Love it or Leave it.

It’s been exactly one month since my last post.  I apologize for that.  I’m going to get on a disciplined writing schedule (tomorrow…or next week) and actually post things of value.  Right now though, let me tell you about this season.

I’ve moved into a studio apartment in downtown Phoenix, I’ve got a new job, I’m writing for CST again, there’s cool stuff happening at Hope House Farms.  I haven’t danced at the Duce yet, but that’ll come.

I’ve been in this apartment for sixteen days.  I have a new baby pet rat named Japhy and I signed this lease all on my own.


You know how I like fresh starts.  I like this one especially.

I showed up at the farm last Saturday and Johnny grinned.  “You finally made it downtown.  Welcome to the neighborhood.”

Downtown Phoenix has a crooked smile and dirt under its fingernails.  You can see its rib cage and it needs a haircut.

But its slitted eyes are bright with hope.  Phoenix plays guitar and paints murals and eats locally grown produce.  It speaks Spanish.

 Phoenix seems to hold up its arms with a smirk.  Yeah, we’ve got a messy past, and yeah, it gets real hot.  What of it?  Love me or leave me.

A lot of us love it.

I love this little tongue-in-cheek city for its inhabitants and their gritty camaraderie.  I love that it’s not as frat-y as Tempe feels, not as phony as Scottsdale or as ‘merican as Cave Creek.  I like our murals, are locally brewed coffee, our defiant little patio gardens.  I like that we’re a city built on a grid, and then comes Grand Avenue slicing through the whole thing because fuck you, that’s why.   There’s a little desolation, and there’s a little hope.  The place buzzes with potential energy.  I like the sirens, the grime, the farmers markets everywhere, the food trucks, the Spanish music from across the street, the bold colors against the dilapidated brick and pavement.  There are palm trees everywhere, which seems like a joke.  It’s an island paradise, get it guys?  Get it?

I’ve wanted to live downtown since my friend Meg brought me to Nami to recover from my 21st birthday initiation.  I felt the energy, nodded acknowledgement at strangers, and fell under this place’s spell.

Arizona is the kind of desert that gets under your skin and seeps into your bones.  Arizona has an attitude; we don’t care about daylight savings time, we’re super arrogant about our sunsets (they are the best ever in all the world) and we walk around with weapons just ‘cuz.  This is the wild west, kiddo, and downtown puts a twist on this state of mind with a more progressive lifestyle.

It’s just a little city and there are others with more to offer, I’m sure.  But this is my city.  This is my home and my desert, and I love it, so I’m not leaving it.  I just got here, anyway.


Scars to kiss.

The day before my sixteenth birthday I crashed my brother’s longboard into a ditch.


I’d gotten going faster than I knew how to handle, flying down this winding street, until the speed wobbles became unbearable.  I realized I couldn’t recover, panicked, and in typical Jess fashion, bailed.  I tried to hit the pavement running and wound up a limb-flailing wreck, longboard in the bushes across the street.

My brother showed uncharacteristic concern, collecting the board, helping me to the car, and asking, gently, if I really needed to be that contorted in the back seat.  Once he realized I wasn’t going to cry or anything, he told me I’d looked like a “flopping wet dog.”

I spent my sweet sixteen moping in my bed, on painkillers and wrapped in bandages.  The only time I remember leaving my bedroom was to open presents in the morning.  I have no idea what I got save for a beautiful tear-shaped opal from my father, and with it a letter.  I’ve since lost the jewelry, but I have that letter.

Dad had written that I was more opal-ly than diamond-y, and why.  It was a beautiful and life-affirming note any sixteen-year-old girl would weep over.

I didn’t cry over it, though.  I had these sore, stiff muscles and bandaids all over my body, and my head was fuzzy from painkillers.  I was in physical pain and totally discouraged by my flopping crash the day before, and when I crept back upstairs I lay down to cry about that.

Dad came up to see what was wrong.

“Dad,” I whined.  “I’m going to have the worst scars.”

I showed him the blood-soaked band-aids on my left elbow, my knees, my shredded palms, and my hip bone.  I covered my face and cried.  He said something Dad-ish about scars adding character, how they’re a testimony to a life well-lived (clumsily, Dad.  You mean clumsily.).

Finally he said, “Jessie Bear, someday someone’s going to kiss those scars.”

I probably did something teenagery and rolled my eyes, but I never forgot that.

I’ve got a lot of scars.  I’ve got the bad ones from the long-board fiasco, and minor ones from minor trips.  I have two small burns on my right hand from baking falafels one midnight.  I’ve got a stripe on my left thumb from a panicked dog who’d gotten his foot stuck in a fence, and bit me when I tried to help.  I’ve even got a scar on my right foot from (I think) a shoe that was too tight.

The thing about these scars is I’m the cause of them.  Its not like someone swung a skateboard at my shins while I was sleeping.  I’m not a bystander or a victim in regards to any of my scars.  I’m the one who decides to bake falafels in the middle of the night.  I decided to learn how to longboard when I was fifteen.  These scars are my fault; they’re mine. I own them.

But that crash still hurt.  And I’ve got these discolored marks on my knees, elbow and hipbone to show for it.

I was thinking about this tonight because I was realizing I’m such a mess lately, and I kind’ve wanna pull a high-school me and just hole up in bed with the covers up to my chin until the scabs fall off.  I’ve got survivor’s guilt scars, I’ve got financial mistakes, I’ve got distorted eating and drinking scars, and I’ve got a heart so contorted in ambivalent affections it can’t seem to get its rhythm back.

And then I hear my daddy’s voice; someone’s going to kiss those scars.

I’m encouraged when I think about my sixteenth birthday, the pain and defeat I felt waking up with bruised ribs.  I think about that multifaceted stone the most important man in my life gave me.  I know my scars bear witness to a life full of (sometimes misguided) attempts, and that they’re kissable.

Do you wanna know how I lost the opal off that ring?  I lost it when my fingers somehow got caught in part of the gate on Camelback mountain.  I have no idea how that happened; I must’ve been barreling down faster than I could handle, and as I fell I reached out for something steady.  Ring gone and knees bloodied, I spent the next few minutes crawling around with a search party of hiking strangers.  All the while I explained, “its just a rock.  It doesn’t really mean anything.  Its just a symbol of subtle, multifaceted beauty, you know?  Like, how life is all different colors and they’re all beautiful and unique in different ways? You know? Its just a metaphor.”


Its just a metaphor.


For those of you who didn’t know, it was the anniversary of Leah’s death this past Thursday.

This is not a post about her, but her death is relevant in subtle ways, the way its quietly relevant all the time now.  My friend Joe has a dead friend, and he describes it as feeling like there’s an asterisk beside his everyday actions. The asterisk symbolizes something missing.  And she’s missing.  But its subtle.

Or maybe its not-so-subtle.  I don’t know, I’m still trying to psychoanalyze how much of the last year’s decisions have to do with her.  Also can we talk about how someone needs to come up with a better word than “anniversary” to talk about a yearly murder date?  I mean for crisakes.

Anyway.  Hi.

So, Leah died a year ago and I broke things off with a boy this week.  It was the first “right thing” I’ve done in ages, and it was very hard.  I went out with a friend that night and kept doing this thing where I stare at the ground and hold my hands on my knees, palms up, and say “What the fuck just happened to my life?”

I’m dramatic.

And its about to get more dramatic!

This girl.

Because I went nuts journaling about what happened that night, and I’m going to paste that, verbatim, here.  Duces.


I told everyone last night about my train track prophet, but I couldn’t really express what he meant to me.  Rob G, desolation angel of Tempe.

I’d spent the day lying on my roommate’s couch, amusing myself online and moping about the state of my life.  Kate called.  She’d never been to Casey Moore’s and wanted to go.  I, having just realized I was legitimately depressed (tired all the time, listless, bored, etc.) jumped on the opportunity.  She told me about her boy troubles and I told her mine, and we left the bar for Farmers’ Market chocolate, which we ate sitting on the train tracks.

And that’s when the prophet showed up.  My wiry Dharma bum.  He asked if we were alright and I misheard him.

“Nah, we don’t have a light.”

“What?  No I’m not asking for anything.  I asked if you two were alright.”

Once the confusion was dispelled he said we needed to be safer, that a train could come or something.  We laughed it off and offered him chocolate.

Something about rag-tag homeless talkers always sets me at ease.  I like their stories.  I like that there’s no division when you’re just talking.  We discussed the mess in Syria and how he’s come to terms with his codependency problem with his ex-girlfriend.  He shared his experience of learning to be still, to be quiet with himself and the pleasure he takes in cooking actual meals.  He said all that was awful at first, stifling even, but it was worth it.  His tawny body crouched on the train tracks beside me.

And I’ll get back to that.  But what you need to know is that God is a good father.  A daddy even.

Yesterday my friend’s six-year-old hit a girl at school.  My friend cancelled dinner plans with me to show her boy how serious his actions were.  The boy was mortified by his actions as well, however, and had apologized to the little girl multiple times.  My friend is a good mommy.  She and the boy discussed anger, violence, and better choices, and she told him about being sweet.  Its important to be sweet to people because they could be having a hard day and the sweetness could make their day better.  Then they may be sweet back.

To bring the point home, my mommy friend brought her boy to the candy section of the grocery store and they picked out their favorites.  Then they enjoyed their candy snuggling on the couch.  It filled their mouths and soothed their throats and eased into their bellies.  It brightened both their days.

Later, still snuggling, they read storied about heros and dogs.

I don’t know if the boy will remember that the first time he hit a girl his mother bought him candy.  I bet he’ll remember that he should be sweet, though, because sweet things are delicious and make him feel good.

You know, she didn’t need to take such measures to “teach her son a lesson”.  She could’ve spanked him, sent him to bed early, admonished him, or even (and worse than all) sighed and let it slip by.

But she is a good mommy.  She stoops low to meet her sons so they don’t have to crane their necks.  She is a hundred percent invested in their lives, their hearts and minds.  She wants the good for them.

I think that’s the kind of Daddy God is.  He doesn’t need to reward us for, say, discontinuing self-destructive relationships, but sometimes he does.

So its almost midnight and I’m sitting next to an old friend and a homeless man, on the train tracks, and we have chocolate.  Earlier that day I’d broken things off with a boy, I’d admitted to myself and out loud that I was depressed (a-fucking-gain) and let down my fine-with-a-capital-F veneer.  Probably it all came to a head because of how close my teen-hood soulmate’s murder anniversary was.

Repentance is a slow thing.  Sometimes its not even a “turning”, but more like putting your hands over you eyes and refusing to keep moving in the direction you’ve been stomping for the last year.  Sometimes its just a halt.

And how I feel about my homeless saint’s words last night is this; God, in his infinite patience, love, and pleasure, outside of time and perfectly concerned about every one of his babies, was overjoyed like the prodigal’s daddy because of my halt.  God couldn’t run to me and cover me in his arms, but he wanted me to know how he felt.  He wanted me to know what he thought of me.

I’ve read the Bible enough to be audacious enough to actually believe this.

So that train track prophet spoke his revelation to me after we’d said our goodnights.  He looked over his shoulder as we left and declared me “wholesome” and “pure.  Those exact words.  He said there was a lot of ugly in the world (“believe you me!”) but that I was untainted by it.  He said he could tell.  

“Seriously,” he said.  “Stay that way.  Don’t ever let it get you.  You’re lovely.”

And stunned, I walked back to the car and cried when I got home.  I can (and do) laugh all I want about my bad behavior, my checkmate mentality regarding relationships, and my borderline addictions.  I say I don’t need to be fixed, how dare you, but what about that sinking suspicion that my heart really is too broken to love anybody well?  I’ve felt hollow and defeated and hopeless.  I’ve felt wasted and washed out, ugly and old and forgotten.  Stagnant, tired, and bored.

And then God spoke through a homeless man to tell me I’m lovely.



And today, I saw a man stop his delivery truck to help another man push his stalled car into a parking lot.  Common graces.

Also today I received my last check from my camp job, and a text from my  newspaper editor about another gig.

And I saw a coworker at the library, and today has just been soothing.

I think there’s a God who’s a hundred percent invested in his kids’ lives, their hearts, their minds, their souls, and he loves to bring good gifts.

So yeah, I think God is sweet.  If he was here he’d have bought me candy.

Why I’m not going to Burning Man

When I started mentally drafting this post, it sounded a lot like a defense.  “Lady’s and gentleman of the jury, let me explain.”  It read like a persuasive rather than informative and (hopefully) encouraging speech.  Gross.  Why do I feel like I’ve got to defend myself?

Then I got annoyed at myself and decided I wouldn’t write it at all.  Eph you, fake audience, you don’t get an explanation.

Then I got annoyed again and realized this was an actual thing that needed to be addressed.  Mostly I want to address the fake audience we’ve all got, and the image we try and project.  I know you do it too.  I’m not that unique.

So here it is; why I turned down a free ticket to Burning Man this year.

It all started when I was homeless after camp and a friend of a friend let me move in.  Mollie lives in Phoenix (so I do too) and does theater-y stuff.  She’s friends with e’erybody, and while I peaced out for California to go on a #postcampportland road-trip with Camp friends, Mollie’s friend offered her a free ticket to Burning Man.  Mollie’s a real adult with a real job and things, so she declined, but gave this friend of hers my phone number and convinced him that not only am I totally un-psycho-y, but that he should give that free ticket to me.

So there I was, somewhere in Napa Valley with a belly full of wine, and I recieved a text offering me the ticket and the ride and a bunch of new friends.


Naturally I said yes.  My method is to agree to All The Things first, and then think them over.  We all stumbled to bed and the next morning, my camp friend and I headed back down the 5 toward Los Angeles. We debriefed our weird week of driving and camping and discussed the foreseeable future.

The more we talked about Burning Man, the more anxiety I felt about it.  For those of you unfamiliar, Burning Man is a week-long festival sort of thing in Nevada.  Lots of nakedness, lots of drugs, lots of “art”.  Then they burn a giant man.  Its supposed to be this spiritual thing and its really popular.  It used to be free but now tickets range from a couple hundred to (I fuck with you not) six-hundred dollars.

Its many people’s dream to attend, but for some reason (the price?!?!) I’ve never actually cared to go.  I’ve never had this burning (har har har) desire to experience it, and especially after my physically and mentally exhausting two months at Summer Camp, followed by being a bridesmaid for my old roommate, and then this weird West Coast Roadtrip, I’m just tired.  I’m homesick.  I want to buy a bike, get a job, start writing for my newspaper again, frequent my coffee shops, run around with my real friends, and not live out of a backpack for a while.  Plus I’ve already played around in Slab City and at the Rainbow Gathering, both of which aren’t total sell-outs yet.  (Want some ice for that wicked burn, Coachella?)

The problem is, this was free.  And what a way to cap off the summer!  And how envious, on a scale of envious to super envious, would this make everyone?! And how consistent with my wanderlusting, constantly curious, random and hyperactive lifestlye!

I tried to find the source my my decision-making anxiety and this is what I found; going to Burning Man upholds the image I project to my fake audience…but I didn’t actually want to go to Burning Man.


Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely am fairly adventurous.  I like spontanaiety and I like new places and people.  I genuinely like Kerouac.

But here I go defending myself.

The painful truth is that I want you all to think I’m this carefree Dharma Bum, endlessly adventuring and having a ball everywhere I go.  I want you to think I’m beautiful and fun-loving and never tired.  “Eyes incapable of anything but wonder…” just running around the world digging everything.

Its this totally one-dimensional idea I’m safe hiding behind.  If they think I’m a gypsy, they won’t question me.


Because friends, people are all kinds of dimensions.  You are not a description, you’re a human being.  Sometimes you may like to hop in a van with strangers (see west coast roadtrip to the Rainbow Gathering, circa 2011) and sometimes you want to watch New Girl re-runs all day.

I don’t know why I pressure myself to be so easilly defined.  People mentally categorize everything because it makes processing them easier.  If I were to describe myself to you, I’d hand you some adjectives and you could file them away.  When I cross your mind you could quickly pull out my binder and see “vegan” and “writer”, along with a paragraph or two on “chronic depression” or “logical theism.”  There might be a whole page dedicated to “wanderlust”.

But those are just neat little adjectives and they’re one-dimensional, the way that we are not.  There’s more than two sides to a story, and there’s more to a person than the About Me description would have you believe.

I don’t want to categorize people like that.  I am consistently surprised by people wrecking my simplified judgments of them, and I’m learning not to put anyone in boxes anymore.  I want to extend that same curiosity and authenticity to myself.

All this to say, I’m not going to Burning Man.  I’m going back to Arizona.   Here’s to busting out of the box.  Here’s to not being impressive.

jess1 <tired selfie on the train.

(Last week I bussed from Phoenix to LA, caught a cab to Union Square, and was quite pleased with myself on the train toward my dad’s house.  Two days later three friends and I drove to Portland, camping in Big Sur and spots like it along the way.  Sometimes life is really good.)



“The only people for me are the mad ones.”


The problem with reading lots of books, and writing lots of stories, is you begin to see people around you as characters.  By you I mean I.  This thing happens to me every once in a while, where I become totally fascinated by individuals or subcultures and shamble after them, hungry to observe.  I like their facial expressions and I read between the lines.  I can create my own stories around their quirks, and leave them at the end of the day anticipating the next plot twist.

The struggle is to get out of observer mode and join them.

I’ve run into this here at camp.  There’s a handful of characters here who I just want to follow around all the time.  I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so drawn to them until the other day, when another counselor and I were talking about our experiences with them.  We realized they were genuine, and comfortable with themselves.  They know themselves.

They’ve all been a part of camp for years and have the most ridiculous stories (i.e. the skunk fiasco, raw egg-eating, that year everyone got swine flu, etc.).  They have this easy comfort with each other that’s hard to find.  I love them the way I love all my old quirky coworkers.

Anyway, last night, while other camp counselors were out getting cray for the fourth, we packed a Trader Joes-y picnic and hiked up a mountain to see fireworks.



I like people like this.  They’re all so unique and awesome.  Stephanie runs the nature center at camp, and all the way up the mountain was pointing out plants and bugs and telling us their names and uses.  Erica knows every story ever, and tells them in first person.  They’re all ridiculous and hilarious and pointless.

We play these ridiculous games at camp, like “elbows”  where you try to lick people’s elbows without them noticing, or “faces”, where you make this ridiculous face at a person and if your eyes meet the other person has to lay on their backs and “reveal their belly meat”.  Last night, before this hike, Logan “noodled” Eden for like twenty minutes for no reason other than to get Eden to say “I give up”.  (Noodling is when you press up against someone and wiggle your entire body against theirs.  Its so dumb.  And awesome.)

I can’t tell you how relieving it is to find people like this.  Their love of life and lack of dignity, or attention to social norms, makes me feel like less of a sore thumb sticking out of everyone else’s pretty hand.

I’ve realized that I want to make people feel accepted and valued, because I desperately need to feel accepted valued.  “Life is really hard,” my old pastor said.  “And we need each other.”  You’ve gotta figure out who you are, and find your people, and watch fireworks with them.

Its not like camp is restful by any means.  I get about six hours of sleep a night, if I’m lucky, and I’m constantly on my feet, running around, creating lesson plans, answering kids’ questions, trying to motivate them to care about food, dealing with escaping goats and co-counselor dramas, etc.  But rest is what this feels like.  Maybe renewal is more accurate.

All these characters.  And I’m just one of them.



I have literally ten minutes to write this, pack away my laptop, and get to the fire circle for more staff orientation, but I wanted to tell you about Grace.

This is Grace the pig.


Grace is all tail-wags and smiles, and is my absolute favorite animal at camp.  She’s as watchful, affectionate, and personable as a dog, and eats any leftover veggies I’m not into.  As soon as she came off the trailer I was enamored.  She wants to be touching me if I’m in the pen, and she keeps her eye on me when I’m not.   I love that she’s into belly rubs (will actually roll over onto her side for them) and is gentle taking scraps of food from my hands.


I love that her name is Grace.  I desperately need to experience grace, and I struggle to extend it.  This quirky little pig has been such a reminder for me; its like everywhere I go, I’m met with more love than I could possibly deserve.  God’s grace as well as the grace of my new friends.

For instance, they love braiding my hair


and leaving sticky notes on my greenhouse.


I don’t know, and I’ve got to get to the fire circle, but man, all those Jesus freaks who rave on and on about grace are on to something.  I’m grateful for the reminder, in the form of a pot-bellied pig and in friendships I’ve been taken into.  I hope I’m always left breathless at the story of redemption.  I hope grace never loses its draw.


DIY Compost bin

You may have seen this already on Instagram, but here’s the compost bin we built yesterday.


It was free, and its going to be an awesome addition to life over here.  If you’re not already familiar with composting (I certainly wasn’t), here’s the basics;

“Compost” literally means ” to put together”.  It is part of earth’s natural cycle of growth and decay, and farmers have been making and using compost for centuries.  Farming taxes the soil, and composting is a way of putting nutrients back into that soil.  Plants grow because of nutrients from water and soil, carbon dioxide in the air, and energy form the sun.  Dead plants decompose, and their nutrients go back into the soil  (Its really complicated and scientific and involves fungi, bacteria, insects, and the like.)  Nutrients go into the soil and carbon dioxide back into the air, and the “humus” (not the kind you eat EVERY SINGLE DAY with pita chips) stays behind.  This is what you use in your garden.  As for what you compost, it needs to be about 25 parts brown matter to 1 parts green matter.  Brown matter is dead leaves and things, and green matter is your apple core, crushed egg shell, etc.

I want to show my campers that things don’t have to be wasted, that even “trash” is beneficial.  Your banana peel becomes soil, the soil nurtures the eggplants and tomatoes, and we eat the eggplant and tomatoes.  Even my caffeine habit is beneficial; coffee grinds and tea bags can be composted.

So this is how we did it.

First, locate old trash bin.

compost-binThen, screw lid to the bin.  (make sure and use tiny screws, because you don’t want anyone getting caught on the sharp end of a screw as it pokes out from under the lid.)

drillingWe built the stand out of unwanted two-by-fours.  I think the long pieces of wood are 45 inches and the support beam is 15 inches from the ground.  Yours can be taller, which would be nice if you want to dump compost directly into a wheelbarrow or something.  We made our short because we wanted little kids to be able to turn it.


We found an old shower curtain and used a nifty sphere-cutter thingy (technical term right there) on the lid and the bottom end of the bin, so we could fit the rob through.  Then we cut the hatch, and with that open were able to screw little wooden enforcements so that the rod doesn’t wear through the plastic as this thing gets heavy with compost.


compost5compost3You’ve also got to drill a bunch of teensy holes in the bin, so the decomposing gunk you put in there is well-ventilated.  Just make sure the holes are small so you don’t get teensy animals trying to eat your old veggies.holes^This was the most fun.  “Drill all the holes!!!”

We put these hinges on the door;

hatchWe also attached a latch to it, so we can close this opening and spin this guy around, mixing the decomposing matter.

Viola! Compost bin!  Its a beautiful thing!

I love it because I love the idea that nothing is useless, and nothing is trash.  Nothing wasted.  I love the idea of giving as much as we take.  I love the idea of nurture.  I want to take care of things, and be intentional about my life.

(I’ll probably edit this post later when I’ve asked Drew what all the measurements were.)

For now, know that I’m stoke about this, and equally stoked about the three raised beds for the greenhouse we constructed yesterday;



letter^found a camper’s letter to another camper this afternoon.  Totes adorbs.

You know what I’m good at?  Walking into a pre-established environment, being a newbie, and learning the ropes.  I don’t like too much responsibility.  I like jobs like restaurant gigs because my presence isn’t the most crucial thing.  Being a manager would terrify me.  I like helping out at the garden downtown, but truly being in charge of those chickens and plants would drive my anxiety up the wall.  This tendency even creeps up in dating; as soon as someone starts counting on me, peace out.  If I could be a hermit and have no one depend on me, I’d be content.

But not really.

And there comes a time when you’ve gotta get over your commitaphobe, can’t-fence-me-in mentality.  You’ve got to actually do things that matter, take on responsibility, and start doing those things you secretly have wanted to do for years.

Enter, this summer camp.  Stage left.

Here, I’m the garden coordinator.  I’m in charge of mapping out the greenhouse (which Drew, the program director, and I did this afternoon), working within the budget for supplies and plants, and coming up with lesson plans that will not only entertain kids, but hopefully instil in them a sense of responsibility for the earth.  There’s no compost bin here; I’ve got to start that, and Drew and I are building it tomorrow.

Not going to lie, starting something is super overwhelming for me.  I choke at the idea of failure and disappointing anyone.  I’m sort’ve terrified that there aren’t pre-packaged lesson plans and an already working greenhouse for me to mesh into.

The good news is, I’m sick of being transient and undependable.  I want to be part of something that matters.  I want other people to care about animal husbandry and sustainable food systems, so why hang out on the sidelines hoping someone pulls me out there with them?  I want to teach people things that matter, so I’ve got to go learn those things.

Here’s to learning new things (like how to build a compost bin, cool down the summer greenhouse, and writing up seven weeks of lesson plans) and bringing what you’ve learned to everyone else.

Check out the start of our compost; egg shell, two coffee filters with grinds, two banana peels, a mushroom that fell on the floor, and grapefruit peels.


To come;

pretty things aren’t always good things.  (see; poison oak)


How to build a compost bin from a trash bin.


And what to do with a greenhouse in California summers.


Bemused gratitude

Remember when I was like, “oh WWOOF, you’re so fly, I’m gonna do you forever!”?

Remember when I crisis-ed in California for a week last month?  Ok, well, whilst in Cali, I joined WWOOF USA and planned* on taking the Amtrak all over this country, working on farms and learning what everyone’s growing all over the place.  (Because seriously, how incredible would that be?!?!?!)  I browsed some farms online, got pretty stoked, and came across a listing for a garden coordinator at a summer camp in Southern California.  I clicked, and the job description went something like this;

“Jess Moran Jess Moran Jess Moran JESS MORAN…”

Flash forward to right now, as I take a break from creating lesson plans and packing up all the clothes I’ll need for two months of garden-coordinating.  Tomorrow Dad will drive me and my trusty blue backpack to Camp, and I’ll get to work.

I feel like my life is characterized by being completely unqualified and unworthy of Awesomes, and getting to experience them anyway.  Like, yeah I know some things about gardening, and sure I can take care of animals, and ok, I’ve worked with kids for like ever, but really?  Really?  I get a greenhouse, a bunch of animals, and am in charge of teaching kids how to grow things for seven weeks?!?!?  What is this?  Plus, all my experience in the aforementioned fields came very similarly as this one; I was totally unprepared and undeserving of the opportunity.

For instance, running adventure camps in Australia.  Boom, that looks great on a resume.  But remember how I got that position?  How I randomly met a guy who worked for an adventure camp company, and they needed volunteers and I just happened to be around?  I got to spend two weeks camping, hiking, being a leader to all these high school kids, by coincidence.  What is this?

And now I get to cite that on my resume.  Who would’ve thought?

I’m kind’ve walking around in bemused gratitude, out here in So Cal.  Tomorrow dad’s driving me down to camp, where I get a brand new greenhouse to work with as well as pigs, chickens, bunnies, goats, and an alpaca.  (pinch me.)  I’m spending a week getting things mapped out and situated (where to plant what, etc.) before the other staff leaders roll in.   Then its orientation, and our first campers are dropped off on the seventeenth.

My role is to teach them how to grow things and care for animals, and why both endeavors are important,

Basically, I accidentally landed my dream job.

I don’t know, I’m just pretty stoked about all of this.  I couldn’t have created a better opportunity to learn and grow if I’d tried.

This is going to be a fun little stint, so stay tuned for tons of garden tips, camp counselor laments and rejoices, and tons of #nofilter pictures of the place.  Also I’m determined to teach the pigs tricks, like dogs.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.

Farm hat

*oh we don’t actually plan things around here.

wild with hope

I just got home, and en route I was thinking about my fancy new iPhone and the things I’ve been posting.  Social media in general, really.   From these pictures, from my statuses and what I’m tagged in, you’d assume I just walk around having the time of my life.  Being out of work the last two weeks looks awesome.  There’s been Tempe Town Lake girl-talks, water-fall jumping, margaritas (Morangaritas!!!!!) and general goofing off with my family.

lake-girl-talk We jumped off that suckaDad and Auntie Lisa

And that’s all true, but what’s also true are the things I don’t post, and the things you don’t post, either.

For instance, the hanging out with my family?  What you don’t see is that my auntie quit her job last year because the stress and anxiety of it was wrecking her life.  She was able to spend time with us this weekend because she doesn’t have a job right now.  That party I held two weeks ago, where all my old middle school buddies came over and drank wine and cracked each other up?  And we posted this picture?


Man, we got together like that because the hero of our teenhood was murdered last September and we needed comforting on her birthday.  And the silly hashtag “14hoursofChris”?  All those goofy pictures you like of my brother?

"This is the bus we take to church, Jess."

Yeah, those fourteen hours were the day-pass out of rehab he earned.  The boy is in rehab.

I post such pretty pictures of the urban garden I work at, and you like them, but what you don’t see is that I need that farm a hell of a lot more than it needs me.  You don’t see that the farm is restorative for me, a sanctuary for me.  The more scrapes from weeding I come home with, the more at peace my anxious heart feels.  You read my dad’s blog and like his business advice, but you don’t see him walking up to the aforementioned farm and his tears welling up when he saw me by the pool, playing lifeguard.

playing lifeguard

Those misty eyes are because he knows the wreckage behind the pictures, and he felt it too; that the farm is a safe, hopeful place.

And Spaghetti-Swing Tuesdays?  Friends, there have been nights we don’t even leave my house, we’re too engrossed in tearful confessions of our souls.

There is a brokenness in this world I can’t come to terms with.  There is a brokenness in myself I can’t come to terms with.  I mean, I’m unemployed right now because of it.  I got testy with someone this weekend actually about the nature of his joking and kind’ve told him to cut it out.  He obliged, but also asked how the view form my high-horse was.  I laughed.  “Oh, they don’t even let me near that horse these days.”

I just wanted, ehem, to be square with you.  I know you’re aware of how cool you make your life out to look on Facebook and Instagram and all of that, and that behind those pretty things you post you’re a mess as well.  And you’re probably lying awake at night, too, feeling like a phony.  I bet you’ve had your fair-share of rage at the weight of this messy world and your messy heart.  I bet you’ve shaken your fist at the stars too.

…And I bet you’ve been as astounded as I am at the common grace you experience.  Betcha receive unexpected encouragement sometimes or fall into charmed friendships you don’t deserve, and you’re floored by all this goodness.  I’ll bet you take those gems and cling to them, and you take pictures of them and post them and look at them later and reflect on how lovely your life really is.

You take those fourteen hour day-passes and run wild with them.

…I guess I’m not ashamed of posting such happy pictures, in that case.  And I’m glad you post your happy pictures too.

we'z real cool

“In  that place where morning gathers you can look sometimes forever till you see

That time may never know, time may never know

How the lord takes by its corners this whole world and shakes us forward and shakes us free

To run wild with the hope run wild with the hope.

The hope that this thirst will not last long…”

-Rich Mullins