Thursday, June 30, 2005

Suz's Summer Wedding Tour

My summer of weddings marches on! Two weekends ago I was down in Wilmore, KY to "ush" in my friend Josh's wedding to his lovely bride, Leslie. It was a treat to return to the gorgeous rolling hills of Kentucky's horse country, and of course a privilege to take part in the ceremony of one of my best friends. One of my favorite memories of that particular wedding is the Golden Retriever named Sally who decided to crash the reception (held under a tent on the church's back lawn). After learning that the Stamoolis' family friend, Vira, had slipped Sally at least 10 Swedish meatballs from the buffet, it's no wonder the dog stuck around.

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

Thoughts on Turning 25

The funny thing is, I don't have many. I had intentions of sitting down and writing this insightful retrospective on reaching the quarter-century mark, but as I sit here and stare at the screen, I've got nothin.' Twenty-five feels pretty much like 24, it just sounds older.

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

loaded word

manque /mong~KAY/ adj. (placed after a noun) having never become what one might have been (from French) ; an actor manque

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

Depository for Wayward Sons

Having now received my third invitation to reform a friend's older brother through dating said brother, by none other than the parents themselves, this is how I feel.

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

Angel is in the eye of the beholder

Anyone who knows me fairly well is aware that for quite a while now I've been stuck in a "not a huge fan of children" phase. Tuesday night I joined three other members of my small group in providing childcare for the 5 & 6 years olds during the adult teaching series at church. Wendy, the only one with any real experience or affinity for children (having one herself) was unable to make it, so there we were, 4 bewildered adults, faced with a room full of energetic short people who, with characteristic naivete, assumed that we knew what we were doing.

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 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

The Friendly Confines

Apparently I can now hold my head a little bit higher and consider myself more of a rightful Chicagoan, having attended my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field on Monday evening.

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.

Delusions of Authority

"This is Suzanne on Security, over and out." Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

These Boobs Were Made For Walking

You just never know what pithy slogan you'll spy next at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. (Other favorites: Tough Guys Wear Pink. Bosom Buddies. Breast Friends.) One of my favorite aspects of the event is simply observing the people--their creativity and cleverness displayed on t-shirts and signs; their commitment to the legacy of a common loved one; their solidarity in a common cause. It really is incredible when you see the line of pink and white moving down the lakefront...when you hear a huge crowd of people erupt in wild and yet at the same time reverent applause at the mention of a breast cancer see women of all ages, shapes, and sizes walking side by side through heat, thunderstorms, and pain because statistics show that until a cure is found, 1 in 7 of them will do battle with breast cancer themselves.

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

Army of Pink

I'm dotting my i's and crossing my t's and making sure everything is in place for the weekend before I jet out of here in just a minute to catch the train into the city. Clad in pink and armed with enthusiasm, I'm volunteering as part of the crew for the 2005 Chicago Avon Walk for Breast Cancer this weekend. I walked the marathon and a half last year, and this year I am excited to see the event from "the other side," the small army that works both behind and in front of the scenes to make sure the whole event runs smoothly. Hoorah! I'll report on my thrilling escapades with a walkie-talkie next week!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Blood Brothers

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 na├»ve… “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?]

Suzanne, the Critic

Inspired by the thorough reviews of books and movies on the blog of a recent date (sorry, folks, great guy, nice blog, but no chemistry) I've decided to post a little (or long, as the case may be) blurb here on each (or at least most) of the books I read and the rare movie I happen to see. My hope is that if I come across some quality material and report on it here, you might be inspired to check it out for yourself; or, conversely, if I find a promising novel to be shockingly heinous, you'll be spared the time and trouble of reading it yourself. At the very least, you'll have an ongoing glimpse into my eclectic taste, which I've been told some people find amusing. And, of course, if you disagree with my review, feel free to post a comment; but please, keep it civil. :)