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


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 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.