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30 Nov, 2015

There is so much going wrong in this big beautiful world that we live in. Horrific weather patterns, Donald Trump running for president, mass killings, poverty, etc etc etc. Every day there are news articles and Facebook posts that make me sad  or disgusted or angry (especially the crap my friends share that isn’t even true), which is in stark contrast to the emotions I feel on a regular basis: happy, safe, content, productive, helpful.

I don’t see how anyone can be anything but thankful every single day when you are reminded of what you have that so many people don’t. I am thankful for a beautiful and loving family. This Thanksgiving was the first where my parents were both together since I was a child and I am so grateful that they have a good relationship and were able to spend my sister’s favorite holiday with me. I am thankful for a beautiful home home with beautiful rooms (I’m working on some of them) that allow me to host a full house for a huge holiday dinner. I am thankful for my safety and for the sense of security I have because of where I live and who I am. I am endlessly thankful for my health and my ability to do hard work. This was one of those years where I was reminded that, even at a relatively young age, my health should not be taken for granted. I am thankful for a partner who makes me laugh, who is a warm snuggle buddy and who puts up with my TV shows. And I am thankful for all of you.








We live in a world that needs more empathy and compassion. I am thankful that I am part of your circle and that you are part of mine. That we strive to further understand one another instead of judge, and that we work within our small circles of influence to make this world a better place.

<3 Jessa


Fall is here again

9 Nov, 2015

One day i woke up and some of the trees were changing color. It is amazing to me that each species knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It feels like they are all working together to create a beautiful painting for me. Some of them stay deep, dark green and fluffy looking. Those are the background. Some of the trees have leaves that change in stages so that, no matter when you look, some are yellow and some are red and some are brown. Up close it looks strange but when you stand back the tree looks like it’s covered in confetti. It looks joyous.

My favorite little bushes turn bright red and then, over time, tame down into a gorgeous cranberry color. And my favorite trees lose almost all of their leaves so that they get a stripped down, bare look – and the few leaves that are left are so incredibly noticible. It’s the leaves on the very ends of the branches and the very top of the tree and they are so bright in contrast to the bare wood that it looks like one of those toys you get at fairs and sporting events of the plastic fluffball with LED lights at the ends. The days are shorter and the time change has made it so it is dark by the time I leave work but I don’t mind too much because I really love the sweaters and the leaves and the down comforter on my bed. I get tired around 10pm because it’s already been dark for 4 or 5 hours and so feel really well rested for the next day, which is strange. 🙂

And then one day, this past Saturday, to be specific, the ground around our home is blanketed in brown leaves. When I walk around our property my feet kick them up and I can hear a satisfying crunch in my footsteps. How did they know to come down all at once? It’s like magic and I am reminded that nature often feels like magic to me. We open the windows to let in the cool breeze and as I’m walking around the house doing chores I can hear the chickens scratching in the leaves to find their next meal. I really love that noise.

The very next day – Sunday – you invite friends over for a satisfying meal and the temperature drops into the low 40s in the evening. And you light your very first ever home fire in the fireplace – perhaps the first fire our 1950s home has ever seen if you consider how clean the inside of that thing is. Fall makes me grateful for everything that I have: the family and friends and partner and home and life that I have instead of being worried about the things that I don’t. Having seasons, accompanied by the change in weather and change in foliage and change is really  healing.



<3 Jessa


Happy Birthday to My Mamadukes

20 Oct, 2015

My mama is one of my best friends. She has been testing in ways that I wish she had never been tested and she has been strong in ways I could have never imagined. She raised me to be independent, and strong like her. She raised me to rely on myself and no one else but since Jamie died sometimes I feel like we are holding one another up, like a ladder holds itself up with it’s two legs.

My mama used to wake me up for school by rubbing my back softly, and then 15 minutes later she would come do it again because I always wanted to sleep more. She would make me tomato soup with crushed saltines and grilled cheese when I was sad. She supported me when I decided I wanted to stop eating meat, even though that must have seemed really foreign to her.

My mama went horseback riding with me, took me on hundred mile yard sales with her, and let my friends throw me a really ridiculous barely legal 18th birthday party where everyone was dressed in lingerie and nudie mags were taped into a tablecloth. My mama is fun, she is wild, she is determined, and I am so glad that she is mine.

Happy  Birthday Mama. I can’t believe you are turning 35 again!










<3 Jessa

Gorgeous photos taken by Tim Beckford of I Heart New York Photography.


Farm, Life

Ceremony Pictures!

2 Oct, 2015

I had an idea about what I wanted to write about today, but all of that flew out of the window when Adam from Crafted Focus Photography sent me all of his magic. Adam was our photographer for the ceremony and I am so glad that he was. He was so easy to be around and really captured the feel of our day.

Photography, for me, is one of the most important parts of any big event. You want people to feel comfortable all day long and you want to feel like you can really enjoy the day without worrying whether it’s being captured. It’s also one of the only things that will last forever; long after we grow old and my hair thins and our tattoos fade we will be able to look back on these gorgeous images and remember the best day I’ve ever had.

I was very choosy about hiring a photographer. I spent hours combing websites and reading reviews. I wanted a photojournalistic style, someone who would be able to capture – not just images – but emotions and feelings.  For this intimate day, and ceremony, I didn’t want overly brightened images that make me and my friends look “perfect”, or whatever “perfection” in weddings is. I wanted truth and natural beauty. Nothing posed, just candid shots of real life. That’s what I got.

The boys prepared for the day with haircuts and hot shaves at Rocks, a local barber shop with a bar in it.









My beautiful ladies (and a confused/bored puppy) prepped with me in the guest room.



6 Pup


7 Champagne


Last Touches




And then there was a lot of crying. Why do we cry so much when we are happy? Also the progression of these photos is pretty hilarious. Hug, cry, hug, cry harder, basically collapse in mama’s arms, cry, hug.


And then it was just love. Washing over and around us, palpable between us. I am so incredibly grateful to the people who spent their time and money prioritizing us and being there for us. These people basically threw their own party, cooking and setting up and painting and staining and cleaning. This day was almost perfect.





 Ring Bear


13 Love












Seriously, how beautiful are these? And this is just a sampling of my favorites. Thank you so much Adam. You have given me such a gift. I owe you many beers and some homemade lasagna.

<3 Jessa


Photographer: Adam Brophy of Crafted Focus Photography

Barber Shop: Rocks Bar and Hair Shop

Venue: Riotous Living Farm 🙂 


My Best Life

25 Sep, 2015

Just a sweet little roundup of some of my favorite moments in the past few weeks.

big chickens

The chickens are SO big. I cannot get over how adult they look when I compare it to their tiny little baby pictures and videos. Every day when I get home from work they come running up and I try to spend a little time petting each one.


When I wake up and everyone is out enjoying our property it makes me feel like the luckiest and happiest girl in the world. Like I have this place that people really enjoy. My father in law really loves our pond. I think he named this fish Steve.


This was the first gift that we got that was not on our registry and I cannot be more in love with them. This is seriously the glass I use all the time in my house now. (And another gifted humongous wine glass that says “Hers” for my wine obviously). Speaking of stellar wedding gifts…

Apple Ale

Drinking these (slowly, because I want them to last) is just a reminder of our whole wedding week. So freaking thoughtful and terrific.

Love Bear

And this moment. Seriously. So freaking cute.

<3 Jessa



Intentions Rather than Vows

22 Sep, 2015

I don’t like the word “vows” in this context. A vow is like a promise, and whether we like it or not, promises are easy to break. I prefer the word intentions, because it gives you a clear view of my side of things. What I intend to do, how I intend to treat you, right now and for the rest of my life. This is just truth ok? I can’t see into the future. I can’t see all of the ways that we will inevitably hurt one another, I can’t see how our love is going to grow and morph into (hopefully) this bigger, even stronger thing. What I can see is how I want to treat you, and how I intend to love you.

We ultimately didn’t include our own homemade vows in our wedding ceremony, partly because the ceremony that our friend Laura wrote was so perfect and partly because Wayne (and me too) hadn’t had time to sit and reflect and write any. If we had chosen to include them, here is what I was going to say. I wrote it in a text message to myself one night while I was laying in bed and Wayne was showering (which probably says a lot about how much free time we had).

Your love is like an electric current running straight through my heart. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I look at you and I feel really full, like a balloon stretched to it’s limits – but in a good way. Your love is solid ground beneath my feet, it is an arm around my shoulder and the kind of hug that makes all of your worries melt away. Your love is my bread and water. It is a snowball fight in the winter and the sunshine sinking deep into my skin on a warm summer day. It’s the adrenaline of climbing down a steep cliff and standing next to a freezing waterfall, with it’s roar pounding in my ears. Your love is chicken noodle soup when I’m sick and macaroni and cheese when I’m sad. Your love is so big that I never knew I could want it, or that it could ever be in my reach. 

I intend to be those things for you too. I intend to support you – in your decisions, in your choices, and in your life. I intend to help you continue to learn and improve and to do the same so that we can always be the best versions of ourselves for one another. I intend to love you – hard, unconditionally, and openly – as much or more than I do today, which is a lot by the way. 

weddingIncredible Image by Adam Brophy at Crafted Focus Photography

<3 Jessa


Project Update – Guest Bath

31 Aug, 2015

Before we get started let me remind you what this bathroom once looked like so that you can fully appreciate the difference. Please take a moment to review. The pink tile, the pink surround, the pink toilet and bathtub. The pink streaked marble on the vanity and sink, the pink flowers (which actually I kind of love). Let’s ignore the fact that the ambitious renovation plans were too ambitious and that we are not even finished with the bathroom a week before the wedding, much less relocating a kitchen.

Shortly after moving in in February we started demo. We were motivated and demo is fun so… that went quickly. Then Wayne had to do quite a bit of plumbing work that I couldn’t really help with so that was frustrating for both of us. After that there was putting in of the subfloor (I helped with that!). In May the in-laws came up to help us get back on track and they got the framing and the electrical done, which showed exactly how different our new bathroom looked and felt! The shower is HUGE.

Screwing in the subfloor

Screwing in the subfloor


More plumbing...

More plumbing… (PS. I find him SO sexy in his monkey suit and boots)

New electrical on the shower wall

New electrical on the shower wall

And then there was the drywall. It sort of loomed above us for a while and was a bone of contention. Wayne was pretty clear that putting up drywall was the worst job ever and that we should just hire someone but after repeated attempts to get quotes and have people come out we were pretty fed up. Work was stalled at the stupid drywall phase and it was dumb. Finally we decided to do it ourselves and even went out and bought a fancy drywall jack. That was the worst decision I’ve ever made. It was awful, we wasted so much time and drywall, and what we put up looked like crap. It was so discouraging. Wayne was right. DO YOU HEAR THAT WAYNE?!

So these really nice men came and put up our drywall in 3 days. Honestly, they didn’t charge us enough considering how freaking hard that shit is to do and I now know from experience to always hire someone to do the drywall. ALWAYS.

But, Jessa, what if it’s just a small section or I’m really strong or I have a ton of time on my hands?

Did you feel that? I just smacked you. Go hire a drywall guy.

After drywall is up you get to do the fun stuff that you can actually see when the bathroom is done. Like the can lights Wayne’s dad put in the shower or the chandelier that is going to hang above my gorgeous tub.

Check out those cans

Check out those cans

And for the past two or three weeks it has been tiling. So much tiling. Tiling is one of those things that takes time to get good at so, take my advice, practice on someone else’s bathroom. 🙂 I am way better at it today than I was two weeks ago and each day it gets a little less frustrating and I get a little quicker at it. Which is good, because we still have an entire shower to tile (I’m taking bets on whether this will happen by the time people get here for the wedding). But look guys, I feel eons better about the bathroom at this point because as of yesterday morning the floor tile is IN. It’s laid, it’s mortared, and it’s ready to be grouted. And you know what happens after grout?! A toilet. I’ve never been so excited about a toilet in my whole GD life.

White subway tile to the ceiling on the wet walls (walls that might get wet)

White subway tile to the ceiling on the wet walls (walls that might get wet)

How tired do I look? FLAWLESS

How tired do I look? FLAWLESS

I love this floor so much.

I love this floor so much.

Still To-do List

  • Finish tiling behind sink area
  • Grout all walls and floor
  • Install toilet
  • Build sink cabinet
  • Install cabinet and sinks
  • Install mirror
  • Finish installing kerdi in shower
  • Tile shower
  • Grout shower
  • Install shower fixings … what are those called? They aren’t appliances
  • Paint

So if there’s still a little dust when you use it at the wedding, forgive us. 🙂

<3 Jessa


Emotions are Complicated

28 Aug, 2015

We are legit a week and a half away from the wedding ceremony and just two weeks from the party. Shit is getting real.

It’s getting real in the sense that there are still real tasks and projects that have to be accomplished before this thing can go down the way we both want it to, but it’s also getting real in a hits me right in the feels kind of way. I am basically walking around right now as one big ball of emotions, which is not my favorite way to be. The number of times I’ve had to fight back tears because of a stray thought (sweet or sad) is kind of ridiculous.

Wayne and I are both taking the entire wedding week off of work, to spend time with the amazing people who are going to be here for both events but also to spend time with one another. We are consciously taking the time to be together, to reflect on our relationship and it’s path – the work that got us here and the work that it will take to get us to the next 5 years. All of this reflection has me feeling tender and vulnerable.

From our date night this week.

From our date night this week.

Weddings are hard. There is a lot of pressure (whether real or imagined) to do this thing a certain way and to feel a certain way about it. It’s supposed to be the best day of my life, right? A culmination, an apex – I should feel giddy and beautiful and hopeful and like I’m starting a new chapter. But we aren’t starting anything new are we? We committed to one another a long time ago, we have built a life around that commitment and this is really more of an appropriately timed celebration of that. More importantly, where is the room for the sadness that I feel?

My sister’s birthday is on Sunday and my Wedding is only a week and two days from that and in some moments that is pretty overwhelming. I was really worried at my graduation from my Master’s program that we would have difficulty celebrating a happy moment so soon after we had experienced such a great loss. I felt really guilty about having a big life event and small party and more than a little worried that it would turn into a room full of people crying. Everything was fine then and I’m sure everything will be fine now but I can’t help but feel a small amount of the same feelings. More than that I am just sad. My sister was the one who wanted to be married. My sister would have loved this party and loved to be here for me. My sister would have loved this house and my life, but the truth is I have her to thank for all of it.

So that’s where I am. I am both incredibly happy and terribly sad, in alternating moments. I tear up because I miss my sister but I also tear up because I feel so SO loved right now. I am more than a little excited to celebrate with so many of the people that I love most in the world, tempered by moderate anxiety and worry. All the feels.

<3 Jessa



Family Is Who You Choose

17 Aug, 2015

When I tell people about all of the things that Wayne and I currently have going on they get this look on their face, half confused about why we would choose to do that and half pitying. They start to understand the momentary crankiness, the yawns, and the desire for a beer or the sunset or something that marks the end of an already long day.

Between big renovations like the guest bathroom (we did some tiling this weekend!!), building some of the big wedding pieces ourselves, landscaping the property while also making it good for growing food, our full time jobs, and general wedding planning we have a lot going on. And since the wedding will be at our house it pretty much all has to get done in 3 weeks – right?

Our friends and family have stepped up in a huge way and all of this is just a constant reminder about how good people are to us. I’m not sure what we do to deserve this love but I will be looking for chances to repay them! My in laws have come several times to help with key renovation bits. Because of them the bathroom is one step closer to being done and the curb appeal of our home is greatly improved. PS Thank you for helping convince Wayne that the chandelier was a good idea. 🙂



front door

That says nothing about the days when I come home and our wonderful housemates have mowed the entire property, hung the globe lights for the wedding, swept the whole house, or any number of other sweet and incredibly helpful things. My mom has put in work to get the house ready and Rachel gave up her whole weekend to come help me tile the new bathroom.


I firmly believe that you get to choose your family. I have always wanted a huge family that will sit down to happy, loud, chaotic Thanksgiving dinners but I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, especially without kids. I feel so incredibly lucky now to feel one step closer to that life goal. I am, right now, surrounded by such a wonderful and big family who looks out for one another in so many ways. Sitting down to a full dinner table all weekend long made my heart incredibly full and I feel a little like bursting because of it.

<3 Jessa


What friends are for

4 Aug, 2015

My best friend and I are two very different people. We have different politics sometimes, different personalities, different ways of handling stressful situations. She’s got this quiet grace and I’m a bit of a pitbull (I choose pitbull because I associate them with overt friendliness, wagging tails, licking faces, big heads, etc).

When we were deciding where to move I just knew that I could not live in a place where I did not have close girlfriends close by. When my sister died my girlfriends were legit my lifeline and that kind of support and unconditional love is something I want in all aspects of my life. So while there were other places on our list, North Carolina eventually topped it – not in small part because that’s where she is. Since moving here we have had a whole heck of a lot to celebrate. First her wedding, then we bought our dream house/farm, and just this month she and her new husband bought their own first house!


Buying your first house is an accomplishment. It’s the most fun part of adulting because after that it’s all bills and roof leaks and such. Celebrate while you still can!! 🙂 But seriously her house is beautiful, she is beautiful, and I am just so incredibly happy for the two of them. This is why you surround yourself with people you love – so that you can spend your days celebrating them and their accomplishments (and be similarly celebrated when it’s yours).


Next it’s our #riotouswedding . I can’t wait.

<3 Jessa