Friday, May 31, 2013

A most glorious weekend

Grading, grading, grading. I've been buried in it all week. But it hasn't been bad at all, because I had a glorious weekend.

It started with this:

Brunch on the patio

And then led to this:

Which was followed by this:
Impromptu photoshoot!

Which was followed by this:

Which ended with this:

Grading should always be preceded by loads of fun, don't you think?

Happy weekend, All. I hope it's a glorious one.


© by scj

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Keep on

This is a follow up to yesterday's post.

Yesterday I had to venture out of my private little work cocoon to my office at the university. And then I had to venture out of my quiet little office to the duplicating center across campus.

The walk from my office to the duplicating center is about 150 meters. This means the roundtrip from office to duplicating center is less than 1/4 mile.

And guess how many times I laughed aloud, to myself, by myself over the duration of that less-than-1/4-mile journey?


Students in close proximity: you're welcome for giving you something to laugh about during finals week.

It was like every 50 meters Life reached her fingers out and tickled my little soul.

Keep on tickling, Life; keep on a-ticklin'.

Here's wishing you a day full of tickling, too.


© by scj

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


This month a doctor discovered that my body isn't producing the folic acid my cells need to keep a-runnin' smoothly. So she prescribed large daily doses of live folate, with the hope that my cells will begin functioning normally and be able to more quickly and efficiently repair the bodily systems the Epstein Barr virus affected three years ago.

I've been faithfully taking the live folate for a week and half now, and praying that it will facilitate continued healing. I've been expecting that, if works, I'll have sustained energy, clear thinking, a stronger immune system, and happy organs and glands.

What I didn't expect was the accompanying laughter.

It's no secret that I have a habit of talking aloud to myself. I'm a verbal processor, and I've spent years watching my dad talk aloud to himself. Between nature and nurture I didn't stand a chance at being a non-talker-to-myself-alouder.

As a result of the last few years' illness, I've added "laughing aloud by myself to myself" to my list of quirks. That's what happens when you're too sick to have much contact with friends. You just become your own friend.

It's been a tough few years, though, and so I definitely did a lot more talking to myself than laughing to myself. And when I did laugh, it was the shallow kind. You know, the kind that comes from your chest, not your belly.

And then I started taking live folate.

And suddenly I'm laughing fit to kill — we're talking deep, gut-wrenching laughter – a couple of times a day. By myself. In my studio. With the windows open. Let's just hope the neighbors assume I have company.

Thank goodness I've been doing a lot of working from home this week, lest I scare the sweet, innocent little boys and girls who are out and about. It's just an imaginary friend, kids. He's really funny, and makes me laugh a lot. His name is Live Folate.

Now I can't be sure that the live folate is to thank for the recent, deepest belly laughs. Alone. In my room.

Side note: Every time I say or write "in my room" I feel I must add,

"Chancho. When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. It's for fun."

(Name that amazing, totally awesome, most-fun-to-quote movie).

There are lots of other things that could be contributing to my regular belly laughs this week. But I think it's that my cells are happy. Because if there's one thing I've learned, it's that when your body's broken you don't feel like yourself. And since I've felt more emotionally myself this week than I have since before the illness, I'm guessing it's thanks to some happy cells working their healing magic.

Thank you, Live Folate, for such a jovial week. It's been an unexpected and lovely treat.


© by scj

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lock your doors

This post is part 2 to "A good old fashioned frame-up"

Lock your doors, people. The Flamingo bandits are on the prowl. Or fly.

Nope. Prowl sounds better. They're on the prowl. Also, I'm not sure if flamingos can fly.

After sticking my parents' yard with hundreds of plastic forks that were probably the booty from a catering company heist, the band of bedraggled flamingos that found sanctuary on my parents' Washington lawn during my visit two weeks ago has prowled south to the paradise that is my home.

Just this weekend I spotted them while biking along the Newport Beach boardwalk.

There were no forks to be seen.

But rest assured: soon there will be forks.

This is because the pink perps were poised and prepared to pilfer the forks from a bake sale that was bustling with business on the other side of the board walk.

"HIDE YOUR FOOOOORKS!!!" I shouted to the unsuspecting bake sale girls as I zoomed by on my beach cruiser.

Well, that's what I shouted in my head, anyway. I've been working on trying to hide my crazy in public places.

My blog isn't a normal, face-to-face, people-bustling about public place, though.

And who knows where the flamingo bandits will be headed next.

So I need to take a moment to warn all of you:


© by scj

Friday, May 17, 2013

My storage closet

About once a month I walk out to the storage closet on the far side of my patio, usually with a little fear and trepidation.

I tentatively crack open the door, and then jump to the side as half a dozen empty cardboard boxes come tumbling to my feet. 

They used to hold the warranteed (new word?) appliances in my studio, and even though I’ve lived here for two years I can’t get rid of them. Not yet. 

Who knows but that my food processor will go on the fritz, or my electric kettle will give one last feeble whistle, and I’ll have to pack them up and return them, and wish I had their original boxes. So I keep them. I like to be prepared in the face of disaster. Which would explain why I have exactly eleven cans of corn in my pantry, and a golf ball and pair of pliers in my purse. Because, well, you just never know. 

When the boxes have settled, I shuffle through the rubble and step into the closet, apologizing to any spiders I may accidentally step on. Gardening has cultivated in me a strange affinity for daddy long legs. At my feet are the bags of recycling I need to take down to the collection center. To my right are stacks of plastic bins. 

I swipe my finger across the dusty top of a bright purple bin, and then pop off its lid and peer inside.  There are piles of picture books and math manipulatives leftover from the years I taught third grade. I smile, and, of course, remember. 

I remember how I wrapped a red fleece blanket around my shoulders and fastened it on with a paper clip one afternoon when the AC was too high. My students looked up from their writing, chortled with glee, and started calling me Super Jackson. 

And so we did all sorts of heroic things together that year, like jump over chairs, squash mosquitos, and work division problems that took up the whole.entire.whiteboard.

I’m chuckling now, and my mind is racing, tripping over memories lying in dusty piles.

The cardboard boxes at my feet remind me of the time I had a to carry a flattened box from my classroom to the school office during recess.  I remember the little feet scampering across the pavement, and bright eyes wide with desire.

“Can we help, Miss Jackson, can we?!”

The box can’t weigh more than three pounds, but I tell them of course they can help because I love 'em, and I like having them around. And so ten little hands grip and hoist, and together we waddle slowly across the playground. 

As we shuffle I’m thinking about the days I grip and hoist and feel the weight of the world on my shoulders—the days I’m convinced God can’t do without me, and boy, if I fail him life will crumble to a million little pieces like the first loaf of gluten-free bread I ever made. And then it hits me all over again that he doesn’t need me to change the world, but includes me in the world-changing work he’s already doing because he is generous, and good, and keen to be near me. 

And gosh, what was it I came to get from the closet, again?

My suitcase. That’s right. Because I’m flying to my parents’ house in Vancouver, Washington. And so I move aside the case for the guitar I’m learning to play, and reach for the sage green suitcase way in the back. 

And then I push my memories back into the closet, and lug my suitcase into my breezy studio across the patio bricks warming quickly in the California sun.

© by scj

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nothing quite like it

Heavens to Betsy, if I had a foot-tall yard gnome, I'd set him next to this pile of grading so you could see that it is, well, one foot tall.

But I'm fresh out of yard gnomes, which is bewildering to me considering all of the lawn ornaments my friend, G, has left me over the years.

Soon I will be plowing through my *large* pile of grading with sweet summer within arm's reach. Until then, I have some blogging to catch up on, because I haven't finished writing about my trip to Washington.

After my speaking responsibilities were over, I was free to enjoy two glorious days of rare spring sun and warmth.

So I threw on my leather,

put on my riding face,

and hopped on the back of G's motorcycle.

It was the perfect evening for a ride. The air smelled like my childhood, and the snow-capped mountains towered tall and stately on the very clean, smogless horizons.

We cruised through all the best parts of my hometown, reminiscing about the days when we didn't have any wrinkles and our triceps didn't wag. Okay, when my triceps didn't wag. G is in no danger of that happening anytime soon. Some people have all the luck.

Just as the sun was setting we pulled up to my high school track, and hopped off. Some of my best memories were made on that track, and I wanted to revisit them slowly.

So we ran down the hill looking like bobble-heads,

and starting snapping sunset shots.

And oh!, the smell of that track. There's nothing quite like it.

The next day, Brosef (who'd just flown in from Virginia) and I threw some bikes on the back of the car and cruised through the countryside to a beloved bike path.

There's nothing quite like cruising through the countryside with the windows down and the music blaring.

Twenty minutes and 30 kleenexes later, I remembered that all you allergy-prone Washington folk daily pay a price for all that green, green, green. *AAAAAaaachoooo!* I'm beginning to realize the benefits of living in a not-so-green state.

All the sneezing was worth it though. Because that bike ride was one of the most breath-taking I've had in the last decade.

I wish my pictures did it justice.
But they don't.

So the next time I trek north and hop on a bike, you'll have to hop in my suitcase and see for yourself.

One of the highlights was a detour my brother and I took to the creek.

Isn't my brother handsome? He's single ladies, and ready to mingle. However, I am not ready for him to mingle. He's hardly old enough, after all; it was just yesterday that we were pretending his outie bellybutton was an elevator button that carried us to the seventh floor.

Yep, there's nothing quite like riding through verdant countryside with the sun on your back and your hilarious brother at your side. Nothing.

I'm ready to go back for another visit.

© by scj

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day, Mamasita

In my family's house, we are prone to make up songs as we sing them. In Spanish. Of course only two of us actually speak Spanish, so they end up being an innovative combination of Spanish, French and English. You might call it Spenchlish.

Take for example this song we occasionally sing for my mother to a pulsing Latin beat:

Costa Rica;
Pica pica pica!!!
I love you.

My mother does not discriminate against incoherent, extemporaneous singing. In fact, she is known to begin Salsa dancing to our spontaneous Latin beats. This is because my mom is the best.

It is for her salsa dancing, silly song-loving self that I love her mucho grande. That and a million other reasons.

Here are just a few:

She sees the funny in life's tense, dramatic moments. And her laugh is

She's loves to learn and try new things. Since I have known her my mom has taken tap dance lessons, conga drum lessons, ballet lessons, French and German classes, and there are others, I'm just forgetting them.

She is tenacious. If the t.v. is malfunctioning, she'll figure out how to fix it. If she has a to-do list a mile long and she's running on three hours of sleep, she'll complete it. If her meniscus is torn, she'll run anyway. I have come to know that if there is a problem I can't solve, my mom can and will.

She makes a mean batch of gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free scones.

She asks the best questions. If I'm struggling to figure out what my next career steps should be, she'll ask the perfect question to help me figure it out. If I can't decide if I should date a particular guy, her questions will help me probe my heart until I have direction. She is the bestest life coach.

She is a loyal and patient confidant.

Her creativity and innovation know no bounds. Nobody can make a cowboy outfit out of a paper bag like my mom can. Nobody.

Gosh there's more. (And you can read more here).

But for now, I'll leave you with this:

bo bama
fi fy fo fama
tu fama
oh tu fama
is of a mama

Happy Mother's Day!

I love you,


© by scj

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coffee with cream

I have never figured out how to pack lightly for a trip. I almost always have a suitcase the size of a small whale, and three carry ons, each the size of a baby sea lion. It is a miracle if I make it onto the plane without accidentally hitting a fellow passenger in the head with my sea lion luggage.

Once my luggage is stowed away and I've settled into my seat, I enjoy watching the rest of the plane board. I have this fantasy that one day a tall, single man with kind eyes will board the plane, make his way back to his seat, and then, wow, what do you know, realize that his seat is right next to mine.

In my fantasy, he notices that I'm reading Dallas Willard's Divine Conspiracy and asks if I've read Willard's Renovation of the Heart, too. At which point I say, yes, yes, I will marry you. Just tell me when and where.

Actually, we end up talking easily for the entirety of the flight, and realize that we live in neighboring towns and have mutual friends. We also happen to have a lot of common interests, but we're still different. Really different. Because different is the spice of life. Just before landing he asks for my number, and I gladly give it.

But I've never seen a tall single man with kind eyes on any of my flights, and so I just stick to people watching, sleeping, and engaging in conversations with the non-tall-single-with-kind-eyes-folks in my aisle.

Today I observe as the flight attendant offers the elderly, foreign man across the aisle from me a water bottle.

"Eez three?" he croaks.

"Pardon?" says the flight attendant.

"Eez three?" He sounds like the Godfather lost in the desert without a water bottle. Except with a Swedish/Portuguese/German accent.

Ah, yes, yes it is free.

The older man gratefully takes the bottle, opens its top with a *pop* and takes a gulp.

I gulp too — the misty-eyed kind of gulping. Because I find myself wondering who he is, and how he came to be on a plane by himself in a foreign country at the age of almost-90.

I also think of days that make my spirit is especially weary and parched— the days when Jesus draws in close and offers my soul living water.

"Is it free?" I'm prone to croak, raspy with thirst.

And every time he smiles yes, yes it's free. But still, I have trouble believing it.

And I wonder if this man's soul is thirsty, too.

A few minutes pass and I notice his fingers are too stiff and gnarled to open his trail mix. So I offer to open it for him, and then ask him where he's from. He tells me he's from Brazil, but his thick accent makes me wonder how many languages he speaks. He tells me seven.

We decide to speak in Spanish since his English is so poor.

Then he tells me about his wife who died two years ago from dementia. He says he's ready to go now — there's nothing about his life that seems worth hanging around for. But his life with her, well, it was good.

He tells me they met working in a restaurant in Sweden over 60 years ago. She was beautiful. So he jokingly asked her what she'd say if he asked her to marry him.

Two weeks later she comes to him and says, I've given it some thought, and I will marry you. But I was joking! he says. Too late, she replies. I like you. And we're getting married.

So he tells her he'll take her on a date first. "Where shall we go?" she asks.

My new friend lowers his voice and cups his mouth, preparing to tell me a secret.

"I tell her I like Italian opera" he whispers.

Then he throws back his head and laughs, his eyes crinkled with mirth. I laugh too, because secrets are such fun.

He regains his composure, and for the rest of the flight regales me with stories of life with his wife.

As he talks I notice that his eyes mirror his face. They are brown and warm, like coffee with cream — the same hue as his weathered skin. They are lined with a thin ring of silver that matches the silver hair framing his face with wispy tufts. I think I see kindness mixed into his coffee with cream, and I imagine his warm eyes filled his little wife right full to brimming.

And I think to myself how nice it is when men have kind eyes.

© by scj

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

*A lot*

My dad is a voracious reader. He likes history, theology, westerns, biographies, and a good mystery. He also likes Peter King, columnist for Sports Illustrated, whom he often reads on his iPad.

Just how much does he like him?

Well, a lot:

Those of us in the same room as dad while he's reading his column like Peter King a lot, too.

© by scj

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A good old fashioned frame-up

I'm sitting on the deck at my folks' house right now, soaking up some rare Washington sun. My lungs are happy to be filled with smogless air. The birds in the backyard are just as happy as I am, and their twittering is accompanied by the sound of wind rushing through the aspen. I'm in love.

I'm up here to speak at a women's conference that ended yesterday. I've spent half of my visit hunched over a computer preparing my talks, and the other half speaking to a few hundred women (on Friday evening and Saturday morning), and enjoying their lovely company.

When I haven't been speaking, or preparing to speak, I've been kissing flamingos. Naturally.

Wouldn't you?

Yesterday morning I awoke before the sun to finish preparing my talk for the conference that day. About an hour into my prep, I walked sleepily upstairs to make breakfast and a cup of tea.

Sometime between scrambling a few eggs and boiling a pot of fresh water, my mom and I noticed something pink showing through the glass panel of the front door.

We cracked open the door, and there, pulled through and wrapped around the door handle, was a rather sorry-looking inflatable flamingo.

And then, just beyond the front walkway, we noticed two more flamingos, and a yard full of forks.

"This," my mom laughed, as she pulled the flamingo out of the door, "is the handiwork of G."

G is a friend from high school and college. He is the friend with whom I earned my only ever Saturday school. He's also had a habit, these last ten years, of leaving rather eccentric lawn ornaments on our front lawn. If you've read my blog for long, then you've met my very favorite lawn ornaments, Mr. Duck, and Skunkie, comforter of the sick and world traveler extraordinaire.

Well I'm in town, and G knows it because we were hoping to go for a spin on his motorcycle this weekend. He also has my parents' new address.

Enter: awakening to a very tired-looking flock of flamingos.

I laughed with delight upon the discovery of our brightly-feathered friends, and walked outside, only to find one more flamingo lying in a bush on the far side of the lawn, splayed with obvious exhaustion from the long flight to Vancouver.

I felt he deserved a kiss.

As for the forks, well, there must have been hundreds of them. I'm not sure how and why a flock of flamingoes happened across so many forks. Perhaps they had grand plans to help us throw a large Cinco de Mayo feast. Or maybe they robbed a catering company, and landed on our lawn for sanctuary. Or maybe there is a state-wide flamingo war and cutlery are the weapons of choice.

Whatever the case, we will be holding a fork sale today at three, for any who are interested.

I searched the lawn for clues revealing why and how these flamingos-bearing-forks came to rest in my folks' yard. This is what I found:

'B' as in 'Boy [you went to high school with]'? Or 'Booty [from our catering company heist]'? Or 'Bullets [for our fork guns]'?

I also found a flower.

Meaning...we come in peace? Or, we are sorry for the loss of your clean, tidy front yard? Or we hope you'll let us stay awhile?

I decided to get to the bottom of it, so I texted G to see if he was behind it all. And this is what he texted back:

"I'm afraid it's a copycat criminal using my calling card. A good old fashioned frame up."

So it wasn't G...which means we have a 'Who done it?' mystery on our hands, folks.

My favorite.

Whoever the culprits are, I like 'em.

© by scj