Thursday, January 29, 2009

25 Random Things About Suz

So, there's this "craze" sweeping across Facebook called "25 Random Things." It's very simple, really: you write a note listing 25 random things about yourself.

Well, it should be no surprise that I got sucked up into this wave, because it's a list and I'm a sucker for lists. And because I enjoyed reading other people's lists and learning things about them, or remembering things I knew about them but forgot that I knew, or seeing things that we share in common and remembering why we're friends. So, here's my list.

1. I have the tip of a pencil embedded in my left hand from a misguided balloon-popping attempt in third grade.
2. I’ve fractured my left ankle twice—once on the playground (5th grade) and once at Girl Scout camp (6th grade). I’ve also sprained and twisted it numerous times, including one time in health class. Yep – not gym class as you might think, but health class. Lame, I know.
3. I was on the varsity badminton team all four years of high school and competed in the IHSA state tournament my junior year.
4. My stupid human trick is screeching like a monkey. Loudly and convincingly.
5. In the eighth grade all school assembly I was awarded the “Outstanding Home Ec Student” prize, which consisted of a basket full of cooking and sewing implements. If that doesn’t make you cool in the eyes of your peers, I’m not sure what does.
6. I come with knives.
7. My most-often-consumed beverage from Starbucks is a Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte. At Caribou it's a Lite White Sugar-Free Raspberry Mocha.
8. I won the all-school spelling bee in third grade but got out on the very first word in the district bee. I don’t remember what the word was, but I bet I could spell it now.
9. Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year.
10. My brother and I were born seven years and one day apart.
11. In second grade my family got a toy poodle. I named him Frisky. I would dress him up in clothes from my dolls and Pound Puppies; he was a good sport. In his later years, Frisky went blind, lost most of his teeth, and occasionally had seizures. He was a good dog, if a big sickly and neurotic.
12. I love cheese.
13. I’ve worked at Barnes & Noble since 2000.
14. I rode a camel in Morocco.
15. My favorite TV show is the Amazing Race. I have seen every episode of every season. Except the family season, which I stopped watching because it was dumb.
16. I possess the uncanny ability to hit the snooze button repeatedly for an hour or more without ever really waking up or realizing what I’m doing.
17. I played the viola for a year and a half (4th and 5th grade). My dog would howl every time I practiced at home.
18. As a kid I went through a phase during which I tried to convince my parents to let me add another middle name—Cinnamon (which would have made me Suzanne Kay Cinnamon—has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?). When denied, I named my favorite teddy bear Cinnamon instead.
19. Babies make me nervous.
20. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning is one of the most significant books I’ve read along my spiritual journey (outside of the Bible, of course).
21. Some work days the only person I see from 9-5 is the mail carrier.
22. As a kid I would get more excited about going to the stationery and office supply store than to the toy store.
23. Caedmon’s Call is right: “Love is different than you think.”
24. Winter makes me want to bake and make soup.
25. I miss my grandpa.

I would like to add a 26th thing, because I like the number 26 (I was born on the 26th) and because my fiance's list mentioned me three times, and I didn't mention him once in mine, and so here's the super special 26th thing about Suz: I have the best fiance in the world and I am eagerly anticipating the day I get to become his wife (which happens to be 247 days from today).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Return to Big Rock

Yesterday afternoon Travis and I went snowshoeing again, taking advantage of my membership to the Morton Arboretum (which was just renewed for another year by my father--Thanks, Dad!) and the copious snowfall enjoyed by Chicagoland this winter. It was a not-unreasonably cold and unwindy day, which have been rare, and proved perfect for a trek through the woods.

The latter portion of our three hour hike took us down the Heritage Trail and back to "Big Rock," which is (you guessed it) a huge granite boulder geologists believe to have been deposited by glaciers many thousands of years ago. Big rock sits on the dividing line of prairie and forest, causing historians to speculate that it was somehow dragged to its present location by farmers of a bygone era who wanted the obstruction out of their field.

It was on Big Rock that Travis and I took our very first photo together back on March 29th. This was our first trip back to the spot since then, and of course we had to take another photo. It's incredible to think about all that has transpired in between!
As we stood there and reflected, we realized that big rocks have played quite a role in our relationship. It was on this big rock that we took our first photo. It was near the boulder where Travis grew up hunting that he proposed (with a super sparkly rock!). And during a mountain descent last summer Travis picked up what we've come to call "The Rock of Love," a substantial hunk of white (quartz?) rock he found sitting all by itself, gleaming brightly in a field of dark scree. The rock made him think of me, and so he carried it all the way down the mountain, and from Colorado back to Illinois, via Columbus, in his carry-on. For now it rides in the backseat of my car, but we hope to someday display it on a mantle or shelf in our home, with a little placard that says "Rock of Love."

Holiday Highlights

Eek! It's been over a month since I last posted. Time to get something new up here. I'll kick off the year with some a review of the holidays. I was able to take the last two weeks of the year as vacation from work, so my time off matched Travis' time off from school. We relished the freedom, spending lots of time together and with family and friends.

We kicked things off by attending Christmas services at Harvest (on Saturday) and at First Baptist in Wheaton (Sunday morning). Travis got his first glimpse of the sanctuary where we'll be married next fall, and met LOTS of people I know from my many years there who had heard about our engagement and were eager to wish us well.Christmas Eve morning Travis and I went snowshoeing at the arboretum. We experienced our own "Christmas Miracle" when we found Travis' cell phone and keys he'd lost there the day before (when we'd gone for a brief afternoon romp through the snow). Despite the several inches of snow and some freezing rain that had fallen overnight, we came across both items (near where Travis had taken a flying leap into a snow-covered bush, causing the items to fly out of his pockets, which neither of us realized at the time) AND when Travis got home and plugged his phone in later that night, he found IT STILL WORKS! He could give the cell phone manufacturer a great testimonial on the durability of their product, that's for sure.
Snowshoeing (etcetera) at the Arboretum

Later that evening we gathered for dinner with my extended family. It was "the year of the fiance," as I and two of my cousins added our beaus to the mix. Christmas Eve held an undercurrent of sadness for me this year, as the event that had always revolved around my grandpa was punctuated my his absence. I'm glad the family still came together, though, and we enjoyed conversations, games, and laughter back at my aunt's house after dinner.

Travis and I hosted Christmas Day for my immediate family at his house in Chicago. In typical Johnson-family fashion, it was a very relaxed, low-key day of food, presents, and Pixar animation.EARLY the next morning (5:45 to be exact) we hit the road for Michigan. An ice storm had hit overnight, but Chicago's salt trucks had done a good job on the city's roads, so we didn't realize how bad and far-reaching the storm had been until we found ourselves at a stand-still on the highway, just over the Indiana border. The road was a sheet of ice, and we learned the highway was shut down across the entire state of Indiana. And so there we sat, locked in place by the unmoving cars and trucks around us, for THREE HOURS. Thankfully we were able to stay warm enough, even with the car off most of the time. The only food we had in the car were the cookies my aunt had sent home with us Christmas Eve, so those became breakfast. Finally, traffic had shifted enough (every hour or so people up ahead of us became restless and created false hope by moving their cars up a few feet) that a brave soul from behind us was able to squeeze between the two lanes of traffic and make his way up to a break in the median where he pulled a U-turn. We wasted no time in following his lead! We took the next exit and then proceded to slowly follow ice-covered Rt 12 all the way around the lake and into Michigan. Finally, TEN HOURS after we'd left home that morning, we pulled into his parents' driveway in Michigan, rather bedraggled and stir crazy, but gratified that when put to the test, we were able to enjoy the ride and amuse ourselves for 10 hours without any conflict or irritation between us.

We spent that evening and the next two days with Travis' family, exchanging gifts, eating yummy food, playing games, and generally relaxing. It was great. And the trip home only took the usual 4 hours, which was quite a relief!
Family Photo with my New Sister & Brother-in-Law

Monday night (Dec 29th) I received my Christmas present from Travis, which was dinner at Trattoria No. 10 in Chicago, followed by A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater. Dinner was scrumptious, and the play was really well done. Another amazing date!
With my Clean-Shaven Fiance After the Play

Allison & Alex hosted the TU New Years bash this year. The festivities started Tuesday afternoon when friends started arriving from all over the midwest. This year's gathering had more of a chill vibe than years past, which was to everyone's liking. We prepared and ate meals together, played games, told stories, caught up on each other's lives, threw a baby shower for Chris & Janelle (which included a hilarious game of "Pin the Beard on the Baby"), and reflected with thankfulness on our enduring friendships. This was our 10th New Year together!
Chris Playing Pin the Beard on the Baby

My two weeks of family, friends, and freedom wrapped up on Saturday, Jan 3rd with wedding dress shopping. I found my gown in the first boutique we visited (though we went to another before making the final decision, just to be sure). The dress isn't exactly what I'd envisioned myself in when I was poring over bridal magazines, but when I looked in the mirror and saw myself as a bride (veil and all--there's something about putting on the veil that makes you go from a girl in a pretty dress to a bride), I knew it was the one. That evening Alex & Allison introduced Travis & I and Nate & Bethany to their new favorite place for shabu shabu in Chicagoland, Shabu House in Niles. We quickly understood why this place is the best around for this type of cuisine, and we'll be returning for more!