Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Grandma Ona

My Grandma Ona passed away last month, and though she had grown old and her health was failing, the suddenness of her passing was a blow.

My grandma was quite a woman.


She was tender, resourceful, active, tenacious, and hilarious. She lugged castaway furniture out of alleyways to refurbish it and give it new life; she cooked with plenty of butter as all good cooks do; she kept her fridge — and other corners of her house — well-stocked with candy (in this way, I always felt she was my kindred spirit), and she never judged me when I wanted to eat chocolate before and after every meal. She raised three kids after the sudden and very early death of her husband; she sent all her grandkids birthday cards every year; and she laughed readily and fully — especially at herself. She was marshmellow and steel, and we loved her for it.





Once, when we were kids, my sister, cousin Emily, and I stayed at my grandma's house for the weekend. We had a hankering for hard-boiled eggs that first morning at her house, so we plopped several eggs in a pan of boiling water, put the lid on the pan, and, before the eggs had finished cooking, we decided to go shopping. My grandma had a knack for finding a bargain and a hunch that the sales down the street would yield all sorts of treasures.

In our eagerness to hit the sales, we forgot about the boiling eggs, and when we returned from shopping, we were greeted with the overpowering stench of eggs-gone-bad. Upon walking into the kitchen, we noted the burner was on, the egg pan was empty, and the ceiling was splattered with the boiled eggs. It was a sulfuric Jackson Pollock, traces of which would stubbornly cling to the ceiling for many years to come. 

When my grandma saw that mess of goopy egg on the ceiling, she laughed fit to kill. Her shoulders shook, and tears welled up in her eyes, and the three of us girls joined her in deep belly laughter. For the rest of her life, whenever we revisited the egg incident, we laughed.


Last week my family sat in a circle and told stories about grandma. We revisited the egg incident, of course, and we remembered our last conversations with her; and when we were done remembering aloud, we planted a rose bush in her memory. When spring comes, it will yield sunset roses with petals of fuchsia, sherbet, amber, and crimson.

My siblings and I with grandma's rose

I think my grandma would have loved it.




© by scj

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving

The Jacksons accomplished an incredible feat this Thanksgiving weekend: we were ALL in the same place!



And boy was our selfie game strong.

The sibs

One of the week's highlights was the presence of Copper, the pup my littlest brother and his wife got in early 2016.

Copper is Roo's older half brother.


Do you see the resemblance?

The two pups hadn't met before this weekend, so it was a ball to watch them meet. I was in dog heaven.

With Roo
With Copper

Copper is happy-go-lucky. His tail is always wagging, and every creature is a new friend. Roo, on the other hand, is a bit more cautious. She has to carefully assess a situation before engaging it fully.

Roo (on the left) assessing

Assessment phase #2 (getting more comfortable)

It didn't take Roo too long to determine that Copper was a worthy friend, and the two spent the weekend engaged in puppy play. They romped; they frolicked; and they raced around the house. Copper showed Roo how to stand on her hind legs and walk all over the kitchen sniffing for morsels of leftover turkey (have you ever seen a dog walk on his hind legs without extra support? It's remarkable! Turkey inspires truly amazing things, I suppose), and together, their begging techniques were almost irresistible.


Well, actually, they were absolutely, entirely irresistible. I was a turkey-dispensing softy as long as the two of them were together.


Oh my oh my: a world with dogs is a beautiful world, and a Thanksgiving with pups is the best kind of Thanksgiving.

I hope you had a celebratory and restful Thanksgiving, my friends.

Hopeful, light-filled Monday!

Cheering for you,

Sarah




© by scj

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sam and Amy

My friend Sam got married yesterday.


I met Sam four years ago when he attended a Thanksgiving dinner I hosted.

Sam was in LA to pursue an MA in philosophy at Talbot, and I was teaching at Biola two mornings a week, so after that Thanksgiving dinner, we occasionally ran into each other on campus. We also attended the same church, and when I was well enough to go to Sunday service, we would see each other. With time, I observed enough of Sam to learn he was kind, generous, and diligent in prayer.

About two years ago, Sam emailed me. He'd read a recent blog post about the nightmarish turn in my health, and he wanted to tell me he was praying for me daily. He also shared that he was in New York City getting treated for a rare and especially deadly form of cancer. He wondered if he could encourage me in my battle with health problems since he was fighting his own.

A google search of Sam's form of cancer revealed he had a very slim chance of survival. In fact, his best man shared yesterday that when Sam was first diagnosed, he asked God to withhold the funding to start treatment if he wasn't going to survive. He didn't want his family to shoulder the financial burden of his medical bills if he wasn't going to live.

I have learned from mutual friends that Sam looked like a Holocaust victim as he lay in that hospital room, enduring round after round of chemo. His parents refused to leave his side during those months of treatment, and his closest friends wondered if the next phone call from New York would bring grievous news. 

Somehow, as Sam underwent chemotherapy, surgery, and experimental treatment, he found the fortitude to send me almost daily messages of encouragement. He sent me poems, songs, and Bible verses to buoy my spirits; he offered financial help for my medical bills; he suggested prescription medications when our symptoms overlapped; he offered to connect me with people in the area who could run errands for me; and he offered to forward my recent test results to his doctor friend. I often felt that I was the one who should be encouraging Sam, but looking back I can see that God wanted me to learn from Sam what it looks like to be bread broken and wine poured out for those in need.

When Sam first emailed me from New York, I felt trapped in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Some days, the darkness of that valley made me quake in fear; other days, it made me want to die. But then Sam reached out, and he came alongside me in that valley, and he said, "With God's help, we will pass through this." Everyday, again and again: "God is with us, and he will carry us onward and upward." His presence and courage were God's astonishing grace to me.

My dear friend Sam is cancer-free today. He will finish his philosophy degree next month, and he and his new bride will move back to India where they will minister together as he works for Ravi Zacharias's ministry. I do not know Sam's wife well, but I know she is beloved by many. She is a nurse with a heart for India and a reputation for kindness, faithfulness, and generosity; and I am delighted she and Sam found each other.

Yesterday I kept trying to find the words to express what Sam and Amy's wedding meant to me. I couldn't. I felt I was watching Sam stand on the mountaintop, his vibrant bride at his side, their families and friends hemming them in, their future full of hope, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death down below, behind him. The wonder that swelled inside of me was too big to be constrained by words


Dear Sam and Amy, what a joy it was to watch you embark on this new marriage-adventure together. I pray God's best for you, and I thank him that I get to be one of many who will be blessed by your union.


© by scj

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Twinkly

The halls are decked with boughs of holly, and this baby Christmas tree is the most recent addition to my bedroom. I love getting ready for bed in the glow of twinkle lights.


Also, it has dipped below 60 degrees here in Orange County, which means it could snow any.minute.

It is officially QUILT WEATHER!

© by scj

Friday, November 18, 2016

Earthworm mode

I've come down with another cold — yet another encouraging sign of changes in my immune system. These colds have both triggered pretty bad neurological symptoms, so they're not my favorite sign of healing, BUT I have reached the congestion phase of the cold which, for whatever reason, means the neurological symptoms are quieter. It also means my head feels like a lava lamp.

Actually, I generally feel like an earthworm that has been flattened on the sidewalk and left to bake in the hot sun. These things happen when you are a student and teacher and it is the middle of November.

So, I've done the unthinkable: I've started playing Christmas music and pulling out Christmas decor BEFORE Thanksgiving.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.


Earthworm mode has me moving pretty slowly, but I'm hoping to have my Christmas tree up by this evening. Soon, this little earthworm will be basking in the glow of twinkle lights.

In the meantime, I'm shuffling between my favorite Christmas Pandora channels and marveling at how powerful Christmas music is. Songs act as folders that store our memories, don't they? Each of these Christmas songs carries such cozy, hopeful memories for me. If I am the droopy, deflated Frosty the Snowman yard decoration before turning on the Christmas station, then I am inflated, tall, and swaying in the California breeze after a few minutes of Christmas tunes.

I shan't encourage you to listen to Christmas music too strongly since playing it before Thanskgivng is so controversial, BUT if you are feeling rather earthworm-y, it couldn't hurt to flip on Pandora...

Hopeful, light-filled Friday, my friends.

Cheering for you!

Love,

Lava lamp-head/squashed earthworm/inflatable Snowman yard decoration-Sarah



© by scj

Monday, November 7, 2016

DNRS: A November Limbic System Retraining Update

My friends,

Many of you have chronic, invisible illness and are wondering if you should try DNRS (the Dynamic Neural Retraining System). Some of you are wondering if you should refer your friends and family to DNRS. I've been doing the program for four months now, and here is my advice those with lyme disease, ME, CIRS, POTS, fibromyalgia and more:

Do it.

Absolutely, 100% try this.

I continue to observe encouraging changes in my body, and I am confident this works for those with limbic system injuries.

I posted about my progress early in the program, but I didn't detail how very up and down those first months were. I'd have an enormous break-through one day, and feel back at square one the next. Since then, I continue to have significant ups and downs, but I have longer "ups" — sometimes lasting days at a time — as my brain heals and body stabilizes.

The biggest change I see is a newfound freedom to hope and dream about the future. For so long, I devoted most of my hope to small tasks: "I hope I can get out of bed to teach two mornings this week." "I hope I have energy to shower today." "I hope I can be upright long enough to make myself dinner." These goals often felt unobtainable.

I still find myself hoping for these small things during particularly challenging days or weeks, but the hoping feels realistic. I'll probably be able to cook dinner for myself tonight. 

I also find myself hoping for big things: "I hope to work full time soon." "I hope to be running again soon." "I hope to working on my writing project again soon." And it's the wildest thing: these hopes feel realistic, too! These things will probably happen. 

You guys. I cannot tell you the last time I dared to dream something big about the future AND felt like it was a realistic possibility.

Recently, I've especially loved dreaming about traveling internationally. I'm perusing the internet for travel ideas and mentally planning trips, and though I don't know when my body will be ready for this sort of travel, the dreaming is a delight. In an effort to practice hope, I went ahead and renewed my passport. It came last week, and it was one of the happiest packages I've ever received.


Here are some of the other changes I've observed in myself since my last update in early September:

1. I can practice the piano again. For six years, neurological challenges made short practice sessions painful and longer practice sessions impossible. But in September, I was suddenly able to play Chopin for an hour straight, and it felt nourishing – like I was eating vegetable stew after a steady diet of bread and cheese.

2. For years, I've tried to push through physical challenges to go on short walks, much to my body's detriment. Eventually, as per my doctor's instruction, I stopped walking except when my symptoms were quieter — which wasn't often. When I did go on walks, I felt much worse afterward and often spent days recovering. However, since September, I've been able to walk more often — sometimes a few times a week — AND the walking makes me feel better. I'd forgotten what the benefits of exercise feel like!
Walking with Mama and Roo!

3. Going to the grocery store used to be such a challenge. If I had the stamina to go, the lights, smells, sounds, and movement made me wildly sick. However, the last several times I've gone to the grocery store, I've zipped in and out with no problems at all!

4. I traveled twice last month — once to northern California, and once to Washington. I was nervous about whether or not I'd be able to handle it, and I did!
Soaking up Washington's glorious fall

5. I got my first full-blown cold in several years, which is a sign of my immune system coming back online. This summer, a week after starting DNRS, I got a cold, but the symptoms only lasted one day before autoimmune mode returned. Last month's cold, however, progressed like a normal cold. Woo hoo! (To my friends doing DNRS: my cold triggered preexisting physical challenges, so if your first cold isn't 100% normal, you're not alone. We'll get to complete normalcy soon, though!).

6. I experience pockets during which reading feels natural and easy.

7. My fingernails used to have deep ridges in them. These ridges are a sign of malnourishment and extreme infection, BUT the ridges are beginning to disappear!

8. In the past, it has been hard to listen to music because of the energy the brain needs to process sound. Talking to people has been hard, too (this is still a big area of training for me), and talking to people with the radio on was absolutely impossible. But last month, while driving in the car with a friend, I noticed we'd been talking for 1/2 hour with the radio ON. Yeaaaah, Baby.

9. I've been a front seat passenger in the car a number of times in the last month, and those trips have been relatively easy! (They used to always be horribly difficult).

10. I've been to church five times this semester, and four of those times were relatively easy!

11. My bedrest is generally more restful as my brain heals and my body follows suit.


Friends, if you're doing DNRS and haven't signed up for a coach, I recommend you do at least one coaching session. My coach validated the difficulty of this process and confirmed its up-and-down nature, which made me feel normal. She's also helped me with areas of training that have been particularly hard and slow for me, and she's given me tips that have helped across all areas of training.


If you have been praying for me on this journey, here are some ways you can pray these days:

1. For perseverance — limbic system retraining is hard, the sawtooth nature of this journey continues to be really hard, and this semester has been filled with some pretty tough life stuff.


2. For joy and hope on the harder days and weeks.


3. For complete healing sooner rather than later.


4. For wisdom as I continue to learn how to best care for myself on this healing journey.


5. For protection from the Enemy. There's been an uncanny pattern this semester: each time I make progress, something difficult happens to trigger greater physical challenges. Thankfully, I rebound from the effects of the trigger after a couple of weeks (the ability to bounce back is a huge improvement!), but just as soon as I begin to progress again, I'm exposed to another trigger, and the pattern continues. I suspect this pattern is the result of spiritual attack.


6. For provision for my needs.

7. This request feels a bit frivolous, but important: would you pray that I'd be able to take that international trip one day?! Gosh, that would be a glorious victory.


Thank you for walking this journey with me, Friends.

I'm cheering for you,

Sarah


For more information on DNRS, visit the website HERE and my overview HERE

(Note: it would be impossible to thoroughly explain the program here -- you'd need to participate in the four-day workshop, either in person or via DVD, to begin to understand it, so my overview is relatively brief).

Also: If you're doing DNRS, would you share your progress in the comments below?! Reading about your progress is so encouraging for all of us on this journey!


© by scj

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shower Caps

Shower caps are so overrated. That's what I discovered ten years ago when I wrapped up my track career.

During my years of college track, I trained for hours everyday in the hot sun, and my hair needed daily washing. But when those long, sweaty workouts ceased, the hair-washing skies parted and glorious light shone forth: I could wash my hair every other day — or maybe every two days. Think of the time and effort I could save! And then I inched toward middle age and decided that a hair-wash every 3-4 days was acceptable because DRY SHAMPOO.

What a luxury.

But here is the thing about shower caps: the free shower caps hotels give you are big enough to cover your bangs, if you have them, but if you have a pony tail: good luck keeping that baby dry with such an itty bitty piece of plastic. I suppose you could run to Target and buy a shower cap big enough to cover your ponytail, but that seems like a waste because GROCERY BAGS.

What I am about to tell you may change your life.

When it is shower time, grab the nearest plastic grocery bag and slip it over your hair, with the handles down near the nape of your neck. Tie the handles into a nice, firm knot, and voila! You are ready to shower.

Folks, this trick will save you money — at least $3 (go buy yourself a latte!) — and time, and it will save you if you're in a bind. For example, if you have traveled to your college roommate's hometown for her wedding, and you do not want to wash your hair before the rehearsal dinner because you intend to wash it the next morning before the wedding, all you gotta do is borrow a grocery bag from your roommate's mom.

My college roommate's dad surreptitiously took this photo because, well, because I was standing in the hall talking to his family with a plastic bag on my head.

College roommate, Rach and I

It's easy as 1-2-3.


Happy Monday, folks.

-SJ

P.S. I don't buy dry shampoo either. Noooo waaay, Jose; I save myself a dollar (and exposure to the additives in dry shampoo) and use a family trick. Click here for all the deets.



© by scj

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday evening

Sunday evening dreaming:


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Connecting

The teenagers in my life are so hip. They use words like "lit" — as in "that song is lit" — and they totally don't say, "on fleek" anymore— as in "your dance moves are on fleek"— because that's so last year. I was just beginning to grasp what "on fleek" means when it went out of style, and it doesn't even matter that I one hundred percent understand how to use the word "lit" while it's current, because I am too old and un-hip to get away with it.

I've been blaming lots of things on my oldness these days. Last week I was grading essays in my bedroom when I heard an alarm go off. It sounded like it was on the other side of the wall my room shares with the neighbors' condo, so I assumed it was their alarm clock. When the alarm continued to beep for several minutes, I wondered if I should let the neighbors know about their upstairs alarm clock.

And then I went downstairs to get some water and realized my oven timer's alarm was going off because I'd set it when I put pecans in the oven to bake 15 minutes earlier.

Don't mind me, neighbors. Apparently turning 32 inaugurates a whole new set of memory problems. I can't even begin to wonder what 80 will feel like.

Old person brain is the reason I accidentally wore my shirt inside out on Sunday, and it's the reason I decided to print my boarding pass for my flight back to L.A. a few days ago. "Why don't you just download the JetBlue app and pull up your boarding pass on your phone instead?" my mom asked.

MOM, WHY ARE YOU A TECHNOLOGICAL GENIUS, I WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT IN A MILLION YEARS.

Somehow, my mom's case of old person brain is less severe than mine.

And that's why I am so proud to say that I finally created a Facebook page for my blog AND I added social media icons to my blog's right margin so you can connect with me on social media. I found, linked, and embedded those icons all by myself, you guys. My technology game is totally on fleek this week.

Over the last couple of years, my readership has grown to the point that I don't know a lot of you. Some of you have emailed me to introduce yourselves, and I love that. Connecting with you is my favorite thing about blogging. So, would you connect with me on Facebook? Just click HERE, or click on the Facebook icon in the right margin, and you'll be directed to my new page.

And keep those emails (and Facebook messages!) coming. Seeing your face on Facebook is lovely, and hearing your stories is even lovelier.

 Hopeful, grace-filled Wednesday, my friends. I hope your day is totally lit.

Cheering for you, Home Skillets.

-Sarah


© by scj

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Where's Waldo?

Hint: "Waldo" is fluffy and cute as can be.


Did you spot her?


© by scj

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Story of an Apple




Please, may I have a bite of your apple?



Ah, now we can all live happily ever after.

The end.

© by scj