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?

cheetahs-b-day

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

Right things

Once upon a time I used to think that life would stop being weird, that things would start making sense, and that I’d feel settled.  I assumed I’d grow up and do good things and would be normal.

And settled.

And maybe someday I will be, yeah?  Maybe someday it does actually start to make sense.  Maybe I’m premature in my conclusion that this is actually it, that this is actually the way grown-up life just is.  We’re all just kind’ve acting like we know what we’re doing, or at least what we’d like to be doing.

I just got back from California, which was a week of soul-searchy, chocolate-eaty, Sherlock-watchy rest.  How did I get a week off of work, you ask?  Well friends, I quit.  Why did I leave such a cool-cat job, you ask?  Well friends, that’s personal.  And where was Kira while I was couch-sitting in California?  *gulp* She actually now belongs to my wonderful friend Megan (who is by far the best person I know) and her boys.

meg-and-collin^My favorite of Meg and the Bird, from years ago when I first met them.

The above paragraph brings me to the topic of Doing Right Things.  For example, the rightness of giving my “home”, my one constant of the last five years, my quirky little canine to a friend.  That was a right decision.  It felt like a shitty decision, and the weight of my dog’s absence hasn’t quite hit home just yet, but I know it was a right thing.  Meg and her husband can provide the stability I can’t, and her sons the energy I don’t have any more.  My love for my cat-killer was selfish and prideful and benefited me, not the dog.

And now?  She’s got this shady spot to survey her massive Phoenix backyard, and Little Bird and Ziggy (my godbaby!) to be belly-rubbed by.

ziggy-and-kiraGood God, he’s cute.

I spent California getting grounded in who I am, and what I’m doing here.  And now there are projects afoot that I want you to be apart of.   There’s a potential USA WWOOF project in the works, as well as a Youtube channel and a re-vamping of what this blog is.  Shit’s about to get fancy.  We’re growing up, over here.  We’re trying to Do Right Things and be a bit more proactive and intentional about things.

Here’s some awesomes;

One of my best friend’s got married recently, and I got to see old faces, drink great wine, and act da fool trying to keep this spoon on my nose.

trannywedding2

And then play with sparklers.

trannywedding

I smooched my sister (who’s definitely a teenager.  I know this because her current heartthrobs are none other than the Jackass boys.)

The girl

I got me a fancy shmancy iPhone 5.  (#instagramcrazyohmygoshthisisthebestIlovehashtags)

I now officially have my associate’s degree.

fancy shmancy instagram

This new buddy and I hang out at the farm I’m always telling you about, getting our hands dirty playing with worms.

Sully and the worms

Spaghetti-Swing Tuesdays are getting fancier as we go.

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We’re going back to Fossil Creek tomorrow.

And this book came in the mail.

photo1

Settled?  No.  I’ve got the same wandering eyes and itchy feet as ever.  But these days we’re going to make something of it.  And see?  Life is really lovely, and its hard and confusing and weird, but look at how beautiful it all is!  Let’s do things!

Bear with me, ok?  I’m still growing.  Things have been weird, and things will probably continue to be weird, but in a better way.

via pinterest, because of course I pinterest.

Go tell your friends you love them, and get some dirt under your fingernails.

It does wonders for your soul.

Aint it a blessing

to do what you wanna do?

hey guys.  Hai.  Guise.  Guess what?  I’m a big-shot published-for-pay writer now.  Officially.

Dig this.

^That got me money.

100_1849(~This is my lovely dog in my lovely backyard (weedsarebeautiful).  This is how my days begin; coffee and journals and loving my dog.)

On a serious note, this marks an incredibly significant moment for me.  All I really want to do with my life is write things down, and it would sure be nice to make a living doing so.  This is the first article I’ve ever been paid for, and it feels more like walls have been blown to pieces than a door opened.  I’m actually trying to figure out a better metaphor, but until I do, hang on to that one.

What do you really want to do with your life?  Your wild and precious life?  How are you going to get there?

For me, this all started because I was a waitress as a soul-destroying restaurant in Scottsdale and happened to serve pancakes to a bunch of editors.  I leaned over their shoulders at the newspaper they were discussing and blurted out, “oh hey.  I write things.  Want me to write things for you?”

Or something along those lines.

They humored me, and gave me a couple topics.  I wrote them, they edited them, then published them.  I messed up BAD on one article, misquoting a source and mis-typing the phone number to his business, and learned that failure isn’t actually the worst thing ever.  When I came back from Oz they had me tell people about it, and Congressman David Schweikert wrote me a letter saying he was all about my Aussie articles.

letter

Then CST decided they would pay me, and here we are.

So what now?  What  now is I will walk on air to the soul-enriching restaurant I now work at, I will serve people vegetables and grin from ear to ear, and when I come home I will write more things and then go swing dancing.

Oh life.  You’re so wild.

Do you want advice?  On how to do the same thing?  What I’ve learned so far (and I have so much to learn its embarrassing) is that you can over-think yourself into a coma.  Writer’s block is really just laziness.  I’ve also learned that because this is the most important thing to me, I’ll procrastinate and despair and freak the hell out every time I need to write something.

And I quote (from an email to my dad, aka Sanity in a Skype-Session)

“Hey, I’ve got a deadline
and I’m going crazy
so grab your cell phone
AND FUCKING CALL ME”

Its hilarious in hindsight, but in the moment I was 100% positive I would never be able to finish the article (which was like a hundred words…come ON Jess).  People, don’t over-think it.  Just write it.  Tell those editors you’re serving pancakes to that you like writing things down.  Go to Australia, just for kicks.  Sign a lease.  Just do things and more things will happen.

Boom.

On another note, we’re throwing a birthday bash for Cheetah on the 28th, and if you’re one of the ones who’ve googled her name and found this blog, send me a message about coming to the party and celebrate her with us.

SXSW and Food for Lovers

Sometimes life is awesome and gives you a tax refund, then an opportunity to go to a gigantic music festival for a week.

Oh yeah, South By South West baby.

hashtag-me-happy^because all the coolest still have bloody flip phones.

I took my tax refund and hopped in a van with two friends of a friend, and the three of us peaced out of Phoenix for Austin, Texas the Sunday before last.  The whole thing was one random hilarity after another, with little nuggets of soul-searching beauty and small revelations.  For instance, you know what I would rather be than funny?  Authentic.  I realized on this trip that while I used to take pride in the shit I could talk, lately I’m more into truth than sarcasm.  I’d rather be an instrument of love and peace, as cheesy as that sounds, than someone known for their sense of humor.

…speaking of cheesy, at SXSW I actually met the creators of the World’s first Vegan Queso.  You know me; I love decadent vegan food, and I love people who make a living doing something they believe in, so I totally ditched a concert to hear their story.

Meet Crystal and Chris Tate, the most adorable little vegan couple to ever take the country’s Mexican food-lovers by storm.

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I seriously just wanted to be their friend, they were that cool.  I talked with Crystal the most (over nachos, of course) about how this Austin-based queso found its way all over the country’s stores, as well as numerous restaurants.

A little background; When Crystal and Chris met, he was already vegan and she was already Hispanic, so their friendship formed over a love of tamales, burritos and the like.  Then it became more than friendship and she became vegan, and voila, the two were hanging out in Texas trying to live on a budget and eat delicious food reminiscent of Crystal’s background.

“We were so poor,” Crystal laughs.  “We used to walk to Taco Bell and split a bean burrito; that was our ‘going out’”.

Crystal, since feeling so much better on a plant-based diet, started a food blog where she shared tips and recipes.  One recipe in particular (this is where it gets good!) started getting an absurd number of hits a day.

Queso!

Chris got all entrepreneur-esque and suggested they take the recipe offline and start selling it.  Eventually the owner of Bouldin Creek Café, in Austin, had a taste and went absolutely nuts for it.  The three worked out a plan, and Bouldin started selling Crystal and Chris’s queso.    Within the first year they café sold over 300 gallons of the off-menu queso, just from mentioning it to customers.  Word spread, and in December of 2010 Whole Foods realized they needed to capitalize on this as well.  They called up our favorite couple and the rest is history.

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Today?  You can find this stuff anywhere.  Its sold all over the country, in tiny health-conscious restaurants (like Green!) and in huge health food superstores like Sprouts and Whole Foods.  Crystal and Chris come off like two kids who just won a prize at the state fair; they’re all wide-eyed about their success, totally humble and overflowing with gratitude for the supportive “love letters” their fans keep sending.

“Ten years ago we had, like, soy milk, and that was it for vegans,” Chris said.  “It’s just so cool to see this movement toward a more conscious way of eating, and people are realizing it doesn’t have to be plain and boring.”

And its queso that is a soy-free, twenty calories per serving (two tablespoons) and is naturally cholesterol-free.  AND your purchase supports individuals, not just some huge corporation.

The only sad thing about it is the gluten-free version hasn’t hit the shelves yet, but it will this summer.  You’re going to hear a shout for joy across so many GFV tables.

I asked the Tates what they would say to the general public about this whole thing, and both were in agreement; if their story is any testimony to the rest of us, its that you certainly can be the change you want to see in the world, and be successful doing so.

She says the most rewarding part of this entire whirlwind experience has been when they’re giving samples away in grocery stores.

“People will hand us their regular queso and buy ours instead.  They think it tastes better and they’d rather eat something healthier than not.”

That’s pretty awesome.  The more people find out about the food choices we have, the more they’re likely to chose a more sustainable and cruelty-free option.  Its all about exposing people to what’s out there.  This was honestly one of the highlights of South By; I certainly don’t want to punch numbers all day for the rest of my life; I want to work at something independent, geographically un-tethered, and consistent with my beliefs.  If these two can do it, why can’t any of us?

“Its not just huge companies that can do things like this,” Crystal insists.  “We were just making this out of our kitchen, and now look at it.  It’s in restaurants I didn’t even know existed.”

Find these loves on Facebook and go check out their website, http://foodforlovers.com/.  And let’s support people who are doing things.

100_1834^cheesy as peace and love on the way home

Let’s talk about depression.

Let’s just do it.

Now, the first thing we have to get out of the way re; depression is that its not all black and white, and depression isn’t something that only friendless losers catch like a cold.  You can’t pick the depressed out of a crowd of people because we look and act much the same way as everyone else.  We’re just more bummed out.

Hey guys, I’m Jess, and I have chronic depression.   I want to say I struggle with it, but what the hell does “struggling” with something even mean?  Who came up with this metaphor?  Ok yeah, I don’t want to be all depressed all the time, but if by struggling you mean I’m living my life as damage control and plugging my ears (“la la la la la”) to all those “triggers”, then no, I’m not fucking struggling with depression anymore.

I’m owning it.

I want to tell you that I’m depressed because A.) my bestie was butchered last fall or B.) because it was winter or C.) because I’m not making enough money/have pimples/my iTunes is really sad, but the truth is I’ve been depressed since I was like thirteen.  And I have lived as damage control, trying not to see, hear, or speak any depression trigger.

At this point though, I’m tired of acting like my chemical imbalance is something I need to hide from you guys.  What’s worse than being depressed?  Getting even more depressed because you’ve isolated yourself, which you did so as to keep from showing them the initial depression.  Because how dare you, Christian, (Christian white American female in the 21st century, no less) be bummed out?

There’s a weird kind’ve pride in being sad, too, which also makes it harder to get help.  If you’re not depressed, that’s fine.  We still like you, even if we don’t necessarily trust you.  We wish we were like you, although we hold suspicions that you must be completely vapid not to see how sad this life actually is.

Anyway, I wanted to let you, dear Depressed, know a few strategies for coping with being what a friend of mine once called a “morose bastard.”

  1. Own it.  Just accept it.  You’re bummed out, and you need to stop feeling so guilty about it.  Most of the chronically depressed people I know have no good reason for being that way.  They just are.  And you know what?  You just are the way you are.  Chew on that.  Maybe this is weird advice, ‘cuz like, who wants to “own” their personality disorder, but dude, its going to be there anyway so you might as well treat it like family.
  2. Admit it.  Yes, even to the ones who aren’t bummed.  I know that’s difficult because you have this sinking fear that you’re going to evoke eyebrow furrows and a non-comprehending, “like, seriously? What have you got to be sad about?”  But you’ve gotta just do it.  If you’re me you’ll play it off really cool, with a smile and maybe a dance move.  “I’m chronically bummed out! Haha! Watch me twerk it!”  This is really hard, I know, and you’ll want to be sarcastic about it.  But stop.  The church, while traditionally being the absolute worst to admit being bummed, is getting better.  “Depression” isn’t as dirty of a word as it used to be around here.  It used to be all “Jesus Jesus Jesus”, but they’re getting better at being like “Jesus Wellbutrin Jesus” these days.  When cornered, I used to admit my depression with an attitude of defiance and self-defense.  Like, “Yeah, I’m bummed out.  COME AT ME BRO.”  But I’ve learned to be more gracious with people, because Lord knows I need the same grace exhibited for me.  I know you’re still going to run into those assholes who can’t understand how you can possibly grasp an iota of what redemption means and still struggle to get out of bed some mornings, but trust me on this; there are gems in the church, and they love people like you.  They do! They love honesty.
  3. Then.  Go talk to a professional.  I’m serious here.  Go get shrinked.  I think everyone needs to be in counseling, because (shocker) we were all raised by imperfect people and we were dropped into an imperfect world, and not only that but we were given imperfect bodies and imperfect desires.  So go talk to someone who’s spent way too much money on a couple degrees in psychology and wants to make it their entire life’s work to hear people’s stories.  Go tell your story.  Tell the gritty parts, too.  My brother’s mentor told him that most people go to counseling and delve into 85% of the pain and anger or their lives, but keep the 15% locked up inside.  Fuck that.  Tell the 15%.
  4. Start doing things.  Do things like go swing dancing.  Or film your own Harlem Shake video.  Walk your dog for hours along the canal behind your house.  Pray.  Agree last minute to go on a road trip to Austin next week.  Skype your Aussie friends.  Read.  Call your dad. Go watch the stupid bachelorette finale with friends.  DON’T LISTEN TO JOE PURDY*.

 

I don’t know, man, because I’m in it too.  But these things help.  You can’t live doing damage control all the time.  You can’t edit your soul.

cant-edit-your-soul

And on that note, I’m back.  Hai guyz

*Purdy’s my absolute favorite, and I’m chronically depressed, so I give him a hard time.  Its all with the utmost affection.  And tears.

December (etc.) has been real weird.

Can we redo the New Year?  We can do that, can’t we?  Who’s got the rule book?

You may have noticed I blanked on the whole, End of the Year Review and Look Ahead.  December got weird, and January stayed that way.

Let’s pretend we didn’t buzz through this symbolic and uplifting, hopeful little refresher.  Let’s say we’re still on the cusp of all this sparkling newness, and we’re not blowing it with cheap wine, a cute boy, and the best friends we’ve ever had.  Let’s throw the last five weeks or so in a bowl, do our best quizzical observation of it, and chalk December (and then some) up to a bemusing “weird month”.

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Time of your life…in my kitchen.Shattered wine glass, the bottom half wedged between the bookshelf and the wall?

(^But really, how did half a wine glass get itself wedged in between there?!?)

And now let’s move forward.

We’re twenty-two now, and while there’s a bit of grace and a whole handful of “grains of salt” regarding binge drinking and all manner of foolish endeavors when you’re twenty-one, let’s not stay here.  We’ve got bigger things to do now that we’re Real Adults.  Also, I’ve got an associate’s degree now and am peacing out of furthering my formal education for now, and the only way to do this without looking like a complete slacker-dropout-asshole is to be doing a Really Awesome in the stead.

So.  For the Really Awesome.

Tell me, as a blog reader (and actually only if you’re not my immediate family, you stalkers) what you like reading.  What do you google, and why are you interested in what people in the blogosphere have to say?  Do you want to hear how I save money (toobadIdon’t!) or do you want ridiculous anecdotes to make you laugh?  Do you want to know what I’m learning (and re-learning and reconstructing and puzzling over) about God and people?  Do you want me to go travel, or live in community here in the lovely Aye-Zee?  Do you want me more involved with that awesome little farm downtown?

I just want to get a feel for what you want, and maybe it will help me figure out what I want.

Because I want truth, meaning, beauty and aesthetics.  I want weird anecdotes and moving ideals, dynamic concepts about God and a consistent lifestyle.  I want to punch Apathy and Boredom in their collective uteri and flip the bird to every time-waster I anesthetize myself with.  I want to be comfortable in my skin and my values and be able to get behind my life, verses the recent shrug and admittance that, you know, December’s been real weird.

Boredom is, as mused by Henry Nouwen, “a sentiment of disconnectedness.  While we are busy with many things, we wonder if what we do makes any real difference.  Life presents itself as a random and unconnected series of activities and events over which we have little or no control.

To be bored, therefore, does not mean that we have nothing to do, but that we question the value of the things we are so busy doing.”

Ooh I love that.  I think, when I look back on the misplaced convictions and the mayhem of the last weird month-and-then-some, I’ll remember I was incredibly, hopelessly bored when it all started.  Not because I wasn’t busy, but because I felt disconnected and helpless, which lead to apathy and quiet desperation that got loud.  Very loud.

And now?  I want some quiet, please, and I want some connection.  I want the green tea lifestyle over the vodka/red bull one.  And while I think my lipstick stains on my cigarettes are sort’ve beautiful, I’m sick of wearing lipstick and I’m sick of smoking cigarettes.

Here’s to a new year.  Here’s to a new age.  Here’s to you, and here’s to me, figuring it out and enjoying the mystery of whole Being Human.

Cheers, darling.

Dear 2012

Dear 2012,

I love you.  In a bemused, kind’ve melancholy way, I really do love you.  You’ve been a wild year, a heartbreaking and hilarious twelve months.

You turned me twenty-one, right off the bat, like you wanted to kick things off with as much celebration as possible.

Then you took me to Australia, and there you had me realize I’m the same no matter the continent, or any other circumstance.  You showed me that I still have my insecurities and eating habits and personality and awkwardness, even when I’m in foreign hostels with nobody who knows my name.  You also showed me, in Australia, mankind’s desperate need for genuine community.

Snorkel

Coming back from this little stint overseas, you gave me a sinking feeling of pointlessness when everything back here was the same old same old and no one had time for my stories.  At least not the stories that mattered.  This probably led to what you taught me next, about alcohol.

2012, you taught me that even I (yes, intellectual badass that I pride myself on being) can struggle and stumble into weeks of binge drinking and self-destructive lifestyle patterns.  Its like humility in a bottle.  Or shot glass.

candycornnose

You got my old roommate and closest friend married, and let me be a part of the wedding.  Thanks for that.  (You also spared no time and got her pregnant soon after, you dirty year, you.)

andriarhino

You gave me two sets of new roommates, one set I differed from but needed to learn to cooperate with and love, and two I fell into natural affection with.  One of these roomies I happen to make my favorite bad decisions with, causing family members and ex-boyfriends to question my mental stability and spiritual health.

rulabula

You gave me validation from those other than family and loved ones that I’m a good writer.  You gave it to me in the form of a congressman’s letter, which had me elated and full of hope for days.

2012, you gave me the opportunity to believe I could save my little brother.  You then shut me down and showed me I couldn’t; the boy’s move out here scratched the scab off some old wounds and left me reeling with shame and helpless fear.  The boy is now in rehab, where he can’t hurt anyone and we can’t hurt him.  And we are licking out wounds and trying to make sense of it all.

brothers

You also killed my teenhood best friend.  You took the action of my adolescence, the frenzied, burning, up-for-anything half of my soul and killed her.  Through this you showed me my grieving style, which is wailing at the sky, then numbness for a week, then skin-crawling, trembling defeat that kept me up all night.  You taught me to value more than air the friends I have.

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You let me and three loves into the Lumineers concert for free, and it was incredible.  Then you took us out dancing.  You’re such a party animal, 2012.

You convicted me about things and had me change my buying and eating patterns, but also showed me that I cannot live by conviction alone, as they are fickle and change with the circumstance.  You showed me that convenience often rules over conviction, and I need something outside of my personal moral leanings to determine my lifestyle.

You got me my second tattoo and a nose ring.   I am a badass now.    nosering

You earned me my associate’s degree, and I now get to crack a bitter grin and say “A lot of people go to community college for seven years.”

Thanks for three different jobs.

You got me to bite the bullet and buy a savings-account-destroying car.

You taught me how to swing dance, and got me to start volunteering at a downtown farm.

Thanks for the books that blew my mind. 1107121429_0001

Thanks for the spiritual heights and canyons and plateaus and the compromises I never imagined I’d make.  Thanks for rocking my ideas on food, God, friends and stability.  Thanks for shaking me, for rattling my brain, for breaking me.  Thanks for these scrawled journal entries and these new friends.  I wasn’t prepared for you, and I’m still taken aback by you.  I’m equally tired of and thrilled to have been a part of you.  This has been amazing.  I’m amazed.

“…nothing in my hands but a handful of crazy stars.”

Oh year.  Here’s to you.  And as my love Kerouac would say, “Though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are still pretty glorious.”

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You were bugged, 2012, but you were glorious, and I will be grateful for you forever.

Sincerely,

Me.

Year-end Review, buckle my shoe

Year-end review

It kinda does a number on my head that I began this ragtag, somewhat scatterbrained little blog with 2011’s year-end review.  I look back at those entries bemused, because much of what went right or wrong in 2012 is the same as what went right and wrong back then.

Time is weird.  The poet Ben Johnson calls time an “old bald cheater”.

I like that.  I get that.   You’re alive, right?  You must have experienced that haunting feeling you’re being cheated out of your own life.  My pastor says that our need for sleep is one of the most humbling things about being human and not gods, and I couldn’t agree more.  We are bound in time, bound to need sleep, and tragically we often may as well be sleeping through our waking hours.  Time gets away from us, and suddenly a year has passed and you’re furrowing your brows, wondering how exactly twelve months are just gone.

And what a gnarly twelve months this has been!  There has been so much good, so much beauty and truth.  This has been one of the most humbling years I’ve ever had.  These last couple of days I’ve been replaying little events, little memories that creep in unannounced that I know, someday, I’ll just forget because they’re really that tiny.  It’s the driving around at night blasting “Starships” in Perth, it’s getting into the Lumineers concert for free, its Thanksgiving dinner feeling like a last supper before my baby brother went into rehab, its sitting on the kitchen floor with my beautiful roommates when my old best friend was murdered, talking and drinking and weeping into the early morning hours, its that trembling awareness in the dried up lake in Australia; ‘my god, I’m actually here and this is actually my life’.

This year.  2012.  We’re at the end of it now and I’m sitting here, with my coffee and Gregory Ivan Isakov singing about the moon, and I think ‘ah, so this was twenty-one.’

Do you want the truth? The truth is I’m not sure what I’m doing, with this blog or with this life.  I’m going to review this year in two parts, the way I did it last year, with what went right and what went wrong.  And then we’ll look ahead at 2013.

Tempe Town Lake

Hiking in Phoenix

I love this time of year on Camelback, because someone decorates a Palo Verde tree up there.

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Camelback boasts an almost cult-like following, with some patrons being crazy over-acheivers and running the mountain three times a day.  Boom boom boom, up and down, being all crazy, getting ripped and offering unsolicited hiking advise to those of us urging our dogs to just pull us up. There’s one man in particular, in cargo pants and a fishing hat, who MUST be in his sixties.  He will tell you to stand up straight so your lungs aren’t compressed and to step in front of your body, as opposed to right underneath.  Do you know this man?  Because he is my Hiking Hero.

However, Camelback is almost not worth it due to the absurd parking arrangements.  (One must often park a mile or more away and take a shuttle to the mountain.  Ugh.)

So, if you’re me and want a good hike elsewhere, here’s some other places for you;

Pinnacle Peak, in Scottsdale.  Its basically in the fancy Troon North area, but despite its zip code its still really cool.  The only downside to this hike is once you get to the end, you remember its not the end and you have to turn around, backtrack, and trudge back to the place you started from.  Actually, this place sucks because its not dog-friendly.

Piestewa Peak in Phoenix.  We used to call it Squaw Peak, but that was when we were racists.  This is another great hike, but I can’t help but remember EVERY TIME I hike this thing that its the near birthing place of my old roommate.  (Her crazy mother was hiking away at eight months.  This is a great story, involving a helicopter and everything.)

Papago Park in Tempe is good if you want to do some trail running, because you’re a beast and running alone isn’t enough for your beastly thigh muscles.  This is right by my house, too, so me and Kira McWiggles are frequenters.

A Mountain.  I’m just kidding, this is only really when you’re drunk off Mill Ave and feel like hiking a mountain.  (This happens to all of us.  All it takes is someone’s slurred suggestion that hiking is the best and should happen immediately, and you already feel like a slurry superman so you’re totally game.)

…the fact is, Camelback is the best.  Its difficult (or if its not, you can run up there three effing times a day like my Hiking Hero) and you feel like throwing up and crying the entire way up, but the top is worth it.  You feel like Simba surveying all that he owns, for some reason.   Plus you can take that stereotypical Camelback picture everyone and their mother takes up there, and its like you’re part of some special hiking club.  The best part of Camelback is telling everyone sweating and weeping their ways up while you’re heading down that someone put a Jamba Juice or a snow cone machine up there.  (Lies are funny.)  Camelback kicks your ass and gets you coming back for more.  We’ve likened it to an abusive lover.  (“It’s just that he’s so passionate!”)

For real though, take advantage of this area’s awesome hiking.  When you live in a state that’s eighty degrees on Christmas, you’re a bit ridiculous for not being outdoorsy.