Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I've made several friends in my neighborhood who don't speak English. When we see each other we wave and our faces light up. Now that we've known each other for some time, we step towards each when we greet, and we say hi, how are you, I'm fine thanks, and isn't this evening lovely? At least I think that's what we're saying. I can never be sure.

We usually move past our initial greeting and have full conversations, each of us speaking our own language and gesturing frantically. Most conversations, my eyes grow wide as I flail my hands, as though my big eyes will communicate more than my meaningless English syllables.

At some point we stop talking and we laugh because we have no idea what anyone is saying, and then I whip out my phone and open the "voice memo" app. I hit record and hold the phone out to them so they can repeat whatever they've just said. I have a friend who speaks Mandarin who will help me translate it later. Then I'll record her voice interpreting my response to my friends' Mandarin message. I'll play it for them the next time I see them.

Usually, my friends stare blankly at my phone. There is something about me suddenly holding it in their faces that squelches conversation. But then it dawns on them what I'm doing, and they throw back their heads and giggle and start murmuring uncertainly.

When the murmuring has trailed off I put my phone away and tell them I hope they have a lovely evening, and I'm sure they tell me the same. I always walk away smiling.

© by scj

Monday, April 29, 2013

Oh your virtues, T-Rex

Dear T-Rex,

I've never been one for pets. Dogs and cats make me wheeze and swell, gerbils and guinea pigs make the house smell like a barn, and snakes have a habit of escaping their cage (at least they did in my house). I've often toyed with the idea of getting a goldfish, though.

However, my goldfish dreams went out the window — or down the toilet, as is often the case — when I started familiarizing myself with you and your endless possibilities, T-Rex.

What an asset you would be, if only you were my pet.

You could help me around the house.

Well, maybe not.

But you could ride bikes with me.

With some minor bike adjustments, of course.

And you could go out on the town with me,

Provided we avoid the "no shoes, no shirts, no service" restaurants.

And you could be all these things without making me sneeze; stinking up house barn-style; or escaping your cage and slithering into a hiding place for days on end, making everyone in the house jump.y. Hiding is not an option for you.

Your virtues are endless, T-Rex.

So you can imagine my delight, when some girlfriends gifted me with my very own T-Rex pet.

I loved you at first sight.

I promptly brought you home and set you in my living area, nearest my prized books. Incidentally, my studio is so small you were also in my dining, kitchen, and bedroom areas. No matter what I was doing throughout the day, you were there by my side with your bright eyes and chipper grin.

Granted, sometimes I saw you move out of the corner of my eye and momentarily thought you were an intruder, which startled the living daylights out of me. But your steady, comforting company was worth all those heart-stopping moments.

For almost two months you were my first, dearest pet. Given your tendency to go extinct, you've done a really good job of hanging around, my helium friend.

And then, yesterday, I awoke to this:

If my experiences with goldfish are any indicator of the gravity of this situation, then it is very grave, indeed.

I'll be going out of town in a few days to speak at a conference, and I fear you will be limp and lifeless when I return.

So I'd like to take this opportunity, as you take your last life breaths, to tell you that you've been a very good pet. I have grown quite fond of you. So fond, in fact, I had plans to give you a pair of these for our two-month anniversary:

Life would have changed drastically around here.

Don't be too, sad, though, T-Rex. Yes, I will miss you; but in heaven, your arms will probably be at least 8 inches longer. The whole world will be at your fingertips.


Your devoted owner, SJ

© by scj

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ladies of Portland and Vancouver!

I'll be speaking at a women's conference in Vancouver, Washington the first weekend of May, and I think YOU should come!!! I'd love to see you.

The deets:

WHERE: Glenwood Community Church

WHAT:  Talk #1: East of Eden: Reclaiming Our Beauty in a Broken World
            Talk #2: The Eye of the Beholder: Grace Sees Beauty in Everything

WHEN: May 3rd and 4th

Check it out and register HERE

Seeeeee you there!!!

© by scj

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Good intentions

If you were to rummage through the bin of books on the shelf above my beloved, lumpy red chair, you'd find three photo albums. They are the only photo albums I own. They are ten years old.

In the last decade, every picture I've taken has been digital, and despite my good intentions to print all 6,517 of them and put them into albums, I haven't. And despite my good intentions to at least organize all 6,517 of them into digital albums, I haven't. There are professional organizers to do that kind of thing for you, and I have good intentions of hiring one of them one of these days.

In the meantime, it has occurred to me that it's never before occurred to me to create an album for the photos I get from friends via text. These photos easily get lost in the helter skelter of texting life, never to be seen again. But it shouldn't be this way, folks, because these pictures are pixels in the digital mural of our lives, and nobody wants a mural with missing pixels I tell you. Nobody.

Which is why I am taking time, for the first time in ten years, to make a digital photo album. It is entitled "Photos friends have texted me." I have good intentions of coming up with a more creative title later.

Photo #1: 

When I was a sophomore in high school I got a Saturday school. I didn't have to go, however, because the administrator who gave me Saturday school was a substitute with ulterior motives, and my parents reckoned my behavior didn't warrant his punishment. And it didn't. That was the closest I've ever gotten to delinquency, though.

What did I do to become a purported miscreant? A friend and I licked the centers out of a pack of Oreos, and then put them back on the snack plate for our unsuspecting fellow student government classmates to enjoy during free time. Then we sat there and watched while they "enjoyed" them.

It is one of the highlights of my high school career. I am still laughing.

My friend and fellow Oreo-licker, G, texted me this picture recently:

It turns out "we've changed the rules for every school in the nation."

What a legacy.

Photo #2:

My little brother sent me this oldie but goodie:

"Who would have thought you'd be so excited about the Eiffel Tower?!"

I think I was daydreaming in this picture, apparently about participating in an epic boxing match. Or fighting Samurai with my nunchucks. Or conspiring to take down an evil dictator. Don't mess with me when I'm daydreaming, bro...

Photo #3: 

This photo didn't come with a caption, but I think it was taken by the sender. Which is very cool.

Photo #4:

My girlfriend sent this picture with the caption, "your kind of shoes. :)"

It made me smile because it's nice to know when friends are thinking of you and associate really cute shoes with you. You can tell a lot about a person by the shoes with which their friends associate them. That's an empirically verified fact. Science always was my strong suit.

Photo #5: 

One of my friends got a cold, so she decided to take some ginger as per someone's recommendation. Unfortunately, they forgot to mention that she didn't need to buy the store's entire supply of ginger.

Needless to say, she no longer has a cold.

Photo #6:

There is a pair of sisters who are like sisters to me and my sister. Say that five times fast. We're so close because we grew up living in the same cul-de-sac, attending the same church, and homeschooling together. Now that we're grown, neither of our families still lives in our beloved cul-de-sac, for which we are all a little bit sad. Which is why this picture and the corresponding text were so lovely to receive:

"Sometimes I miss the little haven of our childhood so I look it up on google earth."

Photo #7:

A friend wanted me to know about this, and I want you to know about it, too!

There are more pictures in this phone of mine. Lots, lots more. But now I'm tired of album-izing them. Don't worry, though; I have good intentions of finishing this later.


Also, I cannot figure out how to delete the "t" on the above line — it's permanently stuck there somehow. Which is just proof that compiling a really excellent electronic photo album requires more than good intentions.



© by scj

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sister's visit, day 3: my cunning plan

Somehow, I never got around to posting the pictures from day #3 of my sister's visit last month. They're definitely worth posting, since I devised a cunning plan to use our last day together to show my sister all she has to gain by moving down here.

Paradise is just down the freeway, see.

So, in hopes of awakening my sister's Pacific Northwest-accustomed heart to the glories of southern California paradise, we hopped in the car after church and headed to the most magnificent beach in Orange County, stopping along the way at Trader Joe's for picnic supplies.

There's nothing quite like picnicking atop the bluffs in paradise.

My dear friend, T, joined us

Do you think my ploy worked? Should I expect Sister to soon announce she'll be moving south where the sun shines steady, the waves churn turquoise, the breeze blows divine, and Sarah lives close?! Boy, that would be grand.

© by scj

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday Things: Gloating and Guacamole

I'm reinstating Thursday Things, because I still think compiling a list of the week's random stuff is one of the most fun ways to celebrate the fast-approaching weekend:

1. Since I moved down here nine years ago, I have routinely gotten two songs stuck in my head: "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Feliz Navidad." As I am prone to roam the house bellowing whatever song is stuck in my head at the moment, you can imagine I make a truly delightful roommate.

2. When I was in first grade I sometimes played at a friend's house whose family lived in hills overlooking the Columbia river. One sunny afternoon, my friend and I sat on her deck and watched the sailboats glide by while we ate a lunch of blueberries and noodles with butter. It was one of the most glorious afternoons of my 7-year old life. I cannot help but fondly remember it when I eat noodles with butter for dinner, as I did last night.

3. If Harry Potter is not one of your good friends, then your life has the potential to be 37% happier. Just sayin'.

4. Rexie, so dubbed by my girlfriends and me at my toast to God's goodness, is as youthful as he was when he was gifted to me four weeks ago. This has got to be a record for a helium balloon. I think he likes hangin' wit me.

5. I love that I overhear students saying things like, "We have got to develop a robust theology of angels, regardless of what society says about them" in the halls of the university where I teach.

6. There is an avocado tree on our property that likes to tantalize me with its avocados hanging far, far above my head. Homegrown avocados are of course much cheaper than store-bought avocados, and they are one of the tastiest things on God's earth. So I often try to outsmart our avocado temptress with step stools, rakes, brooms, and nets. The neighbors have been known to laugh at me so loudly I can hear them from their living room.

Despite my best efforts at procuring the green fruit, I am rarely successful. Which is why I was delighted today to find that the three avocados I've been trying to reach for weeks fell to the ground within hours of each other. If you need me this weekend, you can find me sitting under the avocado tree eating homemade guacamole, and gloating.

7. Two days ago my microwave started sounding like a banshee. Now you know.

8. Apparently yesterday was national siblings day. Thank goodness for Facebook, or I would have never known about this splendid holiday. In honor of my four hilarious, thoughtful, talented, intelligent, one-of-a-kind siblings, I'm posting a family picture. Better late than never:

Happy weekend, everyone!


© by scj

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seven Things

Seven happy things, because it's been a really hard week:

1. When students ask me to write letters of recommendation.

2. The first rose of spring in my patio garden.

3. The lizards on my patio are doing push-ups right now. This is obviously because the Rio Olympics are only three years away. My lizards are high-achieving planner-aheaders, that's what.

4. The Ocean, she dances.

5. The sweet peas my neighbor brought over yesterday. I wish I could post a scratch and sniff picture for your smelling pleasure.

6. The other day I squished a dollop of shaving cream between my fingers because squishing shaving cream is one of the most satisfying things in the world, and when I opened my hand the dollop looked like a stegosaurus. What are the ODDS, people!


Amen and Amen.

Will you tell me a happy thing, now?!

© by scj

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Great Easter Race of 2013

Today I am the best kind of sore. This is because I spent yesterday afternoon sprinting through the hills of Laguna in my Sunday finery. Minus my Easter high heels. Although I have to say, the classrooms I teach in during the week are so far from my office that I reckon I'm getting mighty skilled at power walking in heels. Watch out Kelly Ripa, no doubt I'll be a contender for the next NYC high-heel-a-thon blue ribbon.

But I digress.

In the week leading up to Easter I'd pushed through a pile of rather tiring grading with the anticipation of a rip roarin' resurrection celebration on Sunday. Thank goodness I'm a Jackson, because I can always count on Jacksons to deliver in the celebration department.

And they did.

My aunt, cousin, and Nana-in-law prepared a lovely spread, which we ate in my aunt and uncle's even lovelier backyard.

Over lunch, we laughed, read scripture, and went back for seconds and thirds. Then my uncle announced the Great Easter Egg Hunt of 2013.

The goal, he'd said, was to crush your familial opponents by doing whatever it took to find all 41 eggs, before anyone else could fine a single egg.

Actually, he'd really said something like, "You and your partner will race the other teams in a backyard egg hunt." But I am a Jackson, which means the goal of any race is to obliterate your competition with inimitable cunning and prowess.

Thank goodness I remembered halfway through the race that Jacksons are also very silly, and that it's possible to have fun racing, even if you don't win.

By the way, here's my egg hunt partner, Hunter.

He's my cousin Kyler's college friend. As his name suggests, Hunter is a very adept egg-finder. It turns out I am not, however. Apparently I spent too much time jumping around and exclaiming excitedly to maintain any sort of competitive edge.

Between the two of us we found nine eggs. Which put us in 3rd place, out of 4 teams. Our abysmal finish was eclipsed by the excitement of the next activity:

"Operation Figure-out-what-do-with-all-these-numbers".

Each of the 41 eggs had a number in it — some positive, some negative. As you may have already deduced, our task was to figure out what to do with the numbers, and then give our aunt the cracked code. If we were correct, then she would give us a golden egg to open.

It did not take long for us to realize we needed to add up the numbers, which took quite awhile because adding up 41 long numbers is more confusing than you'd think.

But we finally emerged victorious with our 5-digit number, and opened the revered golden egg, which had the name of a street in it.

Armed with what we determined was an address, we sprinted down the driveway and up the street.

Well, we girls sprinted. About 100 meters into the race the boys realized they weren't a match for our feminine speed, agility, and determination, and so they hopped in the car.

Boy, they missed out.

Several minutes later we arrived, panting and sweaty, at a neighboring house, where we discovered our Easter candy.

Delighted and tired, we jumped in the back of the boys' truck and drove back to the house, where we enjoyed our spoils and ate my aunt's divine coconut cake.

The rest of the evening was full of rich conversation, laughter, and music. My cousin is an amazing vocalist, and I am a pianist, so we joined forces to lead the family in singing praises to a living God who gives us new life.

It was a lovely end to a stomach-filling, sore muscle-inducing, soul-satisfying, rip-roarin' resurrection celebration, made possible because He lives.

"Because I live, you also will live" (John 14:19).

© by scj