To the teachers who changed my life,

I will graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Life Sciences Communication in exactly 25 days. I would not be here without the teachers I was lucky to have in my life over the years.

Every one of you played a part in making me the woman I am today. I can’t express how much that means to me, but I tried. I don’t think I’ll be ever to say thank you enough.

Mrs. Brody

5th Grade Science

Thank you for being one of the first people to get me excited about science. My mom also recently reminded me you were the first person to show me “Newsies”. So I blame you for the obsession with the musical.

Your love for it and teaching us shone through and I’ve never forgotten it. I remember first doing the milk rainbows experiment in your class, and now my sorority sisters and I always use that as an activity when we do the STEM event with local Girl Scouts. It’s funny how life comes full circle. You’re one of the strongest and most inspiring women I know and I am so lucky to have you in my life.

Ms. Karvonen

6th Grade Humanities

Thank you for preparing me for every project that could ever be thrown my way in my education career. Not even a college projection, where I’ve done actual marketing strategies for startup companies, can compare to the project you had us do in sixth grade.  I’m 100 percent serious when I say I’ve never had a harder project that that, and I’m sure many of your other students will agree. I think it was called the Dream Project? I remember mine was a court case arguing the morality bullfighting in Spain. You gave some heavy topics for a 12-year-old, but it definitely prepared me.

Your passion for what you do is unforgettable, and I thank you for passing some of that on to me.

Ms. Samons

Middle School Journalism

Thank you for starting me on the path to what would become one of my greatest loves in life. I knew I liked journalism thanks to my Mom and Dad, but I didn’t know how much I truly loved it until I started my first journalism class with you. I still have every single copy of The Portfolio that I wrote for. I opened my first AP Style book, I did my first real reporting, and I wrote my first real article in your class. Now I’m graduating with a Life Sciences Communication degree from the university I always dreamed of.

Thank you for always encouraging and supporting me in every writing endeavor I took on in middle school. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.

Mr. Y

8th Grade US History

Your class was always fun and engaging. One of my favorite memories was you showing us the only accurate moment in the Disney’s “Pocahontas” was when the rat ran on to the ship in the first 30 seconds. Also, thanks for teaching me the word paradigm, because it comes up a lot in my major.

Lately I’ve been wondering what it would be like to be in your class now with all that’s going on in the world. It’s reminded me to be grateful that you taught us to look beyond what’s written in the textbook and that where we stand depends on where we sit. It’s something I’ve never forgotten.

Mr. Felt

8th Grade English

I had the immense honor of being one of your students, or little bears as you so fondly call us. You didn’t just toss books at us and hope we would read them. You gave us novels and assignments that opened us up to a wider world of understanding and literature. I don’t think I appreciated that as much at the time as I do now. I may not still have William Blake’s “The Tyger” memorized as well as Ms. Carol’s “Science Is” (an organized body of knowledge that can be tested by experiments under controlled conditions), but I’m grateful for the assignment. It made me not afraid of poetry. And my vocabulary definitely grew stronger because of you.

Most of all, thank you for introducing me to “The Little Prince”. There’s only a few books and stories that have touched me as deeply as this one, and I only know about it because of you.

Ms. Gifford

10th Grade AP World, AP Psych

Your classes were always something I looked forward to. You took a lot of complicated information and made it fun and interesting. Also, thanks for putting up with the antics of all of us in both of these classes. But you know you loved us a little bit.

It was obvious how much you cared for all of us and wanted to see do our best. We weren’t just our grades or AP scores. You wanted to make sure we all did well but actually got something out of the class. I’ll always be appreciative of that.

Ms. Rigdon

10th Grade English, 11/12th Grade Creative Writing

Thank you for giving us the freedom to explore our creativity in your classes. Even though we didn’t always meet the word requirement or do exactly what the assignment asked, you always loved to see what we created. I did some of my best writing in your classes. I’m sad to say I haven’t written anything since high school. Hopefully college hasn’t drained too much of my creativity, because I would love write again.

Your own passion for writing really came through in class. Thank you for helping me find my passion and inspiration.

Ms. Stout

11th Grade AP US History

Thanks for helping me get my first 5 on an AP Exam. It wasn’t always an easy class, but you made sure I got what I needed to ace the exam.

Thank you for also taking the time to notice when I wasn’t my best. With all the students and work that came through your door, you were still able to see when something wasn’t right and you took me aside to find out what. Your attention and compassion is unforgettable.

Mr. Ruth

9th Grade AP Human Geography, 12th AP Euro

Thank you for making my first AP class not as intimidating or scary as I thought it would be. I obviously liked it enough to come back for AP French..I mean AP Euro. You took dense, hard topics and made it relatable and fun. Thank you for making us take map quizzes so we don’t fall into the group of Americans who are awful at geography. What you taught us matters not just in a classroom, but real life. It’s something we need more now than ever. You weren’t just trying to teach us the information for the exams, but you wanted to make us better citizens of the world.

Oh, and I was the same major for all four years. I guess I’ll have to stop by Dreyfoos to get that pizza and beer you owe me.

Mr. Deluz

My freshman class with you is still one of my favorite classes in my entire educational career. Things I learned in that class I still use today. It really opened my eyes to so many different things and the role they play in communications. It was also the first time I ever saw “Dead Poets Society”, one of my all time favorite movies. A quote from it was actually my senior quote. It’s funny how so many things in life show up again and again. Even after I wasn’t in your classes anymore, I loved coming down to run an errand for Mr. Moore and then we’d end up talking for at least 45 minutes.

You are always encouraging, inspirational, and optimistic. If there were even just a few more people like you on the planet, we’d be much better for it. You’re truly one of a kind, Deluz. You told me I was on a journey when I was a freshman. You’re right, and I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m where I am on it because of you.

Mr. Moore

High School Journalism/Yearbook

I will always be grateful for the skills I learned in your classes. I still use the copy of Stunk and White I got for our intro to journalism class freshman year. I’ve used it every year or my college career. I had since freshman year of high school what some people were using for the first time. I still use your saying “don’t hit the reader over the head with a two-by-four.

Since high school, I’ve written for both of the campus newspapers, I’m a peer editor for a department’s journal, and I’ve excelled in my writing classes because of what I learned as a Muse and Marquee staffer. Thank you for your support over the years and for teaching me how to be a better writer.

Ms. Beermann

12th AP Literature

Honestly, I don’t know how you dealt with our senior class. We were awful once the senior slump hit hard. I’m pretty sure I turned in my Macbeth essay four months late and you still gave me credit. Thank you for being patient and understanding even when we were at the height of senioritis.

But, I did fall in love with “Jane Eyre” in your class. I even took a whole class on the Brontë sisters last year. Thank you for exposing me to one of my favorite stories and authors.

Ms. Tieche

Even though I never actually had a class with you, I somehow always found my way to hang around your classroom. Thank you for always being the fun chaperone for NSPA trips and exploring new cities with us. You’re always ready to make something fun and have a great time. Thanks for geeking out with me and always being a fun, bright person. You always knew how to brighten up my day.

Mrs. Little

9th Grade Science, SECME

My first take at science writing was in SECME, and in less than a month I’m graduating with a degree in science communication. Thank you for the opportunity to try what would become my passion in SECME, and for taking the time to work with me on it. What seemed like me just placing first for the essay at the SECME competition was actually finding what I want to make a career out of. Thank you for your help and guidance.

Ms. Weber

High School Speech/Debate and Creative Writing

I will always admire you because you have the magic power to manage the circus that is the Dreyfoos Communications Department. I don’t know how you do it. Maybe that’s why you didn’t notice that group of us crying in class that freshman year. I’m just kidding. In all seriousness, you are an amazing mentor and teacher. I don’t know how anything would get done around the department without you, and I sure know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. You were always supportive, even though you teased me for wanting to go to freezing Wisconsin. But it was so worth it. I hope I’m doing the department proud.

I know you’re technically Mrs. Anyzeski now, but you’ll always be Ms. Weber to me. You’re an amazing role model and I was lucky to be one of your students. Thank you for everything.

Don Stanley

LSC Social Media

I was honestly terrified of taking your social media class sophomore year. I had no idea what I was doing and thought I was going to royally mess everything up. But you taught me how to get over the initial terror and dive in head-first and do my best. Now, I want to do social media and digital marketing, and going from never using Twitter to using it daily (for better or worse). Here I am three classes with you later and you’re still making me do that. Though, we’ll see if I get a video up on here for 532.

No matter what my goals or dreams are, you’ve always cheered me on, when when I fell short. I wouldn’t be where I am today without your mentorship these past few years. Thanks for teaching me to face my fears and always supporting me.

Shiela Reaves

LSC Visual/Creative Narrative stories

You want us to understand and appreciate everything the goes into what we do. I loved learning about the science and cultural influences of color in your Visualizing Science class. The AP style work we did in your class was valuable, since every job listing I’ve so far asks for skill with it.

You genuinely care about all of your students, and you make sure our interests and identity don’t get lost in the shuffle. Just because we’re writing about a STEM subject doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Thank you for teaching me that I don’t have to sacrifice my creative writing style to write about science.

Sarah Botham


Thank you for being the best NAMA Mama anyone could ask for. You’re supportive of all of us and our aspirations, care deeply for all of your students, and you push us to do our best. NAMA was a great experience that proved agricultural marketing is what I want to do.  Your love and compassion is evident in everything you do. I’m lucky to be a recipient of that. I’ll always be grateful.

Thank you all so much. You’ve changed my life.

Happy Thanksgiving

Love,  Josie


My Anxiety Will Not Control Me

The weight on my chest is suffocating, the crushing pain of it working up through my throat. I can feel the air getting trapped and my lungs pumping harder. The edges of my vision blur till I can only see what’s right in front of me. I feel like everything is moving closer, ready to crush me in seconds. Then it’s done. Everything zooms out and I’m back sitting on my bed. My anxiety attack is over.

I’m going to my dream college pursuing a degree in a major practically made for me so I can get a dream job in science communication. So why am I panicking?

Over the summer, as graduation day neared, my anxiety attacks were more frequent and usually unprovoked. And they happened everywhere.

In the shower.

On the bus.

Watching a tv show.

But I’m on a path to getting better.

I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive network of family, friends, my girlfriend, employers, and professors who all want to see me succeed. I would not be where I am without their unconditional love and support even at my lowest and, to quote Meredith Grey, “dark and twistiest.”

I’m also beyond lucky to have excellent mental health services through my university, and I was able to talk to someone to work out a plan to help me gain control of my anxiety. Because my anxiety will never be cured. It will never magically go away. As frustrating as it is, my anxiety is a part of me. So instead of fighting it till it exhausts my physically and emotionally, I’m going to take the steps I need to control it. Because I refuse to let it own me anymore.


My cousin, Kelsey, just started college this fall, and one of the pieces of advice I gave her was don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t wait till you’re drowning to reach out for a lifeline. I didn’t seek out counseling my freshman year until I was already skipping and nearly failing classes, and I still feel the repercussions of that decision nearly 4 years later. I’ve worked my ass off these last three years to help my mental health, and GPA, recover. I was worried I’d be the only one there. But when I first walked to UHS Mental Health Services and told the receptionist “I need help, and I need someone to talk to,” I noticed the whole waiting room was full. Full of students experiencing the same things as me. And I had been worried, no, ashamed to have to go to counseling.

I recently realized that I don’t write poetry anymore and it made me sad. I haven’t written since my senior year of high school. In a wave of nostalgia for a time before my poetic creativity was drained by the sleepless nights and anxiety ridden days of college, I found our creative writing anthology from senior year. It was one of the few books I’ve had on my shelf every year since moving to Wisconsin, always between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Queens of Scotland series. As I read my poems, I realized they were more than the usual angst teens inject into their writing. They were the circumstances and fear and worries that followed me into college that eventually morphed into the fuel for the anxiety I have today. I should’ve paid closer attention to my own warnings to myself at the time. But you can’t live in a world of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. Our anthology was called Baggage Claim. Nearly 4 years later, I’m finally picking up my baggage.

This post was a long time coming, and I think seeing it was Mental Health Awareness Day finally kicked it into gear. My blog isn’t usually my diary. Every time I sat down to write this, I would stare at the blank post format for a few minutes before shutting my laptop. Nope, wasn’t happening. It was infuriating to me as a writer. Writing has always been my most effective way of expressing myself, no matter if I’m at my highest or lowest point. Why is something that so many people suffer from so hard to talk about, let alone write about?

We need to normalize talking about this. We need to stop worrying about what people will think. I know that’s easy enough to say, but it’s the bottom line. I won’t lie, it was terrifying to hit publish on this post. But it was also relieving.

My name is Josie Russo. I’m a Dean’s List student. I’m Vice President of my sorority. I have two incredible internships doing what I love. I’m graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences Communication this December. And I suffer from anxiety. I will succeed after college.

My anxiety will not define me. It will not control me.

My 6 Best Finds at the Lands’ End Warehouse Clearance Sale

My roommate, Maria, and I took a drive to Dodgeville on Friday to check on the Lands’ End Warehouse Clearance Sale. My mom was an intern for Lands’ End, which has it’s headquarters in Dodgeville, when she went to school here and made the 45 minute drive from Madison everyday, sometimes in the snow. I honestly don’t know how she did it, it felt like forever. That’s about the same time between where I live back in Florida to Boca Raton and that drive never feels long. I’m also not used to long stretches of farmland in between destinations, but this was worth the drive.

The sale is at Ley Pavillion in Harris Park and goes for six full days, with the stock rotating everyday. The last day is tomorrow from 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so try to make it out there and get some deals while you can. Apparently the last day is the best deals, going up to 70 percent off.


I’d never been to a warehouse sale before, so it was a little overwhelming when we first walked in and saw the rows and rows of clothing racks, boxes, and tables. They give you a huge, clear garbage bag when you walk in to fill with things you find. For a Friday afternoon, it wasn’t super crazy crowded. It was mostly old ladies fighting each other for things, and Maria and I couldn’t help laughing at the passive aggressive remarks they kept making to each other. Only a couple other groups of people our age were there, but the deals here are great for college students, so I’d really recommend trying to get out there if you can and bring a whole group of friends. The coolest thing to me was they have everything that was a mess up or returned monogram or embroidered name heavily reduced. It’s cool seeing what was returned and wondering why they were. You might even luck out and find your name. I found one that was only a letter off from my monogram. Damn, so close.

My haul consists of six pieces, much less than the people walking out with two or three filled garbage bags of stuff. Everything I got was discounted extra for being “Not So Perfect”, which ranged from discontinued items to catalog returns to physical mistakes. A couple of mine say it’s for fabric damage or mess ups, but I certainly can’t find or see them. I got major savings, and would say the little day trip out to Dodgeville was a success. Take a look at my finds below!

Side note: I apologize now for the awful lighting in my room. A basement apartment doesn’t make for a great photo shoot.

Women’s Explorer Down Parka in Black

  • Originally: $199.00
  • Marked Down: $119.00
  • Extra 50% off: $59.50


Women’s Polartec Aircore 100 Fleece Half Zip in Lavender Pink

  • Originally: $34.00
  • Marked Down: $17.00
  • Extra 40% off: $10.20


Women’s Active Crop Pants in Classic Navy

  • Originally: $45.00
  • Marked Down: $31.50
  • Extra 40% off: $18.90


Women’s Starfish Leggings in Black

  1. Originally: $35.00
  2. Marked Down: $24.50
  3. Extra 30% off: $17.15

Acrylic Throw in Blackwatch

  1. Originally: $25.00
  2. Marked Down: $6.00
  3. Extra 30% off: $4.20


Plush Fleece Throw in Blackwatch

  1. Originally: $24.00
  2. Marked Down: $14.00
  3. Extra 30% off: $9.80

Original Total: $362.00
New Total: $119.75
Total Savings: $242.35

With huge savings on items from a company I know has reliable clothing that’ll last me a while, this event will be on my calendar from now on. Take a trip to Dodgeville and see what steals and deals you can get for yourself. Let me know what cool things y’all find!

Cheers, Josie

Extreme Makeover: First Apartment Edition

This is the Year of New for me. It’s a new school year which is terrifying since it’s already my junior year, I’ve got a new job, a new kitten, and a new apartment! The apartment is one of the most exciting parts in the Year of New, and it wouldn’t have happened without my amazing parents taking time to come up and putting it together for me.

“I HGTV’ed the shit out of it,” -Mom

They took a blank slate and turned it into a home that my roommate and I can enjoy for the next couple years before we graduate and have to face the real world. My Mom took her incredible design eye and made the apartment something beautiful. Also, shout out to my Dad for suffering through putting together all the furniture with all those confusing directions and random pieces that always get lost somehow.

It was also months in the making, since we started shopping for it when I moved out of the dorms this spring.  82Tip: Shop at consignment or thrift stores right after spring semester ends. People who graduated are donating all their old stuff and you can score a great deal. Our biggest score was a Natuzzi 3 piece sectional and a kitchen table with 4 chairs.

We made the a whole apartment a balance of new and used items to make it the perfect space!

We spent every waking hour of five whole days working on this place, and it came out incredible. Every room has it’s own look and personality, and to be honest, it looks pretty damn good for a first college apartment. I even have my own pub table set and beautiful, golden bar cart of my dreams in the living room. Did I mention we live directly across from the stadium? Game days have been crazy so far, since we get a front row seat to all the excitement and fun.

My favorite room in the whole place is my bedroom. It’s my first time having my own room since I was 5-years-old, and I’m loving having my own space. It’s a preppy, coastal cottage combination and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.


The coolest part of my bedroom is the driftwood contact paper as an accent wall. The contact paper was my Mom’s idea, and it’s a great way to make any room your own since you can’t paint walls or put up wallpaper in an apartment. Contact paper goes on and comes off easily, which can sometimes be a pain when the humidity gets bad in the apartment and makes it peel since we don’t have AC. It’s easy to fix, but it can get a bit annoying, so keep that in mind. We used it in my bedroom, the kitchen, and the living  room. It adds so much to a bland, generic apartment wall, and there are tons of designs and options to chose from. Check out all the ways my Mom used them in the gallery below!

I’m so excited to share all the before and after pictures with y’all. Keep an eye out for Rey, my new kitten, wandering around in some of the photos. I’ll make a Meet Rey post soon! Enjoy the virtual gallery tour!

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Cheers, Josie


High tides and good vibes in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are one of Florida’s main tourist destinations, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to them, and the last time was probably 10 years ago. I guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder, and since I’ve moved to Wisconsin, I’ve wanted to visit more of the Florida attractions like Kennedy Space Center and the Keys while I’m home for the summer.


Grandma and I enjoying some frozen, chocolate dipped key lime pie and fresh key limeade at the Blond Giraffe

My grandparents bought a caravan last summer and decided to make a quick trip to Key Largo for some “glamping,” so we decided to tag along. We stayed at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and explored Key Largo. I had to make a trip to the Blond Giraffe for some chocolate dipped, frozen key lime pie on a stick and some fresh squeezed limeade. I also stocked up on key lime juice and cookies to bring back to Wisconsin with me this fall, so I don’t go through withdrawal. We also went to the famous The Pilot House Marina, Restaurant & Glass Bottom Bar for dinner so my Mom, Grandma, and Grandad could get their fix of seafood. I had just seen it featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives the week before, so of course we had to give it a try. The glass bottom bar was so cool, but we only got to enjoy it for few minutes before the torrential rain forced us inside.

My favorite part of the trip was our day excursion to Key West. While Tropical Storm Colin was drenching northern Florida, we were enjoying the sun in the southernmost point of the United States.


Lily, Mom, me, and Izzy in front of Ernest Hemingway’s House 

The best part of Key West was visiting the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum. For $13 (they only take cash), you can tour the house, property, and get a glimpse into Hemingway’s writer’s studio. Many people associate Key West with Hemingway, and even though he only lived there for about nine years, he wrote 70 percent of his works there. He used to get to his writer’s studio by the catwalk connected to the house. The catwalk was destroyed in a hurricane years ago and was never reconstructed, but you can still see where it once was. We learned that Hemingway would write 500-700 words from 6 a.m. to noon every day in his studio. I wish I could motivate myself to be that productive!

There are also 52 cats roaming the property that you’re encouraged to give lots of love and to pet. They have free reign of the whole house and grounds, and they take advantage of that. There was even a cat lounging on Hemingway’s original writing desk in his writer’s studio. Nearly half of the descendants of Hemingway’s cats are polydactyl cats, or cats that are born with unusual number of toes. This gene was introduced into the large family of Hemingway cats after he was given a six-toed kitten from a local ship captain. It was all I could do not to hide one in my bag and take one home with me.


One of the many six-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway House

It was so much fun getting to spend a few relaxing days exploring the Keys with my family. Check out the rest of my photos from our week in the Keys at the bottom of the post. Now I’m in Ocean Isle Beach with my Dad’s side of the family enjoying the North Carolina surf and sun. Stay tuned for more of my southern summer adventures!

Cheers, Josie