Category: Deep Thoughts

Pilgrimage to Ferguson, MO

Journal Entry from Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 6 pm

“Just saw where Michael Brown was murdered. Definitely a lot running through my mind. I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. I felt privileged, out of place, ignorant, and white. I was fearful and worried. I did not want these residents to think this was some tourist group. But will that be something in the future? I felt like I didn’t deserve to be seeing what I was seeing. Why do I have the right to be part of this movement, see a part of history and try to grasp the overwhelmingness of this situation. The street was so small. The space so open. Its so much more than the dead body. The amount of community and spark that surrounded it is incredible. The most surprising and difficult thing to experience was the car who honked at us and flicked us off after we crossed the street and waved a thank you. What were they thinking? I fear they though we were privileged white folk. How do we change that perception? Do I actively work to change how I am perceived? That would be more me leaving my own social category.


Blood. pooing from his head. Trailing down the street. An entire rectangle of street replaced. Face down. In broad daylight. It still doesn’t make sense to me – where the cop was, where the body was… I felt intrusive being at the scene but I wanted to be there, be there so badly. I also felt myself enter an investigative mindset. There will always be that part of me. What was overlooked? What other dots can I connect? What answers lie in the environment I am looking at? What details are to be noticed. Although the case is closed, I still feel like it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t make sense. Because it doesn’t.

Tips, Tricks, and Things I Always Forget When Travelling

Tip #1: Going to a restaurant? Find out about a rewards program/app. That usually means free food or first-time discounts.

Geocache! Always gives you something to do and you never know what you may find.

Remember these:

  1. Shower shoes if a community shower.
  2. Pump hand soap. I hate those bars.
  3. A mirror. Small or big.
  4. Slippers. I can’t walk around in my sneakers everywhere.
  5. Umbrella.

Tip #2: Go digging. Open up drawers, open up doors. Find unknown areas of access.

Grocery stores with a deli will have utensils and small condiments.


Tip #3: Need a shower? Want a free workout? Sign up for a free day/week pass at a nearby gym.

Talk with locals. Have them write a message in your travel journal.

Tip #4: Take the stairs in the airport (yes, with luggage). It’s faster and a quick workout.

Need to get through security faster? Slip on shoes, no laptop, keep all little items in coat pocket, make liquids easily accessible, no belt… and look into TSA Precheck!

Elmhurst Moves to Fight Food Waste and Feed People

Sustainability has become an increasingly central focus at Elmhurst College. This year, with the creation of the my Sustainability Internship, Chartwells has become a leader in the efforts on campus. We have conducted a waste audit, encouraged proper portion size, increased knowledge of correct recycling, and our biggest initiative yet – started our own chapter of the Food Recovery Network to help feed people and fight hunger. Essentially, students work with local agencies and campus staff to coordinate the donation of the cafeteria leftovers. Started by students at the University of Maryland in 2011, this organization has recovered over 1 million pounds of food and counting!


Food Recovery Network came to Elmhurst because Steven Goodwin, Director of Dining Services, had tasked me with looking into it. Starting a chapter consists of seeking out a leadership team, partnering with a local agency to accept the food, coordinating the logistics with the kitchen staff, and recruiting student volunteers. I was surprised to find that the most challenging task of the entire process was finding an agency to accept donations. After contacting shelters, non-profit organizations, churches, and pantries, I could not find an agency within our zip code that accepts fresh food. Whether they lacked adequate space, had no means of storing the food in refrigerators, or could not do anything with the food, it seemed I had to search elsewhere. I partnered with the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry, located in Hoffman Estates, IL, where I had previously worked as an Archivist. Since November, 2015, we have donated over 1,000 pounds of food, feeding hundreds of families.


As more and more students volunteer with Food Recovery Network, they start to learn about food waste, portion size, and basic cafeteria operations, further breaking down the barriers between students and Chartwells, and improving the student perception on our food quality, price, and service. I am excited to see the development and growth of our chapter over the years to come.

Alternative Spring Break 2.0

Overall, this trip is one million times better than last year, for one million and one reasons. No one has gotten on my nerves, everyone has worked together, the site leaders and advisers are so giving and flexible, and there has been zero drama. I also have heard no complaints, no negativity, and no problems. Maybe I’m just having a better time, therefore I am noticing all of the positives, maybe its because the work is not as physically exhausting, maybe its because we have a smaller group, or maybe its because it truly is just a better trip. The main overall theme that has occurred revolves around the tedious work we have done. We sorted hangers, painted for 21 hours, spackled, caulked, and cut branches. We were not building from the ground up, or seeing a big difference in the progress of the house. Yet, we all got it. Still, no one complained about these small tasks and saw the the “greater good” that was coming of it. Through their work: they had personal accomplishments like conquering their fear of heights, getting progressively better at installing doors or base boards, or mentally overcoming the boredom or frustration with performing the same task over and over. The spirits were high and no one gave up. No one sat around or refused to do certain tasks. We helped each other and encouraged each other. We hung in there until our tasks became like second nature to us, and that was empowering. We realized and better understood that our little tasks enabled the next group that came in to be closer to finishing. We removed our self-interests and worked with those families in mind. Nearly everyone’s “highs” of the day was being able ot talk with the families when they were working with us on site. Some of them are future homeowners getting their sweat equity hours in. They enjoyed listening to these families express their gratitude and appreciation and talk about what they wanted to do with each room and how to decorate. They also respected any part of their life story they shared.

Reflection on J-Term Travel to Jamaica

Everyone asks: How was Jamaica?! And I haven’t known how to respond. Why? Because I really couldn’t find a way to process what I had experienced. I could think about it in terms of the academics, what I learned about the culture, overcoming challenges, and so on and so on. But still, I felt like I haven’t fully processed it all. Finally, after reviewing the goals I had set for myself prior to the trip, I am able to feel a sense of connectedness with the trip. Here is what I learned:


Outcome on Goal 1: Coming back to America, I feel like I did not experience a foreign culture while in Jamaica. After really thinking about it though, I realize that I did experience a foreign culture in regards to the work I want to do in the future, which I could argue is equally as important as my personal experience with the culture. I learned about hardships and injustices facing Montego Bay, Jamaica, such as violence and economic downturn. In order to understand global non-profit work, I definitely need to live with more cultures. I was able to learn about these issues through my time in the schools- through listening to the children stories and hearing the teacher’s lessons. Upon leaving, I gave my contact information to all of the grade 6A boys I was teaching. Since them, I have learned even more about their lives, culture, and struggles. I have talked to parents on the phone and had them thank me for my wonderful work with the boys. I realized that although my work was a limited amount of hours, I left a huge impact on the students. I motivated them, encouraged them, and challenged them to succeed. That, I came to find, is exactly what I want as my mission in non-profit work- I want to utilize my skills and talents to motivate others. I was having a hard time thinking about a topic/area of non-profit work I would like to get into. Now I see, however, that no matter what field I choose to work in, I will always be fulfilling my calling with sharing what I do best, what I showed to my students.



Outcome of Goal 2: I also learning upon coming back to America, that we really are in a rush all of the time. People don’t make time for people, usually just more activities and work. Although I did not learn, or more specifically see examples of, many big specifics of the Jamaican culture, I did learn a few interesting things about America. Here is one interesting finding: All of the meat I ate in Jamaica had bones in it. Wow. It made me realize 1) how privileged I am to be able to purchase boneless meats at an inexpensive cost; and 2) the food we have in America is so processed and far from natural. I have been learning a lot about the origins and impact of food recently through my research, and this opened my eyes to a whole new frontier. Another note about this goal, I was so surprised at myself that I did not experience any culture shock or anxiety about entering a new culture. I actually felt so comfortable with the culture and immensely happy. Even though there were clear cultural differences, I found so many ways I could connect with the culture. I thought about why that might be, and I realized it is because the people I interacted with in Jamaica are so “real.” They are not superficial, they do not hide how they truly feel, they are respectful, and they are friendly- all things I value. I’m surprised at the fact that I always feel like it is a miracle when I can find someone like that in America- someone that I can truly connect with and be happy with. I don’t like thinking that that is some rare occurrence. Being in a culture where I am surrounded by that dynamic was rejuvenating.

Food Recovery Network

I will never forget the experience of our biggest recovery yet: It was the Friday afternoon when everyone was leaving for break. The campus would be closed for two weeks, meaning no cafeteria operations, meaning there was going to be food left over. I had planned to make a recovery that day, but I would have never expected the amount of food that I was handed. Three tall carts of food loaded with boxes and boxes of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and condiments. Rows and rows of pastas, meats, sides, and breakfast items. I was overwhelmed, exhilarated, and joyful to see how much food I was about to donate. But, I was under prepared and under the biggest time crunch. I recruited my friend with an SUV to help me package the food. All students had left at this point and the cafeteria staff was dwindling down. Thirty minutes into packaging, we understood just how big of an undertaking this was going to be. A supervisor volunteered to stay to wash all of our dishes and we packed and packed and packed and packed. After two hours, we loaded those carts back up with “grab and go” bags for the families at the pantry we donate to and loaded up the SUV. With food reaching from front to back, floor to ceiling, we traveled to the pantry, just as they were closing. Their fridges had never been fully stock, their shelves were overflowing. And the best part about it all, it came right in time so the families could have a secure meal for the holidays.



So let me remind you… it only takes one person to step up to plate to spark change. Just make that one sacrifice and give your time to help others. If you see the need for help, stop and help. All of your efforts will be making a difference in someone’s lives. The staff person that helped washed the dishes… his assistance gave us the necessary time to make the recovery before the pantry closed. My friend with his SUV… he is not even a student at my school. And myself… I had a million other things that needed to be done. But we each saw the need and chose to help. With our combined efforts, although we are just three people, we were able to donate the 200 pounds of food to over 100 families. Think about how many lives you are touching. How many individuals will not go hungry for the night. How much the world could change if we all chose to help.

Educational Experiences in Jamaica

After a crazy journey of being hospitalized and missing the first part to my study abroad trip, I have made it to Jamaica. I have reached the half way point in my journey, and I now have very positive experiences I can write about and share with you. Let me tell you what I reflected on today as I taught in a 6th grade all boys class at Chetwood High School.



“Just as someone was explaining yesterday, people recognize specific talents within me that, I have been told, would make me an excellent teacher Despite these words, I have never actually considered teaching as a career. I have, however, recall countless times that I have found myself in a teacher-like role. None of those previous experiences can compare to the (only 11?) hours I have been in classrooms here. After feeling the exhilaration upon stepping foot into the 3rd grade classroom at Success, I wanted to know what it felt like to be a teacher- to feel the overwhelming desire to provide knowledge to the students, to feel my heart full. To feel as if bursting with pride when I watch such hard work come together like during a presentation. To feel the motivation to help the students when you recognize they are struggling. To smile with them, to laugh with them, to be confused with them. I have already felt all of these feelings and more. And ultimately, what has it taught me? I don’t plan on changing my major or jumping careers. But I do now have a better understanding of hose intensely fulfilling emotions that make teachers wake up every morning, work for 11 years straight without a vacation (Mr. Atkinson) and truly be the light of knowledge, wisdom, and hope for the future for all of their students. So thank you teachers for your endless efforts. I plan to always teach, in some way, shape, or form, so that I can keep that fire alive in my heart for as long as I can.”


New Year, New and Continued Resolutions

I do not wait for a new year to start new resolutions. However, I will take the opportunity of a new semester to begin some new commitments and healthy habits. Here are a few of my resolutions, whether continued or new:

  1. Remain monogamous in my relationship. I am in a committed relationship, and although it is unconventional, I have committed to treat it otherwise. My commitment to my boyfriend is so much more a commitment to myself. I need to change my thinking: I don’t want to be looking at all men as a new opportunity for a relationship; I want to learn how to say no to dates; I want to be able to be clear with my intentions and not lead anyone on.
  2. Maintain sobriety. I made the choice to live a sober lifestyle on November 18th, 2015. I have made this decision before, but never really understood the importance of it. This time, its final.
  3. Take my medication regularly, on time.
  4. Plan to work out three times a week… and hopefully do more.
  5. Travel once a month. I have family in different areas I can always visit, I might as well make time to see them!
  6. Stick to my financial plan in order to start investing into my retirement plan by my 22nd birthday.
  7. Read my daily mediation books.
  8. Read at least one book a month, even if it is for school purposes.
  10. Wear my Fitbit everyday.
  11. Drink more water.
  12. Make a decision about Grad School.

Simple and to the point. I have already done most of these things, so it really is just about focusing on them for the new year. I think I will have trouble with number 6 the most, considering I want to fulfill number 5! What are your resolutions?

5 Reasons I’m Moving to Campus!

It is my Senior Year, the last semester of my Senior Year to be exact. I am going on 22 years old, and as you may have read, have previously lived on my own before. Despite these factors, I am SO EXCITED TO MOVE TO CAMPUS!!! Seriously, this has been my dream ever since high school. My reasons for moving to campus, are not the common reasons I hear about. As I express in most of my posts, I do not want the typical college experience. I am not moving to campus to move away from my parents, to have more freedom, to party, or to have my own space. I am coming to campus for the following reasons:

  1. No Commuter Challenges- I will not have the constant struggle to find convenient parking or get stuck by the train and risk being late to class. I can spend late nights at the library or in class and not risk falling asleep behind the wheel driving home. I have flexible jobs so I can work from my dorm and not have to drive to five different towns in one day. I will save money on gas.
  2. Nearby Essentials– Too many times have I been stranded on campus when I needed a hoodie, have been uncomfortable in an outfit I was wearing, totally needed to shower, or forgot to put on deodorant… and now, it will all be right near by!! It will save me so much stress.
  3. Naps!– No longer will I have to take a quick nap in the Honors Lounge, Library, or my car. I’ve even tried to bribe my friends to let me crash in their dorm.
  4. Food– I love Chartwells food and I cannot wait to have access to it all the time (when it is open, of course) and for once not have to worry about finding enough food for myself!
  5. New Habits– A new environment is a perfect opportunity to start new habits. I can walk to the gym, get enough sleep, actually have a quiet place to study, and hopefully enforce healthy boundaries to balance my life!

Jamie at the Plaza

I ventured to SoCal, Southern California, or the OC, Orange County this month for the Active Minds National Conference. Instead of staying just for the conference, I decided I wanted to make a vacation out of it. It’s a long story… but I had a flight to Vegas I wasn’t able to go on during Labor Day, so I decided to pay the change flight fee and vacation to California. The conference took place in Irvine California, and our group was staying at the Hilton Costa Mesa (and shuttling to the conference). I had family about 20-30 minutes west in Long Beach, friends 2-3 hours northwest in Thousand Oaks, and friends about 40 – 60 minutes north in LA. Besides planning my flight (Nov. 12-19) I had NOTHING ELSE PLANNED. I didn’t know where I was staying or what I was doing after the conference (that ended Nov. 15th). I avoided planning anything because I didn’t want to get stressed out. I knew I had options- I could stay with my friends or relatives- but I didn’t get anything set. I am so thankful I didn’t plan anything because what I got out of my vacation was better than what I expected, or could ever think of myself. So here’s my story (as an Ode to the Hilton)…


When I first arrived at the hotel after the longest flight ever, I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to check in (it was 1pm and check in isn’t until 3). Thankfully a room was ready and we were able to go up to the room right away. How awesome. As soon as I got to the room, I had to pull out my laptop and get a homework assignment done (the time difference made all my online assignments due two hours earlier! Definitely didn’t factor that in….). Then, all of a sudden, there is a knock on the door. I thought, “come on, are we already in trouble?? Someone go hide in the bathroom!” Nope. Not in trouble. It was a bellhop bringing me a plate of fruit with a card, “for Ms. Mahoney, thank you for staying with us.” WHAT! This is awesome! This is totally going to be the start of a great trip. I brought in the plate of fruit, an apple, pear, banana, and grapes, and the girls DEVOURED it! I read the hand-signed card and was instantly felt “right at home.” From there, things only got better.


I had to talk to the front desk several times because of problems with my ahead-of-time payment… but it ended up just being a positive experience because I made great friends with all of the staff! I was talking to Teague, Front Office Supervisor, and told him why I was there (the conference) and that I was actually staying later with no plans of where to stay or what to do. He instantly started naming off all of these fun activities for me to do, great places to stay, fun things to see. And then… he was talking about getting me the hook up places- discounts, coupons, and freebies. Hell yeah! Now he’s talking. I told him I’d totally let him know my plan once I figured it out and see if I’d take him up on any of those offers.


Later that night, I came back from the conference a little bit early because I wasn’t feeling well, and decided to get stuff done in the business office… which was in the middle of the lobby across from the bar. (It was actually such an awesome set up). I called over a staff member, Michael Flowers, and asked him if I was able to bring a drink over to the business lounge. “Of course!!” he said. And so we started talking. Told him about the conference, he said he was working late because of the conference (the students would be getting back and wanted to go to the bar, so he had to stay to make sure everything ran smoothly). It turns out it was his birthday! So I made him an origami party hat and colored it blue (his favorite color) and he brought me a lemon drop drink from the bar. My group returned from the conference and we all sang happy birthday to him. He loved it. Then I asked if there was anywhere else quiet in the hotel I could go to to work on homework and he said he could get my into the Executive Lounge up on the 7th floor (you need a special keycard access to get in). Instead I ended up going to bed.


Then the following day Teague was back at the front desk, so I asked if there were any rooms at this hotel I could stay at. Turns out there were tons! And he hooked me up with a pretty good deal. So all in all, my trip turned out to be INCREDIBLY AMAZING. Best experience of my life. I was alone in Orange County, eating organic and vegan food, shopping local, and feeling like Eloise at the Plaza at this Hilton hotel. Here is a brief list of all of the ways the hotel ended up taking care of me by the end of my trip:


Parlor Suite on the Executive floor for the same cost as my double suite (like a $350 discount per night), free breakfast every morning ($19 value each day), free snacks/happy hour upstairs in the Executive Lounge, free wi-fi for the week ($10/day value), free drinks once my friends visited me (after the conference of course), a ride to a restaurant nearby (not a shuttle, a nice SUV ride from the manager), and so on and so on and so on. It was the best experience I could have ever asked for. I have never had such amazing customer service. I literally had tears as I was leaving because it turned out to be my favorite place on earth. I was joking that I would come back to live there…. but it may not be a joke one day. Although it was a 4 star hotel, it felt like a 5,000 star experience! I was treated like royalty and enjoyed every minute of it. And none of it would have been possible had it not been for the gracious, fun, personable staff. I hope to return very soon! The team was responsive, I got WAY more value than I paid, the maintenance performed on my room was fast and discreet (a bulb went out above my Jacuzzi), the housekeeping staff made my room more than beautiful each time they cleaned, the bellhops helped me with all of my luggage each and every time and made everything hassle free, Teague at reception went above and beyond to make my experience 100% amazing, the business center had the biggest workspace and awesome huge high chairs so I felt like a little kid getting stuff done, room service delivered delicious food every time I ordered, my bed was so comfortable I was able to sleep through the night (which never happens in my own bed), my Jacuzzi was so nice and relaxing, I could actually make the room as warm as I wanted, the balcony overlooking Costa Mesa was outstanding, the breakfast (smoked salmon, capers, lemon, cream cheese on a bagel) was my favorite thing ever! (that I ate every single day), the little glass jars of raspberry preserves were the nicest touch to put on my toast, and the elevators were gorgeous. Think about THOSE things next time you’re staying somewhere!

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