Saturday, July 11, 2020

quarantine recipes we've liked

Being at home together means lots of time eating together, which is great and a little stressful.  We've experimented with some new recipes and enjoyed our meals a whole lot more.  Our goal has been one trip to the grocery store a month, and to use our food storage items.  Jesse is very interested in preparedness and wanted to practice our skills for a while.  So, a lot of these recipes were chosen because I was looking for ways to use what we had in the cupboard. We also like to eat leftovers, because it makes meals during the week when I'm working a lot easier to manage. 

Instant Pot Beans

We love beans and have been eating a ton of them.  With an instant pot there is no need to pre-soak the beans before cooking.  For us, the secret to good beans in the instant pot is to use 3 cups of water to 1 pound (approximately 2 cups) of beans, 1 teaspoon of salt, and then whatever spice combo sounds good to you.  Any less water and the beans don't get cooked all the way through, and when reheating you will need to add more water.  I usually cook up 2 pounds of beans which lasts for several days.  

Additionally, you may need to experiment with the cooking times for different kinds of beans in your instant pot.  We've found that beans need to cook at least 15 minutes longer than recommended in most recipes and in your instant pot's instruction booklet.  The depressurizing time at the end can take up to 45 minutes, so be sure to plan plenty of time for cooking.  

We are discovering just how good bean broth can be, and let me tell you it can be soooo good. I've read lots of recipes for beans online and have developed my own combos for cooking beans.  For instance, Jesse does not like bay leaf in anything.  I discovered a good substitute for bay leaf is oregano, which deepens the flavor of a pot of Navy beans to levels of unknown to me deliciousness.  I no longer miss seasoning with bay leaf. 

I love adding greens to pots of soup and beans.  I usually keep bags of frozen kale, spinach and collard greens on hand.  Adding frozen greens to the beans is a simple way to get more vegetables into meals, and they usually cook down enough that they aren't noticeable, especially spinach.

Here are some of our favorite seasoning combos for instant pot beans.  I don't really have recipes written out for these because I put things together that sound good to me and eyeball the spice measurements.
  • Black beans - Add your favorite taco seasoning packet to 1 lb of beans. 
  • Pinto beans - In addition to the water and salt I mention above, add: 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, 2 beef bouillon cubes, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and cayenne pepper. 
  • Navy beans - 1 chopped medium onion, 4 cloves fresh garlic minced, 3 large carrots chopped in 1 inch cubes, 3 stalks of celery, bag of frozen kale, Italian seasoning mix. 
  • Split pea soup - Use whatever recipe you like, and add smoked paprika to the mix. This flavor combo is die for. 
  • Lentils - Ina Garten's Stewed Lentils and Tomatoes was big hit for us. For the instant pot, it's only 20 minutes on high pressure.  (

Founding Farmer's Carrot Cake -  
We have their cookbook.  Jesse asks for this cake regularly.  This  video shows their recipe.  We make half the recipe in a 9x13 pan, and smother it with cream cheese frosting topped with chopped pecans instead of putting walnuts in the batter.  It's a hit at work too, and I let people add their own pecans due to allergy concerns.

I went searching for an orange cake recipe because I had some oranges I wanted to use up.  I kept finding recipes that asked for Greek yogurt or sour cream which I didn't have on hand. When I saw this one didn't ask for any dairy in the cake, I went with it.  It was light and airy with a deep orange flavor. I do recommend greasing and flouring the pan before baking.  

No eggs, butter or milk, and yet it's the best chocolate cake recipe ever. Jesse's favorite cake.  We add chocolate chips sometimes.

Yes, it's pretty good too, especially with berries on top.

I found I had 12 cans of pumpkin in my cupboard, so it was time for pumpkin pie in the spring.  I used the Better Homes and Gardens classic cookbook recipe a couple of times and decided to go looking for some variations.  I found The Luna Cafe's collection of various pumpkin pie recipes and dove right in.  The Perfect Pumpkin Maple Pie was my personal favorite.  The spice flavors were very pungent and delicious on the first day.  However, the second day was the most amazing pumpkin pie I've ever had.  Definitely making this one again!

Pie Crust - "Art of the Pie" by Kate McDermott
Jesse and I experimented a few years ago with making pie crusts and still wanted to find a good crust recipe.  I got this e-book from the county library and loved it.  Her approach to pie making made sense to me.  I asked for the book for Christmas and got it last year.  I finally had time to experiment with her crust techniques and recipes.  I will always use her tip for chilling everything -- the bowl, flour and salt, water, butter and shortening -- before even making the dough.  My crusts are flaky and beautiful now. Her butter and shortening crust recipe is fool proof, which means even I can make it. Her pumpkin pie recipe is a solid winner, and I can't wait to try her cherry pie. 


Ya bake this one in a cast iron skillet deep dish style.  It's now our favorite homemade pizza style with any toppings we have on hand.  We've made this a few times and each time we like it more and more.

We had pizza coming out our ears, but leftover pizza is the best!  We made 4 pizzas on parchment paper.  We used the parchment paper to slide our pizzas onto the pizza stone and baking sheets.  Super easy to manage and slide onto hot baking pans.  Clean up afterwards was a breeze.

Jesse also learned about making 100% wholewheat sourdough bread.  I'll share some of his tips and recipes in another post. 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

someone carried His cross

I thought a lot about Simon over Easter weekend, and into this week.  Simon, the one who carried Jesus’ cross to the top of Golgotha.  We don’t know a lot about Simon , only that as he was passing by, the soldiers “…laid hold upon one Simon… and on him they laid cross, that he might bear it after Jesus” (Luke 23:26). 

I’m a curious woman, so I did a little research.  Simon was a common name among both Jews and Greeks, and it is unknown whether he was Jew or Gentile.  He was “..a man of Cyrene…” (Matthew 27: 32); Cyrene was a city in North Africa just off the coast in today’s northeastern Libya.  Mark recorded that Simon was a father to Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).  He was a visitor to Jerusalem.  “…coming in from the country…” (Luke 23:26).  But I don’t think these facts are important, as they don’t add anything of relevance to the experience. 

The accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke do not mention why Simon was “compelled to bear His cross” (Matthew 27:32).  The assumption is that after a night of torture by Roman soldiers, Christ was too weak to carry the cross beam himself.  The soldiers, recognizing His weakness, found a bystander to carry the cross for Him up to Golgotha. 

As I pondered on all this, I was struck by the realization that Christ needed to know what it was like to have another person bear His cross.  He needed to experience the feeling of being unable to bear His own cross, and of having someone bear it for Him.  He needed to know the difficulty, pain, and even the humiliation of letting another person in, during a moment of absolute and utter weakness, to help him, to bear His cross. 

And that's where we are every day.  We feel that weakness, that pain, that humiliation.  We don’t want to let Him bear it for us.  We are compelled to humble ourselves when we allow Him bear it for us, when we give it to Him.  Christ needed to feel all we feel to truthfully say He personally knows how we feel and can succor us. 

There is so much of significance to be explored here.  But for me this Easter weekend, the importance of Simon following Jesus up the hill of Golgotha bearing His cross took on greater meaning for me.  Jesus Christ knows how I feel when I need Him to carry my burdens, because He needed Simon’s help carrying His.  This means He really does know how I feel when I need help.  He knows my pain and humiliation.  He knows my weakness.  He knows how I feel when He picks up my cross and bears it for me.  Christ knows all this for you too. 

I’m grateful for both Simon’s and Christ’s examples.  It helps me know I can call on Jesus in my weakness and He will know how to help me.  I’m grateful for the pondering and learning through the Spirit that led me to this deeper understanding of Christ’s Atonement and suffering for me, for all of us. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Increasing Spiritual Capacity to "Hear Him"

I was asked to teach the Relief Society lesson in March from Sister Michelle Craig’s talk from the October 2019 called Spiritual Capacity (Link: I wanted to share it on my blog, because I wanted to follow the prompting. 

What an interesting time we are living in!  Sister Craig’s conference address seems so timely right now.  She reiterated President Nelson’s powerful invitation from two years ago: “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. … Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly” (Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 96; emphasis added.  Link: 

Sister Craig’s talk builds on President Nelson’s invitation to increase our ability or capacity to recognize and receive personal revelation from our Heavenly Father.  A young woman recently asked her, “How can I tell when God is trying to tell me something?”  We all struggle with this.  I recently questioned if a repeated thought to do something was because of worldly hype or the Holy Spirit’s prompting.  It was hard to tell the difference, but as I checked in with myself, and said a prayer I felt a quiet feeling that I was listening to the right voice.  I began to act, and later my husband confirmed he had also received similar guidance.  Between these two experiences, I felt confident I was hearing Him tell me to do something.

Elder David A. Bednar held a recent devotional for the Church Education System (CES) teachers where he shared many thoughts about how we can tell when God is trying to communicate with us, along with tips for teaching this to youth.  If I were teaching this lesson in person, I would have us watch the first part of his remarks as part of our Sunday Relief Society meeting.  I invite you to watch the first 15-20 minutes of this devotional linked below.  As you watch, pay close attention to Elder Bednar’s explanation of the gift of the Holy Ghost and how he truly is our constant companion, and to his descriptions of Nephi and Oliver Cowdrey’s experiences in recognizing and receiving revelation.  We can apply these lessons to our own lives.  We are all teachers, and this whole devotional is a spiritual treasure box in helping us to learn and teach these important lessons.  The apostolic blessing he gives at the end of the devotional is for “wherever you may be, anywhere in the world,” and will impart much strength and hope to you.  (An Evening With a General Authority – Elder Bednar Discussion, February 2020.  Link:  
Sister Craig shares four ways to increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation.

1.  Be Intentional about Creating Time and Space to Hear God’s Voice.  “…use your agency to carve out time every day to draw close to God’s voice, especially in the Book of Mormon, over time His voice will become clearer and more familiar to you.”  You can choose to start now to do this.  God will bless your efforts, no matter how small or where you are in this process.  Keep going and trying, and you will blessed with increased spiritual capacity to hear His voice more clearly.

2.  Act Without Delay.  “When you receive promptings and then act with intention, the Lord can use you. The more you act, the more familiar the voice of the Spirit becomes.”  Some of my greatest regrets are times when I know I received distinct revelation and then did not act.  I am grateful for the gift of repentance and being able to start again to act on the revelation I am given.  I know you will be blessed as you do the same. 

3.  Get Your Errand From the Lord.  “You can pray and ask the Lord for an errand. As you do, He can use your ordinary skills to accomplish His extraordinary work…. The Lord sends revelation to those seeking to help others.”  I love Sister Craig’s story of how her grandfather responded to promptings to help a brother he was assigned to home teach.  He left church on a Sunday, and went to help him finish roofing his house all while dressed in his suit.  The brother responded by putting down his hammer, and returning to church.  We too may receive unexpected guidance on how to serve our family and neighbors, and we must be ready to act on what the Lord wants us to do.  We are His hands, and He knows the needs of others better than we do. 

4.  Believe and Trust.  “… each of us has a different mission to perform, and at times the Spirit may call us in ‘another way.’ There are many ways to build the kingdom of God as covenant-making, covenant-keeping disciples of Jesus Christ. As His faithful disciple, you can receive personal inspiration and revelation, consistent with His commandments, that is tailored to you. You have unique missions and roles to perform in life and will be given unique guidance to fulfill them.”  Because we are each different, Heavenly Father can and will speak to us in ways we can understand, and at times that may seem surprising.  I often listen to scriptures and conference talks from the Gospel Library app on my commute.  On my way home one day, as I listened, I received an answer to a question I had struggled with for years.  I was not in a quiet place--I was on a metro escalator.  I believe that because I was making an effort to keep my heart focused on Christ and making my own quiet place, the Spirit was able to speak to me even in the midst of a rush hour commute on a metro escalator.  I learned an important lesson from that experience.  God meets us where we are and gives us what we need, sometimes when we least expect it.  He wants to tell us what we need to know!  Our task is to be as ready and open as we can to recognize and receive it on His timetable. 
By applying the principles taught in the lessons from both Sister Craig and Elder Bednar, I believe each of us can increase our capacity to recognize the Spirit and act on the revelation we receive.  We need revelation more than ever for our family, our friends and our neighbors.  I’m sure many of you over the past week or so have been praying for help from heaven to navigate your families safely through the unsettling events happening right now.  I pray the thoughts I shared with you will help to spark confidence in your own spiritual capacity as well as help identify areas of improvement.  I know we are daughters of Heavenly Parents who love us.  I know Jesus Christ lives and He is our Savior; His atonement is real.  I know Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers.  I know He will bless us to increase our ability to “Hear Him” and recognize the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, who is our promised constant companion.  This is my testimony of the principles taught here.  (#HearHim: President Nelson Invites Us to Hear the Voice of the Lord, link:

Sister Craig ends her talk with her own testimony:  “Each one of us, regardless of age or circumstance, can strive to seek, receive, and act.  As you follow this eternal pattern… you will draw nearer to Jesus Christ—His love, His light, His direction, His peace, and His healing and enabling power.  And you will increase your spiritual capacity to become an everyday instrument of His hands in accomplishing His great work. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” 

Questions to consider:
1.  How can I create a time and space to increase my ability to hear God?
2.  Who does Heavenly Father want me to help and what does He want me to do?
3.  Who can I teach these principles to solidify my understanding of them?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

j & c's story - part four

During that first week, so many tests were run to figure out what I was actually sick with, and the doctors were getting no answers. The chiefs of infectious disease and pulmonary medicine were both on my case, and were the nicest doctors ever. The infectious disease doc even looked like Kris Kringle from the original “Miracle on 34th Street.” Both of them would pat my hand reassuringly as they would prepare to leave my room.

In the meantime, Jesse got used to being called Mr. Boyer by the stream of nurses, doctors and technicians who came and went. It was just easier to let it go than explain to everyone that we were only engaged. My pulmonary medicine doctor had apparently talked with one of my nurses and learned that we were engaged. He asked us our story during a visit, and was so taken by it that he kept asking questions. Soon everyone knew that we were not married, but engaged, and were even more impressed by Jesse’s very apparent loving care of me.

Throughout this week, Heavenly Father’s care for me was also very readily apparent. Jesse also gave me a blessing before each of the big tests I would undergo, which helped me a lot to stay calm.

The pulmonary chief decided he needed samples of the fluid both in and around my lungs. Drawing fluid from around my lungs required a needle to be inserted into my upper-lower back into the pleural space (yes, I WebMD’ed this) to collect the fluid specimen.

The pulmonary doc did this procedure himself right there in my hospital room. I sat on the edge of bed supported by the table, Jesse and a nurse, a very nice young woman who was wearing a hijab. The doc administered a local anesthetic in the spot he would insert the needle, which thankfully worked very well because I didn’t feel a thing. He inserted the very large needle through my back into the pleural sack and after waiting for a moment no fluid came out. He withdrew the needle, and announced he would need to try again. I was holding onto both Jesse and the nurse’s hands. As the doctor prepared to insert the needle a second time, I began to pray out loud whispering quietly, asking Heavenly Father help make this time successful. I hadn’t even finished my prayer, when the doctor announced it was working and he collected enough fluid for the required tests. I thanked Heavenly Father and relaxed my grip on the hands I was holding. The nurse looked at me with tears in her eyes, and squeezed my hand while the doctor put a Band-Aid on my back. I’ve never experienced such an instantaneous answer to prayer before. I knew I was being watched over, and I experienced no pain at all from this procedure.

Daily blood draws were a nightmare. The vampires… er, phlebotomists were really good their jobs and for the most part didn’t hurt me. The only problem was that one phlebotomist kept using the same spot to draw blood for three days straight. Finally on the fourth day, my poor, tired, little vein decided enough was enough and collapsed. The attempted blood draw was so painful, I wanted to smash the guy’s face into the bed rail. I refused to let him or anyone else touch me again for several hours. Finally, a young woman convinced me to let her try on the back of my hand.  She was successful--thanks heavens!

I even had a bronchoscopy so that the kind pulmonary doc could look at my lungs on the inside and collect tissue samples. Thankfully, I was put under while the scope and pincers were inserted and biopsies collected, but awakened to violent, bloody coughing and nose blowing. I used up a small box of tissues until I could catch my breath and stop coughing. It was pretty awful. The good doctor was so kind to me though, and stayed in the room with his anesthetist until I was breathing regularly.

The blood and tissue tests kept coming back with negative results. In other words, they couldn’t figure out what was causing the pneumonia. Among other things, I was even tested for cancer, hence the lung tissue biopsies, which came back negative too. This was all both good and bad, because it meant that it wasn’t a funky bacterial thing or streptococcal infection, but they had no idea what was going on.

One night I was awakened for the hourly vital signs check by the night nurse, and I could barely move I was tired. I remember feeling so tired that I almost didn’t say anything to the nurse. I mustered up the strength to tell her that everything felt really heavy and dark. Immediately, she tested my blood oxygen level which was in the low 80s. A team came rushing into the room with a nebulizer. They removed the nasal cannula and fit the nebulizer over my face and turned up the oxygen. I had to use this for the next couple of days until my levels were constantly above 92, and then they weaned me off of it and back onto the nasal cannula. I hadn’t experienced not having sufficient oxygen before and it was a weird feeling.

Everyone took such good care of me, and Jesse led the way. He helped me to eat, and drink, to sit up, and held my hand through every blood draw. I was so thankful he was there because of him I was never alone during that first week. My housemate LP was a lifesaver, bringing needed clothing and toiletries, and her miraculous turkey neck broth with rice that tasted so good in comparison to the hospital food. My friend SAS also came a couple of times sitting with me as well so Jesse could get food and shower.

We were told that I needed to go 48 hours without a fever with urine and bowel movements on my own before they would even begin to consider releasing from the hospital. So, the big goal became to get my temperature down and keep it down. The fever would break for a few hours and then shoot up back again.

Finally, I got a break. My fever broke and stayed away for 24 hours, so we started feeling hopeful. I started sitting in the chair for a couple of hours at a time. I went to the bathroom by myself a couple of times. The physical therapist visited and I went for a walk down the hallway. I was quite a sight, I had the oxygen, IV and a walker. I was wearing two hospital gowns, one to cover my front and one to cover my back, and those awesome hospital socks with the anti-skid plastic on the bottom.  Plus, I had a big belt around my waist that the PT used to steady me when I got a little wobbly. I made it to the end of the hallway and back with my entourage attending me every step of the way, and a high-five from my doctor when he saw me out and about. 

We were one step closer to me going home.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

things that make me smile this week 11/20

so this covers the past three weeks.

- talking with my mom and hearing how much she is enjoying her phone.  it's helping her to reconnect with friends. and she gets to watch her newest grandbaby.  it's fun to get her texts and to video chat with her and my dad.

- pioneer woman's christmas line came out this week. it's so pretty!

- the cubs won! bill murray's face was priceless.

- i was really sick this week for few days with lots of green goo pouring out of my nose and hacked up lung too. J took great care of me all week, and i really felt loved and cared for.

- i got new glasses.

- my husband coming home from work and we hug for a really long time.

- meeting a goal to go to the gym three days this week.

- primary kids singing and sharing their testimonies during our sacrament meeting program. they are so full of light and desires to do the right things.

- deciding that something is not right for me anymore, and following through on it.

- i really love the bbc4 show "detectorists" because it's so quirky, nerdy and human.

- saying i'm sorry.

- prayer. it really does change things, but mostly it's me that changes.

- the late afternoon sunlight slanting through the trees and illuminating the jewel-toned leaves on the almost bare trees. honestly, there's not a more beautiful sight at times.

- crunching leaves on a walk through woods.

- waking up at 4am so i can leave work at 2:30pm. (i'm trying to be positive on my early mornings.)

- pumpkin roll. good earth tea. salted caramel hot chocolate from starbucks. chopping vegetables. thick socks and boots. layers of clothing. heat. hot water. hope. hard work. fall colors.

- this view from my porch.

- this video on faith being a principle of action and power.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

things that make me smile this week 10/30

- lunch with RO at shake shack last saturday was such a treat.  the chicken sandwich from there is best. but best of all was catching up with RO and doing homework together. her little pug is always so excited to see me and i just love them both.

- primary kids practicing for the sacrament meeting program. these kids are the strongest, cutest and most loving kids i know.

- mexican pulled pork in my crockpot, and rice beans on my stovetop. when you combine these in a tortilla with cheese it's burrito magic. plus you can make burritos and freeze them for later. so easy!

- when you're friends with someone since you were toddlers it's always a treat to share a visit. it was so good to see KH and show her a glimpse of my maryland home.

- my husband really likes watching gilmore girls. it's so fun to watch together. AND YES we're both excited for the new episodes coming out over thanksgiving weekend.

- texting with my mom is really sweet. i love her enthusiasm to learn new things.

- i deactivated my facebook account for a couple of weeks about a month ago. let me tell you it was the most peace inducing thing i have done for a while in my life. i am starting to have a love-hate relationship with facebook. i'm honestly considering being with it completely, except that i really do love seeing posts from family and friends. i'm thinking about my way ahead on fb and how i want it to be a part of my life or not. so, thinking about deactivating my fb account again makes me smile.

- i'm doing the pathway program through byu-idaho. it's been so fun to be back in school again.  the dread i felt over the years as i contemplated going back to school is gone. i'm enjoying learning in a school again. i'm grateful for this.

- i had a pretty intense day at work on wednesday. when i got home that night i posted on fb that i needed a shake and fries to take away the stress of my hard day. a couple of hours later there was a knock at my door. i opened it to find my friend AG standing there with a chocolate shake and fries. i was in tears and stunned by her kindness. i know she has health struggles and her day hadn't been easy either, but there she was serving me and lifting me up. i felt so loved and all i could was smile through my tears as i worked on my homework that evening. thank you AG!

- i made a goal last week to not focus on reading about the election and instead read other news or general conference talks. this really made me smile a lot, because i wasn't getting angry. an article i read talked about how angry and uncertain people in the usa are feeling because of the election. i dislike being angry so i wanted to work on changing my focus. i'm not sure how successful i was but at least i felt more aware of how i was feeling instead of just going with the flow. plus, quitting reading an article after the first paragraph a couple times just made me smile.

-  thinking about thanksgiving this year and my list of things and people for which i'm grateful. i decided to begin posting my things that made me smile lists again. i have ignored my blog for a while. i think this will help me get back to it.

- relaxing music. reading the scriptures. herbal tea. lifting weights. gouda is my spirit cheese. homemade burritos. my husband washing the dishes--seriously.  chocolate.  cinnamon. lemon tea. thinking. quiet time. reading. a hot bubble bath.

- this little video on the sacrament.

- this photo on instagram. i love autumn.
A photo posted by Julia (@humphreyandgrace) on

- the lindsey stirling concert on a monday night date with my love.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

j & c's story - part three

So, we were engaged. And apart. Yet things were going well despite the fact we missed each other desperately. We began planning a trip to Utah over Memorial Day weekend so that my family could meet Jesse. Little did we know that God had other plans for us.

About three weeks after his visit to DC and proposal to me, Jesse called me one Friday morning in late April out of the blue. His job was over and he was laid off. He wanted to know if he should say in Iowa and wait for the Union to call him out to a new job or drive to DC and spend a few days with me waiting for his new job. Of course, the answer was simple. He drove 900 miles and was in DC early the next morning. It was great being together again.

That evening we went to Union Station and had dinner at Shake Shack, because their fries and concretes (shakes made from custard) are ridiculously good. Then we hopped on the metro to go see a movie together in Chinatown. Jesse had never ridden a metro before so it was fun to show him the ropes. He said it was like being in a movie because he was doing something that he had only seen in movies or TV shows.

Of course, I had to go work like a normal person, so Jesse spent time catching up on things he needed to do. We spent every evening together for the next week cooking, relaxing, dinner with friends from my ward, and just spending time talking and planning. Things were going really well between us.

By Friday afternoon, I was really looking forward to the weekend with Jesse. We had plans to go out for Indian food and walk the monuments as the weather was nice. I left work not feeling too great, as I was having chest pains and couldn't seem to quite catch my breathe. The pains weren't too severe, but I had never felt anything like it. We opted to stay in and have a quiet night relaxing to see if I felt better. Both Jesse and my housemate were concerned, and came up with different ideas of what could be wrong. By ten o'clock that evening, the chest pains were a lot worse, breathing was difficult and painful, and I was running a fever. Jesse made the call that it was obvious I was getting worse, and that I needed to go to urgent care. After giving me a priesthood blessing we headed out.

After ruling out a heart attack with an EKG, the doctors and nurses started running other tests. Blood was drawn, chest x-rays taken, a CAT scan with contrast dye (iodine yucky!) was completed and an IV needle was poked into my arm. By the time all this was done, I was very thankful for a wheelchair, as I felt considerably weaker and was having a hard walking on my own.  Finally, they asked me for a urine sample. Jesse helped me walk the short distance and take care of things.

I stood washing my hands, and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. I was a little shocked by how sick and haggard I looked. I started to feel a little worried, and then I had a very distinct thought, "This is why Jesse is here." As I absorbed this thought, another thought came into my mind, "It's serious, but you are going to be okay." These two thoughts together were so clear and unmistakable, that I knew they were not my own, but impressions from the Spirit.

Finally, the doctor came back with his official diagnosis: "You have pneumonia!!! Here have some Motrin 800, a strong antibiotic and an excuse from work on Monday!!! And you'll be better and able to go work on Tuesday!!!!" And he sent us home. We collapsed around four o'clock in the morning.

That weekend Jesse played nurse, cook, launderer, and assistant. I was miserable. My chest hurt so dang bad. Sneezing hurt. Breathing hurt. Yawning hurt. Swallowing hurt. Everything hurt because lungs are essential to well... everything! And by Monday I was not better, in fact I was much, much worse with a consistent fever.

So, that afternoon back to urgent care we went. The doctor this time was amazing. He had had pneumonia earlier in the year, and knew just how miserable it is. He said he was so miserable and in pain that all he could do at one point was moan. I totally understood what he meant, except that I hurt too much to moan. We repeated all the tests from Friday night which all came back the same as before, but showing fluid not just in my lungs but outside them as well. It also appeared that the antibiotic was not having any effect.

As we discussed my care options and the test results the doctor was concerned because he said that the blood cultures and other labs were all coming back negative and not showing any cause for the pneumonia. Basically, my systems were more severe than what the tests were showing. And given the severity of my symptoms he felt that I needed to be monitored overnight, which they were prepared to do there. Additionally, we needed to request a bed at a hospital if I did not improve overnight. He didn't think we would need it, but it was better to be prepared.

That night in urgent care was miserable. I was given three different IV antibiotics and each time they switched to a new one I would throw up. My fever was climbing too and I had the most severe, deep and painful chills I have ever experienced in my life. The worst was when I had to go for another CAT scan with contrast. They did the first scan and then administered the iodine dye via IV. I felt my whole body go warm from the iodine dye for about a minute and then I crashed into full on chills. I was so cold and in so much pain that I was shivering and my teeth were chattering so hard that I had to be lifted from the scan table back into the wheel chair by the technician.

Once I got back to my room in urgent care, the nurses grabbed blankets from the warmer to cover me up. (Honestly, those warm blankets are the best thing ever in all the universe and world...seriously!) I was finally warm and not shivering when my new nurse walked in the room.

This woman made Miss Hannigan seem like a good guardian for orphan girls. She ripped the warm blankets off of me, saying that we needed to get my fever down and that I needed to be uncovered to do so. She wouldn't let Jesse help me any more, because "I needed to learn to help myself and use my own strength to sit up and stand if I was going to have any chance at getting better." She was not pleased that she had clean up vomit either and complained loud enough to the nurses at the station outside my room, that I heard her. Honestly, I get tough love, but this woman's bedside manner was so brusque and uncaring that it was all I could do not to order her out. But then again, I didn't have the strength to do it. When I went to the bathroom with Jesse's help and went back to bed afterwards wearing socks because my feet were so cold, she tore them off without even asking permission to do so because my fever had shot up even more. And when I started having chills again, Jesse was the one who got me warm blankets so that I could warm up again over her objections.

By the time morning rolled around and the new doctor said he was sending me to the hospital I was so relieved to get away from "Nurse Hannigan" that I didn't care that I was being admitted to the hospital for the first time in my life. After an ambulance ride during which I was swaddled in warm blankets, I feel asleep as soon as I was settled into my hospital bed. The nurses just left me alone until Jesse got there.

For the next three or four days, I had IVs with loads of antibiotics, and morphine for the pain (hallelujah morphine!). Oh, and the daily blood draws from the same vein in my arm were loads of fun. I was on oxygen too. My blood oxygen levels were carefully monitored. With a 103-104 degree fever running consistently they put me on a cooling blanket to bring the fever down. So much fun!  I even got my first catheter (ahhhhh the relief!).

I was so exhausted that I didn't want to talk on the phone or watch television. Jesse stayed at my side and gave my parents updates three times a day on how I was doing. He also talked with people from work and church to give them updates as well. We allowed only two people to visit, my housemate LP and my dear friend SAS. I listened to hymns on Pandora and Jesse read scriptures to me for a while, but mostly I just slept.

I had moments of lucidity but was having horrible hallucinations from the morphine. The bacteria was alive all around me, and threatening me. People who were the wrong colors with rainbow neon colored skin, hair, and clothing, wanted to help me and were freaking me out. I was stuck alone in a room in an abandoned outpost in Afghanistan and could hear the enemy getting closer and closer, but could do nothing to help myself because I was so sick. I finally had to tell myself on this last one that it wasn't real and that I just needed to open my eyes. Thankfully that worked and I didn't revisit that particular hallucination again.

The nurses were amazing during that first week. They helped me keep my spirits up, which was pretty hard to do. They made sure both Jesse and I were comfortable, and coordinated treatments, tests and doctors visits. I credit much of my recovery to them. They were just incredible.

More to follow on part four....

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

j & c's story - part two

So, as Jesse and I talked to each other we revisited our meeting on United Flight 658. That flight was on a Sunday, and I found myself thinking of staying in Idaho for a few more days. I talked with my sister, and we agreed I would stay a couple more days if I could get another flight out. When I started to look at booking a new flight, I had this distinct feeling, "No, Christine just go home when you originally planned." I didn't think much of it, but I didn't change the flight. Turns out Jesse was originally going to fly back Iowa later in the week, but he finished his business earlier than planned, so he changed his flight.

I was already settling into the window seat when Jesse walked up. He didn't say anything until after he put his bag in the overhead compartment, and then looked down at me and something along the lines of, "Looks like this is my seat." As he took his seat, he accidentally elbowed me. He didn't hurt me at all, but was so overly apologetic about it that I started laughing. And because I was laughing, he started laughing. So we started off on a good note, laughing.

I don't remember everything we talked abut, but I do remember how intently Jesse kept looking at me. Honestly, I don't think I've ever met anyone whose gaze was so intense. It was like he could see who I truly am. At times I had to look away to the window, just to give myself a break. Looking back it's interesting to me how comfortable I felt with him and that I knew I could trust him.

Jesse told me that he always had a fantasy of meeting an attractive woman on a plane. He later told me his fantasy came true when he saw me on the plane (yay!). This thrilled me to no end!

During the month of January, we burned up the airways between us talking and getting to know one another. We began sharing more details of our lives and things that were happening to each of us. We were talking one evening about some things we were each going through in our lives, and how we could help and support each other. We set the intent to pray for each other and outlined specific things we would include in our prayers. I remember having a very tangible impression that although we were on separate paths, they were beginning to merge and we were becoming a team. I had never felt this before, and it was both exciting and scary.

Jesse is very creative and came up with a couple of games we could play while talking. For instance, we played the A-B-C game. We would share something about ourselves that started with each letter of the alphabet. For example, "A" is for that I like apples and Jesse served in the Army; "K" is that I like kisses, but not Hershey's kisses and Jesse likes to be a kid and do the fun things kids do; "Q" for me is quality time and for Jesse is quality of work and taking pride in it; and "T" for both of us is the temple. This was just one fun way for us to to get to know each other.

As January came to a close, I knew I was falling in love with Jesse. Yeah, I know I had only seen this man once... What was I thinking? I even ended a couple of dating relationships, telling them I had met someone else because of how sure I felt about Jesse. I even wrote my SIL TB, who was in Japan and wouldn't tell a soul other than my brother an email telling her how I was feeling to see how it felt to tell someone in my family I was in love and thinking about getting married.

In the meantime Valentine's Day snuck up on us. Jesse and I planned a video chat, and mailed off our gifts to each other. He sent me flowers, a card, some lotion and bath salts (not the kind you smoke) and a drawing of our paths merging and us walking on the path. It is the sweetest, best Valentine I've ever received. As we gazed longingly into each others eyes, talked about nothing at all, and grinned from ear to ear through the wonders of video chat, I knew for sure that I loved this guy!

We shared our feelings for each other shortly after Valentine's Day. We had talked about love before and how we wanted it in our lives. We shared what we hoped it would be like and what we each felt we brought to the table. And then over the next couple of weeks, we started talking about getting married. Oh, and somewhere in all this we celebrated our birthdays which are two days apart in March.

So, what was I thinking? Here I was in a long distance relationship with a man I had only seen once for less than two hours, and I knew that I loved him. Somehow this was both scary and not scary all at the same time. Quite a contradiction I know, but honestly underneath my initial mix of excitement and fear was a quiet, deep calm that this was the right partner for me, and that if Jesse was who I wanted and chose all would be well. So, as I sorted through the fear and uncertainty with a lot of prayer and pondering, I began to hold onto that calm feeling more and more certain as I did that he was the right man for me. Jesse seemed to be certain right from the start, and each time I brought my doubts to the table, he listened and was reassuring. He didn't try to convince me either way. He simply let me work through what I was feeling and thinking until I made my decision.

Throughout the experience of falling in love with Jesse and deciding to marry him, I had the very distinct feeling that I was choosing someone to love and share with my life with. It's often said that you don't choose who you love, but in this case I very much chose who to love. I wasn't just being chosen, I got to choose also. All along the way, I kept feeling that Jesse was a choice and a good one, and that I was being guided to make this choice. I could have made the choice to not love Jesse, to simply be his friend, and it would have been an okay choice. When I chose to accept his love, and love him in return, I felt the goodness of this choice. And when I finally chose to marry Jesse and we talked it through, I knew it was the right choice. The peace I felt was undeniable and is still with me, as I recall this period of our courtship.

And then we started planning his first visit to Washington, DC. And finally on the last weekend in March Jesse arrived for the first time in Washington, DC. On Friday evening, I picked him up from Reagan National Airport, where we met for the second time. I had butterflies of excitement in my stomach but felt that calm deep inside that this was the right thing. It was so good to see him, and get a big hug from him right there in the terminal. And then to walk out to my car holding hands and looking at each other felt like the biggest moment of my life.

We headed out to the Jefferson Memorial (my favorite!!) where we looked out over the Tidal Basin, taking in the iconic panorama of the White House, the Washington Monument, the MLK Jr. memorial, the cherry trees with their leave and blossom buds, and the DC skyline. We even shared our first kiss in a private moment on the portico. It was so cold that night, but neither of us felt it.

We grabbed pizzas at 7th Hill and gelato from next door at Pitango, and headed back to my house to eat dinner and talk. It felt so comfortable to be with Jesse. I felt like I was talking with a longtime friend. We talked, and talked until pretty late. I then dropped him off at a friend's house who had a spare bedroom so he could sleep. I floated home and somehow feel asleep after telling my sister and housemate how things were going.

Saturday we ran over to Eastern Market for breakfast and did some food shopping for the weekend. The wind was blowing so hard and so cold, that we didn't do any walking for sightseeing, but drove the length of the National Mall instead so that we could stay warm. We spent the afternoon talking, and practicing dancing. You guys, Jesse loves to dance!!!!

That evening we met up with my friends O & M at a country bar to go dancing together. It was fun to have O meet Jesse, as she was the first person I told about him when she picked me up from the airport. It was really fun to dance and chat. We ran into several people from work, and had a fun evening! We didn't stay out too late, because Sunday was going to be a big day and we wanted to get some sleep.

We got up early for church the next morning. Jesse was a little nervous and understandably so. The Capitol Ward (congregation) is my home and family here in DC. Most of my closest friends are from this ward, and so taking Jesse to church was like taking him home to meet my family over Easter or Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone wanted to meet him!!! It was really cute, because as soon as the main service was over my girlfriends were lining to introduce themselves and meet Jesse. Poor Jesse the quiet introvert that he is handled all the attention well.

After church we headed up to the Washington, DC Mormon Temple. Another favorite spot in this city! Again it was freezing cold, but Jesse and I walked the grounds talking and taking pictures. When got to the east side of the temple underneath the spire with the angel Moroni statue, Jesse stopped walking. He pulled me in close and we looked at up at the statue and chatted some more. He then turned me around to face and took both of my hands in his, and said that he had an important question to ask me.

He looked me in the eyes, and after telling me that he loved me, he simply asked me to marry him. Of course I said yes! He then pulled a simple diamond ring from his pocket and placed it on my finger. I was all smiles as we kissed and sealed the deal.

As we pulled back from the kiss, I took Jesse's face in my hands and told him that I had a question for him too and needed his undivided attention. I then pulled a ring box out of my coat pocket and asked him to marry me. He wasn't even fazed, he smiled the biggest smile and said yes! I put the ring on this finger, and we kissed again.

I felt I was saying yes to marrying a man who looked me in the eye as his equal partner. I felt that we were on the same level with our spiritual commitment to God, the outlook we share on life and our desire to serve our church, community, and each other. It was such a good feeling!

After taking some photos, we continued our walk hand-in-hand around the temple. I took a moment to explain to Jesse that a few weeks ago I had this crazy thought that when he asked me to marry him, I should ask him to marry me. The thought didn't leave me, and as I considered what to do it felt right to ask him too. So I did! (Before meeting Jesse I had never considered actually proposing myself.) He was really pleased with my surprise proposal and the ring I chose for him. It was definitely the right choice.

We walked over to the Temple Visitors Center to warm up and look around before heading home to eat dinner. As we looked at the very intricately detailed model of the temple, a cute sister missionary came over to talk with us. She asked why we had decided to come to the temple that day. Imagine her delight when Jesse told her that we were there because he had proposed to me. She was so excited and enthusiastic in her congratulations. She even called her companion over as well and shared the news with her. We had a very sweet conversation about choosing to be married and what it means to us. I'll always remember this sister fondly.

We then headed back to my house and found my housemate LP waiting for us to arrive. I shared with her that Jesse was going to propose that Sunday while he was visiting and she was so excited. She met Jesse on his first night in town, and talked with him a little throughout the weekend. She would check in with me when Jesse wasn't around, and text me to see how things were going throughout the weekend. She even managed to talk with Jesse without me around when I was busy with something. She shared with me that she really liked him and felt like he was a good man .

LP was beside herself with excitement. It was great to come home from the temple to her joy at our joy. She made sure to take several photos of us and captured our first candlelight dinner together that Jesse ended up cooking because I wasn't feeling too well after all the excitement. She even got on the phone with my parents to tell them about Jesse when we called to tell them about our engagement.  

We ended up spending a quiet Monday together resting and chatting before I took Jesse to the airport. I cried as I walked away from the security gates, because I felt so lonely and didn't know for sure when I would see Jesse again. And because I was engaged to marry the man I loved. Finally!

To be continued...