Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Around the Blogosphere

Happy Leap Day, friends!

My friend, Jo-Lynne, was playing this little game today, and I thought I'd join in. Feel free to play along!

  1. My childhood nickname was … Shay. Not very creative, but I guess one of my cousins couldn't say my real name when I was born and it came out like that. Funny thing is, I always liked being called Shay--it was a term of endearment.
  2. If you want to spoil me rotten, buy me pretty much anything. I tend to not spoil myself much (don't laugh, B), so anything you buy me will be most appreciated. Particularly diamonds, watches, clothing, handbags, and books. :)
  3. The television character I most identify with is the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley. I like to think I could replicate her wit and sharp tongue, but I'd never be as quick on my feet as she is.
  4. If I had a whole day to go shopping and money to spend, I would go to Nordstrom. Probably 90% of my wardrobe comes from that store, and everything else I need is there too (well, except for the books). Nordstrom is my happy place.
  5. The most wild and crazy thing I have ever done (that I can admit to publicly) is followed people on their dates. My college BFF, Jennifer, was a bad influence on me. That's all I have to say about that.
  6. The one thing on my bucket list that I am most eager to do is travel to places I haven't been. I inherited the travel bug from my grandfather and would love to keep exploring Planet Earth as long as I have the resources and good health to do it. 
  7. My family will always be loyal to each other. I was just thinking this morning about how important my family is to me--I don't know where I would be without their love and support.
  8. If I could spend a day with a celebrity I would choose Ellen DeGeneres. She is just hilarious, wears cool clothes, and has fun friends. Plus, she could give me some makeup pointers. 
  9. In my opinion, the best invention in the history of the world is the airplane. 
  10. When life hands me lemons, I make lemon squares, of course! And I can't believe I haven't blogged that recipe yet. I must get on that one.

So now it's your turn. Why not play along (but come back here to let me know so I can read your post!)?

Linking up with Katja and her Leap With Me post.


Friday, February 24, 2012


We've been duped.



Tricked . . .

. . . into thinking that winter was indeed over. Into believing that Winter was not even going to knock on our door this year.

But alas, this morning we woke up to the bleak reminder that it IS still February, even though most of our days lately have felt like April.

So, even though Winter is not my BFF, I still love me a thick, heavy snow like we had this morning. And in honor of that, I bring you . . .

. . . my walk.

Starting in my back yard. I always think it's prettier covered in snow.

This is my favorite kind of snow (if there is such a thing). When the branches can barely stand the weight of it all.

And finally, this is one of my favorite little houses along my route. At least if we have all this snow we can pretend we're in Switzerland!

My mom is arriving from Arizona today. It just figures. Maybe she can convince Winter to just move along.

Enjoy your "snow day!"


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The State of the Blog and my life in general

"I'm almost a little glad Downton is done till November because if you take a look at your profile and blog it's kind of been TAKING OVER YOUR LIFE."
This, my friends, is what my daughter posted on my Facebook page yesterday.

Cheeky girl!

But she was right. I had noticed the same thing--day after day and post after post about Downton Abbey. A SOAP OPERA! as my husband likes to remind me.

As much fun as I've had with the Downton Abbey posts, it's time to move on to other things . . .

. . . like . . .

. . . um . . .

. . . ah . . .

. . . like? . . .

I honestly don't know. 

Because here's the thing, blogging has gotten away from me. Real life has come and taken a choke-hold on me, AND THAT'S O.K. 

But here's another thing. I like blogging. I have fun with it. I like all of you and your snappy comments and your funny anecdotes. I'd miss you if I didn't pop in here every now and then to give you a topic to talk about amongst yourselves.

And I like the writing part . . . when I have time to actually sit down and write.

So, the state of the blog is dramatically imperfect. Nobody will ever give me an award for the stellar job I do of keeping this little community going. Or having a niche. Or a platform. Or anything that resembles a "professional" blog, but, again, THAT'S O.K.

Those professionals? They're meeting in Nashville this weekend. I was there a year ago and kind of started to wonder if blogging just might NOT be what God had for me. About two months after that He made it kind of clear that, indeed, blogging "professionally" was not what He has called me to.


So, now that Downton Abbey is over for quite some time and I'm dry as a bone about what to discuss here, I'm putting out an S.O.S. to you all. Give me some topics, folks. A lifeline, please!

I do intend to write that final Dealing with Doubt post. Soon. Because it's the most important one. But aside from that, I got nothin'. 

So now, want to get a glimpse into my real life?

Here are just a few things I've got going on.

1. Teaching. I'm in the middle of grading a bunch of papers that I have to have finished by Friday. I'll be pretty much a new woman come Friday.

2. Which is great because, good news!, my mom arrives on Friday. Woo hoo! So excited for her visit.

3. She's coming to town because Julia has a huge piano recital on Sunday. I haven't mentioned this much, probably because she's a little shy about it, but Julia plays a mean piano. I love listening to her practice! On Sunday she'll be playing a Mozart sonata and a duet for two pianos that is 22 pages long. I'm so amazed by it because by the end of my piano playing days, I think I could manage a worship song or two, but I never progressed to hymns or chords or anything that could even remotely be categorized as difficult.

4. Have any of you ever served on a Nominating Committee? Have any of you ever chaired a Nominating Committee for a church of over 2,000 people? Enough said.

5. Have I mentioned that I'm leading a high school missions trip next summer? No? Well, I am. And part of that process is sending out fundraising letters that were supposed to go out this week. I'm still trying to figure out how to explain to all of my friends and family that after God called us to go to Switzerland in 2008, He's now calling me to lead a trip to Italy. Suffering for the Lord, that's me!

6. Still hanging out with the junior high girls.

7. And still waiting for one girl of my own to make a college decision. *ahem*

8. And still just being a wife and mom who has to figure out dinner and do the laundry and keep things in general working order around here.

9. Oh, and we had three different groups of people over last weekend, none of which do I regret--it was all wonderful. 

10. There is so much more I could write, but these are some of the things that keep life interesting and busy around here.

But never too busy!

So tell me, what have YOU been up to? 
What posts would you like to see here that don't involve Downton Abbey? 
What's on your mind? 
Spill it!

Hey, check it out! I'm almost to 200 followers after three years of blogging! (Talk about not professional.) Will you help me get to 200? Just click on the RSS feed button and sign up to follow me. I'd hate to have you miss even a single word of this dramatically imperfect mess. :)


Monday, February 20, 2012

Top 10 lines from Downton Abbey’s Christmas Episode or “Earl’s Valet to Swing”

Well, my friends, our guilty pleasure has come to an end, and I have to say I’m a little sad. To put M&M, Lord G, and Grandma to rest for a year just seems cruel to those of us who have come to rely on them for Sunday evening entertainment.

I may have to resort to creamy dips as my next guilty pleasure. Or maybe trashy romance novels, but (imagine Violet saying this) that one I highly doubt.

Anyway, I savored every moment of the Christmas episode because who can’t get excited about scenery like that? It’s like my perfect storm. English manor home? Check. Humongous Christmas tree? Check. Perfectly aligned pastries on a silver platter? Check. Falling snow and a romantic . . . 

Well now, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s just say check, check, CHECK.

This episode had it all. Mystery (missing dog, anyone?), intrigue (even though I hated the scenes with the Ouija board, they kinda made me laugh), and suspense (Mr. Bates in jail—how long?). Even romance. Oh boy, was there romance.

And romance is what leads me to my number 10 pick. Before I reveal number 10, I have to say that I’m so sorry to place Bates and Anna so far down the list, but seriously, this line, although romantic, was also just a tad bit cheesy for my liking. Which is why it had to land here. I couldn’t leave it out, but I couldn’t very well make it one of my further favorites.

Number 10. Mr. Bates, having just been reprimanded by the prison guard, “NO TOUCHING!”, leans across the table to Anna and declares his undying love for her by saying, “No man can regret loving as I’ve loved you.”

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the cheese factor.

Still, who doesn’t love Bates and Anna?

Number 9. So there’s this big hunting scene—a pivotal scene in the episode, you have to admit. And the big galoop, Sir Anthony, grinning ear-to-ear or whatever you call it that he does, standing with Edith and Violet, asks after Sybil and her baby daddy, Branson.

Sir Anthony (about Branson): Does he shoot?
Edith: I’m sure he does.
Violet: Only, I don’t think pheasants.

Number 8. Again, at the shooting scene after Matthew not-so-subtly rescues Mary from the clutches of Sir Richard the Goon, M&M are enjoying a few minutes of levity in their otherwise serious lives, laughing about Matthew’s inability to shoot. (Side note: since Matthew was practically incapacitated in a wheelchair at the beginning of the previous episode, I’d say he should be laughing it up. Life’s never been better for Matthew!)

Anyway, I loved this line during their “moment” together.

Mary: I never know which is worse—the sorrow when you hit the bird or the shame when you miss it.

You hunters out there will get it.

Number 7. I just knew Downton Abbey was educational programming, and this episode proved it. After Cora tells Robert the joyous news that he is about to be a grandfather, I learned a brand new idiom.

See if you can catch it.

Cora: Sybil’s pregnant!
Robert: I see. So that’s it then. She’s crossed the Rubicon.

Being the researcher that I am, I learned that crossing the Rubicon is a reference to Julius Caesar’s army crossing the Rubicon River in 49 BC during an insurrection. It basically means coming to a point of no return.

Don’t ever say you don’t learn anything here.

Number 6. O.K. so who likes Edith? Anyone? Anyone?

Well, even so, I felt like I owed her a line this time because she’s just. so. desperate. And she really likes that Sir Anthony guy. So much so that she get’s number 6 this week.

Edith to Sir Anthony after he tells her he's too old for her (which, I have to add, he is): If you think I’m going to give up on someone who calls me lovely . . .

Awwwww, Edith. Maybe you’ll get a real storyline next season instead of some silly dalliance with an ugly farmer.

Alright, now we get to the good stuff. My top five lines from the Christmas episode.

Number 5. This one just cracked me up. Even during a crucial turning point in the story, the writers manage to make us laugh.

Cora: Do you remember a Turkish diplomat who stayed here before the war?
Robert: I think I can be relied upon to recall any guest who was found dead in his bed next morning.
Cora: Well, that’s the thing . . .

Number 4. And then came the touching scene between father and daughter. Although, I gotta say, that if something like what Robert found out about Mary ever happened in my house, I have a feeling it might have gone down just a little bit differently.

Nevertheless, I think I may have shed a tear or two here.

And quite possibly shouted a hearty “AMEN!” to the television screen.

Lord G: I don’t want my daughter to be married to a man who threatens her with ruin. I want a good man for you. A brave man. Find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.

Yeah! That’s the way to stand up for your girl, Lord G.

Number 3. O.K., I just might have shed a tear or two during the scene between William’s father and Daisy. I know, I know, some of you find Daisy completely annoying what with her indecisiveness and her weak spine and all, but I find her completely endearing. I think it’s her North Yorkshire accent.

Anyway, the scene. Between William’s father and Daisy. Was that not like the sweetest thing ever (to quote my daughter, Julia) when he says to Daisy, “Without you, I’d have no one to pray for. William knew that. So will you be my daughter?”

Yes, William’s father, I’ll be your daughter!

And while we’re on the subject of Daisy, how about the tender moment between Violet and Daisy in the library? Daisy kind of pours out her heart to Violet about how she married William out of pity rather than love, and Violet, in a rare moment of empathy says, “Well to me that doesn’t sound unloving. It sounds like you loved him a great deal.”

Seriously, Violet, I truly will love you till the day I die.

Number 2. You knew it was coming.

Sir Richard: I’m leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I doubt we shall meet again.
Violet: Do you promise?

Don’t you wish you could deliver a smack-down the way Grandma does? She’s a gem.

Number 1.  I’m afraid number 1 is a tie this week, and the Crawleys get them both. Matthew and Isobel both delivered such great lines in this episode that I couldn’t decide which I liked better.

So, if you’re a romantic and wanted the episode to end in just exactly the way it did, here’s my first Number 1 line:

Matthew: “Lady Mary Crawley, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”


And yes, some further tears may have just fallen for the third time in this episode.

But hold on. If you think the romantic line was just a little too over the top, maybe you’d prefer something a little more tongue-in-cheek. So for you (and for me), I have just the line. Maybe the best-delivered, best subtle jab in the entire series.

Isobel has just given Violet her Christmas gift but Violet is being snide, asking what on earth it is. And . . . wait for it . . . here it comes . . . Isobel says, “It’s a nutcracker . . . to crack your nuts.”

Oh those two. Maybe in Season 3 we’ll get to see them sharing a room in an Edwardian nursing home, growing old together, and verbally abusing one another like old couples do.

And with that, I bid you adieu for now, Downton Abbey. Promise me you’ll be back next year with more great lines and more wonderful characters. But especially promise me that M&M will indeed tie the knot.

Who knows? Maybe Sir Richard will send them a nutcracker.

Just in case you want to read the rest of my DA recaps, here are the links to posts I've done:
Episode 6
Episode 5
Episode 4
Episode 3


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Lines from Downton Abbey, Episode 6

Well now, wasn’t that fun?

I’m finally catching my breath after a “crazy-busy” weekend (just had to throw in that phrase for certain family members who may be reading). And then there was all the Valentine’s Day baking I needed to do. Oh, and the small matter of a job I had to go to yesterday.

All that to say, I didn’t get to watch Downton Abbey until last night. And a two-hour episode at that! I’m exhausted.

Just in case you didn’t know how things went down in the UK when this was first aired, last Sunday’s episode was, I think, two separate episodes originally (I don’t know why they put them together here this week), and that was the end of Season 2. Those poor folks had to wait several months before they got to see the Christmas episode which will air, I believe, next week here.

So, if you were living in the UK, watching Downton Abbey for the first time, you were left with plenty of unanswered questions about Jane, Mr. Bates, M&M, and even Sybil (but really, who cares much about the Sybil storyline?). What a drought that would have been!

Thankfully, we’ll get some answers next week. I hope.

But for now, we get to ponder some of the best lines in television. You just gotta love that dry, British humor. I am loving the subtlety and the irony and the sarcastic put-downs.

And because I’m loving the banter so much, and because the episode we saw in the US was originally two episodes in the UK, and because it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m giving you a treat.

Oh yes, gentle reader, you’ll not only get my FIVE favorite lines from this week’s DA episode, you’re getting my top TEN lines.

I know you’re thrilled, so let’s get started.

Number 10. Wow! What a debacle in the dining room, huh? I thought Carson was going to blow a gasket up there when Edith showed up with the baby. He couldn’t get rid of her fast enough.

Carson: "Edith, how did you get here?"
Edith: "I took the bus and walked up from the village."
Carson: "Then could you reverse the process as quickly as possible?"

Number 9. Sir Richard was up to his tricks again this week and because of his shenanigans Carson declined his offer to come help with Mary after the wedding. (How dare he?) Mary is back to her Season 1 self when she says to Carson, “So you think you’d be uncomfortable working for a . . . spy master? How disappointing of you. And I always thought you were fond of me.”

Number 8. Speaking of Mary . . .

Sir Richard: "Are you still in love with Matthew Crawley?"
Mary: “Of course not. Would I ever admit to loving a man who preferred someone else over me?”

Seems to me she didn’t really answer his question, did she?

Number 7. 
Lord Grantham (after learning that Matthew can stand): “My dear chap, I cannot begin to tell you what this means to me.”
Matthew: “Well, it’s pretty good news for me too.”

See what I mean about that dry humor?

Lord Grantham was having quite a night, wasn’t he? I hardly know what to say about his Edwardian mid-life crisis. As one of my girls said, “The most disgusting mid-life crisis ever.” But that was kind of central to the plot this week, so I think I have to add a couple of Lord G. quotes.

Number 6. Lord Grantham (to Jane): “I’m a foolish man who’s lost his way and don’t quite know how to find it again.” Then the kiss.

I’ll tell you how to find your way, Lord G. Get a job!

And while we’re on the subject, here’s one more pathetic, whiney quote from the angst-ridden Lord himself:

Jane: “Will you be happy?”
Lord G. : “I have no right to be unhappy, which is almost the same.”

Poor you.

Moving on.

Number 5. How about the scene where Anna tells Mary that she and Mr. Bates are getting married?
Anna: “Can you keep a secret?” Mary gives her a wry glance, harkening the viewer back to the Mr. Pamuk escapade. “Well, I know you can.”

Number 4.
“I, John Bates, take you, Anna Mae Smith, to be my wedded wife.” 


But did anyone else find it creepy when he called Anna “Mrs. Bates” on their wedding night? (“Well, Mrs. Bates, you’ve had your way with me.”) I mean, Mrs. Bates, in my mind, is Vera who is now dead and who, by the way, is still wreaking havoc in their lives.

I think he should just leave Mrs. Bates out of this.

Number 3.
Violet to Edith: “Don’t be defeatist, my girl. It’s very middle class.”

Ah, Violet, I will love you till the day I die.

So, of course, she gets top billing yet again this week for these gems.

Number 2. After much celebration over Matthew’s sudden recovery from some “spinal bruising,” Lord G. asks his mother to stay for dinner.
Lord G.: "Mamma, will you stay?"
Violet: "Oh certainly. All this unbridled joy has given me quite an appetite."

Number 1. My favorite line of the night which will, I’m sure, remain in my lexicon for quite a while, was Violet’s marriage advice to Matthew:

“Just let me say this one thing: Marriage is a long business. There’s no getting out of it for our kind of people.”

With that, I bid you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now tell me, what was YOUR favorite line from Downton Abbey this week?

Linking this post with Oh Amanda's Top Ten Tuesday. Jump on over there to read more!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dealing With Doubt Part 4: know who you’re dealing with

This morning's post is Part 4 of a 5-part series on Doubt. You can find Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 by clicking on the highlighted links. Next week we'll wrap up the series. Thanks for reading along with me!

Remember the old SNL skits with the church lady? How she’d cock her head to one side with a smug, tight-lipped smile and say, “Now who made you say that, huh? Was it . . . Satan?” Her voice would rise up a little as she drew out the word to make everyone laugh.

But it was always an uncomfortable laugh. Because, really, deep down, we all know that talking about Satan is uncomfortable and . . . I don’t know . . . maybe even a little unseemly?

We hesitate to pin too much on the bad guy—it makes us sound a little too “religious” or hyper-spiritual. And so we laugh about it.

I’m not here to laugh today, because I think that sometimes dealing with our doubts can truly become a “church lady” moment when we recognize who we’re dealing with.

Now, before I go too much further, I want to say two things. First, as I mentioned in my first post on doubt, I am no theologian. I know several good ones, and I’m sure they could set us all straight on this topic right away. What I’m attempting to do here is just use my experiences to help others who may be doubting.

Second, I do not believe that all doubt comes from Satan. Sometimes our faith is at a weak place, and we do a pretty good job of planting those thoughts into our own minds. I’m not one of those people who sees Satan standing on every street corner, just waiting to pounce on me. But I am aware. Let’s leave it at that.

What I do believe is that, if we are in Christ, we have an enemy who would like nothing better than to see us falter in our faith. The kind of enemy who delights in telling us lies and who is happier still when we believe them. An enemy who tries to discredit, even destroy, the work of God whenever he can, even if that work is our very soul.

So it follows, doesn’t it, that if we are in Christ and growing toward godliness and holiness, that Satan would do whatever he could to trip us up. At least this has been my experience. The times when I’ve been seeking God wholeheartedly, or when I’ve been serving Him the most, are times when I’ve begun to ask myself questions.

Is this all worth it?

Why am I working so hard at this? For what?

Does God really even notice me or my efforts for His kingdom?

Is He really there?

Is God really who He says He is?

Am I really saved?

These are the types of questions Satan tried to get Jesus to ask when he tempted Him in the wilderness. Questions that would doubt God’s goodness or His work in our lives. Questions that would doubt God’s validity as Savior and Redeemer.

Again, I want to emphasize that, according to Grudem’s Systematic Theology (my helper today) “Not all evil and sin if from Satan, . . . but some is” (420). Which brings me to my point: we have to be discerning. When we are in a period of doubt, we have to remember that the evil one wants more than ever to topple our faith. It would bring him so much success if we decided that this faith thing really isn’t worth it, gave up, and walked away.

So be discerning. Understand who’s voice you’re hearing—whether it’s the voice of the enemy or your own voice—and, either way, choose to not listen.

And be strong.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” 
I Corinthians 16:13

Next week we’ll talk about the voice we should be listening to, and it’s a good, good voice.

Your thoughts? I’d love to hear them.

I'd be so honored if you'd follow me here. Just head over there -----> to get my posts in a reader or to receive them in an email.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, Episode 5

Have you even been able to come down from Sunday’s episode of Downton Abbey? So many new angles to the story leaving us with so much to think about through the week.

Who is Mr. P. Gordon and will the real Patrick please stand up? Nevermind. That was insensitive of me. It probably hurts like the dickens for him to stand, what with all the burns and everything.

And will Matthew . . . Matthew . . . Matthew ever walk again? He did feel something, right?

Did Bates kill his wife, Vera, or was her suicide one last, desperate attempt to frame him? On second thought, as one of my girls pointed out at dinner last night, Anna does seem to travel to London frequently. . . .

And what about Jane hanging out a little too long where Lord Grantham “just happens” to be? Shouldn’t she be cleaning the little crystals on the chandelier or something? I’ll tell you one thing, she sure shouldn’t be barging into the library, disturbing the great Lord of the Manor while he’s terribly busy reading the newspaper or generally fretting. But she seems to do it anyway . . . a lot.

Ah well, these are the threads of this week that will be left hanging until next week. (Unless PBS has already sent your pre-ordered copy of Season 2.)

In the meantime, we have some great lines to ponder from Sunday’s episode. Here are five of my favorites.

5. Sir Richard, while eavesdropping on Mary and Matthew (heretofore to be referred to as M&M): “Oh dear, should I be worried?” He also muttered that to himself while watching M&M stroll (sorry, push) their way across the lawn. Seriously, he said that same line at least three times in one episode. Is it really foreshadowing if it’s obvi?

4. Violet, referring to Sir Richard: “I don’t dislike him. I just don’t like him.” My sentiments exactly, Grandma.

3. How about that Mrs. Hughes trying to talk some sense into Ethel who, by the way, seems to have spent the past 10 months just sitting in some lonely shack somewhere just waiting for Mrs. H. to bring her some food? Seriously, Ethel, get a life. You have a child, go take care of it (him? her?).

Of course, Mrs. Hughes doesn’t help when she says things like this: “You were ruined already, my girl, so let’s don’t go overboard.” Nice.

2. In one of their soon-to-be-infamous scenes, Isobel and Violet are talking about where best Isobel can “bless” others with her many talents of leadership and doctoring and her general ability to tell others what to do, and Violet is not-so-subtly just trying to get rid of her.

Isobel: “Now you’ve struck a chord.”
Violet: “Have I really? Oh, thank heavens.”

1. Cora gets top billing this week with this most excellent jab at her husband . . . and all of England while she’s at it: “I’m an American; I don’t share your English hatred of comfort.”

With that, I’ll just see if I can get my lady-in-waiting to start my bath. Oh, right, I AM the lady in waiting. (If you haven’t played the “Which DA Character Are You?” game yet, you should. It’s fun. I’m Anna.)

How about you? What was your favorite jab line from Episode 5?

Photo credit.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Wanna Hear How We Met??

It's February, the month of love, and my friend, Leigh, is posting love stories all month long. She's asked several of her friends and readers to contribute their stories, and today she's featuring MINE (or should I say, ours?).

I have a lot to confess about how I met my husband, and it's not all pretty. Head on over to Leigh's place today to find out more.

I'd love to hear your story! After you read mine, come back and share how you met your spouse.