Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Suz & Travis...Elfed

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

When I was growing up, my family did the fake tree thing. So, the extent of the annual tree-setting up ordeal was dragging the thing down from the attic and then putting it together. We had an old school some-assembly-required tree, so it was a great learning activity for a kid-- I remember sitting on the floor of the family room, grabbing one branch at a time and matching the color on the end of each branch to the color of the holes on the wooden "trunk."

The past couple years I branched out (pun intended) in my Christmas tree experience and went with a friend to walk up and down the aisles of real trees at Home Depot, pick out the perfect specimen, sweet talk the guy working the tree department into helping us lash it to the car, and then drag it inside and set it up. This year I added another layer of experience when Travis and I went with friends to a Christmas tree farm out in Harvard, IL to help them choose, cut down, bring home, and set up their tree. While certainly the most involved ordeal, I found that trudging through the snow and weaving through the rows of firs and pines in search of a well formed tree of the appropriate height and girth has a certain charm to it. After we (and by "we" I mean Travis and Alex) had cut down the winning tree and secured it to the roof of the Jeep, we (and here by "we" I mean the 4 of us) went for a cold and bumpy "sleigh" ride to cap off our time in the tree farm's winter wonderland.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Engaged! The Whole Wonderful Story

Last Wednesday afternoon Travis and I drove to Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. I was expecting/hoping for a proposal while we were there but had no idea how he was going to do it. I knew he’d had a master plan in the works for some time, but he’d done a really good job of keeping me in the dark (which, admittedly, drove me crazy sometimes).

Well, Thanksgiving Day came and went. We had a wonderful time with his parents and extended family, enjoyed incredible food and being together, but there was no proposal, no ring. Travis could sense I was getting a bit anxious, wondering if and when it was going to happen. That night he too was so eager for it to happen that for a fleeting moment he considered scrapping his whole plan (which shall unfold below) to propose by the Christmas tree at the capital building (where we went that night to walk around). But he was patient and held out, and I’m so glad he did.

Every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. For Travis, going home to Michigan for Thanksgiving has always meant going deer hunting. He was willing to forgo hunting this year so that he wouldn’t lose that time with me, but knowing how much it means to him, I encouraged him to go. In fact, prompted by a point made at the Love & Respect conference we attended back in October, I even said I’d go out hunting with him. (Yes, you read that right. Girl from the suburbs volunteered to go deer hunting. I’m telling you, love makes you do some things you never expected of yourself!)

So, Friday morning I got up at 5:30 and donned many layers in the hope of not turning into an icicle while we sat in the woods. Travis had a light breakfast of toast and juice waiting for me when I came downstairs. He gave me a final layer to put on—a blaze orange vest—and we headed out into the dark, cold morning.

We drove a little ways, parked the car, and then trudged through crunchy snow around a pond and through some woods to the spot Travis had picked out, which was near a boulder where he’d set up his first deer blind as a kid. We parked ourselves in chairs around 6:00 and then sat there in the cold, with minimal movement and whispering, waiting for the sun to come up. Lots of things in life require a great deal of patience, but I think waiting for dawn to break has got to be one of the most excruciating things to wait for. It was an overcast day, so instead being able to watch the sun creep up over the eastern horizon and cast its warm glow across the field in front of us, I had to measure the increasing light (and reassure myself that it was indeed getting lighter out) by gauging my ability to make out the words printed on Travis’ glove, which I was holding on my lap (his right hand was shoved in his pocket to keep his trigger finger warm and ready).

After sitting there for two and a half hours and not seeing a single deer, around 8:30 Travis suggested we give it 15 more minutes and then head back. As we sat there, Travis started scraping the ground in front of him with his boot. I assumed he wanted to get the crunchy snow out of the way so that he could stand up without making too much noise and survey the area around us for deer one last time, so I didn’t think much of it. Fifteen minutes passed and the only wildlife we saw was a squirrel, so we stood up and started to gather our things. Travis started moving mud around with his boot again, and he uncovered what I thought at first to be a thin sheet of orange plastic. I didn’t really care what it was—I was cold and ready to go. Travis then emptied his shotgun cartridges onto the ground, near where he’d been rummaging in the mud. (I learned later that he was hoping they’d land on the buried thing, make a sound, and then I’d be curious about what was there.) But I wasn’t curious; I was cold. He bent down to pick up the cartridges, moved some more mud around while he was down there, and said, “Hey, I think there’s something here.” Disinterestedly, I looked down and said, “Eh, looks like wood.”

It was clear to me that Travis wanted to find out what was there, so I bit my tongue and exercised patience. He handed me his shotgun, bent down, and pulled a wooden crate about the size of a shoe box out of the ground. (At this point I suspected something proposal-related was happening, but still wasn’t sure what to expect.) He opened the crate to reveal a piece of aged-looking parchment paper rolled up and tied with a ribbon. He scooted off the ribbon and unrolled the paper to reveal a poem, written in his handwriting. He gave me an intense glance and read me the poem, entitled This Love. Then he rolled the paper up, put it back in the box, and got down on one knee, right there in the woods, in the mud, and asked me to marry him. And I said, “Yes!”

He stood up and fumbled in his pocket for the ring box, which he produced and opened for me, revealing the ring I’d picked out and hoped to receive. We stood there in silence for a minute, admiring the ring, me beaming and Travis still shaking just a little with nerves. I gave him a look that successfully communicated, “It’s cold, I’m wearing gloves, your hands are muddy, let’s do that in the car” and he put the ring back in his pocket. At that point I became very aware of the fact that I was still holding his shotgun in my left hand. As he gazed intently into my eyes, I couldn’t help but break the silence to say, “You know, it feels really weird to be holding a gun right now.” We laughed and he took the gun, I picked up my chair and the muddy box, and we trudged back through the woods, around the pond, and toward the car.

When the car came into our line of vision, I saw that parked across the street from the car was a white stretch SUV limo. We put the gun in the car, shed our blaze orange accessories, and climbed into the waiting limo. As we settled in and I gloried in the heat coming from the vents, I noticed that Frank Sinatra was crooning one of our songs (I’ve Got You Under My Skin) from the speakers. After giving me the ring, Travis reached into a bag that had been sitting on the seat when we got in and removed two mugs and a few gourmet marshmallows. He reached over and grabbed a waiting thermos from the limo’s bar and poured me a mug of rich, steaming hot chocolate. (The hot chocolate was to commemorate our first date, which we’d ended with hot chocolate at Ethel’s Chocolate Lounge in Chicago. I learned later that his mom had come to meet the limo and planted the music and hot chocolate.)

Meanwhile, the limo had driven off to an undisclosed location. Eventually we pulled up to a locally owned greenhouse and florist that’s housed in an old red barn out in the country. When the limo pulled up to the door someone came out and delivered a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to the car. The driver then took us on a big loop that Travis had mapped out for the driver, and about 45 minutes later delivered us back to Travis’ parents’ house.

After we’d removed our muddy boots and coats, Travis led me into the den where there was a beautifully laid table for two by the fireplace, with a gently crackling fire, candles, and soft music creating a very romantic ambiance. The table, set with china, held fresh fruit parfaits, and nearby a bottle of sparkling juice sat on ice. In the kitchen Travis’s mom had left scrambled eggs and pancake batter for us to make breakfast together, and she had sausage staying warm for us in the oven. So, after changing out of our muddy clothes and many layers and back into our pajamas (it was still only 10:00 in the morning!) we enjoyed an intimate, leisurely meal together and spent the rest of the morning basking in the glow of the fire and reveling in This Love. And that is the whole wonderful story.

And this is my gorgeous ring!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Delivered October 3, 1863. Still rings true today.

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fun Fact for the Day

I was reading through a few prayer letters today and one was from a missionary serving in Poland who recently had emergency eye surgery (in Poland) to repair a detached retina. She writes, "The 19th century eye hospital has no elevator. So after my operation I was carried upstairs on a stretcher. Things to take with you to a hospital here: pajamas, slippers, a towel, a cup, soap, and cutlery."

And then this, which was my favorite part: "In Polish, retina and volleyball are the same word. So 'odklejana siadkowka' could equally mean detached retina or unglued volleyball."

So there you have your fun fact for the day. Bust it out at parties and impress your friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My New Roommate

Well, it turns out the visit from my roommate's mom & her dog last month was a tipping point. This past Saturday my roommate brought home a brown and white Japanese Chin puppy. Meet Gizmo, the newest addition to our little household:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Suz through the years...

It seems by now a lot of people are aware of yearbookyourself.com, a nifty site where you can upload a photo of yourself and see what you might have looked like with the hairstyles of days gone by. I'd managed to resist jumping on the bandwagon until today, when I decided it was a legitimate way to entertain myself on my lunch break. So, here's what I might have looked like back in the day (and as a brunette)...
1968

1986

1994

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Romantic Evening in the City

Travis and I were talking a couple weeks ago and realized that we've been so intent on getting together with our various friends and associates and keeping up with our other commitments that we hadn't really gone on a date, just the two of us, in something like two months. We decided to address that with a date night this past Friday (which happened to be Halloween). So, instead of putting on a costume, at Travis' instructions I got dressed up for a night on the town.

Travis picked me up Friday afternoon and took me into downtown Chicago where he'd arranged for us to go on a horsedrawn carriage ride through the city streets. That part I knew about beforehand. When the carriage brought us back to where we'd started we had our driver snap a pic, and then we headed to dinner, for which I had been told we had reservations, but didn't know where.

Well, it turned out that our reservations were at the Signature Room, which is the restaurant on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building. We were seated at an intimate table for two right next to the window at the northeast corner of the building, so we had an incredible view of the shoreline and city. About halfway through dinner we even got to watch fireworks going off from Navy Pier - the first time we'd seen fireworks from above instead of below! After a scrumptious dinner we ordered the "dark chocolate voodoo cake" for dessert, not realizing it was the same dish we'd make snide comments about on our way in when we passed the dessert display. Travis had said it looked like a slug-type bug, and the decorative sauces were the slime it left behind as it made its way across the plate. Thankfully we were able to get past that appetizing comparison and enjoy the rich flavors!

Monday, October 27, 2008

There and Back Again

Last week was a week of day trips! On Tuesday my boss and I left EARLY in the morning and drove over to Lansing, MI (about a 4 hour drive) to have lunch and visit with a missionary couple who's currently in the U.S. on medical leave. Though our primary connection now is their service through my employer, my friendship with Tom & Lisa and their family started way back when I was in middle school and they volunteered with the junior high youth group at my church. They are a great couple who look forward to returning to Mali where they have a thriving and varied ministry in the town of Kadiolo. They also have an incredible testimony of God's faithfulness to them through some really trying times this year--back in March Lisa became gravely ill, and through various complications with her condition and the medications that were administered, woke up one morning during recovery to discover she was completely deaf. The family was evacuated to the U.S., where she spent the next six months unable to hear any sound. Then in September she had surgery for a cochlear implant (bionic ear) that has enabled her to hear again, albeit in a very different manner than she was used to. The human body is simply amazing, and there's some pretty incredible technology out there! It was such a blessing to sit across the table from them and hear them tell of how the Lord has been so faithful to them throughout this whole trial. You can check out their blog if you'd like to know more of their story. Here's a pic with my friends in Michigan:
Saturday morning Travis and I headed up to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin (about a 3 hr drive) to meet my friend Allison, who came down from northern Wisconsin for a "rendezvous in Baraboo" (which happens to be the home of the original Ringling Bros. Circus, founded in 1884 by the 5 Ringling brothers, and where you'll find the Circus World Museum - just a little trvia for you.) After a brief stroll through Baraboo's courthouse square, we decided on lunch at the quaint Garden Party Cafe. We then spent the afternoon hiking at the park, first up the cliffs on one side of the lake and down again, then along the rim, then up and down the cliffs on the other side. The view from the top of the cliffs was incredible--the tree-covered countryside was awash in autumn hues for as far as the eye could see. It had the appearance of an impressionist painting--several dabs of green here, some spots of orange and yellow here, some splotches of red and brown over there, all running into each other and creating a spectaculuar whole. Here are a few photos from our hike:
[Egads! I looked out my window just now and it's snowing. SNOWING. On October 27th. Sigh.]

Before bidding each other farewell we enjoyed a hearty dinner at The Log Cabin Restaurant, which offers yummy food with a very cozy, north woods ambiance--if you're ever passing through Baraboo, I recommend it! And even if you're full, go ahead order the apple dumpling for dessert--you won't regret it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As Sweet As Can Be

That's what my boyfriend is! There I was at my desk this afternoon, typing away, when I heard a sound behind me. I swung around in my chair to discover Travis standing in the doorway of my office, a huge grin on his face and a bouquet of flowers in his hands. "Happy Sweetest Day!" he exclaimed as he stepped forward to present his offering, a lovely collection of flowers that includes 7 pink roses, one for every month we've been together (it'll be 8 next week). If that's not sweet, I don't know what is. Sometimes I just shake my head in amazement (likely with a dreamy look in my eyes) and wonder at being loved so well, by such a man. I had said man take a pic with my phone before he went on his way. Sigh with me, friends, or roll your eyes if you must, but there's no denying my honey's the sweetest guy around.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brand New ESV Study Bible Released Today!

As some of you know, in addition to my day job and my Wednesday evening bookseller gig, I do some freelance proofreading & indexing for Crossway Books. Though I usually work on titles from the academic and theological division, back in August I had the privilege of joining the Bible crew and spent the better part of the following 9 months checking formatting on study notes from the brand new ESV Study Bible that comes out today.

Having spent so many hours reading thousands upon thousands of study notes during the proofing phase, I am excited to finally see this Bible in its finished form, complete with all the introductions, articles, maps, graphs, tables, and concordance that join the countless study notes to make for one thorough and hefty reference.

Which is to say, I spent a LOT of time at Starbucks, Caribou, and Panera, as well as on my couch and at my dining room table, pouring over the helpful, interesting and enlightening notes for the new ESV Study Bible, and believing they are an indication of the quality of the volume as a whole, I highly commend it to you if you're looking for a new study bible. But you don't have to take my word for it. Go to www.esvstudybible.org to check out all the bells and whistles for yourself.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Camper!

This past weekend I went on my third and final camping trip for the year, and I am happy to report that it was my best camping experience to date. The weather had a lot to do with it; the Midwest enjoyed a bit of an Indian summer last week, which meant both Saturday and Sunday were gorgeously warm and sunny days, perfect for hiking the dunes, relaxing on the beach, and sitting around the campfire. Since camping trip #1 was rather frigid, and camping trip #2 was quite damp, this was a marked improvement (even though I did enjoy myself on both prior occasions, despite the circumstances). This camping trip was also significantly better because I was actually able to sleep most of the night, which is far better than lying on the ground awake, cold, and uncomfortable, waiting for dawn to come and put you out of your sleepless misery (my experience on camping trips 1 & 2).

Saturday morning Travis and I left for Warren Dunes in Sawyer, Michigan where we met up with our friends Nate & Bethany and Chris & Jenn. Saturday's activities included setting up camp, going on a hike through the woods and up and over the dunes, lounging on the beach, making dinner over the campfire, and playing Mexican train dominoes by lantern light.

On Sunday we slept in a bit, made breakfast, cleaned up camp, and then had a campfire worship service with Scripture, prayer, and singing. We were on the road by early afternoon, and stopped for lunch at Redamak's in New Buffalo, where guests are invited to bite into a legend, as in the "hamburger" that made New Buffalo, MI famous! I'd really like to know why they feel compelled to put quotes around "hamburger" in their slogan. Is it a hamburger or not? If you're going to put quotes around something, how about "famous"? I mean, is New Buffalo really famous? Regionally renown, maybe, but famous? Anyway, the burgers were tasty, but not so spectacular that I'd consider them legendary. Perhaps my enjoyment of the burger was stifled by my perturbation at the improper punctuation. Oh well, aside from my problem with the signage, the place does have a fun atmosphere to commend it.

After lunch Travis and I parted ways with our friends and decided to take our time and the scenic route home (or at least part of the way home--we cut over to the highway when it got dark and scenic turned to sketchy). We putzed around New Buffalo a bit, then got on the road and stopped at an outlet mall not too long after that, and then stopped at the Indiana Dunes to climb Mt. Baldy (which is actually a sand dune, and not a mountain per se) and watch the sun set over Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Puppy Love

My roommate's mom is visiting this week and has been staying at our place, along with Maggie, her Japanese Chin, who looks something like this. Although Melissa's cat Nova has grown in my affections since I moved in, I'm still definitely a dog person. And since I grew up with a small dog (toy poodle), I am a small dog person at that. Well, Maggie is definitely small (weighing in at 5 lbs at the most) and is just a tiny, furry bundle of pure love and unbridled energy. Every time I've encountered her this week, she's greeted me like seeing me is the most exciting thing that's ever happened to her. It's been great. I miss having a dog in my life. I need to visit my friends with dogs more often.

Maybe it's the puppy lovin' I've received this week that made me actually read one of the forwards I received because the subject line said something about a dog. Since I'm feeling a bit canine-happy-sappy today, here are Life Lessons We Should Learn From Dogs:
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.
  • ENJOY EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY!

Monday, October 06, 2008

All Kinds of Apple Goodness

Between the Long Grove Apple Festival on Saturday and the Morton Arboretum Fall Color 5K & Festival on Sunday, over the weekend I consumed:
  • 2 apple donuts
  • half a dish of apple pie ice cream (Travis ate the other half)
  • a medium hot spiced apple cider (from Beans & Leaves in Long Grove)
  • a snack pack of Quaker Oatmeal Cinnamon Apple Squares (this apple-themed snack was actually unintentional...I just grabbed something on my way out the door to the race, and it happened to be apple!)
  • an organic Gala apple, straight up (compliements of Whole Foods, sponsor of the 5K)
  • a granny smith apple sliced & smothered in hot caramel along with chocolate chips, sprinkles, crushed M&Ms, and oreos
Yes, indeed, it was a weekend to celebrate autumn's prime produce and indulge my sweet tooth. We hung around the arboretum after the 5k on Sunday and met up with my friend Charity to take in the scarecrow display and partake of the caramel-apple-with-candy-in-a-dish concoction, which has become a bit of a tradition for us. As I came back to the table with my caramel apple, Travis asked, "But what are you going to have for lunch?" "What do you mean?" I replied. "This is lunch." Here's the before and after:

Yeah, it was good. Though it was raining by the time we left the arboretum, several hours earlier the weather was just beautiful for running the 5k: overcast skies with occasional pockets of sunshine and crisp-cool autumn air. I would guess there were around 2000 people who came out to run or walk the gently rolling course that took us through the deeply wooded east side. Though I didn't train at all for this race (and definitely felt it!) I managed to jog the whole thing with Travis by my side, encouraging me on (have I mentioned how great he is?). We finished in 38:23, clocking in with a 12:22 mile. I came in #607 among the women, #84 among the women in my age group (25-29), and #1143 overall. I didn't care about any of that yesterday morning when I felt like my lungs were going to explode, but I had one of those chips on my shoe and curiosity compelled me to look it up online today. So there you have it. Here's our happy "we did it!" after-race photo:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Embracing Autumn

There's something about this time of year that makes me giddy. Autumn is my favorite season, hands down, and I love all the good stuff that goes along with it--the crisp air, blue skies, pumpkins, apples, spiced cider, soup, sweaters, and leaves that go down in a polychromatic blaze of glory. Yes, this season stirs in me a special appreciation for the scents, tastes, and sights that permeate this time of year.

This weekend my embrace of autumn begins in earnest. On Saturday I'm heading up to the Long Grove Apple Festival with friends. The event features all things apple, spread out over the several blocks that make up the quaint downtown area of Long Grove, but the highlight is always the apple donuts. Yum!

Sunday morning Travis and I are running Morton Arboretum's Fall Color 5K. I haven't exactly trained for this event, so instead of "running" I should probably say "jogging" or perhaps more like "shuffling." However I manage to cover the course, I'm looking forward to the time amidst the mighty oaks and maples whose leaves are just starting to change in hue.

Next weekend I'm going camping near Michigan's Warren Dunes with some friends. Yes, for those blog readers keeping track, this is my THIRD camping trip this year! Must have something to do with the company I'm keeping these days... (Wink)

The last weekend in October I hope to catch the tail end of Wisconsin's foliage show when Travis & I head up to Devil's Lake to spend the day hiking with Allison.

When I'm not outdoors enjoying the season, I find myself thinking about what I can do in the kitchen with the flavors of the season--pumpkin, cinnamon, apples, cloves--along with looking for new recipes (and revisiting a few old favorites) for soups, stews, and chilis.

This past weekend Travis and I enjoyed a leisurely brunch at home with some friends, and I came up with "Autumn Spice Pancakes": take some pancake batter, mix in a teaspoon or so of pumpkin pie spice, and then sprinkle mini cinnamon chips on each pancake after pouring it on the griddle. For extra autumnal goodness, serve with apple or pumpkin butter. Mighty tasty!

Do you have a tasty autumnal recipe you're willing to share? Leave a comment with the recipe or a link to it, or shoot me an email. I hope to feature more of my faves in the weeks to come!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Homecoming - A Reflection & A Rant

This past weekend was my high school's homecoming. As a member of the class of 1998, that meant it was also time for my 10 Year Class Reunion.

The festivities began Friday night with the homecoming football game. As Travis and I walked the several blocks from my car to the high school, and then to the football field, I was struck by how differently homecoming is viewed by students and alumni. For students, despite the fact that it's called homeCOMING (which obviously refers to those other than themselves), it's really all about them. It's all about which class will win the various competitions, what they will wear on each of the themed dress days, who will be their date to the dance and what they'll wear, and whether their football team will bring home the victory. I remember being a student wrapped up in all of the excitement and activity of homecoming. Interestingly enough, however, 10 years later I can't remember a single homecoming theme from my four years there, I don't regret not attending a single homecoming dance, and I couldn't tell you whether our football team won or lost. (I vaguely remember what I wore for the various theme days, and a review of the yearbook from my senior year revealed a nice shot of me looking like a dork on Hawaiian Day.) As impossibly young looking high schoolers shuffled by us, I commented to Travis with a slight sigh of resignation, "We're old to them. I'm one of those 'old alumni,' that aged curiosity who comes once a year to invade the students' turf with reminiscing and nostalgic tales of how it used to be." (Okay, I didn't say it quite so eloquently at the time, but that's what I meant.) While I am nothing but thankful to be where I am, and to only have had to enjoy/endure the high school experience once, many years ago, it was sobering to realize I am now one of "those old people."

This year's homecoming theme was "The Golden Ticket," a la Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I learned this when I came to work the week before to find the downtown store windows painted with moderately creepy teenage artist renditions of Willy Wonka, Oompa Loompas, and pieces of candy in all colors of the rainbow (the window painting tradition is part of the inter-class competition held during homecoming). I found the choice of theme a bit strange, and the myriad images of oompa loompas troublesome, as they got the oompa loompa song stuck in my head every time I walked by. At the football game Friday night I chatted with a fellow alum who now teaches science at the school. She said that the students came up with the theme and rallied for it, much to the puzzlement of the faculty sponsors. Unable to come up with a good reason to dissuade the student council committee from their choice, the theme stuck. In hindsight, my friend suspects it was just a ploy to incorporate obscene quantities of candy into the celebration. She also lamented that to her students, Johnny Depp is Willy Wonka, and there is no other. When she asked if they'd ever seen the version with Gene Wilder, they said, "Who?" Sigh.

Attending the game had really very little to do with actually watching the game (we gave it our undivided attention for maybe 10 minutes tops right before we left in the middle of the 3rd quarter) and more with conversing with the various classmates who were to be found clustered at the south end of the field. Though I wasn't feeling particularly chatty that night, I was glad to catch up with a few people with whom I'd had varying degrees of friendship back in the day. One classmate in particular shared with me a testimony of God's goodness to her and her husband as they dealt with fertility issues over the past couple years. Standing there listening to her tell the miracle story, watching as she smoothed her shirt over her 4-month "bump," aglow with pregnancy and an awareness of God's goodness and grace, was probably the highlight of the whole weekend for me.

The class reunion on Saturday night, however, was one point of disgruntlement after another. The fact that it was being held in a bar in Chicago should have tipped me off. But, anticipation and curiosity propelled me to the door.

It was at the door that disappointment began to set it. When we reached the girl at the check-in table, we learned that the invitation I'd received that had clearly stated the option of paying $15 for food only, or $40 for food and alchohol, was incorrect. I explained to her it was with this understanding that we'd decided to attend, and that more than likely scores of people after me would be approaching her with the same expectation (which was indeed the case), but she informed me that while this was indeed unfortunate for us, it was not her problem, and that would be $40 please. Everyone had to pay $40 to get in, regardless of whether he/she wanted to drink or not. The only exceptions they’d allow were for verifiable medical conditions…so basically, unless you were visibly pregnant (score one for my friend from above!), had a medic alert bracelet identifying you as a diabetic, or a doctor’s note (and who brings a doctors note to a high school reunion?!?), no dice - $40 bucks a head. Point of disgruntlement number one. (I suppose the fact that we'd had to pay $10 to park in a shady lot to begin with would be point of disgruntlement 0.5.)

And, they only take cash, which meant that we had visit an ATM before we could even get in, because who carries $80 in cash to their high school reunion when only planning to pay 30?!?! Point of disgruntlement number two.

Then, the only food provided was plain cheese quesadillas, messy hot wings, and some completely unappetizing chips and salsa. Not even worth the $15 I’d planned to pay for food alone. Point of disgruntlement number three.

Since I was forced to pay for alcohol, I had 2 amaretto sours, which definitely tasted like well drinks, and a sketchy tasting diet Coke--certainly not worth the extra $25. Point of disgruntlement number 4.

While the invitation led one to believe the reunion was to be held in a private party room (which at least redeemed the bar venue in my head), as it turned out there was really nothing private about our space. The area designated for us was to the left of the main entrance, and separated from the hallway that led to the rest of the establishment by only a partial wall and a few ropes. So, our reunion was on display for everyone entering the bar, and the same really loud, bass-heavy music that was being pumped everywhere else made it hard to think straight and frustrated all attempts at any conversation in a voice below a yell. Points of disgruntlement numbers 5 & 6.

I could go on and name several further points of disgruntlement, but I am starting to feel the nasty weight of complaining. On the plus side, I will say that I enjoyed catching up with a few friends who attended, I was able to do some satisfying people watching and had my curiosity assuaged, I opened up a time capsule I'd completely forgotten about making to find that I had a little wisdom back then, as well as some strange ideas about what I'd want to pull out of a time capsule in 10 years, and the occasion prompted me to tell Travis many stories from my high school days that probably wouldn't have otherwise come up.

Since I'm confident I've made the few assertions I set out to make, and wish to spare you the paragraphs required to make several more, I will stop here. However, in case you would like to review them in full, here they are in handy bullet form:
  • The older you get, the younger high schoolers appear.
  • A high school reunion in a bar is a bad idea. Period.
  • If you are going to invite people to a party, make sure you get the details correct.
  • An event where conversation is pretty much the sole activity should ideally be held in a venue where you can actually hear the people with whom you are attempting to converse.
  • Though 10 years is a long time and smooths over some things, curiously it is not long enough to erase feelings toward certain people or to eradicate the social groups to which we gravitated back then.
  • Facebook takes a lot of the mystery out of a high school reunion.
  • If your high school reunion is a big disappointment, stopping for ice cream on the way home helps. (Thanks, Travis.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Yes, September 24th is National Punctuation Day. Chase's Calendar of Events bills it as "A celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis."

And they should be celebrated! Punctuation marks are so misused and abused by the general public--especially the dear, misunderstood apostrophe--that perhaps this celebration will inspire a thirst for knowledge and proper usage. Okay, well, probably not. It's more just a chance for nerds like me to find solidarity with other nerds, such as those who form the Apostrophe Protection Society. (Let me tell you, just reading their manifesto got me fired up!)

Not sure how to celebrate? About.com's Grammar & Punctuation blogger Richard Nordquist suggests 10 Ways to Celebrate National Punctuation Day. Read, and then get busy!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Caution: Icy Conditions May Result in Jazz Hands

I saw this sign at the Chicago Botanic Garden this past weekend and it struck me as funny.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Warp and Woof

At the moment (well, not literally at the moment, but more like 2 minutes ago, before I decided to needed to take a short break and blog about it) I'm reading a chapter on contextualization in The Changing Face of World Missions. At the end of a paragraph I came across the phrase "warp and woof," as in:

[Contextualization] cannot be limited to propositional truths. It must be carried into the very warp and woof of church life and practice.
I've never heard this phrase before, and it struck me as odd and rather funny. I could figure it's meaning by the context, but being the word nerd that I am, had to look it up online to confirm my guess at its meaning and ascertain whether or not this is a legitmate phrase that people (well, at least some people) actually use.

So, I looked it up in both thefreedictionary.com and Merriam-Webster Online, and indeed, it's a bona fide phrase dating back to 1842, and it refers to the underlying structure on which something is built; a base or foundation. Huh.

So, my readers, a question and a challenge:
Question: Have you ever come across this phrase before?
Challenge: Leave a comment and use it in a sentence.

P.S. It also struck me as funny that when I looked it up on Merrian-Webster Online, this ad showed up in the right hand sidebar. I had to wonder whether this ad randomly appeared, or whether I'd been selected to view it because I'd looked up "warp and WOOF." Either way, that's funny. Well, at least to me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Camping: Good Company Trumps Bad Weather

This past weekend Travis & I went camping in Door County with his sister & bro-in-law and our friends Rachel & Eric. Although it was rather wet and chilly all weekend (tarps and umbrellas came to the rescue more than a few times), we still had a great time together exploring the little towns & boutiques along the peninsula, sampling local wines and goodies like apple butter, cherry salsa and fudge, playing games and laughing together, and eating lots of delicious food--both at our campsite and in local restaurants.

Saturday night we attended a fish boil at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim. Fish boils are a local custom where they (surprise) boil some fish outdoors in a big pot with potatoes and onions, and then at the proper time, douse the whole thing with kerosene to burn off the oils released by the fish. This results in quite a conflagration, which I was able to capture in a photo. After "the show," we moved into the dining room to enjoy the meal, which was capped off with a slice of cherry pie. Apparently, the fish boil tradition comes from Scandinavians who settled in the area over 100 years ago.

Sunday morning we enjoyed a yummy brunch at Al Johnson's Swedish restaurant. Their Swedish pancakes and meatballs were excellent, but they're best known for being "the place with goats on the roof." Which there are. See:
This was my second camping trip this year. The third will be next month at Warren Dunes in Michigan with friends from small group. The first excursion was frigid, this last time was wet, and yet I still enjoyed myself. Although weather and location are certainly important factors, I'm finding that the success and enjoyment of each camping experience depends a lot on who you're with and how you camp (I was very impressed with Jon & Jamie's set up, which included a camp stove and coffee maker). I wouldn't have expected it of myself a year ago, but I think I may now be on my way to becoming a happy camper. Well, at least a weekend camper. At official campsites. Where there's a conveniently located bathhouse outfitted with clean toilets and hot showers. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Calmer of My Troubled Heart

Sometimes a song can settle...still...provide a moment of solace as it points the listener to the Prince of Peace. I've found one of those songs. I recently downloaded "Love Shall Never Die," the new EP from Indelible Grace's Matthew Smith (you can download the album here) and I'm completely taken with the song "Calmer of My Troubled Heart (Hallelujah)." Here are the lyrics:

Calmer of my troubled heart
Bid my unbelief depart
Speak, and all my sorrows cease
Speak, and all my soul is peace.
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Comfort me when e’er I mourn
with the hope of Thy return
And til I Thy glories see
Help me believe in Thee
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Simple, but so calming, so comforting. Praise be to the calmer of our troubled hearts.

I [heart] NoiseTrade

Sometimes you come across something so great you just have to tell people about it. NoiseTrade is one of those great things. Launched by Derek Webb, NoiseTrade is a site that allows artists to make their music available to fans who can download the music for FREE by spreading the word about that artist/album (and NoiseTrade) to 5 friends. There's also the option to purchase the album for whatever amount you'd like to pay.

Through NoiseTrade I've come across some artists with whom I was already familiar and albums I'd really been wanting to hear/own, and I've also discovered some new artists and music that I really enjoy. So, I encourage you to head over to NoiseTrade, check out the albums available (you can listen to samples of each to get a feel for their sound), and then download a couple by spreading the word.

If you'd like a few personal recommendations, here are some of the albums currently available on NoiseTrade that have been getting lots of play time on my iPod lately:
  • Sandra McCracken - Gravity Love
  • Matthew Perryman Jones - Throwing Punches in the Dark (check out the widget in the sidebar of this blog)
  • Andy Gullahorn - Reinventing the Wheel
  • Jill Phillips - Nobody's Got it All Together
Spread the music! Spread the love!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why Do We Watch?

As I write this, a hostage situation is unfolding 3 blocks away from my office. I can hear helicopters (three of them at last check) circling overhead. When I left my office around 1:45 this afternoon to run some errands, I noticed the flashing lights of police cars and a number of people gathered on the street corner. I conducted my business at city hall and the post office (in the opposite direction of the hubbub), then made my way over to the gathered throng at the other end of the block. I asked one of the people who seemed to be paying the most attention what was going on, and learned that there was a hostage situation at the bank building across the tracks. I could see policemen crouched behind vehicles parked askew in the street, rifles at the ready. I saw a sharpshooter in camoflague gear walking down the street with his gun and scope, headed to his post. But mostly I saw ordinary people flocking onto the sidewalks from every direction save the south, which was blocked off, to gawk at the situation unfolding. Restaurant busboys and servers, employees from other banks, retail salespeople, office workers like myself, condo residents, postal service employees, moms with kids in strollers, old people with walkers...all gathering to watch and wonder.

And I found myself asking, Why? What is it about human nature that makes us want to watch? To know what's going on, even when we have no real connection--save conincidental proximity--to the situation at hand? After a few moments I walked back to my office, grabbed my purse, and then headed out to my car to run another errand across town. When I returned to the area about half an hour later, the number of police cars and personnel seemed to have tripled, the streets blocked off doubled, the crowds moved back and out of sight line from the building in question, and there were scores of high school students milling around the garage where I park. School had let out while I was gone, and curiosity and boredom had drawn skaters and cheerleaders alike to the area.

I checked online for news when I got back to the office, and found that NBC5.com is reporting on the situation, and updating it frequently. Apparently also while I was gone, dozens of people were seen running from the bank under police guard. The latest update says that at least one person is still being held hostage, and that while the scene is a bank, the incident is not a robbery or attempted robbery.

Even as I write this, and refresh the news page every few minutes, I wonder, why do we watch? Why am I so hungry to know? The scene will continue to unfold, without my surveillance, and I can just learn about it all on the news tonight when it's all over. And so although it's difficult--for reasons I can't really define--I will turn my attention back to my work, try to tune out the whir of the helicopters, and finish up for the day as I say a prayer for the police and the hostage(s) and the one who felt so desperate that he turned to this.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

More Food for Thought

Philip Yancey writes,

"Thinking about what to say to the leaders gathered [for a state prayer luncheon], I recalled a line from the contemporary German philosopher Jurgen Haberman: Democracy requires of its citizens qualities that it cannot provide. Politicians can conjure an exalted vision of a prosperous, healthly, free society, but no government can supply the qualities of honesty, compassion, and personal responsibility that must underlie that vision.

"For all its strengths, the United States shows some alarming signs of ill health. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, we have 25 percent of the world's prisoners--more than Russia and China combined. We consume half of all the prescription drugs in the world, and yet by most standards our overall health ranks lower than most other developed countries'. In every major city, homeless people sleep in parks and under bridges. And our leading causes of death are self-inflicted: obesity, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases, stress-related illnesses, drugs, violence, environmental cancers. Obviously, politicians have not solved all our problems.

"...Fortunately, U.S. politicians of both parties still recognize that faith plays a vital role in a healthly society. People of the Christian faith are charged to uphold a different kind of vision. That this is God's planet, not ours, and as we scar it beyond repair, God weeps. That a person's worth is determined not by appearance or income or ethnic background or even citizenship status, but rather is bestowed as a sacred, inviolable gift of God. That compassion and justice--our care for "the least of these my brothers," in Jesus' words, are not arbitrary values agreed upon by politicians and sociologists, but holy commands from the One who created us.

"We Christians don't always live out that vision. We find it difficult to maintain a commitment to both this world and the next, to this life and the next."

- From the article "On the Grand Canyon Bus," in the Sept 2008 issue of Christianity Today

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Food for Thought

"[Redemption] speaks of a dynamic rescue mission. It is the promise that the story is not yet over, there is more to be written, and the final word has not yet been spoken. Redemption picks up the broken threads and weaves them into the storyline with the grace and mercy that only our Redeemer could offer. At that moment, the whisperings said that my deepest longing was not for perfection but for redemption. I long to see, experience and know the dangerous beauty of authentic life. Dangerous because it goes beyond the realm of my control and rarely follows my script. Beautiful because it reflects the heart of our Creator. Authentic because it is broken, imperfect, and unhidden. Whereas the lure of perfection hid and stifled life–-beginning with my own–-God's promise of redemption beckons and invites me into life. I can begin to breathe." - Amanda Bricker, in "Perfectly Redeemed," from the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Women of the Harvest Magazine

Thursday, August 28, 2008

My Visit to Tinseltown

Thanks to the generosity of my best friend and her new husband (see previous post) and their parents, I was able to attend their second reception, given by Alex's parents in L.A. the Saturday following their wedding (their honeymoon to Tahiti was sandwiched in between).

The reception was beautiful and well attended by family and friends of Alex and his parents. Chinese & Indonesian cultural elements included Allison's beautiful red Chinese wedding dress, a traditional Chinese tea ceremony (in which the new couple honors their parents and elder relatives, presents them with tea, and receives from each pair a red envelope), and three ladies playing a few hymns on an Indonesian instrument called the "angklung."

Back at Alex's parents' house later that evening the celebrations and cultural traditions continued. The newlyweds cut the top off an inverted cone of yellow rice surrounded by various Indonesian appetizers. I asked his aunt why this is done, and didn't receive a definitive answer. But then I realized that if someone asked me why couples cut the cake and feed it to each other at the reception, I couldn't really come up with anything beyond, "Well, because it's tradition," so I left it at that. That evening was my introduction to Indonesian food, which I found to my liking in various degrees. Among the more notable things I tried were a hard boiled quail egg that had been marinated in something, and what I like to call "the green stuff," a mixture of avocado, jack fruit, young coconut, coconut milk, black (weed juice) gelatin, coconut gel, and ice, that's served as a dessert. While I don't think I'll be clamoring for some more any time soon, it was actually rather refreshing and didn't taste at all like cold, fruity guacamole (which is honestly what I was expecting).

Over the next several days Alex ended up taking us on what we came to call a "culinary tour of Asia," which included Japanese BBQ & shabu shabu, more Indonesian food (see photo), and Chinese dim sum (where I was adventurous, but drew the line at chicken feet).

Alex also proved an excellent tour guide of the major sights of L.A., and I was able to briefly explore Hollywood (including the Walk of Fame and the Kodak Theatre), Beverly Hills (complete with a stroll up and down Rodeo Drive and a jaw-dropping, finger-pointing drive through the mansion-riddled neighborhoods), Santa Monica (where I had to dip my feet in the Pacific, just because I could), the Farmer's Market in West L.A., and J-town in downtown Los Angeles, along with a visit to Universal Studios.

I left the reception feeling very tall (a 6footredhead stands out a bit in a room full of Indonesian people). I left L.A. feeling very cultured, very thankful, and very well-fed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'd like to raise a toast...

This past weekend was the beautiful dream wedding of my dear friends Allison & Alex here in Chicago. Among my duties as the MOH, of course, was giving a toast to the bride and groom at the reception. Since I've never really been one for extemporaneous speeches (especially when I want to make sure that what I say makes sense and communicates the full meaning of what I want to say, and when there's a chance I might get a little choked up, which it turns out I did), I wrote my toast ahead of time to read at the reception.

So, since it's already written, I thought posting it here might be a good way to offer my congratulations to the newlyweds and give a little report on the wedding. So, here's my toast, to Allison & Alex!

Allison and I had a class together the first semester of our freshman year of college--10 years ago this month--and have been best friends ever since. I think college is where Allison and I fell in love with coffee and coffee shops. We spent many, many hours talking and studying over frozen blender mochas at the Jumping Bean on campus, or escaping to the MT Cup or the Blue Bottle in Muncie for a change of scenery and a good latte. A weekend trip to Columbus to visit Allison’s parents always included a visit to Stauff’s, a local coffee chain. And still today, some of our best conversations take place at Caribou or Starbucks.

College is also where Allison fell in love with Chicago. I remember when she returned from spending a J-term at the Olive Branch Mission in Chicago, confident that this is where she wanted to live and work after grad school.

And Chicago is where Allison fell in love with Alex. I remember when Alex was only a name and a profile to be curious about. I have this distinct memory of trudging along Chicago’s slush-covered sidewalks in the dead of winter as we speculated about “Dr. Alex”—what he’d be like, how their first date would go, and whether or not he’d get her number and actually call. Well, as you might guess, that first date went pretty well, and Alex impressed Allison by calling the very next day.

Something I really appreciate about Allison and Alex is that while they were falling in love, Alex also became my friend. It’s been my joy and privilege to have a seat at the table of their relationship, as it were—a table that has seen quite a few games of Mexican train dominoes, and where, thanks to Alex, I’ve been introduced to all kinds of delicious cuisine.

And so, Allison and Alex, it’s with great honor and a glad heart that I stand next to you today. As your friend I pledge to keep my seat at the table—to love and support you both as you live out your continuing love story as husband and wife.

To Allison & Alex! With love.

Monday, August 04, 2008

And the award for Best Surprise by a Boyfriend in a Leading Role goes to...

Travis!

This past Friday I drove to Coshocton, OH to reunite once again with Taylor friends. The occasion for our gathering among the green rolling hills of Amish country for the weekend was the wedding of my friend (and blogging buddy) Heather to her soul mate, Clay. They have an awesome love story that involves a conference in Austin, a bulletin board, a bridge, a concert, and a conversation about music and love and life that's still going today (at this moment, somewhere in Belize). You can read about it here.

Although having a boyfriend now generally affords me the pleasure of having a date with whom to attend weddings (and if you read this blog you know I attend a lot of weddings!), Travis was unable to accompany me to this one. He left Chicago back on July 18th to spend a week climbing 7 of Colorado's 14ers with a friend, and then several more days at a teachers conference in Denver. The conference ran through Friday and he wasn't set to arrive back in Chicago until very late that night. So, as I drove across Indiana and Ohio early Friday morning I was missing him like crazy after not seeing him for two weeks. While I was excited to spend the weekend with my friends--sharing stories over the rehearsal dinner, hamming it up at karaoke, bearing witness to the vows of two souls in love, and celebrating with delicious food and great friends in a beautiful setting--I was rather disappointed to not have Travis by my side to meet my friends and join in the revelry.

So, imagine my surprise when my friends and I walked into a restaurant for lunch on Saturday before the ceremony and there's Travis sitting at a table in the middle of the near empty restaurant with a huge grin on his face. (If you're having trouble imagining my surprise, the words shocked, speechless, and dumbfounded might help you out.) I'm pretty sure my mouth was hanging open as I moved (ran? floated? it's all a blur) across the restaurant and into his arms. Reality slowly set in (for a while all I could do was look at him and incredulously murmur, "You're here!") and over lunch my friends helped me piece together the elements of the surprise--Mike's mysterious late night "errand," hushed phone calls, strange comments, hurried moments...and more than a few blatant lies by those in the know.

Early Friday morning Travis had changed his flight to Columbus instead of Chicago and called my friends to help him get to Coshocton for the wedding. They all succeeded in keeping me completely in the dark for 24 hours. It didn't take long for Travis' exploits to become legend among the wedding guests, even those who'd never met him and up til that point didn't even know I had a boyfriend. As we milled about in the church lobby after the ceremony, people observed us with smiles and knowing looks that said, "So this is the guy..."

Yes, this is the guy.

I've Moved!

Yep, as of July 27th I'm living across town from where I was before, sharing an apartment with my friend Melissa and her cat, Nova. The process of unpacking and settling in will likely go on for several more weeks as I am busy during the week with my regular activities and out of town on weekends all this month for weddings and such.

Best 3G Reunion Yet!

This year's 3G reunion (July 11-14) was extraordinary in a lot of ways. It was the first time since graduation that all 11 of us were together again, drawn from NY, PA, IN, IL, and IA, not to mention China and Zambia. It was the first reunion to take place in the summer instead of the spring. It was our first major "destination" reunion, taking place in Evans, Colorado. It was the first time we showered not one but two brides to be. It was the first time we were able to incorporate a pageant party into the reunion weekend. It included our first official group photo shoot since our trip to Wal-Mart the week before graduation. And, thanks to Becca's determination and Janelle's design skills, it was the first time since our days on 3G that we received matching 3G shirts, along with a 3G cookbook and prayer guide. Yes, this year's reunion was extraordinary.
And really, the fact that 11 women who met 10 years ago when they entered college together as freshmen are still such good friends today despite their wildly divergent personalities, backgrounds, and the increasing geographical distance between them is nothing short of extraordinary itself. We are always aware, and even more so when we're together, that what we have been given is a rare and unique gift from God, to be celebrated, cherished, and to call forth gratitude and praise for the joy and privilege of going through life with these incredible women.

Janelle captured it perfectly with the statement that appears on the back of our new shirts:
Faith made us sisters.
Love made us friends.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Word of the Day

Guess what! One of my all-time favorite words is today's Dictionary.com Word of the Day. Check it out!

Learn it. Use it. Love it. Or just have fun saying it over and over again. All together now..."ses-kwuh-puh-DAYL-yuhn."

P.S. Yes, this post is just a decoy for something more substantial. Coming soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Need to laugh?

Read this post, and then watch the video of Joe Cocker performing "With a Little Help From My Friends" (The Wonder Years theme) at Woodstock. Best use of captions and clip art I've seen in a long time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Flint Cops Crack Down on Sagging Pants

My mom drives a school bus and often vents to me about the way the teenage boys on her route wear their pants...sagging below their butt, barely held up by a belt around their thighs, crotch hanging down by their knees. Though I'm more inclined than my mother to just shake (and sometimes turn away) my head and accept this as the way things are, I agree that it looks ridiculous, not to mention uncomfortable and cumbersome.

Well, turns out the police force of Flint, MI is out to do something about saggy pants and exposed boxers. If you want the full report, read this article from the Detriot Free Press. In short, saggy pants have been declared disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, both misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.

Here's how it breaks down:
  • Saggy pants, not completely below the buttocks, with underwear showing = a warning
  • Saggy pants, completely below the buttocks, with underwear showing = disorderly conduct
  • Saggy pants with underwear and skin of the buttocks showing (i.e. butt crack) = indecent exposure
And in case you're a visual learner, here's a helpful chart:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summer Marches On

It's hard to believe that summer is almost half over! Events that have floated in the realm of expectation for so long are now happening quickly, one after the other, as summer marches on.

On Friday the 4th Travis & I spent a leisurely evening with his sister and brother-in-law, our friends Rachel & Eric, and their respective dogs, Pepper & Yoshi. Always happy to find an occasion to use my trifle bowl, I assembled a patriotic dessert for the affair.

Saturday was wedding number 2 of the summer, the joining of Julie & Alex in holy matrimony. Julie has been in my small group for the past couple years, and Alex is recent a transplant from North Carolina (they dated long distance for quite a while after meeting at a wedding in California) who has fit into our little small group community quite nicely. We love his accent and Southern charms. We like him a lot, too. Their wedding was beautiful and the reception was a lot of fun (Travis & I even came away with the garter and bouquet, respectively). Congrats, Julie & Alex! I love you guys and wish you the best.

This coming Friday I'll get on a plane that will take me to Colorado for the annual 3G02 reunion. For those of you not up on your Suz lingo, 3G (or Third Gerig) is where I lived at Taylor; 02 is when I graduated. Therefore, 3G02 refers to the group of girls who came in together as freshmen to live on the third floor of Gerig Hall (plus Allison, whom we love and grafted in from another dorm) and formed a deep and lasting bond of friendship. We've held a reunion every spring since we graduated, and this year moved the reunion to July when (for the very first time since graduation) all 11 of us will be together again. Michelle is home from China, Suzanne has returned from Zambia, and the rest of us will come in from New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa to spend a weekend catching up on one another's lives, celebrating milestones, sharing our hearts and hopes and hurts, worshipping together and praying for one another, laughing and having fun, and just generally basking in the glow of our remarkable friendship. My heart is so full with gratitude to God for these women and this opportunity.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yes indeed, as of last Thursday I am 28 years old, which puts me undeniably in my "upper twenties." While perhaps in two years I will "freak out" about 30 as it seems so many women do, I am actually feeling really good about 28. It's a good thing, too, because this year my birthday turned into a rather big deal, with celebrations spanning several days and involving various collections of people.
The festivities began with my boss taking me out to lunch on the 26th, my actual birthday. Dave gave me choice of restaurant, and I gravitated toward tapas (as I often do) at Mesón Sabika, a delightful restaurant set in a beautiful old mansion in Naperville. Dave invited Travis to join us, and we shared my favorite dishes (queso de cabra and datiles con tocino) and tried a few new ones as well (medallones de solomillo and polla al ajillo), along with the trusty stand-by, patatas con alioli. Yum! I topped it all off with a birthday profiterole.

As if that wasn't enough delicious food for one day, that evening was our family dinner at Buca di Beppo to celebrate my birthday and Tim's, which is the day before mine. The salad, pastas, and entree were delicious, and we wrapped things up with chocolate and vanilla gelato, which Buca serves by the pint along with an ice cream scoop and a painter's palette-type tray filled with cute petite ice cream cones. Forget pasta or pizza...gelato is Italy's greatest gift to the world.

Friday evening was spent with my new roommate, Melissa, and her family who were in town for a few days. Late Saturday morning I met up with Suzy to spectate at the Great Cardboard Boat Regatta in Glen Ellyn. We were there to cheer on our friend Jim, who along with 4 of his buddies has competed in the event for the last several years, winning various awards and distinctions. This year their cardboard creation was fashioned after an electric guitar. Measuring 35 feet in length and weighing over 300 lbs, it was a sight to behold on land. Sadly, it did not fare so well in the water. The guys exploded from the starting line and sped along the straightaway, but had difficulty turning at the first bouy. The wind and the water and the sheer weight of the boat did them in, and the crew got a rude introduction to the murky waters of Lake Ellyn. They went down, but they went down in style and greatly entertained the crowd, which was sad to see such an impressive boat unable to finish the course. You'll get 'em next year, Jim!

I went into Saturday evening anticipating surprise number One. Travis had been planning something for weeks, and although I am admittedly hard to surprise, he did a very good job of keeping me in the dark and throwing me off the scent. My only instructions were to show up at his house at 5:00 on Saturday, looking cute. I left my house early in order to beat the storm that was rolling in, and pulled into his parking lot at 4:30, almost ruining the whole surprise (though unbeknownst to me at the time). I was told to pull around the block and wait until I was summoned, which I did, brimming with curiosity. He came to collect me at 5:00 and led me up the back steps and into the house...at which point I was confronted with 10 of my friends yelling "Surprise!" And indeed it was. I think it was probably a good 2-3 minutes before I could form an intelligible sentence and fully grasp the situation. Once I'd had a few minutes to reconcile my expectations with reality I recovered my ability to speak and started giving hugs all around. The party continued my the running "delicious international food" theme - Travis had ordered carry out tapas from Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, where we'd first met, and other friends had contributed sangria and sides and dessert. It was such a gift to spend time enjoying good food, talking, and playing games with friends I hadn't expected to see.

When it came time to open cards and gifts I learned the identity of birthday surprise #2, which Allison & Alex had planned months in advance. It was a ticket to see the Cirque du Soleil show Kooza the following night! I'd never been to a Cirque show, but had heard Allison & Alex and other friends rave about them, so I was super excited. The show was incredible. According to the production notes, Kooza "is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil: It combines two circus traditions – acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor." As such, it incorporates a lot more of the "traditional" acts you might associate with a circus--clowns, trapeze, high wire, juggling, acrobatics, contortionists, etc. However, being Cirque, these are all accomplished with great artistry, set to riveting live music, and follow a story thread that's woven through the whole show, beginning to end. I am now one of those people who would say that if you have the opportunity to see a Cirque du Soleil show, do it!

After the show, the birthday celebration continued and delicious international food made another appearance with dinner at Quartino, a restaurant that serves Italian food in the tradition of tapas--small plates for everyone to share. The food was excellent, and the gnocci especially stood out as probably the best I've ever had. Yum yum yum.

And so now it is the Wednesday after my birthday, and you'd think I'd be done celebrating, right? Nope! Yesterday I redeemed my coupon for free ice cream at Cold Stone and called it lunch, and tomorrow I'm meeting Bethany for a birthday dinner at Houlihans.
So, when all is said and done, my birthday has been VERY happy (and drawn out) and I'm reminded anew that I have truly WONDERFUL friends. And, I've probably gained a few pounds. :) (But it was worth it.) Thanks to all of my friends and family, both near and far, who celebrated with me!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Now List

Some days, there's something strangely satisfying about filling in the answers to a questionnaire. Especially when the questions are really easy to answer. This is one of those days. And so, here's the Now List, borrowed from Jason Boyett over at his blog.

What I am listening to right now:
The muted sounds of a train rumbling by on the Union Pacific West Line a block away.

What computer I am using right now:
The one at work. It's a Dell. I'm not technical, so that's pretty much all I know about it. It's black. I like it. It's good to me.

What I am eating right now:
My lunch, which consists of pasta salad and baby carrots with hummus. [As an aside, I think baby carrots are one of the greatest "inventions" of the last quarter century, and I'd like to give a shout out to Mike Yurosek who came up with the idea back in the late 1980s. The vegetable section of my food pyramid is visited a lot more often because of him.]

What I am drinking right now:
Water

What I have just finished doing:
Printing labels for data CDs filled with resources for mission education in the local church.

What I will do immediately after posting this:
Wrap up my lunch break and get back to work.

What I am reading now:
Recapture the Wonder by Ravi Zacharias
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Proverbs by King Solomon

Last email I received:
Was two minutes ago, from a friend who'd like me to edit a letter for her (which I am happy to do).

Last text I received:
Was last night, something sweet and profound from my boyfriend.

Last blog entry I read:
The one that came after the one where I got this list, a cautionary post about injuries one might sustain from a case of mooning gone awry, entitled "This Is Why You Don't Do That." It made me laugh.

What I did last night:
Enjoyed dinner with Travis, followed by my weekly bookseller gig at Barnes & Noble.

What I'm doing tonight:
Sorting through some stuff at home so I can start packing. Really. I mean it this time.

What I just looked at right now:
The tub of hummus.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

He Had Me at St. Clarence

Though most in my blog's small circle of readers are already aware of this significant development in my life (one of them even having played a significant role in bringing it about), I feel like it's time to officially introduce into the blogosphere...my boyfriend. Meet Travis:
I did, back in February. Allow me to explain how it all came about. We were introduced by my friend Rachel, who's married to Eric, who's friends with Jon, who's married to Jamie, Travis's sister (when explaining this part I usually map out a little square diagram on the table or whatever surface is nearby...feel free to do this if you're having trouble following along). Rachel subsequently become friends with Jamie as well, and heard her talk about her brother now and then. Rachel told me, "Every time she's spoken about her brother, Travis, and told me of his interests and adventures, I've thought of you. I think it will be great for you two to meet." Needless to say, she was on to something there, and I couldn't be more thankful that she took the initiative to introduce us! (Thanks again, Rae!)

Several months actually passed between the conversation in which Rachel first approached me with the idea and the night Travis and I first met when the six of us went out to dinner. In fact, during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season I all but forgot about it. Looking back, both Travis and I now see God's perfect timing all over the beginning of our relationship. We both feel we would not have been ready--emotionally, mentally, spiritually, relationally, even "schedule-ly"--back in the fall of 2007, but by the end of February the Lord had brought us both to a place where we could give ourselves to a relationship and open up our lives and hearts to another person. I also see God's tender timing in bringing Travis into my life just before the very difficult season in which I had to say goodbye to my grandpa. In the midst of all the sadness and uncertainty of Grandpa's last days, Travis was a tremendous support and what I like to call "a divine distraction." While so many guys would have backed away when a girl they'd just met was all of a sudden traveling through a valley of grief, Travis took a step toward me and walked through that valley with me. That's the kind of man he is.

The past 3 1/2 months have included LOTS of introductions...I've met his friends and family, and he's met many of mine. In fact, we've tried to be really intentional about entering into one another's circles and carrying out our relationship in the midst of that community. One question we've been asked on more than one occasion is, What was it that first grabbed your attention and really attracted you to the other? Well, I guess you could say he had me at St. Clarence.

The Tuesday after our first date (on a Saturday) Travis sent me an email with a poem inspired by my Valentine's Day blog post, in which I mused about what people might say to one another (rather than "Be Mine") if Valentine had been named St. Clarence or Rufus instead (names much harder to rhyme with). With his permission, here's what Travis composed:
For raising a woman
of joyful countenance
a deep thoughtful mind
and lovely appearance
It is time to give honor
and praise to your parents
I send warm regards
this day of St. Clarence
The poem was sweet and made me laugh, and demonstrated his thoughtfulness, creativity, and sense of humor. He had my attention, and from there began to grow in my affections. About a week later, after we'd gone on our second date, Travis sent me a text with a limerick about our date. It was witty, creative, and a LIMERICK, for goodness' sake! At that point I found myself grinning like a fool and thinking, "Lord, only You could bring me a guy who flirts with limericks via text!"

So, that's how it all started. Three and a half months later, I remain wide-eyed in wonder and overflowing with thankfulness at what the Lord has done in bringing such a godly, funny, intelligent, caring, responsible, creative, generous, and tender-hearted man into my life (just a few of the things I appreciate about him!). I'm excited to introduce you to him, as he will now likely be a frequent character in the tales recounted here in Suz's Musings. As Travis & I share our lives with one another--the exciting adventures along with the mundane--we are striving to lay a solid foundation of friendship and trust for a bright future. We desire wisdom and we covet your prayers as we continue to build our relationship and grow up into Christ, who is our Head (Eph 4:15).