Thursday, March 27, 2014

Santa Bah-bah-ra Town

This is my friend Laura celebrating her 31st birthday last weekend:

Let me tell you a story about Laura.

Three years ago, a month before I was supposed to get married, I was suddenly without a place to live as a result of canceling my wedding and subsequent plans to live with a husband. I was devastated, numb, and sicker than words can say but desperate for a place to live, so I plowed through the search process.

The week I scoured the internet for housing, Laura and her roommates advertised their open, ready-to-rent room. I contacted Laura, met her, and really liked her, but realized soon after that I was sick too sick to live with roommates. I needed the silence of solitude.

A year later I was still sick and desperately lonely. It is hard to make friends in a new town when you can hardly leave your house. So I decided I'd muster up every last ounce of energy to go out with friends once a month. But how in tarnation I was supposed to make friends to go out with when I was too sick to go out more than once a month was beyond me.

So I begged God to give me friends. I pointed him to pictures I'd stumbled upon on Facebook of single Christians having fun together, and asked God if I could please please please meet these people.  

The days slipped by, my prayers piled up and no friends magically showed up at my door.

One day my begging turned to ragged sobs. "God," I cried, "you have to bring me friends. You just have to."

A few hours later, I forced myself out of bed to go teach one of my two mornings at Biola, and I ran into Laura. "Hey, we know each other!" she said. We chatted, and then she invited me to her house the next day to watch Anne of Green Gables with some other girls. I think I may have cried right then and there.

From then on, Laura included me. She introduced me to her friends and invited me to events. And when I had to turn her down most of the time because of my illness, she didn't forget about me like most people do. She remembered, and reached out, until years later, I had a community — the same single Christians I'd seen in the pictures on Facebook.

Laura is special. She is an others-centered includer and her friendship has changed my life. I'm so thankful for her, and am glad God's given her 31 years of gracing his green earth.

To celebrate Laura's birthday, a small group of us girls went to Santa Barbara for the day. It was a glorious day full of sea breezes, cascading bougainvillea, and rolling hills.

Our first stop was downtown Santa Barbara, where we wandered through the Mediterranean-style buildings people-watching and taking pictures.

After we'd whet our appetites for street musicians, shopping, and people-watching, we walked to the pier. It was a very silvery scene:

Silvery sky...

...and silvery sea. Can you see the silvery tide racing across the sky trying to beat the ocean's tide to the sand in the picture below?

If I were a rock n' roll star, this would be my signature move:

After we'd taken jumping pictures to our hearts' content, we drove up out of the clouds and into the sunny hills to go wine tasting. The winery was beautiful. I felt as if I'd been transported to France.

Side note: Once, when driving through France with my family, we stopped in the middle of the night at a truck stop so my dad, who was driving, could take a nap. The car was so full of luggage that there was no room for any sort of lounging, so my brother and I hopped out of the car and slept on the sidewalk in front of the bathrooms. It was the best night of sleep I got on the road, and remains one of my favorite memories of France.

Our goal was to beat the sun to the beach after wine tasting so we could have a sunset picnic, so when the sun began to sink we raced back down the hill to the sand where we enjoyed a quiet dinner.

On the way home later that night, I marveled that my body had made it through the day. I'd hesitated to RSVP to the outing because I didn't know if my body would be able to handle the festivities of an all-day affair, but I've felt so healthy the last several weeks that I decided to take the risk and go. And I made it without relapsing during or afterwards. It's a crazy thing, this healthy feeling. I'm not clinging to it or counting on it lasting, but just enjoying the right now that feels so good. I love it.

My health and this birthday trip: they were the perfect way to kickstart spring.

© by scj

Monday, March 24, 2014

True Tales: in which I list true things

Today I'd like to tell you some true things.

True thing #1: Yesterday, on the way to a birthday party, I began writing a text to a friend that went like this: "Do you mind bringing a roll of toilet paper for me to the party tonight? I'm out of t.p. at home and won't have time to buy any tonight." It took awhile to type coherent sentences because my carpool was whipping around corners like he was reliving his childhood Nascar fantasy, but finally, after a few fumbling minutes, I'd typed it. And then, without a second thought, I sent it. I actually sent it.

True thing #2: Old age has whittled away my sense of texting dignity.

True thing #3: My friend showed up to our friend's birthday party with a roll of toilet paper in her purse.

True thing #4: I have a true friend.

True thing #5: I got so caught up in the festivities of the birthday party that I forgot to get the roll of toilet paper from my friend.

True thing #6: I convinced my carpool to stop at the store on the way home from the party so I could buy toilet paper. Actually, it didn't take any convincing as he is amicable and generous and doesn't think late night spur-of-the-moment toilet paper runs are at all inconvenient.

True thing #7: I wore wool socks with flip flops into the store to get toilet paper. Even still, my friend came into the store with me and walked beside me and talked to me, unfazed.

It dipped into the 60's last night, requiring that I don five layers.

True thing #8: I have two true friends.

True thing #9: I sure do know how to dress for a party.

True thing #10: Yesterday, before the party, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I turned and saw a stranger, wearing a Nike sweatshirt, sitting casually and confidently in my leather chair.

True thing #11: It wasn't a stranger:

True thing #12: My mama was right: it's always a good idea to hang your clothes up when you're done wearing them.

True thing #13: Yesterday, before I nearly jumped out of my skin, I laid beneath my window eating chips. Normally I lounge and eat chocolate when I'm sabbathing, and normally I am used to finding flecks of melted chocolate on my person throughout the day. But yesterday I munched too vigorously and a chip crumb flew through the air and landed in my eye.

True thing #14: It was triangular crumb. A very, very acute triangular crumb. As in, there were no obtuse angles. As in, all the angles were very, very acute.

True thing #15: I'll take flecks of melted chocolate on my person over pointy triangular chip crumbs in my eye any day.

True thing #16: Once, my sister and I ate two pounds of bacon in one morning.

True thing #17: I love bein' all growed up.

True thing #18: I like ya. All of ya. And I hope you have a toilet paper and bacon-filled Monday.

© by scj

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Yesterday I woke up quite dizzy, or, as a Siri put it when I texted a response to a friend who'd asked how I was feeling, "fizzy."

I have been drinking a lot of fizzy water with lime lately. It makes drinking water so tropical. So unexpected. So celebratory. So fun.

Water "con gas," as the Italians like to call it, feels like a party in the mouth. Incidentally, water "con gas" does not sound like a party in the mouth. It sounds more like a party in the...well, you know what I mean.

Sorry, I had to. Blame it on the dizziness.

Siri's mis-type got me wondering: is the source of all this dizziness actually fizziness? Is it possible to overdo it on water con gas? Do all of the bubbles gather and rise like a fizzing bomb that explodes once it reaches the inner ears?

It's a question for the ages. Or my doctor. Or you guys and gals.

What do you do for vertigo? Of the myriad health problems I've had over the years, vertigo is not one of them. I don't know what to do, and it's proven to be pretty incapacitating — it's made it impossible to drive, work or do anything else that requires remaining upright for more than a second, like preparing food.

For example, last night, while talking to my brother on the phone, I got up to get food from the kitchen and promptly veered into my dresser instead.

"Ugh, this feels so yucky. I'm tired of it," I complained.

"Don't get up!" my brother responded.

"But I need to eat some vegetables; I've eaten little besides chips and ice cream today."

"Woooah, Saaarah!"

"They're the only foods I have that don't require prep; I can eat them in bed," I defended myself.

"Sarah, perhaps you misread my tone; that wasn't a tone of disapproval, it was one of great admiration!"

Little brothers are "the beeest" (*insert hispanic accent* and name that movie).

Coconut ice cream and plantain chips are also the best. Especially with a side of water con gas. Unless. Wait. Could too much ice cream and chips cause dizziness?




P.S. I feel like one of those flies that has been disoriented by the fly contraption that sends out dizzying signals to discombobulate insects so they can be more easily killed (or captured and released outside), and is flying in circles and crashing into walls and windows.

Do those contraptions exist? Or did I just make them up? I cannot seem to find said fly contraption via google. Help again!

© by scj

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My favorite California experience soaker up-er

On Wednesday, after our girls' weekend in Arizona, my sister flew to Orange County to visit me for several days. Since then, we've been soaking up the southern California experience. She's my favorite California experience soaker up-er.

Our first adventure was a trip to Disneyland, where we rode Splash Mountain for the first time in almost 20 years. Our goal was to have fun, without anxiety, uncertainty, or overwhelming terror:

Circa 1995

This time around we laughed and squealed and didn't feel an ounce of terror.

Okay, maybe one ounce. Or two.

But it was still a blast.

This trip to Disneyland was the best I've ever had, besides my first trip when I was 11. It's likely that that trip will always remain the mother of all Disneyland trips.

Here's how it happened: Mom and dad loaded all four of us, ages 11, 9, 7, and 5, into our 9-seater station wagon and drove 18 hours to the California/Mexico border to visit family. God bless mom and dad. That must have been a drive for the history books, particularly the chapter entitled, "Unending misery and overwhelming regret," although dear mom and dad have never even insinuated that the trip was anything but fun.

On the way back, while passing through Orange County, my parents got off the freeway and told us they had a surprise for us.

I pressed my nose to the car window, scanning the streets, looking for clues to help me piece together the surprise. I saw a restaurant with a thatched roof — would we enjoy an Austrian dinner of sausage and french fries? I saw a string of hotels — would we stay in one with a my most favorite hotel feature: a swimming pool?

And then I saw it. Sleeping Beauty's castle, standing tall and magical on the horizon. I squealed with delight. Within seconds four little blond waifs were squealing and shouting and hopping as far out of their seats as their seat belts would let them.

It was the delight of the decade.

Rebecca and I both agreed this week's Disneyland experience was a close runner up to our first Disneyland surprise.

The lines were short, the sky was cloudless, there was a nice breeze, and I had my seester at my side.

Indiana Jones was our favorite "big" ride; we opened and closed the day with it

This is the first time I've been to Disneyland since I got sick 3.5 years ago, and I was in awe of my body throughout the day. It's been feeling remarkably strong the last 6 weeks, and I was able to walk around the park, go up and down stairs, and wait in multiple lines without fatigue or sickness taking over.  The energy and health made me feel like a girl again. That's the best way to feel in Disneyland.

Another of the week's happy highlights was riding bikes in Newport Beach. The sun. The sea. The sand. We were all smiles.

We had quite a time trying to take a selfie whilst riding bikes down a crowded boardwalk. It almost resulted in a number of accidents, and was great entertainment for traffic coming the opposite direction, as one older man informed us

We had plans to enjoy Laguna Beach to finish out the week, but all our traveling and fun-ing in the sun caught up to us, and we started to feel unwell. So instead of hitting the sand, we opened all my bungalow's windows and laid in bed resting, sucking throat lozenges and  listening to the wind in the trees outside.

It was as lovely a way to feel lousy as we could think of: just my sister and I, watching the sun dance through the window panes.

And then, just like that, the week was over and we were back in our respective homes and work routines. Until next month, when I will take a week to visit my family up north. Woo hoo!

Happy Tuesday, dear ones!


© by scj

Monday, March 17, 2014

[Paranoia] and Adventures

Yesterday I noticed a rather long leaf that I'd tracked into the house. On second thought, it was a very, very long leaf. On third thought, it was a lizard. On fourth thought, it was a lizard that looked like it had been born of a lizard who married a snake. It was a very slithery, yucky lizard.

I quickly dumped out my box of grading and stealthy snuck up on the lizard, slamming the box over him with a nervous, "Got ya!"

Minutes later I stood staring at the box, unsure of what my next steps would be. I supposed I would have to stick my hand under the box, grab the guy, and release him into the great outdoors. I reluctantly pulled some gloves on and grabbed a wad of paper towels wrapped in plastic with which to carry the critter. I intended to keep at least eight layers between his scales and my skin.

But I couldn't lift the box. Instead, I stared at it, frozen and silent. I trembled with anxiety. I shuddered with revulsion. I marched to the neighbors and asked if they could help me.

They agreed to help, and walked bravely into my house carrying an old record sleeve entitled, "Christmas Cheer."

"I'm not keen on touching that thing, so I'm going to slip this cardboard sleeve under the box and carry it outside" one of them said.

And that's exactly what he did. And we all lived cheerfully ever after.

Until this morning when I was awakened by an earthquake.

In my stupor, I thought a huge Samson-esque man was trying to break in, and was rocking the house while doing so. It was the most sensible explanation I could come up with at the time.

The night was full of sensible explanations. Earlier last night, I'd awakened and looked to the floor where my sister, who had been staying with me all week, slept while she was here.

But she wasn't there.

I panicked, assuming she'd been abducted. My surge of adrenaline cleared my head of the sandman's stupor-inducing magic, and I remembered that my sister had flown back to Portland the day before. (Tomorrow I shall blog about our sunny adventures).

So I went back to sleep. Until the earthquake awakened me.

And now I'm wondering what the day will hold. Adventures, no doubt.

Happy Monday, my friends!


© by scj

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday thoughts: the "up-the-nose" angle

I have recently discovered the most unflattering camera angle of all time: the "up-the-nose" angle.

I discovered this when I met a "date" on Skype for the first time a couple weeks back. [side note: he was a nice guy but there was nothing there, Jack; our first Skype date was our last]. 

His computer was on his bed and he sat above it while talking to me, and heavens, I could not for the life of me tell what he really looked like. If you put him in a line-up of men, it is possible I would not be able to identify him. 

I would, however, be able to recognize his nostrils from a mile away.

This has only reinforced my need to keep all cameras pointed my direction at eye level or above. Eye-level is the new sea-level: it must be "used as a standard in [camera] elevation."

I have not always been so mindful of camera angles. In fact, in the past I have been the worst of all "up-the-nose Skypers":

A friend put this collage together after taking pictures of our Skype conversation. It's  a good friend who focuses on your smile when she could focus on your nostrils...

But my newfound resolution to abide by the "eye level" rule has had me pushing through arm cramping, neck kinks, and other bodily discomforts to keep my phone, computer, and camera at eye level when Face-timing, Skyping, or picture-taking, for the viewing protection of those I love, or do not love but may one day love.

In fact, I've taken to asking very tall men to take pictures of me, just to be safe.

And then, several days ago, I got a spot of glue on my favorite sunglasses, smack dab in front of my eyeball. 

I can't remove the glue and these sunglasses are too cute to not wear, so I wear them anyway and just cock my head back so I can see through the bottom half of the lens. It is an up-the-nose sight to behold. 

Beholders, I'm so so sorry.

2. I got snail mail six times last week, and one of the deliveries was a surprise care package from a childhood friend. The delight. The surprise. The general sense of hope for the future, when I will almost certainly get more snail mail.

We should all take a moment of silence this week to write someone a letter and then mail it. Let's do it! Let's! And put a stick of gum in the letter! Everyone likes to get treats with their mail! Better yet, stick in a whole pack of gum!

3. This last weekend my mom, sister and I all met at my grandma's house in Arizona for some girls' time. It was a weekend of sunny patios, freshly squeezed orange juice, fragrant citrus blossom-infused breezes, neighborhood walks, and, of course, shopping. We also managed to squeeze a hike in with all that loveliness.

Dry Warmth: it's the third best medicine, next to laughter and family, of course. 

Prickles and blossoms: spring in the desert is a glorious thing

4. This morning I had breakfast with a colleague, after which I sat in the sun sipping tea and savoring the quiet warmth before class. And then, within minutes, my day became hectic and disorganized and I went on frazzled, holy-cow-I-am-fallible overload, and wondered how I would make it through the week. So I stopped running around looking for my chicken head, and watched puppy videos instead.

You should, too. It helps with the Monday frazzles.

5. Hey, this is a nice rhyme!: "So I stopped running around looking for my chicken head, and watched puppy videos instead."

Sometimes I like a good ol' fashioned rhyming game. Which, according to the "Which Princess Bride character are you?" quiz I took today, means I am Princes Buttercup. I'll take it!

6. The birds outside my window are rejoicing because SPRING IS HERE!!!!

7. Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your day has been spring-y, and that you haven't wasted much time running around looking for your chicken head. It turns out chicken heads are very, very good at hiding. Better to just watch puppy videos. 


Puppy Image Credits:;
© by scj

Monday, March 3, 2014

Fruit Leather: a 7-months-later online dating update

This weekend there were tornado warnings in my area. Given the last month's difficulties on the home front, I braced myself for the worst. 

"Pray for me," I texted my family. "My bungalow may fly off the hill this weekend."

And so I spent much of my weekend inside waiting for the tornado and listening to the rain on my window panes whilst eating chocolate in bed. I figured if my house was going to fly away, I'd at least be as comfortable as possible while I waited. 

[Side note: if you are going to eat chocolate while lying in bed, be prepared to find flecks of melted chocolate on your person throughout the day.]

One of the benefits of my storm-forced lounging is all the time it's allowed me to reflect on recent life events, particularly the online dating adventures of the last seven months — adventures which will come to a close when my subscription ends next month.

Yes, folks, I am hanging up my online dating hat, for now at least. But not without having had some good experiences and learned some helpful lessons. Because, as it turns out, online dating is not as horrible as I thought it would be. 

In fact, my first experience with online dating has been surprisingly fruitful — in the dating sense, not the marital sense. So before you, my loving readers, get your hopes up for me, just know that the fruit eventually withered up and died. But hey, when life gives you dried fruit, turn it into fruit leather. There’s always a silver lining. Or, in this case, an apricot lining.
And if there's one thing I know about fruit leather, it's that it's best when it's shared. So, in honor of my online dating adventure, I'll share with you some of the no-longer-juicy details of my online dating experience, with the hope that they might sweeten your dating endeavors (if you're single and dating, of course), in some small way. 

Fruit leather lesson #1:

A few days into my online dating adventure, I became absolutely, positively, don't-even-think-about-trying-to convince-me-otherwise confident of two things:

A) Breathing exercises (and paper bags) would be my best friend.

B) I wouldn’t meet anyone interesting online; instead, I would meet a bunch of very strange men who were desperate to get married. 

I was right about A, but wrong about B. I did meet someone interesting — someone who'd been reading my blog for awhile and, when he read that I'd joined an online dating site, decided to join the site too, with the hopes of meeting me. [Side-side note: being pursued like this is just so lovely and flattering].

This guy (we'll call him Grayson) lived down the street from me, and had even been on the same campus where I've taught and gone to seminary the last six years. Somehow, though, we'd never met.

Here's the funny thing: long before we met online, I'd seen Grayson's picture on Facebook via a friend's profile, and thought he looked interesting and eligible. So I'd asked God if I could meet him. Months later, Grayson found me online.

I enjoyed getting to know Grayson, even though we didn't end up being a good match. My experience with him defied my expectations about the kind of men I'd meet online. It showed me that, as confident as I was in my abilities to predict the outcome of my dating efforts, I wasn't nearly as omniscient as I thought I was. My dating future wasn't written in dreary stone. God surprised me. 

And he used my relationship with Grayson to do more than teach me about who God is and who he's created me to be, as he always does. Grayson's the one who told me about the little bungalow on the ridge top I eventually moved into, right when I most needed a place to live. Without Grayson's connections, I would never have known about this quiet, beautiful place. 

So it's worth trying new things, like online dating, because God can (and will!) use them in our lives in ways we don't expect. It's worth taking risks, getting outside of our comfort zones, and being vulnerable. God will weave our dating efforts with his sovereign activity to give us life-giving opportunities. We needn't fear a dating life that's destined to predictable mundanity, and we can certainly throw those paper bags away. 

Fruit Leather Lesson #2:

But wait. I'm not ready to throw the paper bags away. Dating continues to be difficult for me, despite the practice the last year has afforded. The energy it often requires, the anxiety it usually provokes, the general sense of loneliness it causes. Except for those rare instances when there's unexpected chemistry and connection, I don't love dating. And I'm getting really good at breathing techniques.

Most of the time, I find I must do self-soothing beyond breathing techniques, though. I must wrap my trembling, introverted self in all sorts of little comforts before a date, such as:

  • fleece pajama pants
  • slippers
  • my bed
  • a hot cup of tea
  • chocolate
  • the Pride and Prejudice sound track

Unfortunately, most guys are not okay with a date who shows up wearing pajamas and slippers whilst hugging her pillow and slurping a cup of hot tea. Which is why I've developed an affinity for self-talk ("You can do it, Cinderelli, you can do it!") and scheduling mid-date phone calls with friends ("Call me one hour into my date, and if I need to be rescued, I'll answer"). Some male friends have even volunteered to come pick me up in the middle of a date wearing suits, sunglasses and ear pieces:

"I'm sorry, we're with the FBI and we need to interrogate Miss Jackson. You'll have to excuse us for the rest of the day; we're going to need her for an indefinite period of time."

And then, a few months ago, I discovered an introvert's dating dream come true: Skype dates. 

Here's how they work: 

1. Decide you're game to meet the out-of-town guy or gal you've been writing the last several days. 

2. Schedule a Skype date. 

3. Minutes before the date pull on a nice top over your pajamas. 

4. Brew a cup of tea. 

5. Position your computer so the guy or gal can't see your [hot pink] pjs and slippers. And hey, climb in bed if you want to!

6. Keep the kettle on the stovetop, just in case. 

7. Talk for 45 minutes — the standard Skype date duration, which is, incidentally, much shorter than the typical in-person date. 

You guys, Skype dates have revolutionized my dating experience. In fact, I'd say it's worth trying online dating just for the Skype dates.

So pull out your pajama pants and a chocolate bar, Jack; your dating life is about to get 100 times easier. 

Fruit Leather Lesson #3:

Laugh. Laugh a lot. Heavens knows online dating will give you plenty of reasons to. And the doctor knows those laughter endorphins will make you happy happy happy, even when when your dating life isn't turning out the way you'd hoped.

And that's all the fruit leather I have for today folks. Thank for sticking around to gnaw on it with me. 

Happy Monday everyone (and happy online dating to all my single readers)!


© by