December 30, 2012

a merry little christmas.

We've been in Ontario for the last several days. Tomorrow we'll be making the trek back to the G-Raps in order to get into our 2013 groove. Crazy how time flies! 

In the ten days we've been back with family our hands have been filled with chocolate, cups of coffee, many good gifts and adorable babies. Such blessings! The best blessing of all? Jesus, the Light. 

Have a beautiful New Year!

December 01, 2012

one last splash of fall.

I drew this thank you card a few weeks back. It went out to the generous donors who helped with my old high school's fall fundraiser. Thank you donors! You help the Christian education dream live on.

Now I have to draw a Christmas card... really really soon. Today is December, and that means time is RUNNING OUT. So -- onto the drawing board! But first, a coffee. And then probably some other errands and tasks. And then... well... maybe I'll get to it next weekend.

November 17, 2012

the danger of tmi.

For those of you who aren't up to date with the slang, "tmi" (short for too much information) is a phrase used when a person is describing a certain situation or thing in overly articulate and graphic detail. For example, when your friend decides to fill you in on the intricacies of her cat's digestion issues, you could appropriately interrupt her with an urgent "TMI! Please stop talking, oh please stop."

Anyway. I'm not here to talk about the weird habits of felines, but on the far more important issues of scientific advancement, baby genomes, and Down Syndrome... and how having too much information forecasts dangerous change in our culture's moral and ethical standards.

As a prelude: Wayne and I like having little tea/coffee breaks on weekend afternoons or weeknight evenings after work and school is done for the day, and we'll often listen to the charming strains of Al Mohler's voice over the internet waves as we sit and sip. Albert Mohler serves as the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and produces a five minute podcast called The Briefing which provides "a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview" (We highly recommend having a listen!).

On a recent podcast Al talked about baby genomes -- more specifically the considerable headway that genome researchers have made over the last few years. For those that don't know, a genome is the complete set of genetic material of an organism and contains all the biological information within DNA needed for that particular organism to live and develop and grow (that's my non-scientific definition so it's probably not exact... sorry guys). Knowing the contents of a baby's genome can tell us all kinds of things, from the baby's gender to different health issues. Ultrasounds and blood tests offer a great deal of information and these tests are often used to screen in utero babies for things like heart problems and Trisomy 21 (a.k.a. Down Syndrome).

In tests where results return as positive for something like Down Syndrome, parents have the option of continuing with more invasive testing and can proceed to amniocentesis, a test in which amniotic fluid is withdrawn from the uterus in order to examine the baby's chromosomes. Studies show us that only 2-3% of women proceed past the initial basic screening test, and out of those women, 70ish% of them choose to terminate their pregnancies after receiving a definitively positive diagnosis for Down Syndrome (got my info here). Yes, I know. Stats are stats, stats can be misleading, and stats don't always show what's really going on... but I think we can safely say that there are indeed a great deal of babies being aborted based on the results of diagnostic testing.

Now imagine if you could know everything about that wee little baby safe in the womb -- everything from future hair and eye colour, disease and cancer development, athletic and intelligence aptitude -- everything. An article in MIT's Technology Review tells us that this is very much a possibility in the very near future. New studies show that simple blood tests can be used to completely decode a baby's entire genetic makeup. Though there are obviously good and positive and wonderful ways to use this information (like identifying and treating diseases before they can progress), the weight of power we could wield is almost unimaginable. Our culture's moral and ethical responsibilities would be put to a serious test. In this world's eyes, having a baby with Down Syndrome is not ideal -- so given the exact genetic information, what would stop parents from trying to engineer their ideals in even finer detail? "Hey Bobby, yeah, you had three older siblings, but we terminated the pregnancies because the oldest had Down Syndrome, the second was predicted to be diagnosed with leukemia by the age of 16, and the third was just... well, let's just say he was going to be two bricks short of a load. Then you came! Genetic perfection. But, no pressure bud."

Yes, I know, that's a tad overdramatic. But let's be real here -- when this diagnostic testing comes into play, what is there in place to stop parents from aborting their genetically imperfect babies?

Absolutely nothing.

"Come on Suzanne," you say. "No one would abort their baby based on potential academic performance." My response? I seriously hope not. But I would also say that women have aborted their babies for far lesser reasons than that. It's a woman's right to choose, correct? And having a kid who couldn't figure out their multiplication table would just be so inconvenient, but more importantly, too hard on the poor kid. The loving mother is just saving him from academic humiliation, that's all. We wouldn't want to have our kids develop character through hardship or anything like that. That would be silly.

In a time where "being yourself" is so embraced, where diversity is worshipped like a god, where individuality is shoved down our throats, where the word "tolerance" is shot around like a paintball -- the irony of this situation makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. You can't have it both ways, world. You just can't.

The thought of what we could lose (and already have lost) is horrifying. I realize I'm projecting a state of mind onto our culture that hasn't yet come to fully exist, but I'm just going by what I've seen, and to me, it's just the natural unfolding of moral and ethical deterioration.

If we lived in a time and culture where imperfection wasn't so taboo and where convenience didn't outweigh the life of a child, I would be completely overjoyed by the furthering of MIT's research. Yes, I'm extremely glad for the lives it will save and the people it will help, but the potential for much worse is there too. I suppose the danger isn't really in having too much information -- but more so what we do with it.

And what would our Uncle Bill say about all this?

"I was born that way." 

And we wouldn't change him for anything in the world. 

November 02, 2012

the real friday night lights.

A confession -- I still don't understand how football works. I know the basics: the scoring system, the end zone, touchdowns, tackles. But in terms of critiquing good plays, smart strategies and dumb moves... I'm lost.

I blame this on my Canadian upbringing. Football was that American sport where large men piled on top of each other and the ball didn't move much. My boredom with the sport may also have had something to do with growing up in a hockey family -- hockey is fast-paced, the puck moves around a lot more than the pigskin, and there are less lines to deal with -- only five! Plus they're colour-coded. Nice.

Also, the whole high school football thing doesn't really exist in Canada. Sure, Canadian high schools have football teams... probably... somewhere. Maybe. But the jocks that all the girls want to date in Canadian high schools are the right wing forwards or the libero on the volleyball team. QB? What's a QB? A... quesedilla burrito? Sounds okay. I prefer fajitas.

We've been in Michigan for over a year now and have almost reached the end of another high school football season. When we moved here we were stunned at the size of high school football stadiums -- stadiums that dwarfed my alma mater's stadium, stadiums with enormous lights blazing onto astroturf, stadiums right next to glimmering lakes that reflect the waving of the giant American flag standing guard. Our interest piqued, we decided to go to a Friday night football game.

The strange phenomenon of the high school football culture has completely blown our minds.

If you've ever wondered why Hollywood is flooded with so many high school football-themed movies (Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans and The Blind Side, to name a few), I can assuredly say that the reason for this lies in the complete hothouse of drama and chaos that takes place during a Friday night football game.

First of all, the football players themselves. These guys are just pulsing with adrenaline and so focussed on the game that they don't notice the late October temperatures or the cute water girls who poke into their huddles to pass around gatorade and winks. Okay, maybe not winks. But that's somewhere in the back of their minds, I'm sure. Then there are the coaches who just about lose their minds screaming at either their players or the refs. They march out on the field, faces red, shoulders hunched, only to have a yellow penalty flag thrown at their feet (resulting in more anger).

Then, the fans: I had never realized this before, but there's a Students Only section of the stands. This area houses hundreds of raucous high school students who scream and pound the bleachers and coat their faces with layers of warpaint. Beside them is where the Marching Band sits when they're not dancing around the field. These kids, dressed in their super goofy (yet somehow impressive) marching band outfits, spend the game sporadically bursting into pump-up music then put on a real show during halftime... usually an attempt at a current Lady GaGa hit. Yikes.

The rest of the crowd consists of parents and siblings and next door neighbours. All of these people are wearing The North Face coats. I kid you not. Not sure if they're the official sponsor of high school football or something, but Wayne and I enjoyed counting how many of these jackets walked past us. Around us parents are discussing how to housetrain a golden retriever, how the swim team will do this season, and how they think the vote will go this year. More recent high school grads, back for homecoming, reminisce about games that happened back in the day. Snarky middle school girls parade back and forth along the stands, anticipating the day when they can sit in the hallowed student-only section. One of the girls calls to another in the stands, "Wow, I can't believe it, you actually came to a game..." The girl sitting in the bleachers stiffens and calls back "What do you mean? I'm always at the games!" The first girl laughs carelessly and walks on, a posse of diet Pepsi-toting friends following behind her.

So incredibly glad not to be that age anymore.

Another group of girls walks by -- high school girls coming back from the concession stand with hot chocolate in their hands, undoubtedly to help them warm up since their outfits consists of thin leggings and trendy cardigans in the 45 degree F weather. We're hit with a cloud of teenage perfume, a smell that brings me right back to the hallways of my own high school.

Amidst all this teenage drama is pure chaotic fun being had by an innumerable amount of little kids -- kids who have been set completely free (within the bounds of the stadium) to run and run and run and run and spend sweaty little handfuls of dimes on sweaty little handfuls of candy. By the beginning of the second quarter these tots have hit an all-time sugar high and with perma-wide eyes are providing a constant flow of commentary to their parents about the happenings around the field.

The halftime show courtesy of the marching band brings enthusiastic cheering from parents, and Wayne and I laugh into our mittens when the homecoming king and queen parade down a red carpet into the centre of the field to be crowned while sitting in plastic chairs-turned-to-thrones. We think it's completely absurd, but I'm sure that everyone around us would disagree. "I love this part of homecoming," says one middle-aged man. "It's just so fun for the kids." You're entitled to your own opinion, sir.

By the fourth quarter, the sugar-hyped kids have completely and fully crashed. They lean into their parents' shoulders, whining about how cold they are and how annoying their brother is and "When are we going to go hoooooommmmmmme?" The underdressed high school girls have surrendered fashion to warmth and have somehow produced North Face jackets to fight the cold. The football players know they've got the game under control, and we've decided that they don't need us there to help them finish up. We sneak out early to avoid the post-game traffic jams and are quite alright with missing the end of the game if it means warming up. Those metal bleachers are cold.

It's a whole different world, that stadium. We enjoy going to the games, but we're perfectly okay with the fact that we missed out on our own high school football experience. It's a rather chilly hobby, and I don't know that I could afford a North Face jacket.

October 27, 2012

what not to say when someone dies.

It's been three years today since my Dad died. Ugh, that still sounds so terribly blunt. To be perfectly honest, I have a hard time believing that three years have already passed by. I can go right back to that moment in my basement the morning after we learned of his death, sitting beside my now-husband saying "I don't think I can do this -- I could barely get through last night. How am I supposed to get through the next week -- the next year -- the rest of my life -- with him just gone?"

This thought was running through all of our heads -- just this unbearable weight of grief that we didn't know what to do with or how to hold properly. And yet, three years have gone by and somehow we're all still here. Changed, yes, but here.

Through my experience with grief and death and funerals and freezers full of strange lasagna, I've learned a couple of things. Not many things -- but at least three things, which I'll share today. So, without further ado -- what not to say when someone dies and you're standing in line at the wake waiting to talk to the family and thinking about how terribly sad and awkward this is.

1) "Your life will be so different now."

I'll just say this right away -- it's going to take a great deal of self-discipline to not be sarcastic in this post. But come on. Do you really think I haven't realized that my life has been utterly and completely changed with the loss of one of the most important men in my life? I'm perfectly aware that this death has thrown my life onto a totally different track than the one I had anticipated for myself, but thanks for the clarification.

(Sorry. Couldn't quite avoid the sarcasm.)

2) "You're going to have a completely different group of friends now." 

Definitely something my mother did not need to hear while standing beside my dad's casket. Not only had she just lost her spouse, but someone felt it necessary to inform her that all her friendships with other couples would fall apart and her only option would be to hang out with other widows.

For the record, this hasn't happened.

3) "Oh, this is just so sad. But I know this couple who lost all four of their parents, one of their siblings, and their infant twins all within 2 months... and now they both have cancer."

No one actually said this exact thing to us, but you get my point. I know that there are people with worse stories than mine. I'm quite aware that my situation is like a Florida vacation compared to what others are struggling through. I'm genuinely sorry for those people, and hope dearly that they'll be able to get through their own dark valleys. But right now, at this moment, I'm standing across from my dad's lifeless body and being indirectly told to "suck it up" is not what I need to hear. Is this selfish? I'm not sure. But it's how I felt, and how I'm sure most people would feel were they in the same situation.

"Okay Suzanne," you're saying. "You've sassed us long enough. You must think you're pretty funeral-savvy. What are we supposed to say in the awkward sad lineup at the wake?"

Two words:

I'm sorry. 

That's it. That's all you need to say. It's that simple. Sure, there are other appropriate things to say and do (like give a bear hug! Mmm), but this is the easiest, most basic approach. There's a long line behind you. The family is exhausted emotionally and physically. A long conversation or an offer to help with something is best saved for another time and place. Going to the visitation is a quiet, simple way to show the grieving family that you love them and are hurting for them and want to support them. And that's it.

I'll be honest, though -- despite my funeral expertise, I still dread going to wakes and funerals because here's the thing -- I still sometimes can't think of what to say. This is why I can't hold bitterness in my heart towards the people who spoke thoughtlessly. It doesn't matter what you've been through, death is still hard, and it's still a challenge to know what to say and how to act. It's hard to know how to deal with it. It's hard to know how to get down to the level of grief that someone else is experiencing and find the right level of compassion and sympathy, even if you're someone who has been in that same place.

With this in mind, I swept the thoughtless comments aside and just kept the wisdom gained through those experiences for use when necessary. In short -- we're humans and we're terrible at loving each other well. Fortunately God sent Someone who could completely identify with our sorrow and grief and pain... because without Jesus I may have had a little less patience in that lineup. Thanks be to God for another year of His love, provision, and grace.

October 22, 2012

clean eating and why chickens stress me out.

A few weeks ago my boss was going to get rid of some magazines that had been hanging around the waiting room for too long. They were some back issues of "Clean Eating", a magazine that's packed with recipes for meals that are "clean" -- meaning healthy and natural by whatever means possible. I took them home because though I don't consider myself a gourmet cook, I enjoy looking through new recipes and trying out a few here and there.

Well... I ended up getting rid of the magazines anyway. Here are a sampling of some of the ingredients needed to perform these acrobatic feats of recipes:

Black bean veggie burgers
Chevre goat cheese
Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted 100% whole grain flourless bread
Soba noodles
Chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
Bocconcini cheese
Udon noodles
Oricchiette pasta
Armenian crackers


Honestly. I have a hard enough time finding the mozzarella cheese in my grocery store, never mind that Biblical bread. And what's wrong with Ritz crackers? Why do I have to use Armenian?! Sheeeez! I have willingly and happily gone back to my Taste of Home recipe books.

In other news, this past weekend I cooked a whole chicken all by myself for the first time ever. It was a ridiculously low sale price at the grocery store and I thought it'd be a fun adventure. Well... it was an adventure, anyway.

First I had to defrost the thing which took several days. Then I had to take the gizzards out. UGH. Won't go into detail there. Then comes the stressful process of cooking the thing and trying to figure out whether or not it's done and whether or not you're going to treat yourself and your spouse to a lovely round of salmonella food poisoning because the digital thermometer can't seem to make up its mind about whether the dang bird is hot enough. Then, hours later, you eat a pile of meat that tastes really good but this doesn't erase the fact that you're totally paranoid about ingesting bacteria and you sit through a movie all evening wondering when you're going to start throwing up. After this you have to peel the remaining meat off the carcass and chuck the thing in the dumpster then sit in a house that smells like Swiss Chalet gone a little... off. Then you go to bed and have dreams about raw chicken.

Conclusion: Chickens stress me out. Maybe one day I'll try it again. But for now... stir fry! Yay!

October 19, 2012


On Fridays I like to blast music like this. Sorry, neighbours. 

Sometimes I even dance to the above music like I'm a real hip hop star, as the kids say these days. I'm pretty sure I look this intense when I dance:

But Wayne would probably tell you otherwise. Mostly I look like a white girl in her 20s pretending to dance well to reformed hip hop. 

In any case, go dance a little. It'll make you feel happy. 

October 15, 2012

the wedding pt. 6: the gents.

Six men stood up for Wayne at our wedding. Six super guys. Six guys who didn't get to spend the day lounging around posing all snazzy-like for weddings photos and smoking cigars. We put them to work -- hard work -- because weddings aren't about fun. They're all about doing things you'd rather not spend your day doing but you do them because you kind of like the people who are getting married.


Okay, it wasn't that bad. But these boyz did a lot for us, including but not limited to...

1. Throwing Wayne a perfectly respectable (though not un-crazy) weekend-long bachelor party involving a cottage, bacon, beer, and lots of paintball.

2. Posing all snazzy-like in 40 degree celsius heat and humidity while wearing suits for wedding photos. In my experience most guys don't enjoy spending several hours having photos taken of them, but all six of these guys did it happily (or at least faked it well). 

3. Buying new suits. As with the bridesmaids, we gave the guys complete freedom in attire (provided the suit was black and wearable). They all opted to just buy a new suit instead of renting a tux (ends up costing the same, and you get a new suit out of the deal!) and looked pretty first class.

4. Being completely ridiculous during the rehearsal and causing us to go way overtime. I don't regret any of it. 

5. Taking care of business. When a couple plans on becoming aliens by moving from one country to another, there are certain legal procedures that need to take place and certain things that need to be submitted to certain governments (ie passports, visas, signatures... and marriage licences.). Say a hypothetical couple plans on moving from one country to another five days after getting married and can't receive some sort of important piece of paper needed for a particular border crossing until submitting their marriage license. Well, that's where the super men came in. As soon as the marriage licence was signed, that baby was faxed and UPS-ed by our groomsmen to the important people who could get us places... and we got our papers just in time. I MEAN... the hypothetical couple got their papers just in time. Phew. 

This picture is not showing how Wayne feels about tying the knot. We're discussing legal documents. Happy wedding day!

6. Rocked it as co-MCs. Yeah, we made them multi-task. Plus, they were really funny. Thanks guys. 

7. Disc-jockeyed those mP3 files like a boss. No, we didn't hire a DJ. We just asked our bro to man the soundboard and let the speakers do their thang. And Eric, you did a fab job, even if you're still confused by our profound love for Christian hip-hop.

Such excellent men. 

{All photos courtesy of Darryl Schipper Photography. }

October 12, 2012

indian baby!

Our friends had a baby two weeks ago -- a very delightfully sweet caramel macchiato baby boy. We were headed back to Ontario for Canadian Thanksgiving and made last minute plans to drop in and visit the newest addition to the family and so I scrambled to make a baby card for them. Unfortunately I was in a bit of a rush and didn't colour as carefully as I normally would have, and as a result the baby looks Indian. Canadian + Jamaican = Indian baby. Not sure how that math works out. But there you have it. Arghhh! Babies! So wonderful.

September 24, 2012


Reasons why September has been nice thus far:

1. The heat is gone. GONE! VANISHED! DISSIPATED! I love summer with all my heart but the endless 100+ degree days this year was just too much for me. My crippled garden still depresses me. I sound like I'm 93. Anyway. These sunny cool days and chilly nights have me dancing the rumba.

2. Somewhat related to above, but I can use my oven again and not melt in a gross Indiana Jones puddle on the floor!

3. Soup for dinner!

4. I, along with a team of champs, painted and cut out a 30 foot tall tree for a sermon series at our church. Nothing more therapeutic than painting a 30 foot tall tree out of cardboard.

5. I learned how to cut garlic properly. I love garlic. I put it in everything. However, the dicing of garlic made me sad, because it was such a pain to do. Silly me. There's a proper way to do it that saves everyone time and sanity. And probably fingertips, too.

{our tree}

Reasons why September hasn't been entirely nice thus far:

1. I burned my arm on steam from our kettle. Big burn. As in cover the children's eyes Burn. It's absolutely going to leave a scar the size of Newark. STEAM WILL BURN YOU. If you ever doubted that... come see my arm. On the upside, when I burned myself, I didn't even swear! yay!

2. Wayne is back in school. Don't get me wrong, this is good! This is why we are where we are! But getting back into the school groove is always a challenge after a summer of lounge-y laziness. Okay, only a little bit of laziness. Summer was still pretty darn busy.

3. All the trappings of Halloween are out in full force. Gah. So tacky. Don't get me wrong... I love a nice evening of pumpkin carving. But in what other part of the world is it cute to hang a warty old hag on the front door and coat your porch in spider webs? I'm trying to keep the spider webs OFF, thank you very much. Also, to whom it may concern, do yourself a favour and please don't dress up as a skanked out nurse this year. It's not hygienic at all. 

...And that's pretty much it. S out. 

September 01, 2012

baseball brain.

Growing up, my parents had all six of their children signed up for some form of softball at one point or another. I remember going to watch my three older siblings play softball and thinking it was great -- although I don't remember much of the games. I was more interested in playing in the piles of field line chalk. Weird kid.

My turn came. I was willingly signed up for a local little league team that consisted of a bunch of distracted 8-year-olds. I don't remember much of this time in my life -- but think Brian Regan. Most of the memories I do have involve my coach telling me to pay attention because I'd be standing in the outfield doing this:

I was not destined to be a great ball player. About halfway through elementary school, however, my parents coerced me onto another team for a summer. I was not happy. I don't blame them, though -- I'd do the same if one of my kids spent the majority of the summer with her nose in a book and hating birthday parties.

Like I said, weird kid. 

That summer confirmed the fact that I was never to achieve greatness in softball. I dreaded Wednesday nights because a softball game meant:

a) Experiencing emotional trauma by continually striking out, or 
b) Getting a walk, then having to run around the dang bases with my clumsy pre-adolescent giraffe legs  while avoiding being attacked with the ball by psycho infielders, 
c) Watching the just-as-psycho outfielders close in on me when I stepped up to bat,
d) Standing in right field trying to force myself to pay attention,
d) Having to communicate with other people I barely knew. coughintrovertcough. 

I got through that summer determined to never play baseball again. Then I married Wayne.

Wayne loves baseball. He loves it with all his heart. It makes his eyes light up and his face glows... GLOWS when he gets near a diamond with his bag full of cleats and gloves and baseballs and water bottles. When he has a little bit of free time he'll come up to me with a face like this:

And ask if we can please please please play catch. I do like playing catch -- in fact, I've got a mean curveball goin' on. But to actually play a game of baseball -- well... that's, as they say, a whole different ballgame. 

Wayne's been on a city rec league all summer and has signed up for the fall league as well. I go every week and cheer noisily. That's an easy job. No running involved (though no longer pre-adolescent, the legs are still reminiscent of a giraffe's). 

There are weeks, however, where not enough women show up. Each team needs a certain number of women or else they forfeit. You'll be glad to know that despite my fear of organized team sports, during these not-enough-women occasions, I step up to the plate. 

Get it? Haha!


My summer experiences on the field have again confirmed that I am not a baseball star. Wayne and I have determined, though, that it is not because of insufficient athletic capabilities (though there's a lot of that lacking as well). It's mostly because I don't have a baseball brain. 

On our drive home from the diamond this week, Wayne asked what was going through my brain while standing at second base during the last play of the game from just before the pitch onward.

Suzanne's brain: Okay. Focus. Focus. One more out... what did I have to do yet tonight? I think I have to write that email to my mom for those recipes. I wish I had worn my sunglasses out here, I can't see much. Although they fall off a lot and that's just as annoying. I wonder if I can fix them? Hm. FOCUS. Argh. Focusfocusfocus. Okay. If the ball comes to me... um... whatever. It probably won't. My feet are hot. NO. Focus. Hocus Pocus Focus. Foooooocus. What a weird word. There's a runner coming to second if the ball's hit. Get him out. Probably. Somehow. Then throw it to first? There's the pitch. I hope that squeaking the car's making isn't the brakes. GAH! NO! NOT TO ME! NOT TO ME! heyIcaughtit!!! PUMMEL RUNNER COMING TO SECOND IN THE STOMACH WITH GLOVE! What the. I just ended the game! Hurrah! I'm not useless! Man I feel gritty. Shower? Yes please! 

Wayne at shortstop: Suzanne, you could have just touched the base, it was a force out. 

Suzanne: Oh.

Wayne says that when he's in a ball game, his mind is on overdrive, planning strategies and orders in which to throw the ball and figuring out what to do in the hundreds of different scenarios that could take place when that bat hits the ball. My mind... is not. I'll just stick to making baseball-themed birthday cakes.

August 28, 2012

hard things.

I'm not sure if the world is experiencing more pain in general as time goes by, or if it's simply because I'm growing older and knowing more people and therefore hearing about and feeling and experiencing a greater deal of hurt and hardships -- most likely the latter. It's a part of being a future pastor's wife I hadn't really considered. We're getting to know a fair amount of people in many different communities, and Wayne has only been in seminary for one year -- I can't imagine how many people we'll know after 20-30-40 years in the business. Accompanied with knowing a greater number of people is the fact that we'll be sharing a greater amount of grief and suffering with those people.

We got our first taste of tragedy within our new communities this past summer. Our next door neighbours lost their baby girl at 38 weeks -- a seemingly healthy baby girl with a strong heartbeat who just faded away for no apparent reason.

We grieved and prayed with Charity's parents and struggled to understand the reason for such a short life when everything seemed so promising.

We have no answers for why these things happen, and probably won't for a very long time. Through the grief and pain that I've experienced I've learned that there aren't answers, only time to heal, rest in Jesus, and look to the day when the Lamb who is seated on the throne will come and make all things new (Rev. 21:5).

August 03, 2012

dahlia explosion.

Spent last night drawing a thank you card. Am suddenly obsessed with dahlias -- now if only I could grow them! This hot & dry summer has not been helpful to my garden, so I shall draw flowers instead. They don't require water, only late nights and a steady hand. And lots of markers and sugar and KB's new album, Weight & Glory. Hip hop to the max, oh yes. 

Wayne just preached on that passage there last week! Cool beans! Go seminary husband go!

July 31, 2012

bonhoeffer. so intense.

Oh my! It's Dietrich Bonhoeffer! In my basement!

No it's not. Don't be silly.

I'm nearly done reading this book. It's a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and biographies are the best types of books, because they're real life and everything in them actually happened. Thrills, man. Thrills.

Now if you're reading a biography that happens to be terribly boring, I'm very sorry. Biographies should not be boring. Give it up and go read this one instead.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor in Germany during World War II. He was determined to preach the gospel despite the dangers and threats posed by the Third Reich during Hitler's maniacal reign. This book, skillfully woven together by the brilliant Eric Metaxas, follows Bonhoeffer as he figures out his role in the awful war that ravaged not only Dietrich's beloved home country of Germany, but the entire world.

This guy becomes a spy. When one becomes a spy, generally no one save certain VIPs are aware that said person is a spy. When Bonhoeffer got his spy on in order to help further the plots to assassinate Hitler, he gave up his reputation, certain relationships, and safety.

You're needing inspiration? Read this. It's like getting a karate chop to your soul.

Weird analogy. Apologies. Now I'm going to go make a cake.

July 19, 2012

get your tutu on.

I think probably most little girls want to be a ballerina at some point. Angelina Ballerina nurtured my desire to dance. I wasn't a little white mouse, but I was a little girl who thought she had some serious prima ballerina potential. 

Then I grew to be over six feet tall. No ballet man wants to do lifts with a girl who's over six feet tall. Ballet man? Is that even a proper term? Probably not. Having been shunned from the land of ballet, my tall sisters and I stuck to doing our own versions of arabesques in our living room to the techno beats of our Hooked on Classics record. 

My dancing skills never quite reached the level of Angelina Ballerina. I'm okay with that. I'll just draw ballerinas instead. Voila! The first five positions -- the only ballet positions I actually ever learned. I think they're correct. If not... well... don't use these as guidelines if you're learning to be a real ballerina. That's all. 

July 16, 2012

the wedding pt. 5: the ladies

So it turns out that being a bridesmaid is a lot of work. It's fun work, but work nonetheless that requires time and patience and good scrap-booking skills. Okay, not always true for the scrap-booking skills. But my lack of skill in that department was a bit of a boon when trying to help my sister make invitations for her wedding. Yes, Marcella, the messed up invites were probably the result of my sub-par workmanship and bad relationship with glue sticks. Sorry about that.

Knowing that being a bridesmaid takes work, I almost felt a bit bad asking my friends and sisters to be in my wedding party. I made myself feel better about this by taking on the bulk of the wedding planning myself so that I wouldn't have to put stress on anyone else. Or... I'm just a control freak. Probably the latter. My poor younger sisters/maids of honour come up to me a few weeks before the wedding and say, "So... it's almost your wedding and we haven't helped with anything. Is there anything you want us to do?"

I should probably learn to delegate.

I had six girls on my side of the wedding party -- four sisters, one future sister-in-law, and one dear friend I had the fortune of meeting during my university days. Their heights ranged from 5'5" to 6'2". Two of them would be 7 months pregnant by the time our wedding date rolled around. The issue of attire was a bit of a burning question.

What I did know is that I wasn't going to lead 6 girls around trying to find a matching dress that would suit them all perfectly. That is something we like to call impossible. Instead I picked a colour (royal blue-ish, give or take a shade) and sent them off into the world of retail to fend for themselves. Price, style, frills -- twas all up to them.


Hi Rhi. 

Those babies are now born and cuter than you could possibly imagine. 

I think it worked well, considering I didn't see all the dresses together until the day of the wedding.  Haha. If I had a wedding planner she/he'd probably lose her/his mind... but it's way more fun this way.

July 14, 2012


This is what happens when our pyrotechnic-happy neighbours set off fireworks during a summer drought and one escapes to the other side of the fence. At least... we think that's what happened. We're not sure. All we do know is that suddenly the grass behind the seminary houses was on fire in a nice little circle. We also now know that seminarians make pretty good firefighters. I could now begin making really lame jokes about seminarians putting out fires... but starting fires in people's hearts... the Holy Spirit... etc.... but I won't.

You're welcome.

July 10, 2012

the kumquat kid.

When I feel overwhelmed and over-busy and overtired I take a break by watching youtube movies of parents torturing their children with citrus fruits. Makes me feel better every time.

June 20, 2012

on being domestic.

Meet my mom: the CEO of her own business, which she and my dad started in 1977. She spent 21 years previous to 1977 training for this position, and now has almost 35 years of experience under her belt. Despite losing her business partner of 32 years back in 2009, she has pressed on and continues to run the business with success (along with the help of her six very awesome board members) while working tirelessly on her expanding career. Now that is a resume. Her official title? Homemaker extraordinaire. She also teaches on the side -- just for fun, right mom? :)

My mom taught me a lot about the different departments of running a house (e.g. sitting on a chair while vacuuming is not effective). Most of what she taught me has stuck pretty firmly in my head, but there is a whole lot I haven't managed to figure out yet.

Some examples:

1. Fitted bed sheets.

I cannot fold these. Cannot cannot cannot. 

This is what it always seems to look like after my attempt at a nice folding job. It probably doesn't help that we have a king-sized bed which makes the sheets enormous -- while I'm holding the one corner, the other corner is probably out somewhere in Chicago having a slice of deep dish pizza.

While folding sheets back at home, my dear patient mother showed me countless times how to tackle a fitted sheet. I'd make a weak attempt and shove it in the closet, hoping no one would see it. I'm pretty sure my mom would find it later on and refold it -- there's some talents that I'll just never grasp, I guess.

2. Fluted pie crusts (and pastry dough in general)

Pie dough is so fickle! If the humidity on a pie-making day is a little wacky, then too bad, Chef Suzy, your pie is gonna suck. The pie I was making on this particular day drove me bonkers. The dough would not. roll. out. I almost cried and took out the countertop with my marble rolling pin. That would have done some serious damage, so I'm glad I refrained and just took a photo instead.

My mom is an expert pie-maker. Though I do have memories of her shouting at fickle pie dough (even chefs with decades of experience will have a bad pastry day every once in awhile) and chucking whole cakes in the garbage and of things catching on fire inside the stove (a leaking fruit pie... PIES! THEY CAN BE SO EVIL! but yet so tasty), she's a bonafide country-fair-blue-ribbon-winning pie queen. Most of the time she'll whip together pie dough in 5 minutes flat and toss it in the plate and fill 'er up with cinnamony apples and then flute those edges like you've never seen edges fluted before. When I try and flute my edges they're all lumpy and uneven, and it looks even worse after it's been in the oven, if that's even possible.

A confession, mom: I've resorted to using a FORK to line my crust! More than once. Obscene.

And don't even ask what's going on with the weird diamond shapes. It was a bad pastry day, and 'twas all I could manage.

There are, of course, more things that I'm not very good at. But I've got years to get those things figured out -- and maybe next time I'm back home in Ontario my mama will give me a pie-fluting tutorial... but I've quite given up on the fitted bedsheets. I'll leave that to the pros.

June 15, 2012

I AM your Father.

Father's Day is coming up. For many it's a day of celebration and outdoor barbecues; a day of beer on the back deck while flipping burgers on the grill and enjoying a good chat with dad. For perhaps just as many, though, it's a day that highlights the pain and regret of broken relationships with fathers who have failed to meet expectations or just haven't been there (see above -- Darth Vader for a dad? That'd be tough). I'm somewhere in the middle -- Father's Day brings bittersweet thoughts of what was and what could have been had my dad been diagnosed properly almost three years ago. But I'm also incredibly thankful that I have a dad worth celebrating -- a father who was a father, if that makes any sense. He had good relationships with all six of his children and their significant others. He worked hard and made incredible sacrifices for all of us. He knew how to love us well.

And now he celebrates Father's Day with his Father -- the ultimate Father -- the I AM. And that's why Father's Day should be a glorious day of celebrating, no matter where your earthly father is at -- because our Almighty God and Father is always at our side. Amen and Amen!

June 13, 2012

on forgetting my birthday.

You know how when you're in your 20s suddenly it's not socially acceptable to go up to strangers and declare 


It's just not really kosher.

Keeping this rule of social acceptance in mind, I did not inform my boss and coworker that my birthday was happening when it was. Maybe it would have been different had I been working at my job for longer than 1.5 months, but at the time, it was still in that "I'm new and can't remember half of what you tell me" phase so to go around like a hyped-up 8-year-old on a bakery frosting diet shouting to the nations that it was the anniversary of my birth was not something I was itching to do. 

This Monday: The boss (Dr. L) asks how my weekend was. I go through the somewhat exciting events of the weekend, then joyously inform her that Wayne finally found a long-sought birthday present for me (a fantastic croquet set) and we played croquet like mad for hours on Sunday evening... cue conversation in which Suzanne says silly things:

Suzanne: GAH! I can't believe I just said that! Now she's gonna know it was my birthday recently and that I didn't tell them!
Dr. L: Hey... Was it your birthday recently and you didn't tell us!? When was your birthday?!
Suzanne: (Trying to play it cool but mostly just appearing like she doesn't know when her own birthday is) Oh, um... like... uh...I think in May. Yeah. May. (Really? I think?)
Dr. L: Oh you!! What day?
Suzanne: Uhhh... the 2nd?? Yeah. The 2nd.

So apparently my natural instinct is to try and make the Dr. feel better about not knowing when my birthday was by pretending that I have no idea when my own birthday is. Don't worry about it, Dr. L, my birthday's a sneaky one, it changes all the time -- might be in September next year! Catches me off guard, too. I'm actually not even sure if my name is Suzanne. That's also a big fat unknown. Life can be tricky.

Lesson learned. Just be the hyped-up 8-year-old and proclaim your birthday loud and clear. Probably more fun that way, too.

June 11, 2012

pop! whiz! bang!

Fireworks give me warm memory fuzzies.

Not sure what warm memory fuzzies are. I'll get back to you on that.

In other words, I have fond memories of going out with family as a kid to see the local fireworks displays on Victoria Day and Canada Day. It was a huge event -- took all afternoon to get six hyperactively excited children packed into the family van with lawn chairs and blankets and layers of clothes for the evening chills and juice boxes and cherry and licorice twizzlers.

Then the chaos of getting to the park and trying to keep all six hyperactively excited children corralled began -- picture a local park in the dark with hundreds of kids hyped up on a school-free day of sun, probably too much coke and other assorted sugary holiday food items being absorbed into their blood streams, and then you'll just about get what it was like for our parents to keep things under control.

Okay, we weren't that bad. But it probably wasn't as pleasant an experience for my parents as it was for us kids.

Once we got older we'd stay home and have our own little fireworks display in the backyard -- not nearly as dramatic as the city show but a lot more up close and personal -- diving to avoid rogue firecrackers, that sort of riotously dangerous fun.

Over time we even halted the backyard pyrotechnics and we took to clambering up on the roof of our house to watch the fireworks going off in town. Gave our mother heart palpitations, I'm sure, but you're invincible at 16, everyone knows that.

Now we're all older and far too mature and wise to hike to the top of a two-storey house (right guys?). My last Victoria Day in Canada was spent with some family members who shall remain nameless in the church parking lot next door setting off a couple subpar firecrackers like a bunch of teenage hooligans.

But we're not teenage hooligans, despite what this picture may look like. We're responsible adults with jobs and car insurance. Remember that.

And now I'm in Michigan, where the sale and use of stronger and louder residential firecrackers has been legalized -- and our neighbourhood is putting their rights to really good use. Excessively good use. 

In Ontario, you're only allowed to set off firecrackers on the actual designated holiday, along with the two days before, and the two days after. Here in good old Michigan, there have been firecrackers going off behind our house every night for the last three weeks. Three. Weeks.

I fear my warm firecracker memory fuzzies are fading... and fading fast. I'm going to bed with earplugs tonight.

June 09, 2012

flour power.

HAH -- I was right -- flour IS the culprit in all my baking failures over the last 10 months!

If you're confused, go read this.

Whenever we have visitors from Canada, we'll often ask them to bring us some of the Canadian luxuries that we can't find here. I know, this is America, what does Canada have that the U.S. in the 21st century doesn't?

Ketchup chips (among other things).

Anyway. When Wayne's family was here visiting a few weeks ago, my mom-in-law was kind enough to bring me a nice little bag of Canadian Robin Hood flour (what is with flour companies naming their product after mythical British figures?). I was determined to get to the bottom of my baking woes -- determined. I refuse to let silly ingredients and my psychotically over-hot oven destroy my love for all things absolutely non-gluten-free.

I grew up in a family with very firm weekend meal traditions in place -- spaghetti on Fridays and pizza on Saturdays (and no, we're not Italian... or Eyetalian, as the Dutch say). Not only did Wayne grow up with similar traditions, and not only are these two meals extremely delicious, but it's also wonderful to hit Friday and not have to decide what to plan for the next two nights' meals -- so we've stuck with the traditions.

With our Friday night spaghetti we switch between having cheese bread (courtesy of Wayne's family traditions) and homemade biscuits (my fam). I know, biscuits are something you have with tea and jam, or soup, or milk if you're British. We, however, like them with our spaghetti. They're fluffy and light and perfect for soaking up the last dregs of sauce on your plate.

I got married and moved to the USA and consequently started buying American flour. I made biscuits on a Friday night and was terribly offended by their denseness and general lack of flavour. I tried different baking powders, different flour brands, different measurings of ingredients -- nothing. Nada. Continued suckiness.

Then Robin Hood came on the scene, and not only did that rogue help out the poor, but he saved my baking face. The biscuits last night were like enormous marshmallows and tasted like they were straight out of my mama's oven. Ohhhh yeah. I was so happy that I forgot to take a picture of them like a true blogger would.

But the question remains... what's the deal with American flour?

I did some research and dug up some very interesting facts.

First of all, American All-Purpose flour isn't truly All-Purpose -- it's not recommended for bread-making because of its lower gluten content (hence my crappy bread-baking results). In order to get bread to do what it's supposed to, you must buy bread flour. But I don't want to buy bread flour. I don't have enough room in my tiny seminary kitchen for all different kinds of flour taking up my minimal shelf space... so this could be an issue.

Canadian All-Purpose flour generally has a higher protein content than American flours do, which results in a higher gluten content, which somehow results in a flour that is actually true to its name -- all purpose! You can use it for anything from cakes to pastry to breads -- and it will all turn out beeeeyoooooteeefully.

I wish I understood the science behind all of this. There's a reason I stopped taking chemistry after grade 10. Yikes.

I'm sure that scientifically there's probably a clear explanation. I, however, think it's simply the je ne sais quoi of Canada. Don't try to explain it. Just eat it. Mmm. Bread.