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.

video

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!

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