Guiltless pleasures and that cow I bought.

*technically a baby steer. We’ll come back to him.

Summer isn’t over until I rejoin society, I think, and that’s definitely not happening until after my brother’s and my roadtrip next week. So this is still summer, and I’m pretty sure when I look back on the spark notes of my life if I get to be an old lady someday, this chapter’s gonna be “Marvel, Fall Out Boy, and I Bought a Cow.”

Marvel, because in the midst of a total personality crisis last April I found myself alone in the back row of a movie theater watching Captain America; The Winter Soldier. I think something about Captain America’s isolation and loneliness hit home because I, as they say, lost my shit and proceeded to go on a five-month (and going strong!) Marvel binge that’s rivaled my teenaged obsession with Johnny Depp. Like, hot diggity dawg, gimme super heroes with tragic back stories and mental illnesses! The Hulk tried to commit suicide? Gimme. Iron Man has panic attacks? GIMME.

I hit all the levels of fangirling, including spending hours at my buddy Brian’s apartment reading old comics by his pool.

I ate that shit up.

I was embarrassed about how much I adored the Marvel franchise until I realized, hey, when I’m really, really depressed, I don’t like anything. I don’t get excited or nervous or heated about anything; I’m listless and tired. It’s like when you’ve been swimming all day and there’s still a ton of water in your ears, distorting the way everything sounds. Depression is like that watered-ears feeling, but with emotions.

So I realized, oh my gosh, I can’t be that sad! I LOVE MARVEL!

From then on I totally owned it. Hell yeah, I know the back stories of every character in the MCU. Yeah, I dressed up as the Winter Soldier during Super Hero week at camp and cracked myself up saying, “who the heck is Jess?” when kids called my name.

Sometimes it’s the silly things, and sometimes all you’ve got to hang onto is the mantra at least I’m not as sad as I used to be.


Fall Out Boy.

Ah. This. So, a couple months ago my little sister and I really liked the band New Politics, and I saw they were opening for the Monumentour. Some bands called Fall Out Boy and Paramore were headlining, but whatever, NEW POLITICS. I bought us tickets and waited.

Meanwhile, my sister did some “research” for the concert.

In May when I made it to LA, she frantically introduced me to the Holy Trinity of Pop-Punk; Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, and My Chemical Romance. All of the sudden the music I may have listened to at thirteen was all I wanted to hear at twenty-three. It was amazing; all the intellectual sad bastard music I’ve listened to for the last ten years or whatever faded until all I resonated with were these eyelinered emo boys.

I told my sister that “pop-punk” was my guilty pleasure and she gave me a really weird look.

“Really?” She asked. “You feel guilt about something harmless that you enjoy?”


So I stopped feeling guilty. I started just openly enjoying these fun little bands I should’ve liked when I was in high school.

fishnets are for when you wanna feel awesome

We’ll come back to Fall Out Boy after I tell you about the cow steer.

Mine.  This one's mine.

At camp this year I had a baby dairy cow named “Boca” to care for. He came to me skin and bones and nervous around people. My co-worker and I worked fervently to put some weight on him, feeding him separately during the day and making sure to spend extra time petting him. Soon he was like a puppy, following us around and mooing when we left the arena. Everyone at camp fell in love with him.

The last week of camp we learned he was to be auctioned off in the Fall as cheap hamburger meat and again, my shit was lost. I don’t know what happened, but I went to my boss in tears, mortified that this baby creature who we all loved and who loved us was going to be slaughtered for such a wretched industry.

And like any absurd person with a heart…I decided to buy him. The camp director donated a hundred and random counselors pitched in, and we bought the cow. I thought my dad was going to cry when he realized I was serious.

I found Boca a home near San Francisco and last week my mother and I rented a trailer and drove halfway there to transfer him to his new owners. Now Boca lives with another cow in bovine paradise and I’m short a few hundred dollars, but grinning like a loon because I did something I believed in and frankly, I don’t care how ridiculous it is.

Ridiculous, like knowing everything about Marvel and listening to bands that were all over Teen Magazine ten years ago.

Sometimes in life you feel like you’re losing yourself, like you have no idea what the point is or who you are anymore. And sometimes it takes an act of futile compassion to regain some sense of direction. Driving down from the halfway point, after leaving Boca with his new cow apologists, I thought of Marvel and the Pop-Punk music I’m usually too “mature” for, and felt like myself for the first time in a very, very long time.

It’s a soul thing.

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize a few things, like how life doesn’t follow a linear trajectory and how even if I felt like I was soooooo far beyond this point three years ago, this is ok. This is more than ok.

Friends, I urge you like I urge myself; lighten up. This is a season of becoming. This is a season of rediscovering. This is a time to be moved by things other people may not be moved by, because it shapes and solidifies our personalities into something that can be used to uniquely rock our sphere of the universe in a good direction. Yeah, some of its futile, but it’s a soul-thing. It can’t be translated and it doesn’t need to be, because most everyone has their little pointless, soul-enriching pleasures they can’t explain.

I like superhero stories and catchy music and it made a difference to me to make a difference to one baby animal.

What are your soul things? What are the pleasures you shouldn’t feel guilty for anymore?

“Life’s a bitch and then you die,” my friend Amber says. It’s really hard and we need each other, says my old pastor.

So damnit, enjoy those things you enjoy.

We can talk theology and philosophy and all that stuff later on. Right now though? Relax your shoulders. Breathe. Listen to whatever you wanna listen to and watch all the Iron Man movies in one setting, and spend your paycheck on something frivolous and pointless and foolish because you need to do it for your heart.

Two nights ago was that Monumentour concert I was telling you about. You know who’s a good front man? That punk-rock pretty-boy Pete Wentz. And you know why? Because he never once even humble-bragged. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a show where the band’s frontman spoke so intentionally to positive self-care, camaraderie, and work ethic. This guy knows where he’s been and he knows where his fans are, and he uses his platform to speak about mental health and to encourage people to stop the “it gets better” rhetoric and just make it better.

pete wentz no h8

I was impressed and encouraged and somehow reaffirmed. Yeah, I started listening to Teenager Music in my twenties, but did you hear these bands applaud the kids in the crowd who are beating suicide’s lure?  Did you see how happy my punk ass little sister was?


So yeah, that’s Summer ’14 in summation. And that’s how we’re moving forward. Tell me what makes you happy, tell me what gets your heart worked up, tell me if this friggin’ rambling post was too long.

See you soon, P-Town.

Today I did yoga to the Oh Hellos and that is the closest thing to church I’ve experienced all summer.


“It’s been a long road loosing all I’ve owned
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til you’re gone

it’s a nasty habit spending all you have
but if you’re the one doing all the leaving
then it’s never your love lost
and if you leave from the start then there was never love at all
and heaven knows I’m prone to leave the only God I should have loved,

and yet you’re far too beautiful to leave me”
-In Memoriam

“…someday we’ll all start laughing…”

This is from my Myspace “blog”, circa 2007 or ‘8.



Trekking home from my short hike this morning, I realized my dog was ignorantly enjoying a potentially life-threatening experience.  She bounds through the desert, chasing things, panting with exhaustion, dives into brush, yelps at chollas, etc.  I forget that this is Arizona, home of ridiculous heat, diamondback rattlesnakes, and prickly ground.  And the Valley Fever capital of the world.

Okay, I made that last bit up.  It may very well be the capital, but I don’t know.  There’s just…a lot of Valley Fever incidents in dogs out here.  In fact, my good friend’s neighbor’s puppy just died from it.  (Valley fever is a fungus disease that is transmitted through air, basically.  Dogs are especially susceptible because they’re low to the ground, where fungus spores float around and are breathed into dog’s lungs.  Once in the lungs, the spores turn into multi-cellular spherules that expand and grow and suddenly explode, releasing more spores into the animal’s body.  These new spores turn into spherules, and the sometimes fatal cycle continues… its actually kinda cool how it all works, if not a bit tragic.)

This should have served as a warning to me; do not take your pup hiking in dusty, spore-infected areas!!  There is potential danger! Keep her in the manicured, mowed-grassed back yard where it is safe and she can chase leaves and flowers.

Maybe I’m disillusioned, but that seems to correlate to a lot of human decision-making as well; if this be potentially dangerous, don’t do it.

This freaks me out.  I see 99% of America living their comfortable, clean-cut lives, with their 2.5 children, and their 10% tithe to their fancy evangelical church, and their fifteen cents a day to some charity group…

It horrifies me.  I want to be on the front lines, I want to be experiencing extreme cold and extreme heat.  I want famine and high cliffs.  I want meaningful conversation.  I want to suck the marrow from life and flip the bird to fundamental conventionalists.  I absolutely do not want to play it safe.

None of my heroes sat back and hoped for a comfortable, simple life; Jesus walked all over the place loving people and rebuking the self-righteous.  Rich Mullins made minimum wage, even at his most famous rock-star potential moments, and lived on a reservation in a trailer.  Shawn Mullins ( no relation to Rich) traveled the California coast in a van with his dog and wrote songs about the people he’d meet.  Chris McCandless took off into the back roads of America, and the hauntingly cold wilderness of Alaska.

    And so on and so forth.

Was it all safe?  Not at all, not even for a second.  Was it controversial?  You bet.  Were there times where each of them despaired?  Uh-huh.  Were they afraid?  Very often.  Did they find peace?  I don’t think so, but maybe.  Maybe they found something very like it, though, or at least some understanding.

So no, “I do not chose to be a common (wo)man”.  (-Dan Alfange poem-thing: look it up.)  Truth is out there, you guys; but because its so blatantly presented to us, we have to actually look harder to find it.  Make any sense?  Not really?  I know, huh, that’s the kicker.  And the thing is…what do you do when you find truth?  Theres so much about the quest, but what about the aftermath?  How do you go back to mindless materialism, self-centered consumerism, if you think you’ve got a glimpse into the Absolute??  How do you not live after such epiphany highs?  How do you shut your eyes, ears, and mouth in the name of comfort?  How could I do that?

“Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side.”  -Lou Reed.

So, though there is an outside chance of my dog breathing spores into her lungs, she totally digs hiking and chasing rabbits.  I can’t deny the dog something so natural and so enjoyed, and I can’t deny my own natural inclinations to be out there.  It simply brings too much joy to pass up.

Its an introspective Saturday here at camp.  I’m resting from the past two days of zest, sorrow and exhilaration.  I’m processing Thursday night at Rage, all of Friday at Magic Mountain, and the death of Kira due to Valley Fever, as seventeen-year-old me so audaciously braced herself for.

I got the call Thursday evening from Meg that no, it wasn’t early-onset arthritis keeping the dog from playing with the kids anymore, it was a rather nasty case of the aforementioned infection.  Both weeping, we agreed that the best option was euthanasia.  (I get it if you could afford lifelong treatment for your fevered pup, but we here are not made of money.  Magic Mountain was covered by my boss and I ate granola bars I’d sneaked in, as I have a literal three dollars and forty-two cents in my account.  Please don’t tell me how you had the means to treat your dog’s illness.  I don’t want to hear it.  I cannot hear it.)

It is still a surreal and stomach-churning idea that Kira the Wonderdog is gone, and with all the distractions of the last two days I haven’t had much time to wail my friggin’ eyes out. I was, however, crying at the base of a roller coaster yesterday at the time of her appointment.  My camp friends (I was there with twelve of those lovely dorks) bought me iced lemonade and a batman cape and bear-hugged me until I couldn’t breathe.

All I can think about is sixteen-year-old me seeing this wriggling furball at Petsmart and knowing, that’s mine, and of all the haphazard adventures of the last seven years, including the heart-wrenching decision to give her to my friends last Summer.

When I was a kid we had season passes to Six Flags and I never touched a single ride, that’s how terrified I am of roller coasters and heights.  Yesterday, however, I rode every single one we came to and screamed my lungs out for Kira, for the tragedy and humor of life, and helplessness and bliss of it all.


I don’t know.  I’m just sad about Kira and overjoyed about my camp friends and those roller coasters.

Staff Orientation, first night off!

Gah! Monday night! Our one night off from Staff Orientation! LET’S GO CRAY!!!

Jess-iPhone 770

and by “cray” I of course mean “to dad’s house to do laundry”.

I came home tonight to wind down for a few hours and be alone.  I absolutely love camp, and camp culture, and this year is especially wonderful so far, but I needed a break.  As they say in Wet Hot American Summer, “Its nice to get off camp for a while, even if its just for an hour  (or something like that.)

So far I’ve been reunited with my favorite camp friend, Haley, of last year.  She runs the ropes course and laughs at my stupid jokes and in return, I laugh at hers.

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We’ve fallen into a quote unquote clique with this guy from Wales, another guy from Australia, and this guy from LA who was my Counselor in Training last year and is a full-fledged grown-ass adult counselor this year. The five of us discovered the rolling chairs in the staff lounge the other night and nearly sling-shot me out the window.  I’ve never seen mischievous grins turn into horrified O’s so quickly as their’s did just before I smashed into the wall an inch away from said window.  Next thing you know we’re all crawling around, tears and drool streaming, while we laugh and gasp for breath.  Bets are being taken as to which one of us gets tragically killed first.  Or worst; fired.

We have a baby cow, a pregnant goat, pregnant bunnies and of course, the love of my Summer Camp existence, Grace the Pot-belly Pig.

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There are like, eleven Israeli staff this year and they are the literal coolest.   I’m learning how to say so many bad words in Hebrew.

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Orientation is great because its a chance to get used to the camp schedule and you’re flung into team-building exercises with people you don’t know, but who you’ll most certainly know all too well by the end of Summer.  We’re learning about positive reinforcement, nasty first aid tips, and how to eat your EIGHTH VEGGIE BURGER IN TWO WEEKS without grimacing.  It’s awesome and tiring and my dad gave me his video camera to better document all the mayhem and beauty that is Summer Camp.

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The laundry’s almost out, and I’ve got to get back to Camp by curfew, but I wanted to check in.  Hey friends.  I miss you all in Phoenix and I love you from California.

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt. 3

Ah we’re here, part three! We get to sum it all up now.  (Go read part one and two if you haven’t and you’d like to.)

This will be short.  All I want to share is that the more life experience I wrack up, the more I want to be less like Billy and more like Jean.

All of you who actually know me are chuckling to yourselves because you know I am nothing like Jean.  I’m way more Billy Jack than Jean Roberts.

You know how I know this?  When someone dismissed my assertion of Jean’s heroism on Facebook I was like “FIGHT ME IN REAL LIFE!!!1!“.

*face palm*

This is the kind of thing I want to change.  I want to learn to care about things without loosing my mind when no one around me does.  I want to be a consistent in the things I say and the way I behave. I don’t want to be offended by people who don’t share my values.  I want to not be so damned defensive when someone disagrees with my lifestyle.

Because man, when I’m confronted with things I don’t like (say, misogyny or racism or someone telling me cigarettes are for dummies) I get totally rattled and burn bridges with people.  I talk more than I listen, and I dismiss more than I encourage.

I don’t want to be like that.  My favorite thing about Jean Roberts is the way she lets the politicians in town explore the school, and then invites them to see an improv skit the students put on.  She’s inviting and compassionate with the people who need it the most.  I want to be like that.

It’s not that Billy’s bad.  Billy’s awesome. He has a really good heart and he believes in the same things as Jean.  He cares about people, cares about causes, thinks of the big picture and has been through more than he can really share, but he’s impulsive and reactionary.  He gets caught up in the moment, has a grandiose self-image, and like myself, burns bridges.  He is justice while Jean is mercy.

Justice is great, but the causes I find myself fighting for are blatantly self-serving more often than not.  I’m not an activist if I’m only engaging in self-preservation.  And frankly, I’m too often a jerk about things.

I want to be a person who’s safe to be around.

I’m not saying I want to be a pushover.  Jean’s not a pushover.  (In one scene you learn she was marching along with Martin Luther King jr, and she’s the one negotiating a fair trial for Billy as well as bargaining for the school’s safety in exchange for his surrender.  Jean’s a boss ass bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch…)

I’m not going to shy away from the hard issues, but I have plenty of inspiring, tender-heated friends and I’ve choked on enough humble pie to know I need to be softer.  I want to be softer.  I want to be empathetic, and I want to learn how to pray for the redemption of people I view as problematic.

So I guess that’s it, the three-part Billy Jack shindig.  I don’t know how to become more like Jean (and really, Jean reminds me a lot of that one guy from scripture) other than prayer and the practice of extending grace, and while those are two virtues I’m absolutely,undeniably wretched at, I think its worth a try.


PS Staff Orientation starts in a week. (letsgetweirdletsgetweirdletsgetweird)

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt 2

I introduced Billy and Jean to you in the previous post and also gave you a trigger warning, so we’re going to jump right into the heart-wrenching parts of the film now.

Billy enters the film protecting the wild mustangs from Bernard Posner’s father and co.  (nothing more villainous than big men with guns hunting helpless animals, amirite?) and then moves on to Barbara, the fifteen-year-old pregnant runaway who’s brought to Jean’s Freedom School after Barb’s father beats her up.

While there is general mistrust when it comes to Jean’s school and her hapkido fighting friend Billy, this is the conflict that brings out the catastrophic events in the film.

Hiding Barbara at the Freedom School puts Jean and Billy in jeopardy, and then there’s that ice cream shop scene (if you don’t want to watch the video, basically what happens is the shop owner won’t serve the Native American kids and Bernard, piece of shit, takes it upon himself to pour flour down all the native kids’ faces to turn them white.  Billy shows up, tries to stay calm, and then kicks the shit out of Bernard and his friends.)

Billy Jack ice cream shop 2

There’s a lot more to it all then this, but I’m trying to sum it up so I can tell you more about Jean.  In brief, there are bad bad guys in town and Billy gets into fights, while Jean tries to calm him down for the good of all her students.  A Native boy gets murdered, Barbara miscarries her baby, and here’s the kicker; Bernard rapes Jean at knife-point.

At this point in the movie, you’re aching for Billy Jack to wreck havoc upon Bernard’s life.  You want the rapist dead, and you want his friends dead too.  You hate Barbara’s father, you hate the corrupt politicians in town, and you desperately want a happy ending.

I don’t want to give the entire plot away (because you need to go see this movie; its awesome) but here’s why Jean’s the hero.  I know it, you know it, and most importantly, Billy knows it too.

After the rape, one of the students finds and unties Jean, and cradles the woman in her arms while the two weep. This scene’s raw heartbreak is sickening and powerful.  The student has gritted teeth, spewing hatred against Bernard and calling for vengeance, and Jean tells her to stop it.   Jean, battered and vulnerable, hurt and defeated, strokes her student’s hair and softly cries, begging the girl not to tell Billy about it.  She explains through shaky breathes that if Billy found out, he’d kill Bernard without a second thought, and the Sheriff would then have more leverage to shut down the school.  If the school is closed, Jean says, everything she’s worked toward and fought for will be for nothing.  She reminds her trembling rescuer that the students have nowhere else to go.

“Don’t rob me of this opportunity to turn the other cheek,” Jean weeps.

Jean from Billy Jack

See, Jean is a woman who believes in something greater than herself.  She values her mission over her well-being.  Her love for her students outweighs her need for vengeance.  Jean has her eyes set on the greater good and the future of her loved ones and, honestly, racial reconciliation in general.  Bernard’s crime is a hate crime and she looks at it as so, and begs her friend not to fight fire with fire.

Jean is, as I said, a badass.

I watched this movie with a bunch of my women friends the last time and two had to leave the room while the rest of us just wept.  Sexual violence is something every woman deals with in some way or another.  I’m not saying men and boys aren’t raped as well, I’m just saying its more prevalent for the ladies.  There is a special hatred reserved for women and there seems to always have been.  In Billy Jack, its not even that Bernard is attracted to Jean; he’s angry with her for her activism, for the fact that she’s a pillar of inspiration to the counter-culture kids, and because she’s a friend of Bernard’s primary enemy, Billy Jack.  Rape is a war tactic.

Moving on.

Billy, of course, finds out about it all and does indeed kill that rapist some of a bitch, and like Jean predicted this unleashes a full-on war between Billy and the townspeople, culminating with Billy wounded and defiant inside a church and surrounded by police and news crews.

Jean is there and the cops let her go inside to try and convince him to surrender a couple of times.  These scenes are pivotal, and showcase their two characters so perfectly.  Billy is sweating, bleeding, waxing poetic about Indians not being afraid to die, and how he and Jean’s souls are so different from each other’s.

And Jean, resident badass of the film, calls bullshit and tells him why.  She tells him how she hates just as fiercely as he does, and reminds him that she was the one brutally raped, not him, and that she’s the one living with that memory.  She tells him she’s killed Bernard a million times a million ways in her mind, every night.  She explains through gritted teeth how easy it is for him to die a martyr while she’s got to keep trying.  Billy’s shoulders slump and Jean reminds him that she’s in it for the long-haul, and that those children worship the ground he walks on, and he has no right to take himself from them.

Billy Jack Jean 2

Jean destroys the ridiculous misconception that pacifists don’t get angry.  She’s furious, she’s hurt, but she’s made a choice to do the right thing no matter the cost.

Jean is the band’s roadie.  She’s the sound guy.  She’s the tech person.  She’s behind the scenes.  She’s the parent working doubles at a shitty job so the kids can go to college.  She’s the unassuming stronghold behind the heart-stealing antihero with the sexy motorcycle.

Billy is the swashbuckling warrior and Jean is the actual agent of peace.  She believes in something and she’s not only willing to die for it; she’s willing to live for it.

Is Billy?  That’s his challenge.  Is he willing to be handcuffed and put in prison, or will he go out in a blaze of glory?

Find the movie.  Watch it.  Its seriously so good and you won’t be able to get those first flute notes from One Tin Soldier out of your head for weeks.

Less like Billy, more like Jean; Pt 1.

As alluded to earlier, I want to tell you about the movie Billy Jack, a childhood favorite of mine and the film that awakened my interest in social justice at a very young age.  (Pretty sure its rated R, but my dad weighed the pros and cons of us watching it as kids and totally turned off Rugrats one night and said, ‘hey, I wanna show you kids something.’  Billy Jack quickly became the patron saint of my siblings’ and my childhood.)  I brought it to Hope House a while back and begged all my friends to watch it, and this time around noticed something; Billy isn’t the hero and never was.

Billy Jack

Obvious Spoilers ahead, and for those of you who want it, a trigger warning as well.  I don’t really know how I feel about trigger warnings because they don’t exist in the real world, but for the sake of Internet Etiquette here it is;  there is brutal sexual assault in this movie, a murdered protagonist, a miscarried baby, domestic violence, and some gnarly old western shootouts.  There’s also the bit where a horse falls off a cliff and that sucks.

This movie is, as we like to say, intense.

And wonderful.  It will give you heroes and renew your sense of social responsibility, and you’ll wish you could’ve gone to Jean’s “Freedom School”.

The 1970’s movie centers around this counterculture school, where the only rules are 1. no drugs. 2. you have to be contributing something creative.

Its all very hippie dippie and right up the Hope House folks’ alley.

The woman who runs and operates the Freedom School is Jean Roberts.  She’s a badass.

Billy Jack Jean

She’s not married, she’s childless, and she’s the hero of this movie.   She’s wise as she is compassionate, shrewd in dealings with the judgmental townsfolk and kind with her students.  She rides horses, is a pacifist, and Billy Jack is in love with her.

He never says it but he is.

Billy Jack, now, is an ex Green Beret with anger problems.

Billy Jack 2

(also potentially my first movie crush.  Hot damn, Billy Jack.)

He’s half Native American and the protector of the Freedom School, which gets a lot of fear-based flack from the conservative townspeople.  They don’t like how integrated the school is (red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in Jean’s sight) and they don’t trust the lack of traditional structure.  Billy’s trying to learn to turn the other cheek, but as we see in the iconic Ice Cream Shop Scene, injustice just makes him go berzerk.

The juxtaposition of his character and Jean’s is the underlying movement of the film and its genius as it is heartbreaking.

Billy Jack and Jean

These are the two main characters.  Jean’s the film’s narrator, and Billy the central protagonist.  You can’t help but love him.  You want to see him crack some skulls.  You can’t watch the abuse heaped upon the Native American kids in the ice cream shop scene without outrage, and relief when Billy shoes up.  He is the hand of justice and you’re furiously wanting it to come down hard against the racist assholes in town.

But he isn’t the hero.

I’ll show you why in part two.  Peace and love to all of you from Southern California in the meantime, and here’s the film’s famous theme song to listen to while I write up the how’s and why’s and Jean’s awesomeness.


I suck at death

What I mean is this; the first time I hurt myself intentionally since high school was a couple months ago when I woke up to find the two chickens I’d left outside all night had been killed by a neighbor’s dog. Two chickens. Three new scars.  I know.  Its like fifteen all over again only this time its more embarrassing because Adulthood. Something something mental illness.
I drove to South Mountain blurry-eyed, hitting my steering wheel and desperately hoping I could sneak back in time twelve hours to put the stupid hens back in their coop, and then fumbled my pocket knife out of my purse.  Something about guilt and self-loathing. Then I went hiking, begging God to forgive me if He was real and wondering why, fucking why, I suck so badly at death.
Right now its 1:37 am and I literally had to get out of bed and turn the lights on because I can’t stop thinking that if anything happened to my little sister I wouldn’t be able to keep moving. I kept trying to pray, like, “dear God, remember me? I used to try and hang out with you? Remember? Cool, well, long time no talk, but could you do me a favor and make me fall asleep so I can stop thinking about my sister getting hit by a car? Whadoya say?”
I’ve been in California for sixteen days. I’m mostly sitting around at my dad’s house waiting for camp to start, and doing a lot of second-guessing my entire life. Can you have a quarter-life crisis? Because I feel like you can. I feel like I’m in hiding and I don’t even really know why.  I was going to tell you about my friends back in Phoenix and how they’re the most exquisite human beings I can imagine.  I was going to tell you about the concerts and the nannying and my excitement over all the improvements at camp this year.  I was going to tell you I’m sorry for being such an arrogant jerk so often, and how I re-watched Billy Jack and realized who the real hero of that movie is.  (spoiler; its not Billy Jack.)  But I guess that’s gonna have to wait because, hello, baffled and horrified evening tossing and turning because Death is a thing.

Anyway, tonight we were invited to a neighbor’s house for a Memorial Day barbeque, and I got to talking with an amazing woman about her travel past and plans. It got me all jazzed up for those quieted South America ideas of mine, and reminiscent about those dreamlike three months I spent in Australia. I started thinking, you know what, I’ll settle down in P-town later. Right now I’m gonna focus on making enough money to take off again like I’ve wanted to for years.
And yet…its two in the morning and I’m losing my absolute shit wondering if I’d rip out my hair or drive into a tree or something if my sister died. And wondering, if I could go back in time to sixteen, with the knowledge I have now, could I save Leah Tschida?
Now Christian, with your books and theology and heartfelt prayers, do not assume I haven’t read those good books myself. I read them. I read those blogs and listen to those podcasts. I go to church and try to pray and really do still, believe it or not, believe in all this stuff.
But I cannot get a grip on death. I’m dumbfounded and offended by it. It makes me angry. Remember, I’m one who still cringes at the injustice of having been born without my consultation in the first place. Death seems to add insult to injury.
I don’t understand how you’re supposed to keep talking and walking and eating and watching movies after a loved one dies. It seems like the most absurd thing imaginable that a person can be dead. How are you supposed to reconcile loving and investing in and planning with a person, only to have that person taken? How are you supposed to keep moving?
The most comforting thing I’ve come to understand is that, according to the Judeo-Christian scripture, death is not an original part of creation. Mankind was created to live forever in harmony with God, and the only reason God killed the first animal was that after the Fall, Adam and Eve felt shame for their bodies. God apparently killed and skinned an animal and clothed them with it, a foreshadowing of Christ being slaughtered and his death covering the shame and sin of the entire world.*
It’s really a pretty idea, especially since I need something to connect with when my stomach is this tied up in knots and I can’t wrap my head around the wrongness of day-to-day life. I don’t know how to explain it. Something is wrong. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. There is an underlying wrongness in this world that I cannot come to grips with. I don’t even feel like a functional human being most of the time because this whole thing is so screwed up, I don’t know how to participate. I don’t even want to.


There is no greater theme or bow-wrapped lesson in this one, friends. I was just going crazy in my bed and telling you about is the healthiest form of therapy I’ve got.


*I know about Heaven and Hell too, and I read all the theories people way smarter than me have proposed as to what that even means, but none of those theories seem particularly helpful right now. I don’t know why.

Gracious like honeycomb

Worst Vegan Ever alert; friends, the urban garden I volunteer at (and now live at – long story) has three beehives and recently we harvested our first small batch of honey.

And it was delicious.

“Sah fresh! Sah local! So organic! Sah raw.”

bees bees 2 bees 3

Tonight, though, I was granted the opportunity to suit up and place a few more starters in our newest hive for the bees.  Unfortunately I don’t have any picture of this, but I felt like Major Tom.  It was awesome.

We puffed a bit of smoke near the entrance of the box and lifted the top to reveal more bees than I’ve ever seen in my life.  I’d be lying if I claimed my heart kept its rhythm.  We started brushing the bees off the ceiling of the lid back into their box, and a bunch flew up around our faces, landing on the netting and my gloves.

All of the sudden it hit me; these were relatively dangerous animals, and they were everywhere.  The bee suit became irrelevant. All I could think about were the bees all over the place and their tiny little suicide stingers.

I realized I was getting panicky and remembered to calm the eff down.  I am a firm believer in self-dialogue (and my asylum friends are too!! har har har) and began telling myself to be calm, that I was fine and they were fine and they didn’t want to hurt me and I didn’t want to hurt them.  I pretended I was telepathic and told the bees I was their friend, that I wanted to take care of them, that I believed in their well-being, that I respected them, that they and I were in a symbiotic relationship, etc.

It brought me back to working with horses in my early teens.  I used to volunteer at a ranch where I was the designated “baby tamer” and lesson assistant.  I used to hang out with tiny foals and get them to trust me with the assistance of sugar cubes, and then I’d ride this sixteen-hand BEAST named Shaman around during lessons with little kids.

Then a friend of mine had a couple two-year-old geldings and one mare she was breaking, and she put me in charge of them, too.  I used to longe these three horses for hours every day, one right after another.  I complain that my right bicep is disproportionate to my left one from serving, but holy crap you should’ve seen what it was like when I was hanging onto the end of a line connected to an animal that weighs a ton.  A literal ton.  Lunging big horses is the same as caressing a baby one; you stay calm, you keep your heartbeat regular, you make your face serene.

There was one time in particular where the woman I was working for asked me to longe her friend’s three-year-old stallion, this muscular palomino with an attitude problem, while she ran some errands.  I agreed, but it was terrifying.  I went to get him and this guy looked me straight in the eyes and flared his nostrils like he was already winded.  I told myself it would be ok to quit, to go back and just explain that he was too aggressive for me.

However, I was also terrified of being inept at the One Thing I was doing with my life in high school, so I forced myself to take a minute, breathe in some confidence, and step into his stall.

Out in the ring, he bolted before I even told him to, and went on this ridiculous sprint along the perimeter of the round pen like a rodeo star.  I swear to god I could feel my heart in my ears.

This is how I die, I thought.

Obviously I didn’t die.  I wrapped his lead line around my wrist (you’re not supposed to do this but I did it because I didn’t think I’d be able to hold on if I didn’t…but don’t do this) and let him run, forcing myself to breathe normally.  The expression “dig your heels into the ground” had never made sense to me until this afternoon, sweating in the round pen with the craziest horse I’d ever worked with.

And then, like with the bees just now, I started acting like a psychic and “telling” the horse he was beautiful and strong and I respected him, and that I wanted the best for him and that I cared about his well-being.  He stopped actin’ da fool and cantered for me, and I watched his shoulder muscles flow like water under his skin.  I watched the muscles in his flank stiffen and loosen with each step and all of the sudden I couldn’t think of anything besides how lovely this creature was.  This gigantic, potentially dangerous animal was the most beautiful and rhythmic creature I’d ever seen.  He could’ve killed me, yet there he was, running in circles around me and then slowing to a trot when I asked him to.

It felt like being in a trance, watching him canter around me.  All of the sudden I couldn’t stop smiling, totally enamored by this animal.  It was one of the most beatific moments I’ve ever experienced.  I felt peace, joy and awe for something bigger and more beautiful than myself or anything.

I’ll never forget my initial fear of the unknown, of what that horse could do to me.  More than that I’ll never forget how much I stood in awe of him, the reverence I had for him, and the way he cooperated and eventually licked his lips in recognition of me.

I put him away that afternoon feeling like I’d had an epiphany, like my life would never be the same.  I knew I couldn’t translate it (a tentative “horses are beautiful” is what my explanation of it sounded like) but I knew it would stick with me.

I haven’t thought about that stallion in forever, but it all came back tonight working with the bees.    I stood in awe of them, of the way they organize and devote their lives to the queen.  I had to tip my hat, to speak, to their adaptability.  The amount of work that goes into producing a single teaspoon of honey, which we consume without a second thought, is astounding.

I dunno.  I just wanted to say hey.  Bees are amazing.  Horses are amazing.  People are amazing, too.

And I feel like mutual curiosity, respect and understanding can go a long way toward forming trust and even camaraderie between two members of creation.

Also I miss riding horses.

Worth it.

I’m back! I’m back from Austin!  Hashtag South By Southwest, yeahyeahyeah!


Really though, SXSW helped me remember an important thing about life.  The thing is this; no matter what you choose to do, you’re gonna miss out on something great.

The question you’ve got to ask yourself, then, is, “is what I’m choosing worth missing what I’m missing?”

You picking up what I’m putting down?  Cool.

Here’s what happened; It was Friday.  Or Thursday.  It could’ve been Saturday, shit, I don’t know. Whatever day it was, both Vance Joy and Matisyahu were playing at two pm, and not in some wondrous Hebrew-ukelele-hip-hop-party-on-the-beach eargasm like you’d want.  No, they were playing on separate stages on opposite ends of the city at the same friggin’ time for the same friggin’ price of zero dollars and no cents.

Kill me.

I really wrestled with this decision, friend.  On the one hand it was the bearded legend MatISYAHU OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME and on the other it was up-and-coming and Current Music Crush Vance Joy, of the land down undaw.  I hated that I had to make a decision and that either way I was going to be at some show wondering if the other one was amazing and where I “should” have been.

In the end I chose Vance at the Spotify house party, where booze was as free as the concert and I fangirled like a…fangirl.  vance-joyvance-joy-2

And I missed out on Matisyahu.

This is a very simplified version of what I’m really talking about.

On a deeper level there’s the whole Summer Camp vs Internship soul-searcher.  And yes, this was a real dilemma, because either option is a good and life-giving enterprise.  Either way it could be a beautiful, exhausting, growing and progressive opportunity.  (also either way it could be a Watch Jess Fuck This One Up opportunity, but I digress…)   Even after making the final decision I wavered hard.  I want to do the right thing, I want to be the right person, I want to be loved and wanted and valued and all of that.  I had to check my motives, hard, against so many boards to make the Summer 2014 Decision.

(Its Summer Camp, by the way.  Still.)

And at the core level, chew on this; I am a single (read; hopelessly) twenty-three-year-old scraping by in a 300 sq feet studio apartment in downtown Phoenix.  I have not graduated college, I have never had a job that required a skill-set above asking someone if they want fries with that, and I am not the fittest and prettiest bulb in the box.

I have, as I wept the other night at my buddy’s kitchen table, nothing to show for my life.

I’ve been having a really hard time with this lately.  I’ve been realizing that I’m not some hot young thang anymore; I am a grown-ass adult.  This is real life, David.  This isn’t the youthful rebellion phase anymore (which was adorable, by the way. Look at little baby teenage me!


this is the holy shit how-did-we-get-here-and-how-do-we-move-on part of this story.

And its making me sad.  I don’t want to go out anymore; I feel like I’ve squandered All The Things, and I feel old.  I feel like a failure.  I don’t want you to see me like this.

I can’t compete with those hopeful pretty girls who’ve just started college.  I can’t compete with those educated women who’ve fought for social justice and built beautiful communities around themselves.  I don’t even know why I feel like I’ve got to compete at all.

Listen, all I’m saying is that I’m aware I don’t have the paperwork, and if there even was paperwork, I don’t have the experience you’re supposed to put on a resume anyway.  I’ve mostly spent the last five years wanting to be somewhere else and laughing at inappropriate moments.

Back to SXSW though, because what the festival showed me is that I didn’t just happen upon this lifestyle.  It’s not like I woke up after five years and was like, “uh…what’s college?  How do you human?”

Playa please.  Here’s what happened; I spent my energy on things I valued, when I valued them.

I went on road trips.  I was part of a Jr High ministry for two years.  I fell in love.   I fell out of it.  I tramped around Australia.  I worked at restaurants so I could spend my mornings and afternoons gardening and growing relationships at Hope House.  I fell in love again.  I got scared and ran away.  Again.  I spent afternoons walking and being instead of working and planning.  I valued music and spent money on concerts.  I valued relationships and spent time with friends who I’ve lost, and my heart on men I was told not to.  I wanted to believe in my life.  I didn’t want to be part of a system.  I followed my passions to their logical conclusions and then left to chase another.rei

If I’ve got nothing to show for my life, I’ve at least got a lot to feel for it.

I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying it didn’t happen by accident.  I knew what I was getting into when I left home, and I knew what I was trading when I booked those flights.  I think either way, it would still be the same and I’d probably still mourn the life I’m not living, but this is what I’ve got right now.  This is it.  I could’ve been a young entrepreneur and click my heels on my way to work, wishing I’d gone on at least one extended drive, but I chose to be crouching in the dust with my Garden Club kids in my nasty old Chacos, wishing I at least had a degree, instead.

You will miss out.  I’m missing out.

But, friend, is it worth it to you?   Do you look at your tiny fucking apartment and sunburned shoulders and your three-to-five friends and your stupid hand-me-down clothes and think, “yeah, this is what I wanted”?


Because this is what I wanted.

This is what I forfeited that other life for, and I did it on purpose because it’s what I felt was the truest and the greatest good.  I believed in Australia over financial stability two years ago, just like I believed in being part of Hope House over South America more recently.  It was worth it.  Every last drop of it.

I wanna know, friend, what are you missing out on, and is what you’re doing worth missing it?


but sweet, for certain.