Cihacekj’s Weblog

November 27, 2008

Thanking outside the cornucopia

Filed under: Seasonal — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:35 pm

CB006061Let me guess.  Mom, Grams, Uncle Dennis or Crazy Carl probably  initiated a pause at the Thanksgiving table for all to do what this day was originally created for: giving thanks for the many blessings in life.  Turkey, pumpkin pie, and the presence of family and friends probably topped this year’s list (and last year’s).  And while all of that is well and good (and delicious), there is much more than life’s obvious pleasures that we should grant props too.

I’m talking about the unfortunate circumstances, situations, and roadblocks in life that are rarely considered valuable, let alone worthy of much gratitude.  Everything happens for a reason, or so I’m convinced, so why shouldn’t our appreciation stem from a sweeter state of mind and remain in our souls much longer than Turkey Day leftovers?  It can and will…if we begin thinking outside the box.

You may be able to relate to my recent complicated, yet credited matters of thanksgiving:

  • The smelly surprises my roommate’s dog always leaves in my bedroom usually gets me a little heated.  Until last week.  Sure, the little Yorkie (with whom I have a love-hate relationship) teaches me patience. I’ve realized, however, that one day I’m going to miss my college days, living in a duplex with my best friends and in a litter box of a room.  For these reasons, I embrace the poo, the signs of my young adulthood and the presence of such special girlfriends (and their dogs) in my life.
  • That speeding ticket I received last month? Late for work, going 60 in a 45.  Cherries were the last thing I wanted to see in my rearview mirror.  Instead of deeming every cop I see, now, as a pig, I’ve learned that I’d rather spend $100 on shoes.  Getting ready 20 minutes earlier can help me achieve that.  I’m thankful for the personal responsibility I learned by paying the ticket and slowing my driving.  Not only for the sake of a future citation, but what could prevent an incident much more detrimental than being a little late for a job.
  • Arguing with my parents is never something I enjoy.  Especially when I feel my maturity and responsibility being underrated.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.  Not only does this allow for open communication and the chance to express our frustrations and differences, it encourages me to examine my own rationale.  It makes us more appreciative of the positive interaction we share and less insolent to, “Jess, you better be watching the spending,” and “Would you stop with the nagging, already?”
  • Missing out on a most merry shindig to stay put with a bedridden friend can make it feel like an obligation when hearing of the bash the next day.  I didn’t have to keep her company, though, I got to.  I got to make her dinner, flat-iron her hair and laugh with her over how she broke her foot in the first place.  Most importantly, I got to show her I cared.  I’m thankful I was a source of comfort to her.  We both missed quite the social event, but I’m counting it as a blessing this Thanksgiving.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve had my heart broken, but every now and then the twinge of uncertainty, apprehension and confusion will strike.  Especially in an early twenty-something life when the concern of your family is always, “Is she ever going to get married and settle down?”  Thank goodness for striking twinges!  They may cause me to overanalyze every guy’s motives, but they keep me grounded and never settling.  I’m grateful for broken hearts and the emotional growth they provoke.

Join me, this Thanksgiving, in recognizing how sacred life in general really, truly is.  Every part of it.  The ups, the downs, the twists and the turns have played a part in who you are and what you find pleasure in.  So go ahead, and give thanks for filling up on Aunt Deb’s famous stuffing and buttermilk taters.  Just remember, it is in what we make of everyday misfortunes that determines what makes it on our personal list of blessings.

Merry Thanksgiving.


November 2, 2008

Daylight Saving: A makeover for your heart

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 9:23 pm

My guess is you probably didn’t have to hit the snooze button today.  Yes, because it is Sunday, but also because at 2 am this morning, the clocks switched over and you snuck in a few more Zzz’s with an extra hour of sleep.  You may have just done your heart a favor.

One of our very own, University of Nebraska Medical Center alumnae, and MSNBC medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman is sharing the results of recent Swedish studies on the correlation between more sleep and decreased heart attack risks.  It is found that overall, people do better with heart attack rates this time of year.  Ultimately, this means that the extra hour of sleep you get Saturday night could be translating to a drop in Monday morning death rates.

Here’s why:

  • When we leap forward with time in the Spring, heart attack rates go up 5%
  • When we fall back in the Fall, heart attack rates drop 5%
  • Studies show that people are highest at risk for a heart attack on Mondays in general

For a while, researchers thought all of this news was due to stress, which can also play a role in heart health.  Studies over the past 20 years, however, are showing that it’s really the sleep.  Sundays are known as our “catch up” day for errands, chores, homework, and also sleep.  The late night movies, colds and flu interfering with a restful full night, and “living it up” on the weekends all add up for a stressful and tiresome Monday.

It’s obvious that an hour in shift in time is hard on the human body, but just one hour can also be beneficial in the long run.  Turns out that sleep is more important to our heart than we have ever given it credit for.  Snyderman suggests that we look at this time change as a first step in a heart makeover.

“Take this step now in adding an extra 15, 30, 45 minutes or an hour [of sleep] every day of the week…the reality is yes, you’ll probably reduce your heart attack risk.”

The results are quite fascinating, nappers: catching some shut-eye is just as important to our health as the food we put into our mouth.

Ain’t that a kick in the head, ladies?

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:25 pm

The nineteenth century has come and gone, and so has the notion that women are only best under domestic conditions.  Women like Jennie Finch, Venus and Serena Williams, Kerri Walsh, Shawn Johnson, and Heather Mitts are no exception to the rule.  But not only do these ladies have incredible guts, gams and glutes, they are also more prone to sports injuries.  The most common among female athletes?  Concussions.

According to researchers from the Journal of Athletic Training, girls are 68% more likely to suffer sports related concussions.  The reasons for this are pointed to basic anatomy and biomechanical differences.  Girls’ heads are smaller and their neck muscles are simply not as strong as their male counterparts’.  Different styles of play, different training techniques, cultural norms, and even increasing numbers of highly competitive female athletes also explain this issue.

As rowdy and aggressive  as boys may seem on the playing field, looks, in this case, are not so deceiving.   The equation is easy.  Stronger genetic and biological makeup = more resistance to force.  Girls are known to take longer to recover from a  head injury than boys, and academically, the effects are generally more serious and prevalent in females.

Ultimately, a concussion, also referred to as mild traumatic brain injury or minor head trauma is an injury that results from a blow to the head that causes the brain to slam against the inner wall of the skull.  It is not life-threatening, but it can cause both short-term (a couple weeks) and long-term (years) problems.  Symptoms can include confusion, terrible headaches, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, perservating (repetition in speech), dizziness, amnesia (loss of memory), drowsiness, weakness, ringing in the ears and the inability to walk.

High schools all over the country are reporting a rise in sports-related head cases, too, especially in young girls.  It may be that high school girls are bigger, stronger and faster these days so that collisions between players are more forceful and dangerous.  The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has released an official manual encouraging coaches, athletic trainers and assistants to protect young athletes from serious injury through educational programs, improved protective equipment and better enforcement of rules.

Perhaps the scariest part about head trauma is that most athletes are unaware of the severity because of  the differences in how they handle the symptoms.  Nebraska Neurologist, Dr. Peter Lennarson spoke to KPTM Fox 42 earlier this year, encouraging medical attention right away at the first sign of a concussion.

“Some people have a mild blow to the head and seem to have a severe disruption of function and others have a major blow to their head and don’t seem to be affected, so there’s not a way to predict that [how it will affect any one person].”

While my athleticism (or lack thereof) doesn’t exactly qualify me as a concussion casualty, to my many soccer star sisters and avid gym-going girlfriends, it’s a girl’s world, just be careful in it.

October 5, 2008

Religion? A click away?

Filed under: Religion — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:03 pm

While most of us are still laughing and imitating the “New Haircut” and “Charlie Bit Me” YouTube clips, others are seeking out the popular video sharing website for much more.  Religion.

YouTube took off in February of 2005 thanks to three former PayPal employees.  What started out as an entertainment website for users to upload and view other videos, is now acquiring faith-based clips for those wanting to get in touch with their spiritual side.

From bible quotes, to hymns – even words of inspiration to live by, YouTube is now a form of multi-faith websites, such as .   This makes sense, right?  As our society is getting so used to the internet doing virtually everything for us, why not add “take us to church” to the list as well?

By no means are all the religious video posts from world famous televangelists.  Many uploaders, will just fire up a camcorder and go.  Regardless, YouTube is providing faith-based information and exposure to those interested.  Skeptics are given reason believe that sites like this are only going to give people another reason so stay home on Sunday mornings.  I, on the other hand, don’t know if I prefer my weekly dose of religion spoon-fed to me by a monitor.

So perhaps it has something to do with tradition.  I don’t think many people of various denominations were raised to give praise to the lord at their desktop.  I really don’t see it going in that direction today or in the future.  Steve Waldman, founder of various faith-based websites, agrees.

“For years, people in my business talked about how the Internet was going to revolutionize religion the way the printing press helped create Protestantism, but it didn’t happen.” – compliments of TIME Magezine. For the casual religious experience, though, go ahead and YouTube it!

September 21, 2008

Grass is Certainly Greener on the Other Side

Filed under: Economy — Jessica Cihacek @ 6:31 pm

People generally think I’m crazy when I tell them I live in a house where at any given moment there’s typically more dogs residing than girls.  A chocolate lab by the name of Moose, a Yorkie by the name of Ollie and now, a Westie by the name of Riley occupy the majority of my roommates’ time.  Now that two of them are becoming potty trained (the dogs, not my roommates), I’m noticing patches of greener, more plush grass in our front yard.

This stuff really does work, huh?  In a suffering economy, more farmers and landowners are turning to, not necessarily dog poo, but manure in general, as a more cost-efficient mean to fertilization.  I see why.  So does UNL.  On the manure management page of the University’s website, it provides information on air quality, environmental planning, manure value, and hey, for those interested, storage and handling techniques!  Thanks to a manure management team, this information is available to those concerned with rising oil prices and the effect this has on cultivation in a predominantly agricultural state.

A lot goes into spreading manure though, including inspection of the cow/calf/ranch operation, application fees, regulations, nutrient management plans and assured air quality.  So is the change from petroleum-based fertilizers to “enriched” fertilizers really worth a few bucks?  Perhaps this is a question for someone knee-deep in it and understands just how much manure a few cows can generate.  A study conducted out of Oregon State University says that one cow can fertilize 1.5 acres.  If you’ve ever been to a farm, ranch, or acreage, you know there is typically more than one cow per acre.  At this rate, manure starts to pile up pretty fast.  Pollution begins to be the obvious downfall.  But there are ways to get around it, and UNL’s manure management website is there to help.

With this said, the majority of soil scientists around the area can safely agree that if you’re spending money on fertilizer, stop.  If you’re spreading manure, do it carefully, to see that the grass just really may be greener on the other side.

September 14, 2008

Making a difference this Spring Break

Filed under: Entertainment — Jessica Cihacek @ 6:56 pm

Talk is already circulating around UNL’s campus about student spring break plans.  When a trip to Jamaica or Cancun costs upwards of $1,000, now is the time to start saving dollars for the excursion.  But when I’m still paying off a summer stay in New York, it’s depressing to think that I may finish my college career without ever having attended an exotic spring break vacation.  I know there are others out there who are in the same boat as I; who simply cannot afford an all-inclusive, beach resort, club scene, party central, Havana heaven getaway.

So, what’s a student to do?  Think of an alternative of course, and perhaps follow my lead this year.  Spring break’s purpose is to let lose, have fun, enjoy a riveting experience and to get away from the classroom, the papers, the lectures and yes, even the professors.  By no means am I promoting mission trips, rather, encouraging others (along with myself) to at least consider other venues to let lose, have fun, and enjoy a riveting experience.

When mission trips (especially relatively close ones) can range anywhere from $100-$600, it’s nice to imagine a spring break that can be paid for through only a couple month’s savings or for some, through a little pocket change.  When volunteers can choose a variety of locations such as Mexico, Costa Rica, India, or for the rookies, Toronto, Chicago, even St. Louis, it’s easy to pick a destination yet to be visited.  Many mission trips, especially those offered through FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) allow a day or two for students to experience the nicer areas of these “hot spots.”

Sure, a lot of work goes into mission trips.  A student can expect to be doing hard labor in what tends to be not so pleasant weather, seeing disturbing images of malnourished children, witness families in the poorest conditions, and find him or herself sleeping in a church, shack, or soup kitchen instead of a five-star hotel and resort.  But it is truly the life-changing experience and relationships you build that I believe is so much more valuable than a week spent in the Florida Keys.  Best of all it is a time of personal challenge and personal growth.  A week without ipods, television, makeup, computers, etc.  A week spent examining your strengths, weaknesses and what you’re capable of doing.

The children you meet, the families you help, the community you provide for always end up being  blown away at the care and compassion shown for them.  Mission trips truly provide a sense of inner-worth.  And while you may not return with beautiful, scenic pictures of beaches and night clubs, what you’ll bring back will be engraved in your mind and heart forever.  Challenge yourself.  Consider a mission trip this spring break, save a few hundred dollars while doing so, and I dare you…compare your story with a friend who visited Puerto Vallerta.

September 8, 2008

Change is coming!

Filed under: Politics — Jessica Cihacek @ 9:24 pm

“Change is coming,” said John McCain.

But is it the same kind of “change we can believe in” that Obama promises?  At this point, polls show that a good majority of Obama supporters, like myself, are fairly certain on their pick for president.  Until last night, anyway.  Open minded independents with a liking for Barack Obama may have seen John McCain in a different light after his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last night.

His oratory skills are still far from perfect, but McCain showed character in his carefully selected words, the stories he told, and the humility he exemplified.  He admitted his early stages of selfishness and pride as a young military man, but furthermore, explained what caused his change of views in what he and America truly stand for.  No longer was he his own man, but his country’s man.  For this reason and many more, he’d continue to fight for the rest of us.

What’s the easiest way to rally your supporters?  Highlight the opponent’s faults and cast a whole lot of mudlsinging, of course.  It wasn’t so much about bashing Obama this time, though.  I think we’re all aware that McCain’s running mate and spitfire, Sarah Palin, did plenty of that the previous night.  It was about comparing the issues at hand.  It was explaining his hate for war, but his understanding of how it should be utilized.  It was his response to education and why it shouldn’t concern American bureaucrats but American families.  It wasn’t even about the better party, but a better nation in general.  This was the first I’ve heard the man speak with a bipartisan voice, and I like that in a leader.

While Obama could smooth over any crowd with his poise, composure and grace, McCain showed an incredible amount of personality and good will.  Last night’s speech wasn’t about his shaky words, his random stutter, or his lack of animation.  It was about John and not McCain.  I think both parties certainly appreciated this.

August 25, 2008

Miss anything BUT a catalyst for complacency

Filed under: Education — Jessica Cihacek @ 7:00 pm

Greetings from the Cornhusker state!

My name is Jessica Nicole (Gabriele) Cihacek.  Please, call me Jess.  I am a senior Broadcast Journalism major at UNL.  I’m minoring in political science with concentrations in history and english.

My first steps in the broadcast world began before high school.  It was Christmas 1998, when I made myself an anchor backdrop out of the chalkboard I received from Santa and turned his Teacher Barbie gift into Reporter Barbie.  While my brother was quick to leave the room whenever Dad turned Bloomberg on, I remember watching alongside him thinking, “Wow, I wish I was Lori Rothman!”  It was probably between gawking over a few other reporters and hearing my Dad say, “I could see you doing that, Jess,” that I started thinking like a journalist.  I was nosy with everything, and as my parents would say, I was “an audacious little fart.” Laugh now, but while little girls were dreaming of being teachers, movie stars, and ballet dancers, I wanted to report.

My Junior year in high school, I worked part time in West Point, Neb. at the local radio station, formerly known as KWPN-KTIC Rural Radio.  I helped host the Sunday morning show, which consisted of call-in competitions, national/local news and weather updates.  On weekdays, I worked at the front desk answering phones and filing papers.  I was even required to come in during severe weather and report the current conditions. Getting my feet wet at an early age only increased my enthusiasm for becoming a reporter someday.

I quickly learned that radio was not my style.  I have always been a visual person, and television was just so much more exciting.  I became active in the National Broadcasting Society my first year at the University.  After traveling with the group to Indianapolis and D.C. for regional competitions, I was frustrated that my introductory classes and prerequisites provided me with nothing to submit for competition.  I was getting bored with the curriculum involved with broadcast journalism.  The only other thing I loved surrounding myself was kids.  Did I dare have second thoughts?  Was I really considering elementary education?  My confused and discouraged self probed me to phone home.  My Mom was quick to put things in perspective, though.  “You’ll be a great mother some day, but you haven’t even given Journalism a shot.  Stick it out another year, work harder if you’re bored.  We’ll support you.”

Nothing has ever made more sense.  I did just that and began interning with KLKN Channel 8 in Lincoln, Neb.  I was going out on shoots and shadowing anchors and reporters.  I was renting video cameras from UNL, producing mock news packages, and reading teleprompters like it was my job.  Rarely, though, am I content with being comfortable.  Once again, boredom began to set it.  I decided to apply for a bigger internship a little further from home, a little further from my comfort zone and a lot further from familiarity.  Why not the East Coast?  Why not New York City?  Why not CBS News?  And heck, why not for the summer?

It was a long application process, in which I spent nearly four months working on.  I told no one in my family what I was concocting.  I knew what they’d say.  “Too expensive, too dangerous, too far-fetched, too unpredictable, etc.”  I received a congratulatory packet in January, reminded my Mom of her “we’ll support you” speech, started saving, and was off.  I traveled to the Big Apple at the end of May and was officially and intern at CBS Headquarters for the weekend evening news.  Here, I learned much more than any local station could teach me.

This huge learning curve only made me itch for a real reporting job, already!  While I fell prey to the “I heart NY” seduction scheme, being on the West Coast made me actually fall in love with Boston, my dream location.

So, here I am, finishing my last year at the University.  I plan on pursuing at least one more internship before my college career wraps up, and then I’ll begin dispersing resume tapes in hopes of landing a local job as a general assignment reporter.  Much later down the road?  I aspire to be part of the New England Cable News Network, while residing in Red Sox nation.

Now, of course, I’ve learned firsthand that plans always seem to change.  I’ve learned that working hard is the only means to an end.  But I’ve also learned that without a plan and without hard work, I’m only a catalyst for complacency.

Create a free website or blog at