Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ding Dong, Ding Dong...

...Christmas bells are ringing. Oh, wait, make that wedding bells. Yep, in addition to maid of honor (upon arriving at the hotel to get ready on Friday I learned that I'd been promoted from bridesmaid to MOH) and bridal translator, I can now add "wedding chapel bell ringer" to my ever-expanding wedding resume. As guests filed past on their way out of the tiny chapel, I tugged on the rope and sent clangs of good cheer out into the frosty night air.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There's a first time for everything.

Today, specifically, was the first time for the following:
  • had lunch at Sal & Carvao, a churrascuria (Brazilian steakhouse) which = lots of yummy meat in my belly.
  • tasted swordfish, which = mighty tasty, for fish.
  • received email from pregnant friend with post-doctor's visit update on her developing baby...and the state of her cervix, which = TMI.
  • met the bride of the wedding that's taking place this Friday, in which I am both bridesmaid and translator, which = I'll be the one in a pink dress clutching a Sp/Eng dictionary.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Walking in Memphis

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Memphis with my boss to meet some of the people we've been working with there. While there we had lunch at the Cozy Corner restaurant, an authentic Southern greasy spoon considered to serve some of the best BBQ ribs in Memphis. Well, with that kind of endorsement, it seemed only fitting that I order my first plate of ribs ever (which was incomprehensible to our local dining partners). While I have no other rib tastings to which I might compare my experience at the Cozy Corner, I can report that the BBQ ribs were quite tasty indeed. Continuing the theme, the plate came with BBQ baked beans, which were okay but not anything special, and BBQ spaghetti, which I tried but just couldn't get into. (The unusual combo reminded me of Will Farrell in Elf, smothering his spaghetti with maple syrup.)

My boss and I ended up with some time to kill before our flight back to Chicago, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather (sunny and about 50 degrees...downright balmy compared to what we had left behind in IL) and wandered around donwtown Memphis. We walked up and down Beale St (which I learned is Memphis' home of the blues) and ran into Elvis, which of course required a photo.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't tell me this is the last minute.

I've received at least 5 emails today from various retailers announcing their "last minute" sales.

Seriously?! Today is December 11th. There are a full 13 days left before Christmas. I decided not to be rankled by the fact that Christmas merchandise showed up in stores quite a bit before Halloween this year, but I am not about to stand by and let someone proclaim to me that on Dec. 11th I am firmly entrenched in "the last minute." Sure, I understand that when ordering gifts online one is constrained by the number of days required for shipping and delivery, but can't they find some other phraseology that doesn't strike dread and shame into those of us who don't plan to shop online but still have a hefty list of holiday to-dos?

I mean, come on now, Dec 23rd is the last minute. Rushing around to whichever stores are open on Christmas Eve to snatch up whatever's left on the shelf is the last minute. Deciding that a stick of summer sausage is an appropriate gift for your uncle simply because you happen to already be at the grocery store picking up eggnog is what you do at the last minute. On Dec 11th there is still plenty of time to make your list, check it twice, and go about your holiday activities with a sense of decorum rather than haggard desperation.

Except there's not. I mean, yes, I still staunchly believe that 13 days out is hardly the last minute, but a study of my planner this morning revealed that I have very few pockets of time between now and Christmas during which I might accomplish the many things on my list, and while I am enthused about the sundry parties and gatherings and even this curious wedding coming up (though not the pink dress), I find myself groaning inside just a little bit at the lack of white space...

Margins. Margins are important. I set out this last January to reform my use of time, to learn about creating and guarding the margins in my life...those places full of white space outside the confines of scripted life where there is joy in spontaniety, where silence and solitude are not jockeyed out of position by relentless pressures, where Sabbath rest renews the body and soul.

I have to say that though I set out to learn a lesson about margins this year, I have been a very reluctant student, compromising time and again in the name of a busyness ethic on which I can't seem to release my grasp. I thank God for the grace that covers my failed attempts at rest; for another year on the horizon to continue learning this lesson; for another year of margins and white space just waiting to be...left blank.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The List of Fours

So, my friend Mary recently blogged her "List of Fours" and because I'm a sucker for lists, I'll take the bait and post my own.

Suz's List of 4s

four jobs I have had in my life:
1. summer camp counselor
2. waitress at IHOP
3. kitchen knife direct sales representative
4. envelope stuffer

four movies I would (and do) watch over and over:
1. Pride and Prejudice (the A&E version)
2. Ever After
3. Much Ado About Nothing
4. Sweet Home Alabama

four places I have lived:
1. Illinois
2. Ohio
3. Indiana
4. Spain

four TV shows I love to watch:
1. The Amazing Race
2. CSI
3. Gilmore Girls
4. What Not to Wear

four places I have been on vacation:
1. Seattle & Washington
2. Boston
3. Nashville
4. Salzburg

four of my favorite foods:
1. queso de cabra (goat cheese in a marinara-like sauce spread on toasted bread) at Cafe Ibérico
2. steak burrito at Chipotle (how I miss thee!)
3. my mom's apple crisp
4. pasta milano at Macaroni Grill (minus the mushrooms)

four places i would like to be right now:
1. hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park with friends (properly bundled up)
2. sitting at a table on the patio of the restaurant in Sevilla that's just off the Plaza de Cuba and right across the river from the Torre del Oro, watching the setting sun glint off the tower's sides
3. curled up on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and the company of my best friend in Menomonie
4. having dinner with my future husband

four books i'd read again:
1. Ragamuffin Gospel (Manning)
2. Ibid: A Life (Dunn)
3. Girl Meets God (Winner)
4. the whole Thursday Next Literary Detective series (Fforde)

four songs I listen to over and over:
1. Only You (DCB)
2. Something Beautiful (Jars of Clay)
3. Let Go (Lindsay McCaul)
4. Your Grace is Sufficient (Shane & Shane)

four things I despise:
1. mushrooms
2. worms
3. styrofoam
4. coconut

four random things I love:
1. wrapping myself up in a bath towel that's straight from the dryer
2. when I see God weaving a theme through my life to get my attention
3. well-built men in cableknit turtleneck sweaters
4. laughing with friends, so hard and long that we curl up and fall over as tears roll down our cheeks

Leave a comment if/when you post your own list!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Behold, the trifle

Early last week I sent an inquiry to all the girls in my small group, asking if anyone had a trifle bowl I could borrow for the dessert I was planning for Thanksgiving dinner. I received 4 emails back asking, "What's a trifle bowl?" and to each I found myself replying, "Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where Rachel tries to make an "English Trifle" but the pages of the cookbook get stuck together and she ends up making a dish that's half dessert, half shepherd's pie with 'a layer of lady fingers, then strawberries, then beef sauteed with peas and carrots...' and everyone is repulsed but then Joey tries it and really likes it? (a great episode.) Well, a trifle is a layered dessert, traditionally served in a glass bowl on a pedestal, and I'm looking for the bowl."

Then I thought to ask one of my married friends, because married people register for obscure kitchenware items like trifle bowls, and I found one to borrow on the first try. So, early Thanksgiving morning I rose and made the gingerbread (okay, it was from a box, but still) and mixed all the other stuff together, then layered everything oh so carefully, producing quite possibly the most beautiful dessert I've ever made - a gingerbread and spiced pear trifle.

Behold, the trifle.

I was quite pleased with it. Okay, and with myself, too. And with my brother, for being brave and trying some, which he claimed was the very first time he's ever eaten pear (he's not really one for fruits...or vegetables...or anything new). Yes, it was time to shake up Thanksgiving dinner, or at least, dessert.

Although, lest I upset things too much, there was also pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Out of the blue...and into a pink dress.

I was on the phone this afternoon when I found myself saying quite unexpectedly, "Sure, I'd be happy to."

What was it that I so blithely agreed to? Well, as of 4:00 this afternoon, it seems I'm going to be in a wedding next month, playing the role of bridesmaid and translator for a young woman I've never met (she's marrying the son of some family friends), who's never been the U.S. before (he met her in Peru, where he was stationed with the military--she's never been on a plane or seen snow), and who doesn't speak English (which seems to have scared away all of the Spanish left in me).

Moments later there I was, ordering my powder-pink bridesmaid gown online and looking up how to say "instantaneous bridesmaid" in Spanish (dama de honor instantánea, in case you were wondering).

Nothing like the responsibility of translating between a bride and her future mother-in-law on her wedding day to confer urgency upon the need to practice my Spanish. If you need me, I'll be making wedding day vocab flash cards.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wassail for Everyone!

So, last night I hosted an Amazing Race/Birthday party (here's a one-day-early birthday shout out to Allison!) during which it became apparent that too few people in this world (or at least in my circle of friends) have had the pleasure of sipping from a warm mug of fragrant wassail. It went kind of like this:

Suz: Hey everyone, I made wassail! Who'd like some?
Murmurs from those gathered: Huh? You made what? What's wassail?
Suz: You know...(singing) "Here we go a-wassailing among the leaves so green..."
Those gathered: [blank stares]
Suz: Um, it's a festive holiday beverage.
Those gathered: Oh. Okay.

So, because we are entering prime wassail season, I thought I'd introduce a (slightly) wider audience to the festive yummy-ness that is wassail.

wassail [wos-uhl] noun: 1. a saluation wishing health to a person, used in England in early times when presenting a drink to a person or when drinking to the health of a person; 2. a beverage consisting of spiced cider, liquor, beer, or juices for drinking on festive occasions, esp. around Christmas; verb: 3. (used without object) to revel with drinking; 4. (used with object) to drink to the health or success of; toast.

Use it in a sentence: "Wassail(1)! I raise this mug of wassail(2) while wassailing(3) in the company of good friends friends to wassail(4) Allison on the momentous occasion of her 27th birthday."

Suz's Wassail Recipe (which is dedicated to Rachel, who first introduced me to wassail)

2 1/4 C white sugar
4 C water
4 C orange juice
1 1/2 C lemon juice
8 C apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice berries
1 Tb whole cloves

In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add spices. Cover and let stand in warm place for 1 hour (or more). Strain liquid into a large pot or crockpot/slow cooker. Add juices and cider and quickly bring to a boil. Remove from heat and serve. [Recipe may be "spiked" as desired. Brandy works well. I haven't tried it yet, but Amaretto or Triple Sec would probably be tasty, too! Add liquor after removing concoction from heat.]

Friday, November 03, 2006

What I've Lost...

...as of today. Only 5 to go til I reach my goal!

(Special thanks to Jim for lending this weight for illustration, and for his constant encouragement throughout this process.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You know it's cold in your office when...

...you hug a stack of freshly printed letters because they just feel so nice and warm.

Kind of like the closest office equivalent to my well-loved personal ritual of wrapping myself up in a warm bath towel, fresh from the dryer in all its nubby, Tide Mountain Spring-smelling goodness. Except without the pleasant scent. Or the coverage.

Friday, October 27, 2006

ennui on a Friday afternoon

I'm struggling with motivation and focus today. My brain feels heavy, and I have the attention span of a preschooler. Three times now I've opened a new browser window or Word document, only to get distracted by some unrelated thought or incoming email and then turn back to that new window or blank document moments later to find that I've forgotten what I was looking for or about to do.

I took my car to the mechanic at 7:45 this morning to have it assessed for preventative maintenance needs (my father recently made me aware that I'm long overdue on multiple services). I'm not really sure why, but something always comes over me when I take my car in to one of these places. Even though I try to go in there all confident and assertive and knowledgable, when the time comes for them to explain to me everything that needs to be done, I end up feeling incredibly ignorant and vulnerable, reduced to nodding and saying, "Oh" and "Really?" as I try to follow along, willing my chin not to quiver and my eyes not to well up as this guy probably 5 years my junior graciously gives me the benefit of the doubt and shows me each part that is worn/cracked/loose/leaking as if I am able to confirm his findings and recommendations by sight. Even when I go in there knowing that I'm going to need a bunch of work done, it's always incredibly disheartening to be told that just under the hood of my seemingly well-functioning car are a multitude of parts and processes just waiting to crack, leak, explode, die, or otherwise break down on me. And on a day like today, when I am feeling tired and rather melancholy to begin with, my car being on the cusp of mutiny only invites metaphors, and I consider that sometimes life feels like my car, and I wonder what's there, just under the surface, ready to bust and leave me stranded. And though I know that preventative maintenace is required, and probably long overdue, I feel burdened by the cost. The Mechanic tells me how much better my car will run once I've had these things taken care of. I want to believe Him, but I am wary, lacking trust.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reunion, Reception, and Rabbit Ears

What a busy weekend! First off, this past weekend turned into a mini-reunion of sorts as a bunch of my TU friends happened to be in town at the same time. Friday night we feasted on Mexican food together at Uncle Julio's Hacienda in Chicago, and Saturday morning we woke up to good friends and comforting breakfast foods at Egg'lectic Cafe in Wheaton.

Favorite moments include: a) when Lori grabbed her camera to take a picture of the girls at dinner, and rather than prompting "Say cheese!" she instructed, "Say 'We're having a baby!'" to which we instead said "What?!" and moments thereafter, once convinced of the veracity of the announcement, together squealed the kind of girlie squeal that makes the whole restaurant wonder "What's gotten into that table?" Before the check came we had already begun planning the baby shower. b) back at Allison's house afterwards, when we were all just sitting around talking, someone said something that made Allison laugh, which made Janelle laugh, which made Allison laugh harder, which made Janelle laugh until she fell over, which me laugh until I rolled over into the fetal position and went into silent-laughing mode where you just shake until you finally manage to suck in some air as the tears roll down your cheeks. c) at breakfast, when Chris couldn't decide what to order, so he ordered the oatmeal, and the cinnamon roll, and the fruit and yogurt parfait.

Also on the weekend's agenda was accompanying my friend Melissa to a co-workers's wedding. Favorite moments include: a) Introducing Melissa to the "in the bathtub" hymnal game during the drawn-out processional, and stifling our laughter when we came across, "Lord, Make Me A Captive" (in the bathtub). b) being approached by an older gentleman at the reception who led off with, "Don't worry, I'm not coming over here to ask you to dance," and then proceded to offer to set me up with his 45 year old son, who, although perhaps too old for me, apparently has lots of money. He then asked how tall I was, sans heels, and informed me that I was too tall for his son, after which he returned to converse with his little group of older men, leading Melissa and I to believe that perhaps the son does exist, but they were really just taking bets on how tall I am (which, with heels that night, was probably about 6'3"). c) stopping on the way home to take a picture at a gas station with a sign that read, "Puppies for Sale 39.95." Turns out the puppies are fake, but the sign did make us choose to fill up at that particular gas station, so I suppose it worked to sucker in our business.

Finally, the weekend's activities included heading into the city to be spectators at the annual Chicago marathon. Despite the many layers (including foam bunny ears which, in the absence of a hat, served to at least keep my forehead warm) we had donned to do battle against the low temperatures and unforgiving wind, we didn't last long. We watched from the 25 mile mark long enough to see the first 50 or so people run (and wheel) by (including that poor man from Kenya who finished first but slipped and cracked his head on the pavement at the finish line) and then we retreated to Java Java, where we warmed up with tasty beverages and leisurely passed the rest of the morning with our reading materials. After lunch we did a little shopping and called it a day.

Back home in the cozy warmth of my apartment, I spent Sunday afternoon cleaning my apartment and ordering my life for the week ahead while listening to the voice of Tim Curry reading the first five chapters of The End, the final installment in Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, and then capped off the weekend in the company of Michelle who came over to watch The Amazing Race, which involved me yelling at the TV (and specifically Peter) at least once.

A busy weekend indeed, but the good kind that leaves you feeling full instead of spent.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lather, Rinse, Retreat

It's hard to believe it's Thursday already! The retreat last weekend was great, jumble of feelings and all, but now I feel like I almost need another "mini retreat" in order to process everything that was stirred up in my mind and heart. I'm hoping to carve out a few hours Sunday afternoon for just that purpose, and then maybe I'll be ready to articulate here some of what I'm working through. For now, I wanted to post a few pics from my time among beautiful trees and dear friends in Michigan.

Friday, October 13, 2006


In a mere matter of hours I will be on a bus headed to Michigan for a weekend retreat with the young adult ministry from my church. I am a jumble of feelings going into this.

I am excited. I am fatigued. I am optimistic, with a tinge of dread that I can't quite put my finger on. I am looking forward to meeting new people and to deepening relationships with those I already know. At the same time I am wary of spending 14 hours (7 each way) on a coach bus with people I know and don't know to varying degrees, where I will most likely be subjected to a wide array of get-to-know you games that will tax my social energy (which will make sense to the introverts out there). I am not thrilled about the constant temptation of a multitude of baked goods and other items that are not at all part of my diet. I am eager to spend time amidst the beauty of turning trees and rolling dunes. I am cranky that it's so dang cold outside. I am relieved that hours and hours of shopping finally produced a cute coat that fits. I am hopeful for times of refreshing from the Lord. I am fearful that I'll get in God's way.

I am a jumble of feelings going into this.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Comfort and Satisfaction of Being Known, Or, How Jane Austen Makes Sense of My Life

Abraham Lincoln once said that “the better part of one’s life consists of his friendships.” When I take a moment to really consider the tremendous people I am privileged to call my friends—or when I am able to sit down and connect with one of them over a latte, or go for a walk where we air our concerns, or squash my cell phone against my ear as we catch up on each other’s lives—I am always overwhelmed with wonder and gratitude at these precious people God has placed in my life.

Yesterday morning I called one of my best friends on the way back to the office after dropping off my boss at the airport. It had been too long since we’d last talked, which was admittedly and pretty much single handedly my fault, and before long I was spilling out my latest account of relational klutziness, marked by more than a little melodrama. I confessed to her my confusion, my indecision, my moments of womanly weakness (real or perceived), my failed attempts at assertiveness, the battle of my instincts vs. my inclinations, my uncertainty about the validness of my standards and ideals. I appealed to her for perspective and wisdom, and she came through for me beautifully, confirming that my red flags were completely justified and telling me what I just needed someone to straight up tell me. Why is it that sometimes we need someone to tell us to do what we already deep down know we need to do in order to have the courage to actually do it?

One of my favorite quotes about friendship—because it so exquisitely captures the comfort and satisfaction of being known—goes like this:

“But oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort—the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away” (Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life, 1859).
It was really quite remarkable. It was like I backed up my dump truck of life stuff, unloaded it on the dock of her willing ears, and with wisdom and grace she was able to take stock of the sticky mess I’d laid before her and say to me gently but confidently, “You’ve said a lot, but in all of that, I didn’t hear this, and from what I know of you and hope for you, that’s a pretty crucial thing to have absent.” And then, without missing a beat, she came out with, “It’s like in Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth has that encounter with Mr. Collins…or in Emma, when they’re in the carriage…” And I was like, “Oh my word, you are SO RIGHT! That’s exactly what this is like,” and “How did I not see that?!” and “Thank you for reminding me not to let go of hope for that which seems so elusive simply due to the immediate presence of a pale counterfeit.”

Okay, so in the actual moment my response was not nearly as eloquent as that last statement, but now, a day removed from the conversation, I can see—because a good friend helped my eyes to focus—that that’s what I had done.

And then, causing me to be further emboldened and encouraged, another friend called me yesterday afternoon to tell me the story of a not-even-close-to-mere-chance encounter with a remarkable young man who so far seems to be the male version of herself in terms of interests and passions, and that has bolstered my waning hope even more, giving me the courage to stay true to my inner Miss Elizabeth Bennett, and not succumb to the melancholy resignation of Charlotte Lucas.

Chaff, grain, and Jane. Thanks, friend.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Washington: Scraping the Zest

Oh, where to begin?! Last Thursday morning I got on a plane, sans all liquids, to spend some much anticipated vacation days visiting my TU friend Heather in Washington State. I returned to Chicago Tuesday night, grateful for the edict given over the weekend that allowed me to bring my little bottle of eyedrops on the plane (carefully enclosed in a ziploc bag, of course).

In between these aeronautical bookends I ventured here and there, by car, foot, and ferry, experiencing as much of Washington as possible, while at the same time feeling curiously relaxed. Trying to capsulize my vacation for a friend, I came up with this: if Washington were an orange (I know, an apple would be more appropriate given the state's agricultural reputation, but stick with me here), if Washington were an orange, I feel like I was able to scrape off a nice little pile of zest while I was there: enough to get a good taste of the local flavor, and enough to reveal that there is so much more beneath the surface to see, taste, and enjoy. That said, all it took was this brief visit to place Washington high on my list of favorite states, and I certainly hope to return and take in more of the natural beauty and the PNW culture. Granted, I'm pretty much a sucker for mountains and shoreline, so it's not like there was anything holding it back from my affections to begin with, but I am nevertheless surprised to find myself a bit smitten, if a person can be smitten with a state of the Union.

In addition to the purple (more blue really) mountains' majesty and abundant verdant vegetation, what did I LOVE about Washington and my time spent there? (in random order)

1. Pike's Place Market - a veritable smorgasbord for the senses with so many vibrant colors, interesting people, tantalizing smells, intriguing textures, ethnic foods, and diverse merchandise it made me giddy and almost a little dizzy...in a good way.

2. The bouquet I bought for Heather at Pike's Place Market (which earned me the nickname "Sugar Mama" for the rest of the weekend) that was quite possibly the most beautiful arrangement I'd ever seen, all for the astonishingly low price of $15.

3. The fact that there's espresso EVERYWHERE you turn. While the abundance of little independent coffee stands is quite remarkable, what drew my attention and amused me considerably was how all the other stores seemed to sell whatever they sell...and espresso. Some of my favorites:

  • Tires, Brake, Transmissions...and espresso
  • Top Soil, Gardening Supplies...and espresso
  • Pumpkins, Corn, Squash...and espresso
  • Live Bait...and espresso

3 1/2. The fact that the baristas take their coffee and their work very seriously, and that when you order a latte what they hand you a few minutes later is nothing less than a work of art. The vegan pumpkin loaf was really tasty, too.

4. Taking the ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and wandering around, leisurely reading a book over a tasty lunch, browsing in the quaint little shops, and then eagerly settling in at a little table on the front porch of The Doctor's Office (a coffee shop), which overlooked the harbor, to journal and muse on what life is like for the people who actually live there...only to have a local sit down at the table next to me not 10 minutes later, strike up a conversation, and occupy my attention for the next 2 hours, during which he squealched my cynicism toward island life (a good thing), bought me coffee (a welcome thing), asked for my number (a shady thing, considering how in the course of conversation he told me the story of how he met his current girlfriend), and introduced me to his 3-legged dog named Annie (at which point I remembered a line from the novel I'd started on the plane, in which the main character says something like, "I wouldn't have believed it, except it's my life").

5. The fact that Heather and I decided on our way to church Sunday moring to count all the motorcycles we saw...and that we didn't stop (or at least, Heather didn't stop) until we'd hit 1,600. In all I estimate we saw at least 4,000 that day, come to Anacortes for the annual Oyster Run, which pretty much seems to be an event where a huge wave of motorcylces come to town, everybody eats some oysters, and then they all go home again. I don't get it, but it was fun to count and watch them all go by.

6. The fact that despite Washington's reputation, it was all blue skies and sunshine, which showed off both Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier, as well as all the rest of God's gorgeous creation.

7. The fact that I was able to do some exploring on my own for some recharging alone time (feeding my "I") AND hang out and reconnect with a friend who makes me laugh and makes me think (in excellent balance), and who also made me spicy peanut chicken stirfry. Her friends were rad, too.

Ack, this post is really long, and I haven't even mentioned the Seattle Public Library, the independent bookstores, the hiking, the sunsets, the salmon, the locks... Sigh, Washington was just wonderful. Thank you, Heather, for being a fabulous host and guide!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just Silliness.

My apologies to those of you who have stopped by recently and thought to yourself, "Come on, Suzanne, it's so NOT Friday anymore."

You're right. And so, on this dreary Tuesday afternoon in Chicagoland, a few images to make you chuckle...or groan.

For more ridiculous album covers from a very mediocre age in music, check out Divine Vinyl on purgatorio1.com.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Weekend Has Finally Arrived...

With thanks to Mary for this silly lunch break diversion. Kind of like junior high doodling gone all high-tech. Anyway, hope ya'll have a fun/relaxing/exciting/productive/happy Friday and long weekend! (Pick whichever sounds most appealing to you; I'm going with a cross between productive and relaxing.)

[True confession: I originally posted this yesterday, only to go back and remove it about 10 minutes later after realizing that it was, in fact, only Thursday. The "glitter" must have gone to my head.]

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Crayola: the Allure, the Longing

School starts today in my area. As one of those weird kids who loved school growing up, this is a wistful day. I miss the excitement of being reunited with friends you know you'll see 5 days a week for the next nine months. I miss the tremulous anxiety over whether or not your new teacher(s) will be nice, and fair, and fun, and (once puberty hit) tall, dark, and dreamy. I miss being fed knowledge that, whether or not you'll ever actually use it in the real world, promises to deepen your understanding of how that world works.

But oddly enough, what I think I miss most of all about this time of year is buying school supplies. I know this is not normal. I've never really been normal. Most kids get excited about a trip to the toy store. As early as five or six I would get all jazzed up about stopping into Doenge's, this independently owned stationary and office supply store in downtown Wheaton that had wood floors and stained glass windows, which sadly went out of business many years ago. I would roam through the aisles that seemed so long and so tall, and ask my mom (in my sweetest voice) if I could please get a new eraser, or a box of chalk, or (if I had been especially good, or Mom was in an exceptionally good mood) maybe a set of those thick-tipped yummy-smelling markers with the pictures of fruit on them.

Even in college buying school supplies was an eagerly anticipated, almost solemn ritual. At the end of the first day of class, Allison and I would drive into Marion and stalk the aisles of Walmart for colorful items that promised to maximize our coursework and satisfy our deep proclivity to be absurdly organized.

I was at Office Depot the other day, picking up some stuff for the office, and I felt drawn to the Back to School display like a moth to the flame. It called to me, and it said, "Look! Crayola colored pencils for only 10 cents!"

I did not need colored pencils. I'm pretty sure I have some at home that I obviously haven't used recently enough to confirm their presence amongst my belongings. I picked up a box anyway. I heard them clink gently against each other in all of their shiny plastic coated glory. I admired the crispness of the box's corners, the vibrant yellow hue and the familiar green stripes. I put the box in my basket. I charged the ink cartridges and envelopes I had come for, and then I bought them with the quarter I had in my pocket.

I haven't taken them out of the box yet. In fact, they are still in the bag on the floor in my room, right next to the box of crayons I bought last August because they were on sale and because I missed school. I think I will mail them to Mali for Naomi and Ngali.

Then I think I will dig out the supply I already had, and I will color.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

You are what you speak?

(With thanks to Bethany for directing me to this intriguing little survey.)

Linguistic Profile:
60% General American English
15% Upper Midwestern
10% Dixie
10% Yankee
0% Midwestern

Take the quiz at
The sad thing is, I probably picked up the Dixie while living no futher south than Indiana ... proof that rural Indiana IS a world unto itself, but NOT justification for their obsession with the Confederacy. That remains a mystery to me, tied up with squeamish memories of my surreal afternoon at the Matthews Covered Bridge Festival. (Remember that, Allison?)
I'm not really sure what the difference is between Upper Midwestern and regular Midwestern. I'm also wondering what it is all the people on the left half of our country speak...do the Southwest and Northwest not have their own unique dialects? I'm sniffing bias... And probably expending more brain power over this than the creator of the quiz intended.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Chancing upon a Chicago Television Legend: A Vignette

I met my dad at the nursing home this afternoon to take my grandpa out to lunch. When I arrived, Grandpa was waiting at the door, ready to go, eager for lunch at Gramma Sally's Pancake House, where he always gets the same thing--strawberry crepes. The servers there know my dad and grandpa by now, as this is their Saturday ritual, and so when our waitress set a heavy-laden plate of crepes covered with a mess of strawberries in front of Grandpa--at least twice the regular serving size--she gave Dad a wink and explained that she asked the kitchen to throw in a little extra today. Grandpa, oblivious to this exchange, just picked up his fork and got started. Honestly, I think they're just amazed at how much food my grandpa can put away at his age (which is 97 1/2). Who knows, maybe the cooks and bus boys are back there in the kitchen placing bets on whether or not whether or not Grandpa will clean his plate that day. What I do know is that anyone who bets against my grandpa's appetite is a fool.

Anyway, on the way back to the nursing home Grandpa tells us that he has a new roommate who will draw pictures of us. My dad and I aren't entirely sure what this means. (Grandpa remains lucid, but sometimes he leaves out the details that make things make sense.) Grandpa asks us to talk to his roommate and find out exactly who he is and what he's all about, since with his hearing loss he's only been able to catch a few things here and there.

So, we get back to Grandpa's room and meet Bruce Newton, the new roommate. We shake Bruce's hand, pull up some chairs, and he begins to tell us bits and pieces of his story. Born in Michigan. Fought in WII. Occupied Japan after the bomb was dropped, got cancer because of the radiation, and in a paradox of medicine, underwent 48 radiation treatments to beat it. Attended seven different colleges in order to learn about radio, television, stage design, and puppetry. Moved to Chicago. Got his start with a morning show on WGN, Chicago's home town station. Met his wife. A few years later, handcrafted the puppet that would become Garfield Goose, co-star of a children's show with a 25 year run. (I learned my dad grew up watching Garfield Goose and his contemporaries on an 11" TV my grandpa won in a 10 cent raffle at the barbershop.) Went on to work for several other TV stations, working on various kids' shows and creating additional puppets that live on in the nostalgic memories of my parents' generation. Played the role of Shorty in "Shock Theatre," a program that aired horror movies from the 30's and 40's. And...did a lot of other stuff, including design the very first set for Soul Train.
He tells us all of this with the air of someone used to reciting his story. He is not arrogant, though, and humbly accepts the fact that I am young and not at all familiar with his famous goose or any of the other characters he crafted, controlled, or played over the years. He points to his bedside table, where there's a picture of his wife, Claire. "She died three weeks ago," he tells us. "We were together every day. It hurts so much to be apart." And he starts to cry.

Regaining his composure, he reaches for his sketchpad and says, "Here, I'll draw you. It helps take my mind off my wife." He begins a caricature of me, while I begin to look through a red album with the word "Memories" on the cover in black felt letters, where the "s" has come loose and curls a bit to the left. The book holds an assortment of yellowed newspaper clippings, invitations to Chicago events, employee IDs, certificates of commendation, photographs of his home and family, a document stating his service in WII, and scattered throughout, the autographs of people he met while working in television. Humphrey Bogart. Fred Astair. Shirley Temple. Ed McMahon. Mae West. Along with a host of other names I don't recognize or can't make out. My dad fills me in their role in American celebrity-dom, repeatedly surprised that I don't know who the people are.

Bruce finishes his drawing of me, adds Garfield Goose on the left with "Hello Suzanne" in a speech bubble floating between us, finishes the whole thing off with his signature ("It'll get you more on E-bay that way," he tells me with a wink), hands it to me, and starts in on my dad. When he finishes and my dad has received his Bruce Newton original, we say our goodbyes to Bruce and grandpa leads our exit parade down the hallway to see us out, shuffling his feet to make the wheelchair go. "So," he asks my dad as we near the lobby, "what part did he have with Garfield Goose?"

Friday, July 21, 2006


sluggish adj. averse to activity or exertion; slow to respond; markedly slow in movement. see also: torpid (adj. sluggish in functioning)

Today is a sluggish day. My computer is uncharacteristically slow. My brain feels like mush. A nap sounds positively dreamy.

And it's only lunchtime.

Maybe some fresh air would do me good.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Does the Bible Need to be Hip?

High up on the list of things I really appreciate are Books and Free Stuff. So when Relevant.com announced they would send a free copy of a forthcoming book to people who'd agree to read and review the book on their blog, I signed up. That book is Pocket Guide to the Bible: A Little Book about the Big Book (hereafter PGTTB), by Jason Boyett (2006 Relevant Books), and this is my review (and then some).

I started reading PGTTB during a flight to Nashville, and finished reading it a couple weeks later while being driven around Columbus, so while its dimensions make it larger than any but the most spacious cargo pant pocket, I will attest to its portability and shoulder-bag friendly size. (As a bookseller I find it amusing to note the various sizes of books purported to be "pocket" sized, my favorite being the 4" thick foreign language "pocket" dictionaries that weigh at least half a pound, easy. I also know that I'm a nerd and probably the only one to be amused by that. Anyway, back to the review...)

The book has five main sections: a glossary (or "Biblicabulary"), a list of characters, book summaries ("the Bible at breakneck speed"), a brief history of the canon, and a guide to modern translations. To fit all of that into a 191 page 5"x7" tome is a feat to be applauded, no doubt. It would have been a refreshingly brief, unstuffy, and perhaps even helpful supplement to my Bib Lit texts back in college, particularly when it came to differentiating between the minor prophets. (e.g., Zechariah: "One of Haggai's prophetic contemporaries who leans more toward the crazy Ekekiel vein than the prophecies-we-might-actually-understand vein."

Even though the book starts out with the Biblicabulary, "a handy glossary for the scriptural noob," I'd say the primary audience for this book is young (as in teen through mid-30s) Christians who have been in church and reading the Bible for many years, or even a couple decades, as in my case, who need a punch in the arm to get out of the "easy" Epistles and go back and read some of the more obscure--and at times weird and shocking--passages found in the rest of the Bible. While someone outside of or new to the faith and/or the Bible will certainly learn a lot of helpful (and perhaps not so helpful) Biblical info by reading PGTTB (and indeed, even those with gold-star Sunday school attendance and a degree from a Christian college will gain some knowledge), I admit I'm a bit leary that they could come away from reading PGTTB with the impression that the Bible is more an intriguing and at times amusing curiosity than the trustworthy, holy, God-breathed, true Word of Life. Now, I am confident that's not at all the author's view, but still, it makes me a little uneasy.

PGTTB did make me laugh out loud on more than one occasion (so beware if you choose to read in public). A couple of my favorite quips: "Apostle...Not to Be Confused with Aeropostale, a mall-based retailer of casual apparel for teenagers. One sells hoodies. The other wears robes and sandals. It's not hard." Or, in reference to the time Elisha sicced some bears on kids jeering at him for being bald, "You know the saying, 'Mock the bald and get violently mauled'?(1) That's where it comes from. [footnote] (1) Not a real saying. But it should be." Or, "Jesus and his followers share a Last Supper together. (Though at that time they probably just call it 'supper.')"

Unfortunately, for every comment that made me chuckle or want to grab my Bible and read up, there was a comment that made me cringe. Obviously, when one's intent is to bring a little levity to the reading of holy scriptures, there's a thin line between what is considered wit and what may be called bad taste at best, sacrilege at worst. The truth is that among Christians, where that line lies and what crosses it is going to differ. What bothered me might not make others blink, and what made me laugh might make others grimace with disdain.

That said, while there were parts of PGTTB that I enjoyed, learned from, and will probably go back to, what made me uncomfortable is that this book seems to play the game of "How Close." Now, I realize I'll have to explain myself because it was reading this book that made me think about and put a name on this game. How Close is played out in a lot of Christian media and Christian lives, mine not excluded. Basically, the unspoken objective is, "How close can I get to [speaking like, dressing like, spending like, drinking like, etc.] the world without being "worldly"?

As I was reading this book, there were several times that I felt like there was such an effort on the part of the author to be "hip" and "relevant" that he went too far and ended up emulating the language and values of a perverse culture. Yes, to simply call Jezebel evil does seem like an understatement, but is it necessary to sanitize the common epithet and call her a "beeyotch"? Or describe Nebuchadnezzar's wilderness lunacy by adding "izn" to the colorful "apeshit"? (Which, by the way, I am apparently not "hip" enough to have in my vocabulary, so I had to turn to urbandictionary.com to confirm the context clues.) Does relevance make it acceptable to dishonor the dead by taking their name in vain? Yes, I realize that only God's name has a commandment attached to it, but "most angels in the Bible scare the bejudas out of people" and "once his boss has Cobained himself" just seem in really bad taste.

I acknowledge that my sensibilities lie on the conservative side. I know that I am far more concerned with diction than the average person. And I realize that I have now gone way beyond the scope of a book review, but seeing this book play How Close with its speech made me realize, again, how big a temptation that is for Christians, including me, and how so much of the stuff marketed by and to Christians is really just a supposedly salubrious imitation of an idea the world had first. It brings to mind a quote from one of the books I did some freelance work on, which said something to the effect of (and the author of course said it much better), "The Christian's greatest temptation is so often not this or that particular sin of indulgence, but the draw to be 'normal' at the cost of being holy." Ouch. On how many occasions (thousands, at least) have I desired and chosen fitting in over being set apart?

Okay, I have left the realm of review altogether and entered the realm of commentary, and even conviction, and this post is far longer than I intended. If you've read this far you're either (a) really bored; (b) still trying to figure out if I'd recommend that you read this book; or (c) wrestling with How Close a bit yourself. To (a) I say, "log off and go read a book;" to (b) maybe this one; and (c) let's chew this over together.

I'm with Jane.

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance." - Jane Austen

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rapid Fire Weekends

So, it turns out the rigging of the Santa Maria replica in Columbus, OH is a pretty fabulous frame for a fireworks show. I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with the Pizzi family, even though I lost at both Scrabble (I know-gasp! What can I say, Allison brought her A-game) and pinochle (also sad, but not as surprising).

This past weekend was another busy one, seeming to arrive ridiculously fast after only a 3-day work week, and go by equally fast, being on the heels of a 4 day weekend. Highlights included cheering Berto Ramon on to victory and a trip to Germany at the Chicago final for the Emergenza Music Festival (thanks Bekah, that was fun...loud, but fun); getting "lost" at the arboretum; and reconnecting with my friend and college roommate, Michelle, after 4 years of her being out of the country.

Summer = good.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Off to the C-Bus!

In a few hours I am off to spend the holiday weekend in Columbus, OH with the Pizzi family. This means the following things:
1. At most of Allison's family gatherings, I will stick out like a pale, freckled, redheaded giant. I generally find this amusing.
2. I will get to appreciate the spectacular fireworks display at Columbus' famed Red, White, and Boom festival from a private party held on a boat. After my horrendous experience at the Taste last year, I am looking forward to a much more pleasant Independence Day experience.
3. I am having a really hard time staying on task today, what with the sunshine, open road (or not so open, depending on traffic), and long weekend so close at hand.

Okay, back to work. Again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summer school...

"Time in the summer does not seem to move; instead, time collects, or perhaps it might be better said to pool. One of the spiritual lessons of summer is just that: to allow time to pool. To halt in our headlong rush. To be fully in a particular time. To stop long enough to see what lies around us, rather than to be always merely glimpsing."

- from Summer: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan Felch (as quoted in CT July 2006)

Visual Vacation

Daydreaming of relaxing on a beach somewhere with a cold, fruity beverage in hand? Have little chance of actually doing that? Then try on this artsy summer-inspired wallpaper (compliments of Starbucks) and you can at least minimize your work and escape to your desktop every once in awhile. Or, if an artsy print isn't your thing, try this beautiful image from Kenya (compliments of Simon).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Perk of the Two-Six

In Illinois you have to renew your driver's license when you turn 26. I have been looking forward to this event for quite some time...really, ever since I left the Secretary of State office at the age of 21. You see, the last time the guy taking my picture didn't tell me when he was going to take it, and so he snapped my mug while I was waiting--completely expressionless--for the signal to smile. Result: a picture so pathetic you might have thought my dog had just died. I know, I know, in the grand scheme of things one's DL pic doesn't really matter much, and a particularly bad one even makes for a great ice breaker when party conversation is feeble at best, but I have to confess I feel much better now that my DL pic sports a smile rather than a vacant stare.

Today, my experience at the Secretary of State office was so pleasant that I want to take back any jokes I've ever cracked--or laughed at--about the DMV. I walked in and was immediately beckoned up to the counter. The lady who processed my new license was as pleasant and helpful as could be. The nice young man at the camera gave me plenty of warning, and I was out of there, new license in hand, not 3 minutes later. I even received a friendly greeting on my way out the door. Jesse White - way to go on hiring those people. Sec of State office staff - I salute you!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Golden Girl

Yes, today is my golden birthday, the day when the age one turns and the day of the month conincide. I did a little research and tried to find the origin of the term; you know, some explanation of why this particular precious metal was picked to represent the occasion, as opposed to say, one's silver birthday or platinum birthday, or why it's a metal at all and not a gemstone (Today is my sapphire birthday), or even a fruit (i.e. Today is my kumquat birthday). But alas, it seems that other than the novelty of matching numbers, one's golden birthday really means very little (which should be some consolation to those born early in the month whose golden birthday passed them by before their cognitive skills had fully developed). It does, however, make for a killer party theme.

Allison threw me a birthday party Saturday night, complete with lots of gold decorations, gold accessories, gold-themed snacks (to which my very creative friend Erin, who can run with a theme like no one else I know, contributed greatly), some gorgeous yellow gold roses, and both new and old friends, which any former Girl Scout knows are both silver AND gold (go on, sing the song in your head, you know you want to).

Yesterday afternoon was family time, where we celebrated the back-to-back birthdays of my brother and me (he was born on the 25th) with lunch and a viewing of Cars, a film I heartily recommend. And then last night my friend Bethany and I enjoyed some very tasty Mongolian BBQ followed up by a stroll along the river and a dish of ice cream and cookie dough that was definitely worth cheating on my diet for.

Today, my actual birthday, has been made very sweet by calls and emails and ecards from friends and family, and more coupons arrving in my inbox offering me free stuff, just for being born. Birthdays are a great gig.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

On being a 6 foot redhead

When I was a senior in high school I applied for a bunch of obscure college scholarships in hopes of shaving off a few thousand from the amount I would have to borrow. One of the scholarships for which I applied was offered by Tall Clubs International. To apply for the scholarship you had to be, um, tall, and you also had to write an essay on something like "What being tall means to me..."

I don't remember what exactly I said in that essay, but I think it was something horribly cheesy like, "Being tall is a heritage I embrace with pride because it connects me to both my immediate family and my long lost Scandinavian ancestors." Yeah, it was wretched...no wonder I didn't get the scholarship. (Though it turns out that my tall friend Rachel, whom I met years later, applied for the same scholarship (albeit in a different year) and won...she must have had a kick butt essay.)

Anyway, if I were to write that essay today, I would have something different to say. Sure, I'm still cool with my height, and just coming off my family reunion (full report with pictures coming soon) I think it's rad that I can hang out with my dad, brother, and assorted relatives and feel almost short, or at least, average, but if I were to write that essay today, I think I would say something like, "Being tall is a million different little realities. Like having to contort yourself in order to shower at some hotels where the showerhead is at neck level. Like being near the front at church and feeling like you need to apologize to the junior higher in the row behind you. Like having to resign yourself to a lifetime shortage of legroom in most vehicles, airplanes, and arenas." And, the reality that prompted today's musings, "Like getting your head cut off by the mirrors in public restrooms."

Being tall has its perks (being able to utilize that cabinet over the fridge) and it has its disadvantages (clothes shopping in general). Thankfully God has surrounded me with enough tall friends that I've never felt the need to join a club of the vertically gifted (though I was fine with taking their money, had they offered). Now that I've found their website, though, I wonder what it could do for my dating life...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Thursday Miscellany

My apologies for being a bit of a blog slacker. My thoughts have been a bit scattered lately, and the horizon clouded with grief...the Taylor accident, the homegoing of my boss's father a couple weeks ago, the heart attack and sudden death of my uncle this past Tuesday night. Lots to process, little time (taken or made) to sort out my thoughts. And so, here's the fruit of a scattered and distracted mind on a Thursday afternoon:

* After a lifetime of resisting the little woven wheat squares, I have converted: I like Triscuits.

* Rwandan Christians love and respect the sacredness of prayer. Many churches in Rwanda close and cover all of the doors and windows during times of corporate prayer.

* After many years away from the game, I've recently made 3 new friends with whom I am cautiously and excitedly exploring the Chicagoland badminton subculture. Apparently, there are pockets of adults all over this metropolis who take their shuttlecocks very seriously. They scare me a little. And, on Monday night, my new doubles partner and I took on a pair of them who made me feel like I was a big oaf swatting at flies, rather than an athlete trying her best to be at least modest competition on the court. You know you love a sport when you get your butt kicked and feel publicly shamed, but still want to get out there and play again.

* Coffee-Mate has a new fat-free liquid creamer flavor, Cinnamon Vanilla Cream. It's the bomb.

* I was cashiering at B&N last night and this adorable elderly man in a yellow sweater approached my register cradling a big, beautiful hardcover copy of Gone with the Wind. He confided, “I’ve got one graduating from high school, and I hope they find this book as exhilarating as I did when I first read it.” Although admittedly cynical about his grandchild’s appreciation for Margaret Mitchell’s classic tome, I wanted to hug the man.

* Although it gets a bit lonely at times, there are lots of benefits to working in an office of one. For example, I don’t have to make small talk at the water cooler. I’m not good at small talk.

* Community officials in Sydney, Australia have decided to install a loudspeaker system in a local park that will play Barry Manilow music in an attempt to rid the area of teenage hooligans who hang out there and disturb residents and business owners. This following a successful experiment a few years ago in which Bing Crosby music was used to drive teenage loiterers from an Australian shopping center.

* Tomorrow night I leave for a short vacation in Nashville with my immediate and extended family. I’m looking forward to it, but am ridiculously stressed about all of the big and little things that need to get done before I go.

* I find it ironic that the word “blog” is not recognized by Blogger’s spell check.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


If you haven't already heard, in an unfathomable twist of events, there has been a case of mistaken identity with two of the girls from last month's van crash that killed 4 Taylor students and 1 employee. You can read the article and watch the video from the Indianapolis NBC Eyewitness News here.

My heart is breaking all over again for the families of these girls and for the Taylor community. My head is spinning with all the implications.

And yet God is good, and faith is real even when nothing makes sense. I spent some time this afternoon on the blog the VanRyn family has been keeping for the girl they thought was their daughter, Laura, and I am astounded by the depth of their faith and the extent of their graciousness even in the face of this gut-wrenching news. At a time of speechlessness, they have spoken to a watching world words heavy with grief, but rimmed with hope. Incredible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We Wear Many Hats

This past weekend's 3G02 reunion in Galena was splendid. Some of my favorite things (at least the ones that are appropriate to post online without incriminating anyone):

1. Lisa and Lori's spectacular spread of desserts waiting for us upon arrival. Cake balls: torture for one's diet but delight for the taste buds.

2. Exploring the quaint shops in downtown Galena. (Appreciating art, discovering stylish earrings, getting harshly reprimanded...)

3. Turning heads in our assortment of beautiful and/or ridiculous hats.

4. Bedtime stories.

5. Laughing til I cried, smiling so much my cheeks hurt, experiencing the freedom that comes with being so well known.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

You Gotta Gotta Get Up to Get Down

If you need something to make you smile today (or if you just have a few minutes to kill), watch this.

Return to Spring

Well, the glorious Spring weather we were having seems to have gone into hiding, so in memory of those days of sunshine and warmth and in (belated) honor of Mother's Day, here are a few pics from my recent stroll through Lilacia Park with my parents. (Love you, Mom & Dad!) Between the beauty of the tulips and the scent of the lilacs, I was pretty much drunk with visual and olfactory glee.

P.S. Pics from the 3G02 reunion coming soon!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Off to the Country...Again!

It's finally here! This weekend is the 4th Annual 3G'02 Reunion, the cherished event held each spring that brings together the girls (11 in all, 8 this year) from my class and floor at Taylor for a weekend of quality female bonding.

This year's reunion is taking place at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in "historic, folkloric" Galena, llinois. I'm a little bummed about the inclement weather forecasted for the weekend, but remembering that last year's late-April reunion in Indy was christened with snow puts things in perspective.

It kind of looks like this is shaping up to be the "Year of Rural Weekends," which I didn't really expect, but find myself enjoying very much. Maybe there's just a little bit of "country mouse" in this settled suburbanite.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Way to Go, Ladies!

Just want to give a quick congratulatory shout out to Lori, Lisa, Lynn, and Becca, my lovely friends and fellow 3G ladies who will walk across a stage tomorrow, shake some hands, accept a little portfolio containing their graduate degree and, most likely, heave a hugh sigh of relief. Congratulations girls!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

When We Are Old and Gray...

In following some of the continuing coverage of the accident, I came across this story. This past Saturday, two women from the Taylor University Class of 1929 reunited on the Upland campus for the first time since their 50 year reunion in 1979. Dorothy, 99, and Althea, 100, were roommates during their Taylor days, and have kept in touch all these years through letters and birthday cards.

The providentially planned reunion, according to the Chronicle-Tribune article, "helped ease the pain for many on campus." I love God's tenderness in the timing.

I also love that these two women are still friends, and that 77 years after their time on campus, their hearts still break for Taylor. When she first heard of the accident, "I was sad, as though it was my own family," Dorothy said while struggling to maintain her composure. "I was really touched."

With the 4th annual 3G'02 reunion coming up next weekend, this story is especially sweet. Thank you, Lord, for Dorothy and Althea, and for the lovely ladies of Third Gerig. May our friendship endure until we are old and gray, and then for all eternity, for we have that hope as an anchor.

Friday, April 28, 2006


The Indy Star featured a more detailed article today. You can read it here. It does a good job of portraying the ethos of Taylor.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Grief Removed Yet Present

My post earlier today was stark and brief because I could come up with no words or phrases to adequately describe the lump in my throat or the heart that aches for a community that is 4 years and many miles away even as it is an ever present part of who I am.

The words still aren't coming, so I am grateful to my friend and fellow Taylor alum Heather for her explanation of this feeling. It's in moments like this that our faith would seem almost absurd if not for the reality that our faith is all we have.

Please Pray...

Anyone who's attended a small, tight-knit college knows how much a death can rock the campus. Well, imagine the impact of five deaths at once, and then, please, pray fervently.

Last night a van carrying 10 Taylor University students and food service employees was traveling back to the Upland campus from Fort Wayne when it was hit head-on by a semi that crossed the median on 69. Four students and one employee were pronounced dead on the scene, while the other students and staff and the driver of the semi were airlifted to the hospital. (You can read the Taylor news release here.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Appreciate Me.

Today is Administrative Professionals Day, a day that "recognizes and celebrates the work of secretaries, administrative assistants, and other office professionals for their growing and diverse contributions to the workplace."

You might think--as I did before an informative google search just now--that this is just another "Hallmark Holiday" created to boost card and flower sales, but it turns out AP Day (and Week) has a long and illustrious history. Okay, well, maybe that's an overstatement, but I was surprised to learn today that Administrative Professionals Week was originally organized as "National Secretatries Week" (with Wednesday of that week being the day to really appreciate your secretary) way back in 1952 by the National Secretaries Association and a consortium of office product manufacturers. (The name of both the week and the association was changed in 1998 to Administrative Professionals).

Personally, I love the fact that office product companies were in on the deal. I love office products. I have ever since I was a little. Some kids begged their moms to take them to the toy store; I got ridiculously excited about a trip to the local stationery and office supply shop. (I know, I know, the nerdiness runs deep.) My new knowledge of the origins of this day makes me wonder if my affinity for office supplies predestined me for a stint (and as much as I enjoy my job I really hope it's only a stint) as an administrative assistant. I mean, maybe somewhere deep in my subconscious I accepted this job because I knew it would give me direct access to places like Staples and Office Depot and total and uncontested jurisdiction over the ordering of ink cartridges, post-it notes, and filing folders. It's something to consider.

In the meantime, I am thanking the Lord today that my boss does communicate and demonstrate his appreciation for me, and not just one day a year (otherwise it would look entirely suspect that he chose to go on vacation this week).

So, on AP Day, here's a shout out to my boss, for being wonderful to work for and never treating me like a mere secretary. After all, I am a Professional. :)

Friday, April 21, 2006

"Is it okay to cry over spilled contacts?" OR "Why Sam's Club Just Might Save the Day"

I mean, I know milk is off limits, but what about those little plastic discs that make the blind to see? Well, valid reason or not, despite resolutely telling myself "this is silly and I will not cry again," I've succumbed to puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks for the third consecutive morning.

It all started Wednesday morning when, in a not-really-awake-yet stupor, I accidentally washed my contact lenses down the drain. (My emergency plumbing efforts turned up some stinky green gunk, the kind my friend Lynn would term "nasty mafungoo," and a corroded earring I lost who knows how long ago, but sadly no contacts--apparently the recovery my father made when I made the same mistake back in high school was a one-time miracle.) Now, if I wore disposable soft contacts like the majority of the vision-impaired masses, it would not be that big of a deal. However, I am among the minority who wear rigid gas permeable lenses, the kind that last for years but are far more cumbersome to replace and tend to be quite expensive.

I'm not really sure where all these tears have come from, since I'm not much of a crier in general, but it's been a rough week, and they've seemed to recur each time I've hit a brick (i.e. monetary) wall trying to get them replaced. Which is where I think Sam's Club Optical is going to save the day, because I discovered this morning that I can get an eye exam AND a pair of contact lenses for over $100 less than my regular eye doctor was going to charge me for the lenses alone. How about that!? As my hippie heroes on AR would say, "Hot Dog!" I remain a little skeptical, given the various metaphorical doors that have slammed shut in my face this week, but I am hoping to experience a little wholesale club redemption this evening. We shall see. Or I should say, I will see, and hopefully through affordable little lenses.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The things that bring us together

They say (you know--"they," the people who say stuff) that the only things certain in life are death and taxes.

Last evening I agreed to drop off my parents' taxes at the post office on my way home from my weekly date with my mom and her washer and dryer. Not wanting to mess with the traffic around the post office, I left my car in the parking garage and strolled over to the big stone building to find it, not surprisingly, a flurry of activity. I was a bit surprised by the crowd, however. Passing through the door I joined an almost surreal collection of people, brought together by the inevitability of taxes and a propensity for procrastination. For my suburban hometown, it was quite a melting pot: college kids and gray-haired grannies, men in suits and Indian women in saris, Hispanic restaurant workers just off the late shift, caffeinated soccer moms and a few middle-aged men who smelled strongly of beer, all waiting their turn to approach the counters festooned with tacky red, white, and blue decorations and manned by bored-l0oking postal workers. It was an intriguing crowd, all clutching their envelopes and the little number tag that dictated the length of their wait.

Part of me wanted to stay and people watch, but I snapped out of that pretty quickly and craned my neck for the bin where I could drop my envelopes and be on my way. You'd think they'd be right up front and clearly marked, but no. Not feeling particularly assertive (most peoples' body language landed them somewhere between haggard and angry) I put on my best "forlorn face" and a minute later a gentleman took pity on me and pointed to the back of the room where the bins sat, hidden by the crowd. I deposited my charges and continued home, musing on the things that bring us together.

Monday, April 10, 2006

First Birk

Back in the fall I created a personal holiday called First Fleece, which marks that first glorious autumn day when the air is just crisp enough to warrant donning my beloved fleece pullover when venturing out of doors. Watching the weather forecast this morning, I decided that today would be the perfect day to celebrate First Fleece's spring counterpart, "First Birk" - that first spring day when, given warmer air and sunshine, dusting off my Birkenstocks and baring my toes to the world is not a move I will frigidly regret once I get out the door. And so it is was with great ceremony and satisfaction that I slipped into my familiar cork and leather footwear this morning and sallied forth (energetically, not violently).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Lenten Diary: Week Five

[If you haven't been following my observance, you might want to read this for background. Or not.]

Day 33: While a storm howls outside, beating rain against my balcony doors and sending flashes of light through the blinds, I’ve curled up on my loveseat to do a little reading. In chapter 3 of TROG, Buchanan talks about how busyness kills our hearts, and how we can invite life back into our lives by slowing down and taking notice. I know this from experience (both the death that comes from busyness and the benefits of slowing down) but it is good to be reminded. He quotes a scholar and poet who said something like, “We are all born poets. The question is when we stop being one.” (The actual quote is more eloquent, but I am parted from the book at present and forced to paraphrase.) The Sabbath liturgy at the end of the chapter then challenges the reader (i.e. me) to make every effort to take notice, and then to translate those observations to poetry.

I can count on one hand the times in my life I’ve actually sat down determined to write a poem—once during a poetry unit in 5th grade, once when I fancied myself in love, and a few other occasions in between. I’m more of a prose girl myself, and I think it’s because paragraphs are more easily qualified. I can read or write a paragraph and know whether it’s decent, superb, or needs serious revision. I have no such intrinsic or acquired gauge when it comes to poetry, so whether reading or writing a poem, I am unable to assign value, which leaves me feeling uncertain and unknowledgeable, feelings to which I admittedly hostile.

So maybe dabbling in poetry is a good and not-too-threatening way to venture outside my comfort zone this week, to exercise a Sabbath heart. And maybe I’ll discover that I was born a poet and didn’t know it. J

Day 34: With Chapter 3’s liturgy in mind, I spent this morning’s return trip from the airport intentionally engaging my senses and composing a poem based on my observations. Here’s what I scribbled onto Caribou napkins at trip’s end:

Heralds spring but
dampens earth and spirits
Sometimes plopping
now assaulting
With narrowed eyes
I grip the wheel
Squeaking wipers demand
more water, less frequency
never satisfied
Heavy lids, dull brain
cry for coffee, moose it, please
compensate for daylight saved
and waking amid shadows
Passenger fills silence
recounting others’ lives
Trucks rumble by, my stomach within
Stifle another yawn and
Notice the day.

Day 35: Thanks to a TV commercial viewed this morning, I had that darn Olson Rug jingle stuck in my head for the entire morning commute. Grrr.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You Scream, I Scream...

Hey, if you know me, you know I love getting stuff for free: coupons, samples, rebates, frequent buyer programs...I am the queen. Well, this time, the deal is just so yummy I had to share the news! Go to the Cold Stone Creamery website and sign up for their birthday club. When the anniversary of your arrival on this planet rolls around, they send you an email with a coupon for FREE ice cream. Sweet deal, eh?

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Title is Mine!

Today is a happy day in SuzLand: this morning I wrote and deposited the check that pays off my car loan and makes dear Paloma Blanca (pet name for my white Chevy Malibu) mine-all-mine. The event was not quite as "ceremonial" as I had anticipated (turns out they send the title by mail rather than hand it over on the spot with a congratulations and a firm handshake) but nevertheless I am feeling very adult with a side of accomplishment.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Lenten Diary: Weeks Three & Four

Day 28: I am not much of a daily person. I’m good at occasional, a whiz at sporadic, but daily gets me every time. Outside of the activities associated with basic personal hygiene, I can think of few things I manage to accomplish on a daily basis. I do not like this about myself. Thus, the fact that I fell off the “daily diary” wagon back on Day 18 did not come as much of a surprise, but I am disappointed in my lack of consistency all the same. Yes, my primary commitment was to a radio fast and not to daily commentary on that experience, but I know that the lack of commentary belies a lack of attention to the exercise, and I am disheartened by my ephemeral attention span.

Day 25: Since abandoning the radio in my car, I’ve noticed that I tolerate—and sometimes even welcome—silence in other places as well…my office, my apartment, my conversations. I am glad to observe that noise, of whatever variety, now seems to me an interruption of the silence, as opposed to patches of silence being awkward and uncomfortable interludes amidst incessant ear candy.

This morning I attended church with a friend; her church is part of the Anglican Mission in America, and as such its services are liturgical. My friend mentioned that one of the things she appreciates about the services is that extended moments of silence are built in—there is time allowed for reflection and prayer. I had thought (quite ignorantly) that having each part of the service spelled out in the worship folder might contribute to a sense of hurriedness, as in, come on, it’s all there, let’s get through it. But instead I found that having a common “script” seemed to give everyone a chance to breathe deep, as in, hey, there’s no wondering about what comes next, so let’s just take this moment and be still. The moments of silence were not just time to “prepare our hearts for worship;” the moments of silence were part of the community’s act of worship.

Day 23: Today marks the halfway point. It has come quickly. I am actually more astounded that 23 days of this month have passed than I am that I have passed those 23 days in "vehicular silence." April is almost here already, and I feel the fool.

Day 17: I’m writing today’s entry by the light of a golden sunset…which feels quite odd, actually, because I drove through a bit of a snow storm on the way home. The meteorological juxtaposition got me thinking about seasons, and how what is welcomed in one (i.e. big fluffy flakes swirling to the ground on Christmas Eve) is scorned in another (i.e. “Huh, some Spring, grumble, grumble…) even though it’s the same thing. It’s all a matter of expectations, I suppose: when we get what we want when we want it, we receive it gladly. When we get that same thing at a time when we want something else, the proffered item arouses indifference at best, disgust at worst. But it’s the same thing.

I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this. I guess I’m just raising the question, are there “good things” that I am receiving with indifference or scorn right now because I am expecting other things?

Day 16: Lent is everywhere! If you are of the abandoning meat variety and are concerned about what to do should you have a sudden urge to run for the border, do not fret. Taco Bell has a handy poster featuring tasty meatless menu options that will not interfere with your Lenten observances.

Day 15: I’ve adopted Isaiah 30:15-16a, 18 as my anthem for this season: This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee!” …Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spring with Frog and Toad

Frog ran up the path to Toad's house. He knocked on the front door. There was no answer. "Toad, Toad," shouted Frog, "wake up. It is spring!"

"Blah," said a voice from inside the house.

"Toad, Toad!" cried Frog. "The sun is shining! The snow is melting. Wake up!"

"I am not here," said the voice.

Frog walked into the house. It was dark. All the shutters were closed. "Toad, where are you?" called Frog.

"Go away," said the voice from a corner of the room. Toad was lying in bed. He had pulled all the covers over his head.

Frog pushed Toad out of bed. He pushed him out of the house and onto the front porch. Toad blinked in the bright sun. "Help!" said Toad. "I can't see anything."

"Don't be silly," said Frog. "What you see is the clear warm light of April. And it means that we can begin a whole new year together, Toad. Think of it, " said Frog. "We will skip through the meadows and run through the woods and swim in the river. In the evenings we will sit right here on this front porch and count the stars."

"You can count them, Frog," said Toad. "I will be too tired. I am going back to bed."

Toad went back into the house. He got into the bed and pulled the covers over his head again.

"But Toad," cried Frog, "You will miss all the fun!"

"Listen, Frog," said Toad. "How long have I been asleep?"

"You have been asleep since November," said Frog.

"Well then," said Toad, "a little more sleep will not hurt me. Come back again and wake me up at about half past May. Good night, Frog."

"But Toad," said Frog, "I will be lonely until then."

Toad did not answer. He had fallen asleep. Frog looked at Toad's calendar. The November page was still on top. Frog tore off the November page. He tore off the December page. And the January page, the February page, and the March page. He came to the April page. Frog tore off the April page too. Then Frog ran back to Toad's bed.

"Toad, Toad, wake up. It is May now."

"What?" said Toad. "Can it be May so soon?"

"Yes," said Frog. "Look at your calendar."

Toad looked at the calendar. The May page was on top. "Why it is May!" said Toad as he climbed out of bed. Then he and Frog ran outside to see how the world was looking in the spring.

[Story from Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. Dedicated to Charity - thanks for "pushing" me out of bed this morning.]

Happy Spring, everyone!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Lenten Diary: Week Two

[For background on this post, read this.]

Day 8: Like so many things in life, I suppose what you get out of silence is a direct result of what you put into it: fill it with hectic thoughts, and of course time spent in silence will be no more restful or regenerative than time spent assaulted by any number of auditory stimuli.

Day 9: Habits are funny things. Some just creep in, unnoticed until we try to break them. Others stubbornly resist forming. Some are silly, things we’ve adhered to for no better reason than it seemed a good idea at the time. Some inhabit ritual, and we feel empty or incomplete without performing the familiar actions.

This exercise has got me pondering habits, and where some of mine have come from. I took (most of) my Driver’s Ed teacher’s instructions seriously (even though it was hard to take her seriously because she’d doze off when we’d watch those filmstrips in class and we all suspected she might be narcoleptic). One of her instructions was to turn off everything in the car before turning off the engine—that meant the heater or air conditioner, depending on the season, the windshield wipers, the lights, and the radio. “That might be a lot to think about now,” she told us, “but with time it will simply become a good habit.” Now, I don’t remember her presenting any compelling evidence to convince us that this practice was significantly beneficial to car or driver, other than maybe not having your wipers get stuck in mid-wipe making you look like a distracted fool, but for some reason (probably the overachiever people pleaser in me) I took that instruction to heart and to this day faithfully disengage all in-car accessories before turning the key.

And so, 9 days into my radio fast, while I no longer punch the knob at blast off, I still reach to turn the radio “off” before killing the engine, in some cases actually turning it on and startling myself.

Day 10: Though already more than a week into Lent, tonight in the quietude of a Wisconsin farmhouse I worshiped my way through an Ash Wednesday liturgy I’d found online. Like Lent, high church liturgy is largely foreign to me. I come to it inquisitive and hopeful, with a collection of second-hand criticisms and blanket statements tucked in my back pocket. Tonight the progression of passages, prayers, and affirmations imparted freshness and purposefulness to what had become stale and awkward. Funny, that’s what I’ve heard people say of liturgy. In truth anything can become stale if we disengage our hearts and dull our minds.

Day 11: Today I started reading The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Sometimes I am rather obtuse; sometimes I stubbornly disregard; sometimes God gets my attention by choosing a melody and playing it in surround sound. I hear that one tune all around me, issuing forth from numerous instruments, until the divine orchestration is undeniable, and He has my attention.

I don’t remember where I first saw an ad or a review of this book; I only remember that I read the description and heard the melody again. I am literary by nature; books are natural companions when I explore new and unfamiliar territory. And so I acquired the book, and have begun to read.

Today Chapter One began the harmony, a conscientious confirmation that the melody I heard was not merely my imagination, and that it is time to join in the chorus.

Day 12: Today I had the pleasure of sharing my drive back from Wisconsin with two dear friends: meandering, meaningful conversation punctuated by moments of comfortable silence.

Day 13: Frederick Buechner says that we are less alive as human beings when we do not allow times of silence in our lives.

Day 14: Today a heavy and anxious heart drove me to prayer as I crossed town. I miss the times when gladness and lightness of spirit drove me to prayer too.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Rural Retreat

Two night stay with friends in Wisconsin farmhouse: $70

Lunch at the famous Baumgarten Restaurant & Cheese Shop: $9

Tour and tasting at the John Huber Brewing Company: $2

A weekend with no agenda: Priceless

There are some things you can do at home. For everything else, there's roadtrips.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Escape to Wisconsin

In a matter of hours I am headed here, Little Sugar River Farm, to spend the weekend with 5 dear friends. I find myself eager for wide open spaces, earnest and heartfelt conversations, fits of laughter, and moments of beauty.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lenten Diary: Week One

[For an explanation, see previous post.]

Day 1: I started the engine this morning and reached to punch the radio knob like always, remembering my commitment at the last second and snatching my hand back as if the knob glowed red-hot.

I was uncomfortable with the silence before I was even out of my apartment complex. Waiting at a light, the click-clack of the turn signal was almost deafening. These next 45 days will be stretching indeed.

Day 2: Last night while traversing town I reached forward and punched preset #2—while the radio was off, mind you—as if looking for another variety of silence that would be less, well, quiet.

Day 3: So far most of my thoughts while commuting revolve around this choice. I have entertained the thought at least a dozen times already that I am crazy for having decided to do this. I’ve wondered, “Was it really conviction that prompted me to make this commitment, or just a lofty self-improvement idea I pitched to myself while feeling particularly pious?” In fact, I’ve debated this so much already that I am writing Day 3’s entry on Day 2 because I spent half the drive home composing it in my head. It’s my diary…I can cheat if I want to.

Day 4: Today my drive-time thoughts actually focused on something other than the lack of sound; however, my reactions to the silence were swapped out only to rehearse my “to do” list for the day, so I can report no great leap forward in profundity.

Day 5: During the drive to and from church today, the silence felt “proper”—like an appropriate act of reverence. I hummed the service’s closing hymn on the way home, and smiled.

Day 6: Thanks to the proliferation of campaign signs (particularly “Zaruba for Sheriff”), and to Allison for planting the connection in my head on Saturday, I had the Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” playing in my head the whole drive home today (“Zaruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…”). I grasped at other thoughts and songs to edge it out, but it was no use, and so the song ran its course, several times over (“Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go…”)

Day 7: I wonder how much I could accomplish if I spent less time drafting “to do” lists and more time just doing what needs to be done. I’m beginning to see that one of the reasons I’ve felt so stressed lately is that I’m always thinking about the next thing that needs to be done, so much so that I lose any satisfaction that might be gained from completing whatever I’m currently working on.