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!

21 December 2012

Something Personified

Who came into your life in 2012?

New neighbors! One with a ferocious German shepherd dog!

 I wouldn't call a route to work and back really a person. But, my commute, personified, is a 24-minute friend each morning and evening. It's 5 songs on the radio, half of a decent podcast, or almost a half hour of silence. Sometimes, it's a car exploding into flames right behind me, but not daily!

19 December 2012


When were you the angriest?

There was this one time that I got really angry. I took my socks off in the dark, raised them above my head, and threw them down as hard as I could. Until I realized Eli was right there , almost under my feet. He ran out of the room after I sort of pelted him. I've quit throwing clothes when I'm angry.

This is reminiscent of the time I got quite angry at myself for striking out in a ball game in high school. After my mother told me repeatedly to quit throwing fits when 'things weren't going my way', I stomped back to the dugout and threw my helmet straight down. Dear reader, did you know that if you throw a helmet straight down, it will bounce right back and hit you in the face? I quit throwing helmets soon after that. And soon after that, I quit striking out too much, I think my face was afraid of my helmet.

I'm starting to throw things a lot less when I'm angry.

18 December 2012

God, just relax already.

Where did you see God at work?

Wouldn't it be better to see God relaxing instead of working? Like seeing God clocking out on a Friday afternoon after a standardly boring work week. Heading out with some of God's friends for a dinner out in that late summer sun.

Where did you see God relaxing?

In lazy sunsets that take forever and a day to darken the sky.
In wheatfields cackling with growth after a particularly necessary drenching.
In my nephews who are getting 'just a bit too big' to rock and sway before bedtime but still small enough to crawl in my lap dozens of times during Thanksgiving week. 

A Pause!

It's been a busy few days over here, dear reader. Not to worry though, I'll soon be at it again when the time is right!

14 December 2012


What cracked you up?

How inappropriate this question is today, on a day with another shooting. With kids being traumatized. With teachers trying their best. With a nation of people glued to their tv's and gadgets wondering what is really happening out there.

So today, there's nothing that I'll say that cracked me up. We've all had some fun moments, we've had some somber ones, too.

13 December 2012

Lenders, not of the bagel type

Most bizarre conversation of your year: script it. Use pseudonyms if necessary.

At the end of last year, we really made our minds up to do something about living at John Smith. We looked at houses online for months. We sort of got lined up with a great realtor through a friend. Our pretty great realtor recommended a pretty great and nonchalant lender lady, Beth. 

Scene: Callie is sitting on the end of the bed dialing Beth's cellphone. (First oddity-Beth accepts phone calls at night about home loans. This never happens.) Dogs are licking themselves. Crystal is folding a basket of clothes. Callie calls Beth.

Callie: Hi Beth, it's me Callie, I had emailed you earlier about getting a quote for a home loan.

Beth: Oh hey. It's nice to connect with you. Pardon me, it's the end of the night and I've had a couple margaritas. We'll get through this real nice.

Callie: Oh. Ok. 

Whispers to Crystal: "I think she's a bit tipsy!"

Beth: So how much house do you want?

Callie: What? How much house? Like a couple bedrooms and bathrooms and a garage.

Beth: Oh, you can totally afford that. How much do you want to spend?   

Callie: Wait, what? I thought you'd take my information and crunch numbers and tell me how much I can afford. Isn't that how it's done?

Beth: Well, yes, but your realtor has been great to me. How much do you want to spend? For the mortgage and for your monthly payment. We'll figure it out and find you a house you like.

Callie: Oh, well then!

Dear readers,
This isn't the most exciting script to read. I mean it's no Days of Our Lives or anything. It's just so bizarre to me that Beth was pretty tipsy and wanted to know how much we wanted to spend. If you're in the market for a lender, let me know! I have a great one!

12 December 2012


What rocked your world, changed your life, shifted the ground beneath your feet?

Hmmm.  All day I've been thinking what if..... What if nothing was ground shifting? What if nothing changed in my life? What if the thing that rocked my world was consistency? Having a quiet life, on a quiet street, with decent people in all corners is really pretty amazing. Consistency used to conjure up visions of drab, boring, narcissistic, lifeless people. And hey, maybe I'm all those in any given year (have you seen me after an orientation?).  Being in my 30s, I never really thought I'd find someone who'd love me through my bull-headed stubbornness. (And I did! High five, Crystal!)  In my 30s, I couldn't even think through what living in a house would look like. The last house I lived in for more than a half a year was a cinderblock one with a tin roof. It was in rural Nigeria and had cement floors with loud roaches scurrying by in the evenings. It had a big claypot with katadyne filter for drinking water that still got us sick. It had a couple bedrooms and a view of the backyard. And it's so easy to close my eyes and see myself, my lonely (and horribly consistent) self, back in that tiny world of teaching at school, cooking dinner after work, reading books in a single sitting, and hanging around with neighbors. 

So tonight, as I ponder what living in this new house will be like, it's hit me. My backyard here and backyard there are eerily similar. Huge bushes up next to the house? Check. A kitchen and living room right next to each other? Check. A little driveway right next to the house? Check. It seems consistency has followed me around for awhile and I've just noticed it.

11 December 2012


Who has been your teacher this year, officially or unofficially?

Are these questions getting harder by the day? I think so! Lots of people teach me daily, but I rarely recognize them.

My dad-he's a treasure trove of knowledge for all things car and house related. He can look at a door and know precisely how to shape it up so it'll close snugly. Just a few weeks back he rattled my front bumper and then rolled under the car and tightened the whole front end up!

My mom-have you tasted this lady's cooking? Biscuits and gravy! Cornbread stuffing! Sea salt caramels! She does things right! She also treats her friends well! Who else can you think of who searches for bacon flavored vodka for a friend 4 states away and succeeds with finding it, MOM!

Crystal! Crystal keeps me all together! Have you seen me in clothes that look clean and possibly not all black? Crystal! Did you notice my healthy lunch of spinach and cottage cheese and a banana? Crystal!

Thanks everybody for keeping me in one piece! It takes a village, apparently.

10 December 2012

Blogging Ahead

When did you take the easy way?

I can't find an easy path to answer this quickly, it seems. Hmmph. Dana says that when I 'blog' ahead for the Examen 2012, that's totally cheating. So, today, I dedicate this easy way prompt to Dana! I did not 'blog' ahead on this one. It's written totally live and not from 2 weeks back. And for the record, I have and will 'blog' ahead when I'm busy with:

Living life
Taking the dogs out
Traveling for more than half the day in December
Having significant company for dinner

09 December 2012

Friend Love.

What was your favorite blog post...that you read or wrote?

I had a great one about Anne Lamott and some of her online writing. Instead I've gone with this webcomic that really sums up my life in the person and sometimes online!

Something about Friend Love

08 December 2012


Where did you spend your money?

Fonda Lane! House hunting and house buying is expensive and always stressful. There's more than just a mortgage to pay for when you go down the homeownership road.

First off-gas! We drove through dozens of neighborhoods for 3 months, almost every Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday morning looking at listings even before going into one for an actual look-see.

Second! After  you've agreed on a house, went to see it, signed a contract, and negotiated the price of it, you're going to need some cash. You'll need to find a lawyer, a lender, and a decent inspector ours was ok, (they gave us cookies after the inspection), but they missed a partially collapsed drainage pipe).

Third! A down payment! If you make that down payment to be 20% of the loan, you won't pay a monthly private mortgage insurance fee! Good luck saving up to that amount! It can be terrifying!

Fourth! Closing costs that should be wrapped up in the total of the down payment!

Fifth! Moving costs-whether it's a moving company-$120/hour is fair or your best friends schlepping your things through the suburbs ($100 for pizza and beer)!

Sixth! Standard things you might not just have: a lawnmower(!), a rake(!), enough furniture to furnish a house(!), a snow shovel (!)

07 December 2012

I'm a timrous worm, are you?

What astonished you?

I had to look of that word astonish just to be sure I can accurately describe things as they happen.
Let's take a quick looky at the definition:

mid-14c., astonien, from O.Fr. estoner "to stun, daze, deafen, astound," from V.L. *extonare, from L. ex- "out" + tonare "to thunder" (see thunder); so, lit. "to leave someone thunderstruck." The modern form (influenced by English verbs in -ish, e.g. distinguish, diminish)

Honestly, it's pretty hard to feel astonished! But feeling astonished in a good way has come to me several times a year singing Sacred Harp songs. I think I've been singing with the crowds in Chicago for about 2 years. If you haven't heard of it listen to this BBC story-I hope the link doesn't fail me!

The Alabama singers do "Brethren we have met to worship (Holy Manna) around the 5:30 minute. The wiki link has a song you can listen to, as well. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_Harp

It's pretty amazing to sing with a group of a hundred or so singers in the square. I'm a hearty alto and proudly sit in the last row in my group to watch everyone singing together. Here are some really great lyrics from a sacred harp song I love:

“Why should we start and fear to die?
What timrous worms we mortals are!
Death is the gate to endless joy,
And yet we dread to enter there.
The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
And we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay.
Oh if my Lord would come and meet,
My soul would stretch her wings in haste,
Fly fearless through deaths iron gate,
Nor feel the terrors as she passed.
Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are;
While on His breast I lean my head,
And breathe my life out sweetly there.”

So, dear reader, my timrous worm, what has astonished you?

06 December 2012

Fingerprints can be exciting!

When did you celebrate?

We got these super cute rings made and did some proposing! This one in the photo has my fingerprint! My ring has Crystal's fingerprint! We celebrated at our standard Mexican restaurant, the one with the really hot jalapeno salsa and the velvety smooth horchata! We'll do an uncivil civil union (wedding!) in April! Check out Brent & Jess if you want to get a classy fingerprint ring for that special person in your life!

05 December 2012

It's still rock n' roll to me(!)

What were your favorite songs?

We sang this spooky song at a conference this fall! Lord of Light, your name outshining! It's #410 in the hymnal if you're of that persuasion.

Old standby's that always get me through:
Brandi Carlile, especially In the Morrow, from her Bear Creek album
Ray LaMontagne, You are the best Thing
Would you judge me if I told you that the double album, The Essential Billy Joel, makes me sing like a 13 year old on all my commutes to and from work? You would judge me? Oh, well then, nevermind.

04 December 2012


What was the best book you read?

A book about a small midwest college community, the history of Moby Dick and its author, baseball and the act of losing your talent! Plus, who can resist our protagonist's name: Henry Skrimshander!

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach! Grab it here and stay off Amazon! Give Powell's some love for once!

03 December 2012

The Kicker

Where did you visit this year?

I didn't have any unusual trips this year. Just the standard orientation and work places...Orlando, New Windsor, Chicago, St. Louis for Annual Conference, and Lititz, PA for Mission Alive.

I did visit the The Loretto Center for a silent retreat day. I hung out near the labyrinth for most of the day and watched the sun go across the early spring sky.

For me it's not always getting away and going somewhere new. It's really the coming home aspect that propels me forward in a slog of orientation days, or in the midst of mind-numbing insight sessions I attend. Coming home again and again is really the kicker for me. I can pretty much go anywhere and do the work, knowing that my tiny little family, my tiny little at-home life is waiting.

02 December 2012

Lawn chairs and granola!

What was the most delicious meal you ate?

Oh wow! This is a fun one! Crystal and I went camping for a week this summer in upper Michigan. Part of our festival fees went to providing 3 meals a day. Several mornings, we had granola, yogurt, and Michigan blueberries. It was so great! Michigan blueberries taste so perfect, they're almost indescribable.  When you camp at the festival, you're encouraged to bring your own dishes, wash them out with huge soap pumps of Dr. Bronner's soap, and re-use them the entire week. Right next to the food tent, is the structure to hang your dishes to air dry after washing them. In the early part of the week, I was sure that are dishes would get stolen. Sure enough, this festival was full of goodwill! We left lawn chairs under trees between concerts, clothes hanging everywhere to dry out from 2 days of heavy rain, everything came home with us! Take a look at one section of dishes drying out until the next meal!

01 December 2012


When were you most grateful?

Alright alright alright! I'm not too thrilled about starting this month-long review with a toughy. Let's get to it!

I was grateful when:
We found renters for the John Smith condo!
The winter, summer, and fall units finished up! Sweet relief and joy!
We signed the papers to purchase the brown house!
Our entire house filled up with 55ish friends and family. We sang, lit candles, ate some food, and told stories. Here are the lyrics to the House Blessing song that our pastor chose for us:

Longing for light, we wait in darkness.
Longing for truth, we turn to you.
Make us your own, your holy people,
light for the world to see.

Christ, be our light! Shine in our hearts.
Shine through the darkness.
Christ, be our light!
Shine in your church gathered today.

Longing for peace, our world is troubled.
Longing for hope, many despair.
Your word alone has pow’r to save us.
Make us your living voice.

Longing for food, many are hungry.
Longing for water, many still thirst.
Make us your bread, broken for others,
shared until all are fed.

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

And here are some snazzy pictures!