Saturday, May 16, 2015

Rainy days: a List

1. It's been raining up a storm over here this week. The torrential downpour caught many of us by surprise:

The ol' bag on the head trick. It's a surefire hair-do saver.

2. Sadly, all the storming caused another cactus causality:

One of my succulents is down for the count. I've nursed these little succulents for a couple of years now and have been surprised by how well they've fared in their mason jar homes. Unfortunately, they've flourished a little too well and are now so top heavy I fear another storm might topple them all.

3. I'm happy to report that my replacement for Mella (who replaced George) is still thriving:

Remember Tommy? He is my indoor cactus. Soon after bringing him home and situating him under my northern window, I discovered his full name is "Thomas Melvin," but he prefers to go by "Melvin." The name suits him perfectly as he's everything you'd expect a Melvin to be: quiet, well-mannered, kind and observant.

4. My family of cacti is wonderfully endearing, but Nico, the pup I babysit, has quickly earned my truest love and devotion. I understand now why you dog owners talk about your dogs like they're your kids, send out Christmas cards with pictures of them, and devote entire Instagram accounts to them. Dogs are truly one of the best things of life. I must exercise self control not to post daily photos and videos of little Nico, and I try to make sure my conversations with people are no more than, say, 50% about him.

Since it's been raining this week Nico and I have spent more time inside snuggling. He loves to lie next to me on his back while I rub his belly. He loves it so much that when I stop rubbing he gets up and drapes himself across my stomach, his paws in the air as he waits expectantly for me to continue scratching his belly.

Nico, subtlety is not one of your special gifts.

5. Some of my family members and I video-chatted this week. I was so looking forward to seeing them; however, I ended up seeing very little of them. I did enjoy a rather riotous conversation with a pirate a couple of kitty cats, and a doctor Seuss-ish/Where's Waldo guy, though:

Dad's pirate costume and textual commentary are compliments of his children. Google video chat allows you to draw and insert clip art on the faces of the people in the conversation. It can be an independent or collaborative artistic effort, and the results are always hilarious.

(You're a good sport, dad.)

6. This week my students told me they thought I was a "front row, center seat" kind of student in college. "Most of the time," I responded. "Every now and then I was a 'back row, hood on' kind of student." In those days, there wasn't nothin' like retreating into a good hood when I was tired and wanted to feel inconspicuous. I still love me a good hood, especially on days I wish I could leave the house wearing a disguise. On those days, I wear my APU track and field sweatshirt because it has the best hood in town.

Do you ever feel like you'd rather face the world looking like someone else? Maybe don a mustache and some crazy spectacles before going to the grocery store?

7. Speaking of mustaches. I have a habit of sticking mustaches to random possessions, forgetting I've done it, and then being delightfully surprised when I re-discover them. This here is my Bible-reading journal currently disguised as "Monsieur Pierre."

8. In between this week's storms Los Angeles looked an awful lot like the city of Oz on the distant horizon.

9. Happy weekend, friends of mine! I hope it's full of delights.



© by scj

Monday, May 11, 2015

Puppy Therapy

Everyone, meet Nico, the cutest little pookie face you ever did see:

Nico is my neighbors' dog, but, since they work everyday, and since he's a companion dog who loves people, and since I'm a sick girl who needs puppy therapy, we've arranged for me to babysit him when they're at work.

I am officially a smitten sitter.

Nico knows how to make a girl feel like she's the best thing since a floor full of dinner crumbs. He's also got the hops of a gerbil (seriously, have you ever had a gerbil? Those things can JUMP) so when I let him out of the house, he runs toward me, shaking with delight, and  jumps right into my arms.

Nico is also the snuggler of snugglers. He snuggles in my lap while we watch the sunset. He snuggles next to me while I grade. And last night, in the most endearing act of dog affection on the planet, he came and rested his head on my tummy when I laid down to rest.

I just love him.

Happy Monday, folks. I hope yours was a good one.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj

Friday, May 8, 2015

A May health update: prayer requests

Hi Friends,

Lots of you continue to pray for me. Thank you. There have been many times when I've come to the end of my rope and have been tempted to despair but have instead been filled with inexplicable joy. In those moments I think, "Wow. A lot of people must be praying for me."

I'm thankful to have found some Chinese herbs that have provided some relief. I started taking an herb blend a month ago and have since added another blend. The herbs have generally lessened my dizziness, although I still have regular dizzy episodes in which I feel like my central nervous system is going haywire. It doesn't feel like the herbs are addressing the cause of my dizziness, but they have lessened it enough that I can finish the semester teaching. My other symptoms remain unaffected by the herbs.

Having stretches during which my dizziness is lessened has allowed me to more closely observe my other symptoms. The more I observe and collect data, the more convinced I am that this isn't an inner ear autoimmune disease like one of the doctors wondered, although I could certainly be wrong. Other diseases seem like more likely culprits.

Right now we have two significant pieces of data to make sense of as we try to crack this code: 1) the test results indicating my central nervous is being attacked, and 2) my body's responsiveness to the Chinese herb blends. Because the respective sets of data are from totally different schools of medicine (western medicine versus eastern medicine) none of my current doctors can synthesize it to make sense of it all. I need a doctor who's trained in both western and eastern medicine. Thankfully, in June I'll meet with a doctor in Washington who has an M.D., N.D., and a degree in Chinese medicine. I'm also getting some other tests done this month that will hopefully help him to put the pieces together. You could pray for this doctor if you think of it. He has stage 4 cancer but is still practicing.

This periods of physical relief I've experienced lately are a tremendous blessing, but the support of my community lately is a greater blessing. This week I'm praising God for so many acts of compassion:

  • For the single mom who invited me to stay with her and her kids so I'd have care on my sickest days.
  • For the friend who has put work and school on hold the last year as he undergoes cancer treatment, and who offered to help me pay for a particularly expensive test, despite his own limited finances. 
  • For the friend who offered to drive me six hours north to a lab that does the testing I need.
  • For the friend who asked how she could help me, and got out her notepad and pen of paper to record my response. 
  • For the people who have gone out of their way to gather and pray for me. 
  • For the friend who searched for new housing possibilities for me when I was sickest.
  • For the stranger from my church who has offered to clean up and sell my old car for me. 
  • For the family members who have sacrificed time, resources, and loads of energy to help me navigate this. 
  • For the friends who continue to text, and call, and text some more, even when I'm too tired to respond.  

There are lots of ways God transfigures the darkness into light, and the sweet compassion of of his Body in the midst of difficulties is one of them.

I have more prayer requests this week for those of you who are praying:

 1. Patience. A friend of mine sent my recent test results to his doctor friend to get another perspective, and the doctor responded with a couple of diagnostic possibilities as well as a bit of encouragement: diagnosing a rare disease, if present, can take time. Sometimes it can be a very long process. In the meantime, some of my symptoms continue to progress and I find myself getting frustrated with how slow this process is.

2. Peace. I'm anxious about what's going on in my body and I worry about how it will affect me long-term as it remains untreated, whatever it is. I worry that I won't find the right doctors or get the right tests in time. I also struggle with regret as I wonder if I could've somehow prevented this.

3. Provision. I'm hoping for revealing tests, incisive and insightful doctors, and effective treatment.

4. Power. To get through the day, to complete my responsibilities, to follow through on rather tiring doctors appointments. I'm very weary.

4. Healing. In God's time, in his way.

5. Wisdom for the future. Whatever's happening in my body is pretty incapacitating and I often wonder if I'll be able to continue with my vocational and educational plans. Orange County is where my life is — I have a wonderful group of friends, job, church and school here — but if I don't seem some significant improvement in the next few months then I'm going to have to rethink where I live and what I do. I'd sure love to be able to continue with my plans. I feel such a strong calling to be at Biola teaching and studying.

6. That I'll be able to sell my car quickly. I'd like to get up to my parents' house as soon as I finish teaching this month so I can rest with the support of family, but I can't leave until I sell my car.

7. Housing. It's still looking like I'll have to move, although I'm not sure when. Finding housing in this area that works with my rather specific health-related needs is pretty tough. I also don't feel like I have the capacity to move right now.

8. Fruit. I want God to use this season for good, somehow in some crazy way. I hope he'll use it to make me like him, to encourage the Saints, and to complete his Great Commission. I'd like to be more attentive to the good work he is doing right now.

Thank you, my friends. Praying for you, too. Let me know how I can.

Cheering for ya, Skillets,


© by scj

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Training Regimes

It must've been the 11 meet records, 3 stadium records and 2 school records made at the Bryan Clay Invitational a few weeks ago that got me and my track buddies feeling puh-reeettty ambitious.

"Let's have an alumni competition at next year's Bryan Clay Invitational," said one.

"Yes, and everyone can compete in an event they've never tried before. We can train all year in preparation," said another.

Distance from training must make the heart grow amnesic, because somehow, in spite of the perpetual physical and mental exhaustion we endured during our track years, we all embraced the idea with enthusiasm: "Awesome," we said. Then we each picked our new event with great optimism, and that was that.

Sparks, a former hurdler, will be competing in the long jump next spring. He recently messaged us this video entitled, "Day 1 of training" (if you're on mobile you may not be able to play this epic video):

"Ouch," our coach responded.

"Slacker. I'm on day 3," messaged Bibi, along with this picture:

I will be doing the shot put come April 2016 (naturally) and quickly realized my approach is similar to Bibi's: I intend to increase my girth units.

Also, I'm wiping the white board with extra vigor and doing regular hand-to-mouth reps with various desserts. Watch out shot put contestants, you're not going to know what hit you. No, really. Watch out. I'm afraid I won't be able to hoist the shot put where it's supposed to land and it may accidentally hit you.

Gabe is still biding his time as he figures out what event he'll do. He did, however, dig out some old spikes. I'm guessing something speedy will be in his future.

I don't know if Bryan has decided on an event yet. I do know, however, that he's maintaining his javelin skills in a rather unexpected way:

You go, girl! Keep an eye out for Bryan's tooth-losing daughter; I think it's likely she will be at the 2036 Olympics! Also, Bryan posted this video on twitter last night and within hours it went crazy viral. Made ESPN, the Daily Mail, TMZ. That's pretty fun! (If you're on mobile and this video isn't playing, then click on one of links to see the video).

And there you have it: ridiculous ambition, varied training approaches, and a no-doubt memorable track meet in our future. I'll let you know whose training approach gives them the upper edge...

Happy Wednesday, friends.

Cheering for you, Skillets.


© by scj


This spring has been especially glorious and we're especially happy about it. By "we" I mean this tree and I:

Can you see it? He's doing a cartwheel of joy.

I'm guessing the neighborhood's bougainvillea had something to do with his uncontainable joy. On every block there's a tidal wave of flaming bougainvillea crashing over someone's fence and flooding the neighborhood with color.

I wish my iPhone camera could more accurately capture this color.

These flowers are electric. They look like they've been plugged into the sun and have imbibed some of its light. Come to think of it, I suppose that is sort of what is happening.

The butterflies must know the neighborhood is in bloom because they've been out and about lately. They especially love this dappled gully:

When I took this photo I counted 11 butterflies dancing through the flowers.

This gully is delightful. I love its impish breezes, curious wildlife, and its dry, pine-y scent. Dry pine needles are one of my favorite smells in the whole wide world. They make me want to fly and dance and do back handsprings all at once.

I'm glad spring is so very objectively generous. It doesn't discriminate between the healthy or sick, happy or sad, tired or energetic. Its sun will spread warmth across any face. Its pine-infused breezes will tickle any nose. Its flowers will smile at all passers by, its butterflies will dance for all spectators, and its trees will do cartwheels for anyone who will stop to watch.

It sure was nice of God to pack so much easily accessible grace into the world, wasn't it?

I hope your day is full of cartwheel-worthy moments, my friends.

Cheering for ya, Skillets.


© by scj