Thursday, December 27, 2007

simply inspiring...

ohhh Oprah, you always have the most inspirational guests.

i'm watching her show right now (yes, at 2 am) and i am in awe of her guests today. they are all people who are actively making a difference in the world simply by following their true calling -- a deep-rooted desire to help others.

one woman, Genevieve Piturro, started the Pajama Project after she realized children in shelters sleep in their street clothes. fast forward five years later, she has collected and donated over 85,000 pairs of pajamas!!

thanks to Oprah and her generous audience, they gathered 32,046 pairs of pajamas for Genevieve's program as well as raised $20,000 for the Pajama Project!!

the next guest, John Wood left his eight-year-long career at microsoft (which earned him millions) after an eye-opening trip to Nepal. John saw 75-80 kids crammed into a small, one room school with dirt floors. after john saw the school's "library" only contained 20 books, most being backpacker cast-offs that were inappropriate for children, he vowed to make a difference. "One of the teachers said to me, 'Many people have told us they will come back, but nobody ever does.'" so John started Room to Read, a literacy organization that helps children in Nepal and Vietnam by donating books and building libraries and schools.

"I was feeling the pull," he says. "I thought, 'It's been a great eight years, but I'm making wealthy shareholders wealthier. Meanwhile, there are 800 million people in the developing world lacking basic literacy. … What kind of a man am I if I don't go face this challenge directly or devote my life to this? … [People thought] 'Oh, you're having a mid-life crisis, and i thought wouldn't it be a crisis if i didn't follow my heart and make a difference?" John said.

John hopes to achieve his goal of building 20,000 new libraries by the year 2020!!

the final guest, Barbara Franklin began clipping (and hoarding) coupons in order to collect food for local poverty-stricken families. with the help of local church members, Barbara was able to start collecting coupons in large quantities, saving her hundreds at the grocery store.

"[Once] my bill was $187, but when I finished [using coupons], I paid $3.02," she said.

Barbara's program started by helping 10 families, then grew to help 100 families and then 1,000. Now, Barbara runs a food pantry (and a program named Action Against Hunger) that feeds 1,500 families a month!!

In addition to running a food bank, Barbara also runs after-care center for children, a Section 8 program and a senior drop-off food program as well!! Barbara was one of the semifinalists of Volvo's Volvo for Life Awards, earning her recognition for her continual service to her community.

one thing the women had in common... a supportive spouse!! which makes me thankful i have such a supportive boyfriend (as well as an uber-supportive mother, grandmother and family).

something to keep in mind: if you want to SEE a difference, MAKE a difference. (you can quote me on that!!)

other great mantras to keep while starting your personal crusade to help others (which by the way, is a FANTASTIC new years resolution):

"The purpose of life is not to be happy - but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you have lived at all." ~Leo Rosten

"Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful." ~Author Unknown

"It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can." ~Sydney Smith

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." ~Winston Churchill

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." ~Albert Pike

"Find a need and fill it." ~Ruth Stafford Peale

"If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little, give of your heart." ~Arabian Proverb

"The vicious count their years; virtuous, their acts." ~Samuel Johnson

"Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.... You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

"The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." ~Helen Keller

"There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self." ~Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop


and my new favorite:

"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." ~Betty Reese


now go out and help people by volunteering, donating or by committing to one random act of kindness per day... i garauntee you'll feel as uplifted as those who are receiving your generousity.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

check out my handmade necklaces!!

i am selling awesomely cute necklaces/jewelry on my etsy site now...

you can check em out here!!

each charm is handmade, OOAK (one of a kind)!!

more will be added soon, so stop by often for updated merchandise. :)

story of my missing cat

i was disappointed that my hexum cat was MIA when i arrived home from california. i figured i would see him the next morning, tapping his tail against the window screen until i let him inside. but day after day passed and the cold wintery weather continued with no sign of my little orange striped cat. he's an indoor/outdoor cat and the longest he ever strayed from home was four days -- the week my cousin and her kids came over to feed the cats while my mom and i were down the shore.

my mom was convinced an owl or coyote or fox had gotten the best of my cat (one time a fox had my cat up a tree), but i doubted the scenario. i didn't want to believe it. in my mind, someone found him and took him in, thinking he was just a friendly stray. hexum is slender, does not have a collar and one of his eyes is duller than the other eye (due to a mysterious, outdoor injury) so he could be mistaken for a stray. i thought about his eye injury and wondered if that put him at a disadvantage, making him an easy target. i wanted to put "missing cat" fliers in nearby mailboxes, saving one for the bulletin board at the post office.

it seemed like every pet product commercial featured an orange striped cat that looked just like my poor little missing hexum!! i started paying more attention to my mother's cat who's a good cat, but no substitute for my hexum.

he was obviously hurt or trapped somewhere because he always comes home when you call him. the day before Christmas eve marked one week of his disappearance. by this time i had checked the garage; my mom had checked the barn and we had been calling his name outside once or twice a day. about to accept his disappearance, i reminisced about the four years i spent with him.

my mom and i had just finished some last minute Christmas shopping (and a meal at ruby tuesdays) and returned home around 9:00-9:30 PM. it was a lousy day outside. all of the torrential rain had melted the remaining ice and snow. we carried some bags inside and my mom opened the door to take my dog outside. in runs a cat who jumps right up on the kitchen table. my mom assumed it was her cat, but it was hexum... soaking wet and hungry as ever!! i was in disbelief. i just pointed at him and called my mother into the kitchen. we were surprised and relieved. it was a mini Christmas miracle!! and the cutest part was yet to come...

after hexum devoured one can of cat food and a dish of dry food, he plopped himself right under our Christmas tree, as if he were a present!! i'm so glad he came home!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

i have a new appreciation for shopping carts...

what a crazy, hectic week this has been!! rick and i moved out of our nice, big apartment into something less nice and less big but it's located in a convenient area, dave grohl lives in the same town and we will be saving money... so it's all gravy. (let's bring that phrase back, hehe).

packing and hauling one year's worth of accumulated crap to the apartment was quite a challenge (not to mention trying to fit a large entertainment center into a small elevator) but thank goodness for tim and aldrin and shopping carts!! when we signed the lease the manager said, "if you're going to use shopping carts, don't leave them in the halls because they are a fire hazard." my face must have said "what the hell?!" because the manager then added, "some people like to carry their groceries or laundry up that way." ooooh.

well, thank goodness no one listens because i was able to find THREE shopping carts in the hallways and boy did those things come in handy!! unfortunately the apartment is not cart friendly. there's speed bumps in the parking area; you need to open the door to the elevator with a key; there are double doors that are kept shut that separate the hallways... a lot of obstacles. and on top of everything i was SICK. runny nose, fever, cough... all that good stuff.

rick and i worked every day last week but we managed to get a lot done by pulling a few all-nighters (and we basically had to in order to beat traffic). i have yet to see this apartment in the daytime. i left early on sunday to go home for the holidays, leaving rick behind with a yowling cat and our old apartment still 1/5 full of my belongings that needed to be packed and moved by monday and A LOT to be cleaned so we could get our deposit back. i still feel bad i couldn't help but because my boyfriend is the best ever, he didn't mind. in return, i promised: to keep the kitchen table at our new place perpetually clean (which is a quite a challenge for me); to keep our new apartment more organized in general; and rick and i vowed to never do anything THAT last-minute again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

concerts took all my money.

i will be seeing 311 in las vegas AND i will be attending 3-11 day. :) and today i bought foo fighters tickets for two venues. so in march, i will be seeing them two times in one week!! needless to say, i am now broke. but at least i have some events to look forward to attend (and some excuses to travel)!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12 DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS!!!!

have you finished you finished your holiday shopping??? i'm almost done!! i'm glad to be going home to spend the holidays with my family and friends but with temperatures in the 20s and 30s... i think i am going to freeze. :(

My Top FIVE Favorite Christmas Songs:
1. Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"
2. The Waitresses "Christmas Wrapping"
3. Lou Monte's "Dominick the Donkey"
4. Harry Connick Jr's "Sleigh Ride" ("It Must've been Old Santa Claus" is a good one too!!)
5. Eartha Kitt's "Santa Baby"

My Top FIVE Favorite Christmas Movies:
1. A Christmas Story
2. Christmas Every Day
3. Home Alone
4. The Grinch (the animated version)
5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas... Happy Hanakakah, Happy Kwanza, or nothing (if you are a Johovah's Witness)!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

ok, i officially have the world's coolest boss

today instead of making phone calls for 8 hours (racking up a whopping $82.50) i am housesitting for my favorite boss mr. dave nagel who is en route to LA from a photo shoot in orlando. dave and his wife rent their house out as a location for photo shoots. my job is to make sure the production crew doesn't throw a wild party or snoop through his office. the photographer is shooting billy baldwin who has about five or six hats stacked on his head right now. he seems very pleasant and agreeable; a nice guy to work with. :) once the photos are published in parade magazine i will post them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

fear and loathing... (another one bites the dust).

old news... but news to me. :(

Vegas bids New Frontier farewell
November 14, 2007

LAS VEGAS -- The New Frontier casino-hotel was imploded early Tuesday in a violent end to the second property to open on the Strip and the scene of Elvis Presley's Las Vegas debut.

Over 1,000 pounds of explosives felled the 16-story hotel tower as reporters and bystanders watched. An $8-billion resort bearing the Plaza brand will rise in its place and is set to open in 2011.

Elad Group owner and Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, a partner in the new resort project, offered handshakes and hugs after the tower came down.

An easterly breeze helped to quickly dissipate the dust.

With a cowboy motif, the New Frontier was the Strip's first themed casino. The low-key gambling hall opened as the Last Frontier in 1942 and later took on a Space Age look before returning to its Wild West roots.

Over its 65 years it played host to such entertainers as Ronald Reagan, Wayne Newton, and Siegfried and Roy. Presley performed for the first time in Las Vegas at the resort in 1956. It had become known for bikini bull riding, cheap rooms and $5 craps before it closed its doors for good in July.

IDB Group and Elad Group, the owners of the Plaza hotel in New York, said the new property would include a luxury hotel with about 3,500 rooms, private residences, retail space and a casino bearing the Plaza brand to reach the highest end of the market.

The destruction of the New Frontier was the latest step in a dramatic, and expensive, face-lift for the northern Strip. The Stardust hotel-casino was imploded in March.

"It's another budget option on the Strip that's gone," said David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "The future is really high-end."

The first of Donald Trump's gold-glass, billion-dollar-plus condominium towers is to open behind the New Frontier site early next year.

Steve Wynn plans to open the $2.2-billion Encore in early 2009, and the $2.8-billion Fontainebleau is scheduled to open farther north later that year. MGM Mirage is planning its own multibillion-dollar resort with Kerzner International and Dubai World at the north end of the Strip for 2012.

"It just became an epicenter of Vegas," said Phil Ruffin, who sold the 34.5-acre site to Elad for $1.24 billion in May. ~LA Times
:(

las vegas has become too expensive for my taste. all of the good, themed hotels containing what little history vegas has have all been imploded and tall buildings which all resemble each other will be built in their place. here's one big sarcastic "yay."

so many of life's lessons can be extracted from las vegas's teachings: nothing is permanent; never get to attached to places or things; money rules the world; donald trump has bad hair; explosives are cool; and change is good (especially if someone can make a shitload of money off of it).

before the stardust hotel was destroyed March 2006, the Boardwalk Casino also vanished from the strip. what i don't understand is why builders only limit themselves to the strip. they have a whole freakin desert!! the first hotel in las vegas was built on fremont street. the strip is only 4 miles long... so why not expand instead of destroying every hotel that was once kitschy and kewl?! make an uppity section of high-end casinos for all the yuppies and leave the old school hotels alone.

on the bright side... i am seeing 311 in vegas this feb. my plan is to stay in one of the oldest hotels on the strip. circus circus may be an option since it is next on the list of deceased casinos.
"The hotel may be demolished and rebuilt. According to an MGM Mirage report, the Circus Circus site "does not make economic use of the 44 acres that it sits on, therefore, we feel that demolishing the current property and rebuilding it in a different fashion (while still keeping the Circus Circus name) will be in our best interest." ~wikipedia.com
better get to the remaining "oldies" fast... the imperial palace will be gone soon too:
"During a conference call with investors on November 20, 2005, the Chairman for Harrah's, Gary Loveman, did not surprise industry analysts when he said that both the Imperial Palace and neighboring O'Sheas "are going to require very substantial modifications or complete tear-downs and rebuilds" in order to make room for a Harrah's and/or Flamingo expansion on the Strip." ~wikipedia.com

the tropicana will be receiving a facelift, but no demolition is planned to execute the renovations:
"On November 2, 2006, Columbia Sussex publicly announced a $2 billion renovation of the Tropicana. Unlike previous Las Vegas projects however, there will be no demolition of the entire resort. The existing Paradise and Island towers will receive both interior and exterior renovations and 4 new towers will be built on the property (the last will be branded as a separate hotel).

Also unusual, is that the resort will remain open during the renovations, which will increase the size of the hotel to over 8,000 rooms. There are also plans to add a 600,000 square foot convention center to the resort, which will be the 5th largest convention center in Las Vegas..." ~wikipedia.com
the luxor will also be remodeled:
"In July 2007, owner MGM Mirage announced plans to thoroughly renovate the Luxor, spending $300 million to remodel 80 percent of Luxor's public areas, removing much of the ancient Egyptian theme and replacing it with more adult-oriented and modern lounges, restaurants and clubs.[1] Among the distinctive changes to the exterior occurred in mid-2007, when management covered one of the pyramid's massive black faces with a 15-story sign that advertises Absolut vodka." ~wikipedia.com
oh great, just what las vegas needed... more over-priced yuppy lounges!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

don't feel bad if our Christmas cards are better than yours.

so my mom and i ordered our Christmas cards tonight that we are sending to family and friends. we've never done this, but this year we opted to create the annoying picture-postcard kind.

here's the conversation we had. just TRY to guess our "theme," hahaha:

my mom: which one do you want to be?
jena: why?? are there going to be arrows pointing to who's who??
my mom: no, but in my head i'm thinking of who i wanna be...
me: which is susan serandon??
my mom: what?? no, you look more like geena davis...
me: well, i'm just asking. i dunno who's who!!


to help you visualize our holiday postcards: we uploaded a photo of the two of us on the Grand Canyon Skywalk. next to the photo, it says "May your Holiday Season be one Grand Adventure!" and underneath... "Love, Thelma & Louise." hahaha!! i love my mom!!

(feel free to reread the title again now... ;) hehehe).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

apartment hunting SUCKS.

friday: tough day working for dave... not. it's always more fun than "work". :) went to "ski dazzle" at the LA Convention Center with rick and aldo. free lift tickets with the entry purchase... not that i'll be using mine. rick and aldo got a good deal on snowboarding bags and i entered every contest i could. i'm still waiting to hear that i am a winner for a weekend getaway in utah... but i won't hold my breath, hehe.

saturday: worked. looked for apartments. ugggh. still haven't found anything DECENT. we have totally ruled out 90% of Van Nuys. yuck.

sunday: honestly don't remember... i think rick and i played scrabble and he won. (what's happening?! hahaha). then rick stayed over his parents' house because he had a dentist appointment in the area early in the morning.

monday:awful. spent alllll afternoon looking for apartments. the eh-ones had no vacancies and the yuck-ones were too yuck to even consider ANNND (this is the best part...) i got a $50 parking ticket for being parked on the street during the last 15 min. of posted street cleaning time. not a street sweeper in sight... nor a cop and the irony is i was only parked there for a matter of minutes while i hopelessly walked up and down the small stretch of street looking for a vacancy among a group of shitty apartments. i dunno how i didn't see anyone near my car and i wasn't the only car parked there. (i was parked behind two other people). needless to say, i was about ready to give up after that not-so-pleasant incident. screw those apartments!!

today: i started a new job. it's a full-time position until i go home for the holidays then when i get back (after new years) it will just be part-time so i can continue to pursue photography. (figures i finally get offered a flexible part-time job riiight before we move out of the area). it's a pain-in-the-ass job making phone calls for a production company that distributes substance abuse materials (i made over 200 calls on my first day!!) but it's easy and the guy who works there is really nice and chill (reminds me of my cousin anthony!!) and i don't have to dress up... which is definitely a plus. i HATE fancy schmancy work clothes!!