Friday, December 07, 2007

Elf Yourself!

A shout out to Office Max for the incredibly entertaining option to Elf Yourself this Christmas.

Click here
to check out just how sexy I am as an elf.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Rabbit Room

I recently discovered a place called The Rabbit Room. Presided over by singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson, the hope is that The Rabbit Room will "be a place for people who get the feeling that there's more truth and beauty around us than this world can contain." The RR is populated by some of Andrew's friends and fellow artists who post ruminations and reviews of various materials and matters of an aesthetic nature. Anyway, I have found the Rabbit Room an interesting place to visit.

Writer Jonathon Rogers recently posted some processing thoughts on "Style and Grace," an essay by Wendell Berry in which he contrasts the writing styles of Hemingway and Norman McLean. I am tempted to summarize or paraphrase the post here, but instead will simply encourage you to follow the link and read the original.

I remember little about the one Hemingway novel I've read--The Sun Also Rises, a requirement for high school English class--other than I read it. Obviously neither the story nor the style made much of an impression on me. As I read Berry's observations on the difference between the two authors' styles, I find myself identifying with Hemingway's “craftsmanly fastidiousness” even while admitting that I aspire to McLean's manner of writing (and perhaps thinking) instead--"a style vulnerable to bewilderment, mystery, and tragedy--and a style, therefore, that is open to grace.”

Rogers observes,
There is little room for grace in a story--or a life--that is devoted to mastering the subject matter. Especially when you consider the fact that “mastery,” in our lived experience, is largely a matter of simply leaving out those things we don’t understand. Or to put it in other terms, “mastery” mostly means simplifying the complexities of our experience down to something we can master--but which may not look very much like the world we actually experience.
These words give me pause. I struggle with ambiguity. I like the idea of mystery, but when it really comes down to it, what I'm after is mastery. However, I don't like this proposition that my striving after a neat and tidy life means that there's little room in my life for grace, even as I suspect there's real truth there. It's something to ruminate on.


[As long as I'm plugging Andrew and friends, allow me to send you to www.andrew-peterson.com to listen to his Christmas album, Behold the Lamb of God. It's good stuff. To listen online, go to music, then scroll down to the album and click to "open player." The player won't automatically start the next song, so you have to go back and click on each title to hear the song, but the music is certainly worth that little effort.]

Monday, November 19, 2007

Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like...

...a Turbo-Groomer (R) Lighted Nose-Hair Trimmer.

Somehow my name ended up on the mailing list for the Sharper Image catalog. I have never purchased anything from the Sharper Image. I am not likely to in the future. However, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to thumb through the catalog. It was worth it for a good chuckle.

The headline on the very last page is "Gifts for the men you look up to..." and the product featured there is--you guessed it--nose hair trimmers.

Because who wants to look up into a nostril forest of nose-hair? Give them a turbo lighted nose-hair trimmer, and then you won't have to. Apparently this is the latest in self-serving gift giving.

Now that, my friends, is funny. Sad, but funny.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Food for Thought

"When I look back it reminds me to thank Him.
When I look ahead it reminds me to trust Him.
When I look around it reminds me to serve Him."

- Charles Jones

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Subject-O-Matique: Did You Know?

Hey all you Yahoo! Mail users. Did you know about this amusing feature of the new Yahoo! mail? When you've got a tab open to compose a new message, there are fields for "To:", "Cc:" and "Subject:" with corresponding buttons to the left. The button for To and Cc give you a pop-up window with access to your contacts, while the Subject button activates the "Subject-O-Matiqe", a random subject line generator that churns out some entertaining results, such as

Shampuccino
Waterbeds for Quadrupeds
Early bird gets the worm. But what about the early worm?
Nobody deserves a mime, Buffy.
Do watch dogs know they're working?
chai tea vs. tai chi
Sorry I missed you. Stand still next time.
There's a great juggler on the radio tonight!

Okay, well, I'm amused by this, and since I just happened to discover this by accident I thought I'd share the random subject love. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!


This is my modern interpretation of that great icon of children's literature, Pippi Longstocking. Who, it seems, is a complete unknown to anyone under 21, based on the reactions of people on the street today. Adults, "Hey, look, it's Pippi Longstocking!" Kids: "Who are you?"
Pippi Facts:
  • the first Pippi Longstocking novel was published in 1945.
  • Pippi's full name in Swedish (the original language, as written by Swede Astrid Lindgren) is Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump
  • The name of Pippi's monkey is Mr. Nilsson.
  • In one episode of Pinky and the Brain, when Brain asks Pinky if he is pondering what Brain's pondering, Pinky replies with "I think so Brain, but me and Pippi Longstocking... I mean, what would the children look like?"

An Update & More Congrats

  • My boss's health is improving, and according to the latest report they are going to send him home this afternoon to continue resting and recovering. Praise the Lord for antibiotics and His healing hand!
  • Congrats to Julie & Alex who got engaged last weekend!
  • Congrats to Mike & Becca who brought home an adorable new puppy named Harrison on Oct 21st, making me an honorary puppy-aunt the second time over. (Don't worry, Charlie, I haven't forgotten about you!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Strength and Weakness

My boss is in the hospital. Anyone who’s heard me talk about my job knows how much I respect and admire and appreciate my boss. He is a godly man with a zeal for Christ’s kingdom and a tender heart for people in need. I have learned so much from working alongside him for the past three years. Yesterday he took his first sick day in the six years he’s worked for our organization. This reveals two things: first, he’s the kind of guy who will push through just about anything in order to fulfill his commitments and get the job done; second, this time he’s really ill. His body is fighting an infection and he’s got a dangerously high fever. He’s sick. He’s weak.

He called me earlier today from the hospital; the voice that’s usually so strong, so jovial, so purposeful, was slow and quiet and weak. It was disconcerting. I could tell it was taking a lot of effort and energy for him to think clearly and say what he needed to say. I strained to listen and understand and respond to his concerns gently but confidently.

It catches us off guard when strong men are made weak. I remember last fall when I went to visit my dad in the hospital after his hip replacement surgery. Lying there, wearing a thin hospital gown, my tall, strong father looked so tired, so vulnerable. As his daughter I’d been aware of my own growth over the years, of course, but my perception of him had always been kind of frozen in time—he was perpetually the age that fathers are supposed to be. He was just my Dad. He is who he is, and he does what he does, usually without any complaint or commentary. Yet there he was—weak, uncomfortable, in pain. It was hard to bear. Friends of mine have recently faced the similar hard realities of their fathers’ or grandfathers’ limitations and mortality. Though illness and infirmity touches all men at some point, there’s almost this feeling that we should look away, lest they be made to feel ashamed of—or we to feel uncomfortable with—their weakness, their humanity.

When strong men are made weak, we get this sense that something isn’t right. It’s not the way it should be, the way we want it to be. We want to be able to count on someone to always be strong, always be there, always be adequate to the challenges that face us.

I know that some women are offended that Paul refers to women as “the weaker vessel.” It may sound strange, but I actually take some comfort in it. Not that I don’t think women are strong. Not that women are relegated to the role of damsel in distress until Prince Charming—or the plumber, policeman, mechanic, or what have you—comes to her rescue. Not that I can’t be strong myself when life calls for strength, resiliency, and fortitude. I think my life experience shows that, by God’s grace, I’ve made it through some difficult times, and am a stronger person for it. But at the same time I’m relieved to be identified as the weaker vessel, because that implies there’s someone else to be strong on my behalf.

Now, I realize that on the human level, there are a lot of holes in that implication. For starters, where Paul refers to women as the weaker vessel, he’s addressing husbands. I’m single, i.e. no strapping husband to swoop in and save the day. Secondly, as I explored above, even strong men are sometimes made weak by illness or circumstance, and all men are, well, human and therefore inescapably fallible and subject to weakness, temptation, and failure. Thirdly, I know it’s unhealthy and unfair to expect any man—husband, father, boss—to be unflinchingly strong. Fourth, strength comes in a lot of different forms. Fifth, the same Scriptures that describe women as the weaker vessel also call women to be strong and courageous as co-heirs of the promise, to put on the full armor of God and enter into battle, to live in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within them. And the same apostle who identifies women as the weaker vessel says that it’s when he is weak that he’s strong, that if he’s going to boast in anything at all he’ll boast in his weakness, that he became weak to win the weak. So while women are weaker than their husbands, men are to be weak to start with? It’s confusing to say the least.

At the times when the discontentment and loneliness of singleness creep in, more often than not that which I find myself longing for is not the companionship, the affection, or the intimacy, though each has its appeal. Rather, I most yearn to have someone who will be strong for me; who will honor and respect me as the weaker vessel and yet his equal as a co-heir of Christ. Who will stand firm so I can relax. Who will keep watch so I can let my guard down. Who will walk beside me so that we can go farther together than we could alone. While I do not know when or if the time will come that I’ll have some measure of this on a human level (i.e. a husband), the truth is that from the day I gave my life to Christ and was given the right to be called a child of God, I have had this in my heavenly Father. When I am weak He is strong. And yet we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weaknesses.

This strength-weakness thing is one of the many paradoxes of faith that get my head spinning when I start to really consider all of the seemingly contradictory (emphasis on the seemingly) exhortations. We are to be strong and courageous and yet boast in our weakness. We are to lay ourselves low that we might be lifted up. What anchors me when the concepts start swirling is my confidence that God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. He is strong. He is mighty. He is all-powerful. He will give me His strength when I need strength. He delights when I come to him in my weakness. He will give me His rest and relief when I am burdened. He will be faithful when I am faithless. He neither slumbers nor sleeps and He does not grow weary. He is strong. I can be weak. And yet I can also be strong.

When I set out to write I usually like to come to a conclusion. To wrap things up nicely with a summary statement. But today I just have thoughts. Considerations. Worries for my boss that I need to convert to prayers. Realizations about my God that I need to convert to gratitude and praise.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Book Review: The Heavenly Man

It's been a while since I posted a book review (I have been reading lately, though not as much as I'd like), but since I'd written this one anyway for my office's newsletter, and since the book tells an incredible story of a remarkable man and some of the ways God is working in China, I thought I'd post it here, too. Enjoy!

In The Heavenly Man, Chinese house church pastor Brother Yun (with Pal Hattaway) tells the story of how God called him at the age of 16 when he brought revival to Yun's family and healing to his father's cancer-ridden body. Yun then gives an account of the Lord's faithfulness and mighty power displayed in his own life, that of his wife and family, and in the Chinese house church movement as a whole from his conversion in 1974 up until 2001. Brother Yun has endured the worst brutality imaginable from the hands of men, and has also experienced amazing healings and miracles from the sustaining hands of God. Yun narrates his compelling journey with humility and grace; while it would be easy to tell his story in a way that would bring glory and honor to himself, among the accounts of strong faith and incredible feats Yun includes his weaknesses, mistakes, and acts of disobedience as well. He emphasizes that God is the hero of this story, and Yun simply a flawed but willing servant.

If you love the Lord Jesus (and perhaps, even if you don't), I think it would be impossible to read this book without experiencing a breadth of emotions. While reading I felt shock, anger, awe, shame, admiration, excitement, and wonder, to name a few. This book took God out of the "Western box" I'd placed Him in and reminded me that He is so much bigger than my own experience of Him. In China today God is working miracles, giving dreams and visions, answering prayers that seem outrageous, providing for needs when resources don't seem to exist, and adding to the Church daily thousands who are being saved.

Brother Yun's account will cause you to consider what it really means to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings." He writes, "How we mature as a Christian largely depends on the attitude we have when we're faced with suffering. Some try to avoid it or imagine it doesn't exist, but that will only make the situation worse. Others try to endure it grimly, hoping for relief. This is better, but falls short of the full victory God wants to give each of his children. The Lord wants us to embrace suffering as a friend. We need a deep realization that when we're persecuted for Jesus' sake it is an act of God's blessing to us."

As the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (Nov 11th) draws near, I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book. It will open your eyes to the persecution Christians are facing today and may change the way you pray. I know it has for me. Brother Yun writes, "Once I spoke in the West and a Christian told me, 'I've been praying for years that the Communist government in China will collapse, so Christians can live in freedom.' This is not what we pray! We never pray against our government or call down cursed on them. Instead, we have learned that God is in control of both our own lives and the government we live under. .Instead of focusing our prayers against any political system, we pray that regardless of what happens to us, we will be pleasing to God. Don't pray for the persecution to stop! We shouldn't pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure! Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects his love and power. This is true freedom!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

Congratulations are in order!

Okay, I will be the first to admit that Suz's Musings has been a pretty boring place for the last month or so. The blogging hiatus has been unintentional, not due to a conscious decision to take a break or lack of blogging fodder but more a lack of time and discipline and the fact that I finally joined Facebook and have been a little mesmerized by all the activity there. However, I've decided it's time to break the silence and get writing again, so for those of you who still stop by every once in a while (all 7 of you) thanks for sticking with me. I hope to get the thoughts and commentaries and reports on life flowing again soon. To make up for the absence, here's some stuff I might have blogged about had I been in the blogging mood:
  • a wonderful Saturday in Chicago that included the Art Institute and Celtic Fest
  • the young adult ministry at my church receiving a face-lift this fall in the form of a new name and LOTS of other changes
  • thoughts on leadership and fresh starts
  • celebratory all-you-can-eat sushi at Mulan in Chinatown (see occasion below)
  • a lovely Sunday afternoon with the girls at the Long Grove Apple Fest (and the 4 1/2 cider donuts I ate)
  • what I think of the new restaurants that have opened up around my office

For now, a few announcements and some congratulations are in order. First, this blog has born witness to my attendance and participation in many weddings over the past several years (who can forget the pink dress?!). The coming 12 months will be no exception. Congratulations to Allison and Alex, who got engaged back on Sept 28th. I am thrilled and honored to have played a role in the proposal (that of question-asker #2) and to fill the role of maid of honor in the months to come and the wedding next summer. Additional congratulations are due to Allison in particular, who this past Monday finally decided to be brave and get her ears pierced. Way to go!

Next up, many congrats to Chris & Jenn, who popped and answered the big question, respectively, two weeks later on Oct 12th. And finally (for now at least, thought I suspect I will have more friends' engagements to celebrate soon), congrats to Abby & Allen, who are engaged as of Tuesday. (Abby was my roommate and small group co-leader on the Romania trip this past summer.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy me hearties!

September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day. To help you observe this official (and officially silly) holiday, here are a few terms and phrases you might employ (with thanks to thepiratesrealm.com and talklikeapirate.com)

Avast - from the Dutch term for 'hold fast' and means "Stop and pay attention."As in, "Hey! Get a load of this!"

Aye!
- "Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did."

Shiver me timbers! - akin to "Blow me down!" An expression of shock or disbelief, believed to come from the sound the ship made when 'shocked' by running aground or hit by a cannon blast. Often preceded by "Well..."

Jacob's Ladder - the rope ladder used to climb aboard the ship

monkey - a small cannon

poop deck - the deck that is the furthest and the highest back, usually above the Captain's quarters, NOT to be confused with the head (the ship's toilet)

landlubber - 'lubber' was an old English word for a big, slow, clumsy person, and this term was aimed at those persons on ship who were not very skilled or at ease with ship life, as if to say, "You were no better on the land."

swing the lead - a lead weight swung from a line into water when near shore was a way to measure depth; the job's simple requirements caused the phrase to evolve into a term for slacking off

to have the Davies or the Joneseys - to be frightened

If you want to try out a pathetic pirate joke:

Did you hear about the new pirate movie? It's rated Rrrrrrrr.

And, if you're out and about (and want to get slapped by the nearest wench) here are a few pirate pick up lines:
  • "I must be huntin' treasure, 'cause I'm diggin' yer chest."
  • "Ya certainly put the shiver in me timber."
  • "Is there an 'X' on the seat of your pants? 'Cause it appears there's wond'rous booty buried beneath!"
  • and finally... "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre you free on Saturday?"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

5K training update

So, up until a little mishap yesterday afternoon I was feeling really good about my 5K training. I was on schedule, covering distances and reaching durations previously unmatched in any of my attempts at fitness. I can't say that I yet "enjoy" running, but neither do I loathe it as much as I thought I might. Really, I think it's having a goal and seeing myself reach little milestones of accomplishment that's keeping me going.

But then as I was leaving the office yesterday afternoon I tripped and fell while going down the back stairs. The stairs are made of a punctured metal that's designed for traction, but not intended to ever make contact with flesh. As a result, my lower right leg and foot appear as though I was mauled by some malevolent beast, and the very thought of wearing a sock and shoe on that foot anytime soon makes me want to cry.

So, it looks like just when I was really catching momentum in my training I'm going to have to pull back and just walk or use the elliptical for a little while, in flip flops, while my foot heals. Sigh.

Happy First Fleece!

Long-time readers of my blog will know that every year I celebrate two self-declared holidays: First Birk (in the spring) and First Fleece (in the fall).

A cool front that's swept across the Midwest this week has brought First Fleece upon us earlier than usual (it's not even technically fall yet), but nevertheless I was delighted this morning to go into my closet and pull out my trusty black fleece pullover to ward off the early morning chill as I left for work. This momentous act, prompted by the crispness that has returned to the air, the subtle change that always gets me giddy for autumn, is that which makes today First Fleece.

So, Happy First Fleece everyone!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Seeking to do and become that which I have long derided.

It's often said that "those who cannot do, teach." In the same vein, my past attitudes and behavior have validated the statement (perhaps not so often--or ever before--actually said) "those who cannot run, mock."

Yes, for my whole life (up until now) I have held the view that prolonged running is rather silly, and in most cases quite unnecessary. (I mean, what's the rush? Walking will get you there eventually, and is far friendlier to your joints.) In fact, back in college Allison (who also previously shared this view) and I devised a short list of valid reasons to run, albeit only in a short spurt. The list included reasons such as:

1. Running toward food when famished.
2. Avoiding a flesh encounter with a rabid animal.
3. Catching some form of transportation that is about to depart (i.e. running through the airport terminal to catch a flight, jogging down the street to catch a bus, etc.)
4. Fleeing the devil.

You get the idea. In general, I thought that those who choose to run for any other reason--and particularly those who claim to enjoy running--are, well, crazy.

I am sure that some of my aversion to running stems from the residual angst and shame associated with those physical fitness tests they make you do in gym class. You know--the ones that validate the athletic and publicly humiliate the out of shape. An A+ student in anything academic, when it came to the fitness tests I was doomed to failure. The flexed arm hang, the sit up test, the sit and reach--they were all bad, but at least they mercifully had a duration of just a few minutes, and not EVERYONE in the class was privy to how well (or how poorly) you did, only those on either side of you in line.

Running "the mile" was another story. The mile lasted as long as it took you to run (or in my case, intermittently walk and shuffle) it, and everyone in the class who'd already finished was there in the bleachers, watching and waiting for the slower kids to cross that finish line, red-faced and huffing for breath. From the place of my own insecurities I imagined what horrible thoughts they must be thinking of me, how pathetic and unattractive I must look to them.

Most of the years of gym class blend together, but I vividly remember finishing the mile one year at Monroe Middle School. Rather than sit idly by, talking amongst themselves while waiting for the last runners to straggle in and the period to end, some in the bleachers decided to cheer on those who were finishing several minutes behind the rest. Perhaps they cheered out of boredom, perhaps out of good will. I do not know their motivation, but I do remember what I felt as I crossed the finish line to the chorus of their shouts and whistles. There was no thrill of victory, no satisfaction in completion; only shame that the best I could do was so far below average, and a desire for the earth to split open and swallow me up, that I might escape their attention.

Well, thank the Lord, I have come a LONG way since middle school. Internally, I have allowed Christ to heal a lot of those insecurities. While I don't know that the one who penned the psalms necessarily had one's body concept or social confidence on his mind as he crafted his prose, I cling to the promises that those who are called by His name will not be put to shame. I have learned that my worth lies not in what I can do but in Whose image I am made. Though it's still a thorn in my flesh, by God's grace I have made my peace with perfectionism and let go of the need to excel at everything I attempt. Physically, I am probably at my healthiest weight and in the best cardiovascular and muscular condition ever. In the past couple years I have begun to take seriously my responsibility to be a steward of this vessel I've been given.

And so, it's against this background of bitter history and recent growth that my decision to train to run my first 5K this October comes both as a surprise and the most natural thing. With the help of a runner friend (one of the "crazies") I found a training schedule to follow, and I had my first appointment with the treadmill last Thursday. Last night, as I jogged along to the tunes on my shuffle, I looked around at those occupying the various machines at Bally's and came to the startling realization, "None of these people know that I'm not a runner." Which was followed shortly thereafter with, "Wait a second. Here I am, running. So for right this minute, maybe I am."

I'm hesitating to hit "publish post" right now, because while last Thursday I "put my stake in the ground," so to speak, and finally committed myself to training for and running the TU Homecoming 5K (and maybe even becoming a runner in the process), putting this out there lets others in on this goal. It opens me up to censure should I falter or fail or look ridiculous in the process. But then it also invites others to cheer me on from the bleachers, and this time I think I'm ready to accept their encouragement, no matter how long it takes me to finish the race.

So, here's to a season of training and running. Will you cheer me on?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Food for Thought

"The power of community is that it helps us understand ourselves. In a healthy community we come to know ourselves and find strength in that knowledge. In community we learn how to live a life beyond ourselves, we begin to discover our potential and our strengths, and we are best positioned to make our greatest contribution. When community happens the way God intended us to live, it is always inclusive and never exclusive. Healthy communities are always permeable. You are never forced in, but you're always welcome."
- Erwin Raphael McManus, in Soul Cravings

Thursday, August 23, 2007

rain is an excellent crowd thinner

Last Saturday I went to Six Flags Great America with friends from my small group. We kept a wary eye on the weather forecast all week long, and groaned a bit as the chance of rain went from 30% to 60% to "you're definitely gonna get wet." And rain it did, from a light drizzle most of the morning (including the 2 hours we waited in line to ride Superman) to several episodes of complete downpour in the afternoon. Jenn, in a move of brilliant forethought, packed colorful ponchos for all of us, so while we spent much of the day chilled and damp from the knees down, we managed to stay fairly dry, and more than once our roaming poncho posse drew covetous glances from others who were not so lucky, and rather more wet. Sticking it out through the rain while the crowds thinned meant that by about 6pm we could walk up to just about any ride and have our butts in the seat in 10 minutes or less. Pretty rad. We rode a few coasters twice in a row, including Batman, which is cooler than I remembered (especially from the front row) and the Demon, which hurts just as much as I remembered. Also, in a Great America first for me, I took on the "Dare Devil Dive" with Melissa, which is where they put you in a harness (kind of like wrapping you up in a rug) , pull you up really high, and then drop you so that you swing back and forth with a great view of the park. Super fun.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Food for Thought

"Choosing joy over bitterness doesn't mean slapping a silly grin on your face. And it's not about being bubbly, perky or giggly. Let's face it, sometimes happy people can be a bit annoying. Joy goes much deeper than any facial expression. And it's more intense and real than fleeting happiness. In his play Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare understands this solemn quality of joy, writing, 'Silence is the perfectest herald of joy.' How perfectestly said.

"Author and teacher Gary Thomas raises the question that perhaps God is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness. That the real purpose of the Christian life is to make us holy — not happy. The first time I heard this concept I was actually a little relieved. Personally, I'd rather not measure my life by its moments of happiness, but by knowing that the Lord will never give up on trying to make me holy. For I know that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it."

- Kara Schwab, in "Choose Joy"

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Travel Album

I've been home for a week now, and think my body has finally adjusted. Though I've had some really good conversations with friends that have helped me debrief some of my experiences, I feel like my head and my heart still have some processing to do. Talk is good, but there's something about putting it down in words that really makes me size up what I've experienced. August has rapidly become a very busy month and I haven't found (or better, made) the time yet to do a lot of reflection or reporting on my trip in writing. However, last night I did spend an unintentional four hours going through my photos and putting them online (when I got to my original stopping point around hour 2, there was a storm raging outside so I decided to stay and keep working until it let up). Here's a sampling:


The full set can be viewed on my flickr site. I ended up with quite a few pics that I'm really happy with - some for their sentimental value, some for their artistic value. Enjoy!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Harry vs. Jet Lag

The past three nights I have struggled to keep my eyes open as I've driven home from various locations. I arrived back in Chicago on Monday afternoon, forced myself to stay up until 9:00 (which was 5am Romanian time), and then climbed gratefully into my own bed and succumbed to the weariness of travel and over a week of hot days, short nights, and constant activity. 12 hours later I awoke, refreshed, glad to be home, and feeling like maybe that one marathon snooze had licked the time difference. Not so. I was fine until I got behind the wheel Tuesday night to drive home from Chicago. I had the radio cranked and was pinching myself and biting my cheeks the whole way in an effort to make it home before my heavy eyelids declared victory over my will to stay alert. Wednesday was the same - I felt fine all throughout the day, then when it was time to drive home after my stint at B&N fatigue hit and once again I pinched and prayed my way home. I thought that surely by yesterday my body would have adjusted, but again last night on my way home from church, getting behind the wheel triggered sleepiness and I fought to stay alert. When I got home at 10:30 common sense told me to go to bed, my body ached to go to bed, but my brain? My brain was determined to stay awake long enough to make it through the last 100 pages of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I had found a copy of the British edition in a bookstore in Romania the day it was released around the world, and decided that would be my souvenir. I started reading it on the flight from Milan to Chicago, bonding with the college kid sitting next to me, who was fighting his own fatigue from a week-long soccer tour in an effort to finish book number 5 before we reached the States. As he read the climactic clash at the book's end, I smiled as he sat hunched over the book, quietly laughing and gasping in turn as the scene unfolded, occasionally turning to me to ask questions or discuss the significance of something that had just happened.

I made it about half-way through HP7 before we touched down at O'Hare, and continued to fill most spare moments of wakefulness with reading over the past few days. I read on and on, wanting to know how it all ends and yet not wanting it all to end. And then last night (or more accurately, early this morning), buoyed by some Diet Coke and more than a little adrenalin, I reached the satisfying conclusion. Well done, J.K. Rowling. Well done, Harry.

As I closed the book, my mind still whirring with how it all turned out, I found myself wanting to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again, to catch and savor some of the elements I'm sure I missed or rushed through in my eagerness for the story to unfold. I will, however, save the rereading for a later time, because also released while I was out of the country was First Amongst Sequels, book number 5 in Jasper's Fforde's Thursday Next series, that I have been eagerly anticipating for quite some time. So, from an England full of wizards and spells I turn to an England full of literary detectives and narrative mayhem. Hurrah!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Transylvania, here I come!

Yep, that's right. Twenty-four hours from now I will be on my way to Romania (yes, home of Dracula's castle, though a visit is not on the agenda) on a 13 day trip with a team of young adults from my church. We'll be running a week of camp for teens from Metanoia, our Romanian sister church, and their friends. It promises to be an incredible, exciting, exhausting, exhilerating, frustrating, rewarding and humbling experience. And probably some other adjectives, too. :)

If you'd like to learn a but more about the trip or about Romania, including ways you can be praying for my trip, head on over to my Romania blog at redheadedtoromania.blogspot.com.

Thanks! Updates and photos and stories promised upon my return!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Literature - 1; Cinema - 0


Thanks to Charity who hooked me up with a ticket and enticed me to be irresponsible, last night I went to a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Rereading this book back in May in anticipation of the movie's release proved to be both a blessing and a curse (no pun intended...okay, well, maybe just a little) to my enjoyment of the movie. [Spoiler alert.]

On the plus side, rereading the book reacquainted me with where the events of book 5 lie in the grand scheme of the HP saga, and so as the movie started I was able to pick up where book 4 left off -- even though it had been years since I'd seen that movie or read the book -- and I knew where the arc of this installment would end.

On the down side, having the narrative of the book so fresh in my mind made me painfully aware of the many things they left out of the movie (in some cases entire subplots or things vital to life at Hogwards, like Quiddich and Hogsmeade and R & H being prefects) and the several things they altered to either account for the omissions or hurry the story along. Though I enjoyed the film very much, appreciated what the new director did with it, and think the young actors keep getting better at their craft, I think when it was all over, my acute feelings of disappointment stemmed from just that -- the whole movie felt very hurried along.

Now, I understand that a 1,000+ page book must be significantly abridged in order to make it into a movie, but to me it seemed like even the elements and subplots they left in were rushed and flattened. When the credits began to roll I looked down at my watch and was surprised to discover it's only a 2 hour movie. I would have preferred if they had taken another 1/2 hour in order to flesh out some of the included elements and scenes, particularly the big show down in the Department of Mysteries. Thanks to Rowling's descriptive storytelling, as I read I was able to watch the whole thing unfold in my imagination with vivid detail, and felt the spectacular scene a worthy culmination of the nightmares and curiosity that had plagued Harry up until that point. With all that they cut out of that sequence, the whole thing seemed a lot less, well, mysterious. For those who don't read the books, it also seriously cuts down on the believability of the whole event -- the movie asks viewers to believe that Harry and his entourage hop off their thestrals and just burst into the Department of Mysteries and the Hall of Prophecy without meeting resistance from any kind of protective measures set in place by the Ministry of Magic. The sorcerer's stone and the chamber of secrets were protected by all kinds of obstacles that required cunning and skill to bypass, but the Hall of Prophecy doesn't even have a lock on the door? Please. Show me a multiplicity of doors in a revolving room and a brain in a tank at least!

Well, I could go on and on (which, I know, pegs me as quite the HP nerd) but for those who will go see the movie (and have read this far despite the spoiler alert) I'll reserve the rest of my disappointments for a later conversation, and end on a positive note by saying that the actress who plays the awful Professor-turned-High-Inquisitor Umbridge does so to a T. Way to be odious, Imelda!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

This is my hometown.

As I drove to work this morning I found myself wishing that I were the kind of person to soak up the inspiration before my eyes and then sit down and write the lyrics to a country song--a ballad to this place I call my hometown. Today is July 3rd, and as I drove down Main St. I started grinning like a fool at the sight of all the blankets, lawn chairs, stakes and strings that have already appeared to reserve prime viewing spots for tomorrow's Independence Day parade.

It's nothing new, but it still makes me smile every year. In fact, I think one of the reasons I'm so delighted by this hometown custom is that despite all manner of change and progress over the years--and the fact that the parade has since become an incredibly LONG and drawn out display of hometown pride mingled with conservative politics--some things HAVE stayed the same as they were when I was still a freckle-faced kid, sitting on the curb, waving my cheap little piece-of-stiff-cloth-stapled-to-a-dowel-rod American flag, hoping the next group to come down the street would toss candy into the crowd, sending us all scrambling for a Tootsie Roll or Dumdum pop as they skittered across the pavement or sunk into the grass around us.

Tomorrow morning those who've reserved seats will take their places, and the crowds will press in, and a slice of wholesome Midwestern life will pass slowly by - the classic cars and the marching bands, the Shriners in their funny little cars and the church with the shopping cart drill team, the cheesy floats and the convertibles with smiling politicians sitting in the back, the cheerleaders and the Boy Scouts, and the brigade of red and yellow emergency vehicles from up to five neighboring towns, blaring their sirens, causing dogs to bark and kids to cover their ears, even as their eyes open wide to take in the flashing lights and the gallant looking firemen and officers waving back at them. And then, when it's all over, there's the street sweeper, the signal that it's time to disperse to back yards and picnic tables to enjoy hamburgers, togetherness, and the freedom in which we live.

This is the 4th of July in my hometown. Though it's been a couple years since I've attended the parade myself, and I imagine that some day I'll move away from here, I think this will always be a part of who I am as an American.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Food for Thought

"Sabbath reveals that redemption comes through Jesus Christ, not through our hard labor. The Holy Spirit is our source of power. We are God's beloved children, utterly dependent on God, receiving everything good from the hand of God. Because we are so easily addicted to taking ourselves too seriously, because we so easily fall into patterns of idolatry that we elevate our own significance, we need the sabbath, stopping productivity, so we can remember that God is God and we are not."
Lynne Baab, in "A Day Off from God Stuff?" in Leadership Journal, Spring 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Milestones

On Sunday afternoon my Chevy Malibu (aka Paloma) passed the 100,000 mile mark as I drove into Chicago to meet up with a small group of good friends for a delectable dinner of tapas at Café Ba-ba-Reeba in Lincoln Park. As Todd aptly described it, we experienced a touch of gastronomic ADD as plate after plate arrived at the table with some new fragrant and flavorful dish to delight our senses. We enjoyed some tapas that were familiar to me, such as tortilla espanola, patatas aioli, queso de cabra, and datiles con tocino (which are melt-in-your-mouth-just-give-me-a-minute-to-savor-this dates wrapped in bacon that if you ever see on a menu you should not hesitate about ordering, trust me) and some new, among which my favorites were the ensalada de pollo al currri, pan con tomate y jamon serrano, and salmon a la plancha con ensalada de couscous tostaba. We ate and ate and ate, talked, listened, and laughed, all while sipping from our colorful glasses of fruity sangria. As we lingered at the table, enjoying cute little desserts and the strains of flamenco guitar, dancing, and clapping floating in from the next room, among the flavors of Spanish cuisine I tasted the ease and repose that is inherent in the leisurely meals of Europe. It took me back to my days in Spain, made me so grateful for the incredible blessings of the present and the people I am privileged to claim as friends--both around that table and around the world--, and gave me a sense of bright-eyed hope for what the next year might hold. Happy Birthday, indeed.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ode to Tomatoes

There are lots of things I appreciate about summer, but today as I sit here at my desk eating my lunch I am particularly thankful that summer is tomato season. I LOVE tomatoes. They're good in all their many forms and functions, of course, but in the summer I relish eating tomatoes in their natural state, fresh from the vine, perfectly ripe, cut into wedges and graced with a dash of salt. YUM.

I'm enjoying the tomato I brought for lunch so much that I almost feel prompted to craft a poem in honor of its splendidness. But, lucky for you, Pablo Neruda has already supplied the world with an excellent ode, so you will be spared my amateur adorations. Without further ado, Neruda's ODE TO TOMATOES:

The street
filled with tomatoes,
midday,
summer,
light is
halved
like
a
tomato,
its juice
runs
through the streets.
In December,
unabated,
the tomato
invades
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
sinks
into living flesh,
red
viscera
a cool
sun,
profound,
inexhaustible,
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we
pour
oil,
essential
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper
adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
parsley
hoists
its flag,
potatoes
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
knocks
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile
star,
displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

things I’m thankful for on june 21st, the first official day of summer

sunshine (and sunscreen)

muscles that cooperate when I work out

my iPod shuffle and the friend who gave it to me

a free northern lite cooler from caribou

the freedom to wear flip-flops to work

the fun of accessorizing and feeling girly

the friendly teller at the bank

my office’s water cooler…even though there’s no one to gather there and talk with me

friends that humor me when I spaz and allow me to verbally process

God’s gentle, calming reminder to trust and turn to Him first

plums and nectarines

answered prayers

finding the umbrella I thought I’d lost

aldi’s white mountain trail mix and its satisfying blend of salty and sweet

helpful people at the visa processing agency

an inbox full of birthday coupons for free food

the company of friends

roast pig for dinner

the prayers and support of many for my trip to Romania next month

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blog Posts I'd Write if I Had the Time

"Bananas Are Not the Enemy! and Other Things I Feel Like Shouting"

"Cicadas: The Hype & The Hum"

"A Call to Quiescence"

"I Don't Want to Move But I Don't Want to Stay Where I Am"

"Tears on My Tofu"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Now that's a headline...

Pajama-Clad Cow Statue Stolen From Billboard

This story reminds me of the time I was walking to the dining commons for breakfast at Taylor and noticed that pranksters had deposited one of those enormous Big Boy statues in the library parking lot. I don't know how campus safety got it out of there (and I'm even more curious how the pranksters got it there in the first place) but it was gone by the time I left for class.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Farewell & A Welcome

Solomon, wise man that he was, observed that "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die...a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." And, as so often happens, these times overlap or melt one into the next, so that the tears are still drying on our cheeks as a smile tugs at the corners of our mouth and a laugh escapes. Such has been the case within my family this month.

Even as we are saying goodbye to my grandma, we are rejoicing at the arrival of the newest addition to our family, Landon James, Grandma's 14th great-grandchild, born to my cousin and his wife just over a week after Grandma went home.

Welcome to the world, little one.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Makes me smile every time.

I firmly believe that every day should be graced with a little silliness.

Today I discovered that you can listen to all of Chipotle's recent radio ads here on their website. For the past couple weeks I've been saying to friends, "Have you heard Chipotle's "Pork" commercial? Makes me smile every time." I've then proceeded to attempt to sing a bit of it, and they humor me, silently wondering if I'm sane.

Well, if you haven't heard the Pork song, or any of the other entertaining jingles from Chipotle (and you appreciate a burrito as much as I do), I invite you to open a new browser window, click on the first one, and let them play through. I promise you'll smile. My favorites are, of course, "Pork," as well as "Moo" and "Salad Kountry." Enjoy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

In Loving Memory

Lena
1911-2007

This post is in loving memory of my dear grandma, Lena, who slipped away from this world and entered the presence of Jesus early Saturday morning.

Though it made for a very hard Mother's Day weekend for my family, we rejoice in knowing that she is now truly home and more alive than she ever was here on earth. We also celebrate her life -- her kind and gentle spirit, her strength through years of adversity, and her legacy of faith that has shaped her children, grandchildren, and countless others. So while we grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13-14), but instead "we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us [are] greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Heb. 6:18b-19a).

Please pray for my parents, brother, and I as we travel to Florida this week to celebrate Grandma's life with family and friends. Thanks.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Could Have Been an Edwards Sister.

Fact: Jonathan Edwards (Puritan theologian of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" fame) had 10 sisters (no brothers), all of whom were at least six feet tall.

You know, I bet they're glad basketball hadn't been invented yet, because complete strangers would have come up to them all the time and asked if they played, and that sure does get annoying.

Opinion: Jonathan Edwards never met a comma he didn't like.

My latest freelance endeavor has been proofreading and indexing a volume containing an interpretation of Edwards' Religious Affections and Personal Narrative. In the preface the author relays his hope that this work will whet the reader's appetite for Edwards' larger body of work. Not the case here. I am glad to be rid of him and his egregious comma abuse. Somewhere in the midst of my tedious task I decided to pick a sentence at random and count: 10 commas, 2 semicolons. Seriously, Jon?!?! We'll have some punctuation business to hash out in heaven.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Congrats Erin & Peter!

Over the weekend I had the delight of being a bridesmaid in the wedding of my dear friend Erin. During those jittery pre-wedding moments when the bride and her attendants are tucked out of sight as the guests steam into the church, it's always a bit of a dance...how do you occupy the bride, acknowledging how special those moments are and how important the ceremony that's about to begin will be while keeping things light and steering clear of any topics that will trigger anxiety, nerves, or tears?

This time around one of the "safe" topics that came up was Girl Scouts, and how Erin and one of the other bridesmaids and I had been Brownies together way back in the day. It's funny the things that stick with you. While I couldn't tell you about a single badge I earned, one of the things I do remember is singing the "friends song" in a round as we sat in a circle on the floor. "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other gold." Erin is my oldest friend. We met when Erin moved to town and joined my 2nd grade class. On a class field trip that involved walking on the Prairie Path, my mom (who was along as a chaperone) made me go talk to the new girl (which is no reflection on Erin and simply due to the fact that I was horribly shy as a child), and as they say, the rest is history.

Unlike any of the other weddings in which I have played a role, this wedding was an international affair, drawing family and friends from Ireland, England, Canada, and Korea, in addition to various U.S. locales. The result was a fascinating collection of people and accents, so in addition to being lots of fun, it was also an educational experience. From Mark I learned about schooling in England; from Trevor I received the clearest explanation to date of the whole point of curling as a sport (he's from Canada); from Fergus I learned that Irish gatherings must always involve singing (even if it gets hotel security called on you repeatedly); from Pat I learned how to say "delicious" in Korean, though I've since forgotten; and from the attention I received I learned that in some gatherings being a 6ft redhead can make one feel a bit like a novel curiosity. I was shocked to learn that the majority of Pete's friends had never been to a wedding before, and humbled by how much those from other countries know about the U.S. and what's going on in the world and how little we know about anything beyond our own borders. As I replied to Brian, Pete's brother and my groomsman counterpart, when he found me sitting off to the side with wide eyes and a slight grin, "Oh, I'm just taking it all in."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'm not sure which bothers me more.

The fact that I am incredibly diverted by the headline, "20 Endangered Rabbits Released; 14 Promptly Eaten" or the fact that said rabbit release was, to quote the article, a "multimillion dollar project."

I'm gonna go with the spending of millions of dollars on pronto prey, er, rabbits.

In somewhat related news, on Monday a truck carrying rabbits crashed on Hungary's busiest highway, letting 5,000 bunnies loose all over the road. The highway was closed for hours while police tried to capture the animals. (Insert your own amusing mental video clip here.)

Because, you know, if you wait too long, they'll either reproduce or get eaten.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Of Roadtrips, Raw Fish, and Resurrection

Hello dear friends and readers! Nothing like a little alliteration to get one's thoughts in order. My unusually long silence has certainly not been due to lack of blogging fodder, but simply lack of time to write and post updates on my thoughts and exciting activities of late. Though the brevity that is required due to scant available time will not give these recent experiences the attention and verbage they deserve (though, if you know me, this post will grow ridiculously long anyway), I nevertheless want to post now because I know several more blog-worthy events are on the horizon, particularly my friend Erin's wedding this weekend (for which I still need to find cute low-heeled silver sandals to go with my bridesmaid dress - anybody seen any while out shopping?) and the 5th 3G02 Reunion coming up the weekend after that in Chicago (so excited to be togther with all my girls again!). So, without further ado (or disclaimer), here's some of the great stuff that's been blessing me lately.

The last weekend in March I was able to venture up to Menomonie to spend the weekend with Allison. My traveling companion was The Phantom Tollbooth on audiobook. (Whenever I take solo road trips it's become my custom to swing by the library and scan the shelves in the children's department, sometimes for the dramatization of recent offerings such as the Harry Potter books or A Series of Unfortunate Events, and sometimes for faintly but fondly remembered novels from my elementary school years, such as The BFG or Matilda by Roald Dahl, or in this case, the tale of Milo's journey to rescue Rhyme and Reason and bring reconciliation to the royal family, which I found utterly delightful, guessing that I picked up on a lot more of the puns and linguistic allusions than I did back in 4th grade.) Spring shopping victories were had at the Mall of America (although it's remained too cold here in Chicago to actually wear most of my cute new clothes yet), new recipes were tested (a tasty low-fat Santa Fe chowder and a "tunnel of fudge" cake) and the results enjoyed, and lots of good conversation was had, from the mundane, to the ridiculous, to the "I'm laying my cards and my heart out here on the table and it's a little scary but also exhilerating to know that these sentiments are safe with you" kind of discussions. Leaving at the end of the weekend was hard and on the way home the state of Wisconsin seemed to loom even larger between her home and mine.

Next up was my very first sushi experience. I've wanted to try sushi for quite some time now, but it's one of those things that I felt was best navigated with someone who really knows what they're talking about...and eating. So, with a little trepidation at the tastes and textures my mouth would encounter, but with complete confidence in Alex (& Allison's) able ordering skills, I entered the world of "pretty raw fish" and became one of those very adult-sounding people (in my mind, at least) who can say, "Why yes, I do eat sushi." We dined at Starfish Sushi Lounge, where the ambiance--red walls, low lighting, bamboo beams, and classy Asian accents-- highlighted the artful plating of the food. Alex ordered a variety of pieces, which not only gave me a wonderful introduction to sushi but also kept my tastebuds on their toes (if they, uh, had toes.) The first tray featured a white dragon roll, rainbow roll, one that I called the "squishy tuna" roll (my least favorite) and that night's special, the volcano, whose blend of flavors (a little spicy, a little sweet) and textures (smooth but with crunchy bits) made it my favorite. The second tray contained spicy tuna and scallop handrolls along with yellow tail, super white tuna, and salmon sushi. Alex also introduced me to ponzu sauce as an alternative to the soy with wasabi, and it easily secured my preference. To top off all of this amazing food we had mango, red bean, and coffee mochi (ice cream encased in a sweet dough of some sort) for dessert. The coffee mochi was one of those "this tastes so good that if you'll excuse me I just want to close my eyes and moan a little bit" experiences. Wow. So, thanks to Alex, Allison, and a thoroughly delightful meal at Starfish, I now eat sushi.

And on to Easter! The Easter service is one of my favorite things about Harvest. Though each church observes the day of the Lord's resurrection in their own way, of course, once I'd experienced an Easter service at Harvest, I wondered if I'd ever really CELEBRATED Easter before. This year's Easter service was a history making event in that for the first time ever it brought together everyone from all 3 campuses, who are usually spread out over 9 services, into one BIG celebration service. Some members of the church made it possible to rent out the Sears Centre, and so over 12,000 people were able to come together to celebrate Jesus' victory over death with lots of singing, cheering, clapping, and a clear message of how we must die if we want to live. The worship team and a huge choir led us in worship, and Heather Headley blessed us with her incredible voice, which gave me goosebumps, as usual. If you want a taste of what it was like to be there, you can watch this.

So, yeah, lots of great stuff happening lately, with more coming, and plenty keeping me occupied in between. Oh, and yes, Mom, I mailed my taxes this morning.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Ain't No Fool

I've never really gotten into April Fool's Day, but the geeks over at Google sure do. If you've got a minute, check out this year's offering, Google TiSP Beta. For something so absurd, the site is strangely intriguing, and definitely entertaining. A sneak preview from the press release:
"Users who sign up online for the TiSP system will receive a full home self-installation kit, which includes a spindle of fiber-optic cable, a TiSP wireless router, installation CD and setup guide. Home installation is a simple matter of GFlushing™ the fiber-optic cable down to the nearest TiSP Access Node, then plugging the other end into the network port of your Google-provided TiSP wireless router. Within sixty minutes, the Access Node's crack team of Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers (PHDs) should have your internet connection up and running.

"I couldn't be more excited about, and am only slightly grossed out by, this remarkable new product," said Marissa Mayer, Google's Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. "I firmly believe TiSP will be a breakthrough product, particularly for those users who, like Larry himself, do much of their best thinking in the bathroom."

Interested consumers, contractually obligated partners and deeply skeptical and quietly competitive backbiters can learn more about TiSP at ://www.google.com/tisp/install.html."

Monday, March 26, 2007

First Birk!

Faithful readers of Suz's Musings will know that I eagerly look forward to that day each spring when I celebrate a "holiday" of my own fashioning that I like to call "First Birk."

For newcomers, First Birk falls on the first day each spring when it is warm enough to bear my toes to the world and venture out in my beloved pair of Birksenstock sandals, purchased around this time of year when I was in Austria a hard-to-believe 5 years ago.

Yesterday Chicago saw a record high of 81 degrees, and the first outing in my Birks also happened to be my first visit to the arboretum this year, not quite a holiday but nonetheless a happy occasion.

So, happy First Birk!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

By the way...

Happy First Day of Spring! I thought I'd commemorate the day with one of my favorite pics taken last spring, which is currently presiding as my desktop wallpaper.

Book Review: Mudhouse Sabbath

Each month I write and edit for two newsletters put out by my office. Since my boss is out of the country, this month's book review was up to me. Thought I'd post it here, too.

“Practicing the spiritual disciplines does not make us Christians. Instead, the practicing teaches us what it means to live as Christians. …The ancient disciplines form us to respond to God, over and over always, in gratitude, in obedience, and in faith.”
– Winner, in Mudhouse Sabbath

Though we are nearly a quarter of the way through 2007, the year still has an air of “fresh start” about it for me. Perhaps because today is the official First Day of Spring, and the year does not seem fully underway until the earth comes alive again. Whatever the reason for this lingering sense of new beginnings, with that mentality I’ve recently found myself drawn to treatments on the spiritual disciplines, and increasingly desirous to see more of these rhythms and practices of spiritual devotion have a place in my walk with Christ.

One of these books is Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren F. Winner. In her earlier spiritual memoir, Girl Meets God, Winner tells the story of her conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. In Mudhouse Sabbath, she brings her knowledge and experience with Jewish traditions to bear on the Christian faith she has now embraced, suggesting that there are “Christian practices that would be enriched, that would be thicker and more vibrant, if we took a few lessons from Judaism” (from the introduction).

The titular “Mudhouse” is a coffee shop in the author’s hometown of Charlottesville, NC and indeed, one could read this short tome (a mere 160 pages) in an afternoon spent with a latte at a coffeehouse or a picnic in the park. The subtitle describes this book as an invitation, and it is just that; you will not find detailed prescriptions and techniques for practice or lengthy passages on the theology of the spiritual disciplines. In the author’s own words, this is “a small book of musings on and explorations in those practices.” With other excellent books out there that include the former (I am also delving into Foster’s Celebration of Discipline at present) I appreciate this book for its admittedly modest scope and the author’s conversational tone even as she provides an informative treatment of each area of spiritual practice. Winner’s “musings and explorations” on 11 topics—Sabbath, fitting food, mourning, hospitality, prayer, body, fasting, aging, candle lighting, weddings, and doorposts—are thoughts to which I will return as I reflect on my own attempts (and failures) at building these practices into my own walk with Christ.

Lauren F. Winner is the author of Girl Meets God, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, and a contributing writer to Christianity Today.

MORE free coffee!

Yes, that's right! Not to be outdone by elitist Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, purveyor of donuts and coffee for the everyman, will be offering customers a FREE small iced coffee all day tomorrow, Wednesday, March 21st.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Triggers

Today is March 15th - the Ides of March.

Which triggers thoughts of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, in which a soothsayer utters the foreboding line, "Beware the Ides of March."

Which triggers memories of sophomore year Advanced English class with the late Mr. Harris, in which we studied Julius Caesar, along with rhetoric and debate (for which we divided up into teams to verbally duke it out over how to deal with passive aggression in the public schools, for which my team came up with "P.A.R.E. - Passive Aggression Resistance Education," for which I came up with a killer logo) and science fiction (for which we were required to write short stories, and mine was about an eerie world in which women could no longer have children. I can't remember what I titled it...it wasn't "Children of Men," but I still think perhaps I should get royalties...)

Which triggers memories of high school classmates I have not thought about in years, and I wonder what has become of them, and if I will see them at our 10 year reunion next year.

Which triggers incredulity that it's already been almost 10 years since I strode the halls of my high school, tall and proud and insecure and carefree and stressed out all at once, a top-two-percent-national-honor-society-varsity-athlete-choir-member-forensics-competitor-school-spirit-fanatic, and how I thought all those accolades and activities would get me somewhere and make me someone.

Which triggers thoughts about how the life I am living today is not at all what I imagined for myself back then.

Which triggers questions of what life would be like if it HAD turned out the way I'd imagined, and how I feel about the fact that reality is really quite different, but mostly wonderful all the same.

Which triggers my recollection of a paragraph or two near the end of Phil Vischer's Me, Myself, and Bob, which I finished reading recently, in which he proposes that as Christians we really have no business having "big, hairy audacious goals" or a strategically plotted answer to "where do you see yourself in 5 years?" other than "In the center of God's will" or something equally submissive and not-the-pilot-of-this-ship.

Which triggers relief, because honestly I don't know where I will be or even want to be in 5 or 10 years, and frankly I'm rather gun-shy about committing to any ideas about that because where I saw myself 10 and 5 years ago never happened, and it's hard to accept that I am where I am and I'm not where I could be if there's this expectation that where I saw myself is where I'm supposed to be and where I am instead is all my fault.

Which triggers a sense that I'm no longer making much. Sense, that is.

So, yeah, the Ides of March. Beware.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Free Coffee!


So it's just a regular cup of coffee and not a non-fat, no-whip sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte (my treat of choice these days), but hey, it's free.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Pantry Purging and Impromtu Parfaits

"You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, 'Let's get some parfait,' they say, 'No, I don't like no parfait'? Parfaits are delicious." - Donkey, in Shrek
An evening at home with the company of a good friend is, for me, a rare treat. Last night Charity came over after work. We made dinner together (the "Chicken Curry in a Hurry" recipe making a tasty repeat performance) and watched Survivor. We lounged on my furniture and talked. We came to an awkward conversational lull and giggled about it. I showed Charity my recently catalogued and alphabetized spice rack. She told me I'm "special." I opened another cabinet, and spied a package of vanilla pudding. I decided to make the pudding. Then I thought, what's better than pudding? A parfait! At which point I got really excited about using my parfait glasses, which have sat untouched in my cabinet for far too long. Then it was a question of what to layer in the parfait. Charity suggested that graham crackers might lend a pleasing textural aspect. Did I have graham crackers? I had no idea. Which prompted an all-out purging and reorganization of my pantry, which (as a "J," a la Myers Briggs) brought me an immense amount of satisfaction, while Charity looked on, mildly incredulous and not a little curious about what kind of logic I apply to the organization of said pantry.

I am thankful for evenings at home with friends. I am thankful for friends with whom I can wear my neuroses on my sleeve, as it were, and know they love me anyway. And I do love me a good parfait.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bed, Bath and Beyoncé

The power of suggestion is a mighty thing.

I hung out with some of my favorite girlfriends Sunday night. As we sat around after going bowling, talking and enjoying the yummy trifle I'd made (in honor of Christina and Eunice's birthdays, and in appreciation for Rae, who blessed me with my very own trifle dish for Christmas) Eunice caught Rae singing a little Beyonce to herself. To which Rae replied, "Bed, Bath and Beyoncé. I used that as an email subject last week." And I giggled, because well, that's funny.

So, last night as I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, whose latest chart topper was stuck in my head? You guessed it. What's worse is that while catchy, I don't even really like the song. And in the shower this morning, try as I might to dislodge Miss Bootylicious with a little Chris Tomlin, every other minute I found myself coming back "to the left, to the left..."

Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Candy Coated Diversion


There's something strangely absorbing about fashioning one's likeness in cartoon--or in this case candy--form. If you're looking for something silly to do on your lunch break, you too can become an m&m.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Driven to Dream

Though I've lived in the Chicagoland area most of my life, there remain quite a few "quintessentially Chicago" places and events that I have yet to experience. I've been working on that over the past couple years, and so gradually I am starting to feel like a more legitimate Chicagoan. I've now been to a Cubs game at Wrigley. Watched the fireworks at the Taste of Chicago. Seen the big Christmas tree and shopped the little marketplace in Daley Plaza. Went ice skating at Millennium Park. Etc.

This past weekend I checked another experience off my list by attending the Chicago Auto Show for the first time. Though my knowledge of and concern for cars is fairly minimal, I have to say the whole experience pleasantly exceeded my expectations. It was fun to wander through the displays by all the different manufacturers, comparing and contrasting the various models. I sat in quite a few of them (after moving the seat back) and (though I am committed to my dear Malibu until age and infirmity require her retirement) had to admit it was fun to dream about which car I'd bring home if price and practicality were conveniently out of the picture. Though I am still attached to the idea of a Mini Cooper in metallic royal blue with white racing stripes (especially after sitting in one and finding that it did not feel as small as I thought it might), the model that caught my eye and imagination on Saturday was the new Volkswagen Eos convertible. Yeah, I could rock one of those.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Now You Know My ABCs

I saw this on someone else's blog and thought it'd be fun. Today is one of those days when my brain is more inclined toward lists and bullet points than paragraphs and prose. Leave a comment if you post your own!

A-Available or Taken? The position of Suz's significant other is currently available. Apply within.
B-Best Friend? I am blessed with a multitude of amazing friends - the best ones know who they are.
C-Cake or Pie? Hmm, that's a tough one. Probably cake, but at the end of the day a warm gooey brownie trumps them both.
D-Drink of Choice? When I'm "good" - a non-fat, sugar-free, no-whip cinnamon dolce latte. When I decide to splurge - a peppermint or valencia mocha.
E-Essential Item? Hand lotion. I'm kind of addicted.
F-Favorite Color? Lime green.
G-Gummi Bears or Worms? Worms.
H-Favorite Hang Out? Starbucks or Caribou Coffee.
I-Indulgence? The occasional pedicure.
J-January or June? June.
K-Kindergarten memory? My playground crush on Andy Churchill. He was dreamy.
L-Life is Incomplete Without? Jesus.
M-Mom calls me? Suzi (but if you know what's good for you, stick with Suz).
N-Number of Siblings? One brother.
O-Oranges or Apples? Apples - pie, butter, crisp - YUM. Galas are my favorite.
P-Phobias/Fears? Worms (the real kind that come out after it rains). I loath them with a degree of passion that frightens me.
Q-Favorite Quote? "Life is not a problem to be solved. It is an adventure to be lived."
R-Reason to Smile? I'm forgiven and free.
S-Season? Autumn.
T-Tea or coffee? I like both, but coffee wins out. Especially snickerdoodle flavored coffee. It's the bomb.
U-Unknown fact? There's a pencil tip imbedded in the palm of my left hand from an ill-fated balloon popping attempt in second grade.
V-Valued possession? My coffee table, handcrafted by my great grandpa.
W-Worst Habit? Leaving dishes in the sink for weeks.
X-tra xtra! Tall Redhead Makes First Visit to Chicago Auto Show This Weekend
Y-Your Favorite Food? Tapas, esp. datiles con tocino (dates wrapped in bacon) that melt in your mouth like butta.
Z-Zodiac? Cancer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

And this is love...

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. (1 John 4:7-18 NLT)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Finger Painting

A friend sent me an email today with these incredible paintings. I'm not sure where they're from or who the artist is, but I am impressed enough to want to share them with others. So, enjoy!





Friday, February 09, 2007

Rocky Mountain Highlights - #3

I am happy to report that I have finally found a winter sport where you strap things to your feet in which I can participate with minimal danger of physical injury or psychological distress: snowshoeing. It's great! Last Saturday Chris, Janelle, and I rented snowshoes (or rather, intended to rent but instead discovered that a guy who used to be in C&J's small group works at the outdoor equipment shop in Estes Park and he outfitted us with snowshoes for free) and spent the afternoon tromping through Rocky Mountain National Park, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. Although it was ridiculously windy that day, we still had a great time hiking around Sprague Lake and then up to Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and beyond. Having done the Nymph Lake hike last January in just sneakers, it was really remarkable what a difference the snowshoes made...no wonder people looked at us like we were crazy last time.

Rocky Mountain Highlights - #2

Last Friday evening Chris and Janelle collected me at the hotel that had been my residence for the week and we headed into downtown Denver to make our 6:15 reservation at Vesta Dipping Grill, a place that had been recommended by friends of theirs, as well as the recently ubiquitous Rachael Ray (seriously, the woman is everywhere!).

Our entire experience at Vesta was delightful. To start with, the place has a very sophisticated and intimate ambiance; pleasing aesthetic elements include exposed brick walls, large circular booths, and appropriately dim lighting, provided in part by appealing sconces and table lanterns. We enjoyed cocktails and the atmostphere while waiting for Cheryl and Joe to arrive. VDG's menu features a collection of succulent meat and fish entrees, each with an interesting and (at least to me) unusual collection of things on the side. Each entree then comes with 3 dipping sauces, chosen from a selection of over 30 sweet, savory, and spicy options. Before we made our selections, we regaled our waiter with questions, and he graciously provided answers, definitions, and suggestions.

I ended up going with the garlic tzatziki grilled lamb tenderloin with goat cheese campanelle pasta, fresh mint, and poached pear, and for dipping, the pistacio mint, cilantro pesto, and mango poblano salsa. YUM. The lamb was delicious and the sauces quite tasty. My only complaint was that the pasta tasted more strongly of vinegar than goat cheese, but with all the other flavors going on I found that forgivable. Janelle tried the salmon, Cheryl the pork tenderloin, Joe the bbq steak skewers, and Chris had the lamb. One of the great things about dining with good friends is that you can invade each other's plates, and so I discovered that Janelle's rosemary ginger dipping sauce was incredible, while Cheryl's pumpkin spaetzle was more fun to say than eat (it wasn't bad, just didn't taste like much of anything).

As if all of that wasn't enough, Janelle scored a complimentary dessert in honor of her birthday, and she generously shared her double dark chocolate cake (complete with raspberry, hot fudge, and custard dipping sauces) with the rest of us.

So, I'm with Rachael on this one - the Vesta Dipping Grill is definitely a highlight of the Mile High City.