February 26, 2012

head colds, horses, and heartland.

As was previously mentioned, I've been sick with a cold. And so I remain, my head cold still intact. Over a week later. Still sick. My body hates me.

When any sort of virus has possession over your body it's surprising how little motivation you have to get anything done. I almost totally gave up in the middle of grocery shopping. I was wandering the pasta and world foods aisle with my half-full grocery cart when exhaustion overwhelmed my body. I couldn't walk another step. I almost had a little pow-wow with the bulk-size bags of fettucine noodles, but don't worry. I made it back home in one piece and did nothing for the rest of the day.

Well, nothing except watch Heartland while dozing in bed. Heartland is a Canadian show that takes place in Alberta about a girl who loves/trains/speaks to horses. It's also about her family and friends, all of whom are incredibly dramatic and silly. It's fantastically entertaining.

I've never been a horse girl. Horses are nice. They're fun to ride. But I don't speak horse, and horses know that, so we just look at each other and keep our relationship to a simple yet distant level. It works for us.

The people on the show are ridiculous. They make the same stupid mistakes over and over, season after season. They say the nastiest things to each other. They need to be educated on learning how to communicate properly -- the main girl and her bf keep breaking up because they apparently don't know how to actually talk to each other. They all jump to wild conclusions which causes constant havoc, they're all totally selfish, and the only one who keeps his head on straight is the cowboy Grandpa who has a goofy yet very well-groomed moustache that never seems to be stained by all the coffee he drinks. There's horses in there somewhere. And guns.

Definitely a head-cold kind of show.

However, while pondering the wonders of Heartland drama, I realized that perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge the poor characters and their pathetic problems. As an outsider, it's easy to dissect a situation and point to where the parties involved screwed up. And yes, perhaps Heartland leans a tad towards the dramatic, but seriously, how often have you been completely selfless in your relationships? How often have you jumped to conclusions because that was the conclusion you wanted so that you could (appear to) be the better person? How often have you intentionally miscommunicated with a friend or sibling or parent or spouse or significant other in order to get your point across?

I'm sad to say that I fit very comfortably in every one of these categories. And you probably do, too. So let's get our love on and remember that we're not to only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Remember to thank Jesus for his forgiveness, ask for it from those you've hurt, and praise God that starting over is always an option. And keep your moustache groomed.

February 21, 2012

the wedding pt 2: hall rental.

Everyone knows the first thing you have to book when planning a wedding is the church and the hall. Everyone but me. I didn't know that. But it's okay, because all the wedding books told me what to do, along with helpful family & friends who are much more wedding-savvy than I.

When booking a hall, you have to do some serious research. First of all, you need to know how many people you're going to have to stuff in a room. We had no idea how many people we'd be inviting, so we just sorta went for it, and figured we'd shave/add guests off/on the list depending on what our hall size ended up being. No biggie.

Then we started looking. Now, when you're doing online research and gazing at photos of beautiful reception dinner setups, this is what you tend to see:

Because everyone has access to a lawn near an impossibly picturesque river.

Not to mention some ancient brick-pillared walkway in their backyard. Totally an option.

But when you're actually looking at halls that are available within your sad little recent-university-grad budget which is so far away from Will and Kate's budget as far as budgets go on the budget spectrum, this is usually what the options look like:

Option#1: The room above the local curling rink.

Option #2: Community Centre with colour-coordinated chairs and curtains that smell like 1978... and fire retardant.

And then most halls have a whole lot of stipulations. Like -- you have to use our caterer. You have to use our plates. No, of course the plates aren't included in the rental fee. No, you cannot bring in a herd of barbecues to grill shishkabos. No, you cannot stick things on the wall. Yes, this day will cost about as much as your firstborn. Maybe more.

But after much endurance, we figured out where to throw the party -- the basement of a big church nearby. The same place my older sister and bro-in-law had their reception. Probably should have just started with that, would have saved ourselves a lot of pain and frustration. But it's all part of the amazingly fun wedding-planning process, right!???!!

...What makes you think my teeth are clenched?

Anyway. Point is, we booked a hall. Fantastic. Expensive. Fantastically expensive. But something to check off of that exhaustively long to-do list. And that was something worth celebrating.

February 18, 2012

catching the virus.

Approximately five children sneezed on me last week.

Consequently my throat decided to begin birthing knives on Thursday afternoon. Having fought through The Worst Flu Strain In History this past Christmas, then being hit by The Worst Cold In History three days later, I thought I had developed an ironclad immunity to this winter's germs. False.

I don't blame the children. In fact, I love children, so much so that yesterday I spent ten minutes on the phone with my 2-year-old nephew making duck noises (total riot, btw). When you're that young you've got a tough enough job figuring out how to pronounce consonants properly while walking at the same time, never mind trying to politely direct sneezes away from nearby adults.

But the fact remains -- I caught a cold. A nasty gland-swelling headache cold. Over the weekend, too. Just in time for Wayne to be home, not at school, able to spend time with his wife. His miserable sick wife. Who, despite being told numerous times to take it easy, did not. Because taking it easy would clearly mean that the sick miserable wife is weak and useless. And everyone knows that cleaning the house and doing laundry and washing dishes is the perfect remedy to clear up an exhausting cold virus.

There's probably a moral to this story.

Instead of listening to my husband and taking it easy, I let my pride take over and told myself that I couldn't just sit around and let my body heal (obviously a total waste of time), I had to do something worthwhile. Basically, I wanted to feel good about myself. I was feeding my pride.

Unfortunately this is a story that has played out many times in my life. I have every variation of the Martha Complex (see Luke 10:38-42), and though my particular example isn't a replica of Martha's story, the heart of it is present. In his devotional Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon writes that Martha's problem wasn't that she was over-serving -- it was that she was distracted by much serving. She forgot about Jesus and focused on her work, allowing it to override her communion with him. Pride was astir.

Wayne told me to take it easy because he knew it was best for me and my health. Jesus told Martha to take it easy because communing with him was the best for her and her spiritual health. With all this wisdom available to me, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now. Not quite. But with the great grace of Jesus, I pray that one day I'll figure it out.

And no, Wayne, I was not equating you with Jesus. Just fyi.

February 16, 2012

the thud.

Well, it happened.

I received my first employment rejection today. I knew it was coming and was totally expecting it, but there was still some tiny part of me that was thinking, "C'mon, Suzanne. Don't sweat it. You'll totally be hired at the first place you apply."

Alas, twas not the case. No job offer, but at least the committee was "favourably impressed" with my qualifications.

Translation: We think you're probably pretty good at some stuff, like maybe writing on post-it notes and making good use of hand sanitizer, and perhaps answering telephones in a happy voice, but those favourable qualifications just aren't favourable enough. Love, HR.

Oh well. Like I said, the logical practical part of me wasn't surprised. But as Anne Shirley put it: "I can't help flying up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as soaring through a sunset... almost pays for the thud."

So I shall continue to anticipate and hope and pray with the full knowledge that there's a job out there for me somewhere... and until that job arrives I'll rest in Jesus, putting my identity in Him and not in a totally glamorous but as yet non-existant administrative career. And I'll probably also keep cooking tasty dinners for Wayne the Hungry Seminarian Husband and trying to write on this silly blog.

February 15, 2012

conversation hearts hangover.

I had far too much access to Valentine's candy this year. People just kept giving it to me and like any rational person I didn't refuse it. Wayne thinks I may have an undiagnosed candy addiction. I told him that was absolutely not the case while stuffing crumpled chocolate wrappers into our car's glove compartment.

It was our first married Valentine's Day spent together. We've never made a huge deal over this day which we're totally okay with, but a holiday is a nice excuse to do fun things like bake and draw cards (ie avoid job searching with reasonable cause).

So, to celebrate our first V-day together I made Wayne's favourite coffee cake.

It's made of sugar and cream and chocolate and probably some more sugar. And butter.

The fact that two people who shall remain nameless are already this far through the Valentine's Day cake may or may not have something to do with the fact that the aforementioned nameless people decided to start working out at the campus gym again.

Then I made Wayne go on an excessively long treasure hunt to find this card (hence the weird clue posted on this blog yesterday).

Nothing beats romancing your husband with a Star Wars-themed Valentine's card. Seriously. He was overjoyed to be portrayed as Han Solo saying the classic "I know" line. Although I must say, Han Solo has pretty ridikalis 70's hair which I clearly had trouble drawing.

Hope your Heart's Day was full of fun!

February 13, 2012

a book that makes me sigh.

Valentine's Day is looming, and in the spirit of all things romantic, I've decided to share my favourite book which happens to be slightly romantic. Now I am not generally a romance fiction kind of girl, but when it's well-crafted and funny and lovely... I can't refuse.

The Blue Castle was published in 1926 and authored by L.M. Montgomery, probably most famous for her Anne of Green Gables series. This is one of her very few adult fiction stories, and perhaps the least-known of all her works. It. is. Amazing. And I can't quite put my finger on why I feel that way. It's nothing particularly crazy, the heroine is plain and ugly and sassy and the ending is perhaps predictable, but when I read it for the first time at the tender age of 12, I gave my heart to Barney Snaith and it belonged to no one else until Wayne came along. I can't even guess as to how many times I've read it. My copy is dog-eared and smushed and dirty and crinkled from getting dropped in bathtubs and pools and dishwater. Anyway. I do recommend it quite strongly. Your heart will be warmed and your stomach filled with happy romance gush.

Well that actually sounds pretty unappealing so avoid the stomach gush, but have fun anticipating Valentine's Day, and if you hate the holiday and have no one to spend it with and are miserable and bitter, read this book. Barney Snaith is a fantastic date.

February 11, 2012

will you be my (super inappropriate and degrading) valentine?

I found this on pinterest this week. It made me feel sad inside. Then I read the comments underneath the image, and felt not only sad, but somewhat disappointed by the majority of the comments which praised the card, calling it funny and perfect and the best valentine ever. The few people who showed any kind of negativity against the card were called out for having no sense of humour and for taking everything too seriously -- after all, it's just a card.

Or is it?

I recently read David Batstone's book Not For Sale which is basically an analysis of the global slave trade in the 21st century, aka human trafficking. Before reading it I had a vague understanding of human trafficking and knew that it was going on somewhere... out there... outside of my comfortable happy world... but learning the extent of its far-reaching, horrific arms put a large dent in my aforementioned comfortable happy world.

The global slave trade impacts everyone. There are more than 30 million slaves in the world today (more than ever in the history of civilization), and human trafficking rings are going on everywhere, all the time. Overseas, in South America, even here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. You may have unknowingly eaten at a restaurant where the kitchen workers are actually slaves who are forced into labour with the threat of being turned over to the police as illegal immigrants breathing hotly down their necks. Those women who work in sketchy massage parlours that you think badly of, those women who should get some dignity and get real jobs -- there's a pretty huge chance that they're under the stringent control of a brain-washing, greedy pimp and have extremely limited options for escaping the way of life that they've been tricked into living. That 12-year-old girl you don't even know about in southeast Asia -- the one whose value lies only in her virginity and the fact that a john will pay a huge sum of money for it -- chances are she's been kidnapped, or even more tragically, sold into this way of life by her parents.

The book doesn't touch on the subject of drugs much -- oftentimes when trafficked slaves are in a foreign country illegally, the threat of law enforcement is all it takes to keep them from escape attempts. That may seem like an empty threat to you, especially considering the illegal nature of the trafficker's business, but when you've been dumped in a strange country, can't speak the language, know absolutely no one, and are told that the police are the "bad guys", it's easy to see why there are so few traffickers being brought to justice.

Anyway, back to the image up at the top -- basically, it's not funny. Not at all. Let's see what other human and social plagues and addictions we can joke about.

Excuse my poor photoshop skills, but yeah. Totally not funny.

So -- as you swap valentines, load up on chocolate, and kiss your sweetheart during the upcoming week, remember that there are people out there who have no understanding of the love that you are able to experience. Don't mock them for it with some crappy pseudo-creative valentine's card. Do something about it. Learn about it. Because when you're ignorant, everything can be funny. Don't be ignorant. Just don't.

February 09, 2012


This is a picture of hot brown beans and buttered toast. It's probably one of my favourite lunch options and I wish I had a reason for this which was based on solid logic. Unfortunately I don't, other than the fact that it's delicious. So delicious.

It is not a culinary masterpiece, nay, it is simply canned goodness. But it's the best on a cold wintery day... yum. Fibrous.

Not that you care what I eat for lunch. But blogs are generally for sharing things that no one really cares about except yourself so there you have it. Suzanne out.

February 08, 2012

the wedding pt 1: engaged!

I said earlier that I'd write about my ultra exciting wedding planning adventures, but before I do that I figured I should probably start a bit further back with the whole getting engaged deal.

Wayne proposed to me on a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon in August on a bench in a park... with a choose-your-own-adventure book. You remember those books from back in the 80s, where your bad choices would end up with the character giving up or getting terminated in some grisly way? Yeah.

Well, this wasn't an ordinary choose your own adventure book. It was completely authored and edited by my very creative now-husband. I'm not even sure how to begin describing it. As a starting example, here's a portion of the back cover:

He basically took chunks of our high school experiences and early dating years together and wove this complicated adventure together. Amish people showed up a lot... but that's another story for another day.

We read through the entire book together on that park bench, both with big smiles on our faces because we both knew what was coming.

Ahhhh yeaaaa! Proposal time! I said yes, obviously. But for those curious readers, here's what was on page 78...

The end? Not quite. After happily telling family and friends and giving my ring an ample amount of attention, I sat down and realized I actually had to plan a wedding. Sigh.

I do love a good proposal story!

February 05, 2012

date night.

Like most trendy newlyweds of the 21st century, my husband and I schedule a weekly date night where we set aside an evening to spend some quality non-school-related time together. It's usually Friday night, when we're both pretty tired and burnt out (well, more so him... although I do clean the house on Fridays which generally exhausts me which probably means I should exercise more). We do a variety of things, ranging from $1 sundaes at McDonalds to Scrabble at Starbucks (free refills!) to whatever super cheap things we can get our hands on.

This past Friday neither of us felt up to leaving the house, so we planned on an evening of catching up on some of our favourite tv shows. I'm still not entirely sure how it happened, but we instead found ourselves watching a debate that had been posted online. The subject was "Does God Exist?" and the participants were Joe Boot, a well-known Canadian/English Christian apologist, and Christopher DiCarlo, who in 2008 was announced to be Canada's Humanist of the Year. The debate was long -- made longer by the breaks we took to take apart diCarlo's lousy arguments and to scoff at his sad attempts to appeal to the audience with sixth grade humour. Like my husband said, I'd have been ashamed to be an atheist.

Then I thought 2 things:

1) When I was 16 and dreaming of true love and Gilbert Blythe-esque dates I never pictured myself sitting on a couch beside my husband at 10pm on a Friday night picking apart philosophical and logical fallacies while eating stale tortilla chips. All this was made weirder by the fact that our neighbours, whom we had over for dinner the following night, had also spent their date night watching a Joe Boot debate online. We are super seminaryish.

2) I probably shouldn't approach debate-watching with a vengeful, vitriolic attitude, because that absolutely goes against how I'm supposed to act as a Christian. It's easy to see DiCarlo as the arrogant, all-knowing enemy and secretly hope that "our guy" totally destroys his arguments. But that's not how we should be looking at things... instead, we should view these events as opportunities to get the gospel out there -- to get people into a place where they'll hear the good news. One may even hope and pray that the "other guy" will feel convicted and experience a heart change... not hope and pray that he gets flummoxed and embarrassed and totally flattened so that us Christians look good.

It's so easy to think of ourselves as the smart people who have it all figured out. We don't. We ourselves would be in Chris DiCarlo's position if it weren't for the beautiful grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only good guy out there. Remember that.




Jesus! The Good Guy.

February 03, 2012

things that annoy me #253...

Unchecking all the Christmas songs on my itunes list. By the time I find them all it's December and time to recheck them again. Frustrating.

In other news, the friendly neighbourhood squirrel figured out how to get on my bird feeder.

The feeder couldn't take the weight. It fell and broke.

I now have a personal vendetta against squirrels.


February 01, 2012

stale chocolate letters.

Happy February!

A sure sign that it's February? Around our house we can usually tell by how large a dent we've made in our chocolate letter stash from Christmas. We only have three left! That's a pretty good dent, considering that we started with 8.

Chocolate letters are a super traditional Dutch Sinterklaas thing. I've accepted eating letters made out of chocolate as a totally normal practice for my whole life, and only in the last couple years did I realize this was not something in which the general population participated.

Apparently Dutch/Germanic people have been giving each other letter-shaped food for centuries. Letters made out of pastry and meat appear in old paintings from the 1700s. Children used to be taught their alphabet with letters made out of bread. Somehow this morphed into Sinterklaas putting chocolate letters into the shoes of good children. Odd.

I wasn't born in the Netherlands. Neither were my parents. Three out of my four grandparents were, though, and that's enough to make our family quite a Dutch one, especially when Sinterklaas season rolls around. Everyone gives everyone chocolate letters. I always eat mine too quickly. I always feel sick and decide never to eat chocolate letters again... which is why it takes until about March to finish them up. Then December 5 rolls around and I do it all over again. It's a vicious cycle... but a tasty vicious cycle.