Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday Weekend Report

On Friday I turned 29, and beginning that afternoon (which I took off from work), the whole weekend was celebration. After leaving the office, I used those few extra hours to run some errands and do some shopping...I came home with a new top and skirt from Ann Taylor Loft, birthday presents to myself, I guess you could say (purchased using my $15 off birthday coupon. Let's hear it one more time for birthday coupons!)

Aside from taking a break to get ice cream with friends (free with birthday coupon!), Friday evening was largely spent getting the apartment ready for Sunday afternoon, when Travis and I entertained his family and mine. That evening I also received part one of my gift from Travis, a cute and very comfy shirt he picked out for me all on his own. I decided to wear the shirt with my new skirt to the next day's morning activity (see photo at right) which remained a mystery until we arrived at the Art Institute of Chicago, where we spent the next several hours wandering through the galleries and taking in the art.

We ended our time in the museum's new Modern wing. The architecture and design of the new wing itself is great. The modern art itself...well, I guess I just prefer art to look pretty and like it required actual talent to create it, rather than have art make a statement by presenting disturbing images...or none at all. One multimedia exhibit in particular, entitled "Clown Torture," was just that...and I generally don't mind clowns.

The evening's activity, which also remained a surprise until we pulled up to Navy Pier, was a dinner and fireworks cruise on Lake Michigan. I had asked Travis to give me an occasion to wear a beautiful dress I'd found crazy-on-sale in a little boutique in Oak Park, and he delivered with a wonderful evening of good food, beautiful views of the skyline, dancing and fireworks. It was a humid, drizzly night, so we watched the fireworks from the covered area at the back of the boat instead of going up to the top deck, but it was still very romantic. We attempted to get a good photo, but every time a gust of wind came and blew hair in my face. This was the best of the bunch...makes me laugh.
Sunday's family gathering was a celebration of not only my birthday but also my mom's and brother's as well as Travis's, plus Father's Day. After dinner (which thankfully turned out tasty - I took a big risk and made 3 dishes I'd never made before...pulled pork sandwiches, slow-cooked beans, and coleslaw) we enjoyed cake and ice cream, capping off a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

100 Days to Go!!!

Yes, that fact is worth THREE exclamation points. In the countdown to our wedding day, 100 seems like an important milestone. Tomorrow we enter double digits!

With three months to go, the pace of wedding planning is picking up. This week I've designed our wedding invitations, ordered the paper on which they'll be printed, added some of the final remaining addresses to the guest list spreadsheet, confirmed dates and compiled the invitation lists for various bridal showers and other wedding-related events, and ordered the cake topper...among other things I am sure I'm forgetting.

Tonight Travis and I will celebrate the 100-day milestone with dinner at Flat Top Grill in Oak Park (where I happen to have a birthday coupon that will get me dinner for free. Seriously, it's incredible what you can get for being born and having an email address...I've received coupons for several free meals, free ice cream, free coffee, a free movie, $$ off clothing purchases, and more. The trick is finding time to use all the coupons before they expire! And somehow not gaining 5 pounds along the way.)

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I'll be taking a half day at work, partly in celebration of my birthday, but mostly in an attempt to get a whole bunch of stuff done before Sunday when I entertain the largest group of people yet at the apartment - my parents and brother and Travis' parents and sister and brother-in-law (yes, Sunday is the official "meeting of the parents.") I was very thankful to see on the weather forecast this morning that the high temp for Sunday is expected to be only in the low 80s, instead of the mid-90s we've been "enjoying" all this week. This is good news for my guests and for the air conditioning units in my apartment, which function but do not impress.

Everything needs to get done tomorrow because Saturday has been declared "Suzanne's Day of Birthday Mysteries to be Revealed." Okay, we didn't really give it an official title, but basically the whole day is to be one wonderful surprise after another, compliments of my amazing fiance. I know only when to be ready and what to wear for each segment of the day. Beyond that I have no idea what to expect, but if you've been reading this blog with any regularity, or have met my fiance, you know it's gonna be good. Tune in next week when I reveal what happens!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm a winner! And a writer!

Yesterday I entered a five-sentence romantic story contest put out there by Jason Boyett on his blog. And guess what! Today, I was declared the winner of said contest.

Follow the first link above to view the rules which governed the entries, and then follow this link to read my prize-winning submission inspired by the photo below.
Yesterday I took a few minutes to write a simple story inspired by an absurd photo, but in a way I think I really needed to enter this contest (and winning certainly doesn't hurt). Why? Because in the busyness and stress and activity of moving and wedding planning and juggling the responsibilities of life over the past several months, I'd forgotten that I'm a creative soul who's perfectly capable of writing something more interesting and far more profound than another to-do list or chronicle of recent events. And that doing so can be extremely satisfying, and even a little relaxing.

I want to write more. I think I need to write more. Because writing requires reflection. It necessitates stillness of body and activity of mind, when these days I am more prone to ceaseless activity of body and distraction of mind. I also need to write more because it makes me a better editor. I'm generally more eager to mess with someone else's paragraphs than I am to generate my own, but writing keeps me in touch with the process, strain, and frustration felt by those other writers in producing their product.

Writing my contest entry yesterday rekindled my verbal creativity, while at the same time reminding me that it's a good idea to write from what you know - in this case, PMS and engagement. And that unitards are always hard to take seriously, but funny to write about.

Monday, June 15, 2009 far.

As it tends to do, now that summer is here it's already packed with activity and flying by. I just downloaded some photos from the camera and it made me realize how much we've been up to in just the past two weeks. Curious? Well, here's a little photographic overview of the first half of June:
On Friday, June 5th Travis and I joined with hundreds of other volunteers from our church to serve with Feed My Starving Children, an organization that sends nourishing meals to starving and malnourished children around the world. Each meal packet contains a chicken flavored powder with 20 vitamins and minerals, dehydrated vegetables, soy, and rice. Over 4 days on two campuses, Harvesters packaged over 600,000 meals. And, we had fun doing it!On Saturday, June 6th we saw Gipsy Kings in concert at Ravinia. The weather was unseasonably COLD (in the low 50's), and so we shivered and huddled together for warmth as we picnicked on the lawn. We went with our friends Allison & Alex and Nate & Bethany, who helped me surprise Travis with a little birthday celebration at the end of our meal. I brought a cake and candles, and my friends distracted Travis and blocked his view while I attempted to fit 32 candles on a small cake and get them all lit at the same time (a breeze made the latter endeavor quite difficult, so I finally settled for the majority). When we unveiled the cake to Travis and began to sing Happy Birthday, we were surprised when at least 50 people seated around us joined in the singing!
Tuesday, June 9th was my small group's first "Group Serve" night of the summer. The second Tuesday of each month during our normal small group meeting time we're volunteering to help out ECFA, a great non-profit ministry located in Wheaton, by cleaning their offices. We had a lot of fun serving together the first week, and look forward to July & August!
On Friday the 12th Allison & Alex took Travis and I out to dinner at Gaetano's in Forest Park for a joint celebration of our June birthdays. We did the chef's 4 course tasting menu and enjoyed every bite. In addition to exquisite taste, Gaetano's puts a lot into their presentation. Pictured here is one of the salad plates (pear poached in spiced Chianti served with watercress dressed with apple balsamic, and a warm gorgonzola, walnuts, and mascarpone fondue) and dessert (that's ice cream, chocolate cake, and tiramisu in the flower pot!).
Yesterday morning Travis picked me up at 3:30 (in the morning - did you catch that part?) to head up to the harbor in Waukegan. From there we went out on an 8 hour fishing charter with one of Travis' friends and one of his former students. The fish were not as responsive as the guys would have liked (only 4 fish were brought in, out of 9 bites), but it was a beautiful day to be out on the water, everybody went home with some salmon fillets (which is what I'll be preparing for dinner tonight), and I got to spend some quality "shoulder-to-shoulder" time with Travis that I think helped me better understand my fiance and his love for sports that involve killing things to eat.And finally, last night we had our second-to-last premarital counseling session. Cindy has made dinner for us each time we've met, so this time I volunteered to bring dessert, which gave me an excuse to throw together a pretty summer trifle. We've really enjoyed our sessions with Dave & Cindy and feel like they've been beneficial, giving us a lot to think and talk about as we prepare for marriage. Last night, however, I had a hard time focusing on what was being said, formulating answers that made sense, and not getting defensive about probing questions. Lesson learned: PMS + only 4 hours of sleep + 8 hours in the sun + premarital counseling = not a great combo. I am thankful that everyone took my out-of-nowhere tears gracefully in stride. :)

Though not photographically documented, during the first half of June we were also busy with Travis' big move out of the house where he'd lived for several years. Most of his things are now in our guest bedroom, from whence they will be integrated into the rest of the apartment. Between now and the wedding, Travis will be living with a co-worker in Oak Park who offered him an extra bedroom.

And what will the rest of the month include? Unpacking and putting away Travis' things, more get togethers with friends, my birthday celebration (Travis has something cooked up!), the meeting of the parents, and some hard core wedding planning.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Birthday, Honey!

Today marks the 32nd birthday of my handsome fiance!

We enjoyed the gorgeous weather yesterday afternoon by walking into town, spreading out a blanket in the park, and playing Scrabble in the dappled sunshine. As we were strolling along afterward, Travis commented that this year promises to be his best yet. Anticipating my own birthday at the end of this month, I feel the same way. Looking back, we see how richly we were blessed even as we traveled our separate paths that providentially intersected last February. As I consider the journey of companionship and love that began that day and stretches to the present, and eagerly anticipate what lies ahead, I'm simply amazed at this love God has given us.

Travis, you are a more faithful friend, a more humble leader, and a more tender lover than I could have ever imagined for myself as a partner in life. You have my respect, my love, and my promise to walk alongside of you in covenant commitment each day of our life together. Happy birthday, my love!