humor

The Rainbow Connection: A Birthday Dedication You Have to Read to Believe

Go Jules Go Title Graphic The Rainbow Connection 17JUN20

Guess what?!

Tomorrow is Dakota a.k.a. Rainbow Cloudjumper’s birthday!

If you’re familiar with Dakota and his world-class blog, Traipsing About, you know that there’s a 98.7% chance he’s out scaling big rocks or van life-ing somewhere spectacular to celebrate the occasion.

Dakota_Rock-climbing-Hells-Canyon-limestone_Oct-2018
He still won’t admit this photo is fake.

Which is why I thought I’d give him a present that won’t spoil:

A BIRTHDAY BLOG POST!

Dakota fruit bowl retreat Sep 2018
That and he’d probably scold me for spending money on presents since we share an identical (food and) financial philosophy.

While I would have loved to have filled this post with a series of Photoshopped images, placing Rainbow Cloudjumper in a number of compromising positions, I thought I’d try something different.

Drunk Birthday Rainbow Dakota 2020
Okay maybe just one.

I have a story involving Dakota, a story so bizarre and cool that you just have to read it to believe it – and even HE hasn’t heard it yet. I kept meaning to share it with him and [his spectacular wife] Chelsea, but it just never came up.

So, what better time than now?!

Two years ago, I was living in a 350-square foot apartment in suburban New Jersey, ferociously squirreling away my corporate job salary, finishing a Masters degree in Humane Education, and dreaming of a different sort of life. One with financial freedom, passion projects, and outdoor adventures galore.

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Tiny living, BIG ideas.

I was willing to do anything and everything to see this dream through. Since I had the practical side locked down (I am a project manager, after all) -the saving, the lists, the planning- I decided to delve into the metaphysical side. Could creative visualization, meditation, and energy work help? I mean, it couldn’t hurt, right?

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I started listening to metaphysical podcasts, which eventually led to daily meditation. I immediately began having all kinds of…interesting…experiences. Things like the perfect name for my thesis project would hit me in the middle of a meditation. I’d set an intention to find a friend on a similar journey and POOF, she’d appear.

Jules Janeen Grandeur Peak Salt Lake City June 2019
Hang on, Janeen, you want to change your whole life, too?! And you want to start by almost dying on this mountain in Utah?!

You see, something happens when you start believing in the scientific fact that we’re all just wiggly bits of energy – and that that means we have far more influence over our surroundings than what seems possible.

Fast forward a few months to August 2018, and I was so giddy about the remarkable results of this energy work that I decided to do something REALLY crazy. Something called Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique (QHHT) – basically a two hour-long hypnosis that can unleash insights from your higher consciousness.

I know. F&@&% weird. Stay with me. (And delight in the fact that, by now, Dakota is probably wondering what the hell is going on. Is this a birthday post or the confessions of a clinically insane -but very cute- blogger?)

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You can read more about the experience here, but in a nutshell: that shiz was craaaaay. Crazy cool! What most people don’t realize about hypnosis is that you’re fully conscious and aware the whole time, just deeply, deeply relaxed – almost like the twilight feeling between waking life and dreaming. (You also typically get an audio recording of the session, as I did in this case.)

There are several things I didn’t mention about this experience in my earlier blog posts – because they didn’t make any sense at the time. Towards the end of my session, lying down on a comfy bed with a slight breeze wafting through the window, I suddenly giggled and blurted,

“Oh! That’s the rainbow!”

What rainbow? Who cares about rainbows? part of my mind wondered.

“It’s a rainbow. It’s from New Jersey to Oregon. The wholllllle country,” I smiled, my mind’s eye picturing a map of the United States, with a giant, colorful rainbow starting in New Jersey, my home state, and landing in Oregon – a place I’d visited only once, nine years earlier.

Uncle Jesse double rainbow Maston 2020

“One giant rainbow,” I said again, a goofy grin plastered on my otherwise serene face.

My session ended a couple of minutes later, and I spent weeks wondering what the hell that could have meant. While I’m big on signs and symbols, rainbows had never played a significant role in my life.

The following month, I was invited by a friend to a small, five-day gathering in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, organized by Dakota’s wife (who I didn’t know at the time). “A Vegan Creatives Retreat,” they called it, and asked me to present my Masters thesis to a group of seven fellow vegans. My thesis was about conscious consumerism on the path to financial independence. It had first been inspired by discovering the blogging genius, Mr. Money Mustache – someone who, despite his cult following, not many people had heard of.

Nervously, I walked into the beautiful, gray-shingled home where I’d be spending the next four nights, knowing only one person. In the kitchen, an attractive couple with mega-watt smiles greeted me.

vegan retreat tee photo Sep 2018
Admit it. This is exactly what you pictured when you heard the phrase, “Vegan Creatives Retreat.” (By process of elimination, the fabulous Kelsey must have taken this photo.)

“Hi! I’m Dakota and this is Chelsea.”

After a minute of niceties, Dakota said,

“We’re from Bend.”

My jaw dropped. Bend…Oregon? 

That night, using a silly letter code system on the back of a cereal box, we were each given “unicorn names.” Dakota’s name? Rainbow Cloudjumper.

It didn’t hit me until later that night, as I went to bed. Holy forking shirtballs. He’s the rainbow.

Over the next few days, diligently sticking to our unicorn names, Rainbow and I discovered all kinds of uncanny overlaps in our interests, including the fact that he not only knew of Mr. Money Mustache, but was friends with him!

Dakota Mr Money Mustache
I mean come on.

When the retreat was over, I shed a few tears as I bid goodbye to my seven new best friends. Something about that handful of days made my dreams feel more poignant; I realized just how deeply I craved a heart-centered, creative, nature-filled life, yet it still felt worlds away. Moreover, I was afraid I’d never hear from any of them again. (Ah, the never-ending after effects of childhood bullying.)

Dakota, being the Friend Ninja and Inadvertent Life Coach that he is, reached out to me just a couple of days later. He texted a stunning picture of Bend, Oregon. “Move west already!” he wrote.

Card from Dakota
Black Belt Friend Ninja move: a card from Dakota to cheer on my half marathon training.

These kinds of encouraging messages, from a guy who barely knew me let alone my deepest desires, filled the coming months, as did the undeniable signs from the universe. Thanks to them, by June 2019, I had the courage to quit my job, sell all of my stuff, and drive across the country to a town I’d never so much as visited.

Just a mile down the road from Dakota and Chelsea, Bend was instantly the home I didn’t realize I’d been dreaming of my entire life.

Today marks exactly one year here, and I still pinch myself every day.

So thanks, Rainbow – now you know why I can’t help but continue to call you that. I hope your birthday is filled with the kind of awe-inspiring magic that you bring to the world!

Jules-Rainbow-Puke

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Blogging, Lists, PSAs

Staying Power: 6 Tactics for (Y)Our Advocacy Long Game

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Photos: “Wall of Love” by Westfield, NJ residents. Photos taken by me in Feb 2018. 

Like many of you, I’ve been struggling lately with how best to contribute in the march for equality. I thought about skipping this week’s blog post altogether. After all, how could I, a privileged white woman with a blog about her chipmunk fascination, possibly add value?

If I shared good news, I risked gaslighting the very real struggles and heartbreaking treatment of people of color. If I continued to avoid the topic, I seemed tone deaf, or worse, unaffected.

And then it hit me.

My place has never been on the soapbox, but rather by your side, offering encouragement and support. To each of you who has participated in peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations, thoughtfully shared fact-based posts and articles, and stood in solidarity against systemic racism: thank you.

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Turning this ship around, however, will require incredible, consistent, compassionate resolve.

In my years of human rights, environmental protection, and animal rights advocating, bearing witness to unspeakable suffering as I earned my Humane Education Masters degree, I learned a number of strategies that have given me staying power. Perhaps some of them may serve you as you help light the path to peace.

Go Jules Go title graphic Staying Power 10JUN20

Disclaimer: I can only write from a place of white privilege, with the sincerest hope of helping readers in a similarly privileged position. Together, if we can avoid burn out-inspired apathy, we can continue to stand up for love, equality, and chipmunks justice.

1. Advocacy starts at home.

There are emotional stages as you process the kind of horrific information that leads to activism. You may want to yell, fight, and/or tell everyone what you’ve just seen or heard. Remember that being a good advocate means being good to the people within your direct sphere of influence. They didn’t ask for, and likely won’t benefit from, lectures or condemnations. When you feel frustrated by “unwoke” friends or family members, remember that they might just be the perfect practice. First and foremost, model the compassion and change you want to see right where you are. At home.

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2. Consider reframing: what are you fighting against standing for?

Have you ever heard the story about Mother Teresa being asked to march against war? “No,” she allegedly said, “But I WILL march FOR peace.” (Even if the quote isn’t hers [though a number of online sources seem legitimate], my point still stands.) Sometimes this simple reframing can reinvigorate your passion. By moving away from words like “fight” and “battle,” I believe we can achieve the same end (and have a lot more staying power while doing so): peace and equality.

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3. Take a break when you need to.

While this can certainly be considered a privileged tactic, please don’t let anyone, most especially that nagging little voice in your head, tell you that you’re “failing” if you decide to take a break from active campaigning, the news, and social media. If you consider yourself a remotely sensitive person (and I’m willing to bet you do or you wouldn’t be reading this), you WILL NOT survive the long game if you don’t give yourself some time-outs. After all, even while you’re sitting down, you still stand for justice, right? (Sorry. So corny. The chipmunks made me say it.)

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4. Find your happy place.

Related to #3, develop your own personalized self-care strategy. Maybe it’s watching stand-up, funny cat videos, a hike, a bath, or a phone call with a friend. Advocacy burn-out is very real, and the world needs you at your best. Your joyful, laughing, hopeful best.

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5. Choose your words (and shares) wisely.

When you’re fired up, it’s tempting to share, share, share and comment, comment, comment. Sadly, this kind of activism often gets lost in the sauce. Your audience is far more likely to pay attention if you have a proven reputation of speaking and sharing thoughtfully and deliberately. And please, please, pretty please investigate your sources before passing ANYTHING along. (You should have seen me Googling that Mother Teresa quote…)

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6. Choose your company even more wisely.

One of THE MOST effective things you can do for your advocacy staying game is to surround yourself with positive, like-minded activists. The kind of crew whose energy invigorates and inspires you to be and do your best. Not sure if that’s the situation you’re in? Listen to your gut. When you picture a particular person or group, do you feel a tight, heavy feeling? Or a bubbly, effervescent one? …I think you know what to do.

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Whether this is your first or fiftieth time here, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. Now get on out there and BE THE CHANGE.

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Blogging, Lists

LISTEN UP! (Audio) Books for Summer Reading Season

Psst, before we dive in, I just have to let you know how excited I am about my new course with Plant-Based with Robin!

HELP Dinners A Disaster Website Purchase Icon_FINAL_CORRECTED
Let us help. We love you.

Now, where were we?

Ah, yes, books.

Last week, I mentioned how I’d once given up my favorite pastime, reading. By the time I was about 15, I thought I was only allowed to read “smart” books. You know, the books on the 100 Titles to Read Before You Croak list.

Baby-Sitters Club books
Hang on. Are these not on the list?

And just like that, reading went from an exciting adventure to an excruciating chore.

While I’ve since liberated myself from the notion that I had to read anything on any list, I now experience a sort of late onset ADHD whenever I sit down with a book – no matter how fun and indulgent the title. (Weird, huh? I mean, it’s not like anything going on in the world would make someone feel anxious to the point of being unable to focus, right? ha ha…)

scott 12 pack
How many do I have left?! HOW. MANY?!?!

Thankfully, with the advent of library apps like Hoopla and Libby (in which all you need is a valid library ID card to access thousands of free, virtual “borrows”), I’m now able to burn through dozens of audiobooks while I run marathons. I simply download the audiobook on my phone, then set it to airplane mode while I run to ensure I don’t drain the battery or my data plan. When I’m done, I delete it, freeing back up the space on my phone. Boom! (The only downside is that every ten seconds you’ll be forced to debate whether or not it’s worth stopping your running watch and covering your phone in sweat and trail dust to jot down the author’s truth bombs.)

Hoopla-screenshot
A little bit of foreshadowing here…

I’ve read listened to so many books over the past couple of years this way that, as we head into summer reading season, I thought it was high time I gathered my own list of Books to Read Before You Croak!

Side note: If your library offers a choice in apps, I find Hoopla far superior in both selection and number of borrows permitted per month, though the interface is less sleek than Libby.

Let’s do this.

Go Jules Go Title Graphic LISTEN UP Audio Books for Summer Reading Season_3JUN2020

Disclaimer: The below recommendations contain affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you purchase any of the titles, but the recommendations are 100% my own and unsponsored.

To give this some structure, I’m organizing my list in the order in which I enjoyed these books (purposely leaving off the titles that, ah, didn’t speak to me…well, I mean, they spoke to me because they were audiobooks, but, OH MY GOD THIS IS ALREADY MY LONGEST POST OF ALL TIME AND I NEED TO MOVE ON):

2018-2019 Honorable Mentions

Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Dr. Joe Dispenza

Right up front, let’s get one thing straight: I’m into the woo-woo. All the woo-woo. And it took 36 years for me to admit that – even to myself. Now, as a gift to disillusioned, 15-year-old Jules, I let myself read alllll of the books that fascinate and delight me, even if others might call them foolish. And it has transformed my life. Becoming Supernatural is right at the top of the list in busting open conventional beliefs about who we are and why we’re here. If you think you can handle it.

Secret Lives of Introverts

The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World by Jenn Granneman

If you’re an introvert, or love an introvert, drop everything and read this. End of story. …Or is it just the beginning?

Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change by Derek Rydall

Based only on hearing that this was written by a former actor turned guru, you’d probably sooner eat wood screws than read this. But wait! I still think of this book regularly. The way Rydall describes human life compared to an acorn becoming an oak is… well, you’ll just have to “hear” for yourself.

The Happiness Project book cover

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Narrated by the very likable author, Rubin’s year-long exploration of what happiness really is -and the daily, tangible ways you can experience it- is funny, moving, and interesting.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Oh, boy, did I ever think this former bestseller would be a clunker. (And sorry, Mr. Chapman, if your love language is also verbal affirmation. I, in fact, think this book is fabulous.) I stand corrected! I felt like Oprah based on the number of “ah hah!” moments this book led to.

Jan 2020

Sorry I'm Late Jessica Pan

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan

I’ve already written about how much I f@&$# love this woman and this book, so I’ll keep this short. This book is for everyone – introverted or not. Laugh out loud funny, relatable, and endlessly engaging.

Feb 2020

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright

Similar to Pan’s memoir, this recounting by Jamie Wright gives you a no holds barred peek into her world – as the very worst missionary. Wright never shies away from telling the truth about what’s really behind some of the so-called “work” done in the Lord’s name, and she does it with the kind of acerbic self-awareness that makes a humor writer like me swoon.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

A cute fiction book about a woman who takes no small delight in her class mom role – emailing parents with often wildly inappropriate comments and suggestions – leading to, as you might imagine, some pretty amusing hi-jinx. This is what I’d call a “classic summer read.”

Furiously Happy Jenny Lawson book cover

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

Fellow Blogging sensation Jenny Lawson details her struggles with mental health in a way that makes you laugh and cry – in all the best ways.

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks

Written by Stanford psychologist Gay Hendricks, this book exposes the many ways in which we put a “ceiling” on our own possibilities – including how happy we’re allowed to be. Even if you’re thinking you’ve heard all of this before, I promise you’ll gain some surprising new insights into why you STILL HAVEN’T FINISHED THAT G.D. NOVEL ALREADY.

Happy Trail: A Trapped Together Forced Proximity Romance by Daisy Prescott

Um… so… if you geek out on through-hiking, lumberjack chic, and lots of wood, go for it. Exactly the kind of romance novel you’d expect from the cover art.

Happy Trail Daisy Prescott book cover

March 2020

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

The way the authors weave research and personal stories through this book is masterful. If you’re a teacher looking to blow your students’ minds, an office worker hoping to transform your organization, or anyone trying to create more meaningful moments with loved ones, I’m confident you’ll walk away moved and empowered by this book.

Normal Sucks Jonathan Mooney book cover

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney

OH GOD THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. In this part memoir, part historical exploration, Mooney (a now-father raised by anything but normal parents) delves into the origins of normalcy in a way that absolutely blew my mind. While the tone is conversational, the content is rich with fascinating data. If you’ve ever felt misunderstood or ‘less than,’ this book will be your new favorite.

April 2020

96 Miles by J.L. Esplin

This is a young adult fiction title recommended to readers who liked Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Um, helloooo, only my second favorite kid’s book of all-time! (Bested only by Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.) It was gripping. I cannot believe it’s meant for 8 to 12-year-olds. It also includes some fantastic education around Type I diabetes if, as a parent or educator, that might come in handy.

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall

If you loved McDougall’s smash hit Born to Run, or anything by Bill Bryson, you’ll definitely dig this one. A true life historical recount told like an action-packed blockbuster, this book explores the ancient art of human badassery – though I can’t say I agree with all of the dietary recommendations near the end. (Here’s a much happier way to eat .)

When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi book cover

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Whew. Grab the Kleenex before diving into this memoir by the late neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, who passed away from lung cancer at age 37. He left us not only this beautiful book, but his shining yet realistic example of selflessness. (All the more moving thanks to the absolutely poetic closing chapter by his wife.)

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

Whether or not you’ve ever heard of the enneagram model, this book is a fantastic read. Exploring the history and details of the nine personality types described by the enneagram, you’ll laugh (and groan) as you gain insight into what makes you, and others, tick.

May 2020

Year of Yes Shonda Rhimes
Photo credit

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

I don’t know how I made it until May 2020 without erecting a shrine to Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, and more. This woman OWNS primetime drama and is a beacon of hope for any female writer or introvert with a dream.

Kind is the New Classy: The Power of Living Graciously by Candace Cameron Bure

I know! DJ Tanner writes books (yes, plural)! I didn’t realize this until my friend, Sandy, mentioned it on her blog. Entering in with rock bottom expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Cameron Bure’s got something. And no one can deny this woman’s work ethic. A little memoir, a little self-help, and a whole lotta Jesus… I’d read more.

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Judith Orloff

If, like me, you’ve ever described yourself as a “sponge person,” absorbing all of the energy and emotions of the people around you, you’ll adore this book. It’s woo-woo all right, and it explains EVERYTHING.

Girl Stop Apologizing Rachel Hollis book cover

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

I was late to the Rachel Hollis game, and apparently this is like her 47th book. Sort of a shrill Tony Robbins, admittedly, there’s no denying that Hollis MAKES SHIT HAPPEN. My inner project manager geeked out on this brutally honest, practical how-to, and I definitely recommend it if you identify as a woman stuck between dreaming and action.

June 2020

Reflections on the Artists Way Julia Cameron cover

Reflections on the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Like many with a creative dream, I’ve been a HUGE fan of The Artist’s Way‘s 12-week program since I was a teenager. In this three-part audio series, Cameron addresses an audience, answers questions, and then faces a one-on-one interview – all in under two hours. I was delighted to find that I still have so much to learn from this prolific, spiritual powerhouse.

NEXT UP: The Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner

Having just written about anger’s place in our lives, I’m really excited to dig into this. Stay tuned.

Happy reading!

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What are you reading lately?

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