Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Fourth of July

I know, I know: the fourth was weeks ago. I'm terribly behind in my blogging. But I can't not blog about the fourth. If I did then you would miss out on the cutest photos of some of the cutest little people you ever did see.

My cousin, her husband and their two young children recently moved from Orange County to Portland so they joined us for the fourth. Also present was my brother's college roommate, Kyle, and our dearest of dear family friends, Elizabeth and Anne. It was a celebratory group!

We didn't get a full group photo; this is just 1/3 of the group

From left to right: Me; Elizabeth; my little brother, Marc; and Marc's college roommate, Kyle


My cousin's oldest is a sweet, vivacious, and active two-year old. He loves airplanes.



He loves playing with his dad. 



He loves us enough to let us dress him up.
 



He loves my dad, his great uncle Paul. "Unca Pah!" He calls him. They sat on the swing like this for quite some time in silence, just enjoying each other.



We love having this little guy around. And then, last month, my cousin gave birth to a baby girl, and now we love having her around, too!



Isn't she the sweetest little thing?

We played "pass the baby around" all night. Everyone got multiple turns because everyone couldn't get enough of her.



There were other fun things that happened on the fourth, like good food and a spectacular fireworks show down by the river, but those things aren't NEARLY as cute as these guys.

Don't kids make holidays ten times better?!



© by scj

Saturday, July 19, 2014

River Rafting

Two nights ago I dreamed I got a package in the mail containing a shiny new pair of roller blades. Oh, wouldn't that be lovely!

Alas, my blades are still dead. I'm not sure if they're mostly dead or all dead, and since Miracle Max is not here to tell me, I have let my blades lay in peace while I do other fun things on other fun toys with wheels. [name that movie!]

Like my friend, G's, motorcyle, for instance.



Oh how I love hopping on the back of that thing and flying through the countryside, cruising alongside meandering rivers, and stopping to admire waterfalls.

Sunset Falls

G is my friend from high school. And college. And adulthood. We've been friends for 14 years and have a grand old time when we're together.

You may remember G as my duck-loving friend, or my skunk-gifting friend, or my cookie-licking friend, or my hat-wearing friend. Life is always more fun when G is around.

When I first arrived in Vancouver, three weeks ago, I had an itch to float down the Lewisville River under the hot summer sun.  So G and I headed to Walmart, surveyed our floating device options, and left the store with a set of new friends.


And then we skidded across slippery rocks, and braved the frigid water, and splashed downstream, and swatted bugs, and satisfied our need for thrashing white water.

It was a jolly way to return to my Washington river-roots.


P.S. Are water socks still a thing? Because they should be, Jack.

© by scj

Friday, July 18, 2014

And now, for a special report

I'd like to interrupt my summer adventures with a report from Canada.

My sister-in-law, Natasha, is in Ottowa, Canada this week competing in the heptathlon at the Pan American Cup and the Canadian National meets. (To read about my sister-in-law and her event, the heptahlon, click here).


She's been high jumping,

She jumped 1.81 meters in the high jump




hurdling,

She ran 13.43 in the hurdles

long jumping,

She long jumped 6.09 meters

running the 200 and 800 meter races,

She ran a 24.36 in the 200, and 2:13.15 in the 800, which is the last event of the two-day competition

throwing the shot put,

She threw 11.01 meters in the shot put

and throwing the javelin, all with speed, agility, accuracy and finesse.

She threw 33 meters in the javelin

And you know what?

SHE WON!



You can see in the background that her final score was 5928 points. The qualifying mark for the Olympics is 6,000 points. Once you hit that mark then you have to place top 3 in the Olympic Trials to go on to the Olympics.

Natasha beat dozens of the best competitors in Canada, America, Latin America and South America to win the Pan American Cup, and she took second in the Canadian Games. She reached a number of personal records in her events which added up to make for a record overall score for her in the heptathlon.

Isn't that exciting?

Tash had a foot injury that necessitated surgery two years ago. The surgery precluded training for a year, so she is just getting back into the world of training and competition. Her performances this meet are so encouraging, especially considering the rough couple of years she's had! She's just getting started!

Woo hoo!

Having a moment with her coach while the Canadian flag flies in the background


Goooooo, Natasha!


Photo credit: Natasha's mom!

© by scj

Friday, July 11, 2014

A hike with my penpal

I'm still in Washington at my folks' house, and I just can't get enough of this place. The verdant hills. The damp forests. The winding rivers. The stately mountains. The people up here whom I've known since childhood. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day to see everyone I want to see and do everything I want to do.

I've got a lot of adventures to blog about so I'm going to try to post my Washington adventures in manageable chunks, starting with one of my first excursions, last week, with my penpal, Mrs. T.

Mrs. T. has watched me grow from the time I was one year old. She's been a faithful encourager and prayer warrior for my family these last 28 years, and her weekly letters to me are a bright spot in my week.

Mrs. T. with my sister and me when we were 1 and 3 years old, respectively. I'm on the right.

A few days after I'd arrived in Washington, Mrs. T. gave me a call and suggested we take a trip up the Columbia River Gorge to Multnomah Falls. The Gorge is an 80-mile-long canyon housing the Columbia River, which borders Oregon and Washington. Its views are spectacular.




We enjoyed the beautiful drive up, and stopped at lookout points whenever we felt like it.



Orange County friends: no doubt you noticed the amazing combination of my running shoes with  my skinny jeans in the above picture.

Pacific Northwestern Friends: no doubt you didn't notice my amazing outfit because you are currently wearing a similar outfit.

The Pacific Northwest is a tennis shoes, jeans, t-shirt and no makeup kind of place. It's also a no deodorant, shaving, or brushing your hair kind of place.

I'm surprised at how easily I've shed my Orange County ways and have assimilated with the Pacific Northwest natives. Minus the no-deodorant or no-shaving part. That is a norm with which I cannot get on board.

I suppose my acquired Orange County ways have made me a bit of a deodorant snob. I never used to notice the, er, shall we say "granola" ways of the people in my homeland. But these days the smells of the Pacific Northwest never cease to surprise me. And I'm not talking about the scent of pine...

Nonetheless, you can't take the Washington out of an Orange County girl.

Mrs. T. and I hiked halfway up Multnomah falls and chatted about all sorts of things. She told me how she and Mr. T. met and how they each came to know Jesus, and she filled me in on some of the goings on in my hometown.

Multnomah Falls

Mrs. T. is truly lovely. I hope I'm like her when I grow up. I especially hope I am as faithful in prayer as she is. Daily, she asks the Lord to give me great joy. And I must say, the knowledge that she is asking God for this gives me great joy.

When we were finished hiking we ate lunch on sunny patio of the restaurant at the base of the falls. And then, when our tummies were full, we headed home where I met up with a friend for another adventure.


Hope your weekend is looking to be lovely!

More later,

Sarah

© by scj

Friday, July 4, 2014

Let's party like it's 1776!

Happy 4th of July, you lovely friends of mine, you!

Pictured: Little brother, Marc (right); Marc's college roommate (bottom left); our childhood friend E (middle); and I

Let freeeeeeeeeedooooom ring!


© by scj

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A summer death

When I was a kid I was convinced I'd be the next Apollo Ono. My skinny little self had a need for speed and loved to be active. I was also a whiz on roller blades. Well, I was according to my elderly neighbor, anyway. Actually, I believe her exact words were, "You sure are an ace on those things."

I'd recently read the word "ass" in one of my chapter books and, since I'd never heard it before, assumed it was pronounced "ace." I looked up the word in the dictionary and discovered it meant donkey and something else not very nice. So when my kindly neighbor told me I was an "[ass"] on those things," I was perplexed. I eventually assumed the word had three meanings, the third being, "you are so good at that skill that you will likely do it for a living one day." Naturally.

But I digress.

I loved whipping around the cul-de-sac in my skates, practicing crossing my right foot over my left when I turned left and skating backwards without wobbling. I even mastered the "Lift your left leg up and out, and stick your arms out like wings" maneuver. How I could be so good at roller blading and not eventually head to the Olympics as a speed skater was a mystery to me. No doubt I'd go.

And then I discovered the 100 and 300-meter hurdles and forgot about my speed skating aspirations. I didn't, however, forget the joy of cruising around the neighborhood on a slick set of wheels, and continued to blade just for fun. In fact, roller blading is still one of my favorite activities to do when I visit my folks house.

My brother is a good sport and accompanies me on many of my blading outings.


Isn't he handsome?

If I had my way I'd capture some of our killer moves on film, but iPhones aren't great for that. Instead, I tried to come up with some cool poses:



It turns out cool poses are not one of my special gifts.

On Sunday the weather was so glorious we took our blades to the Columbia River waterfront. We even got Little Sister to join us!



This would have been the mother of all blading outings this week, except I have the same roller blades that my parents gave me when I was nine years old. I have never rotated or replaced any of the wheels, and my beloved blades decided to die on me a few minutes into our jaunt.

And now, I'd love it if you'd join me in a moment of silence in memory of my beloved blades.  

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when they died. A number of my wheels have almost no rubber left on them as a result of my avid blading over the years.


Poor little babies are stripped bare

So my new summer goal is to either rehabilitate my old blades or find some new ones that compare to my old ones. I think the latter might be a tricky task. My old blades love me unlike any pair of blades has ever loved me. They are the only blades I've ever owned, after all.

 In the meantime, we've been biking and walking, and today will be a day of frisbee.

Mount Hood is behind me


Mt. Saint Helens is to the right of my brother



Oh these hot summer days (and a body healthy enough to enjoy outdoor activity!). I love 'em.

© by scj

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Go West Young Man

I am happy to report that for seven straight days all has been well on the home front, car front, and computer front. Not only was life wonderfully quiet last week, but it was also full of Lavish (with a capital "L") gifts.  Everywhere I turned, people were doing gracious, caring things on my behalf. 

I've told you already about the friends who spent hours helping me clean my apartment last Sunday. That was just the beginning of my week of gifts. A couple of days later, my neighbor, L, gave me her piano. For free.

Playing the piano is a source of great comfort and joy for me. It is a cathartic and creative outlet that I've missed the last several years. Now that I have very own piano, I've been dancing frequent mental jigs — to the tune of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," naturally.


Upon receiving the piano, I realized we had a problem, Houston: it was going to be tricky to move it from L's house to my house. I had two days before I'd fly to Portland, and I didn't know if that was enough time to find and schedule movers. Because the last two months' mishaps have used up all my troubleshooting powers, I pushed the dilemma aside. Maybe the piano would just up and move itself?

Hours later, I met a woman who is moving into the house across the street from me. She'd heard from L that I needed my piano moved, so upon meeting me she said, "I have a piano mover coming Saturday to move my piano into my new house; I'll have him move L's piano to your house, too." 

Jackpot! I could get uuuuused to this easy living.

The next day I dropped by the house of my favorite pair of brothers (well, besides my pair of brothers, of course). I love these guys. I'd camp in their backyard every night if I could. Instead, I visit on Thursdays after I tutor and we sit around and try to plumb the depths of the world's mysteries. We also eat. I am known for eating entire bags of chips, by myself, during our conversations. And so you can imagine my delight when John, the oldest of the brothers, said, "Sarah, I got your favorite chips at Trader Joe's in case you were hungry. They're on the top shelf."

And then I ate half a bag of chips and he, his brother and I tried to figure out the telos of both romantic and non-romantic kissing. Which, it turns out, is a mystery that can't be solved in the time it takes to eat half a bag of chips.

The next day my friend Doug fixed my vacuum cleaner. On Sunday, when he'd come to help me clean my studio, he'd discovered that the belt was broken. So he went online, bought a new belt for me, and then, after the belts arrived, he fixed my 'cume. And just like that, I was cleaning up dirt and lint like nobody's business.

And finally, on Friday evening, my friends Kevy, Greg and I drove into the sunset up the coast in Kevy's convertible.

Kevy and I
 
Greg

We blasted Michael W. Smith's "Go West Young Man," and the wind gave me dreadlocks, and I gulped gallons of balmy sea breeze.

Looking at the ocean


Sweet heavens: there is very little on earth that beats cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset in a convertible.


When my dreadlocks were Bob Marley status, we stopped for dinner at a yummy restaurant. "I'm buying you dinner, Sarah," Kevy said. "I want you to feel special after the difficulties of the last few months."

And oh man, do I feel special. My community has been pressing in from all directions and I've felt wrapped up in a big ol' hug all week. I like being in the middle of this hug.

And today, I'm in Washington with my family on vacation.

The drive from the airport to my folks' house is stunning. Just look at that expansive sky!

Can this hug get any warmer, this week any better? Why, I believe my little brother is about to get out of bed and join me for tea before church, so yes, yes it can.

Happy Sunday, my friends!

-Sarah


© by scj

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This just in: a mid-week update

This just in: rainbow carrots are the best vegetable of life.

Notice the purple carrots with the yellow centers!

I cooked up the bag of carrots in a bit of butter and then devoured the entire pan within a few hours. Now, all I want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is rainbow carrots. They're so sweet and flavorful. Thank goodness Trader Joe's still has 'em. The cashier told me they're seasonal, so if you want to try them, now is the time!

Also, a few friends helped me wipe down every surface of my studio's main living area and I am happy to report that my studio is [hopefully] free of the post-renovation dust containing lead.


I am so thankful for these friends who gave up hours and hours of their weekend to help me clean. Their support makes my soul feel loads lighter.

And finally, the horizons in this area are especially smoggy this month which makes the air especially thick, which is especially yucky. The good news is, the weather has been especially glorious, especially for hiking. I especially love a sunshine-y hike like the one a friend and I enjoyed yesterday.



There ain't nothin' like a good sweat in the sunshine, folks.

Happy Wednesday, my friends!

-Sarah



© by scj

Monday, June 23, 2014

Berries and Cream Ice Cream: Dairy and Refined Sugar-free Recipe

The older I grow, the better I get at coming up with excuses to indulge in fatty foods. French fries are covered in salt which I need to raise my very low blood pressure. Hamburgers are full of iron which I need to improve my energy levels. Bacon, well, bacon releases endorphins which I need to feel happier.

You name it, I can think of a health-improving reason to eat it. But this berries and cream ice cream doesn't need my sophisticated excuses. It speaks for itself, and it's saying,

"I'm full of anti-oxidants, healthy fat, and honey (which fights infections and treats allergies, studies suggest) Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!"


You won't regret it, guys and gals, especially you who have dairy allergies like I do. This easy-to-make ice cream is about to make your summer a lot healthier and tastier.


Here's what you'll need to make it:

  • 1 16-oz bag of frozen berries (I used mixed berries for the ice cream in the photo)
  • 3/4 of a can of full fat coconut cream —Trader Joe's coconut cream is my favorite*
  • 1/4 c. honey
*Before making the ice cream, I put the can of coconut cream in the fridge overnight so it solidifies


Step 1: Stick the honey and coconut cream in a blender or food processor and pulse until the honey and cream are blended. If you like really sweet ice cream, then add 1-2 more tablespoons of honey.

Step 2: Add the bag of frozen berries to the cream and honey mixture, and blend until smooth.

Step 3: Scoop up a heaping serving of the finished ice cream and enjoy! The ice cream will have the consistency of soft serve at this point, which is my favorite way to eat it. If you want it to be firmer, then pop it in the freezer for a few hours before serving.


Bon appetite!


-Sarah



© by scj

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rainbow Carrots

I sure am getting tired of this whole gratitude thing. I've never been great at it, really. Often, when my ideal little world begins to wobble and crack, I cry and worry and then curl up in the fetal position. Because: Anxiety Girl. And then, when the crying has subsided, I realize I should probably speak some true, good and beautiful things into my soul, starting with listing all of the good gifts in my life which point to God's goodness, and ending with thanking God for his plentiful grace. Gratitude is often the P.S. to a long-winded and ungrateful rant.

The things is, mishaps keep on rolling in, and I am tired. And practicing gratitude requires perseverance. And I am tired. But the apostle Paul once said that we should rejoice in suffering because suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope cannot disappoint us. It was hope that buoyed the faith of the "Faith Hall of Fame-ers" in Hebrews 11 when they were tired, discouraged, and doubtful of God's work in their lives. So practicing gratitude with endurance when life continues to discourage and disappoint won't only transform the way I experience the moment, but will also reap eternal rewards. It's worth pushing through the tired.

This week my new computer crashed again. I'd just gotten a new hard drive installed two weeks ago after losing a wealth of important documents, so I shouldn't have had another hard drive crash. More information lost. Oh dear. You'd think I'd learn my lesson after the first hard drive crash and back up my data daily. And then, I discovered that the paint in my studio has lead in it which means the post-renovation dust coating much of my apartment could be pure poison. And I suppose these problems would seem little more than inconvenient if they were isolated, but they're not: they're just the straw on top of a huge load of hay on top of a tired camel who is desperately afraid of battling more sickness, lead-caused or otherwise. But Paul reminds us there are still nuggets of joy to be had in the midst of all this "tired"...

So I've been asking God to help me practice gratitude in spite of my weary and apathetic heart. When I walked into Trader Joe's last night to get some food for dinner I begged God, "Please give me a good gift in here. I am discouraged and feel like I need a little something to perk up my spirits." Minutes later I was at the check out stand and the cashier asked, "Have you seen our rainbow carrots?"

Rainbow carrots? Could it be?! Had my childhood fantasies about rainbow produce become real in my normal, everyday life?

The cashier had another worker grab me a bag of carrots, and to my delight there were yellow, purple, and orange carrots in the bundle. "The purple carrots are yellow inside," the cashier said. "And they're delicious. Sweeter than regular carrots."

The best part of about Snickers, Reeses, Almond Joy and most other candy bars is they are not what they seem. They have silky milk chocolate on the outside, and have chewy, nutty, surprises on the inside. Who knew there were comparable carrots?


These carrots — delightful on the outside — are not what they seem. They're even more delightful than they seem.
Ron Swanson

And wonderfully, these carrots brought me much delight. The rather bushy mustache on the man in the car next to me at the stoplight also brought me great delight. As did the fact that the computer repair guy at the Apple Store looked remarkably like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec. As does the smell of bacon that is currently wafting from the neighbors house and onto my deck. As does the tree to my left that is the playground for dozens of tiny, hopping birds.


So I guess the take-away from this week is that I need to tell God when I'm really tired and then ask him for good, faith-growing gifts, the presence of mind to notice the gifts, and the stamina to thank him for the gifts. I think this must be a prayer that brings him great pleasure. And you never know how he'll answer. But it'll likely be with something really cool.

Like rainbow carrots.



© by scj

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Surfin' Spies

I have discovered a sure-fire antidote to the poison of anxiety and stress: play, and lots of it.

Play helps me to live in the present rather than dwelling on the past, worrying about the future, or living in the land of "If Only" ("If only this day were over"; "If only my body were more toned"; "If only I had more money"). The present is full of gifts I miss when I'm not living fully in the moment. But when I notice and engage the gifts of the present, I begin to see how much goodness and grace God put in the world, my body, and soul. These reminders of God's goodness and grace buoy my trust in him. And it's trust in God that ultimately quiets my anxious heart.

(You can read a short article I wrote about play as a spiritual discipline here).

So last weekend, after several weeks of stress-inducing mishaps, I played like it was going out of style. Like really: my friends and I got after it. Thank goodness for friends who instigate play on the reg.

Sometimes we are so excited to see each other that we greet each other with erratic jumping and cheering, as we are in this picture

More enthusiastic greetings 

A group of my closest friends and I started the weekend with a bang: we barbecued, chatted about life, and then, when the moon was full, we danced like it was 2003.

Dancing in the dark in the living room (photo taken from outside, through the window)


Dancing is the spice of life. Well, that and bacon. Dancing while eating bacon might just launch me into a state of unparalleled euphoria. We should all get together and try it sometime.

I love how much my friends love each other. And I love them:


Also, I'd forgotten how much fun dogpiles are. Everyone should try to have a dogpile at least once a year. I'd show you a picture of our especially large dogpile this weekend, but dogpiles tend to showcase lots of bums, jean-clad though they may be. And we can't have pictures of bums floating around on here, now can we? You can head over to the Pioneer Woman for that:  ;)

http://thepioneerwoman.com/blog/2013/06/interview-with-a-cowboy/

After our living room dance party, I headed to a friend's house for a slumber party. Oh the delights of slumbering in a new place with good friends. And then, after a hearty breakfast with my girls, we met up with some other folks and headed to the beach for a friend's birthday.

It was a glorious day. Blue skies, warm sun, gentle breeze. It was the perfect day to learn how to surf.

Heading to the beach!


Enough surf boards to go around

And so learn to surf is exactly what I did.


For ten years I've wanted to learn to surf. But in college my track scholarship precluded surfing, in grad school I was too busy for weekend relaxin', and the last four years I've been too sick to learn. But last weekend, I finally did it. And you guys, surfing is one of life's true delights.

My friend Laura was my teacher. She is my adventurous, sporty friend and I love playing with her.

Laura and I

It turns out surfing is a great sport for former hurdlers since both sports require a lot of balance. I was surprised at how readily my body took to surfing. The hardest part was paddling through the bigger waves. It was tiring. And the cramping! Oh the cramping! I should probably do some strength training before my next surf trip....

And the bruises, oh the bruises! I've been finding them all over my body since my surfing debut. I didn't have any bad falls or collisions with my board so I can only figure that the bruising is from smacking against the board whilst paddling through big waves. There is so much bruising on my body, and there was so little violence in the water, that I'm beginning to wonder if I have an iron deficiency. Hey, any excuse to eat lots of steak, Jack.

Oh the bruises!

Eventually our beach day came to an end, and we made plans to grab dinner. Except wait: we discovered one of our friends, C, was going on a first date that evening with a guy she'd met online. All of my single friends know the agony of an online-facilitated first date, so we decided to help C out a bit.

"We'll come spy on you," we said. "If you need to end the date early, we'll be your moral support. And if you're into this guy, then we'll make sure he knows how awesome you are."

One friend chimed in, "Yeah, I'll walk up to you both mid-date and say, 'Wow, I couldn't help but notice what amazing you chemistry you two have. You're such a cute couple!'"

Another male friend said, "And then I'll come up and ask you out on a date when your date is walking back from the bathroom so he knows how desirable you are."

"Guys," C said amiably, "You're welcome to spy on us. This will be fun."

So we showed up at the designated restaurant that evening and sat ourselves where we could watch the date unfold.

Here is the moral support crew:




We have several photos of us with C and her date in the background. We also have several photos of us gals in the bathroom with C. When we girls noticed her heading for the ladies room, we flew out of our seats and met her for a mid-date debrief. And then we coached her through ending the date, which wasn't floating her romantic boat.

You guys, I love spying on friends who are on dates with folks they met online. I love being secretive. I love wearing all black (well, that was unintentional). I love analyzing the body language of the date participants and trying to figure out what they're talking about. I love covert bathroom powwows. This stuff is my jam, yo.

C discovered she loved having us there for moral support, too. So my friends and I decided to create a "moral support crew" sign up sheet that ensures each of us has a team of friends in the restaurant when we are on a first date.

Isn't that a great idea?

You should totally try it, all of you who still have to go on agonizing first date after agonizing first date. It will probably revolutionize your experience.

And there you have it: a weekend of play. Boy was it good for my soul.

I hope your weekend (and your Wednesday) was full of play, too!

Haaaaapy middle-of-the-week!


-SJ


© by scj