A Hui Hou Kakou! (Until we meet again!)

Back in Iowa and feeling very refreshed after a much needed week of vacation in Hawaii. I have visited almost every year since I moved back to Iowa from Hawaii in 8th grade. During visits I have done everything from going on a limo tour across the island, spending a day at Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, going on a submarine ride, eating delicious lobster on a dinner cruise, enjoying marine life in a BOB (scooter underwater breathing observation bubble), visiting Dole Pineapple Plantation, touring Pearl Harbor and so much more. You would think I might have done it all? However, this time around I had many new experiences, as there is so much to do on Oahu.

This visit might have been one of my favorites, if not my favorite trip to Oahu. I felt like I did the most bonding with my mom this time around because my older brother did not come along on this trip, and my younger brother was at work or school most of the time.

The first two mornings in Hawaii my mom and I went hiking in Moanalua. I had never gone hiking in all my visits or while living in Oahu. The scenery was incredible and we hiked for about 4 hours both times. My mom picked fresh mountain guava that we enjoyed during our hike. Apparently you can’t buy them in grocery stores so we filled a plastic sack to bring home.
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The third day my little brother and I spent the entire day together. We went hiking at Koko Head Crater which was completely different from hiking the trail in Moanalua. This one was a short trail, but a lot more challenging with an elevation rise of 1,000 feet and hiking up 1,048 steps to get to the peak. There was also a 30-foot section suspended above a gully with nothing underneath to catch you. After taking a few breaks during the hike to catch my breath, I beat my little brother and finally made it to the top. (I realized once I had gotten to the top my little brother, who was only 3/4 the way, had all the bottled water in his backpack. I almost passed out because I was so thirsty.) Once again, the view was incredible and overlooked Hanauma Bay.
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My little and brother apparently thought we didn’t get enough exercise. So later that afternoon we went to Makapu’u tides pools and had to walk along a rocky trail to get there.

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The next couple of days my mom, aunt, little brother and I stayed at Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach. My mom knew I wanted to relax on the beach, and I had never stayed in a hotel before in Hawaii . It was another great experience and the view from our hotel room was beautiful. We did a lot of walking around and shopping while staying in Waikiki. We also enjoyed some delicious Japanese food, Korean food and Hawaiian during our stay. For the second time in my life, I did yoga through the hotel activities and also went for a run along the beach.
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The last couple of days I got to see some friends who I hadn’t seen in two years and have kept in touch with since 7th grade. I also spent more time with my family. The weather was perfect the entire trip–sunny and in the 90’s. It was very hard to leave and come home to 50 degree weather with cloudy skies. Talk about a climate change!

Although it is always good to be back home in Iowa, I will always think of Hawaii as my second home. I can’t wait to go back, but that probably won’t be for another year or two. With that being said, “a hui hou kakou, Hawaii!”

A work-a-holic summer!

According to a school calendar, summer is coming to an end for many. Even though I am out of school, it feels like summer is coming to an end for me too. At the radio station, summer is our busiest time with all the events and remotes we attend. Working in radio is more of a “6 days a week” kind of job because many events take place on weekends. Although it doesn’t feel too much like work, I have spent almost the entire summer working. I think a better way to say it is- I spent the entire summer being very involved in the community and experiencing so many cool opportunities! Whether it was broadcasting live downtown at the Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Market, being at every Uptown Friday Night at the McGrath Amphitheatre, attending a Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw concert (yeah real hard work huh?), or broadcasting live for clients, I enjoyed it all! I think I attended so many community events, people started recognizing me when I would be out and about. I have had a number of people come up and ask if I’m the Jenny Valliere that works for Z102.9. I would often think, “how on earth did you just pronounce my last name correctly?” and, “WHO ARE YOU!?” Then I remember my job and that I’ve been everywhere from the Paramount Theatre to the U.S. Cellular Center to the McGrath Amphitheatre speaking to large crowds and using my name.
Apart from working, believe it or not, I still made time for my own personal interests! To name some:
I attended my first art show to see the work of my second cousin- Tom Jackson,
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had some photos taken by the lovely Mari Doan to add to my modeling portfolio,
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volunteered to be the emcee for the first ever Asian Cultural Festival in the corridor (and shook hands with the mayor!!),
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was an optional contest judge for a national pageant, “World’s Glamorous Miss”,
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was the emcee during finals for the same pageant (it streamed live which was very cool!),
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attended many CR Kernels baseball games,
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and SO MUCH MORE! The highlight of my summer will be going to Hawaii in one week to visit my mom and little brother for a week. I can’t wait for a nice vacation and much needed relaxation time on the beach. Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to share all about that experience! ;)

Goodbye fellow vampires!

After 15 months of being the full-time overnight disc jockey, I am both excited and sad to say I am leaving the graveyard lifestyle for a more “normal” life. I was promoted to be the full-time afternoon air personality for Z102.9 radio from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays! My first shift is Monday and I am very excited! Although there are things I will miss about the overnight life (no traffic, quiet building, getting away not having to attend meetings), I can’t wait to see what the afternoon drive on the air has in store for me!

Z102.9 has definitely brought me many learning experiences and opportunities thus far. Since I started two Mays ago, I have learned how to voice, edit and produce commercials, develop content for our website and social media, I have welcomed crowds at the McGrath Amphitheatre, the U.S. Cellular Center and the Paramount Theatre, I have emceed events such as the first ever Asian Cultural Festival in the corridor, I have broadcasted at live remotes and much more!

This job has been a blessing for me and I am very fortunate to get to work for one of the top radio stations in Eastern Iowa! I believe that you can do anything you set your mind to. Some people didn’t think I would last in the overnight life, but I lived and I enjoyed every minute of it! You always have to keep in mind that you have to start somewhere. For me- it was doing overnight shifts on the weekends part-time. I like to remember that Ryan Seacrest also started as a weekend overnight DJ, and look where he is now! ;) Now on to a new lifestyle and many more opportunities!

 

A look back at some of my time as Jenny Valliere, Live All Night!

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Dating my career

Lately, I have seen a ton of old schoolmates, either from the grade above me or from the same grade as me, get engaged. A lot of my friends have boyfriends, or are in serious relationships and right now I am single, by choice.

My mother always told me that if I wanted to be successful, I shouldn’t worry about dating until later in life. She tells me to focus on my career, and eventually I will find the right time to have a man in my life. I thought she was just saying that to protect me from getting hurt.

I have had moments where I think to myself that I should probably start dating or worry about having a guy in my life, because I don’t want to be 30 and single. I was afraid that by the time I finally decide it’s time to settle down, there would be no decent men left out there! I do eventually want to be married and have a family, and I don’t want to feel lonely when all of my friends start to have families. I know I am still young and have plenty of time to look for a man, but it doesn’t help when everyone else around me seems to have found their perfect match.

Then I thought about the board game: “Life.” In the beginning of the game, you had to choose career or family. I realized that in real life, I chose career. I have to realize that family will come eventually, but with the path I chose I need to focus on my career for now. I chose this life and chose to make my career my priority. My little car will fill up with more passengers later. For now, I will keep going down the career road!

My Journey to Miss Iowa USA

Recently I have decided to compete for Miss Iowa USA 2015. This will be my fifth consecutive year vying for the title. This has been a long-time dream of mine, and I am very determined to accomplish it. I started competing in this system when I was 19 years old.

Miss Iowa USA is a preliminary pageant to Miss USA, which is the preliminary to Miss Universe. In my opinion, Miss Universe is the “Super Bowl” of all pageants. (Not to be confused with Miss America. Two completely different systems. No, this one doesn’t have a talent portion. Think Donald Trump.)

My placement has varied over the years.

In 2011, my first year competing I was 2nd-runner up.998864_1391570850.2992_multi

In 2012, I placed 3rd runner-up.
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In 2013, I placed Top 15 as well as won Miss Photogenic.
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The photo that won Miss Photogenic.
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Competition has only gotten bigger and fiercer. Last year there was a whopping 60 girls I competed with. Although I did not place, it did not make me want to give up. It made me want to try even harder. This is a very subjective pageant, and each year there is a new set of judges. Last year just wasn’t my year! I am more than excited to get another chance to compete for Miss Iowa USA, thanks to all my generous sponsors.

Here are some head shots that I have taken for this year’s pageant in Newton, Iowa in October.
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California Dreamin’

No need to dream anymore! I have been to California numerous times, but only to the airport on my way to Hawaii. It has been a wish of mine to actually visit the land I have only seen from flying over. My wish was finally granted last August. Although August was quite a while ago, it’s never too late to share another experience of mine.

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, so here are some highlights of my trip.

My second MLB game besides the Chicago Cubs! The LA Dodgers!
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The hand prints of the Harry Potter trio! We walked all around Hollywood and enjoyed the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
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My first time at The Boiling Crab. Also the first time I’ve ever seen eyes still on my shrimp. Very tasty, but wouldn’t recommend eating here if you’re starving. The amount of work to peel the shrimp is just not worth it to me!
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My first time to Disneyland! Had to buy the Mickey ears to get the whole effect of the experience I was deprived of as a child.
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Beautiful beaches. Manhattan Beach Pier. Although it was so hot, the ocean breeze kept you cool.
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A touch of Venice! 
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Body-boarding!
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An outdoor concert in San Diego!
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A lot of first time experiences in California, which I LOVED! I hope to make it out there again sometime in the near future!

The Graveyard Lifestyle

I am nearly approaching one year of being a full-time overnight DJ. People were worried that I would not make it! Well, I’m happy to say that I am still here and have the same thoughts on how much I love my job!

I have learned so much about this “new” lifestyle.

1. There are more people awake during the wee hours than I thought! I have had all kinds of listeners call me with requests: college kids staying up late, overnight nurses, newspaper carriers, janitors, factory workers, people who wake up at 4 a.m. to go on a morning jog, etc.
2. There is a bar specifically for third-shift workers! It’s called the Green Gable Inn. Although I have never been there, I think it’s neat that not all third-shift workers are forgotten about.
3. I don’t have to use my “lunch break” to make appointments before offices close at 5 p.m.
4. NO TRAFFIC! This is something I really enjoy, especially when the weather is crappy.
5. You wake up each day with about 5 new emails, 6 social media notifications, 3 text messages, and at least one missed call. People tend to forget that I usually don’t wake up until half their day is over.
6. You’ll need to invest in some room-darkening blinds/curtains if you don’t want the sun to bother you when you sleep.
7. It gets a little tricky when people ask you to go to lunch. It’s their lunch but your breakfast, so you might as well go to Perkins to be able to satisfy the both of you.

It might be a different story if I wasn’t young and if I had a family, but I am a survivor for now!

Post grad life

Well, it was a heck of a year to say the least. I definitely had some of my most memorable college experiences during my senior year. Upon graduating, most of the people I talked to would make comments like: “don’t ever graduate, the real world sucks!” “you’ll never get your college life back,” “do it now while you’re in college,” “I would give anything to go back to college.” It was comments like these that terrified me of graduating!

Although I was sick of all the school work, I did not want to be done with college because of all the friendships I made while being in school. It was so cool to be able to live 2 minutes walking-distance from all my closest friends, and live in the same dorm room as my best friends. It was awesome to be able to come home to a room full of 7 girls.

I loved how convenient it was to be able to go to the cafeteria whenever you were hungry rather than have to make something yourself. It was also nice to have a gym be a minute away. Campus life was a great experience for me, and I can not imagine what it would have been like if I chose to save money by going to a community college first. I think being able to be a traditional student at a college, living on campus and getting the full college experience was worth every penny of the ginormous amount of debt I’ll be in for a while. That just goes to show my thoughts that money isn’t everything!

It’s time to face the real world now. I was fortunate enough to get a job right out of college, which is a job that I am so in love with. I am the new overnight disc jockey for KZIA FM radio, also known as Z102.9! Yes, the hours seem horrific to many- midnight to 5:30 a.m. – Monday through Friday. I actually don’t seem to mind it at all! I love being able to enjoy the hours of the sun after I wake up around 1:30 in the afternoon. I also love the fact that my job is talk to people, whether it’s through a studio microphone or face-to-face at events. I am a big people person and enjoy making new connections.

I am so excited to start this new chapter in my life as an adult with a full-time job. Even though many of us are afraid of growing up, we can’t spend all our time missing our pasts. It’s time to live in the present and make the most of every minute of it.

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Meeting an aunt for the first time

In a week from now, I will be on the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii. Many people get confused of which island Oahu is, so I will say that it is the island where the capital is located.

No, I am not from Hawaii, but my mother and younger brother as well as an aunt lives there. My mother has lived there for 10 years now, and I try to visit her almost every year since I lived there back in 7th grade. Every time I go to Hawaii I have a blast, and I love getting to see the other half of my family. However, this time around is more special to me than any other time I have been to Hawaii. This time, not only do I get to support and watch my younger brother graduate high school, not only do I get to see an aunt who I haven’t seen since 7th grade, but I also get to meet an aunt who I have never met before from Korea– my mom’s half sister.

When my mother told me that I get to meet my half-aunt for the first time, I was so emotional. I wanted to cry of happiness because family is so important to me. Just knowing that I have a whole family in South Korea that I have never seen before makes me sad. My mother rarely talks about her past, nor does she ever talk about her half family in Korea. In fact, I didn’t know I had a half aunt until later in my childhood–part of the reason being because she didn’t get a long with her half sister for a long time. My half-aunt is the oldest one of my mom’s three sisters. She came from my mom’s father’s first marriage.

I haven’t ever met a lot of my mom’s family because they all live in South Korea, other than two of my aunts; one living in Idaho; one living on Oahu near my mom. I grew up only having one grandma and grandpa. I never got to meet my mom’s parents, because her father passed away when she was little and her mother passed away when I was little. I have never even seen what either of them look like except for one little photograph I have of my Korean grandma. It’s the only picture I have of her and I hold it very close to my heart. She is sitting on a rock by the ocean and the sun is shining down on her. She looks very happy and at peace. I think this is the reason I love going to the ocean; every time I go I am happy and at peace.

I wish I was more connected with my half-Korean nationality. Hopefully, I will get to learn more about my mother’s family and more about myself when I meet my half-aunt. Although, I don’t think she is able to speak English. I know this trip to Hawaii will be a newly collected experience that is one of the most meaningful and one that I will never forget.