Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts

The Worlds of Studio Ghibli

Way back in 2006, Nayt introduced his new girlfriend to the world of anime. And his selection for my first toe-dip into that pool was Spirited Away. It was a good choice, one I’ve seen many times since. Studio Ghibli films are now part of our personal cannon. Have you heard of Studio Ghibli*? If not, they are a Japanese animation studio. And before you dismiss foreign films for straining your eyes as you read the subtitles, calm down. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Disney has provided the American audience with many English-dubbed versions of the original Japanese films.

In general, I’m a huge fan of entertainment aimed at children when it is done well, with intention and the understanding that children are capable to grasp complex truths. The first time I saw My Neighbor Totoro, I was thrilled that the plot focused on the emotional conflict of the children. American children’s films and books don’t often focus on emotional resolution. Our books and movies focus on circumstance and action. As a highly emotional person, I think this is why I have loved each Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen.

And once I find an author or movie I like, I tend to obsess a bit. My job at Half Price Books only adds fodder to the fangirl fire. So, thanks to some amazing customers parting with their collections of Studio Ghibli films, this month I’ve been able to watch a few titles¬†I’d not seen before: Pom Poko, Grave of the Fireflies and From Up on Poppy Hill. Each are wonderful in their own way. Pom Poko is hilarious and full of adorable animals. Grave of the Fireflies is visually stunning as it rips your heart open. From Up on Poppy Hill is engaging and honest and beautiful. Each of these films deal with real, hard truths: ecology, loyalty, pacifism, death, grief, love, work. I am thrilled movies like these exist with children as the intended audience.

Jes loves to find layers**. Motivation and complex truth intrigue me. Studio Ghibli films tell more than just stories. They are telling good stories. I like being reminded that ecology and loyalty and pacifism and death and grief and love and work are important. I like expecting to be entertained and unearthing truth.

I have seen 15 of the 20 films released to date: Castle in the Sky, Grave of the Fireflies, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, Howl’s Moving Castle, Tales from Earthsea, Ponyo, The Secret World of Arrietty, From Up on Poppy Hill, and The Wind Rises. If I absolutely had to pick one movie from the 15 I’ve seen so far to claim “my favorite”, I would stammer for awhile and then admit it’s a 3-way tie between Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle and Arrietty. ¬†ūüôā

Have you seen any Studio Ghibli films? Which are your favorites?





*note, you’ll need Google to translate their website into English if you don’t read Japanese ¬†ūüôā

** Thanks Shrek for making me simultaneously want onion rings, cake and parfait at the mention of the word “layers”.


Posted in Thoughts


Today I’m thinking about my Dad, a man who is equally equipped for any conversation with anything from a Princess Bride quote to¬†deep theological questions. My Dad is someone who makes me laugh, makes me think and makes me feel loved.

When I stop for a few moments and remember things he has done in our history of being related, it’s hard not to be grateful. He enabled my discovery of myself as a kid, he has supported my dreams and taught me valuable skills so that I can be an adult. But more than this, my Dad is like a comrade in arms. I always feel as though he is my friend in the best senses of the word. Dad challenges my faith and throws wit at me like a pro. He is fun to be around and while you’re busy laughing and enjoying his company, you don’t realize that you are slowly marinating in a solid example of steadfastness, truth and love. Dad is strong. And I am grateful he is my Dad.

So, Happy Father’s Day. Could I have a better dad? “Inconceivable!”

Posted in Thoughts

Mama love

Happy Mother’s Day to all you superhero moms out there. You are daily changing the world by purposefully engaging with the children you are rearing. I feel like mothers and fathers should get medals of honor after year 1 of surviving parenthood. So much sacrifice and love goes into shaping the future generations of humanity. It’s a bit overwhelming to think about.

So, let’s make it a bit more bite-size here while I focus on the particular person I get to call Mom.

One of my favorite pictures of my beautiful Mama circa July 2008…

It never really feels like enough to say thank you to the people who literally are credited for keeping you alive, clothed, fed and warm. When you are blessed with parents who also share lessons in how to create, explore, love, believe and experience God? Man, the debt I have is high…

So, for now, all I can say is this:

Mama, I am so lucky that God chose you to be my mom. I love you and have learned so much from you. I am honored that such a kind, creative and humble woman would choose to share her life with kids. I’m honored to be one of the people you are yourself around. I love witnessing your life and I love that my life is better because you are in it. Thank you for the labor of love you have given me over the 34.5 years I’ve been on the planet. Today, I have to settle for internet hugs. But¬†Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Homesteading, Thoughts

Is Zero Waste Attainable?

Hey all,

Happy Earth Day! This big, beautiful planet of ours has a lot to offer us. Mainly, it provides us a home¬†where we do minor things like breathe and eat and survive. No big deal. Except it kind of is a big deal when I stop and think about humanity’s stewardship of this planet’s resources. I’d say we as a collective group don’t seem too concerned with trashing this home of ours.

I happen to live in an urban neighborhood where I come face to face with a shocking amount of litter. What bothers me most about the litter on my streets is that the majority of it is cans and bottles that are 100% recyclable. So, I have a dirty little habit of it up as I walk around my hood. It’s gone so far as this:¬†carrying reuseable bags on my person for the sole purpose of collecting trash off the street as I walk to and from the bus. I’ve started heckling coworkers who absent-mindedly throw their drink containers in the trash cans at work. And yes, I’ve dug in trash containers to retrieve recyclables, and frequently have bags full of cans and bottles in my trunk. I’ll admit, I have a “problem”. I might be a litter magnet. I literally feel like I have litter radar going 24/7.

There’s a little local coffee shop within walking distance of my home that is a zero waste business. Serendipity Spot does not have disposable cups. You have to bring your own mug or drink things in store. At first, I thought this mindset would not be a sustainable business habit. How on earth could a coffee shop garner enough profit to counteract the¬†lost business¬†from customers who’d prefer disposable cups? But I’m so encouraged Serendipity Spot finds that risk worth taking. The owner, Kelley, would rather make less money than contribute to the litter in my neighborhood and trash in our local landfills. That is awesome.

Zero Waste. Could it really be a thing?

I saw this Buzz Feed video and got really excited about the idea: check it out here. Who else wants to make a worm compost after watching that??? Most impactful to me was her little Mason jar of trash after a MONTH. I wanna do that! According to that video, the average person generates 4+ pounds of trash PER DAY. What!?!?!?! That is craziness!

I don’t know what it would look like for the Minnesota Brookes household to transition to a zero waste household. But I know that I want to take steps towards that. I know acquiring less stuff in general is a giant leap towards a more sustainable life. And it really annoys me that most food packaging isn’t recyclable. I guess on this Earth Day, I wanted to say…I’m less cool with forgetting my choices affect the one planet we have. And I want to make choices that are better for the extended life of this beautiful home we all share.

Are you moving towards a zero-waste home? Tell me what you do to reduce, reuse and recycle by commenting below!


Posted in Being real, self-care, Thoughts

Back to being me

Hello all,

I didn’t intend to be missing in action. Sometimes these things just happen…

In late February, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and rode my bicycle downtown to Core Power Yoga. Due to some absent-minded route choices, I ended up on a street choked with traffic and construction. I’m still a beginner road-cyclist; sharing lanes with cars makes me very nervous. So, I attempted to merge onto the sidewalk from a less than smooth lane. Needless to say, that attempt ended poorly (i.e. my right knee and the sidewalk became very intimate). First bike ride of 2017? First bike wreck of 2017!

The body is a miraculous thing. It can weather so much. But when I whacked the exact same spot the following week with a metal hand truck at work, my knee gave up its fighting spirit. And for the past 2 weeks I’ve been recouping from a knee sprain, contusion and strain. Crutches and knee braces and PT, oh my!

I am happy to report my knee is recovering well. Under orders from my physical therapists, I went back to yoga today. (Huzzah!) Other than some soreness that are no match for ice, medical tape and ibuprofin, I am able to move around with slightly limited function. Work has been…interesting.

To be frank, I’ve never broken or injured myself quite like this before. I know how to read the signs of fatigue when I am ill. I’m not so great at that with injury. The past 2 weeks have been more emotional and mental work than physical. Pretty sure we can call a spade a spade and just admit that I don’t do well at life when I can’t actively serve or participate. I didn’t know that by injuring my knee, I would be signed up for lessons in humility as well as banishing illusions that I can perform to earn love. I like to serve. Not being able to serve my husband, coworkers, house church family, relatives and friends in the way I am accustomed was frustrating.

But guess what? God is teaching me that I really don’t earn His love by doing stuff. I am loved. Period. Nothing I do affects that for better or worse. I don’t earn extra bonus points with God by doing good things. I am loved because He loves me. End of story. Why is that so hard for me to understand? Seriously.

Today, for the first time in awhile, I felt like I had energy to do some “Jes” things. I read some books, I went to yoga, I created with paper. My whole routine had been thrown off. My whole way of being was thrown off. And now, I feel challenged to carry forward these identity lessons as my knee gains more strength and healing.

Who is Jes? Loved.

I may need to remind myself of that a few more million times to really believe it with my soul and act accordingly! Happy God is so patient with me. And happy He is healing my weaknesses, both physical and otherwise. ūüôā

Thanks for being witnesses to this crazy journey I’m on, friends,



Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts, Word Study: "Joy"

The Red Balloon

Hello all,

I truly love one of the perks of my job at Half Price Books. Similar to a public library, we are allowed to check out merchandise to enjoy at home then bring back (or buy). Over the past 3 years at HPB, I have be able to enjoy a plethora of movies and CDs for free. This has been awesome.

So, when a double feature of The Red Balloon/White Mane came in, my child-at-heart self¬†grabbed it right up. I was actually unsure if I’d even¬†seen The Red Balloon in its entirety. It’s definitely a staple¬†resource of the American education system, so I had faint recollections from my school years. But it was time to revisit the movie.

Awww, it’s so sweet; the little boy and his personality-filled balloon. But you know me, Jes’ brain is always chewing on something. At all times, the part of my brain that compelled me to study English Literature in college is working hard to find metaphor, to find the deeper meaning behind what is being presented. I’m unsure if this ever gets switched off! ūüôā

The Red Balloon is exactly the type of movie you can throw a few metaphors at. And since I have been meditating on the word Joy in 2017, I saw it through that lens (as well as a few others). Follow my train of thought here…

Imagine the red balloon is a metaphor for the boy’s joy. He is comfortable with it. His mother, the principal at his school, the trolley driver and his peers do not understand it. He wants it to come with him everywhere, but has to be content to leave it behind at times to please others. (How sad!) And then the ending…when people don’t understand something precious to you and you don’t have the strength to defend yourself, they can do all kinds of things.¬†But¬†then the boy reaps an unexpected amount of joy. His little¬†joy is replaced with something he could have never dreamed of. Man, that is a good metaphor right there!

Thanks, brain! Thanks, dusty old English degree! You make entertainment so much more valuable to me. ūüôā


Has it been awhile since you’ve seen The Red Balloon? YouTube is here to help! Enjoy!

The Red Balloon (last 10 minutes) or The Red Balloon (full movie)




*photo courtesy of


Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts


It’s time for another Media Monday post…

From Sara Groves’ most recent album, this gem of a song has resonated with me deeply from the first moment it hit my brain. Have a listen…

Enough by Sara Groves

“Really we don’t need much, just strength to believe it: there’s honey in the rock, there is more than we see. And these patches of joy, these stretches of sorrow; there’s enough for today, there will be enough tomorrow…”

My frantic soul hears this and sighs with relief. God is still good. Calm down, little Jes. He is still good and He’s got you. And amazingly, if I stop long enough to watch my little world, to read the sign of the times and really get under the surface, I see…this is true. The more I slow and rest and stop striving or adding or saying yes to more things, the more I experience what I already have. And guess what? I have enough of every last thing I need. Everything my soul cries out for, every thing I literally need, I have. That is ridiculously good.

Praise be to God! He is a good Papa.

Posted in Thoughts

How do you define “self-care”?

Apparently, “self-care” is all the rage. ¬†This may be the only “hip and now” post I write in¬†2017. ¬†Savor this moment, all, Jes is trendy!

I’ve been thinking about self-care a lot over the past 3 weeks. ¬†I had no idea it was an “it phrase” until a conversation with my awesome mother-in-law revealed that fact. ¬†Our Christmas trip provided me with many examples in the importance of self-care. ¬†It’s been marinating in my brain since then.

During our 14-hour drive back to Minnesota, I had begun to process all my emotional, high-feeler responses to our 5 days in Cincinnati. ¬†But, we walked into our house & my mind shifted gears from “process all the feels” to “do all the things!” ¬†I began attacking the to-do list that accompanies trips ending: unpacking, laundry, cleaning, all the cat petting. ¬†Driving a car overnight, vacuuming the house, scrubbing a toilet: these are the perfect kind of mindless tasks that really let you think. ¬†There was a moment for me where¬†I shifted into auto-pilot on the chores while my brain took over on¬†evaluating¬†my emotions again.

It became too much.

I sat down 4 hours into “do all the things!” mode. ¬†A cat immediately took advantage of the available free lap and almost instantly fell asleep.* ¬†In that moment, I felt like God was putting an emphatic exclamation point¬†on a loud sentence, “Yeah! Sit down!” ¬†Like He was sitting up in Heaven wondering how to get His kid to stop & slow and thought, “I know! I’ll put a cat on her so she won’t get back up again!”

Needless to say, it worked.  And I am learning I suck at self-care.

There are people I know that are fluent in it.  They speak the lingo, they experience it daily, they can read the signs of their own bodies and know when to say no.  I am not one of those people.

My pathology passionately screams, “Who can I serve now!?!?!?!” or “What should I be doing now!?!?!” ¬†All. ¬†Day. ¬†Long.

I’m tired.

To some extent, there can be beauty in self-forgetfulness. ¬†And to some extent, self-care can be twisted and selfish. ¬†Let’s all acknowledge those possibilities¬†to be true. ¬†Got it? ¬†Moving on.

I wonder; if you react to the phrase “self-care” with, “sounds pretty selfish” (like I did), does that reaction reveal weakness? ¬†We cannot serve water without…wait for it…water. ¬†I literally offer the world NOTHING if I am empty. ¬†My ability to correlate self-care with service is flawed. ¬†Because self-care does not always mean¬†selfish. ¬†It is not “me first, no other humans matter!” ¬†It can be, “me first so I can serve you without me in the way.

Does the thought of spending money and time on yourself for no other beneficiary than yourself make you cringe?  Cause I am so bad at self-care that the very thought of saying no to someone/something in order to take care of myself feels wrong.  Not just selfish.  Wrong.

The Holy Spirit has so much work to do with my crazy brain!

Needless to say, the process of changing years of habit and pattern that reinforce a flawed understanding of self-care will not be easy. ¬†In many respects, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to serve myself. ¬†To want something that I would define as self-serving is selfish. ¬†I need a brain overhaul!

What does a self-denying, people-pleasing, extroverted girl do to take first steps in self-care?  She unapologetically goes to yoga.**  She buys things at the grocery store that she likes, even if no one else in the household will eat them.  She does less. She practices saying no.  She makes space that others will have to fill.  She admits that she is flawed and never could do it all.  She prays, a lot.  She relies on Jesus.

This is what my January has looked like so far: baby steps in self-care. ¬†I want to be able to offer every human I interact with a deep drink of water. ¬†That means I need to be full first. ¬†(Are you listening, Jes?) ¬†I’m a finite human. ¬†I need moments of slow to just be.

Thanks for listening…

*Even the cats are better at self-care than me.  LOL.

**I recently tried yoga for the first time and have so much to say about the experience that there will most certainly be an entire post dedicated to it later. ¬†Stay tuned. ¬†ūüôā

Posted in Exploration and travel, Thoughts

“Holi-day-i! Cele-brate!”

I know all of you are on pins and needles wanting the update from me on how my Christmas went. You just can’t handle that you had to wait, I’m sure. Well, never fear, your post-holiday update is here!

After working on the 22nd, the hubs and our housemate picked me up and we drove through the night to arrive in Cincinnati, Ohio for a long weekend of family time. We stayed with my too-wonderful-to-deserve in-laws. They are just so hospitable and showed us the kindness & love that true hospitality means over and over again during our short time there.

Almost upon immediate arrival, I had the joy of getting a mother-daughter date with my Mum. She took me to see the Nutcracker performed by the Dayton Ballet! Such a treat and MAN, that Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra is super professional. I was duly impressed. The costumes were also stunning. (As was one of the lead dancer’s massive thighs, but we won’t go there.) ūüėČ

Sorry for the blurriness! I think we took it from the “selfie” side. ūüė¶

Other favorite parts of the time with family include*:

  • Laughing so hard with my parents that my abs hurt afterwards and my throat was wheezing
  • That awesome conversation about evangelism with my Dad
  • Seeing my parents ongoing reaction to their Christmas present (a trip together next Fall), the excitement is high & I am glad it is catching!
  • So many real and deep conversations with my favorite in-laws EVER
  • A hug that went where words could not with Traci in her kitchen
  • Donn freaking out over the drone he got for Christmas from Lauren & Chris, and then generously sharing his toy with his kids
  • Countless moments where people intentionally included our housemate, Abdullah, in the Christmas celebrations
  • Lego (a 25 pound cat) choosing to sit on my lap
  • Seeing Meagan & Dave’s home, the peace they both have in being themselves there, and the conversation in the kitchen while Meg baked a pie.
  • Cutting to the deep in the kitchen with Meg & Lou, revealing a bit of my emotional state and the understanding & recognition in their eyes.
  • And most certainly not last: so many hugs from Nayt throughout the days in Ohio, his unswerving devotion to understand his strange extroverted wife and the space he gifted me with to be me, even at his own expense.
I’m not crying, I’m so happy cause Dave (my secret Santa) chose to replace my sentimental & much loved/used teapot that I broke earlier this year. In this moment, I might have been retelling the epic tragedy: “Breaking The Most Glorious of Teapots”.

We could stop right there and just say I had a good Christmas. BUT WAIT, there’s more!

There were moments with friends that were so good, it seemed like I was just reaping a ridiculous amount of heartfelt joy**:

  • Hugging my friend Bekka and meeting her amazing boyfriend who totally gets that he got the sweet end of that deal (but seeing that my friend is happy and at true peace with him and in general, which is NO SMALL FEAT!)
  • Celebrating 20+ years of friendship with my two best friends from high school¬†by sneaking in a long overdue coffee date, getting updates on their worlds and feeling their sweetness & acceptance of who I have been and am trying to be now. I am so lucky.
  • Unexpectedly getting to connect with my brilliant friend, Amanda, who will change the lives of so many people by being a light in the medical program at UC (not to mention “and beyond!”).
  • Random texts from friends out of the state at just the right low moments, as if they knew they were being used by God to step in and see me.

And then, we came home and the cats stole all the attention & love I had leftover to give them. ūüôā (Alright, I may have done other things besides pet my cats over the past 4 days…maybe…)

So, while it could be easy to dwell on the busy-ness and the craziness and the emotional stress that I think most people feel around the December holidays, I am choosing to opt out of remembering them. Instead, I am recording for posterity’s sake, that the good moments FAR outweighed any bad. That God is so good, and blesses us with so many things that it sometimes takes even extroverted, externally processing, quick-thinking me a few extra days to really absorb all that was really given me.

I am beyond blessed. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

*this list is by no means exhaustive

**this list is also, by no means, exhaustive

Posted in Things I'm reading, Thoughts

The Children’s Blizzard

Every so often, I get an itch to read a true story that only a good historical non-fiction book can scratch. As I was pricing at work last week, this title crossed my path. The front cover reads “In three minutes the front subtracted eighteen degrees from the air’s temperature. Then evening gathered in, and temperatures kept dropping in the northwest gale. By morning on Friday, January 13, 1888, more than a hundred children lay dead on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie…”

For some reason, this book about a horrible natural disaster over 100 years ago drew me in. I devoured it in 3 days, learning all kinds of facts about frostbite and gangrene and historical meteorology. But what held my interest were the individual stories of families: teachers taking refuge in hay with children, brothers going out into the storm to find brothers, survivors, widows, mothers who lost children. A storm like that is imprinted on a family history.

Something in me wonders what it would be like to settle on the unforgiving prairie, and simultaneously, I am glad I can read about it from the comfort of 2016. And I’m intrigued at what it would feel like to go outside in the morning with the weather a balmy 20 degrees to have it drop to -40 later in the evening. We are so removed from what that would mean in our modern society with our heaters and electricity and urban condensing. In 1888, trains couldn’t move through snow, schoolhouse doors and roofs blew away and homesteaders miles away from their neighbors fed stoves with twisted straw to keep warm.

It seemed appropriate somehow to read about a crippling blizzard as Minnesota moves into a winter that is forecasted to bring us lots of snow. (We can only hope!) Reading about a blizzard when you could have one at any moment is much more engaging. ūüôā

So, if you’re feeling the pull for historical narrative, or are curious, grab a warm cup of tea and a blanket while you check out The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin.