Well. I turn 30 this week.

The writer part of me wants to search deeply for some metaphor and marrow.
The cook side of me hopes people will buy me a drink or two and maybe feed me something good — something that I don’t have to cook myself.

How do you sum up your twenties?

Well. You don’t really.
But I’d like to say something here, at least.

If our younger years are as formative as they say, then this decade has been about lessons.
Lessons on humanity and grace. Humility and power. Love and divorce.

It has been about justice and injustice. Spending moments with the poor. Seeing the faces of women who sell their bodies to feed their children; who work off a debt they had no say in.

With that, sprang some sort of well, deep in my heart. An overly-sensitive southern boy living in a world that is bright and loud and sometimes very violent.

Time rounds off the edges like sand blowing against a sharp rock over them years. Some softness gets added. Softness is like learning and understanding that you’re going to keep making mistakes and learning your whole life.

Softness is going easy on one’s self.

Cheeseburgers add to my softness.


I learned how to be fierce, too. In the kitchen. I found so much in the kitchen. I found a heartbeat, a thicker skin, and something that drives and feels like some engine rumbling in my belly. It gives me confidence and passion. It gives me my own forms of justice and grace and I keep getting to learn what works.

The kitchen saved me from a lot of self-damage, and has given me a life I never thought I’d be able to stomach. But somehow, some way, this sensitive and quiet dude found a life and love for it. Regardless of which way my life turns, I am thankful the kitchen has been a part of it.

There is much growth in your twenties. You are still a baby, really. And then adult stuff hits you hard. Like money and rent and love. Sometimes you get married and you might have a baby or two or three.

Sometimes it works for you.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
And sometimes you’re in between all of that.

Sometimes you want to crawl underneath your bed with all those socks you’ve been missing and stay there until the noise dies down.

Fortunately for humans, we move. And we move forward.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in the past decade of my life is that we aren’t going to feel heartbroken forever.

We are going to be sad. We are going to hurt and see painful things that will change us.
But we also get to move around and squirm and sometimes settle. Like finding that sweet spot at night before you go to bed.

There were times I wish I would have dipped my toes into the sea. Or climbed higher or pushed myself to walk just a little bit further. I think we all feel that way sometimes. At least that’s what I’m learning.

And I’m learning that kindness is a gift. Something for yourself and others.

I learned that maybe the planet with those beautiful rings around it pulled me closer and allowed me to see myself and my life at a different angle. I know it might be silly to think of the planets like that, but I think there was some gravity there — it coming around to me being as close as it was when I came into the world all hot and red and pissed. It pulled the water in my body upwards and out — allowing me to open my heart to this wild and gracious time.

So yes — lessons and learning.

And I’ve cooked so much food and have fed so many people. I am so damn thankful I get to do something I really enjoy, for at least this time in my life — it works. And it might not some day. So, I’m going to live in this and work hard to make things better.

I joke that I have been 30’ish for about 6 years and it’s probably true. I am an old soul, some say. I am not afraid of getting older, only I do like to think about the time that has passed. I like to know what has helped me and what has hurt me. It takes us a while to learn, but we get there.

And I am getting there.








Josh, thirty-something



I’m not going to act like everything is okay.

There’s a lot to this time of year. People want cheer and peace and giving. And while there will be a lot of that, there is also a lot of fear. I suppose, if you grew up in a Christian faith as I did, the season is what it is due to a family fleeing for safety. There’s a lot of fear in fleeing.

Not just that, there’s just a lot going on, right? I think I feel people collectively tense up around mid-November and they don’t stop until Mid-January — the heavy realization that you just made a resolution you’re not going to keep.

I like the idea of going easy on yourself. Again. And again.

It takes a while to change. If that’s what you want from  yourself. Physically, emotionally, etc. Then again, if you like who you are, then perhaps you’re going to be just fine.

Only I’m not. I’m not okay. I’m not okay with the way things are and neither are you, I suppose.

I’ve never felt like I’ve wanted to be more ignorant in my life. I realize that sounds harsh. But there are a lot of people saying a lot of things out there and I’m one of them. I also think I’d be okay if I never saw another news feed or flash about guns and refugees and politicians. It’s a hard thing. These are things that are triggering our nasty parts. The parts we disagree with our parents and friends on — this is the hard part of change, big world.


You’re going to disagree. And I’m even past the point of “Hey, as long as we disagree well, right!” — like that ever really works. It’s never worked in my head. I still think the other person is acting like an asshole and they think the same about me.

So I guess the point of me writing all this is to challenge you and to also challenge myself. You’re going to be around a lot of different people this time of  year who happen to be relatives. Y’all will be coming in from different places — life places — philosophical places and something will probably be said.

I’d like to say, that if you can, be good. But also, be honest if you don’t understand. I’m pretty sure we all love one another, but that doesn’t mean we have to tip toe around each other. It is important, like St. Francis said, to understand, rather than be understood. I think that’s helpful.

Even if I don’t agree, I’d at least like to understand why you feel a certain way. I think that’s for real. And I think that’s sort of when change happens. You take a little bit of the other side with you. You are still you and believe who you are, but you also take some other stuff with you, to think and chew on.

I will walk in this season with a lot. I would hope that I’d bring some peace with me, even as outspoken as I can be at times. I want us to be better, because the world is changing and moaning and we can hear her louder than ever.

Feel what you need to this season. Whether that’s pain or joy, regret or gratitude, because it’s real and it’s you and we need you to keep going with us. To keep running and to keep us running when we can’t.

I am thankful for other people. Regardless of how they wound others and how we wound them. Carry around some peace this season, maybe some patience, too. For me. As I try to understand things as you see them, too.

Happy Thanksgiving — eat and love and listen well



Mr. Roger’s always said to look for the helpers.

I was a Mr. Roger’s kid. Maybe it was his kindness — his softness.

I can say now, as an adult, I value those words even more. Yet again we are left with a bunch of painful stuff. As Anne Lamott would say, “we gather bits of broken mosaic” — and that together it makes something altogether different.

This is a mosaic kinda place. So many times, broken into millions of pieces and put back together again. Maybe a few more awkward pieces to fit in — but it works, again and again.

I’ve been bursting at the seams to write this week. I’ve gotten to see so many faces and have been so many places. I again step into old worlds where I used to feel so desperate and clingy — to a place of great hope — and back again to my home where I get to gather up them pieces.

We have a hard time touching pain. “Show me where it hurts?” No. I don’t really want to, because you’re going to want to see it, maybe touch it, maybe tell me what to do with it. Sometimes you should. Other times, you just need to sit in it. Sometimes you need dig yourself out so that the sun shines on your face again.

This is where we all come in — this part right here.

Reaching our hands and arms in to that darkness; struggling with; hurting with.

Ultimately loving, but it takes us a while to understand intentions. It’s not that easy to be with someone or something that hurts. It takes our own skin and heart and bone. Do we really want to drag ourselves into it?


Lately people have been asking how I’ve been doing. Words like great, good and ‘not bad at all’ come to mind. I am so lucky, first and foremost to have those words fresh on my tongue. Because truly, I’m doing well, to my knowledge.

And this is my season. There were my times where I broke down a lot. Questioned some deep and spooky parts on my soul and I still see them, from time to time. I still see some darkness. It is always there. Like I’ve written before, I am not strong enough to keep it at bay. Instead I’ve made it a point to embrace it like that old friend. It sits with me and we will devour pain and sadness together.

Joy arrives abundantly. Swiftly. Like the way a walk-in feels after a hot rush.

That is how it works. This is how I move. Which I do, quite often, from place to place.

I don’t know how people handle a situation as terrifying as that. With weapons and that kind of hate mixed with that kind of violence. A deep, deep wound by wounded peoples all over the place.

It should be noted that I am writing from comfort.
I can hear my heaters hum and I am sipping on hot coffee.
But I can say that two hours ago I was doing this on and off again teary/snot-coming-out-everywhere thing.
Thinking about my grandparents.
The places in the world that are picking up pieces.
Remembering all of the things.
Feeling all the feels.

The pieces you help pick up are part of that bigger thing, ya know?
So we need you keep picking them up. And I will too. Okay?

It’s never finished and nothing ever has the final say. Thank God for that.

And thank you for being there for other people and baking them casseroles or listening to music with them or scratching their backs. You are healers and all angel-like.

We see you,
and with that deep and still place,

I want to say thank you.


Love is a great tangling thing.

Like a puppet getting caught in its own strings; knots and things.

It’s also really frustrating, when you struggle to straighten them out. Hours, fumbling with your fingers, figuring out which goes and where. It’s easy to give up, too.

I think that’s what things feel like to me right now. I’d like to think it is easy to hold loosely, as much as I say I do, but I do not. In fact I hold on to mostly everything. Sure, some looser than others, but I still hold them. I feel like there are people I think about every day — like a checklist. I think about them and they bring me back to myself. Who I was to them, how they made me feel.

It’s all knotted up there.

The tighter I pull, the harder it gets.

The same goes for place.
There’s a line from a song that goes, “Every place I go, I take another place with me.”

This is my longing. To belong. To remember. The feeling of a place and of a person.
We change though, and I am so thankful for change. I am content to gain people, while l also lose some in the process. That’s just how my brain works and what my heart can handle. I can only process a few at a time. I know myself well enough to see when I am being superficial. That to me, feels unkind and un-me-like.

But alas, I am tangled in a world of knots.


I am unsure how one moves through this world without the occasional snag — sometimes that involves breaking down into a million pieces and sometimes that looks like eating ice cream cones in a coastal town, somewhere.

Untangling takes time, and I am not a great untangler. I don’t think that’s a word. At least it’s underlined in red, so I know it’s not a word, but I don’t care today. I’m not a great untangler.

Like my fishing pole when I reel and feel it stop with plenty of line left. I get antsy and angry. I wanna throw it down. Sometimes I just cut it loose. But as we all know, you can’t always cut it loose. Sometimes you have to work to keep from losing it. Especially if it’s something worth holding on to.

I’m always taking stock of my people. Some days I feel like I’m losing, and some days I feel really strong. I am working hard at maintaining a peace of mind.

I hold on to them knots like heirlooms. I remember why they feel as they do and there is strength in all of it. Perhaps some sense of loss, but they’re all still there. Because though I hold loosely, I still remember and I still make room to lose things I love.

That is hard hard hard.

But that is it, isn’t it.
And you live with it,

those knots and things.

rock slide

I live my life in a lot of forgiveness.
I suppose we all do.

And there’s so much that I want to say about that. I don’t quite know if all the words are in me now, but maybe someday, I will tell you what it feels like.

There is a point where one is responsible for their actions and thoughts. They are responsible for themselves, in that way. I know there is a difference in being responsible to and for. Generally, you are responsible to others for various reasons. A teacher. A parent. A friend. A caretaker. This is your job as a human being. You are responsible to the human race and probably animals like cats and dogs, if they’re your pets. Maybe a little pig, if you’re lucky.

But, you are responsible for yourself.

I can’t blame why I do what I do on my parents or their parents. I can’t blame it on the media or my neighbor. I am responsible for me. That’s a lot of pressure as a human, yeah?

I think this might be why we break into millions of pieces, sometimes. It is hard when the two get jumbled up and we are left with a gaping hole in the earth below us.

What I mean to say, and what feels heavy right now, is that there is a lot that hurts right now. Mostly inside me. I can’t say what I want to say because I know people will argue and “respectfully” disagree. The fact that there aren’t many good answers in dealing with hard social issues is problematic for me.

Like how I’m afraid of guns — not because I don’t know how to use them, but what I might do with a gun. And I’m afraid of what you might do with a gun even if you were raised with them and hunt with them and you are happy with your life.

That’s why I don’t own a gun. That is why my views on gun control are so conflicted, because I know so many great, wonderful people who have them and don’t seem like a threat.

And like you, I have every reason to have something completely random and messed up happen. I think what burdens me is how scared people are. There are so many reasons. Where you grow up. What you grow up in. The messes we find ourselves in. Even the privilege of being raised in a place where I hardly ever saw crime. That is my backpack, though. It is very light. Maybe, ten years from now when and if my situation changes where I feel having a gun keeps me, and helps me feel safe, I will change.

It is not now.


Changing is so radically important. It is so hard. Having a person change their mind is a revolution in itself. Perhaps enough to pull a gun away from someone’s direction. Or those who hold on to this Southern flag for reasons of racial pride and “heritage” without really feeling the depth of what it looks like to the other fifty percent of the population. If what you are doing is hurting another person, think about it.

Even as I think about the people who make my clothes and grow my food,

Which is why I am here to say that I am glad to live in forgiveness.

I’ve been able to move through my life, thus far, relatively lightly.

Overly-senstive. Quiet. Unassuming. But hopefully kind and thoughtful in between. This doesn’t go without my kitchen persona in the heat of a moment where I might snap at you for complaining too much or slamming pots and pans.

Another reason for forgiveness-stuff.

Moving was really hard. Losing my best friend and partner was excruciating. Losing anything is hard. But in those moments, so many things change. I lost some things I needed to lose. Some of my beliefs were challenged and it settled a bit. Sort of like a pile of rocks sliding, and adjusting to their new position for another twenty years. Until the earth moves and they tumble again.

That is what it feels like to change.

So I won’t stay quite settled. My reality is often shifting like loose sand.

I know myself enough to understand that now, I am responsible. For bills and being a good person and moving along in my part of the world, hoping to leave it better than I found it. For me, that looks like questioning things that hurt people a lot. I realize fixing this problem isn’t a reality, but I can cover it in some grace in hopes that more of it works its way on down, into the cracks of the icky things we hurt for.


That is what change is all about.


Lately I’ve been getting asked the same kind of question.

“How are things working out for you now?”

I sort of fumble around with words and tell people that I am busy and it all feels sort of wild. It is true. I can’t think of my last full day off where I wasn’t doing something for the restaurant. Whether that’s writing menus or picking up ingredients from out of town. It’s okay, though.

I am okay.

My first year back in Hattiesburg was very hard. I was a different shade of Josh than the last time I had lived here. So I always explaining to people that I was different, that I felt different about things, but that I was glad to be home. I still am. I love being back in Mississippi.

It was hard dropping down from being a sous chef in a big food city, to a barista/sandwich maker for $7.25 an hour. That is restaurant work, for the most part. Working one’s way up the ladder. So, I started my own side thing and made some money to pay bills and eat with. I had ridiculously generous friends who would feed me all the time and toss me side gigs to make a little extra. I was hustling. I’m still hustling, but in a different way.

I find a lot of pride with my work. What I do, I put my name on. I put my heart into it. As cheesy as that sounds, it works for me. So now that I have the title, and a little more financial room to breathe, I am home every night so very thankful for my hurting legs and back. The fact that I smell like onions and oil 90% of the time might not be okay with everyone else, but to me, it smells like my craft and my world.

I also know that I am extremely lucky. I do think that I have some skills as a cook, and a decent palate to go with it, but I am silly to think that I achieved any of this all by myself. I had people who believed in me and that what I did and who I was, was in fact, good. That is a super hard thing in itself. I suppose we are doing that for each other, when we can. Sort of helping each other get where we need to be. At least I think we should.


Last night, I was reading something I wrote a few months after my divorce. It was about my old job in Portland.

Memories came flooding back to me and I thought about my walk from where I lived to where I worked. That simple walk. From both houses I lived in. With Hannah and with my roommates. Sometimes it was very cold and wet. Other times warm and gorgeous. The same road I walked for a few years.

I read a line where I thank my chef and friend, Gretchen, for allowing me to cook and to struggle…and I completely lost it. I closed my computer and cried like I haven’t in a good while.

There has been so much struggle. So much of me trying to get to this place where I can be more free to create and explore and push forward. And I am so, so lucky to have that. I also know so many people are struggling to get there and have been for quite a while.

I am not the kind of person who takes these seasons lightly.

I always process my new year around this time. Fall always brings me in a little tighter, a little more snug.

I think often about the steps taken up or down to get me where I am at this moment.

Some things, super painful. While others, full of great accomplishment and pride.

Yeah, I am doing okay. And I feel good about who I am and where I am going.
Though, I’m not quite good at settling with this wild career of mine,

so I will keep my plow to the ground

and dig up the earth wherever it is I find myself.

billion different pieces

I always want to apologize for not writing enough on this thing.

Or at least it seems that way. After all, writing was my first love and the way I first began to create.

I guess whoever is lucky enough to write and make money is doing okay. I know it’s hard work, regardless. Though it might not beat being hunched over a sink full of dishes after a busy night. You can be the judge of that.

I don’t like to say I’m busy, because there’s always time to jot stuff down — to share a little bit of this and that. The truth is, the things happening in my life are pretty good right now. If anyone is an advocate for sucking up things when they are good, it’s me.

And that’s what I tell other people. Live in the goodness of it when you can, because the world is notorious for slinging sh*t into the fan when you least expect it. When it’s good, live in it. Be thankful for it. Store some away, if you can. You’ll need it.

I woke up to pictures of flooding in Sierra Leone, a natural disaster where thousands of people will never be able to rebuild. That is one of the many hellish things about extreme poverty. Starting over is nearly impossible. My heart breaks. So many people lost their worlds today. I feel that loss in my belly.

With the way the world works today, we are able to witness more pain and even more ridiculousness. Sloppy GOP debates highlighted with Kardashians and global warming.

Maybe a hundred years ago we were all sticking to our corners of the world, for the most part. Now, we see everything, and it all happens so fast. I don’t know if you can process it, but I can’t.

So I choose to dwell in what I can. I walk in the knowledge that I am part of the problem for so many things. I choose to walk lightly however I can. Mostly you will find me thinking about food and how to make my life work better. Which seems pretty selfish maybe, but I do it in hopes that it will overflow into something bigger. I’d like to say I have a lot of space for relationships, but I feel a strain there as well. We are all just busy, yeah? I don’t ever want to fit people in. They are more deserving of time and time is more valuable than gold.


I don’t know, but I feel a strain. I suppose that is the introverted side of myself feeling it. Feeling all the feels, as I like to say. I’m not sure what to do, so I work hard at creating space for myself and for other people. Not that others should feel a certain way around me, it’s just me wanting to give you a good listener and friend, rather than a dazed, distressed and spotty friend.

I found myself featured in two local magazines in the same month. One for a dinner I helped put on and the other a chef Q&A which I thought was really fun. I had my picture taken and everything. I feel so thankful for all of it.

And it’s really funny walking around places and people saying, “Hey, I saw you in this!” which generally leads me to smiling shyly and covering my face with hands. It does feel good. It also feels crazy. I am surely not magazine material, I tell myself. But it has been fun and I am thankful for the goodness that comes out of it. I suppose the pressure to keep performing the best that I can is even more so, but that’s okay. I put that on myself regardless. I just hope that I can continue doing what I do, for the best reasons I can.

Which is you.
And I know that sounds crazy. But you deserve it.
You also get the worst of me too. I guess that’s how this broken thing works.

Today, in this moment, I feel good. I also feel heavy with loss. There’s a lot I don’t understand. A lot about the world and myself I don’t understand.

But, I will clean my apartment and listen to some good music. I will meet a potential client and talk about wedding food in hopes that she likes what I have to offer. I may share food with others and I will fall asleep to the sound of my fan.

That is what my corner of the world looks like, and it is made up of a billion different pieces.

Now, I’ve got some dishes to do.


I came across a picture of you today.

Well, from time to time I like to check in on you. Even though I know what I’ll see may send me to a place I haven’t been in a while. But that’s okay. I find some familiarity in that place. It’s where I mourn for some things, and also where I find a lot of grace and goodness.

I saw your face, and his face. And you were both smiling. A while ago, I would have been so angry. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still felt some heaviness there.

This person is your place, now. I see that.

For reasons I’m still not very clear on, I knew you had to move. That was like hell to me. I wanted your heart forever. I know that sounds selfish, especially today. A lot of me is jealous for the people that get your light upon them — and I’m also better for having it on me for a while.

That picture, made me think. It made me think of relationships that are strained. The people I miss because I couldn’t walk in that city for one more day. I hate that I couldn’t make it up there by myself anymore. But I just couldn’t. I miss that place so much.

And then I started to smile myself. Except I wasn’t looking at your picture anymore.

I was doing dishes and listening to music. I was thinking about my work and my friends and my family.

I remembered my broken foot. My roof that caved in. The financial debt of being a freaking wreck for two years.

But I had this grin on my face because I was, at the moment, alive and stronger and braver. I have all these new people in my world and I also still have older friends, too. I felt some richness in that. So many meals eaten with these people and listening to them talk about their kids and Donald Trump and how bittersweet the South can be at times.

It was some other kind of heaven, I tell ya.

Lifted — an effervescent moment — something a little holy.


It is just, the hardest thing to lose someone. Especially someone who loved you so well, and hoped they felt loved in return. Who taught you about meaningful conversations and listening and being active with people.

I miss setting a plate of food in front you and hearing, “Oh my goodness!” while we watched Harry Potter or Parks and Rec. Those damn simple things, give me the most belly feels. Your friendship, I miss the most.

It is not my job to make anyone feel a certain way, really. But I really loved taking care of you in the way that I did. Perhaps it was enough for that time. And then, you move an inch to the left and things look different. Love is not always made of the things we thought.

To me it looks like a shelf full of cookbooks and the idea that I can move in and out of moments like of soft tide — washing away and leaving things behind for others to see.

I saw your smile.

And I missed you deeply. Just for a second, I wanted to send some light and love, in hopes that you still feel free — and free to love the world in the ways you always have.

timers and reminders.

My life is timers and reminders.

Look at my phone and you will see them all turned on — all on their specific days with specific times.
They say things like, BREAD! and PRODUCE!

That is my life now. A gazillion little things. Writing menus. Writing emails including menus. Answering catering inquiries. Talking to old ladies on the phone who are worried about MSG in their food. Ordering food. Cooking food. Creating specials in hopes that people will eat them. Teaching people how to cut onions the way I want them cut. Always leaving the kitchen thinking I’ve forgotten to do something. (Which I probably have.)

I remember reading about chefs when I first started getting into cooking. I knew that what you see on TV wasn’t the real deal. But it didn’t sway me. I didn’t run away even when I knew I had thin skin. I just knew that I wanted it.

I will always have thin skin. That ain’t changing.


So what is this big difference? Well, I am a cook who has to call himself a chef from time to time. Because people want to talk to the Chef. They want to give their business cards to the Chef even when you know you’ll never call them. People want to know the Chef. They want to know who’s in charge. Which is me. And that is terrifying, and there is a lot of power there.

I have a good crew. I have a really good crew. I know I have gained their respect because I see it every day. And they have mine. There is a proximity thing. When you are constantly moving behind people and beside them with sharp and hot objects. We all sweat together. We commiserate. To me, it’s just business as usual.

But there is a clock. Always. Ticking. Until food is done and needs to come out of the oven. Timing on the eggs in the pot and that ever-pressing sense of urgency once a ticket finishes out the kitchen printer.

When I come home, I usually lay down for a while. I listen to some white noise and it clears my head. Sometimes I fall asleep for a few minutes, and sometimes I still hear the kitchen printer.

I am always aware of time and how precious it is. The time I have for me. The time I have for you and the want to have more of it at the end of a long day.

I feel proud.


And I really try to care in all things. Some things I know I cannot handle, and I think it’s important to recognize that and to share the load. Humans cannot hold everything. Some times it can feel like Atlas holding the world, but I know deep down that I am not capable of this and that I need other people.

That is where all of this comes from. And at the end of the day it is about the other people who are there with you — making you laugh — taking over a station while you lean against a tree outside for some fresh air.

They are truly the powerful ones. And I will give them everything I have.

I never need a reminder for that.


we grew watermelons in our bellies.

too many seeds
you’re bound to swallow a few in a lifetime.

they supposed to have seeds.
it means they keep going
in our bones
and the bones of our children

smith county off highway 49
hermiston up in the PNW

we used to bury em’ in the sand to keep em’ cold
my granddad put table salt on his

I used to shoot them seeds from beneath my fingers
in hopes they’d stick to my cousin’s bare shoulders

If I’m at the market thirsty, I’ll eat it up in a flash
sweet and tastes like summer
Mississippi summer

hot hot hot
running across the road,
asphalt burning soft feet

for that watermelon.

sweet and tastes like summer
nappin’ (well, eventually under the great swingin’ ceiling fan)

horse flies bitin’ our shoulders

for that watermelon

maybe they didn’t grow in my stomach after all
at least not in the way an 8-year-old thinks

though you can find me, today
swallowing a seed,
wondering if I had a belly full of dirt
would it grow?

I’d say yes.

Give anything time
a little thought

and it’ll grow
and grow and grow

hot and sweet and tastes like summer

Mississippi growin’s all I’ve ever known.