Jessica Mills: Parent, Musician, Writer, Instructor (ABQ, New Mexico)

Jessica Mills and daughter at Devil's Hole - Niagara Falls

Jessica Mills is such a creative, caring and socio-political powerhouse, it’s hard to imagine she has time for the great outdoors. But maybe her nature hikes are actually the energy source for everything else?

Originally from Florida, Jessica Mills has been living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since 2007. Publicly, Jessica is probably best known as a book author and magazine columnist and as a musician, who mainly plays saxophone and bass guitar.

Jessica has been writing and self-publishing her zine Yard Wide Yarns since 1993. From 2000 until 2010, she was a columnist at the iconic punk magazine Maximum Rock’n’Roll. Sparked by the birth of her first child, she began writing a series about alternative parenting for Maximum Rock’n’Roll. The column’s success led to Jessica Mills writing her first book: “My Mother Wears Combat Boots (A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us)” – published by ak press in 2007.

Since 1993, Jessica Mills has been a member of, toured with and/or recorded with Less Than Jake (sax), Reina Aveja (bass), Citizen Fish (sax), Against Me! (sax), and Otunetir (bass).

Currently, she’s involved in three Albuquerque bands: playing saxophone in the experimental jazz duo Glaive; singing, and playing drums and saxophone in the no wave party punk 3-piece grp.txt and a brand-new yet-to-be-named 3-piece that evokes Morphine and Lounge Lizards. We can’t wait to hear it!

redwood trees in California from below
Looking up Redwood trees along Avenue of the Giants while on tour with Subhumans.

These days, Jessica Mills teaches College Writing in Albuquerque, where she lives with her partner Ernesto and their younger kid. Their first child, which inspired Jessica’s column and parenting book, just started college right outside one of Colorado’s National Parks! Apparently, Jessica did more than just “something right” in raising that kid while wearing combat boots…

For decades, Jessica Mills has been a big inspiration to us with her creative endeavors, her activism and enthusiasm, her intellect and curiosity, her caring and kindness, and her sense for adventure. It was a thrill to realize during our Colorado years (and her New Mexico years) that she’s also an inspiration when it comes to outdoor exploration. We are so super excited she answered our questions and allowed us to share some photos to inspire us and you to get outside and to do more of what makes you happier!

Jessica on the highest peak in the south rim of Sandia Mountains, New Mexico.
Jessica on the highest peak of the Sandia Mountains’ south rim, New Mexico.

What do you do?

I live every day to its fullest, including parenting two growing-up-too-fast children, teaching College Writing at Central New Mexico Community College, playing music, writing, gardening, hiking, and when the opportunity arises, traveling.

Jessica and family on a trail in Florida.
Jessica, Ernesto and their kids on a trail in Florida.

Why do you do what you do?

I do my best to live each day to its fullest because life is short, and it’s how I stay happy.  I’ve never been bored in my life; I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, kept to do lists that are longer than the days are long.  I’m not happy if I’m idle.

General Happier Place category?

My overall category isn’t place specific; rather, it’s hiking.  I love to hike anywhere and everywhere – deserts, mountains, coasts, canyons, you name it.  It’s slow enough so that I can absorb the place and engage all my senses while moving deliberately through whichever landscape I’m in.  And it’s active enough to get my heart pumping without worrying about hurting myself like I used to do a whole lot of when I was in my 20s skating backyard pools, ramps, and skate parks in Florida and up and down the East Coast.  

Jessica Mills hiking the Grand Canyon.
Jessica Mills hiking the Grand Canyon.

Specific Happier Place locations?

My favorite places to hike are the Olympic Peninsula, the Appalachian Trail, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument; and next December, I’ll be doing a week-long “canoe hike” through the Everglades National Park. 

The Olympic Peninsula’s temperate rain forests that hug the Pacific Coast hold some of my top memories – there for a week, I was newly pregnant with my first child when my partner and I were on a two-month long hiking and freight-train hopping adventure. 

The Appalachian Trail was another week-long leg of that two-month adventure; my parents joined us somewhere in Virginia. 

Hiking through Kasha-Katuwe, 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico, near Cochiti Pueblo, makes me happy because it feels like another planet; it’s a high altitude slot canyon surrounded by tent rocks composed of soft pumice and tuff that’s hikable year-round. It’s especially fun just after it’s snowed. 

Lastly, I spent part of my childhood living on the fringes of the Everglades with alligators and snakes in my backyard.  Since living away from Florida, I’ve wanted to canoe through that inhospitable tangle of mangroves because there, I can feel Florida in my body down to the cellular level; it’s home.

Tattooed legs on a Florida beach.
Jessica’s personal view of a Florida beach on the Atlantic.

What do you always bring out into nature with you?

Water, camera, protein/carb/fat-filled snacks, hat, sunscreen, a few Band-Aids, a bandana, pen and paper. And for some reason, I carry a small Birds of North America book that I still think I might use someday even though I never have.  I get too wrapped up in the moment to be bothered to stop and take out a book to consult.  

Family Tree
Family Tree.

A dream destination (in space or time)?

Alaska!  It’s the last of the 50 states for me to visit.  I’ve been envious for 20 years now that my partner hitchhiked and hiked through Alaska all the way to the Arctic Circle.

Words of inspiration?

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable, but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

“Read a Fucking Book!”

bumper sticker slogan
Two people and one rooster in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Two people and one rooster in Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.

Find Jessica Mills online:

Instagram: jessicajoymills

Book: My Mother Wears Combat Boots – A Parenting Guide for the Rest of Us by Jessica Mills


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Jessica Mills: Parent, Musician, Writer, Instructor (Albuquerque, New Mexico) at Lake Ontario

Let’s inspire each other!

Have you been to any of the places Jessica mentioned or featured in her photos? Where are some of your Happier Places?
Did your parents take you on outdoor excursions? Are you encouraging your own children to explore the outdoors?
How about Jessica’s writing or music – are you familiar with it? If not, we highly encourage you to check out something that would be new to you.

Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…


All photos courtesy of Jessica Mills.

Jessica Mills: Parent, Musician, Writer, Instructor (Albuquerque, New Mexico)

12 thoughts on “Jessica Mills: Parent, Musician, Writer, Instructor (ABQ, New Mexico)

  1. Great interview, would love to read the book for sure!

  2. She’s remarkable and I definitely admire women like her. Would love to read her book. Would you share where we can grab a copy?

    Thank you for sharing your interview with her. She is such an inspiration.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Clarice. Thrilled to know you find Jessica inspiring, too. The link for the book is in the post; but to avoid any additional scrolling: https://www.akpress.org/mymotherwearscombatboots.html
      It might also be available at your local library.
      xx Luci

  3. This post is exactly what I wanted to read this morning, My best friend went to a cruise to Alaska and after seeing her pictures and I put Alaska in my list of places to visit.

  4. Its great to hear that she live life to the fullest. I always love to reads post like this. It makes me want to go out for an adventure.

  5. Such a motivation … my happier place is sitting near beach with a glass of beer and some music.

  6. I like how she lives her life to the fullest! It just amazes me how energetic she is to accomplish such things. i hope she does get to visit Alaska. I would love to read about her adventures there.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kristine! Glad you enjoyed meeting Jessica this way. When she makes it to Alaska, we’ll ask her to put together a post for us.

  7. Hi Jessica! It is so nice to meet you! It seems like you are quite the adventurer!

  8. I have not been to Alaska but so dearly want to go. I feel I gave this pre conceived notion in my mind of how it should be but probably isnt. I have not heard your style of music but will be sure to check it out!

    1. Hope you make it to Alaska one day… and that you like Jessica’s music.

  9. My Parents do take me somewhere at least once in 3 months. And I haven’t been to these places, but surely I would go someday.

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