, the bad, the hard, and the easy.

I've seen this print floating around the internet and I just love it. It's a great reminder for me to not retreat into myself, but to remember that we need each other. Even though that conversation with my friend was hard, and I tried to avoid it, I'm glad we had it. I felt better as soon as I started naming what had been burdening me. I know that it was helpful for her too because, whether I like it or not, she loves me and wants to be a part of the good and the bad.


September 2, 2014

mr. brook(s) goes to mccall

So if you follow me on insta then you probably noticed that yesterday, I met Brooks Forester from season 9 of The Bachelorette. If you know anything about me, you know that the Bach is a major guilty pleasure of mine. I usually blog recaps of the episodes but was so burnt out (slightly dramatic, no?) from Juan Pablo's season that I couldn't bring myself to watch, let alone write about, Andi's season.

I already decided, in my brain, to watch and start back up my bach caps for this upcoming season when I received the ultimate sign from God that I was making the right choice. Also, please note that I'm being mostly sarcastic.

I was up in Cascade, Idaho this past weekend for with the Freshman class. We had several hours of free time on Sunday and a big group decided to head into McCall. I adore McCall. It's like a tinier Tahoe and is absolutely one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Imagine a billion trees, a lake with no end in sight, mixed with the charm of small town Idaho and you've got a basic idea of what McCall is like. I was sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops, Fogglifter Cafe, enjoying a much needed almond latte when two of my freshmen girls run in.


My thoughts instantly go to Demi Moore or Bruce Willis because they both had/have homes in Idaho and it wouldn't be entirely peculiar to see them in McCall.


I immediately look at my friend Jen, who is a huge fan of The Bachelor, and we both ask where, gather our things, and proceed to leave the coffee shop and five of our coworkers behind. At this point, Grant (Jen's husband and a good friend of mine) says, "Jen, don't forget that you're married. To me. We're married. Jess, you're fine. Jen, you're married."

These two girls start walking with Jen and I down the main street and we get to the end of where the shops/restaurants are and admit defeat. We start to cross the street to head back to the cafe when one of the girls says, "THERE HE IS!" and points with the entire force of her arm across the crosswalk where Brooks is about to cross. He was an entire ten feet from us when this happened and I instantly put my hand over my face and started shaking my head. I apologize to him and then said, "We heard you were up here from these girls and we were hoping that we could get a picture with you." He took off his sunglasses, extended his hand, and said, "Of course. I'm Brooks. Nice to meet you." I extend my hand which is surprisingly not sweaty (if you know me, you know that sweaty palms is my love language) and say, "Nice to meet you too." He then asks what my name is, which I'm pretty sure he was only asking for so that he could say it with his last name since we obviously shared a very beautiful connection. Jen and I take the picture with him and then he starts asking what we're doing in McCall and where we are from. We told him that we both live and work in Nampa when he proceeds to say, "I grew up in Nampa. I went to Skyview High School." Gal pals, I knew that he had some tie to Boise because he came back here to talk to his mom when he was on Des' season, but I did not know that he went to high school a whole five minutes from where I live. We continued making some small talk where we realize that we probably know some of the same people. He asks what we do and we tell him that we both work for NNU and he then says, "Oh, I knew some people who went there. I think a couple of them had trouble getting into Master's programs because of some accreditation things." I looked towards the two freshmen girls and said, "Girls, do not listen to this man, he is a liar." We all start laughing, including Brooks and his brother. Phew. "You know, if you wanted a really great college experience, you could go where I went in Utah. Great academics, great athletics, part of the Pac-12..." I interrupted him and said, "Nobody likes a bragger, Brooks." He laughs again and then takes my hand in his. It fits perfectly. He gets down on one knee, pulls a little velvet box from his pocket with a ring inside that would make even Neil Lane swoon and says, "It's Jessica, right? Will you marry me?"

So that last part did not happen, but I did call him a bragger. We made a little more small talk, thanked him for being so kind and letting us bother him, and then left. Jen looks over at me as soon as we're far enough away and says, "You guys were bantering back and forth. He was loving it."

About an hour later, I was sitting by the lake reading a book with several of my coworkers when Brooks and his brother walk by on the path in front of us. He looks over at me, waves, and said, "Hey." I said hi and laid back with my book in hand, LIKE IT WAS NO THING AT ALL THAT HE REMEMBERED ME AND THOUGHT TO SAY HELLO AGAIN.

My coworkers all had a mild freak out moment because I was being so nonchalant about the whole thing. I was just eaten' it up. So, there you have it. If Brooks and I ever get married, you're all invited. Fran, Hannah, and Kasey- you ladies will be flower girls (since you love the bach and are probably the only ones aside from my momma who read my recaps) and will be pulled in a wagon by bachelor contestants. You'll wear matching dresses and flower crowns.

There you have it. The proof. The magic. The picture that will obviously start out our wedding slideshow. Now, if only I could figure out how to photoshop out Jen and Booty McGee in the background. Sorry Jen. A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

August 29, 2014

four tips for new leaders

Every year, before the hoards of students arrive back on campus, the office I work for takes all of the student leaders on a retreat. I went as a student and loved it. It's a great time to enter the year intentionally, connect with other offices/leaders on campus, and enjoy the last little bit of summer before the year kicks off. One of my favorite parts of the several days we spend up in the beautiful mountains of Idaho are the seminars that are given by staff. I love learning and I especially love learning from my coworkers. They all have such a rich and valuable involvement in Student Development and I'm appreciative of any opportunity I have to hear from them.

This year, my boss asked me to give a seminar. If there's one thing you need to know about me, it's that I hate public speaking. That surprises a lot of people because I tend to be pretty outgoing but tell me I have to speak in front of people, especially a larger group, and I get all sorts of woozy. In high school, all the seniors had to a fifteen minute presentation in front of a group of teachers, administrative personnel, and members from the community where we talked about what we wanted to accomplish with our lives and where we wanted to end up after high school. Looking back, that was a really valuable experience because it gave me experience speaking and got me thinking seriously about what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I remember thinking that I should run my car into the median on the way over to the presentation so I could have a valid excuse for why I couldn't give the presentation. You'd be horrified if you knew how seriously I thought of that.

Of course I agreed to give the presentation because I can't really tell my boss "no" and because I'm trying to continually push myself slightly outside of my comfort zone. Because I'm relatively new to my position, I decided to address the "new" leaders on campus and give them four pointers for making their first position successful. My coworker, Mark, who is in his tenth year, gave one on four tips for "old" leaders, or those who have held other leadership positions before.

I'm going to share that presentation with you now, in blog form, as a way to remind myself of how to be successful as I enter my second year, but also in hopes that maybe it can spark a thought or idea in ya'll.

1. Create a Vision

The first year of any leadership can be a little bit overwhelming. You come in fresh faced with all of your hopes and dreams, and sometimes you can be smacked right in the face with unanticipated responsibilities or de facto policy. Use this as an opportunity to create a vision for yourself in this position. What do you want to accomplish? Set goals- they don't all have to be big and lofty, they can be small and attainable. Just give yourself something to work towards. It can also be quite easy to focus on the big things, but don't underestimate the power of the small things. Sometimes the smallest things can be what matter most to a person.

2. Find a Mentor

Use your first year as an opportunity to connect with someone older and wiser who can help hold you accountable. Create an intentional time to get together with them where you can ask questions, seek guidance, and learn. As an MSW student, I have to meet with a professor once a week for "supervision." I am so grateful for this time because it provides me with a place to ask questions, talk about what's happening in the program and my internship, and just learn from someone who has done this all before. This mentor may also push you out of your comfort zone, but that is good because that is where growth occurs. Believe them, trust them, and learn from them. You'll be better for it.

3. Be Teachable

As someone who is "the boss" of a team, nothing drives me more bonkers than someone who is a know it all. You do not know it all and that is not a bad thing! Accept that you have much to learn about being a leader and about your position of leadership. Seek opportunities where you can learn and don't shy away from "teachable" moments. Those can be painful and tough, but there is gold in each of those moments if you allow yourself to learn from them. Make space for compliments and criticism- there is something to be gleaned from both.

4. Do Your Thang

Don't treat your position like you're just "filling in" for the person who held it before you. I struggled a lot with that last year. The woman who held my job previously had been in it for five years. People loved her. This job was her life. I really had a difficult time at first because I didn't let myself settle into the job and take it over. I wondered how she would have done things, did things the way she trained me to do, and even worked with a team that she had picked. She was great at this job, but it's my job now and I needed to make it my own. I'm feeling so much more freedom and confidence in my second year. I'm more confident in why I was hired and I have more ownership over the position. Because of this, I enjoy it so much more. 

There you have it folks. You better believe I used those pictures in my slides in front of 100 college students and all of my coworkers. I hope that these can be of use to you or someone you know. As you can tell, I survived the presentation and only had to wipe my sweaty palms on my pants one time. I'd say that's a great success. 

August 23, 2014

that one time i was on jimmy fallon- sort of

I have a long history of loving Jimmy Fallon. It all started when I saw him on Saturday Night Live. I loved how he broke character. The fact that he would chuckle through his sketches usually ended up being FAR funnier than the actual sketch.

My sister, Sophia, loves him as well. In fact, I'm pretty positive that she would even say that she has a crush on him. She's well aware that he's married with a child, but that doesn't really impact her feelings as a seventeen year old girl. She would always watch his late night show and send me clips. I started DVR'ing it and watching it in the morning. It is a great way to start out the morning- a nice cup of coffee and some laughs.

Jimmy, or "J Babayyy" as I like to call him, has this segment on his show called "#hashtags." Every week, he sends out a hashtag. This week it was "MyRoommateIsWeird" but it's previously been about awkward dates, terrible advice, etc. I have some great stories from my roommate situation my junior year. Her name is Melanie and we only lived together for a semester, but she would talk in her sleep and make all sorts of weird noises. One time, she rolled over and said, "Grasshoppers? Noooo! Anything but grasshoppers!" In addition to her grasshoppers comment, she had this awkward sleep conversation which I tweeted to J Babayyy:

When I submitted it, I did so because I think that it's a funny story and a couple other friends had submitted some. Well, Thursday night, around ten-ish, I get a tweet from Cameron Strang that says, "Saw you on Fallon!!" I wasn't really sure what he was talking about but then he said that it was my roommate tweet and that Jimmy had just read it. I just read that a couple times and said it out loud to the people that I was with. Then all the sudden, I started freaking out a little bit more. I got the giggles (in true Jess fashion) and texted my mom and sisters. Sophia, bless her heart, freaked out. She said, "I'M LEGIT CRYING. HE SAID YOUR NAME WHICH MEAN HE SAID MY NAME WHICH MEAN HE KNOWS US."

I then start to get texts from people I know asking if I recently tweeted to Jimmy Fallon and asking if I watch The Tonight Show. Someone sent me a picture of my tweet on the screen and then a coworker sent me a video. It was so surreal hearing him say my name. I'm so glad my twitter handle is my name and not something strange like "Angelbaby4u." I sent Sophia the video clip from my coworker and she sent me a picture of her fake crying, at least I hope it was fake crying because if she was real crying then I am pretty sure she's insane.

Watching it on TV was wild. I had to rewind a couple of times and just watch it again because it all just felt so strange. For last two days, I've been receiving text messages from friends and little Facebook comments from people who have seen it. My mom shared it on Facebook and I posted a little clip of it on Instagram. I got some new twitter followed out of it, so that's pretty cool, except they are all guys and so that seems a little creepy. It happened at quite a great time too because it's the start of the new school year which means ALL of the students at the university I work with are back on campus. They are just loving this story (which I am not even telling them by the way- they are finding out on their own or from other pals) and a couple of students are calling me "Famous Jess." I still can't get over the fact that something I wrote made Jimmy Fallon and Higgins giggle.

This whole thing is going to be the perfect story for one of those "two truths and a lie" icebreaker games or if I find myself in a situation where I desperately need to one up someone. For now, I think I'll add it to my dating resume: gets super sweaty palms when nervous but is funny enough for Fallon.

August 2, 2014

i'm okay- but i shouldn't be

I have been on this kick recently of rewatching movies from my childhood, not movies like "The Little Mermaid" or "Land Before Time," but the weird, dark movies that I'm super surprised I was actually allowed to watch.  My sister and I were pretty sheltered growing up, I don't include the twins in that because I think having older siblings exposed them to more and because I'm convinced that my parents have gone soft. I used to get grounded all the time growing up. Guess who has never been grounded in their life? Yeah, that's right- the twins. That's not the moral of this story, but it sometimes pays to be the baby of the family because you get things like motorized Barbie Cars, playhouses, new iPhones, and you're never grounded. IS THERE NO JUSTICE IN THE WORLD?

As I've been watching these movies again, I've realized that I'm pretty lucky that I didn't grow up to be a real weirdo. These movies are so dark and odd, but we watched them all the time. Thank God for things like Netflix and people who put full movies on Youtube because they are allowing me to reintroduce myself to these seriously twisted movies. I've created a list for you of the weirdest movies  from my childhood with some of the most peculiar moments, because really, what's better than examining the innocent movies from your childhood and realizing that it's a miracle you didn't turn out to be a serial killer?

Hugga Bunch 

This made for TV movie is filled with an aging grandma being shoved out of her home, terrible acting from her granddaughter, truly terrifying puppets, and a witch! I'm not sure if the movie spurred the creation of the dolls or the dolls led to the creation of the movie, but regardless, they are so scary. See for yourself. They even have weird voices and say weird things like, "You don't need shoes here, everything is soft and fuzzy." Creepy, murderous puppets!

The scariest part in this movie, aside from the Dad being terrible to the aging Grandmother who just wanted to help by answering the phone, is the way that the evil queen loses her power in the end. Throughout the movie, she's absolutely beautiful. At the end of the movie, when Bridget (the young girl) finally finds the young berries (which will save her grandmother), the queen won't share so Bridget, being the little beezy that she is, steals them. The queens morphs really slowly into a scary old lady and I remember being terrified of that when I was younger. There's a line in this movie, that has become so ingrained in my families vernacular, and as I was watching it, I realized we've had it wrong. The line is "Napkins on the left, spoons on the right. You guys don't get old but Grandmothers do, and according to Andrew, that's the problem." I use that line regularly to ensure that I set a table appropriately as does my family, but we always say, "Forks on the left, spoons on the right. Grandmothers get old but we don't, and according to Andrew, that's the problem."

Bridget, and her terrible acting, are definitely redeemed with quite possibly the best line in all of movie history. The queen demands that Bridget bow to her and she responds, "I'm Bridget Severson and I'm an American citizen, and I don't have to kneel to any 'ol body. It's written in our constitution." From here on out, if anyone ever tells me to do something I don't want to do, that's going to be my response. God bless you Bridget, you are a true patriot.

If you're interested in watching this movie, and really, why wouldn't you be, click HERE and watch it in six installments on Youtube.

The Polar Bear King

This movie is your classic prince falls in love with common girl fairy tale, except for the fact that the prince happens to be a polar bear when the girl falls in love with him. MOM AND DAD, DID YOU NOT REALIZE THAT THIS MOVIE IS PROPAGATING BEASTEALITY? This movie is based off of a Norwegian folk tale so I'm pretty sure Norwegians are super weird people. I'm a little bit Norwegian so it's okay for me to say that. I get that this movie is similar to the plot of "Beauty and the Beast" but it feels different because this one is live action. You watch the girl, a real human being, fall in love with the polar bear and that's just weird. I also realize that there's a live action version of "Beauty and the Beast" but we aren't talking about that because this one just feels weirder.

Oh yeah, no big deal, here she is just sharing a tender moment with her beloved, who also happens to be a polar bear. It's not like she fell in love with him pre-polar bear, she fell in love with him at the height of his polar bear ordeal. They couldn't communicate because obviously polar bears don't speak English so that's why the Beast and Belle falling in love isn't as weird. They talked. They got to know each other. This sick freak just fell in love with a polar bear because she's a weirdo. Oh yeah, did I mentioned that he had to spend seven years as a polar bear? This girl was in it for the long run with a majestic, arctic beast. She's weird. This movie is weird and I'm pretty sure the only reason we were allowed to watch it is because my mom is Norwegian and she feels like we only celebrate our Italian heritage. Sorry Mom, but the Italian movies we watched were Rocky and the Godfather trilogy, none of those included weird girls falling in love with animals.

Interested in a sneak peak into the every day life of people who live in Norway and fall in love with polar bears? Click HERE.

The Last Unicorn

My sister, our friend Katie, and I still have a weird obsession with this movie. I found it for a couple bucks several years back and have tried to make my friends fall in love with it, but they just think it's weird. I think that I have a mental block with this one because it's sentimental. I realize that it's weird, but I don't care because all of these years later, I still love it.

I've realized though that this movie is terrifying. It really is. The movie is about a low grade magician named Schmendrick who connects with a unicorn that is turned into a woman. During their adventures, Schmendrick is almost smothered by a tree that has giant breasts and wants him to stay with her forever, an old lady is killed by a harpy, and a skeleton taunts them. None of this, I repeat, NONE of this is a match for how scary (aside from the tree boob scene) the red bull is. He chases unicorns into the sea. This poor unicorn realizes that she is the last of her kind, that she's the only one left, and then has to come to terms with the fact that a fiery red bull wants to chase her into the ocean so she can die like the rest of her kind.

For being such a strange movie, it really does have an all star cast. Jeff Bridges voices the prince, Alan Arkin voices Schmendrick, Mia Farrow voices the unicorn/Lady Amalthea, and Angela Lansbury voices the creepy circus lady that gets killed by the harpy. PLUS America sings the theme song for the movie which still gives me chills. While good does triumph over evil in this movie, it still has a lot of darkness in it which shocks me because it was on heavy rotation in the Novello household. If you've seen it, then you know just how weird the whole tree/Schmendrick scene is.

I couldn't find the whole movie for you, but I could find the trailer, which will just increase your desire to find this movie. Also, this movie contains a song called "Now That I'm a Woman" and you best bet your bottom dollar that this has become my theme song.

Return to Oz

I'm really surprised, nay, FLABBERGASTED at the amount of people who haven't seen this film. This movie was my childhood. It was my older sister's favorite movie and we would watch it every time my older siblings would come spend a weekend with us. I must have watched it hundreds of times growing up. Several years ago, my sister bought it for me for Christmas and I've taken it on as my mission in life to show it to everyone of my friends who had never seen it, which is surprisingly, all of them.

I still get the creepy chills when I watch this movie because it's chock full of terrifying moments and characters. Instead of flying monkeys, like the original movie, there's Wheelers. Doesn't sound too scary, does it? Wrong. They are horrible.

They have this laugh that they do while they are chasing you that makes you realize, you will surely die if they catch you. Plus, they are on rollerblades so their movements are all very fluid. If the Wheelers don't do it for you, how about a villain who removes the heads from her victims to wear on her own body whenever she pleases? I'm looking at you, Princess Mombi! At one point, Dorothy is trying to fetch the magic flying powder from Mombi's head closet and one of them wakes. She starts screaming and Mombi's headless body starts coming for Dorothy. No. Thank. You.

Let's not forget that this movie begins with Dorothy's aunt and uncle taking her to a mental hospital to receive shock therapy. They are literally going to zap her brain to make her stop talking about Oz and her original adventure. 

Don't worry- this creepy character, the Gnome King (who has a thing for ruby slippers) is defeated when Bellina (the chicken) drops an egg into his mouth. Didn't know eggs were the only way to defeat giant, evil rock formations? Now you do. Talking chickens, headless villains, wheelers, shock therapy, talking rocks, and creepy characters make this probably the weirdest movie that I watched growing up. Additionally, because of this movie, I can't walk past a small green object without touching it and shouting "Oz!" 

HERE is the trailer. If we lived close to one another, I'd invite you over to watch it. My rule is that you can't make fun of it though. None of this "What a dumb movie!" stuff, it's a cinematic masterpiece and I won't have you talking about it in any other way. 

Are there any movies from your childhood that are just so strange and dark that you can't believe your were allowed to watch them? Tell me all about them!

July 14, 2014

sail camp & lessons learned from taking the plunge

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go camping with twenty of my friends. Camping has been a really big part of my life, for like ever, although my camping looks different than a lot of other people's versions of camping. I grew up attending a camp in the Big Bear Mountains where we learned to identify plants, memorized the stories behind constellations, took lessons in archery, and other peculiar activities for a nine year old girl to participate in. My family also camps in Mexico every year, but we bring air mattresses, eat lobster and spaghetti, and have the options of showers. That is not your average person's camping experience, but it's definitely the Novello way.

I was a little intimidated and apprehensive to say yes to the trip because I was nervous that it would be too much. I am such a weirdo, I know. I don't even own a sleeping bag, so I knew I'd have to borrow everything. I didn't want anyone to notice that I was out of my comfort zone. I was afraid to say yes to what turned out to be a really wonderful and beautiful weekend because of fears that didn't even come true. I hate the paranoia that can sometimes keep me too fearful to live life well. I'm working on saying yes to thing before fear gets the best of me.

On Friday, I headed an hour out of Boise and met up with my pals. I was instantly taken aback by the beauty of my surroundings. Lucky Peak is a reservoir right outside of Boise and we were able to secure our little own camping area with a private dock. It was magical. We loaded up our belongings in Chad's sailboat and sailed across the reservoir to our little home.

I think one of my favorite things about the weekend was that there was no cell phone service. Any usage of a cell phone was solely for the purpose of taking pictures. This weekend was an exercise in being present. It's so easy to be with others while being in a different world completely. I find myself more concerned with my phone instead of the person in front of me. This weekend contained none of that. When someone talked, others listened. There was no checking your email, being simultaneously on instagram, or texting someone else. We were present with one another in the way that we have always been intended to be. 

There were some great leisurely moments spent on the sail boat, with the sun on your face and the water beneath you. Even after I got back last night, I still felt like my bed was rocking me to sleep. It was wonderful. I'm a water girl. Much of my childhood was spent in the water and a significant portion of that time, I spent pretending to be a mermaid. Being in a landlocked state, I get serious emoji heart eyes whenever I'm near water. 

Another fear that I had with saying yes to the trip was knowing that saying yes meant agreeing to spend time in a bathing suit in front of my friends. Bathing suits and I have a really long history of not getting along. We are like North and South Korea. I'm obviously South Korea and bathing suits are definitely North Korea. I love being in the water and being near it, but ironically, I'm always afraid of being in a bathing suit. One of the first things my friends did was get on their bathing suits and jump off the dock into the reservoir. I made excuses for why I wasn't out there as well. I realized that not participating in that activity was just so foolish. It was hotter than hades outside and not jumping into the reservoir was just foolish. My friend Diana and I counted to three and jumped in together, as I shouted "TOWANDA!" in my head. If you know what that is from, we are soup snakes. If you know what THAT is from, we are DOUBLE soul mates. After taking the plunge and catching my breath, I decided that some things were going to be different. I wasn't going to be afraid of my body or ashamed of it. I wasn't going to allow it to restrict me from doing the things that I wanted to do. I wasn't going to spend the weekend worrying about how I looked in a swimsuit or what other people thought of me. Frankly, that's a little vain and I needed to get over myself. No one was thinking about me quit as often as I assumed they were. 

Jumping in and taking the plunge was refreshing, both physically and spiritually. This weekend and the quiet moments I was able to steal for myself provided great thinking time of where I am and where I'm going. I'm learning to slow down, to invest in those around me, and to cast away the fear that I sometimes allow to cripple me. 

I'm grateful for these friends and this experience. I'm grateful for them teaching me, listening to me, and loving me in spite of myself. I'm grateful for the water, the sun, but not the snake that we saw in the outhouse. That thing gets no gratitude from me. I'm so grateful for the concept of community and this little one in a small town in Idaho that has welcomed me with open arms. I'm grateful for friends taking the plunge with you, even when they aren't entirely aware of what it represents for you. And I'm especially grateful for no cell phone service, corn hole tournaments, and sail boats. 

July 10, 2014

book review: bread and wine by shauna niequist

I am a lover of food. I bet you couldn't tell by my oh so hollow cheekbones and willowy frame, but I come from a family of food lovers and kitchen wizards.  So many of my favorite memories revolve around being seated at a table with food set in front of me. Whether you enjoying cooking, eating, or some combination of the two, I guarantee that you will love this book.

I found Shauna's book through Lindsay Letters and asked for it for Christmas because I totally judged a book by its cover. I really had no idea what the book was about but it looked pretty and had to do with food. I was sold. When I first opened it, I remember thinking, "This is a little small to be a cookbook." I didn't realize that it was both a cookbook and a memoir, but I'm pretty sure that's my new favorite genre.

One of the really wonderful things that she does in this book is share a story, specific time in her life, lesson, etc. and then pairs it with a recipe at the end of the chapter. There are several chapters in the book that are without a one, but for the most part, the last several pages will contain a recipe. I loved how she wove together her heart and her stomach. I hope that reads as flattering as I intend it to be. Her book reminded me of my own family's food traditions and how special those are to us. There's nothing in the world quite like a Novello Christmas Eve meal and my mouth is watering just thinking about the lagana (not lasagna), ravioli, sausage, and meatballs that my aunts make by hand.

In the last several years, I've been beginning to see the kitchen table as less of a place for me to stuff my face (still guilty though, friends) and more of a place to share stories, experiences, and spend time over full dishes with loved ones. Shauna's book helped me to develop that further and gave me bravery to experiment, permission to fail, and grace for when things turned out far from perfect. I've fallen in love with my kitchen and filling my Great Nana's table with bowls, plates, and friendly faces.

"The art of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment."
Shauna's writing style made me feel like I was reading a long letter from an old friend. Within several pages, you'll feel like you know her and you'll long to sit across a table from her  dining on literally anything that's been created in her kitchen. She instantly makes you comfortable, even from the very description on the back of the book. She begs you to wreck the book: to spill on it, to dog ear the pages, to dirty it with food remnants. I loved that, I loved the initial invitation to engage with her and others not only through written words, but through action.

While this book is predominately about cooking and her life, it's about  more than that. It's a call to live in community with others. It's a challenge to live presently and engage with others holistically. It presents the notion that not only can we feed each other's bodies, we can feed each other's souls. It's about love, heartache, and everything in between.

I've already lent this book out several times, that's just how much I love it. It's one of those books that you finish, want to place on a shelf because it's so beautiful and meaningful, but you know that in doing so, you'd really do the book and those that you love a disservice. I'm so excited to read more by Shauna. I picked up her book "Bittersweet" yesterday at the library and plan to read it in its entirety this weekend. I'm not one for savoring books or food, when I find something that I love, it must be devoured.

June 28, 2014

jessica makes: one pot pasta

I've seen variations of the following recipe on Pinterest, in food magazines, and even had something like it growing up. One of my goals for this year (which I'm not being super successful at) was to cook more. I usually end up justifying NOT cooking because a. It's just me, b. I usually have access to the student cafeteria which is free and easy, and c. I'm really good at talking myself out of things.
I'm trying to make something new and easy each week so that I can enjoy the leftovers throughout the week and because I really enjoy the therapy of cooking. There's something very soothing about following a recipe, getting a little creative, and then enjoying the fruits of your labor. 
I'm all about quick and easy. Maybe one day I'll be more interested in laborious recipes that call for specialized skills and a wide array ingredients, but for now, I'm a big fan of easy, breezy, beautiful covergirl. 
Here's what you'll need:
32 oz Veggie Broth
1 (28 oz) Can of Diced Tomatos
Package of Pasta (I used fettucine)
2 Tbsp Olive Oil 
1 Med Onion
4 Cloves of Garlic
8 oz Frozen Chopped Spinach (not pictured because I decided to add it in last minute)
1/2 tbsp Dried Basil
1/2 tbsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & Pepper 
Feta or Parmesan

Put the veggie broth and pasta in a large stockpot. I broke my fettucine in half to make stirring the pot/ingredients a little more manageable. Add the diced tomatos (juice and all!), olive oil, frozen spinach (if you're not a spinach fan, you could easily omit this and it wouldn't alter the taste or flavor), and spices.

Pull out your handy dandy knife that desperately needs replacing and slice up your onion & cloves of garlic. This is one time when thin is best, friends. Then, slice your onion halves in half so that you don't end up with onion rings in your pasta. I love onion rings, but they don't really go in this very Southern Italian meal. 

When everything is all added in, you'll be left with this beauty. Bring your pasta to a boil, making sure
that all of the ingredients are submerged in the broth/tomato mixture. Turn down the heat to medium, making sure it continues to boil, and stir it occasionally over the next 15-20 minutes. Don't stir it too often or your pasta will get mushy and that's just not acceptable. 

After everything is cooked thoroughly, stick your head right near the pot and breathe in that delicious garlicky, basil, tomatoey scent and enjoy your steam facial. Seriously. The scent is that is lingering in my apartment is reason enough to make this dish! It smells like Sunday evenings at my parents house. 

Garnish your generous serving of pasta with an equally generous serving of feta (or shaved parmesan if you have it on hand!) and serve with a side of Italian bread. I know you're not supposed to double up on carbs but how else are you supposed to sop up the heavenly juice left at the bottom of the bowl? It would be a sin to let it go to waste! If you end up making this, let me know what you think! It's going to be on heavy rotation here in the Novello household. 

June 21, 2014

little snapshots

Although it's summer, so technically I'm on a break from work, my days are still so busy! I really thought that summer would be a time of rest but I'm working 30-ish hours a week at a women and children's shelter (that's a post in and of itself which will be written soon-ish) and then I have class from 8-2 every Saturday morning. Sheesh. It is not super restful, but don't you worry your pretty little head, I'm still enjoying every moment of my summer. Because things have been sort of all over the place recently, I wanted to share little snapshots of what has been going on as of late. Follow along on instagram for joy and shenanigans. 

1. My dear friend Malinda left for Rwanda to spend the summer working with our church's sister parish. She was an intern in our universities counseling center this year and it was such a blessing to send my girls her way knowing that they would be so well cared for.

2. I will never tire of the view that welcomes me home to San Diego. Is there anything more beautiful than tall palm trees, a sun kissed sky, and feeling an ocean breeze on your face?

3. I grew up running concessions with my father so I was under the impression that I've had a snow cone before. Wrong. What I had previously consumed was shaved ice. They are not the same thing. This concoction BLEW MY MIND. The ice is so thin! It melts in your mouth! AND IT IS JUST ONE DOLLAR. I want one each and every day.

4. Poppa Bear turned 60 this week and we threw a co-party for him and my Aunt Mary. Marmee and I were responsible for decor and we wanted to play up the Italian card without putting cannolis, little David statues, and meatballs on each table. I made (and by made, I mean I painted them with chalkboard paint) these little pots, planted herbs in them, and wrote the names of each herb on the pot in Italian. I'm pretty pleased with them. I think it'll be a little project I recreate for my backyard. In case you were wondering, we also included cute little glass containers filled with corks and wine bottles with a picture of my dad and Mary on them. Super presh.

5. Isn't he the cutest? I am so lucky to be his. Also, he can wear his glasses on his forehead like that without them ever slipping down. I've never seen anything like that before. He's a magician.

6. I bought a car! HEYO! It's a sweet little silver Honda Civic. I love it. I am so excited to not spend an arm and a leg on gasoline! I've been driving a truck since 2009 and while it's been a great car, it's also cost me a fortune to keep moving. This little baby (Trixie Belden) gets great mileage per gallon and has an auxiliary port thing. I AM MOVING IN TO THIS CENTURY YA'LL! Also, I sent that picture to my mom and she said that my hand looked like "a penile code." Her words. Not mine. Sorry that my jeans are dark and my sweatshirt was black and that my hand is pasty white and it just so happened to be at "penile code" level. ALL AN ACCIDENT.

June 1, 2014

lets go to san diego, hey that's where all the kids go

This past week, I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego for a conference. This, to me, was the best case scenario. I'm getting to travel somewhere beautiful for a conference that also just happens to be the place I lived for twenty one years. My boss allowed me to book my ticket out a couple days early so that I could spend a little bit of time with my family before heading down south for our conference. 
I'm always grateful to go home. I don't think I appreciated how beautiful and special my hometown was until I was gone. I had lived there my entire life and was ready to spread my wings. I was ready to grow up, find a new place, and figure out who I was. I'm so blessed to be where I am now, I'm very content in Idaho, but man, the ocean? I can't believe that I saw that almost every single day. I just stared at it when I went to the beach with my sisters. I couldn't get over how vast and expansive it is. I surely was spoiled by that view and I'm glad to get to return to it several times a year.
One thing that's peculiar about returning "home" is that my real home, where I lay my head, is a different place than where I grew up. California definitely feels like home, but the type of home that you don't live in anymore. Maybe it's like seeing the house you grew up in, realizing it's not yours anymore, but cherishing the time that you spent in that place and being grateful to it for helping to raise you. I don't have a room in my parents house anymore. That's understandable. I haven't lived there for over five years, but it's weird to return to stay with them and be in the guest room. I am a guest within my own home. That's a strange place to be. 
None of what I've said so far is really what I intended to say in this post, I think I'm just processing through some things so bear with me. Let's get down to brass tactics, as my father would say. Can I just say that one thing I absolutely adore about my father is his ability to butcher the English language and colloquialisms? My mother is a logophile and it drives her absolutely bonkers that my father insists on saying things like "brass tactics" instead of brass tacks and "for all intensive purposes" instead of for all intents and purposes. It may drive her bonkers, but it absolutely tickles me. 
I'm just all over the board today, aren't I? I do really want to tell you all about my conference because it was absolutely fascinating, so I'm serious now, here we go. As most of you know, I'm a Resident Director at a private Christian liberal arts university in the Northwest. This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a conference specifically for the residential life professionals at our sister schools. Over 50 of us gathered at Point Loma to learn, worship, and grow together as continue to navigate our positions. 
The speaker that they brought in for the conference is an authority in the area of emerging adults (18-29 year olds). He lectured on that age group and their college experience, presence in the church, and what they are looking for in life. I think sometimes I feel so disconnected from that specific age group although I'm still in it. I am in a position of authority over 18-20 year olds, yet a lot of my struggles, questions, and growth is similar to theirs. 
After the lectures, we had the opportunity to gather in smaller family groups where we connected with the staff from other universities. I so appreciated the time to compare notes, verbally process the lectures, and exchange information. Our schools are all over the country, but so much of what we're doing is the same. We shared a lot of stories and it gave me a lot of peace to know that the issues I dealt with this year weren't entirely original. It's nice knowing that someone else out there can relate to your situation. 
I sometimes feel like people have a difficult time understanding what I do. My sister in law thinks I'm an RA and my grandmother is very concerned about me because I'm pretty sure she thinks that I'm unemployed. Sometimes when I try to explain that although I'm technically paid for 40 hours of work a week, my job is really 24/7, people can't grasp that. They have a difficult time understanding what that looks like. It was refreshing to be with a group of people who understand that entirely, who struggle with knowing when to shut their doors and turn their phones off, and who can identify with being a parent/older sibling/pastor/cop/counselor/etc to a 100+ students. 
I've heard that we might attend this conference every other year. I wish it was every year because I feel like I met so many wonderful people and it'd be a shame to not see them for a long time. I'm hopeful that the next university to hold is our sister school in Boston or Nashville. I could get behind a trip to either of those locations, for sure. 
Has anyone ever attended a conference for work or pleasure that they would absolutely recommend? 

May 15, 2014

jessica makes: almond breakfast cookies

Confession: these are adapted from a recipe I found on pinterest which you can view HERE. My cookies turned out drastically different than what I imagine they were supposed to turn out like. That's probably because I really didn't follow their recipe and I think I got the wrong almond flour/meal. Maybe I should say my recipe was inspired by their recipe? Yes, that's it. I guess I should also admit that these really aren't breakfast cookies. They just pair so perfectly with coffee that it would really be a crime to not have them in the morning for breakfast. There's nothing too shameful in them, so it's completely acceptable to eat them for breakfast.

When I found this recipe, I knew I had to try it because I love almond. Not like. Not like like. I love the bold, yet subtly sweet flavor of almond. I really don't care for almonds though. I don't make sense, I know. I think it's because I've eaten almonds like it was my job during all of my different dieting phases and so now, when I eat an almond, it just doesn't do it for me. I love almond flavored things though (says the girl who is currently sipping on an almond americano) so I knew that almond cookies would be a slam dunk. 

Here's what you need:
1 c Almond Meal
1 heaping tbsp of coconut oil
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1/4 c brown sugar 

First, melt the coconut oil put it in your mixing bowl. Then add everything else. Seriously. It doesn't matter what order you put it in. Just put it all in there and mix it. If the cookie isn't sweet enough for you, you could add some agave or more brown sugar. If you do this, you'll probably have to add some more almond meal, just so it doesn't become too runny. I found that the brown sugar I originally addd was perfect. Not too sweet, but just sweet enough. The perfect combination for breakfast. 
I used a tablespoon to ball out the dough, rolled it in my palms, and then placed it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I recommend flattening them a little, but not too much. You want them to remain chewy. 

While the oven preheats, you should really take a selfie with your cookies. You should also probably take a picture of your shoes. It passes the time you have to wait for the oven to preheat. Oh, what's that you say? Preheat the oven before you start making your cookies? You're a genius. 

Oh yeah. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake for 12-15 minutes. 

And voila! 

Now you've got some deliciously chewy, almond cookies that pair perfectly with a cup of joe. The recipe only makes about ten cookies, so don't expect a ton, but with cookies this delicious, maybe it's best that we don't keep too many in our homes. 

May 8, 2014

nostalgia is a four letter word

I've been weepy recently. I know, what else is new, right? My thoughts have been drifting towards Korea a lot. First it was the absolutely horrific ferry accident that rocked the country several weeks ago. Then I was distracted by the pictures from those who are living the life I lived over there for more than eleven months. Some I know, some I've never met. But I feel a connection to them. We've walked the same streets, taught the same children, lived in the same apartments, yet the people over there (with the exception of several) have no idea who I am, though I feel as though they are kindred spirits.
I'm slightly jealous of them. They're doing the things I did and falling in love with a place that I'm in love with. Their present is my past, but that means nothing to them. It's hard to not look at that experience through rose colored glasses. Sometimes I wish I could just teleport myself back to soak up some of those experiences again. The truth is that if I were to magically arrive there, it would be entirely different. There would be no Cameron & Lisa, no Kait & Doug, no Thomas & Bethany, no Seo Kyung Hwa, and no Shim Hyun Seok. My life over there wouldn't really exist like it did in 2011 and 2012. The people that made that place home aren't there anymore, they're back in America. 

Sometimes my mind drifts back to that place and those people, our experiences that are so precious simply because we shared them. I think of how terrified I was when I went to LAX, knowing full well that I was saying goodbye to my family for a while. There was no "see you soon," it was "see you in a year." I remember hugging my dad out at the car. He couldn't come in to the airport with us. He said it's so we wouldn't have to park the car and he could just drive it around, but I think it's because he is emotional and he knows he would have shown it. I think of hugging my mom and sisters that one last time before leaving to go through security. I remember being in line, turning around to get one last look and seeing my mom waving frantically, with tears rolling down her face. I quickly turned around before all of my courage left me. I wanted to be strong and brave, but really, I felt like a little girl going on an adventure far too big. 
I remember spending my first weekend holed up in my teeny, tiny room. I ate McDonalds and watched endless hours of Friday Night Lights. We all cope in our own way. I then remember meeting Cameron and Lisa. They invited me to go to Costco with them and showed me where the best place was to do laundry. I was grateful to be included in something. We instantly connected over shared taste in books, music, and television shows. We swapped quotes from The Office. Life started to feel normal right around that moment. I felt slightly settled. It's funny how a little bit of comfort can go a long way when you're so far from anything you know. They introduced me to Doug & Kait. We formed a little family. It was the five of us. There were others, of course, that we would spend time with, but at the end of the day- they were the ones who I spent most of my time with. 
I think of the weather changing and how when it became cooler, my heart followed suit. I experienced the second wave of homesickness that I thought I'd be immune from. Thanksgiving was hard. I tried my hardest to be thankful, but in reality, I just wanted to be back at home. Slowly but surely, I began to feel okay again. It took a while. I remember a lot of tears. I remember feeling guilty that I wasn't thankful for the experience. I remember walking home from Seo Kyung Hwa's apartment after she had brought me home from school and I made myself vocalize my thanks the entire way home. Some of them were big and important thanks and others were small, like my thankfulness for endless colors of nail polish that were less than a dollar at Etude House which was conveniently located just steps from my apartment.
I remember when Thomas and Bethany arrived. We connected over coffee and board games at the coffee shop by our homes. They were such a seamless addition to our little family. Sometimes I think about the nights we spent at Baby Bar. None of us actually know what it was named, but we called it Baby Bar because there were weird baby dolls all over it. We loved that place though and I spent far too much money on their large glasses of house wine that turned out to be Carlo Rossi. They served this weird little crackers and whipped cream. It sounds like an odd combination, and it definitely was, but we ate it up because that's just what we did. 
One of the things I yearn for most when I think about that experience is the simplicity of it all. I walked to and from the school I worked at. I didn't know my students names but that was okay because they wanted me to call them things like "Mario" and "Harry Potter" instead. I ate simply and enjoyed my routine of running after work or walking to the gym on the street corner where a Korean friend helped me negotiate a membership. I would always see Shim Hyun Seok there. He was a blessing. He worked at the same school as I did and managed to always end up in my office at the end of the day to chat or watch silly Youtube videos. We still keep in touch, but it's not the same. I miss those moments we spent together. 
I was so ready to leave Korea that sometimes I think I didn't fully grasp how wonderful it was until I had been back in the states several months. I know that I romanticize things, so it should be noted that not all of my experiences in Korea were lovely. Some were hard, some were very trying, and others were down right discouraging. I was ready to come back and now I have a job that I could have only dreamed of having, but sometimes I think to myself what life would look like if I went back. It wouldn't be the same, it wouldn't be nearly as wonderful. I think we got lucky when we discovered each other over in that city halfway around the world. I can't fathom having those experiences with anyone else. 
I sometimes fear that I'm doing the same thing to my job now that I did to my time in Korea. I'm not soaking it up and being entirely present. I have this problem of getting too concerned with what's next. I have trouble setting down my anchor and letting myself just be. I'm fearful of looking back on this time, this truly wonderful time and realizing I didn't savor it enough. Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can be a real beezy. Maybe I'm just overcome with sappiness because I'm getting ready to say goodbye to the girls that I've spent the last nine months with. Whatever the reason, it's interesting to think that so much of my hear resides over the ocean, without a home. I reallythink when you exist for so long in one place, there's a part of you that will always remain there. 

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