Saturday, December 31, 2005
Thank you, Lord, for this moment.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
After a circuit around the empty park in the middle of the square, I felt the swings beckoning me. After a few minutes of pumping my legs with vigor, I allowed myself to slow to a leisurely pace, enjoying the gentle rush of air on each upswing and the steady warmth of the sun on my back. I was then mildly startled by a voice behind me, informing me that I wasn't doing it right. "You have to pump your legs if you want to go fast," a little boy of maybe 5 told me as he strode up. Admittedly out of practice when it comes to conversing with kids, I opened my mouth to defend my slowed pace by explaining the joys of calm introspection accompanied by ingrained kinesthetic movements. He cut me off within seconds, instructing me to give him a good push on the next swing over so that he could show me how it's done. Okay, fine.
When my new (but very bossy) friend named Russell became bored with the swings, he compelled me to spin him on the merry-go-round. (His cries of "Faster! Faster!" were not deterred by my explanation that a good dose of WD-40 would be the only way that thing would go any faster.) Next he instructed me to join him on the 4-way plastic seat bouncy thing (undoubtedly there is a better name for it, but I find my playground vocabulary limited). After some pretending that wood chips served as the gas for his motorcycle shaped seat as well as the food needed to make my plastic stallion really gallop (it took me a while to catch on to this, much to Russell's exasperation; in my defense, the kid does not enunciate) I made the fatal decision to switch to the frog.
I approached the frog from the left and swung my right leg around to the other side; it was then that I heard that sound you really hope to never hear in public: rrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiipppp! I don't think Russell even heard it (mercifully he was making motorcycle revving noises at the time) but I knew in an instant that the tiny hole in my jeans that I had noticed at some point during our 13 hour drive yesterday had just become a rather substantial tear, dangerously close to exposing my bright yellow briefs to the world (or at least a stranger kid on a plastic motorcycle, which is not at all appropriate).
And that was the end of my traveling pants. Based on precedent, I knew that the kid was not game for lengthy explanations, so I said simply, "Uh, Russell, I've got a hole now, and I need to go home and change my pants." He was remarkably nonplussed by this, and made me promise to come back and play some more, which in my mortification I numbly agreed to, and I made a beeline back to C & J's. Feeling bad about breaking a promise, even to a stranger kid, I headed back out to the playground about 10 minutes later only to find that I had been replaced as his partner in play by a group of kids that had arrived in my absence. Not wanting to stick around to be dubbed "the lady with the hole in her pants" (even though it seemed Russell had already forgotten all about me) I made another circuit around the neighborhood and went back inside.
Monday, December 26, 2005
The rest of the relatives then retired to my aunt's house for dessert, where the highlight of the evening was sifting through a shoebox of old photographs. Turns out my brother was quite the cutie as a kid. My favorite photographic find is below--taken a few years before my arrival on the planet, here's my bro and Dad show off their stylin' leisure suits.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The rest of my surprise, of course, stems from the fact that I was asked out by a man who, but for being my neighbor, is pretty much a complete stranger, and that just doesn't happen to me very often...or really, ever. ("GroooovyGlen" from PA does not count because although he was very strange, by the end of the bus ride from Tarifa to Sevilla we were not complete strangers).
And, in a stroke of grand irony, just this morning I had my third ever neighbor conversation with Marvin, a California transplant I found in the parking lot two cars over from mine attemping to scrape his car windows with a license plate. I lent him my scraper and we conversed, predictably, about the weather.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I got home late last night from my small group's Christmas party, and met my neighbor, Miguel, on the way upstairs. He started to make conversation, asking questions about my life, which I answered quite freely because I only realized after I had said goodnight and let myself into my place that it's one thing to introduce yourself to someone, say, on a plane whom you'll never see again, but it probably isn't the best idea to be telling this guy, nice as he seems, where I work, why I'm hardly ever home, that I'll be out of town next week, and that I live very much alone. I've heard that being on friendly terms with one's neighbors is supposed to contribute to a safer community, but I suspect the experts on neighborly conduct would suggest you build up a little rapport (or at least collect basic facts) before letting your affairs be made known.
So, I have to say I'm now feeling a little vulnerable, since Miguel now knows quite enough to rob me if he were so inclined (as I laid in bed last night trying to fall asleep my overactive imagination supplied a montage of Miguel hurtling himself from his balcony to mine by means of a grappling hook, cutting a hole in my patio door with a diamond, letting himself in, and helping himself to my meager collection of electronics and perhaps the bottle of wine I've been saving for a dinner party), while the number of things I know about him is the same as the times I've talked to him: 2. His name is Miguel, and he lives across the hall.
Now, all of that alone would be enough to stress me out a little, but there's more. I think he asked me out last night, and I think I inadvertantly said yes. Perhaps if these exchanges played themselves out more often in my life I might get better at seeing them coming, and dealing with them appropriately when they arrive, but last night's conversation unfortunately followed precendent, in that I completely missed the warning signs (really, "So, do you have a boyfriend?" should have been a dead giveaway) and then in all of my well-intentioned friendliness I stepped right into a coffee date. I actually had the presence of mind to decline his request for my number, but then feeling bad tried to compensate for my rebuff with "But hey, you know where I live" which in hindsight did not make me feel any better, only a little creeped out. As soon as I realized what I had done I tried to downgrade the coffee date to simply an opportunity for me to practice my Spanish, but later I was disgusted with myself for being so self-serving.
And so, today I am feeling tormented, and perhaps a little neurotic, with a side of dread.
Friday, December 16, 2005
And so, here's to roofers, who traverse icy roofs in 20 degree weather to discover the source of a leak and bring patches and justice to all. Roofers, I salute you.
Monday, December 12, 2005
2. Traveling through the snow-covered tundra put me into hibernation-prep mode, and by the end of the trip I kind of felt like I was Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven--eating in every shot. Munchins, gummy worms, cookies, wedding cake, and (obligatory when one travels through Wisconsin) CHEESE. Here's a scary pic of me gnawing off a hunk of "beer cheese" we picked up at one of the many cheese chalets advertised along 94. (We had lost our plastic Wendy's knife hours before, and, well, I was inexplicably hungry again.)
3. Bad things can happen if you mistake cheese for something else (and have poor judgement and a low regard for human life). Read all about it!
Thursday, December 08, 2005
And so, in my love of road trips, and a curiosity at just how many weddings a girl can attend in a single calendar year (knocked off another last weekend--congrats Evan & Karyn!), I'm embarking on another trip to Minnesota tomorrow morning with Christina, a dear friend who mentioned awhile back that she wouldn't mind some company on her journey to attend a friend's wedding in the Twin Cities, and am looking forward to lively discussions of the literary conventions used by Lewis in LWW and its prequel, which we're reading for this month's book club. A lovely friend, enchanting books, yet another couple pledging their lasting love and commitment, and a winter wonderland road trip.
Okay, so maybe I'm romanticizing things just a bit...and I do realize the wisdom of praying ferverently that we don't end up spinning out into a ditch somewhere in rural Wisconsin (feel free to pray too)...but nevertheless I think I'm just inclined to rose-colored glasses this afternoon. Hoorah!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
WHOOPS A woman called police to report a burglary in progress after she heard sounds coming from her basement. Police responded and searched the house with a K-9 unit but did not find an intruder. Instead, they determined that some bottles had fallen over when the washing machine was running.
NOT ILLEGAL A man called to report a suspicious vehicle that was illegally parked in front of his house. Police investigated and found the car was not illegally parked and that the owner of the car was visiting someone across the street. Police determined that the caller has a problem with cars parking in front of his house.
GOOD AIM, BAD TARGET A patrol officer reported that his police cruiser was hit with a snowball. He and another officer checked the area.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I would like to nominate my neighbors for the "Best Utilization of a Balcony" Award. Sadly I can't capture all of the blinking and flashing action in a photgraph, so you'll have to trust me on that. It really is quite the spectacle.
Friday, December 02, 2005
While I was working at B&N this week, I found myself humming amidst the shelves, attempting to drown out the insipid holiday music mandated by Corporate with my own playlist of rather mournful carols. I've been in a bit of a funk lately, disgusted with myself for obstinately standing in my own way on the long road to real and lasting change, and somehow I feel like that's the soundtrack I need to start with if I'm ever going to step forward into the joy of the season; that perhaps if I associate my weary expectancy with that of a world that had yet to receive the Messiah, a world weary of its own humanity and desperate for a Savior, I might then understand anew what a wonder it is that He has come to be Emmanuel, God with us. The fourth stanza is my prayer today.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
[Refrain] Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse's tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
Monday, November 28, 2005
...tall, determined men who stride out of the morning mist to declare their love.
...Jane Austen, whose books will always outshine the movies (even the misty parts).
...my parents and brother gathered around my small, inconvenient dining room table on Friday for a belated Thanksgiving dinner.
...two entire evenings spent curled up with a warm tasty beverage and an engrossing book.
...the sunshine and unseasonably warm weather today (well, for a few hours at least).
Monday, November 21, 2005
Now that I and all of my cousins are older, we are a strictly Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve family. Birthdays are no longer celebrated, if even acknowledged, and the occurrence of major life events (for example, my cousin's engagement) seem to come out only under prolonged questioning at one of these two events. In short, I wouldn't call us close. Now that Grandpa is in a nursing home, our traditions have lost their home turf, and so we found ourselves at his nursing home on a Sunday afternoon, subject to each other and a man dubbed "the entertainment."
There he stood in the corner, stationed behind his synthesizer, wearing a keyboard tie and one of those hands-free mics that wraps around your head, held fast by your ears, with a little foam-covered thing that hovers in the vicinity of your mouth, a la Britney Spears in concert. No one at our table noticed him until he began to speak. There had been no introduction by the nursing home staff, no justification offered for his intrusion upon our painfully stilted pre-dinner conversation. We were left to assume, with sinking hearts, that this man was "the entertainment."
His repertoire consisted of a few 40's and 50's tunes and a patriotic medley, all played with so much pep that I felt like puppets would appear at any moment, interspersed with a litany of over-told jokes and socially awkward audience interaction. I cannot vouch for others in the room, but at our table "the show" was not well received. At one point, with his inimitable lack of tact, my grandpa even announced (in that overly loud way that persons hard of hearing are prone to do), "I wish he'd stop that racket already."
No, the entertainment was not appreciated at our table for any degree of talent. But I had to give him credit, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I even discovered reasons to be thankful for Synthesizer Man.
First, I figure you've got to be really sure of yourself, and your act, to perform to the kind of crowd of which I was a part on Sunday afternoon. The kind of crowd where a good percentage can't hear you, and many of those who can wish they couldn't. The kind of crowd where only the nursing staff clap when you finish a song, because after all, they hired you and have to act happy about it. The kind of crowd where facial expressions are hard to come by, stolen years ago by age and infirmity. And yet on he played and sang, with enthusiasm and dare I say, spunk. He played to the room, regardless of reception, and encouraged the few who sang along. He told another joke even after the last one elicited only a few groans. And at the end (oh, the blissful end), he wished us all a Happy Thanksgiving and promised he'd be back for the Christmas party. I couldn't give him props for the quality of his performance, but I had to admit I was kinda impressed this guy was out there performing at all.
It made me think about the fact that so often I am afraid to "go public" with anything until I'm certain that I'm good at it, that others will appreciate and even applaud my contribution. I'm way too concerned with being perceived by anyone as "fumbling through" that there are many attempts at things that never see the light of day. That guy had moxy. He had his own brand of charisma. And who knows, maybe some of those wheelchair bound people were eating it up, but just weren't able to show it. They'll have another chance at the Christmas party to express their appreciation, and maybe by then I'll have learned to be a little less critical, and my relatives and I will find something to talk about.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
People express their frustration in different ways. Apparently, my outlet is run-on sentences. Hope you're staying warm and toasty tonight, wherever you are. I will be selling books to the few brave souls who dare to venture out.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
This list is not exhaustive. It's not in any particular order. Some of the items I could get started on tomorrow if I had a mind to, while others are partially or completely out of my control. All will be accomplished only by God's grace. But I feel like for right now it's a launch pad for living; or maybe a home base, a place to come back to for reorientation when I've wandered from my conviction that a life of only the familiar, comfortable, and routine is not forward living, but just idle repetition. And by posting it here, I'm not only making a declaration of hope and intent, but also inviting you, my friends, to join me in any of the endeavors and adventures listed below. :)
1. Take voice lessons.
2. Become really, truly fluent in Spanish.
3. Live somewhere with a moutain view.
4. Earn a Master's Degree in...something.
5. Stay for a week at a B&B on Prince Edward Island.
6. Learn how to swim properly.
7. Work as a barista.
8. Have my photography on display in a gallery or some public place.
9. Take ballroom dancing lessons.
10. Learn to play the piano.
11. Adopt a dog that needs a home.
12. Mentor a younger woman.
13. Take a cooking class.
14. Own a home.
15. Plant a lilac bush in my yard.
16. Instill in a child the love of reading.
17. Write a book and have it published.
18. Live for at least 2 years in a foreign country.
19. Hike the Camino de Santiago.
20. Find Gustav.
Friday, November 04, 2005
I strolled down to the little deli on the corner, an establishment I frequent, particularly when my boss is out of town and not treating me to Mexican downstairs. I stepped up to the counter, and before I could open my mouth, the owner, with pen poised over order pad, asked nonchalantly, "The usual?"
It took me a minute to respond, for a couple reasons. The first is that an inexplicable joy came over me at the fact that I had achieved "regular customer" status and that none other than the owner happened to recall the eccentricities of my "usual" order (which happens to be their atomic turkey panini, with sprouts instead of cucumber and ranch instead of honey mustard.) I don't really know how to explain why that thrilled me so much, though I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I've never had anyone remember my "usual" before, and, for that instant, I felt like I was watching myself in a sitcom, where order takers always ask the characters if they'll have the usual because the characters always frequent the same establishment, because dining variety would require a bigger set and more extras, not to mention the fact that ordering food, in general, does not make for captivating entertainment and the time is better spent on witty dialogue. The second reason is that just moments before, while standing in line, I had made the decision to deviate from my usual and have the pollo pesto instead (which is a close second in tastiness) and my mouth was already watering for it.
And so I responded haltingly, trying to adopt a similar nonchalantness but I fear rather coming across as quite flustered, "No, I'm going to try something different today and go with the pollo pesto."
As so as I sat on the bench outside, huddled over my sandwich with Chesterton in one hand and my waterbottle wedged between my knees, I agonized over that brief interchange. Should I have abandoned my decision to have the pollo pesto today in order to confirm that he really does know the conditions of my "usual?" Does the fact that I ordered something different mean that he'll abandon the idea that I have a usual, and instead regress to taking my order with polite but common indifference? And, despite the thrill, does the fact that I have a recognized usual mean that I am stuck in a lunch rut and am by this exclusivity missing out on a wide spectrum of enjoyable sandwich options? And should the fact that I'm thinking this deeply about sandwiches worry me?
The thrill. The crisis. The usual.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
I can't really point to any one thing about the retreat and say, "that's what made it so great." It was more just being together and a succession of simple things--non-events, really, like conversations that just beautifully unfolded in the moment, or a story that left me laughing so hard I gasped for breath, or catching out of the corner of my eye a mosaic of wet leaves strewn across the pavement whose artistry stopped me in my tracks, or seeing in others' eyes a thirst for God and a yearning for a tender heart--that exposed me again to the joy of community and the reality that God is at work and will be found by us as we earnestly seek His face.
As the weekend came to a close and the "magic retreat bubble" was about to be broken, I felt just a little bit like Peter when the glory of the transfiguration began to fade away: "Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters..." I love that Luke clarifies "He did not know what he was saying." Driving away from camp, I knew that it had been so good for us--for me--to be there, but beyond that I really didn't know what to say. I knew God had shown up in His glory, but I think it's going to take me a few days outside the bubble to sort through what He's revealed.
I'm headed up to Minneapolis in the morning for work, so I'll have 12 hours in a car with my boss to get started on that.
Friday, October 21, 2005
This has been my first foray into event planning, and I've learned some valuable things along the way:
1. That organization is my coping mechanism: when I can put everything that has to do with anything on a list or in a diagram, I immediately feel better about the whole situation. I am so on the same page with Santa on this one. (You know, make a list, check it twice...)
2. That not RSVPing on time messes with a party planner's head and lists and diagrams...at least the more neurotic party planners out there. (Resolved: to promptly reply to all invitations when it is in my power to do so.)
3. That I am really terrible about delegating work and recruiting volunteers.
4. That creating autumnal centerpieces can be an enjoyable and therapeutic experience. (My inner crafter leapt for joy!)
5. That Sam's Club has festive and tasty cakes for cheap!
6. That older people get disgruntled when you don't feed them dinner until 7:00.
7. That when someone from HQ says, "We have this thing thing we'd like to do, and we thought you could help us out; it really won't take up that much of your time" what they really mean is, "We have this huge project, and we're really busy, and no one out here is really sure what you do, so why don't you just take this whole thing and make it happen?"
Even though I am amused by the irony of #7 and the way it has played out over the past couple months, at the same time I am hugely honored to have been trusted by the President's office and Advancement to put this thing together, and am feeling fairly confident going into this evening. It may or may not go off without a hitch, but I can vouch for the fact that there will be 10 beautiful centerpieces that conform to the diagram that you'll find in the manila envelope labeled "Lists and Diagrams."
Monday, October 17, 2005
The leaves by hundreds came -
The Chestnuts, Oaks, and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The Sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand,
Miss Weather led the dancing,
Professor Wind the band.
In the time it takes you to read this post (about 3 minutes), a woman somewhere in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer. If breast cancer has yet to affect you personally, just wait...the lifetime risk of breast cancer for women in the U.S. today is 1 in 7. It could be your mom, your sister, your aunt, your roommate, your friend...or it might be you.
I am concerned about prevention, early detection, and a cure because I lost my grandmother to breast cancer before I really had the chance to know her; because I know several brave women--including my aunt--who are survivors of the disease; and because for the past two summers I've participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and met numerous women of tremendous courage.
Though breast cancer is a formidable foe, hope exists in the form of early detection and advances in cancer treatments. Call your mom today and make sure she's up to date on her mammogram. Educate yourself on risks and prevention. And please, as you leave my blog today, take just a minute to visit the Breast Cancer Site--click the pink button in the middle of the screen to help fund mammograms for underpriviledged women; it's free and only takes a second. Thanks.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
It's a strange sensation. I discovered this phenomenon when Allison and I were at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. (I checked with Allison to make sure I wasn't crazy--she said the earth moved for her too.)
Well, that's all I wanted to say. Have some fun with it the next time a marathon or a herd of wildebeests comes to your town.
P.S. Congratulations to Wladimir, debut marathoner, for finishing in 4:49.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Word rage (wurd rAj) n. intense frustration and thoughts of violence against technological devices arising from Microsoft Word's repeated thwarting of one's attempt to perform simple formatting tasks. [Suzanne was overcome with Word rage when the program repeatedly rejected her attempts at accurate paginating.]
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I enjoyed getting away and exploring Boston and adding a few new states to my travelogue; I really liked Harvard and Cambridge and couldn't get enough of all of the old brick buildings and quaint independent bookstores; and along the way there were moments of hilarity, rest, solidarity, comfort, worship, and wonder, but in all actuality the trip was exhausting overall and not the carefree bohemian vacation I had hoped it would be.
The weekend was fraught with inconvenience (getting bumped from a hotel right by Fenway to one WAY out in the suburbs accessible only by a combination of subway, bus, walk, and shuttle); difficulty (cobblestone streets, while aesthetically pleasing, do not mix well with wheeled luggage), loss (my cell phone, tragically swallowed up by public transportation), aches and pains (the Freedom Trail, though interesting and quite educational, is the most exhausting 3 miles I've ever walked), and disappointing revelations ("hmm, the leaves haven't really changed here yet either.")
Thankfully, these obstacles were more or less interspersed with moments of wonder ("Hey, look at the fluke on that whale!"), scenes of beauty (an incredible sunset over Boston Harbor, the Portland Head Light shining through the fog); great people (friends of Charity's neighbors kept us for the night in Maine and raised our spirits considerably); episodes of hilarity (we discovered small town police reports are incredibly entertaining); and other surprises that made the trip worth it after all.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
"Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."
I think George and I could have shared passionate conversations about our love of Autumn. Spring, Summer, and Winter all have their charms, but Autumn mesmerizes and excites me in a way that is unmatched by the other seasons. I simply revel in it. Even though it signals the earth's decent into a period of sleep and death, it is when my senses come alive.
In 48 hours I'll be boarding a plane and trusting its wings to fly me East to Boston, and so in a way I feel as though I am Eliot's bird, chasing after Autumn. Of course, the analogy fails in that it is autumn here now as well, but there is something intriguing and exotic about experiencing the season somewhere new.
Now that I think of it, that would be a pretty cool premise for a book some day: trotting the globe, chasing the successive Autumns...
"Chasing Autumn" by Suzanne Mylastnamehere -- coming someday to a bookstore near you.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
My boss received these photos from an associate of his who was down South when Katrina hit. It's astounding to me that a force of nature so destructive can at the same time be so beautiful. I could try to draw some profound insight from that fact, but I think I'll just let the pics speak for themselves.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
I decided to stop at the grocery store on my way home from work late last night so that I could throw together a lunch for today. I grinned to myself at the odd assortment as I approached Pinky, the cashier (yes, her actual name), with the contents of my basket: 1 gallon of milk, 1 tomato, 1 2-lb brick of medium cheddar cheese, and 1 bag of fun-size Kit Kats. (Don't worry, Mom, my lunch consists of more than that.) I had grabbed just my Visa when I ran into the store, and so I informed Pinky that I had a Fresh Values card, but it was in the car. She said no problem, I could enter my phone number. I did. No go. So then she entered my phone number. No go. Then she entered my phone number again, as if punching the numbers harder and to a different rhythm would somehow yield a new and satisfactory result. Still no go. So she asks me a series of questions about my card, which I answer while trying to remain calm. With shrugged shoulders she informs me that she doesn't have a dummy card that she can just swipe through so we can get on with things, and so I sigh and ask her to set my things aside while I run out to my car, determined to get my fresh values. I'm halfway through the revolving door when I realize I had the card on my keys--in my hand--the whole time. (This is indicative of my brain this week.) I swing back around, sheepishly thrust my keys at her with a mumbled "I'm an idiot" and successfully receive my $4.38 in savings.
With my receipt Pinky hands me that red-striped coupon strip that, after plumbing the depths of your demographic profile and spending history, invariably gives you coupons for the last thing you'd consider purchasing on your next trip to Dominick's.
I snickered on the way to my car as I surveyed my "special offers." The first informed me that I had earned ten cents for the school of my choice. All I have to do is make a trip to the school to turn in my receipt, and all they have to do is log onto some website and enter a TWENTY-FOUR DIGIT redemption code, and in 12-16 weeks (for processing) they'd get their 10 cents. That is less than half a cent per redemption code digit, and I just imagined the school secretary silently cursing whoever dropped of the receipt and expected her to enter 24 digits for 10 cents.
The second offer was a coupon for Always maxi pads. The part that really got me was that under the "Save 2.00" it says, "May we suggest" and then goes on to describe the proffered pad (with or without wings, of course). Okay, hold up. When did grocery store print-outs decide it was their place to offer recommendations on feminine hygiene products?!?
Sometimes you've just gotta shake your head and laugh.
Friday, September 16, 2005
You see, I think there should be a holiday that pays homage to that first glorious day each fall when the temperatures finally dip down low enough to prompt a girl to delve into her closet and pull out her beloved fleece pullover that does nothing for her figure but is oh-so-comfy-and-inviting, like a fabric womb with holes for the wrists and neck.
Of course, First Fleece must be celebrated with just a pinch of sadness, as it is the first indication that one's remaining Birkenstock days are limited. And it must also serve as a sober warning that WTBS (Warm Toasty Bed Syndrome) is now likely to strike on any given morning.
Caveats aside, First Fleece is an event worth celebrating. Even if I'm the only one.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
No matter how big my grin, how deep my dimples, there was no light in my eyes...just some moisture and hints of redness. I'd just hung up the phone after talking with my best friend and learning that in just 7 days she and her husband will be moving 5 hours northwest of here. I've known their move was coming for a couple months now, and had even been surprised at my own emotionally even acceptance of the fact, but learning the precise date and seeing it there in my calendar in black and white, a week away, caused my heart to clench, pushing tears to the surface and shooting me back to the parallel moment our sophomore year of high school.
Any composure I achieved in the bathroom was lost in the course of writing the last paragraph, and so here I am at my desk with tears running down my cheeks, ruminating on love and loss and pain. And about how curious it is that those who have hope are not confined to the natural assumption that anything that hurts, that causes pain, is therefore bad. There are myriad examples of good things that cause pain (babies screaming at getting their tiny rumps pumped with vaccine shots comes first to mind), but how quickly we forget when next we hurt.
Last night I read the chapter on Dr. Paul Brand in Yancey's Soul Survivor. Though he dealt more with physical pain than emotional, in Dr. Brand's estimation, pain is a gift. "I thank God for pain," Brand told Yancey. "Virtually every response of our bodies that we view with disgust--blister, callus, swelling, fever, sneeze, cough, vomiting, and especially pain--demonstrates a reflex toward health. In all these things normally considered enemies, we can find a reason to be grateful."
And in these tears and heartache, I do have so many reasons to be grateful. One reason is the realization of how the Lord has grown me since the first time Wisconsin swallowed up my best friend. That time, back in high school, I took it personally. I was angry at God for taking (really just relocating) from me something--someone--I was convinced was mine; from somewhere I'd adopted the notion that as an American teenager I had the right to life, liberty, and a best friend who's just a short drive across town. I now praise God for crushing that sense of entitlement before it worked more ugliness in my soul; for enlarging my sense of the world; for deeping my trust in Him; and for the many, many blessings that came from an event that at first caused so much pain.
Now that I'm at the end of this post and my eyes are dry once more, I am utterly sheepish at these musings on loss and pain. Over the past couple weeks, hundreds of thousands have lost everything they owned, and in some cases those they loved, and the pain in their hearts is beyond my imagination. Large-scale tragedy does not negate small-scale loss, but it certainly does lend perspective. And it causes me to wonder, with adoration, at the God who hears their cries and mine and has compassion on us both.
Friday, September 09, 2005
For the wedding of Suzanne & Barrett, dear friends from Taylor, there was the added bonus of having a slew of my Taylor friends in for the long weekend. Thursday night we girls went out on the town--or rather, the lake--for a very fun dinner cruise. Friday night we dined Italian style around a huge table, lingering long after the plates were cleared, sharing in turn how much we love and appreciate Barrett & Suzanne. Saturday evening the ladies were stunning in red and the men looked quite dashing, but Suzanne's radiant bridal glow and the joy on Barrett's face eclipsed everything else as Chuck walked Suzanne down the aisle. Hooray for weddings. :) After the bride and groom had stolen away from the reception, the rest of us decided together time was too rare to just go home, so everyone came back to my place where we relaxed until 3:30 in the morning.
Early Sunday morning I took Lynn to the airport, and then by 3:00 it was time to start all over again! Rachel & Eric definitely win the prize for the coolest wedding venue. Quite simply, I loved everything about their ceremony and reception, from the gazebo to the 4 guys playing guitar and mandolin on the side to the chips and guacamole on the veranda (eh, Bonnie, how bout that guac?!) to the paper lanterns hung criss-cross from the beams in the barn to the little pots of grass and green flowers on the table to the cheesecake to dancing to Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls on the way out the door. (You know a wedding & reception were something special when you find yourself closing your eyes and reliving the whole experience! And watering your little pot of grass, willing it to live...)
Okay, so maybe all of these weddings have gone to my head a bit. As much as I enjoyed them all, and as thrilled as I am for all of my lovely married friends, I now breathe a small sigh of relief and smile as the caboose goes rattling down the track.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime
by Jasper Fforde
2005 Viking 400 pages
"Jack Spratt and Mary
solve painfully contrived crime.
Jasper let me down."
To flesh that out just a little: As a huge fan of Fforde's Thursday Next Literary Detective Series, I felt compelled to read Fforde's most recently published novel, The Big Over Easy. (Although I am rather disappointed that he seems to be taking a hiatus from continuing the adventures of Next.) I say most recently published, because it's actually the first book he ever wrote. Unfortunately, you can tell.
The puns and randomness and literary allusions that I've come to appreciate from Jasper are all there, but whereas the main storyline of Thursday Next novels seems to float along on these clever devices, The Big Over Easy is bogged down by them. In the end, the mystery of who killed Humpty Dumpty is not all it's cracked up to be. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) It's one of those novels where you're expecting--hoping, even--that the ending will inspire that age-old forehead slap accompanied by an exclamation of, "How did I not see that coming?!" Instead, when everything was "resolved" at the end I was left scratching my head and muttering, "Where in the world did that come from...?"
I don't know, maybe I've watched too many episodes of CSI to possess the patience necessary to watch a nursery crime investigation unfold over 400 pages and a few too many children's story asides. If you want to read some riveting and quirky literary investigating, stick with Jasper Fforde, but start with The Eyre Affair, the first in the Thursday Next series. Pick up this tale of the shady egg's demise only if you find yourself with a LOT of spare time.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Friday, August 12, 2005
Cross-Cultural Connections: Stepping Out and Fitting In Around the World
by Duane Elmer
2002 InterVarsity Press 215 pages
The author opens with the story of a monkey and a fish:
“A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.
“A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved out far on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.”
Despite our best intentions, we often behave like the monkey when we interact with members of cultures. Our natural inclination is to do what seems right from our own frame of reference, although it might be inappropriate, ridiculous, or offensive in the context of the other person’s culture. A little education and preparation can go a long way when it comes to crossing cultures, and this book is a great place to start if you or someone you know is preparing to travel, do business, or minister cross-culturally. As I read, I wished I had been armed with the tools and strategies presented in this book before my semester abroad…or my last dating relationship, for that matter. I am sure both would have been even more satisfying (and less frustrating) had I been more aware of and prepared to deal with cultural differences.
This book is divided into 4 sections. In the first, the author helps the reader gain a perspective of culture and the concept of right, wrong, and different. In Section 2, Elmer addresses dealing with the new and different and the “shock” that often—if not always—accompanies life in a new and different culture. He then presents a map that illustrates both the high and the low road in dealing with the new and different, allowing that most spend time on both, but suggesting that proper awareness can help a person spend most of their time on the high road. Section 3 provides attitudes and skills for cultural adjustment, which include openness, acceptance, and trust. Section 4 sheds light on differences that confuse, including time and event, individualism and collectivism, straight and curved logic, and guilt and shame. Finally, Section 5 addresses the complexities of returning home after various lengths of time in another culture.
Activities are sprinkled throughout the book, and each chapter ends with a reflection exercise and discussion questions, making it an excellent book for a person to go through with his/her mentor, a couple to read and work through together, or a team to read and discuss together with their leaders or trainers. I believe this book would be a valuable tool for anyone preparing for or newly engaged in mid or long-term missions, international business, study abroad, local cross-cultural ministry, cross-cultural dating or marriage relationships, or anyone interested in improving the way they relate to and understand people of other cultures.
This book was recommended to me by Cheri Pierson, assistant professor in the Intercultural Studies Department at Wheaton College. The author, Duane Elmer, is professor of International Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.
WHEATON – A local pedestrian noted yesterday that the women’s clothing boutique on the corner of Hale St and Wesley in downtown Wheaton appears to have closed its doors forever to the few women and misguided men who frequented the shop.
Though it has been quite some time since local citizens had taken any notice of the establishment, A Woman, Ltd. had long been a source of confusion for visitors of this moderate-sized suburb, who puzzled at the store’s odd name and its propensity for displaying flashy and outdated swimsuits in the store’s windows year-round.
Regarding this blow to the town's economy, one Wheaton resident commented, “A Woman, Ltd. will be missed. Not because I ever shopped there, or even felt an iota of curiosity that might have prompted me to cross its threshold, but because every struggling suburban downtown area needs a woman’s boutique that defies good business logic. Yes, this is a loss for the women, but thankfully the men still have Sandberg’s.”
Representatives of A Woman, Ltd. could not be reached for comment.
*Please note: This article is facetious, though the event reported here is sadly true.
Monday, August 08, 2005
It is a truth universally acknowledged that stupid questions elicit stupid answers, especially when a video camera is involved.
Boothey: "So Suzanne, it looks like you've got something on there."
Suz: "Yeah, a jumpsuit."
Boothey: "So what are you going to do?"
Suz: "Uh, jump out of a plane."
So begins the captivating 8-minute video that chronicles my most recent adventure--skydiving.
On Saturday morning I piled into Christina's convertible with 4 other girls and we were off to Wisconsin to go skydiving for Rachel's bachelorette party...only Rachel didn't know that yet. Most of her friends had heard her mention at least once that she'd love to go skydiving some day, so jumping out of a plane with the craziest of those friends seemed a fitting activity before she takes the plunge into matrimony next month. About 10 minutes before we got to the hangar we did a Chinese fire drill and made Rachel drive the rest of the way, telling her where to turn but still not revealing where we were going. Needless to say, she was very surprised and very excited.
After signing our waivers, we ended up sitting around the hangar for quite a while before we received a brief orientation and began to get suited up with our jumpsuits and harnesses...then we sat around some more. Finally it was our turn.
I met my tandem jumper, Bear, and climbed into the plane with the rest of the jumpers, tandems, and videographers on our flight--we squeezed in like sardines, and I tried to ignore the fact that I hard heard capacity was 10 and there were 11 people on board. I can honestly say that I was never really scared, but Bear was less communicative than the other instructors and so I didn't receive any reassurances either.
What I was about to do sunk in as the ground got further and further away and the hand on my altimeter spun higher and higher. I looked out the window and could see Milwaukee, gaze over the blue expanse of Lake Michigan, and just make out the Chicago skyline through the haze. At 14,000 feet it was time to jump. They opened the hatch and Trina's videographer climbed out and held on to the side of the plane while she moved into position. With a Ready, Set, Go she was gone with a large WHOOSH.
I didn't have time to think as Bear shoved me toward the door from behind. I bent down and crossed my arms across my chest as instructed. Cold wind stung my cheeks. I suppose someone counted down "Ready, Set, Go!" for me too, but I was completely oblivious, consumed by the realization that I too was about to be sucked out into the sky. With a push from Bear we were out the door and I was throwing back my arms and thrusting my pelvis forward and staring at the ground that was VERY far away. It took me a second to remember to look up at Boothey and smile for the camera. In retrospect I wish I would have done something more creative than wave, but plummeting toward the earth at approximately 180 feet per second, my creative thinking was a little stunted.
At 5,000 feet I pulled the rip cord and our rapid decent was slowed to a leisurely float. The roaring stopped and the silence was almost eerie. I would have enjoyed this segment very much had my harness not been secured much too tightly around my legs, restricting my movement, cutting off circulation, and causing immense pain. I tried to push past the real-time bruising as much as I could and enjoy the ride. I remember looking down at the cars on the highway, marveling at the number of backyard swimming pools, and trying to pick out the hanger on the landscape. I realized later that I didn't even notice the other people who had just jumped out of the plane with me and must have been floating not too far away.
My landing was anything but graceful (I pretty much hit the ground and collapsed, much to the disgruntlement of Bear behind me). My post-jump interview proved to be even less profound than my earlier exchange with Boothey. Overall, I was ecstatic about what I had just done but completely exhausted from the adrenaline rush and the tensing of what felt like every muscle in my body.
We regrouped in the hanger, reliving and comparing our experiences. We hung around just long enough to receive our certificates and our DVDs and then we were on the road again. As it was we were 2 hours late for Rachel's bridal shower, but we had a pretty good excuse.
So, yeah, skydiving. I highly recommend it!
Thursday, August 04, 2005
A fairly simple quote, but it arrested me yesterday with the reminder that everything comes down to a choice--sometimes it's black and white, right over wrong, good vs. bad. But I find that more often it's the better over the acceptable, or even the decent over the pathetic. Which rings of the saying the Apostle Paul quoted from his day, "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial."
As I think about the way I spend the minutes and hours of my day, I realize how much I could change for good simply by choosing the "better" in any given moment, but at the same time I am appalled by how frequently I talk myself out of it and settle for the acceptable, or even the pathetic. I am reminded that half-hearted trust is really distrust, and half-hearted devotion is a step away from apathy. If I were fully convinced that something was better, even if it proved harder, would I be so remiss in chasing after it?
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I was highly amused today, however, when I ran Yahoo's spellcheck on an e-mail and since it didn't recognize my e-mail address (that appeared in a reply header) as a word, it suggested "spankings" instead.
Silly spellcheck. Spankings are for kids.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
2. Just because it hasn't rained all summer, you shouldn't look at dark clouds on the distant horizon and think, "That'll never turn into anything," and decide not to run home before the storm hits.
3. I should probably own an umbrella.
4. Pillows can absorb a lot of water.
5. So can carpet.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
The first is something Josh's mom mentioned--that 4 nurses from the allergy clinic where Grandma went to get her shots all came together to pay their respects because they remembered her kindness and so appreciated her sense of humor--she would tease them on their shot-giving technique. I want to be that kind of woman, not only when I am old and white haired, but even today. The kind of woman that is remembered not because she sought to make a name for herself, but because she sought to bring kindness and life to others. "Preaching the gospel without words," Grandma Stamoolis was the "fragrance of Christ" to many, many people.
The second is that her last word was "alligator," as in "See you later." Again, to cultivate humor all of one's life is a gift and an accomplishment indeed.
And finally, I'm reminded of a quote from Frederick Buechner. In an imaginary conversation with his grandmother, he asks her what death is like.
"When somebody once asked your Uncle Jim if some friend or other had passed away, he answered him in his inimitable fashion by saying, 'Passed away? Good God, he’s dead,' and I know just how he felt. I always thought 'passed away' was a silly way of putting it, like calling the water closet a powder room—or calling it a water closet for that matter—and I am here to tell you that it is also very misleading."
She goes on to say, "It is the world that passes away," and flutters one hand delicately through the air to show the manner of its passing. "When I used to lie there in that shadowy little room Mrs. Royal gave me in her nursing home that looked out onto the garden, where everybody used to congregate for a Coke after picking up the mail and Miss Capps would read the picture postcards over your shoulder, I could feel the world gradually slowing down more and more until one night I realized it was slow enough for me to get off, and that is just what I proceeded to do. It was rather like getting off a streetcar before it has quite come to a stop—a little jolt when my foot first struck the pavement, and then the world clanged its bell and went rattling off down the tracks without me."
For Evangeline Stamoolis, the world has passed away. There is a hole here on earth, but heaven is richer for her arrival.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
"Quirky situations?" Knowing what I do of Roald Dahl, Johnny Depp, and Tim Burton I certainly don't doubt it, but it made me wish I could have been a fly on the wall at the meeting of the raters. Here is how I imagine that went:
"Okay, let's see here. We've got a child more or less drowning in chocolate...another being assaulted by squirrels...an unfortunate shrinking incident... Morris, what do you think?"
"Well, sir, I wouldn't exactly categorize those as violence, but nevertheless they are a little unsettling. Jackson, what's your take?"
"Um, it seems that they're definitely 'awkward' situations, but I think it's deeper than that. They're so unusual, I'm not sure what to do with them."
"Unusual, huh? You're right. In fact, I'd almost say, 'Quirky.'"
"Morris, that's it! Quirky situations. Perfectly descriptive and yet ambiguous. So, do we think this is innocuous G-rated quirkiness or disturbing enough for PG?"
Sigh. I wonder if Roald Dahl would take "quirky" as a compliment or whether he would mutter something about how these people missed the whole point. I'll have to reread the book and catch the movie to decide.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Zorro by Isabel Allende
2005 Harper Collins 390 pgs
I guess I had always assumed that the "official" legend of Zorro was recorded for posterity way back in the day and that the various movies about the hero, such as the one starring dear Mr. Banderas, more or less follow that original storyline. Upon reading a review before picking up Isabel Allende's recent rendering of the masked swashbuckler, I learned that no "official" telling exists and that Zorro's tale is very much up for interpretation.
I'm sorry to say that Allende's offering is rather disappointing. While I understand that character development is one of the marks of a good novel, Allende spends so much time and so many words on the members of a large ensemble cast that it would be more aptly titled Zorro et al. Rather than build up the legend of Zorro with suspenseful accounts of daring exploits in the name of justice, Allende reduces his story to a meandering melodrama full of unrequited love and impulsive acts done in the name of passion and impudence. Beneath the mask, Diego de la Vega is an awkward kid with big ears who feigns the constitution of a pansy to avoid conflict, while his best friend and "milk brother" Bernardo has about as much personality as tree bark. I've always thought heroes are supposed to be magnetic, alluring, captivating...I had a hard time deciding if I even liked Diego or his masked alter ego.
Finally, the other thing that killed this book was the narrator. I can think of only one other narrator I have encountered along my journey through literature whom I found to be so utterly annoying. (For those of you who are curious, it's William Goldman in his retelling of the supposed S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride--yes 80's movie lovers, it was a book first.) Allende decides to give the narrator a voice of her own and a mysterious identity that is not revealed until the epilogue (unless of course you actually cared enough to try and figure it our earlier on). The narrator's occasional interjections add nothing to the story and only serve to irritate the reader and produce thoughts of "Why do I care?" The prime example of this is found at the transition between Parts 3 and 4. She ends part 3 moaning, "I regret to tell you that I can write no more, because I have run out of the goose-quill pens I always use. ...I do not use quills from ordinary birds; they stain the paper and rob elegance from the page." Four pages later, Part 4 begins with "I now have new goose-quill pens to continue the story of Zorro's youth." Ugg, I am bored just quoting it.
So, I suggest you read Zorro only if you're in the mood for tedious villains, a large cast of questionably likeable characters, and irritating narration. (To Allende's credit, I'm sure the telling is better in its original Spanish, though not even that could save her portrait of Zorro from being less than thrilling.)
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Over a lunch of enchiladas and tacos today my boss shared that once, in response to a challenge from his daughter-in-law who refused to believe that the "musical fruit" has no effect on him, he ate 3 cans of refried beans in one sitting.
I wasn't sure whether to be impressed or repulsed. What do you say to that? I changed the subject.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
On Sunday some friends and I decided to brave the masses and hit the Taste before settling in along the lakefront to watch the fireworks. Having never been to the Taste before, (I know, I know, another unpardonable admission of a life-long Chicagoland dweller) , I didn't know exactly what I was getting myself into. Had I known, I would have stayed far, far away.
What is it about a turkey leg that turns a crowd of people into frenzied animals? And when did the promise of a funnel cake come to be considered worthy of enduring the indignities of being bumped, groped, elbowed, trampled upon, ogled, splashed with beer, run over by strollers, and smeared with other people's sweat? I'm not sure, but there I was...Charity and I had 9 tickets left between the two of us, and we wanted a funnel cake.
I gritted my teeth, eyed the layout of the throng from my slightly advantageous 6-foot vantage point, and edged my way in toward the funnel cake booth. I had good intentions of maintaining my own manners amidst the abandonment of all civilized behavior, but after a few minutes pure survival instincts took over and it was every man, woman, and poor exhausted, overheated kid carted around in a stroller for him/her/poorkidself. I am proud to report that after half an hour of battling the pulsing crowd, I emerged victorious with my funnel cake held high. To my chagrin I admit to entertaining a brief thought of dropping a shoulder and taking out the drunk guy to my right who kept yelling, "Poison Ivy here! Or it might be Poison Sumac!" in a pathetic attempt to buy himself some room. The first time he called out, I might have been mildly amused at his ingenuity. By the 20th time, my thoughts were tumbling in with a Ralph Cramden accent, "Why, I oughta Sumac you!"
On a happier note, the fireworks were pretty.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
This weekend it's my Probie Rachel's wedding in Goshen, IN. It'll be great to see her again and fun to see who else attends that I know!
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
In the absence of the profound...a brief report. My birth-day turned into a birth-weekend, as none of my friends' schedules coincided, so the festivities stretched from dinner with my family on Friday, through brunch and a matinee with Charity on Saturday, to dinner with Allison and her dad Saturday night, to lunch with the other Allison after church on Sunday. Oh, and then my sweet small group had a cake for me last night. So, you see, for my 25th birthday I received many times over the gifts of quality time, love, and multitudinous calories. And I savored them all. :)
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Okay, I admit it, I was thumbing through a dictionary the other day. I came across this word, though, and was just struck at the depth of melancholy and regret contained in this one word. I love how some words--especially those we get from other languages--can wrap up so much meaning in the space of a few contiguous letters.
[Note: there's supposed to be an accent over the "e" - couldn't figure out how to get blogger to do that.]
It reminds me of an exchange in the movie Little Women in which a gentleman says to Jo, "You should have been a lawyer, Miss March." And Jo replies, "I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer." Some days I feel like that.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Well, okay, not really, but the phrase did come to mind, and I liked the sound of it. Reminds me of the title of a shallow and steamy beach read. But nope, it's just my life.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Scrabbling for an activity that would bring some kind of order to the hyper horde, we latched onto a game of catch, grasping for ideas creative enough to keep it interesting and yet simple enough to not cause chaos and confusion. Regrettably, the game fell apart shortly after my brilliant "between your legs" call which sent balls in every direction except to the next person in the circle.
Whether it was the actual situation or merely my own perception, I soon came to believe that although I did not feel adequate to command this room full of children, somehow I was the most qualified (or at least felt the heaviest sense of responsibility) to keep the evening going and lend some order to the criss-cross traffic of little legs. And so we had snack time, potty time, drinking fountain time, video time, and that popular party time-consumer, musical chairs. Of course, the room had no source of music, and so I volunteered to provide it, much to the chagrin of all but the severely tone deaf. With my back to the circling vultures, I belted out every children's church song I could remember, from Father Abraham (not so much fun when sung alone) to the B-I-B-L-E (which I started and then realized I didn't remember most of the words, aside from the spelling part) to "I'm In the Lord's Army" which apparently was a little too old school for that crowd.) By the end of the game, rather than repeat myself I defaulted to the Hokey Pokey, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and in a moment of irony wasted on the young folk, Jingle Bells.
All that, and we still had over an hour to go...
The last hour is a little more of a blur, as I settled in and actually started to like hanging out with the kids, in spite of myself. God seems to have a way of always sending along one or two who decide they especially like me, and so I found myself with a lap full of Abigail and Ashley, a back struggling to support their leaning weight in a chair much too small, and two arms quickly losing all feeling. Then later I found myself arbitrating between conflicting cartwheel techniques, comparing owies and bandaids, and giving what felt like hundreds of airplane rides with a quick prayer that their parents wouldn't discover bruised ribs the next day.
The point of all this? (Other than my affinity for over-dramatizing events in writing?) There was a little girl named Ashley in a pink dress (and, I found out later when I took her to the bathroom, two pairs of pants--she forgot to take off the blue ones before putting on the pink) who decided early on that I was her friend. And so with every turn, there she was, clamoring for my attention, climbing all over me, whispering secrets, asking me questions, needing my help...it was cute and even a little ego-boosting at first, but then I have to confess it became a test in kindness and patience and I found myself checking the clock more often.
When her mom came to pick her up, Ashley rushed over and asked if I could sleep over sometime. Her mom smiled in that knowing, how- do-we-humor-the-child-without-lying way, and said "We'll see." I gave Ashley one last squeeze and told her mom, "I think I've got a new friend." And then with a frankness that surprised me, she said, "Well, Ashley could really use one. We've been moving around the country for the last 18 months following her dad's job and so she's a little uprooted. God is good, though, and every so often he sends an angel like you."
Wow, and ouch. I had arrived at church that night grumbling about serving just one night in children's ministry, and here's this mother of a nomadic child telling me I'm an angel. In that moment I was so humbled all I could do was smile and wave at Ashley as they left the room.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
It was TU Alumni night, and I attended with fellow Taylorites Allison, Bekah, Shannon, and the other Suzanne. We ended up not seeing that many people whom we knew (or at least remembered and cared to talk to), but it was fun seeing a few familiar and unexpected faces here and there, and despite the nasty humidity and stagnant air and the fact that it was a rather boring game (Toronto scored 4 in the first and then nothing really happened until the Cubs put up a feeble rally in the 9th--okay, I can hear the actual baseball fans out there saying "Of course stuff happened in those 7 innings, you just weren't paying attention" and to them I reply "Yeah, well, you're right, I wasn't, but I might have if something had been happening!") , the five of us had a lovely time, because really, we are a party in and of ourselves, regardless of the absence or presence of extraneous alumni.
On the ride back out to suburbia Suzanne and I mused that by the end of the evening we would have spent almost 4 1/2 hours in various modes of transit and only 2 1/2 hours actually at the game. That, I suppose, is how memories are made.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Working "behind the scenes" this year was not everything I dreamed it would be. In fact, it fell short of just about every expectation I had. (Except for getting to carry on authoritative sounding walkie-talkie conversations. That was rad.) But there at the finish line, cheering the walkers in, all of the heat, humidity, sunburn, fatigue, and frustration faded away. Over several hours women walked in along that final stretch, some striding triumphantly, others barely managing to put one foot in front of the other. Some waved at the crowd or pumped their fists in the air; others wiped tears from their eyes. Some crossed the finish line clinging to family and friends in the moment, while others crossed alone, cherishing memories of dear ones lost in the past.
Unfulfilled expectations aside, I'm glad I participated again this year. Glad that I was again able to be part of something that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of women, rippling out into their families and communities. Because out of those thousands of women, some of those affected will be my friends, more members of my family, or maybe even myself.
One weekend of my life, some blood, some sweat, and some tears...a small contribution toward a breast cancer free tomorrow.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, with David Hazard
1984, 2003 Chosen Books 240 pages
Reviewed by Suz
This book was submitted to the Better-Than-Oprah Book Club by Pam, who grew up as an MK in Jordan. She wrote inside the cover, “This book gave me compassion for ‘the other side.’ May it do the same for you.”
As I set out to read this book, I had to confess I didn’t really understand what the two sides in question were, or on which side I fell, whether by choice or by default. About a week later as I read the Epilogue and Afterward and closed the book, one refrain and one question kept running through my head: “I had no idea” and “Why did I never learn about this in high school or college or church?”
Blood Brothers tells the story of Elias Chacour, a Palestinian Christian from the village of Biram in Galilee. The account begins in 1947, when Elias was just a boy and events decades in the making began to topple the simple and safe world he knew. The narrative follows Elias from childhood to adolescence and through to adulthood; Elias’ story—and indeed his calling to be a peacemaker between Israelis and Palestinians—is so tied up with the land of his birth that the narrative also reveals a very raw and tragic side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the side about which I knew so very little.
Educated in Paris and with a degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, able to speak 11 languages, Chacour is an internationally sought after speaker and advocate for peace in the Middle East, has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the founder of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, a small complex of six schools and the only campus in Israel that welcomes Christians, Muslims, Druze, and Jews to study side by side, building peace through education and providing hope of a future for the children of Israel. Known simply as “Abuna,” an Arabic term of affection and respect, Father Chacour, a Melkite priest, continues his ministry of peace and reconciliation from the Galilean village of Ibillin.
Engaging and very readable, Chacour’s autobiography is every bit as educational as it is moving. It gives a glimpse into why the conflict in the Middle East is so intense, examines what Bible prophecy has to say about rights to the land, and gives a voice to our Palestinian brothers and sisters—a voice that is so seldom heard here in the U.S.
In the afterward to the 2003 edition, David Hazard writes about his experience in a Gazan refugee camp:
A seventeen-year-old girl trembling with grief and rage told how she witnessed her teenage cousin being shot through the head by Israeli soldiers. They had been walking to school together… She accused me and all Americans of knowing about these daily abuses against Palestinians but not caring, and even supporting the conservative Israeli forces that sponsor these acts.
I tried to tell her that most Americans do not know about these tragedies, and that we would never support those who perpetrate them. But her belief that the average American is savvy about international politics was as strong as it was naïve… “Of course Americans know we’re suffering over here,” she retorted. “You’re the most powerful nation on earth. And everyone has a television. I know you know.”
Read this book and take a step toward knowing “the other side.”
[Note: If this review sounds a little formal, it's because it's the same one I wrote for my office's newsletter--no need to revinvent the wheel, right?]
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I learned yesterday that I'll even be issued my own WV business cards. Now, I can't think of a single time during the last year when I thought to myself, "Gosh, if only I had a business card to give them," because frankly, I sit alone in an office most days and really have no one to give business cards to. But, I shall now join the ranks of people who can nonchalantly toss their business card into the fishbowl at Chipotle in hopes of winning a free burrito, and let me tell you, THAT'S exciting.
Monday, May 23, 2005
According to a veteran of the event, with whom I spoke while absentmindedly petting her pooch, it used to be an actual traveling affair, with the crowds making their way from one pub to the next along a designated route, but it seems after a couple years of that, someone noticed that Pugs have REALLY short legs, and now the crawl is restricted to the length of one street. Of course, even that was too much for a trio of graying, geriatric Pugs I happened to meet, who took in the event from their perch in a retro baby-turned-Pug buggy.
There weren't quite as many dogs in costume as I had hoped for, but I did see one in a dress, one in a Harley vest, one in a Hawaiian shirt, a pair of Pugs in Cubs and Sox jerseys, a few with tu-tus, several in various t-shirts, and many with bandanas or fancy collars and leashes. I think my favorite was this bored-looking, rather portly Pug wearing a pink t-shirt with the words "Do you think this shirt makes me look fat?" stretched across her back.
All in all it was a very fun outing, if not a little surreal.
Pugs: further confirmation that our Creator has a healthy sense of humor. :)
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Thursday, May 12, 2005
It's the feeling that somebody's watching
When we're dreaming in the dark
It's the whisper we hear in the silence
Eternity in our hearts
It's the sense we are meant for a journey
But we don't know where to start
It's a restlessness nothing can settle
Eternity in our hearts
It's the longing for a home
We have never known
A yearning and a promise
It's the questions without any answers
It's a puzzle missing parts
It's the secret we've all but forgotten
Eternity in our hearts
It's a burden we all bear
A blessing we all share
An aching and the hope of glory
And for mere flesh and bone to contain it
We are almost torn apart
But it's the one thing that completes us
Eternity in our hearts
And so it’s believing that someday
We will see things as they are
And then we will know there was always
Eternity in our hearts
We are blessed with the burden of holding
Eternity in our hearts
Eternity In Our Hearts,
Words and Music by Carolyn Arends
"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else."
- C.S. Lewis