Thursday, December 31, 2015


When I was a kid I picked up the idea that it is lame to talk about the weather. I must've read it in one of the books I poured through — that if you want to be a sparkling conversationalist, you should ask people about their work, friendships, activities, pets, families, and hobbies. Ask them about anything but the weather, really. Otherwise, you will drop the conversational ball. At the age of nine, I had aspirations to be a non-converstational-ball-dropper.

The thing is, I like talking about the weather. Weather is great. Sometimes, the afternoons are hot and dry, and the sun's warmth feels like it's wiggled through my skin and muscles and is invigorating my deepest insides. Sometimes, the setting sun turns the clouds to cotton candy (will they rain Skittles?!). Sometimes, the mornings dawn muggy and humid and wrap around me like a big, wet, lotion-y blanket. The weather makes life a grander adventure.

This morning I awoke to blue skies and a frosted world. Crystalline trees winked in the sunlight, and the pond glistened with a thin layer of ice. It was a stunning sight.

I think the Sugar Plumb Fairy must be especially fond of these frosty mornings. It looks like the world's been tipped upside down and dipped in sugar, doesn't it?!

Walking on frosted grass makes the most satisfying crunch. More satisfying, even, than the crunch of garbanzo beans I deep fried yesterday, which is saying a lot, because I fried those babies in bacon grease.

Side note: I've been frying lots of things in bacon grease this month, and it's been rocking my culinary world. My favorite deep-fried item: thinly-sliced shallots. Holy smokes they're amazing.

My parents' neighborhood has a 180-degree view of Washington's finest mountains, but they're often cloaked in clouds so we don't often get to enjoy their beauty. Yesterday, though, we had a rare dose of sun and accompanying mountain vistas.

A close up of the far left side of the panoramic photo above

I wish I'd had my camera and a zoom lens with me so I could've captured the mountainous horizon in all its glory.

But here's the best weather news:

It snowed! A number of us hadn't seen snow in a couple of years, so we were delighted.

It only snowed for a few hours, but we made the most of it.

Catching snowflakes is one of my favorite life activities. For a few minutes, it makes time seem so much slower and life's hard stuff seem far-off. It's a quiet grace.

Happy New Year's Eve, friends.

I hope your celebrations are filled with warm, glowing moments.

Cheering for you, Skillets,


© by scj

Monday, December 28, 2015


A few years ago, my sister babysat a friend's dog the week of Christmas. The dog, a snuggly, fluffy Maltese named Abbie, captured my family members' hearts and convinced me, a former dog skeptic (due to allergies), that dogs are the best animal on the planet.

Our first day with Abbie we decided we should look into buying a Maltese for ourselves, such was our burgeoning love for her.

My brother, the lover of German Shepherds and Labs, protested: "A maltese would not be good for us, guys; we are big dog people, not little dog people." Hours later he found himself negotiating with me to hand over the pup for some snuggle time of his own. "Just five minutes, Sarah. Just let me have her for five minutes."

So you see, Abbie made small dog people out of us all.

None of us ended up buying a dog in her absence, mostly because of dog allergies. But a Christmas hasn't passed since then when I haven't wished little Abbie were visiting. Last week I told my mom I wished her owners would go out of town more. "This Christmas would be a great time to go out of town," I said.

A few days later, my sister came over to stay the week. I'd planned to borrow one of her winter coats, so she set it in my lap shortly after she walked in the door. It was a heavy coat. Heavier than normal. And it was wiggling. What in tarnation? And then: a bright patch of white fur; a wagging tail, and a wet little nose.


She's been here all week, folks, and WE ARE IN SMALL DOG HEAVEN. Well, we were. Yesterday was her last day with us, and now we're all feeling a little sad. We keep having phantom Abbie urges. We find ourselves turning to snuggle her, only to remember she's gone.

We're glad we soaked up every moment with her last week.

Early morning walk at Washington State

Christmas Eve walk
The Poofy Coat Gang with our fierce mascot (missing: the older of my two brothers and his wife)

Oh Abbie. That sweet little face of yours has magical power.

Happy Monday, folks. I hope your Christmas was merry and bright!


P.S. Thanks for praying. I've started taking the first few items in my most recent medical protocol. It's been a rocky start, so I'm especially thankful for your prayers.

© by scj

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A trip to the doctor

There was a time in my adult life when I struggled to take my daily dose of cod liver oil. If you have ever tasted cod liver oil, then you understand. But then I got sick and had to start taking all manner of fetid, foul-tasting medicine on a daily basis, and my tolerance for disgusting medicine skyrocketed. These days, downing gross stuff is easy peasy. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I have become a cod liver oil-drinking MACHINE. Your mom would be proud.

Yesterday, during my doctor's appointment, Dr. N. suggested I try a different type of cod liver oil. Fermented cod liver oil, he said. Apparently, it's the best because it's made with a low-temperature fermentation process that preserves some of the fish's fatty acids and forms a vitamin A that none of the other fish oils have. He sold me on it, and I picked up a nice, big, spendy bottle of it.

Last night, after I'd taken my evening round of medications, I squirted a teaspoon of the oil into a cup and downed it. And sweet mother of Joseph, the smell of that stuff could KILL A GOAT. It literally knocked me to my knees. I sputtered and shuddered and almost couldn't keep it down, but I did. And oh have mercy, this oil is the "Mexican Food" of medicine. It sticks with you, if you catch my drift. I don't know if my gag reflex is going to let me take this stuff everyday for the next several months. I may have finally met a medicinal match that can

If I am unable to take this stuff, then I will ship it to Gollum. It seems like the sort of thing he'd love. Although, as I knelt in the kitchen and willed the oil to go all the way down my esophagus last night, I wondered if fish oil fermentation is the process wherein Gollum finds a rotten fish, chews it up, swallows it, throws it up because it's so gross, and leaves it to rot some more before a scientist comes, bottles it, and sells it to suckers like me. So on second thought, I may not be able to pawn this stuff off on him after all...

Here's my point in all this: Little Brother, you may want to bring a mask of some sort with you this Christmas. If you thought my apple cider vinegar was bad, well: you ain't seen smelled nothin' yet.

Cod liver oil aside, I'll add another protocol to my existing medical protocols soon. The doctor found a couple of new pieces to the puzzle yesterday. First, he discovered another virus called the Cytomegalovirus (CMV) lurking in my body. He said it's a particularly nasty virus that can be virtually indistinguishable from EBV — the virus we know has been wreaking havoc in my body all these years. It's likely that the viruses have both been attacking my insides all this time.

Because these viruses splice into a person's DNA (it's called "interpolating"), they mate with you for life. The goal is to keep them dormant, lest they keep you in bed for life. In order to try to get them under control, I'll start anti-viral treatment after Christmas. It will make me much sicker than I currently am, so I'll prepare my body for treatment by clearing my detox pathways with a couple of other medications before beginning anti-viral treatment. We know I have a genetic defect that inhibits my body's ability to detox, so my body needs help detoxing dead critters. Clearing detox pathways will make it easier for dead critters to leave my body.

These detoxing medications will likely make me sicker than I am, too, so I'll also wait until after Christmas to begin clearing my detox pathways. One of the detoxing agents has the potential to make me very sick, depending on whether or not I have a genetic abnormality affecting something called "sulfation pathways." The doctor said I'll know three days into taking it if I have the genetic abnormality. If I do, I'll get very sick. This is a little scary, so I'd love your prayers. And of course, I'd love prayer as I begin the anti-viral treatment in the next week or two. I'm hoping my body is strong enough that it can rebound from the sickness it causes.

Here's another thing: the full moon is this Christmas. It can make me so sick, but gosh I'd love to be healthy enough to up and mentally present with my family. I'd love prayer for this!

My most recent lab work revealed a number of other things. Most notably, an inflammation marker called TGF-beta 1 is super high. Dr. N. said he often sees those numbers in lyme patients, but he acknowledged there could be other pathogens causing that kind of inflammation. So the uncertainty about lyme continues. Perhaps getting these viruses under control will strengthen my body enough that I can move ahead with another lyme test. That's something else to pray about.

And finally: I asked the doctor about my vagus nerve and he said vagus nerve dysfunction is really common in patients like me. He said there's really nothing I can take to directly rehabilitate my vagus nerve, but I can work to rehabilitate it with diet, gargling, and singing opera. This is not a joke. It is a real thing, and I am taking it VERY seriously.

My family finds me a true delight to have around.

Merry day-before-Christmas-Eve, friends of mine.

I hope your day is jolly!


© by scj

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Last night my mom picked me up from the airport. I was trembling and weak when she arrived. The turbulence on my flight was the scariest I've experienced, and my nervous system was still rather unhappy about the whole affair. Electrical shocks; heart pounding; breathing labored; throat constricting. I kept murmuring words of comfort to my body. "It's okay, Body; it's all over. Feel how the earth is holding you up. Notice the way your lungs balloon with clean air. You can relax now. All is well."

Even still, my nervous system sputtered and misfired and tried to keep me safe long after the plane landed. Seeing my mom get out of the car, wearing her red turtle neck and gold beads, made my racing, jumpy insides feel cozy, like they'd climbed inside a fuzzy sock.

When we pulled into the driveway 20 minutes later, the house was glittering with twinkle lights. "Look at all the fairies!" my mom said. Decades ago, my siblings and I loved to curl up by Christmas tree and listen to my dad spin stories about Christmas lights that were really fairies. Each day the fairies remained still as glass, determined to maintain their secret identity as lights; and each night, after all the humans had gone to bed, they flew into the darkness to have adventures.

Some nights they feasted and danced with the people in the miniature, ceramic village atop the piano, and other nights they traveled back in time and lit up baby Jesus' dark manger scene. Their adventures always made Christmas as magical as can be. Decades later, the Christmas light fairies decking the boughs in my parents' home are one of my favorite parts of Christmas. Lying here, surrounded by fairy lights, makes me feel safe and full of wonder.

My parents will return from church in a bit. My dad will be tired from preaching so he'll curl up in his easy chair by the twinkle lights with me for a bit. My mom will probably head straight to the kitchen to whip up something to eat, chatting with us from her position by the stove top.

My mom is known for her soup around these parts. A childhood friend calls it her "world famous soup." She doesn't follow a recipe when she makes soup, so it's always different. Sometimes she adds sausage and sprigs of thyme to a bubbling pot of vegetables. Sometimes she purees potato, adds a ham hock, and lets it all simmer on the stove top for hours. She always toasts bread with butter and Parmesan cheese to accompany the soup. Parmesan bread makes a tasty soup-scoop.

My dad is known for his savory herb blends. He loves to experiment with fresh herb combinations whenever he cooks. Garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, and jalapeno-infused olive oil. Rosemary, roasted chipotle powder, and a dash of maple syrup. Perhaps today he will join my mom part-way through her lunch preparations. Maybe she'll marinade the chicken while he creates an herb bath for the zucchini. Their kitchen will be filled with intoxicating smells.

Our dinner table is adjacent to the Christmas tree, several yards from the fire place. It is covered in a festive table cloth and bathed in light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. This area of the house often swirls with conversation. What did the kindergartners do in mom's Sunday school class today? What text will dad be preaching from next week? Has anybody seen any good movies lately? Hey, do you guys think reality TV can be a healthy entertainment choice? Marc, you can't let this dinner hour pass without a Nacho Libre impersonation — it just wouldn't be a proper meal without one. And by the way, how do you all understand the role of women in the church? 

Sometimes, all this conversation erupts into disagreement, and the air hums with friction. I'm learning this is inevitable when a group of verbal people gathers. I think, though, that these moments have the potential to be the most fruitful parts of our conversations. Iron sharpening iron, and all. My brothers think of things I wouldn't think to think; my dad's studied things I've been too tired to study; my mom knows just the right questions to ask; and my sister thinks of word pictures that make my conclusions seem rather dull. They push me toward developing truer beliefs.

I've grown to appreciate the bowls of steaming soup and hunks of crusty bread more than ever during these conversations because they draw out the conversations long into the night. They invite more musing, more exploring. They make the dinner table a place of connecting, of discovering, of growing.

There's snow on the forecast for this Friday. I started asking God for big, feathery flakes this morning. My sister and littlest brother and his wife will be in town that day. My littlest brother and his wife got married in September, so we've not built many memories with the two of them together. His wife is a unique blend of strength, conviction, gentleness and grace, and we're loving getting to know her. We've spent time with her in the drizzly rain of Washington and the humid heat of Florida beaches. We haven't played in the snow together, yet, though. A snow day with her would be the cherry on top of this December sundae.

I've just looked at the clock. It's noon, and I'm still in my pajamas. They're fuzzy fleece pjs that a new friend gave me a few Christmases ago, but I didn't bring a suitcase full of sweats for nothing. It's time for a mid-day change.

Cheering for you, Home Skillets,


© by scj

Friday, December 18, 2015

An unexpected answer to your prayers

Oh you wonderful people, you. Thank you for praying for me so diligently these last few weeks as I've finished up the school year. Your prayers have been powerful and effective. I've seen significant improvement in my symptoms since you started praying, and I have been able to remain faithful in my most pressing responsibilities. Today I wrapped up finals week, and tomorrow I'm flying to my folks house for the holidays. It all feels like a tremendous gift.

I often feel most vulnerable to Satan's attacks when I'm sickest. I'm so thankful to have a prayer team in you during these battles. On Wednesday the 2nd, after you'd been praying for a full night, the spiritual attacks subsided. I felt like Angel warriors surrounded me and created a bubble of protection from the Enemy. Since then, I've often felt peace settle into the nooks and crannies of my spirit. I've also felt new hope wiggling its little roots into my soul-soil. And surprise of surprises, the week I was most incapacitated, I found myself laughing a lot, alone, in my room, wearing my stretchy pants. (Name that movie). I know this must be because of your prayers.

These four things — joy, peace, protection from the Enemy, and enough improvement that I can remain faithful in my responsibilities — are often the fruit of your prayers. But two weeks ago there was a fifth gift that made me want to sing the Hallelujah chorus. I'm especially excited to share this fifth gift with you because I know many of you have been praying for years, waiting for something like this to happen. I do wish I could tell you in person, but this little post will have to do.

Lots of you ask me what my symptoms are, exactly. For several years I've been dealing with medical fatigue that makes me feel like I have lead in my limbs. I've also had regular low grade fevers, muscle and joint pain, migraines, vision blocks, cysts, chronic sore throats and swollen lymph nodes, increased food allergies, thick brain fog, decreased mental stamina, poor memory, and occasional muscle weakness. My team of doctors and I are pretty sure the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is the cause of all these symptoms.

But then, last December, after a season of significant healing, my body added a slew of new symptoms to the mix: constant dizziness, nausea that starts in my head (not my gut) and radiates down my body, ringing in my ears, buzzing in my head, stiff and painful neck and jaw, electric shocks bouncing all over my body, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, increased weakness and fatigue, digestive problems, heightened anxiety, a dozen more food allergies etc. My weirdest symptom makes me feel like my nerves and brain are inflamed and thousands of little bugs are chewing on them. Oddly, this sensation tends to intensify after I eat.

Since July, I've been rigorously detoxifying my body with the help of many supplements and tinctures. For years, pathogens have been dumping poison into my body, and it was essential that we begin pulling it out before doing any extreme treatment. Thankfully, the detoxification has helped, and in September I saw great improvement in my health. I function at about 30-35% of normal now when I feel well, and many of the symptoms that started last year are no longer constant. Every now and then they all flare up at once and incapacitate me, though.

It's been tricky to figure out what's causing each of these symptoms. There are just so many of them, and many of them seem unrelated. One doctor speculated it will be several years before I'm back to normal. I imagine that's in part because of how difficult it can be to pinpoint, with any sort of confidence, the causes of chronic disease like mine.

Many of you already know this next bit, but I'll summarize for those of you who don't. Doctors have discovered my immune, endocrine, digestive, and central nervous systems are not working properly. We know EBV and mykotoxins are present in my body. We suspect I deal with parasites, and we're continuing to search for other invaders like lyme. But what we don't know is what is causing which symptoms. It's possible the EBV may be causing the worst of these new symptoms, but why? What is the EBV attacking that is causing this? Is it my liver? My kidneys?

I've done loads of daydreaming while on bed rest over the years. In my favorite, recurring daydream, I'm pushing through a crowd to get to Jesus, much like the woman who bled for 12 years in Mark 5. The daydream varies from day to day. Sometimes Jesus' back is toward me; sometimes he's facing me. Sometimes I beg him to heal me; sometimes he moves to me before I can open my mouth. One thing is the same every time, though: Jesus always places his hands on the same spot on my neck when he heals me.

I've wondered why Jesus puts his hand on that spot on my neck, of all places. I don't have pain there, nor have I had any physical trauma there (that I know of, anyway). It feels like such a random spot, and yet I've always known I want Jesus to put his hand right there. When people have prayed for my health throughout the years, I've asked them to put their hand on that part of my neck. When I've felt especially ill and have had a friend next to me, I've asked her to put her hand there. And when I'm feeling especially sick but must remain be upright to teach or go to the doctor, I find myself gripping that part of my neck.

Two weeks ago I spent most of my time in bed resting and talking to God. God is often very quiet during these conversations, but this time his still, small voice pierced the silence: "Your vagus nerve is inflamed."

Here's the thing about the vagus nerve: I have no idea what it is. I've heard of it and can tell you two things about it: 1) I have one; 2) enemas stimulate it (Noooow you know! Oh, the trivia I've collected over the years. Also: sorry). So I went into research mode, turning to my good friend, Google, with my most pressing question:

"Where is the vagus nerve?"

I had a feeling I knew where the nerve was located, and you guys. I was right. The vagus nerve begins EXACTLY at that spot on my neck that Jesus always touches in my daydream.

And here's what else: because the vagus nerve runs down the torso and innervates major organs, and because of its integral role in managing inflammation, the vagus nerve can either directly or indirectly cause almost every single symptom I've been dealing with throughout this journey (that long list, you guys — how is that possible?!).  Even symptoms that seem unrelated — like dizziness and food allergies — are clearly related when I view them through the lens of the vagus nerve's role in my body.

Over the years I have had so many questions about my symptoms — about they way they relate to each other, about the way they coincide with life events, about the experiences that trigger and exacerbate them — and my research on the vagus nerve began to answer those questions in a way that made perfect sense to me.

(A disclaimer: I'm distilling loads of cutting-edge neuroscience into a few sloppy sentences here, which is a bummer, because it's all the details I uncovered that make this discovery SO STINKING AMAZING.)

The difficulty with this whole vagus nerve discovery is neuroscientists are just now gathering significant information about the vagus nerve and chronic disease. It's remained a mystery for quite some time. This means doctors are just now experimenting with treatment involving the vagus nerve for conditions like mine. So my next steps are to figure out how I can reduce the inflammation of my vagus nerve and can help it do its job. And of course, I'm still on the search to identify which pathogens — EBV, mykotoxins, or possible lyme — are inflaming the nerve so horribly. I'm not sure if it will be possible to figure this out, but in the meantime, I've discovered a handful of practical things I can do to stimulate the nerve and reduce inflammation.

And you know, just being able to name a primary cause (albeit not the ultimate cause) of my symptoms feels good. The knowledge has doused me with buckets of relief.

But do you know what's been more amazing than this vagus nerve discovery? The knowledge that all of your prayerful voices moved the Spirit of God to give me this important piece of a perplexing puzzle. He is good, and you are wonderful, and I am grateful. Thank you for praying, praying, praying for years, and months, and weeks, and hours. You guys are my tribe and I love you.

Happy Friday, Folks.

Cheering for you,


© by scj

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Prayer Requests

I'm lying here typing in the glow of twinkle lights. The piano is decked with boughs of holly (actually: they're fake fir tree branches), candles are flickering merrily, and the smell of stinky feet has settled in the room with thick and terrible force. 'Tis the season for my [fetid, stinky feet-ish] apple cider vinegar regime, because: winter flu bugs (and lots of sick students).

When I taught third grade a colleague introduced me to the antimicrobial wonders of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Since then, I drink it scrupulously every winter. Usually, I make "tea" (pour a few teaspoons of cider in a steaming cup of water, then sweeten with honey) and sip it slowly before bed. My brother loves it when I do this, especially if I snuggle up close to him with my cup of apple cider vinegar:

"Ugh, Sarah. How and WHY do you drink that stuff? Do you not realize that the people around you have NOSES that can SMELL THINGS?!"

Well, little brother, you will be DELIGHTED to know I have recently started using apple cider vinegar as a toner for my skin and will carry the smell of apple cider vinegar with me every morning of Christmas vacation, too. Prepare yourself for a most joyous vacation together, indeed.

But I digress. I'm lying here sipping apple cider vinegar in the glow of my Christmas tree and hoping I can rally my team of prayer warriors. I'm feeling rather crummy these days as a result of all my chronic stuff. Last month I had a longer bout of Crummy, but I rebounded in early November and began to feel better than I have all year. Last week, though, I started feeling yucky, and my symptoms have continued to worsen. Today they've gotten especially loud and demanding, and I feel like much of the healing work of the semester has been undone. This is discouraging and confusing and makes me anxious about the future. I'm especially nervous about the next three weeks which are full of grading, teaching, church events, and grading. Also: grading. There is lots to do and little time to do it. So this week I'm hoping you can pray for me:
  1. For healing (that these symptoms would quiet soon. Like, tomorrow.)
  2. For stamina
  3. For peace
  4. For rest
  5. For hope for the future
  6. For wisdom as I try to figure out how much to push my body. 
  7. For wisdom for my doctors. I have another appointment with my main doctor in Washington on December 22nd, and I'm hoping he can give me some new insight (he'll have new test results) and next steps. 
  8. I'm also gearing up to get some pretty extensive testing done soon, but am trying to be strategic about which testing to get done first. Would love prayer for that.
Do tell me how I can pray for you. I pray for you when I'm lying here resting.

Thank you, my friends.

Merry Christmas Season!

I'm cheering for you, Home Skillets,


© by scj

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


My friends,

How are you? Are you enjoying rainy days curled up by the fire place? Are you running around the workplace breathless and frantic? Are you chasing toddlers all over the house, or carting adolescents all over town? I hope you're well, whatever you're doing. And I hope next week's Thanksgiving holiday holds all sorts of rest and rejuvenation for you.

Many of you continue to pray for me and my health. Thank you. Little by little, my body is healing, although my healing process is still a two-steps-foward-one-step-backward dance. Some days are good, some are bad, and some are in-between. But I'm generally much better than I was a few months ago.

One of my doctors recently confirmed the presence of mykotoxins in my body (from mold exposure) so he's been systematically pulling those toxins out of me. It seems to be helping, and now I'm hovering around 30% of normal on my good days. We're still on the hunt for lyme disease as well as a few other hard-to-find potential culprits, so it could be awhile before we peel back all these layers of sickness. In the meantime, I'm thankful for continued healing. 

The Lord has also been doing some pretty significant renovations in my soul this fall. I had a feeling he would, now that I've had some physical and mental space to process the last year's events. For me, the season of healing after an intense bout of illness is always full of fear, anxiety, questions, and spiritual wrestling. I'm learning that these are the best moments to invite the Spirit of God to continue the good work he started when I gave my life to him, so many years ago.

As I anticipated this inner renovation, I'd hoped God could do some minor, feel-good work in me. I'm plumb tuckered out and am not feeling particularly up for a big renovation. So I thought perhaps he could hang new drapes in the library or freshen up the living room with some paint. But in typical God fashion, he did things a little differently than I would have. Instead of getting out his paint brush, he grabbed his demolition bar and started tearing down old walls, installing new windows, closing old doors, and opening new ones. My insides have been buzzing with unexpectedly loud construction noise, and I've spent much of my free time trying to make sense of all the chaos.

When it became clear that the fall would be full of internal construction, I asked God to give me breaks from the noise by filling my fall with unexpected gifts. Last fall I asked God for the same thing, although for different reasons, and he answered by giving me opportunities to go on several trips to beautiful places with people I love.

I'd hoped for a similar sort of fall this year, but I knew I wouldn't have stamina to take regular weekend trips, so I waited and wondered what God would come up with this time around. And oh, you guys, he's been so gracious to me. This has been the fall of connecting with old friends. I haven't tried to make it a season of reunions — I'd never have thought it would be possible to fill my fall with so many old friends; but God has graciously orchestrated unexpected reconnection after reconnection.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my time with my college friends, A and J and their baby, H. I've been in regular contact with them over the years, but since they live out in the desert, I don't get to see them as often as I'd like. This fall, though, I've seen them so much. It's such a treat.

And then, a few weeks ago, I flew up to my folks house in Washington for a long weekend. While I was there, my childhood friend, E, drove down from central Washington, and she, her sister, my sister, and I had a slumber party at my folks. The four of us have been dear friends for almost three decades, but it's not often that we're all together. Life keeps us busy in our different corners of the west coast. It's glorious when we can reunite.

Circa 2012

When we were kids, the four of us loved to dress up. We donned tangled wigs, zany glasses, and filmy dresses with sweeping trains. We wore satin shoes two sizes too big, and we carried beaded vintage purses. Sometimes we pulled our roller blades on and zipped around the neighborhood in our get-up; other times we slipped out the back door and over to our elderly neighbors' house to show her our costumes. We were always a sight to behold.

Our slumber party last month fell on Halloween. Naturally, we pulled out the old dress-up clothes and got to work fashioning costumes fit for our little kid selves. My sister moonlights as a make-up artist these days, so she lugged over her professional make-up kit and put the finishing touches on our looks.

She was a snow queen with pale, shimmering skin.

E was a black widow, complete with spindly spider legs.

Her costume wins the award for Most Innovative. You'd never know it, but she made her spider legs with an old stuffed horse. The horse had gangly black legs so she cut off the horse head and attached the legs to her back. But then she was left with a tricky question: whatever should she do with the leftover horse head? Everyone knows you can't just throw away a perfectly good horse head.

After a few minutes of pondering, E and her sister, A, had a brilliant idea: they'd mount the head to a stick and A would use it for her farmer costume!

I dressed up as one of my favorite things of all time: a fairy.

I wore my grandma's old dressing gown and a pair of Cinderella heels from my childhood, which were approximately three sizes too small.

Rocking my Cinderella's stepsister vibe

My sister gave me jewels to glue all over my face, which made me feel all sorts of magical. I tried to get a Pinterest-worthy photo of all our sparkly artwork, but this washed out photo was all I managed to snap.

My parents' church hosts an annual Harvest Carnival, and since my parents had dressed up and gone to the carnival, we gals decided to stop by and say hello.

It was fun to see folks from church, but since it was a rainy, blustery night, we were keen to return home to make chili and curl up by the fire.

The chili was some of the most magical I've had.

The next day, we enjoyed a window of dry weather, so we romped over dewy hills and through dappled glens.

Oh these girls. I love love love them.

Two weeks ago, an old track buddy, Pip, came into town and took me out to dinner.

We curled up in a corner booth at the Mexican restaurant down the street and talked about our track days, caught up on our present day lives, and had some deep belly laughs. It was just the most delightful mid-week treat.

Circa 2005ish

Circa two weeks ago

And then, last week, my college roommate drove down from northern California to spend the weekend with me.

Fall has finally arrived in southern California, so the air is clean and crisp and the warmth is dry. It's the perfect weather for a trip to the beach.

The tide pools were teeming with flashy fish last weekend

We spent lots of the weekend adventuring together, but we also spent as much time as we could curled up in front of the fire with bowls of homemade soup. And of course, we stayed up late into the night playing the piano and singing together. Rachel is an amazingly talented vocalist, and since I am an amazingly untalented vocalist, I prefer to do the quiet harmonies when we sing together. Sometimes, though, she convinces me to sing the melody while she sings the harmony, and then my soul swells from how creative her harmonies are.

And finally — at least for now — a college friend who lives in Singapore is in town this week and took me out to dinner a few nights ago. He is a talented, thoughtful, hard-working, and creative entrepreneur who has been faithful to pray for me and encourage me over the years. It was great to re-connect.

Also, he gave me this head massager and IT IS THE BEST TOOL OF LIFE.

Oh sweet heavens, if you're looking for a good stocking stuffer for your loved ones, this is the ticket, folks.

Happy Wednesday, my friends. I'm praying this week would hold good things for you.

Cheering for you, Home Skillets.


© by scj

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Florida: the day after the wedding

I'm in Washington for the weekend and I've just asked my dad if starting projects, leaving them unfinished, and then returning to them months later is a Jackson trait. He said he thinks it's a human trait. And so, in typical human fashion, I am finally blogging some of the photos from our family's trip to Florida back in September.

After my baby brother done got hitched over labor day weekend, the rest of the Jackson clan merged travel plans with our old family friends, the Longs, and partied like it was 2003. Or 1999. Or 1995. Or 1989. We have known the Longs since we kids were wide-eyed, rolly polly little tykes. We've homeschooled, churched, played, hiked, carpentered, gardened, video gamed, pizza partied, and world traveled together as long as we've known each other. It was only natural to turn Marc's wedding into a Jackson/Long vacation. Our only regret was that our dear friends the D's couldn't join us.

The ever-growing Jackson/Long Crew, minus Marc and Jaime

Jake, the oldest of the Long kids, is a year younger than I. He and his wife, Kristin, are the first of our clan to have kids. Their daughter, Lucy, is an 18-month-old bundle of sweetness and spunk, and we absolutely delight in her. We spent the first few hours of our vacation gathered around her in a circle of adoration while she tried on sunglasses, played with stuffed animals, and did the stanky leg. There was also some nae nae-ing. And some whipping. Little Lucy is a daaaaancing machine.

The second of our clan to have kids is Simon, the third eldest in the Long family. He and his wife, Taylor, got married a few years back and then went and had the cutest little blue-eyed baby you've ever seen. Her name is Joanna but we call her Jo.

Our Florida trip was the first time our families have gathered from across the continent since the babies were born, so we adjusted our normal partying style. Normally, we sit around and eat cheap pizza while listening to spoken word poetry recitations, wrestling, solving the world's problems, and taping our noses up. We ALWAYS tape our noses up.

Our annual nose taping, circa 2012ish

In Florida, however, we were too busy playing with the babies to even consider pulling out the tape. No doubt some of the in-laws breathed a covert sigh of relief. 

 The first day of vacation a number of people from the wedding party and guest list partied with us. These are people with whom we've also traversed the years. It was so much fun having so many good friends squished under the same roof.

The whoooole crew

We spent a lot of our time outside chatting...

...and inside adoring the babies some more.

At one point the men got up and made us dinner,

 which was absolutely, 100% fine with us gals.

We managed to visit Florida smack dab in the middle of monsoon season, so the sky dumped buckets of water off and on throughout each day, but that didn't keep us from spending much of our time in the pool. When we tired of plain old swimming, we devised a rather complex game in which we had to toss a ball around the pool from person to person whilst jumping, spinning, etc. Dirk held Lucy's zebra inner tube at the far end of the pool, into which we had to eventually throw the ball. It was much tougher than we thought it would be to get the ball through our human circuit and into the hoop. We attempted it about 25 times, rotating people to different stations along the way, before we FINALLY Pam, the matriarch of the Long clan, captured our winning effort on camera, along with 200 other photos of every failed attempt.

For our winning attempt, Natasha (my brother Aaron's wife) threw  the ball to Brittany right as she jumped into the pool.

 Brittany (Dirk Long's wife) caught the ball and threw it to Jake...
...who caught it mid jump.
 Jake threw the ball to his sister, Jena...

...who threw the ball to the zebra hoop.
 My sister Rebecca and I were present near the hoop in case Jena's throw wasn't perfect.

Fortunately, it was perfect. Jena shot and SHE SCORED and the ball ended up snugly in Dirk's zebra hoop. 

Sweet, sweet victory.

For our second day of vacay we climbed out of the pool, packed up the babies, and headed to the beach. I hope to blog about our beach day soon. And by soon I mean sometime before January 2016.

Happy Saturday, home skillets.


© by scj