23 January 2017

In 2013, I got a speeding ticket 2 weeks before I got married.

The policeman took my driver's license because that was the law that year. I had to go to the police station and beg for my license so that I could board the plane for my honeymoon that was quickly approaching. I also had to take an online driver safety course so that the ticket wouldn't go on my driving record. I read the material and aced the test online. The final screen told me I did a great job and that I did better than the majority of first time test takers for this safety course.

That night I told Crystal that I finished the course and passed it with flying colors. Then I thought to myself. Self: If you can ace a piddly ole' safe driving class, Shirley, surely you can finish your bachelor's degree. So. After a decade of the burning shame I felt without this little paper that all my friends, family, and colleagues had, I started researching all sorts of schools, programs, and credit hour costs. And then I decided on NIU. This school had classes that only met 3 times a semester. Some classes never even met in person, it was all online! Each semester seemed to add more options for taking classes online, which was a perfect fit for me.

After I applied and had my transcripts evaluated, I needed 31 credit hours or about 10 classes to earn the degree. I met with my advisor and she set the course for me. And it was a very slow course. One course every semester until 2017. If I took one course at a time we wouldn't need to take a loan out. We could re-work our budgets and dutifully pay off the tuition bill one week before each semester started.

The only complication was my travel schedule for work in 2013 and most of 2014. The first semester was fall of 2013. BVS Orientation was in New Windsor for about 23 days. My work day would be from about 7am to 10pm for the first 3 weeks of the semester. Plus assignments were due in central time, not eastern time. Plus we had a weekend away from dedicated wifi when a paper was due. Plus Crystal and I usually talked most nights from 10-11pm. Somehow I cranked out assignments and readings and discussion posts and a midterm paper and a final research project. I got an A in the course.
Paper topic: Farmworker women enduring assaults in the fields

The next semester was also a little tricky. The class I signed up for had 3 in person classes besides meeting online. The first class meeting was when I was at orientation in Florida. I wrote a kind and begging email asking to be excused due to work obligations. The professor emailed me back and said he didn't communicate over email and preferred that I call him. So, I called him and stated my case. In the background I could hear a bandsaw, hammering, and lots of dudes shouting while the professor was listening to my case. Who was this guy? A psychiatrist as he said he was or just a simple house flipper? He let me finish and said that my absence would be unexcused. I was not allowed to miss face to face classes and it would mean that I could earn as a high as B in the class, but not an A due to his attendance policy. So, I stuck with that class and went on my merry way to Florida for another 3 week orientation, resigned to the fact that I'd probably get a B for the course. 2 hours before my first class was to meet in person, I received a text from NIU that the campus was closed due to an impending snowstorm. No classes would be held on that night! Hallelujah! I cranked out my papers and aced the exams with an A in that class, too.
Paper topic: PTSD in the teenage population

Other paper topics: Copyright infringement in the music industry, Workplace bias, Autonomy for the American housewife, and Offshoring & Outsourcing American HR Departments

Dear reader, I can happily report that I received an A or A+ in all of my remaining courses. I took classes while I was on the road. I took classes while I was pregnant. I did homework on the couch, at the dining room table, in the guestroom, the reading room (which we converted to the nursery), at my desk at work, in the staff lounge, in the library, and even in bed. You're probably guessing that I did this whole thing independently. NOPE. I had the help and support of many in my life. Friends who are good editors, a spouse who reminded me to work on papers far in advance of the due date, supervisors/colleagues who asked about the rigor of my syllabi and to question it appropriately, parents who congratulated me on As as if I was right back in the thick of high school, my faithful advisor who kept me on the graduating path.

 I couldn't have done without you. 

28 July 2014


This dumb old blog. Had it for too long.
Frequently forget the password.
Have to put myself back into my 2009ish self to remember it.

And I only come here to be selfish.
To write things that I want to get out of myself.
Or things to recap a year.

But today I am shaken.
And I don't like to choose these big verbs that carry weight.
I like quiet verbs that float by, barely revealing their load.

I heard about this violence in my old area today.
People I know fleeing to the bush and praying at the same time.
All ages, different religions running for the sloping hills where I once spied sunrises.

I thought of just one friend.
I check his social media things to see if he was ok.
And he was ok.

But he posted a picture of his aunty.
And you should know an aunty doesn't always mean an aunt like we think it does.
It could mean a slightly older female friend or a woman who cared for him.

His aunty was face down on the ground in the tan dusty dirt.
Her wrapper still tied to the right side of her hip.
His aunty with her head clearly decapitated.

This face was resting on her own back with a look of sheer terror staring at the viewer.
Her hair recently plaited.
Her mouth opened, her eyes frightened.

I stared at this picture for several seconds.
My mind told me what it was that I saw.
I closed this picture and couldn't/wouldn't look at it again.

And all day, I'm thinking about this image.
The shame I feel for closing the picture because it was too much.
Because closing this picture meant I was closing this aunty's story.

12 May 2014


Devotion time was led by Ben this morning. He referenced this guy and how the framework for this poem works. See the framework here: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html In fact, I'm disappointed that I didn't think of this before. Here's mine.

I am from backyard campfires & stargazing on slick reclining plastic chairs.

I am from the river-- with a sweaty suburn and the Beach Boys 8-track playing out of the boat. I am from ham & ketchup sandwiches & a Capri Sun wedged in the sand.

I am from that old country church where the widows sit in front of me and pass back candies. From the alto section where my 2 favorite schoolteachers transform into the best singers each Sunday morning at 8:30.

I am from the outfield--where the grass is green and my back pocket is full of sunflower seeds. From where my old glove has a nickel shoved up the ring-finger slot when my brother used it.

I am from my yellow bicycle, my blue scooter, and wooden water skis. Where being outside everyday during the summer got me through longer winters. I am from my dad's beard--seeing that meant snowmobile season. Where bean fields meant a smoother ride than a cornfield on a winter weekday night.

I'm from that Quincy town--where cousins and families converged on a hometown and passed the newest baby cousin around. Where Maid-Rites and Gem City pizza had to be eaten once a trip. Where cousins sneaked sips of beer and aunt and uncles talked long into the night.

16 December 2013

Mohs Scale

What was your favorite blog post?

This one by Crappy Mama! I'm not a mama but I can do a little in each one! http://crappypictures.com/crappy-mohs-scale-crunchy-mamas/

14 December 2013


Where did you spend your money?

We tried to not spend money this year! We tried to save save save! I think the question we should pose next year is, what did you save up for? Or, what did you give up to save money on?
So we did spend some money in the end. We bought this crazy tall maple tree, an autumn blaze maple. The tree-nursery guys put the rootball in the car and then suspended the tree in the air, dangling from the trunk of it. It was a long 4 mile drive home. When we got it home, we dug and dug in a heavy rain shower to get it in the ground. It's currently firmly planted with snow clinging to its thin red branches. It's about 16 feet tall and hasn't shifted or bent in this crazy wintry weather. We love you AUTUMN BLAZE!


What astonished you?

Hmmm. I come up short on this one every year. And this time around I'd have to say DEATH. Losing close friends who were in the prime of their lives was heartbreaking, gut-punching, and every other astonishingish words I can come up with. Even today, we learned that our friend Andy died of a heart attack on a trip. Life is short for all of us, and even shorter for some of the best ones around. I hope next year's astonishing question is more uplifting and life-giving than this one is.


When did you celebrate?

Well I did get married this year! We mostly celebrated being done with planning the big thing! We also celebrated the arrival of Parker! She's 5 months old and a big slobbery mess! Finally, I currently celebrated my first class being finished for the semester. It was a huge timesuck, but I'm glad I kept up on my homework. 98% in the class is a nice way to slide into student mode.

13 December 2013

I was a fool for love!

What were your favorite songs? 

Things arranged by Zedd. I have the musical taste of a teenager these days. If you look at my starred Spotify list, you'll see a big variety:

Tegan & Sara
Sweet Honey in the Rock
John Tibbs
Pink Martini
Over the Rhine
Sufjian Stevens
Dry the River
Lake Street Dive
Otis Redding

In religious music this year, I love singing any text to the Hyfrydol tune! The alto line is surprisingly harmonious! If you're currently cradling a blue hymnal in your hands, please stand and sing hymn #410. The music is so perfectly creepy and the words are perfectly optimistic! It's like The Munster's are singing words written by Mr. Rogers!

12 December 2013


What was the best book you read?
The Circle by Dave Eggers. It still causes me to think even after I put it down. It's also creepy and totally realistic. It could actually be a reason I don't really say too much online....wait, no, that's just pure laziness bursting through.


Where did you visit this year? 

I had lots of travels this year as usual. 

I heard music here (http://www.michfest.com/) for 7 (!) nights! Ferns were everywhere! The weather was cold at night, since we were in a tent! The food was great! Huge paper lanterns were launched into the night sky on the first evening!

I honeymooned here (http://www.sugarloafwomensvillage.com/Accommodations.html#2) for a week in April! Mosquitoes, humidity, seafood, sand, gobs of books! It was perfection!

I went to class here this semester (http://www.niu.edu/regional/rockford/). I-90 was completed under construction so there was a lot of speeding and then hitting the brakes and repeating of that scenario.

I also vacationed here (http://www.saugatuckcity.com/) this summer in a very last minute trip of camping! We ate well, spent time at Lake Michigan, and watched the fireworks until the mosquitoes chased us back to the car!

11 December 2013

Grease, reused!

What was the most delicious meal I ate?
 Toughy! I rarely remember things I eat! People ask me all the time, what were the all-time best and worst meals at orientation. I can hardly come up with wretched or wonderful meals to comment on.
My mom made huge crabcakes during Thanksgiving week. They were all crab and no filler-that's pretty rare if you ask me!
Over Memorial Day weekend we camped on a bitterly cold weekend next to Lake Michigan. The upside was the bacon. We bought a pack of bacon and cooked several slices in a really nice cast iron pan in the fire. After it was cooked up, we cooked everything else in the delicious bacon grease for the rest of the weekend! Ooh boy it was delicious!

10 December 2013

Dancey! Dental hygiene! Bloody stumps!

Let the navel-gazing begin! If you're blogstalking me and not recording your own thoughts, then you're a sore year-end loser and you need to get a life! Get on the bandwagon and come along!

When were you most grateful?
Dancing my feet to bloody stumps at our wedding reception last April! (I have a little feeling these posts will be wedding/Crystal related, so there's your wee warning.) Looking back at our 1000+ photos these past few months, has shown us that we have really dancey friends. I am grateful that our dancey-souled friends and family really showed up for us on that wintry mix of a day in April.

Of course, I'm most grateful for my Crystal. She helps me in so many ways. I have excellent dental hygiene (I floss nightly!) because of her. I wait to start eating until she's ready! I try and listen to almost everything she says instead of shrugging off deep conversations! Here's to 2014, honey bunny! 

14 March 2013


This blog is hibernating. Stop looking here for updates. It's not gonna happen.

06 January 2013


Mary Oliver made it look so easy. Trees. Birds. Words.

03 January 2013

Cinematic Observations with less Snark!

I've been taking the Dan way lately. Yep, walking. 1 1/2 laps around my perimeter road Cinema Drive once a day usually at night and with one dog. I almost have all the cul de sac streets memorized but I get forgetful around the Martin Lane and Tracy Court area.

Observations on the neighborhood that continually run through my head:

Man, this nativity stuff is ugly.
Motion lights lead my path in the darkness. Yessss!
Why do the biggest trucks always block the sidewalks?
There's an over-abundance of all white Christmas trees in these houses.
Isn't it nice that all the doorbells are illuminated? Where would we ever find them if they were hidden in the dark?
People watch a lot of tv on big flat screen tv's. These living rooms look like hospital rooms with the tv's mounted.

That is all.

31 December 2012

Some old fashioned cheerleading

What’s one thing you’re committing to in 2013?

I'm committing to better communication in 2013! I have to get better and at actually stating what I'm feeling! Come on, Surber! You can do it! Get your head in the game! Wake up and try harder!

Here's to.......

Where were you on January 1, 2012?

Ummmm. I was at home. Nothing exciting really. We had decent conversations about buying a house. The night before we made up our annual list of things we wanted to accomplish in 2012. We'll revisit that list tomorrow and make up a new one for 2013! Here's to consistency!


If the year 2012 had a hashtag, what would it be?

Hmmmm. Hashtags make me thing of hashbrowns and also hashish. But for the sake of quickness and not incriminating myself, I'll stick to hashtags. 

For the dogs: #didyourreallyhavetopooponthefloor
For the work: #checkyourfoodgroups
For the home: #didweclosethegaragedoor
For the travel: #canthisvango80ish

I didn't do it my way....

What did you give up?

Apartment/condo living! Yessssssssssssssss! A bunch of cash for a down payment for Fonda! And last----not always getting my way. And sorta being semi-ok with it. We'll see how that pans out in 2013!

To and fro!

Where did you spend the most time?

Hmmmm. On a couch reading! In a white diesel van contemplating life! In a little office with nice co-workers near and online! On the left side of my church in a barn, 2nd row from the front. In my little grey box car going to and fro! In airports, looking for volunteers, sending them off, and seeing them again at retreats!

I got nuffin.

Who surprised you?

Surprises make me pretty nervous. Diarrhea nervous.

30 December 2012


What did you make?

Yes yes yes. I've been gone from here for awhile. Apparently, traveling and writing answers to these questions don't really go hand in hand. You'll be glad to know we traveled out, traveled back, and we're now home.

In 2012, I made a whole slew of faith journeys. Most of them were collages of places made with colors from ads in magazine. Yes, it's very Stewart Martha of me, I know.

I also made a new house a home. So cheesy and so true!

24 December 2012

Meme of the year!

But first let us define a meme: A meme ( /ˈmiːm/; meem) is "an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture."


At least I don’t eat the chickensMiss Bonnie enjoys scavenging for a tasty snack of chicken poo in our back yard, then washes it…View Postshared via WordPress.com

23 December 2012


What gifts did you give? What gifts did you receive?

Jeez these are toughies this year! I gave more experiential gifts than materialistic gifts this year I think. Side trips, camping trips, gifts of forgotten memories written down for daily ponderings!

I received a lot this year. Patience. Forgiveness. Cash. Sticktoitiveness. Pushes. Pulls.The gift of living another year on earth.

22 December 2012

Patience and Diligence are like Bert and Ernie

What did you learn?

Hmmmm. I learned all about mortgages and lawyers and lenders and inspectors! I learned that patience and diligence follow each other in most cases.

With moving to Hanover Park, I learned new routes, new restaurants and shops. I even learned where our wedding and reception will be! Yessssssss!