Friday, December 19, 2014

Finals Week

It's finals week which means I am tired. Except saying I am tired is like saying Colin Farrell looks decent. I am not tired; I am EX.hausted, and Colin Farrell does not look decent; he looks DE.lightful.

Can I get an Amen?

For me, finals week has a habit of holding all sorts of strange happenings. Last week, I told my exhausted and overwhelmed freshmen that my very first college finals week was like something out of the twilight zone.

One night that fateful finals week, I was in a sleep so deep it might have taken Prince Charming's kiss to awaken me had a bunch of unruly college guys not pulled the fire alarm in my dorm instead. That alarm did the trick and woke me up in a disoriented stupor. I sat up, my ears ringing, and noticed thick smoke hanging in the room. This is it, I thought with panic. I am going to die in a fire on the second floor of my freshman dorm. On cue, my heart started racing and adrenaline charged through my body, and then, just like that, I stopped breathing. My very first panic attack.

Prince Charming's kiss would have made for a MUCH nicer story.

A few seconds later, the smoke I saw disappeared. It turns out I hadn't awakened fully when the alarm rang, and I had dreamed up that smoke. The panic attack evaporated about as fast as the imaginary smoke, and I filed out of the building onto a grassy field adjacent to the dorm with a few hundred other girls, where we remained for thirty minutes — until about 3 AM.

The next day I studied and ran my little heart out, and then, after dinner, while I chatted and laughed with the girls on my hall, my breathing suddenly grew labored and I struggled to swallow. When my symptoms didn't subside, my R.A. called campus safety and had them take me to the emergency room.

By that point, it was almost midnight, and I was scared and tired. Thankfully, my roommate accompanied me to the ER so I didn't have to be alone.

Freshman year in the dorm: my roommate is the brunette on the right

By the time we arrived at the ER I could breathe more easily, and by the time the doctor saw me I was back to normal.

"I think your body is still experiencing the effects of the panic attack you had last night," he speculated. "Go home and get some sleep and you should be fine."

So the campus safety officer — a seasoned officer in his forties — drove my roommate and me back to our dorm where we fell, once again, into a very deep sleep.

A few hours later, there was a knock at our door. My roommate stumbled out of bed and opened the door to find the campus safety officer from night before holding my phone. "Sarah left this in my car last night," he said. He held out the phone, but before my roommate could take it, she fell on the floor in a dead faint and began having a seizure.

For a moment, the officer stood there watching her twitch and writhe on the floor, her eyes closed and her face sheet white. And then — and this is the point in my re-telling of the story where I laugh until I wheeze — he looked at me, his head cocked and his finger pointed at her limp form, "Is she okay?" he asked.

I looked at him incredulously, rushed to her side and responded, "NO! She's fainted and is having a seizure. CALL 911!" So he did, and minutes later the paramedics were there, leaning over her as she came to.

I had finals and couldn't accompany her to the ER, but when she returned she was okay and all was well. She was wearing the same yellow ER bracelet as the one I'd gotten the night before. We have a picture of the two of us wearing our matching ER bracelets, our hair in a state of disarray, our sweats rumpled and baggy. I'd post that picture now except it's buried in a box in my closet and I am too tired to fish it out. Because: finals week.

Finals week. It never ceases to be the bearer of... good fodder for future stories, or, at the very least, weird happenings.

Last week, the night after I told my students about my very first finals week disaster, there was a storm warning in my area. Because some people were told to evacuate the hills near my house in case of fires caused by fallen electrical lines, I checked my fire alarm before I climbed in bed, just to be sure it worked in case of a fire in my hills. It did work, and I fell into a deep sleep.

A few hours later I was awakened by an alarm that sounded like a banshee being tortured. This is it, I thought. The lines are down and my house has caught on fire. Finals week and fire alarms are like cookies and milk, Lucy and Ethel, salt and pepper, Jack and Jill, peanut butter and jelly.

I flew upright and quickly assessed the exits in my bungalow, looking for an exit that wasn't blocked by growing flames. But there was no sign of flames and no smell of smoke...

I looked around, perplexed, and noticed my cell phone flashing on the window ledge next to my bed. The screen read "Flash flood alert" and the banshee alarm was coming from my phone, kindly alerting me at 3 AM that I could drown if I decided to go driving that night at 4 A.M. I sleepily silenced my phone and went back to sleep.

The next night, I was awakened by a bout of vomiting due to a stomach bug (sorry. too graphic). And a couple of nights after that, I was awakened by lightning and thunder. So yeah, not getting a lot of sleep over here, but I've also not had a single trip the ER, which is a finals week victory.

Water, water, everywhere!

And all these storms are doing wonders for our air. They're scouring it, removing every patch of smog so it is crisp and clean. The view of the ocean from my backyard looks like it's been upgraded from SD to HD.

We southern Calfiornians aren't used to all this water, though, which probably explains why I found this boat lying by the side of the road on my walk this morning:

Someone took that flash flood warning very seriously.

Merry week before Christmas, my friends!


© by scj

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A sad development and a welcome gift

Some of you may remember my good friend George, the cactus:

If you've met George, then you know he's not all pins and prickles. In fact, he's a warm fellow with a delightful sense of humor. I am mom to a whole family of cacti, but George is my favorite. He, with his unexpectedly soft heart, is oxymoronic. Whoever heard of a soft cactus? I love oxymoronic cacti, and I love George.

And then, yesterday, I saw this:

My normally erect little friend was leaning like the Tower of Pisa, which I have just googled and discovered is not the "Tower of Pizza" like I'd originally typed. Such a disappointing turn of events.

But I digress.

I gently tapped George, both to avoid getting stabbed and to avoid knocking him over, but he fell over anyway. And when he did, this is what I saw:

In the end, his soft, gooey heart was his demise.

Alas, sometimes those with wicked, prickly hearts prosper, while those with soft hearts fall over sideways to an anticlimactic end.  

IS THERE NO JUSTICE?!!!! I'm pretty sure King David wrote a Psalm about this. . .

I've propped George back up and am hoping his two parts will somehow fuse over the next few weeks. It would be my Christmas miracle.

In the meantime, I am healing from a bug I caught this weekend. In fact, I came down with this bug literally minutes after posting my declaration that I've been healthy all semester because of my daily raw garlic regime. Pride goeth before a fall, I suppose.

The good news is, because of my bug, I was home for a very special occasion.

Last year, when I was still struggling with regular relapses, I was home so much I could watch the sunset from my hilltop perch almost every day. I discovered that November and December host the year's very best sunsets. During these months, there are approximately four sunsets that knock my socks off, quite literally. As soon I see the sky catch fire, I peel my socks off faster than you can say "HOLY SMOKES!", I throw on my flip flops, and I run outside to my lookout point.

But this fall, because of my gloriously healthy body, I've been out and about so much that I missed the first two knock-your-socks-off sunsets. It was painful to have to watch them from the valley rather than on my hilltop, so I asked God that I'd be home for the next knock-your-socks-off sunset. This weekend, when I was home sick, he graciously responded by gifting me with one.

Unfortunately, I didn't get my camera out in time to capture the sunset in its prime. But you can imagine that the sun sunk into the sea and turned its turquoise waves a shade of flaming fuscia, and then God tipped the ocean upside down and waves of electric pink crept across the sky, till the valley glowed under a pulsing, fiery canopy.

I was too distracted by the sunset's beauty to get any good shots, but this gives ya a little taste of the glory

And oh man: our sun, sky, and sea are cursed and dying, and one day, when God recreates the earth, the sunset will be more dazzling still. Can you imagine what a sunset will look like when the sun and sky are young and uncursed? Holy.Smokes.

Are you busy and frazzled this month, friends? I hope you've had time to rest and enjoy twinkle lights and hot chocolate with people you love. And I hope you've had pockets of encouragement as you navigate the crazyness of the holidays. Yesterday one of my college students made me this tiny origami star "because you're a star." It made my day.

I don't think it takes much to make someone's day, but heavens, I sure don't think about ways I can do that enough. So here's my Wednesday challenge for us: let's go make origami stars. Or, if you're bad at origami, let's write a short note, or bake a brownie, or give a compliment. And then let's give that "origami star" to someone tired.

Happy folding, my friends.

Hugs and hugs and hugs,


© by scj

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Another List: Holidays, a Festive Recipe, and [Not] Moving

I'm full of lists these days because lists make me feel organized, efficient and productive. It's an illusion that gets me all warm and fuzzy inside, so I embrace it.

And so, in honor of the weekend, I have another list of rather disparate items:

1. I met my sister, who lives in Portland, at my grandma's house in Arizona for Thanksgiving last week. It was so lovely to see them both.

Sister and I enjoyed long walks in the desert warmth....

...a trip to the zoo...

...and, of course, junk food.

There is little in this world that soothes the soul like eating an entire bag of cheese puffs with your sister whilst watching the movie Holes.

2. Third graders are some of the most [delightful, hilarious and fun] germy human beings on earth. Or so I thought. But then I started teaching college, I discovered it is possible to be sick more severely and often than 9-year olds.

These crazy kids. I love 'em. Third Grade, you were good to me

When I taught third grade, my students started dropping like flies at Halloween and stayed sick until Easter. But college students start getting sick the first day of class, in August, and they stay sick every week until the last day of class in May.

When I taught third grade, I got sick every two weeks or so. But this semester? I've been healthy as healthy can be, with the exception of a VIOLENT bug back in August that had me wondering if I was tasting death.

I have a number of tricks to staying healthy when everyone around me is getting the flu, mono and strep, but my secret weapon is this: I eat raw garlic every night before bed. It chases away bugs, bacteria, and vampires.

 Because: Team Jacob. 

Avoiding refined sugar, exercising regularly, having flowers around the house, spending time with funny friends, and getting lots of sleep will help with fighting off bugs and bacteria, too. Although they won't be much help when it comes to fighting off vampires. Consider yourself warned.

3. I lifted weights yesterday for the first time in 4.5 years. Just four months ago I thought I'd never be able to lift weights again. But here I am, 24 hours after lifting, and although my body is flooded with lactic acid, and although my triceps feel like they've been pumped full of water, and although my hamstrings feel like very tight violin strings, I FEEL GOOD, like a fish thrown back in the water. Praise God.

4. This week I've been full of ambition. I'm going to do an Iron Man! I'm going to write a book! I'm going to make four batches of Christmas fudge! I can tell you one thing with certainty: my response to that last proposal is Y-E-S.

Here is the source of all this dreamin':

Peppermint hot chocolate with whipped cream. You've gots tah make some. It'll put a lift in your step. 

Here are the directions for one serving of this dairy and refined sugar-free nectar of delight:

Measure a mug full of SO Delicious brand coconut milk and pour it in a saucepan.

I get the unsweetened vanilla coconut milk. If you get the plain coconut milk then be sure to add a splash of vanilla to your hot chocolate.

  • About 2 T of cocoa powder
  • About 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (I usually just add the syrup to taste)
  • 2 of these honey mints from Trader Joe's:
Whisk the ingredients together until the chocolate mints are melted and the mixture is frothy and steaming.

Pour the hot chocolate into your favorite mug and top with coconut whipped cream.

To make coconut whipped cream, put a can of full fat coconut cream in the fridge overnight. Take it out and whip its contents and maple syrup (add the syrup to taste — I usually put in about 2 tablespoons) in your food processor until ingredients are thoroughly blended.

And voila! You're ready to rumble.

5. Earlier this fall, when I started thinking seriously about PhD programs, I decided I wanted to move to Scotland for school. My dream school is in Scotland and I figured I'd shoot for the stars.

My great grandparents came over from Scotland on a boat, so this beautiful place is my homeland.

With time, however, I realized it wasn't wise for me to go traipsing off to Scotland to complete a stressful PhD program so soon after a full return to health. I figured I should give my body some time to get strong before throwing myself in the deep end like that.

And then, this week, it rained for three days straight, and I knew I'd made the right choice, as Scotland is one very green and very rainy place.

When the sun shines here I often feel like Life is reaching her arms inside my soul and tickling me. But when it rains for three days straight? I tend to feel like Life is reaching her arms inside my soul and playing a mournful tune on the cello strings she's found there. That, and I feel like a fat, oozing slug that has just been doused in salt.

So the sun: it's a good thing. And Scotland: it's a dream I may revisit next year. In the meantime, I'm looking at a program here in the sunny south, and I'm applying sunscreen while I hit the beach.

I hope your weekend is off to a merry and restful start, my friends!


© by scj

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rainy day facts

Today, in honor of our first full rainy day of the school year, I give you a list of facts:

FACT #1: My family is very good at eliminating flies. But we don't use fly swatters. We prefer the bare hand approach. As soon as the pesky critters have outworn their welcome, we just reach up, grab 'em, and then throw 'em away.

Once, my dad discreetly caught a fly while he was preaching a sermon. He continued to preach as the fly tried to squirm its way out of his hand before he finally confessed to the congregation, "I've just caught a fly and don't know what to do with it."

Fly catching is our Jackson family super power.

Now you understand why none of us have managed to eliminate crime or defeat masked archenemies.

FACT #2: When I was in college, my roomies and I liked to take late night trips to the grocery store to get candy, ice cream, and best of all, frozen yogurt, to satisfy our sweet cravings.

The sweet cravings runs started with these girls, freshman year of college

We had loads of fun together. This was after racing boats in the streets-turned-rivers on a rainy day.
Over the years, we added more roommates, and therefore more members to our sweet cravings runs. Sorry for the spots on this Halloween costume photo.

We eventually got so into our dessert runs that we decided to pinpoint the best frozen yogurt store in the area. Naturally, I developed this rubric to aid our assessment. Notice column #3 in the row assessing service: "[employee] smiles with mouth, eyes and heart." We were seeer.i.ous. (Click on the photo for a bigger picture)

Since college, however, something has gone terribly awry with my cravings. Last night I left my cozy bungalow and ventured into the rain to the grocery store because my cravings were something fierce. But instead of filling my cart with ice cream, I desperately needed . . . carrots. CARROTS, people. I'm guessing there's some sort of kink in the tubes that carry my cravings from my stomach to my brain.

FACT #3: I have a female friend who lives alone. Naturally, she sleeps with a butcher knife under her pillow. Because: robbers. Recently, her cleaning lady was stripping her bed when she discovered the knife. Without blinking an eye she carried it into the kitchen and set it in the sink so it could be washed.

Bless the cleaning woman who doesn't bat an eye when she finds a butcher knife under a pillow. 

FACT #4: There is a perfect footprint on the top of my piano. Sherlock Holmes would have a hayday with this footprint, it's so beautiful. It would probably go in his Footprint Hall of Fame. It may even receive the place of honor in his Footprint Hall of Fame.
I wonder what he'd deduce from the footprint and surrounding clues? Maybe he'd discover that a Christmas elf crept in the window above the piano in the middle of the night in order to eat some of my Christmas fudge? Or maybe he'd discover a friend of mine decided to climb up on the piano and jump from it onto my couch when I was in the bathroom? Or maybe he wouldn't be able to figure it out at all. Because a footprint on top of the piano is pretty mysterious.

FACT #5: It's raining cats and dogs here. I hear it's supposed to rain five inches today. This is great news because we've been experiencing a drought here for a few years. However, it is not great news when you are wearing leather shoes and have to ford the lake that is the parking lot. Oh California, you could use some help in the drainage department.

FACT #6: My students and I did a "dance of magic" today. Outside. In the rain. It suddenly made the day, well, magical.

I hope your day has been sprinkled with curious, silly and funny facts, friends.



© by scj

Monday, December 1, 2014

Good Waiting and Hard Waiting

I wrote this a few years back, when I  was still sick. I've pulled it out again today, as we enter the Advent Season, because I'm still a really stinky waiter. I tend to place hope in the wrong things, and when I do hope for the right things, I get awfully impatient waiting for them to come to fruition. So here's to reorienting our waiting toward the One who reminds us with the manger that he won't keep us waiting forever!
Last night I wheeled a cart through Michael’s and perused the festive aisles looking for craft supplies to deck my apartment with Christmas cheer. I stopped in the floral section, wondering whether I could turn a few wintery branches into an Advent tree.
When I was a little girl, I’d bound out of bed every morning in December, delighted to put another ornament on the Advent tree. As its branches grew fuller, my wait grew shorter. Christmas morning, with its stuffed stockings, piles of presents, and sticky cinnamon rolls, was just a string of frosty mornings away.
Waiting is exciting when you can measure progress, and the reward you’re waiting for is within reach. Otherwise, waiting can feel downright unbearable.
When I turned 19, I started waiting for my adult life to start. College, I knew, was a sheltered training ground. When it was over, I had grand plans to use my post-college 20s to outpace the inexorable whirring of the clock’s hands. I’d work hard, like I always had. I’d shoot for the moon, like I’m prone to do. And by the time I was 30, I’d own my own home, be established in a lifelong career, and be married, or close to it. But life wasn’t keen on cooperating with my ambitions, and I’ve spent the greater part of my 20s in bed, sick, and then fighting relapse after relapse. I’ve weathered a broken engagement, and have dated without success.
Life has begun to feel like one long season of waiting.
For a while after I first got sick, I waited for my life to get easier. But the losses of the last few years have taught me that nothing’s guaranteed. It’s not a guarantee that I’ll return to complete health or find a life partner. I oughtn’t sit around wishing and waiting for things to change, because God never promised my life would look the way I want it to.
I am learning, though, to wait for God to keep the promises he has made. He’s promised he’s making all things new. He’s promised he’ll work all things together for good for those who love him. He’s promised heaven as a reward for those who live for him.
Most days, though, it feels like God’s doing his mysterious redemptive work behind a curtain, and I don't have a backstage pass.
I wonder if this is a taste of what Joseph felt when, 13 years after he had dreams foretelling his rise to power and influence, he was still rotting in a jail cell, betrayed by his brothers and maligned by his best friend's wife. 
I wonder if it’s how Abraham felt when, 25 years after God’s promise of a son, his very old wife still wasn’t pregnant.
I wonder it it’s how David felt when, 15 years after he was anointed as the future king of Israel, he still spent his days tending a bunch of stinky, bleating sheep, then running for his life from King Saul.
Reading the Old Testament makes me wonder whether waiting is one of the greatest Christian virtues.
The person who waits patiently for God’s promises — who hopes in the things they can’t see — is the kind of person who ends up in a biblical hall of fame, like the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.
These famous, faithful men and women never received the things God promised the Israelites. Instead, they greeted them from afar, and then turned their hearts toward their heavenly home. The hope of heaven can sustain us when the reward we are waiting for seems elusive. Not just because there will be mansions, crowns, and streets of gold in heaven, and not just because in heaven there will be no more pain or loss. In heaven, we get Jesus — all of him in all his glory. We will know him fully, even as we are fully known. And as the apostle Paul reminds us,
“All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ (which means 'Yes') ascends to God for his glory.”
This month my family will gather to continue the Advent tradition I loved as a little girl, as we count the days to Christmas.
The word “advent” is from the Latin word meaning “coming.” For more than 400 years after the last Old Testament prophet foretold the coming Messiah, God’s people waited for the Messiah to appear. And now, two thousand years later, we continue to wait because he’s told us he’ll come again to recreate a new heaven and earth for those who love him. We wait because we know he keeps his promises. We saw his greatest promises fulfilled in the baby in the manger, the man on the cross, and the empty tomb.
And so, this Advent, when our lives may not look the way we hoped, we wait for the day when we will be united, once and for all, with the One in whom all God’s promises are fulfilled.
Image credit:;

© by scj

© by scj

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Re-Learning God's Goodness

When I was younger, if you asked me how I knew God was good, I’d probably say something like this: “Just look at my life. I get to do what I love most everyday. I get to run fast on a college track team that’s so good it has a habit of churning out Olympians. I get to go to school, and then back to school, and then back to school again, because school floats my boat, man. I get to go out with friends, serve at my church, and dream about the future. Proof of God’s goodness is in every nook and cranny of my life.”

But then, four years ago, when I got sick and stayed sick, I couldn’t do the things I loved anymore. Suddenly, those treasured signs of God’s goodness were gone. I knew, though, that although my body confined me to my room, God was still good. The cross and empty grave assured me of that. But I had to search for new, previously overlooked signs of God’s goodness in my grueling day-to-day.

I knew God called himself father, so I started watching fathers with their kids in an attempt to learn about God’s goodness. I watched young dads on airplanes, cradling their babies close when the altitude made their little ears ache. “I know, it hurts,” they’d murmur tenderly. And I’d imagine God holding me close and murmuring like that whenever my heart ached from illness.

When I had energy to go to the park, I’d sit and watch middle-aged dads with their growing kids, laughing with delight as their kids caught the ball for the first time or danced across the grass. And I’d imagine God smiling with delight as he watched me fumbling about, trying new things.

As I tried to fill my long, empty days, I’d watch X-Factor clips on Youtube, in which families jumped up and down screaming with pride in their loved ones’ courage and talent. And I’d imagine God jumping and cheering me on as I tried to face illness with bravery.

And each time I’d remember that my heavenly father is unimaginably more good than the fathers I observed — the examples of earthly fatherly goodness are just flickers of candlelight compared to God’s eternal, glorious light.

With time, I started observing more than just fathers. We all bear the image of God and so we all, in some way, reflect his goodness. So now I watch mothers, siblings, friends, coaches, and teachers. Each time they demonstrate kindness and compassion to others, I imagine God doing the exact same thing to me. I imagine him embracing, catching, holding, encouraging, gifting and protecting.

When I watched the video below, I imagined I was the featured runner, and Jesus was the coach. It made my picture of God’s goodness a bit more 3-dimensional as I push through this often-grueling life race.

And then I remembered that Jesus doesn’t only cradle his followers when we collapse from disease and fatigue, but he runs the whole way with us. Health, work, and school are all good gifts, but a truer sign of God’s goodness is God himself, with us, in the midst of the muck.

This week I’m thankful for his unfailing presence in my life, and for the way he reveals his goodness to me, through other people.

© by scj

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Of man buns and magical dances

Hi Friends,

I'm a list mode this week as I try to keep abreast of my responsibilities, which seem to be multiplying like rabbits, or stray cats, or ants. (Do ants reproduce a lot? Because I'm pretty sure they should win some sort of reproduction award here in southern California, as of late.) And so, in the spirit of list-making, I have another list for you today:

1. If Biola University's trends are any indication of general American trends, then man buns are in. This is a trend I can get behind, people. And so can my brother:

Don't mind me; this is my "I just rolled out of bed" look

Did I just text my brother saying, "I need a picture of your man bun for my blog, stat."?

Why yes, yes I did. There are some things I never dreamed I'd find myself texting. 

2. This week I discovered a flourishing, fragrant rosemary bush in my yard. The property I live on is so shaded that it's hard to grow much of anything, so this discovery was delightful. Garlic and rosemary-coated sweet potato medallions, here I come.

3. When I was home a few weeks ago, I showed my family this video of a young man with down syndrome, named Tim, who owns and operates a restaurant with the help of his family.

Tim loves going to work. In fact, he loves it so much, he does a dance-off in the parking lot each day before work. He calls it his "dance of magic."

After my family and I watched Tim's dance of magic approximately seven times, my sister and I looked at each other with the same idea.

"If we did this everyday for a month, it would change our brains. They'd be swimming in happy endorphins!"

Research indicates that the thoughts we think and things we do change our brains. Depressed thoughts beget depression, while grateful thoughts beget joy. Saying unkind things once makes it easier to do it again, while managing angry impulses once makes it more natural to manage them in the future.

It would seem, then, that the things we do with our bodies significantly shape our inner state. Dancing in the parking lot before work every day — acting the way we want to feel — could do a lot to chase away discouragement and fatigue.

I feel confident that creating my own, pre-work dance of magic is a marvelous idea. I'm just not sure I have the guts to dance my way through throngs of college students, by myself, everyday for a month. Which is why I showed this video to one of my classes last week and asked who would be willing to do this with me.

"When and where?" a few of them asked. And: "Can we do a dance of magic right now?" So, they're in. The last month of the semester just got a lot better.

4. This spiel has major brain-changing potential, too. If only we each did this every day:

Swaying and clapping whilst standing on the counter seem to be key to making this chant particularly effective. So clear your counters, folks...

5. I'm still in a state of wonder at things my body can do these days. There are so many daily benchmarks that highlight the restoration of my health. I'm particularly in awe of my ability to wash dishes daily. In the past, I had to ration out energy to do things like wash dishes, so they didn't get done very much. But now, I can wash them every day, no problemo, without having to clear my schedule so I can recover afterwards. It feels so empowering. Gosh, I hope I don't start taking these little things for granted.

 6. It's the weekend! We should go do a weekend dance of magic to celebrate. It'll do us some good. 

Here, I'll make it easy, and include some dance music for you. Ready, set, GO!

Hoping for a glorious Saturday for you all.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Food, flowers and family: a weekend list

Today I have five random things to tell you:

1. This paleo "fudge" is my kryptonite.

Some days, I eat it for every meal. It goes especially well with berries in the early morning hours. It also goes well with whipped cream. And waffles. And tea. And coffee.

I ate this fudge for breakfast before I took the GRE last week, along with waffles and eggs, because it caffeinates me in all the right ways. It makes me focused and energized without giving me jitters. Tea and coffee cannot caffeinate me to perfection like this fudge can. Hey, just consider me a master caffeiniologist, Jack. In the same way an anesthesiologist creates an anesthesia plan for his patients, I create caffeine plans by calculating an exact ratio of caffeine to bodily mass and then prescribing the amount of caffeine necessary to conquer the day. It's a precise science that saves lives.

I'd like to take a moment to prescribe you three doses of this fudge. You can thank me later. Also, I accept payment in all forms, as long as those forms are some sort of chocolate.

I figured I should pack some fudge for my 10-minute break halfway through the GRE, so I did. When my 10-minute break arrived, I rushed out to my locker, reached for my fudge, and noticed it was no longer in recognizable little discs. Instead, it was an oozing, melted blob. So I reached my fingers in the container, swiped a glob of the delightful mess, and stuffed it in my mouth. I swiped and stuffed at a rapid speed, until the proctor came in, kindly overlooked the chocolate that was all over my hands, and called me back in to finish the test. I can't say for sure, but I imagine any favorable test results were at least in part due to this fudge's ample gift of caffeine.

2. Brussel sprouts are my other kryptonite. I have no self control when I'm around brussel sprouts. I eat them all —every single fairy-sized cabbage—until there are no more brussel sprouts to be found in my house.

This is probably because I tend to cook brussel sprouts with bacon.

I really know how to make vegetables go down easy here at Ristorante Jackson. You're welcome to eat with me anytime.

3. These roses have been my steady companions for three years.

When I first bought them, they were rainbow roses, each sporting ribbons of red, orange and yellow. They reminded me of the sticky wad of Starbursts I liked to moosh together and gnaw on when I was a kid. I couldn't look at my rainbow roses without salivating. But now, their rainbow colors have faded and they're mellow yellow. They still bring me loads of pleasure, though.

4. There's a tree beyond my deck that sprouts fairy bells every November.

Can you spot the bumble bee looking for the best entrance to this nectar cup?

I imagine that, in fairy land, when a breeze comes and shakes this tree, it sounds like a tinkling symphony of wind chimes.

5. This week I've missed the chilly fall weather I enjoyed last weekend in Washington.

But you know what I haven't missed? My dad! He's in town visiting for awhile, so I've gotten to enjoy his company, all to myself.

Whenever he comes down we like to go to Laguna Beach where we soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of Laguna's many turquoise coves. We often pack a picnic and munch till our hearts' content under the smiling sky.

This is my favorite picnic table in the whole, wide world.

It sure makes the week better when dad's in town!

I hope your weekend has been sprinkled with delights, my friends.


© by scj

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Random news and a trip home

Hello, my friends!

First, I'd like to tell you that I passed a woman taking her llama on a walk when I was on my evening run today. The llama was black, and poofy in all the right places. I'm almost positive it was on a bright pink leash. Naturally.

From a distance I thought it was a poodle — the kind of poodle you'd find at Paul Bunyan's side, if he were into poodles (I'm almost certain he wasn't). It appeared to be an unearthly large poodle. Thank goodness poodles aren't the size of llamas in real life. It would make itty bitty, cutsty wootsy cockapoos an impossibility.
Just try and imagine a world without itsy bitsy cockapoos!

The sights in L.A. never tire me, that's for sure.

I'd also like to tell you that today I took the GRE. This is happening, people. I'm really truly thinking about getting a PhD. There's still a lot to consider, I've not applied anywhere yet, and I'm in no rush to make a decision, but I sure am delighted to be able to consider the possibility. Dreaming about the future was a luxury I had to give up for several years, and now, the dreaming is just as thrilling as the actualizing of the dreams.

I felt a little nervous about taking the GRE. I've not been able to do much academic work over the years, and I've been especially unable to focus for long periods of time as a result of my sickness. So although I'm feeling like a million bucks these days, I wondered if my brain could focus for the duration of the 4-hour test. And you guys. I did it. Not only did I do it, but I focused with relative ease and had so much energy afterwards I had to go on a strenuous run to release it. Wild and weird and wonderful. 

And craziest of all: I had fun. Sitting there for hours surrounded by other aspiring doctoral students, thinking clearly, and enjoying mental stamina was such a foreign experience, I felt like a new woman. It's fun to feel new. Super duper ruper luper nuper muper cruper fun. There aren't enough "uper" words to capture the gratitude I felt today as I sat in that testing cubicle. I feel drenched in God's grace.

Aaand finally, I have some snapshots from my surprise trip to Portland last weekend.

My little brother Marc was born on my little sister Rebecca's birthday 24 years ago, so November always contains a double birthday celebration for our family.

We forgot to put candles in the pie, so two lone candles did the trick

I cannot believe my littlest sibling is 24.

And my sister!

 How is it possible that she's catching up to me in age?

My mom made her world famous banana cream pie for the birthday dessert.

Just the sight of that pie brings back sweet childhood memories. Just the sight of this picture makes me salivate.

I love that my family enjoys sitting around and talking when we're together.

A friend FaceTimed in to join our conversation for a bit

Sometimes we'll sit and talk for hours. Or, as was the case this weekend, sometimes we'll sit around and toot party blowers for hours.

Marc's girlfriend, Jaime, flew in to join us for the weekend. It was lovely to have her.

When we're not sitting around talking, we're probably outside exercising together. And since God decided to gift us with some rare November sun, we spent a lot of time in the great outdoors this weekend.

Some of the leaves we found were MASSIVE!

One of the glories of Washington is there's a mountain on every horizon. This is Mt. Hood

I hadn't been to the northwest in November in so long, I'd forgotten how vibrant the colors are in November. I was expecting naked winter branches, but instead found horizons still dappled with warm reds, oranges and yellows.

Winter is a-comin' soon, though:

These are the leaves of my childhood. I loved collecting them and using them for crafts as a kid

A trip home isn't complete without spending time with my sister from another mister, Anne.

Anne and her sister, Elizabeth are our dear, loyal heart-friends. We grew up living in the same cul-de-sac and attending the same church. We even home schooled together. I love them and am glad Annie still lives in the area so I can see her when I'm home.

Elizabeth, we missed you last weekend.

Annie and her lovely sister, Elizabeth

And Aaron and Natasha (brother and sister-in-law) we missed you, too!

What a handsome couple!

Oh man. What a crew I have in the Pacific Northwest. And what a week it's been. And now, it's time for a good night's sleep.

G'night, friendlies.

Sweet dreamin'!


© by scj