Posted in Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Things I'm reading

Fangirl adventures

I recently finished The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry. Actually, “finished” is the wrong word. I devoured the third and fourth books, Messenger and Son, over the course of 4 days. Upon completing Son, I was in the frustrating position of having read something truly remarkable and yet having no one with which to talk about the plot. Not one person of my general acquaintance has read all four books in The Giver series. I found this odd, especially as I work with 20+ booksellers, of which a majority have read a plethora of young adult fiction. But then I discovered The Giver was published in 1993, much later than I had originally thought. Gathering Blue, book 2 in the series, wasn’t published until 2000, Messenger in 2004 and Son was only published 5 years ago in 2012. Well, no wonder my colleagues and friends hadn’t devoured this series in their adolescence. The series wasn’t completed until 5 years ago!

That being said, as soon as I finished Son, I had the satisfying emotions that accompanied my completion of The Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle and The Dark in Rising series by Susan Cooper (both have become “go-to” recommendations for my nieces, friends’ children and customers at work). If you have not read The Giver, you need to. End of discussion. But really, I want you to read it so that you’ll get hooked and read all 4 books so I have someone with which to talk about the fantastic series finale.

It was a bit before midnight when I finished Son, and I was so energized by what I had read that I was wired. I wrote my little review on Goodreads and came to the sad conclusion that I couldn’t immediately chat with someone about the book. So, I did what any normal bibliomanic would do, I stalked Lois Lowry on the internet, found her website and paragraphed a few emphatic, heartfelt sentiments to her via her website. Yeah, I’m not even embarrassed by how much of a fangirl move that was.

Because, get this, Lois Lowry wrote me back.

That’s right. The 80+ author of The Giver quartet took time to personally respond to a fangirl’s email. Mz. Lowry has so many better things to do with her time. I was NOT expecting a response. But, needless to say, my respect for this woman has now skyrocketed. And I would like to publicly state, if there is any way to make a person geek out EVEN MORE over a book, it’s to have that book’s author personally contact them.

And here’s what’s great, she was genuinely sweet. She responded to my specific words, (agreeing in my hopes for a particular character’s unwritten conclusion) and thanked me for reaching out to her, adding that it is always so special to her when readers are touched by what she has written. What a sweetheart.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to over here, just chatting it up with Lois Lowry (and reading amazing young adult fiction). My life is so glam.

Seriously, go read The Giver books. Do it right now! I want to know what you think of the Tradesmaster and Einar and Claire and Jonas and Kira and Matty and all the great characters in the series. And until one of you read Son, I will be waiting here…with baited breath.

Fangirl out.

Advertisements
Posted in Homesteading, Thoughts

Is Zero Waste Attainable?

Hey all,

Happy Earth Day! This big, beautiful planet of ours has a lot to offer us. Mainly, it provides us a home where we do minor things like breathe and eat and survive. No big deal. Except it kind of is a big deal when I stop and think about humanity’s stewardship of this planet’s resources. I’d say we as a collective group don’t seem too concerned with trashing this home of ours.

I happen to live in an urban neighborhood where I come face to face with a shocking amount of litter. What bothers me most about the litter on my streets is that the majority of it is cans and bottles that are 100% recyclable. So, I have a dirty little habit of picking it up as I walk around my hood. It’s gone so far as this: carrying reuseable bags on my person for the sole purpose of collecting trash off the street as I walk to and from the bus. I’ve started heckling coworkers who absent-mindedly throw their drink containers in the trash cans at work. And yes, I’ve dug in trash containers to retrieve recyclables, and frequently have bags full of cans and bottles in my trunk. I’ll admit, I have a “problem”. I might be a litter magnet. I literally feel like I have litter radar going 24/7.

There’s a little local coffee shop within walking distance of my home that is a zero waste business. Serendripity Spot does not have disposable cups. You have to bring your own mug or drink things in store. At first, I thought this mindset would not be a sustainable business habit. How on earth could a coffee shop garner enough profit to counteract the lost business from customers who’d prefer disposable cups? But I’m so encouraged Serendripity Spot finds that risk worth taking. The owner, Kelley, would rather make less money than contribute to the litter in my neighborhood and trash in our local landfills. That is awesome.

Zero Waste. Could it really be a thing?

I saw this Buzz Feed video and got really excited about the idea: check it out here. Who else wants to make a worm compost after watching that??? Most impactful to me was her little Mason jar of trash after a MONTH. I wanna do that! According to that video, the average person generates 4+ pounds of trash PER DAY. What!?!?!?! That is craziness!

I don’t know what it would look like for the Minnesota Brookes household to transition to a zero waste household. But I know that I want to take steps towards that. I know acquiring less stuff in general is a giant leap towards a more sustainable life. And it really annoys me that most food packaging isn’t recyclable. I guess on this Earth Day, I wanted to say…I’m less cool with forgetting my choices affect the one planet we have. And I want to make choices that are better for the extended life of this beautiful home we all share.

Are you moving towards a zero-waste home? Tell me what you do to reduce, reuse and recycle by commenting below!

 

Posted in Crafty madness!, Culinary adventures, Homesteading

Hard-boiled joy

Easter is upon us: a time to reflect & remember that the God I worship literally died so I’d be free. Yet while all that heart-heavy stuff is marinating, windows are opening, the sun is shining and Spring is upon us. It’s as if the world is asking us to shake off our heaviness and come play a little. “Weeping may last the night but joy comes with the morning.” –Psalm 30:5

And over here at the Brookes’ homestead, we’ve been boiling our own joy: naturally dyed Easter eggs! This tradition dates back thousands of years, and I’ve long wanted to experiment for myself. With some help from Mama (who’s in town for a visit), we boiled eggs and made dye baths. Science is fun!

So, without further ado, here are the results:

IMG_7619
Top photo: Dye baths -top row: curry, spinach, red cabbage, beets -bottom row: onion skin, green tea, beets. Bottom left photo: turmeric with string. Bottom right photo: red cabbage with string. Loved this process! Definitely repeating!
IMG_7621
My favorite dye bath was the onion skin. Super cool (and really cheap!!!)
IMG_7617
Dye bath processing. Next time, I’ll double the vinegar.
IMG_7618
This year, we did canned beets and a mix of canned and fresh spinach. Fresh is for SURE the way to go. Now I know for next year. Beets are supposed to dye eggs brilliant pink.
IMG_7609
Super appreciate my local Co-op making these great reference sheets available! Definitely will try the red cabbage and onion skins again. Stunning color!
Posted in Culinary adventures, Homesteading

Spiraltastic!

It could be the direct result of where I’m employed, but it seems like there’s a lot of talk about turning vegetables into noodles. Our cooking section at Half Price Books has a few books specifically focused on spiralizing: hand-making noodles from veg. As a person who has flirted with the Paleo diet and whose gut responds well to little or no grain, the idea intrigues me. However, Nayt & I have had serious momentum into minimalism, so accumulating another kitchen gadget to experiment with was not my ideal. Enter my friend Karyn!

Friends let friends play with their cool toys. And it turns out, when you’re a grown-up, those toys might be weird kitchen gadgets.  🙂

So, last night, I played around with turning zucchini into noodles.  Olive oil, garlic, roasted onions, dried parsley, salt & pepper, and Herb de Provence* coated my freshly spiralized zucchini. It was tasty and satisfying. I was surprised at how the texture was so similar to noodles. I will say this, don’t try to trick your veg-reluctant spouse or kids by substituting zucchini for pasta. It is obviously veg when you bite into it, both in flavor and texture. BUT very tasty, and a totally ingenious way to mindfully increase your vegetable intake.

Now that I’ve played with it, I don’t know if I’d ever use it enough to justify owning one. Still was super fun! Thanks for sharing your toys, Karyn!

 

 

 

 

*I’ve never cooked with Herb de Provence before. A 9yr old sealed jar of it was staring at me from the spice rack. Have you cooked with this dried herb? It smells really delicious, but I don’t think I used enough (granted, it’s pretty old). I had a hard time identifying it amidst the garlic and olive oil flavors. If you’ve cooked with it, what dishes have you used it in?

Posted in Crafty madness!

Happy Spring!

Last week, I wandered around the silk florals section of Hobby Lobby and picked up a few stems for a springy project. Usually, I’m not a fan of the artificial floral selection in craft stores. I think it’s hard to get plastic & fabric to look like real flowers, and I’m not a fan of unnatural colors. But if you seek, you will find! And I found some stems that looked so realistic, I was delighted to take them home. A half hour’s work turned a bare grapevine wreath into some spring happiness. And our front door (which had stood empty of the dead Christmas wreath for less than 24 hours…) now looks ready to welcome the season of growth.

Spring on our stoop
Happy Spring!
Posted in Being real, self-care, Thoughts

Back to being me

Hello all,

I didn’t intend to be missing in action. Sometimes these things just happen…

In late February, I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and rode my bicycle downtown to Core Power Yoga. Due to some absent-minded route choices, I ended up on a street choked with traffic and construction. I’m still a beginner road-cyclist; sharing lanes with cars makes me very nervous. So, I attempted to merge onto the sidewalk from a less than smooth lane. Needless to say, that attempt ended poorly (i.e. my right knee and the sidewalk became very intimate). First bike ride of 2017? First bike wreck of 2017!

The body is a miraculous thing. It can weather so much. But when I whacked the exact same spot the following week with a metal hand truck at work, my knee gave up its fighting spirit. And for the past 2 weeks I’ve been recouping from a knee sprain, contusion and strain. Crutches and knee braces and PT, oh my!

I am happy to report my knee is recovering well. Under orders from my physical therapists, I went back to yoga today. (Huzzah!) Other than some soreness that are no match for ice, medical tape and ibuprofin, I am able to move around with slightly limited function. Work has been…interesting.

To be frank, I’ve never broken or injured myself quite like this before. I know how to read the signs of fatigue when I am ill. I’m not so great at that with injury. The past 2 weeks have been more emotional and mental work than physical. Pretty sure we can call a spade a spade and just admit that I don’t do well at life when I can’t actively serve or participate. I didn’t know that by injuring my knee, I would be signed up for lessons in humility as well as banishing illusions that I can perform to earn love. I like to serve. Not being able to serve my husband, coworkers, house church family, relatives and friends in the way I am accustomed was frustrating.

But guess what? God is teaching me that I really don’t earn His love by doing stuff. I am loved. Period. Nothing I do affects that for better or worse. I don’t earn extra bonus points with God by doing good things. I am loved because He loves me. End of story. Why is that so hard for me to understand? Seriously.

Today, for the first time in awhile, I felt like I had energy to do some “Jes” things. I read some books, I went to yoga, I created with paper. My whole routine had been thrown off. My whole way of being was thrown off. And now, I feel challenged to carry forward these identity lessons as my knee gains more strength and healing.

Who is Jes? Loved.

I may need to remind myself of that a few more million times to really believe it with my soul and act accordingly! Happy God is so patient with me. And happy He is healing my weaknesses, both physical and otherwise. 🙂

Thanks for being witnesses to this crazy journey I’m on, friends,

Jes

 

Posted in Joy: 2017 Word Meditation, Media Mondays

Amazing, Must-See Beauty

WHOA!

On this Media Monday, I want to share a video I watched yesterday. I don’t know how many of you know who Ann Voskamp is, but I am a long-time follower of her blog and books (and I got to meet her last Saturday, but more on that later…). Every weekend, she publishes a blog post with random photos, videos and thoughts to inspire joy. It’s her way to meditate on what is true and good and noble and holy (Phillipians 4:8). Usually, if I’m honest, I don’t make time to read her blog or slow down enough to meditate on joy.

But due to some unasked for circumstances, my Sunday was glacially slow. 🙂 And I visited Ann’s blog to stop and taste some goodness. And I saw this video and sat with my mouth hinged open at it. So, I thought I’d share it here too:

Amazing Must See Beauty

How about THAT???

 

Posted in Kitten dramas

Rudicat -satellite & clown

Over here at the Brookes’ homestead, we have one sad little furry. Last week, we discovered a sore on Rudi’s hind leg. After some advice from our fantastic veterinarian’s office and a few jokes that this cat will bleed our bank account dry, we purchased a soft e-collar for him.

My friend Sara says “e-collar” is short for Elizabethan Collar, as it resembles the costumes worn during that time period. Elizabethan cats. So regal! So ridiculous! And so smelly!

It’s amazing how quickly cats turn into big smelly greaseballs when they aren’t consistently grooming themselves. We have been giving him 10-15 minute respites from his “cone of shame” so he can take a daily bath. But his leg would be healing faster if he didn’t keep ripping the scab off this sore every time we do so. Punk cat!

Meanwhile, Rudi has made a reluctant peace with his e-collar. On his own, he figured out how to get it from “satellite” mode into “clown” mode. We now have a couple more nicknames for this crazy furry of ours: “radio cat”, “circus cat”, etc.

Thought I’d share some silly pics so you can laugh too…

 

img_7429
Poor Rudi.
img_7430
I could not stop laughing the first night we put this on him. He kept bumping into walls and leaping to try to escape the cone.
img_7428
If he can’t reach his fur, he’ll settle for the next best thing…
img_7427
Rudi is annoyed but easily pacified by rubs to the head.
Posted in Media Mondays, Thoughts, Word Study: "Joy"

The Red Balloon

Hello all,

I truly love one of the perks of my job at Half Price Books. Similar to a public library, we are allowed to check out merchandise to enjoy at home then bring back (or buy). Over the past 3 years at HPB, I have be able to enjoy a plethora of movies and CDs for free. This has been awesome.

So, when a double feature of The Red Balloon/White Mane came in, my child-at-heart self grabbed it right up. I was actually unsure if I’d even seen The Red Balloon in its entirety. It’s definitely a staple resource of the American education system, so I had faint recollections from my school years. But it was time to revisit the movie.

Awww, it’s so sweet; the little boy and his personality-filled balloon. But you know me, Jes’ brain is always chewing on something. At all times, the part of my brain that compelled me to study English Literature in college is working hard to find metaphor, to find the deeper meaning behind what is being presented. I’m unsure if this ever gets switched off! 🙂

The Red Balloon is exactly the type of movie you can throw a few metaphors at. And since I have been meditating on the word Joy in 2017, I saw it through that lens (as well as a few others). Follow my train of thought here…

Imagine the red balloon is a metaphor for the boy’s joy. He is comfortable with it. His mother, the principal at his school, the trolley driver and his peers do not understand it. He wants it to come with him everywhere, but has to be content to leave it behind at times to please others. (How sad!) And then the ending…when people don’t understand something precious to you and you don’t have the strength to defend yourself, they can do all kinds of things. But then the boy reaps an unexpected amount of joy. His little joy is replaced with something he could have never dreamed of. Man, that is a good metaphor right there!

Thanks, brain! Thanks, dusty old English degree! You make entertainment so much more valuable to me. 🙂

 

Has it been awhile since you’ve seen The Red Balloon? YouTube is here to help! Enjoy!

The Red Balloon (last 10 minutes) or The Red Balloon (full movie)

 

 

 

*photo courtesy of Amazon.com

 

Posted in Media Mondays

Twice as good

This “Media Monday”, I want to share a song by Sara Groves about deep friendship. She obviously wrote it about her band and I’m sure for Sara, certain memories come to mind that are dear to her as she sings this song to them and with them.

Check out the music video here.

Some lyrics stand out to me: “Every burden I have carried, every joy it’s understood, life with you is half as hard and twice as good.” What a beautiful thing to say. And the heartfelt gratitude behind it makes the words that much more meaningful.

Let’s get personal, shall we? I have been blessed with a beautiful string of big sisters, each given to me at just the right time. The love they have gifted me with feels like something I don’t deserve. I did nothing to earn it. They gave it freely. I can never NEVER repay what they have bestowed on me. All I can really do is mumble my thanks and accept their love, which continues to this day.

So, this one is for you, Lo – my first big sister, ushering me into the Kingdom with your relentless zeal and your beautiful pursuit of my friendship; your laughter, love and blatant disregard for convention still impress me. This one is for you, Bekka – you fiery, justice-oriented warrior queen, who loved me well when I was navigating what would become my marriage; you have made my life so much richer and you hold fast in ways I respect more than I say. This is also for you, Sarah – my worshipping, laughing, culinary-genius, hungry for adventure, never superficial sister; every time I talk to you I remember distance doesn’t matter. And you, my friend Amanda – your love of the Lord, your contagious pursuit of Him, your steadfastness, your hunger for truth and life; you have been an unexpected joy in my life here in the tundra. I’m so glad we moved here so I could meet you!

But I want, very much, to send this song out into the void for my friend Michele.

My dear dear friend, you have stood beside me for ten years, despite much distance and circumstance. You never fail to pray for me. You never fail to offer the right word at the right time. You have been my friend in every possible sense of the word. My little life has been so much less painful because you have chosen to be in it. And the joy I possess is more than double…because of your presence. I count myself so lucky to know you. Thank you, especially for this past week. I hope to be even one tenth of the blessing that you have been to me.

 

Let’s raise a glass to friendship and to knowing, we don’t have to go alone. To all my big sisters, life with you has been half as hard, and twice as good.

 

 

 

*image courtesy of Amazon.com