Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Chicago Christmas

We spent Christmas in the Windy City. Well, technically in the western burbs, but we did make a trip one evening down to the city. It was our fourth Christmas as a married couple & our first one spent in Chicago. Woops. Thankfully, my in-laws forgive me for schlepping Matt to Florida every Christmas prior. They're pretty great.

Not only was it our first Christmas together in Chicago, but it was also my first White Christmas! I actually may have enjoyed a snowy Christmas in the winter of 1984 while living in Champaign, but my memory doesn't extend back to those infant years. Nevertheless, it was beautiful & peaceful & wonderful to share such a special holiday with Mom, Dad & Tommy Mac (& Grandpa, Margot, aunts/uncles & cousins!)

We spent a lot of quality time with the McA family, enjoyed Momma Mac's yummy cooking, had lots of good conversation, celebrated Christmas with 3 different families (the "Butt sisters" - Heidi's high school friends, Grandpa & Margot, and the McAndrew uncles, aunts & cousins), & of course, exchanged presents. Somehow, even as adult "kids" we always are on the better end of that exchange! Someday when we're no longer poor young professionals/student, we'll return their generosity.

Despite our short trip (Thursday to Tuesday), we even squeezed in a day trip to Moline to visit my grandma & extended family and had some of our U of I friends over for breakfast one morning. We officially wore ourselves out. Truth be told, I was worn out before most of the festivities began, due to my unexpectedly busy December & was a tad bit under the weather Christmas Day, but bounced back in no time!

Without further adieu, here is our trip in photos (my favorite way to share our travels, if you haven't already noticed).
Family time. My favorite. Pictured: Mom, Dad, Tommy, Grandpa Bud, Margot, & us.
I am obsessed with Christmas bokeh. Blame it on my love for twinkle lights.
The McAs were all decked out for Christmas! Check out those beautiful snow-covered lights. Well done, Dad!
Almost midnight Christmas Eve at the church across the street from the McAs. We could hear the choir singing as I snapped away.
Front moving through en route to Moline. Snow covered plains. (All photos taken out of the window of a moving vehicle.)
Naturally, I forgot to take any photos of our time with our Moline family & with our college friends. Oh well.
Downtown Chicago all decked out for Christmas.
Heading back home from the train through downtown Glen Ellyn. A charming village.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From our home to yours....

Wishing you a warm & cozy Christmas.
2010.12_ (199)
{For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be 
on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6}

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Birthday, Little Bro!

Susan 00-jul
My favorite little brother, Mark, turns 23 today!!!!!

I find it hard to believe that our little Mark is all grown up. I've written before about how very proud I am of him; and even though he's probably technically a "man," he'll always be my loveable, annoying, handsome, talented, laid-back, little bro.

In honor of his big day, I figured I'd take you through a little trip down memory lane.... I'm not sure if Mark reads my blog, but after some of these photos, he may find a way to sabotage Simply Suz & take me off the web. Sorry, Bubs. Forgive me. I couldn't resist! Some of these are just too classic! (Plus, you & I know there's worse floating out there!)

Happy Birthday! We love you!
Suz & Matt

(On the left: My all-time favorite photo with Mark. Lake Tahoe circa 2000. When he was still smaller than me. That didn't last much longer.)

Susan 88-oct
What a cute & lucky little guy. 2 big sisters!
I think Mark's rethinking "lucky" & "big sisters" right here.
Susan 89-aug
He was a cutie-pie. (Still is).
Susan 91-june
Somebody has their rally cap on! Go Cubs!
Susan 97-oct
Best Halloween Costumes EVER.
Susan 00-ju
One of many wonderful family vacay memories.
College 04-jul
And just like that he was bigger than me!
College 06-wash
Way bigger. (I never caught up)
The kid cleans up nice.
But he also knows how to have a good time!
Mark Bball
Did I mention he's a baller?
mcl with hannah
He's also a really sweet Uncle.
Makes my heart melt.
Hannah loves her Uncle "Dude"
So glad we got to see you this month, Mark!
Wish we could be at home today celebrating with you! Hope you know how loved you are! Happy 23rd!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Liz!

Happy 26th Birthday to one of my favorite friends...LIZ!
The fab four: Tara, Suz, Lynds & Liz
Liz & I have been friends since middle school & she is truly one of
my favorite girls. She has a wonderful heart, incredible confidence,
amazing talent, & (as if that wasn't enough) she knows how to have
have fun, laugh & play! I can't wait to celebrate with her this spring
in person!  in COLORADO! YIPEE! (Can you tell I'm excited?!?)
Liz, I hope you feel both loved & celebrated today, friend!!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Musings: A list from our cozy couch

Our darling Floridian turned snowbunny. Sledding = Gigglefest. Check out that big smile & those rosy cheeks!

It's after 11 on a Tuesday & I should be in bed already! Since I'm due for a Tuesday Musing, I thought I'd share a very short list before I call it a night...
  1. I am so very thankful for the many people who prayed for my family & especially my grandpa this last month. Last night, I spent some wonderful time with a special group of girls & was reminded of how blessed I am to have a community (both near & far) who genuinely cares. You know who you are. Thank you.
  2. We bought a Christmas tree on Saturday night when I got back from Illinois (had to zip the windows off the Jeep to get it on our car, which made for a chilly ride home) & since then, I've officially camped out in our living room. I spent the better part of the day working from my couch, after dinner I plopped down in the same spot to work on Christmas cards, and last night, I fell asleep reading down here. There's just something about the smell of pine, all of our sentimental ornaments &, of course, the pretty twinkle lights. Love love love our tree. We considered not getting one this year since it's already so close to Christmas, but I couldn't bear an empty reminder in our living room of our difficult December. I think it was a good decision.
  3. Speaking of Christmas cards, I'll be lucky if I get them out by New Year's. Our unexpected trip to Moline has me a tad behind on all things Christmas so our mailing list is getting a bit of a trim so that I can at least get cards out to family & out of town friends. Wish me luck!
  4. If my niece Hannah was my child (believe me, I pretend sometimes), I might consider scrapping all of the Christmas card photos we took earlier this month & using the beauty at the top of this post instead. It's my laptop background & has been helping me keep my chin up the last few days. Hannah was an absolute godsend this last week. When everyone was tired, sad & cranky, she cheered us up... waddling around her "GaGa's" house, generously giving hugs & kisses to loads of relatives (& a few new friends), stealing cell phones, playing in the snow (a first! she loved sledding!), brushing her/our hair, feeding beenie babies with an ear drop bottle she found, tooting at the dinner table, waving "hi" to shoppers at the grocery store & talking (a lot).  I love that little girl.
  5. My presence on the blog may be a little light through the end of the month. In addition to tackling my growing "to-do" list (that includes finishing my Christmas shopping...yikes!), I want to carve out plenty of time to cozy up on my couch with a cup of coffee, a good book or favorite Christmas movie, (and of course, Matt) & relax. After the ups & downs of the last month, I think we deserve it. In case I don't get a chance to wish you a Merry Christmas closer to the big day, I hope that the joy & peace & presence of the Lord fills your heart this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Come to me....

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." {Matthew 11:28-30}
Grandpa Kron's Military Burial
3 weeks ago today, my Grandpa suffered a stroke in the middle of the night. He was less than 2 weeks away from a surgery to remove his kidney, where cancer had spread. Over the next 2 weeks in the hospital, his prognosis fluctuated. He regained movement in his partially paralyzed left side, but never was able to swallow. While in the hospital he picked up several infections, including MRSA & pneumonia, which complicated his already delicate health. 
Gram & Gramps: holding hands after 63 years together.

2 Wednesdays ago, my mom flew up to Illinois be with him in Moline. She had planned to arrive after his scheduled surgery to help with the post-surgery rehab, but moved up her trip once the surgery was canceled & Gramps health continued to deteriorate. The next day, Thursday morning, she called me to let me know that Gramps was slipping away. I jumped on a flight to Moline & a few hours later I was in the hospital with my mom, Grandma, uncles, aunts, & cousins, reassuring Grandpa that God was with him, offering him eternal rest & respite from suffering. There were moments in the next 36 hours where we thought he may let go, but he stayed with us. So we held his hand, sang him his favorite hymns, read to him, prayed with him. We even slept at hospital & made friends with some of the kind staff.
Early morning at the hospital.

Last Saturday morning, my dad, sister, brother & niece arrived from Florida.  The last of Grandpa's family (with the exception of Matt & my brother-in-law Matt) had a chance to hold Grandpa's hand and tell him how much they loved him. Less than 5 minutes after my sister and brother stepped out of Grandpa's hospital room on Saturday morning, he decided to start letting go. He had held on to give his grandchildren a chance to say goodbye. All of grandpa's children (except my sweet Aunt Becky, who stayed behind at Grandma's to watch my niece, Hannah) and grandchildren were with him when he left us to be with the Lord.
Gram receives Grandpa's flag
Grandpa had a beautiful visitation on Tuesday, where probably 300+ people came to offer condolences to my Grandma, mom and uncles. On Wednesday, we celebrated his life at a truly special funeral, a snowy graveside military burial (complete with a 21 gun salute & taps), & a lovely luncheon at my Grandma's church. Matt along with my brother, cousin, dad and brother-in-law, honored Grandpa as pallbearers. I was fortunate enough to get to spend the rest of the week in Moline, helping wrap up some details for Grandma. It was a bittersweet week. It was a joy to gather as a family, something that we rarely have the opportunity to do, but difficult given the circumstances.
My sister and I gave a eulogy at Grandpa's service on Wednesday, which I decided to share here. I realize that this will make an already long post, even longer, but hopefully this will give you a glimpse of the kind of man our Gramps was and how loved & missed he'll be.
My favorite photo of Gramps. Taken on my wedding day.
Our Grandpa, affectionately “Gramps,” brought a lot of joy, laughter & love to our lives. Over the past few days, our family has shared many stories about the life of Gramps, including his more endearing (& sometimes amusing) characteristics. As Katie & I thought about how we could honor him today, we reflected on the lessons we learned from the almost 29 years he’s been a part of our lives. So here they are, “Life Lessons Learned from Grandpa Kron….

Number One: Always be on time
Grandpa was a man of routine.  Whether it was his breakfast schedule, dinner menu, faithfulness in heading down to the mall for a walk or out to a Moline ball game, or his appointments to watch the grass grow in the front drive, he was nothing short of predictable. Probably his most predictable trait, however, was that he was never ever ever late.

In all of his years at John Deere, Grandpa was never late for work. He was the first one ready to go to our ball games, & the first guest at our weddings. He was early to all of his appointments and wholeheartedly considered it rude to keep people waiting. Some of us are still learning the art of punctuality and I’m sure we’ll never live up to Gramps’ standard, but we appreciated this characteristic. He respected people’s time & knew the importance of showing up when you’re expected.

There is only one occasion that we could recall where Grandpa was ever late. This past Friday, Grandpa was ready to head up to his eternal home, but he waited one extra day so that two of his grandchildren could say goodbye. What a fitting and kind way to end his life -- waiting for us.

Number Two: Be passionate
Grandpa was very passionate and loyal about the things he loved in his live, including his family, friends, sports, his hometown, Moline, the Gaithers and John Deere. He was an avid sportsfan, it didn’t matter if his team was on a winning or losing streak, he faithfully tuned in or hopped on a bus to cheer them on. The Cubs, Bears, Maroons and Hawkeyes all held a special place in his heart.

Grandpa was also very passionate about his garden.  Every summer he grew his vegetables and generously shared them with his family and neighbors.  He didn’t give up even when the animals got through the fence, instead he just moved his garden into the grill. (Sidenote for blog readers: Grandpa grew tomatoes in his Weber grill. He figured the animals would have a difficult time getting up to the grill & the kettle was a perfect pot.)

Each one of his kids and grandkids have found similar passion for different things in our lives. Although our passions may not have always aligned with Grandpa’s, he supported us just the same.

Number Three: Make friends wherever you are
It was such a joy to meet many of Grandpa’s friends yesterday afternoon. We were amazed by the number of people who had been befriended by Gramps over the years.

He had friends everywhere he went. He couldn’t help it. Grandpa was a friendly & outgoing guy. He made buddies at the mall, with waitresses at restaurants, at Hafners, Moline games, and especially in the neighborhood. He had a team full of friends – nurses & doctors – caring for him at the hospital these last two weeks.

If you had any doubt about his ability to make friends, you could have just observed him at our weddings. By the end of the weekend, all of the bridesmaids knew Gramps and probably his life & health history. I remember watching him say goodbye to one of my best girlfriends at my wedding by planting a big, juicy, Grandpa Kron kiss right on her lips.

Despite his many quirks, Grandpa was a loveable man. In fact, I’m sure he’s already set up his lawn chair in heaven, waved “hi” to the neighbors & made several new friends in his new home.

Number Four: Treasure your family
One of the most important things to Grandpa was his family; he loved spending time with each one of us.  It didn’t matter where we were, he was always proud to introduce us to his friends, at the mall, the basketball game, the waitress at the restaurant.  Some of our favorite times were sitting together visiting in Grandma and Grandpa’s living room; we’d all pile in, some of us on the floor, and just sit and talk.

Every year, Grandma and Grandpa spent time with their family in Moline, but they also made sure to come down to visit their family in Florida. When it got too difficult for Grandpa to make the long drive to Florida, and before Grandma was ready to get on an airplane, Grandpa agreed to take the Grey Hound.  He and Grandma made the long 24 hour trip to Florida on the bus that year to visit us.

He was so proud of his grandkids.  Throughout the years, both he and Grandma came to our school events, Grandparent’s Days, high school graduations, and confirmations. It made him especially proud to cheer us on at our sporting events, because perhaps it reminded him of his glory days playing basketball, baseball and golf.

This past year, it was his dream, and a goal that he achieved, to come to Florida to watch Mark during his final year of college basketball and to meet Hannah, his great-grandchild.  He loved holding Hannah and enjoyed talking to her and playing with her.

Grandpa’s love for his family is something we will always treasure.

Number Five: Keep an open heart
The most important lesson we could take from Grandpa’s life is the importance of keeping your heart open to the spirit of the Lord. Many faithful believers - most notably Grandma - prayed that Grandpa would come to know the Lord even late in life, & I can say wholeheartedly that the peace of God was so present in his last few days. God was with Grandpa, & I believe that Grandpa’s heart was softened to the Lord & that he welcomed the presence of Jesus in his life. 

As Katie & I talked about what was the most important thing any of us could learn in our lifetimes, it is the simple truth that God loves us, created us as his children, died for our sins on the cross, conquered death in the resurrection & wants nothing more than to have a relationship with us. As Grandpa suffered those last 2 weeks, we believe that the Lord spoke softly to him, offering him eternal respite from his suffering & that Grandpa accepted the wonderful, free gift that God offers to all of us on the cross.

Jesus promises us this rest in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

As we reflect on his life today, Gramps is with the Lord today, resting in the knowledge that he is a child of God and will live eternally with his heavenly father. What a life lesson to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

oh so proud.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my hubby.
His sweet niece is giving her Uncle Matt (who she affectionally calls "du" for "dude") some lovin'. I think that Hannah would give "du" a big hug & kiss today if she was close by to congratulate him on being accepted to dental school (well, let's get technical...schools!).

Of the 8 schools Matt interviewed at, he's been accepted at 5, waitlisted at 2, & is waiting to hear from one last school (Hint: It's the one that's located in the town we live in. They're a little behind on the admissions process & haven't contacted any interviewees yet.) Hurry up & wait....

Matt's a humble man. Doesn't like to boast, so I'm doing it for him tonight. I am so proud of him. This has a been long process & he has stayed the course, patiently waiting. We still have 4+ years ahead of us, but I am so glad that the admissions committees saw in him what everyone else who meets him knows to be true. He is a good man, a hard worker, & a genuine caretaker who will be an excellent dentist. Matt told me last week that his goal at work that day was to make a crabby patient smile. And he did it. That's the kind of man he is.

Once we get the final word from the last school, we're going to have to sit down, have a heart to heart & figure out where oh where we want to spend the next four years. One this is for sure. My husband is going to be a dentist. Yahooooooo!

P.S. I'll keep you posted on where he ends up going when we figure it all out. For now we're anxiously patiently waiting!

Happy Birthday, Lyndsey!

Happy Birthday to my sweet, dear friend, Lyndsey!!!!!!!!
She has a heart of gold & I am so thankful for her friendship.
Lynds, I hope that your 26th birthday is full of love & laughter!
(Taking it back... May 2007!)
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