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...


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.