Friday, January 31, 2014

In Which I Muse on The Wedding Night

I live in a house full of women (almost), so it’s only natural that I’ve seen an episode or two of “The Bachelor” in my day.

Last Sunday, Bachelor Sean married “the love of his life,” Catherine, in a made-for-TV affair, complete with lots of flowers and bridesmaids (12 of them!) and famous guests. The wedding was sweet but simple (why, oh why, do people insist on writing their own vows?)—heartfelt and, did I mention sweet?

In the week prior to the wedding, Sean and Catherine did all the rounds of the television talk shows, most likely to fulfill their contract with ABC. I saw a few of these interviews and noticed that the one thing that everyone wanted to ask the couple about was their wedding night. Because Sean and Catherine did something so completely strange, so totally out of the ordinary, that the interviewers were baffled: they decided not to sleep together until the wedding night.

And, boy, were people curious about this.

To their credit, Sean and Catherine answered every question patiently and with great kindness and respect. They didn’t want to come across as being judgmental of others—they merely said that this was the right decision for them. (Whether ABC cut out all of the talk of their faith as a basis for this decision, I don’t know, but I sure didn’t hear much about that in their interviews.)

Anyway, Sunday night came, and ABC took the first hour of their wedding special to play up the fact that Sean and Catherine hadn’t slept together yet. They showed Sean awkwardly shopping for lingerie for his soon-to-be wife. They showed Catherine embarrassingly posing for Sean’s-eyes-only photos. And they showed the couple checking out their “first night” suite in the hotel, which Catherine coined the “consummation station.”


The funny thing was, Sean and Catherine were almost giddy as they talked about their first night together as husband and wife. They were as giggly as teenagers as they confessed that it was hard to wait, but that they knew it was right and would be worth it for them.

And I loved it.

I loved that they were giddy. I loved that they couldn’t wait to finally be husband and wife in the ultimate sense. I loved that they joked about getting out of the reception and heading to their room as fast as they could.

Because you know what? That’s how it should be.

Newlyweds should be thrilled about what’s next. Curious. And, yes, maybe even a little nervous. Because what’s next is great and fun and exciting.

And that’s what we’ve lost as a culture that encourages young people to jump into bed on the second date and cast aside mates as cavalierly as one would cast aside a yoga instructor who’s put on a few pounds.

We’ve lost the wonder of the wedding night.

I have three daughters, and you know what I hope? I hope my daughters giggle like teenagers as they anticipate their wedding nights, too. I hope they are filled with joy and delight as they dream of what that moment will hold for them.

And I hope they will look forward to it as much as Sean and Catherine did.

Thanks, ABC, for bringing us back to the wedding night and for reminding us that it can—and should!—be special.

Photos: 1|2

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4;E4

This week, for some reason, didn't do much for me, so I'm going to keep this one short.

Even though Anna and Bates seem to have patched things up for now, I'm still nervous about their story line. I desperately want them to find happiness, but I don't have a lot of hope at this point.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I adore Daisy. Even though she didn't make any of my top 5 lines this week, I just love her sweet smile and her adorable way about her. She knows she blew it with Alfred, but she just keeps being her own sweet self.

Edith. Oh, Edith. How do you always manage to choose the wrong sort of man? I mean, what did you really know about Michael Gregson before you jumped into bed with him and now he's gone missing and you might be carrying his baby and he's in Germany of all places between the wars. Is he a Nazi? Did you check out his political leanings, Edith? And what about that crazy wife of his? Is she for real? Did you even check? In my mind, there's just too many unanswered questions about Michael Gregson, which means he's probably perfect for stupid, naive Edith.

Alright, let's get going.

1. My first pick is probably an obscure line that most of you probably overlooked, but I just liked it. Alfred was getting ready to leave for London, and he stops in the kitchen to say goodbye.

Alfred: Is there anything I ought to know about London?
Mrs. Patmore: There's quite a lot you ought to know about London, dear.

I think I liked that line because I'll be seeing London in a few months (planning a trip for June, and I can't wait!), and also because everyone should know something about London--it's such a great city.

2. As opposed to last week when we heard nary a peep out of Violet, this week she was back to her usual self, dispensing zingers to anyone within listening range. This exchange took place at the dinner table as Robert was trying to get his head around what should be done with his tenant farmer.

Robert: If we don't respect the past, we'll find it harder to build our future.
Violet: Where did you read that?
Robert: I didn't. I made it up. I thought it was rather good.
Violet: It's too good. One thing we don't want is a poet in the family.

Cue Tom, because I thought one thing they didn't want was a chauffeur in the family. You can bet that next week a poet will show up to court Mary.

3. And weren't there some great quips between Violet and Isobel? I'd say the two were becoming rather chummy, despite their many differences.

I loved the scene when the two were walking through the garden together after just talking to the new boy Violet had hired. Violet doesn't seem to care much about talking to the gardener, but Isobel is more than eager to make him feel welcome.

Isobel: You make me sound very fervent.
Violet: Wars have been waged with less fervor.

And a few lines later . . .

Isobel: Say what you like, but I know you care about these things as much as I do.
Violet (laughing): Nobody cares about anything as much as you do.

4. Early in the episode, the staff is discussing Baxter's new sewing machine, but Mrs. Patmore looks skeptical. Thomas explains, "Mrs. Patmore isn't what you would call a 'futurist.'"

This serves to provide a little background for a later scene between Cora and Mrs. Patmore when Cora explains that she would like to buy a refrigerator for the kitchen. Mrs. Patmore will have none of it.

Mrs. P: I just don’t see why it’s better than an ice box.
Cora: Well, a refrigerator is more efficient. It keeps food fresh longer; we won’t need ice to be delivered . . .
Mrs. P: But the papers will still be delivered, and the groceries, and all sorts. Or are we to stop that, too?
Cora: Mrs. Patmore, is there any aspect of the present day that you can accept without resistance?
Mrs. P (leaning in to whisper): Well, My Lady, I wouldn’t mind getting rid of my corset.

Oh, that just made me chuckle! The woman can deliver a line so very well.

5. OK, my favorite line of the night will probably come as no surprise to anyone, because it was probably your favorite line, too. I think this might go down as one of my all-time favorite Violet Dowager Countess lines of all time. She's talking to Isobel (again):

"It's a wonder your halo doesn't get heavy. It must be like wearing a tiara round the clock."

And with that, I think I'll go polish my own halo--it's been getting a little tarnished lately.

So? What was your favorite line of the episode? And what do you think of Michael Gregson's disappearance? And anything else you'd like to dish about. Leave me a comment!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Magic in the Classroom

I don’t often write about my work (I’m a writing professor at the college nearby), but sometimes something so magical happens in class that I just have to share.

This morning was one of those moments.

I was introducing the idea of summary—what it is, how we use it in research, etc. I wanted to illustrate for the students that a summary isn’t always completely neutral—we choose the points that we think are important, which reflects our bias.

So I asked the students, “What’s your favorite T.V. show?”

Quickly, two students shouted, “Friends!”

Wait. Two of you chose a ‘90s sitcom? First of all, I think that’s strange. Second of all, “Friends”? Really?

(Apparently, according to my class, “Friends” is having a resurgence. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.)

Anyway, I asked one of the students, hoping to show the class how he would summarize the show thus reflecting what he thought was important about it, “Summarize ‘Friends’ for me. What is the show about?”

Without hesitating, he said, “Sex!”

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E3

Well now. Just when you think it couldn't get any more suspenseful or more sad or more . . . whatever you think it is . . . the show just keeps getting, well, more, doesn't it?

This week I felt like one of the themes was regret. Daisy regretted telling Alfred that James was in the boot room with Ivy. Mary regretted telling Lord Gillingham no.

And Tom. Poor Tom had the biggest regret of all: "I am already full of regrets. There is nothing but regret in me."

We'll get to that later.

First, let's talk about Anna. I didn't choose any of her lines this week because they were all too sad and filled with regret. I have no idea how this situation will play out, but I did notice a few things this week when I went back to watch the episode a second time. Did you notice in the first breakfast scene--it was the morning after . . . that . . . and all of the house party members' servants were gathered with the Downton servants for breakfast--that Anna was seated right next to "Mr. Gillingham," the man who had raped her the night before? I didn't catch that the first time, but whoo-boy! if Anna didn't stick around there very long. What a horrible place for her to be.

Did you also notice that, immediately upon their return from London, Carson told Anna that Lord Gillingham had arrived and she nearly jumped out of her skin? "Is his valet with him?" she asked immediately.

Oh, poor Anna. In every scene my heart broke for her. I just want to scoop her up, take her home with me, and just give her a place to feel safe. Hopefully she will come to her senses soon and tell her husband the truth. But what then????

Alright, I could discuss this forever, but I have class in a few minutes and lots to do today. Better get on with it.

1. My first favorite line came right at the beginning, in the servants' hall where everyone was gathered for breakfast. Anna, naturally, was jumpy. Mr. Bates was confused. And others were downright crabby. Thomas decided to add some levity to the situation.

Thomas: What's the matter with everyone this merry morn?

Carson: I always think there's something foreign about high spirits at breakfast.

Me too, Carson. At least until I've had a cup of coffee.

2. In the scene when everyone is leaving the house party, all gathered around the front door saying goodbye, Lord Gillingham and Mary have a brief exchange. (More regrets.) But in that little scene, "Mr. Gillingham" (I guess that's what they called someone's valet--"Mr" followed by whatever the Lord's name is), Downton's rapist, awkwardly approaches Lord G. and tells him everything is packed up.

Mary and Lord G. exchange glances as if to say, "Well, wasn't that highly inappropriate?"

Instead, Mary says something about how nice it is that Lord Gillingham is so well looked after, to which Lord Gillingham replies: "I know it seems rather ungrateful, but I can't pretend I really like him."

Hmmmmm. A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?

3. You gotta love Mrs. Hughes. I think she's been the bedrock of the season so far. While Robert and Cora continue to live in LaLa Land, Mrs. Hughes has her feet firmly planted on terra firma. And, wow! Does she know a thing or two about living life! Was anyone else surprised by her dressing down of Edna this week? Or that she even knew what the book Married Love was all about?

[As an aside, I did a little research and actually found a copy online of the 1919 book, Married Love:, by Marie Stopes. In her preface she says, "I have some things to say about sex, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been said, things which seem to be of profound importance to men and women who hope to make their marriages beautiful." She says lots of other things, too, some of which aren't quite so virtuous.]

Anyway, here's how the scene in Mrs. Hughes's office (sorta) went down.

Edna: How do you know I'm not pregnant, B-----?
Mrs. Hughes: You're not pregnant, and I'll tell you why, you sneaky witch. You had this filthy book hidden in your room that tells you everything you need to know about not getting pregnant!
Edna (shocked): You've been in my things!
Mrs. Hughes: Darn right!
Tom, looking sheepish: What if I said I'd marry her and she wasn't really pregnant?
Mrs. Hughes: Oh, don't worry about that. She'd find some other randy drunk man to get her pregnant.
Edna: So? I'm just going to go talk to that clueless lady upstairs. She'll believe me over you-who-have-worked-here-forever-and-have-saved-her-butt-more-than-once-without-her-even-knowing-it.
Mrs. Hughes: No you won't. And you know why you won't? Because if you ever want a reference, or a job, preferrably in your natural lifetime, you'll hold your tongue.

Meanwhile, Tom just stands there with his head moving back and forth like he's watching a tennis match.

And with that, Dame Edna was gone. Almost. Don't let the door hit you on the backside on the way out, Edna!

4. Next scene. Edna is rushing up the stairs with her book in her hand, and she brushes past Thomas. He gives her some snide remark, and she turns on him, saying the one thing everyone wishes they had the chance to say to Thomas.

Edna: Do you ever wonder why people dislike you so much? It’s because you are sly and oily and smug, and I’m really pleased I got the chance to tell you before I go.

Thomas: Well, if we’re playing the truth game, then you’re a manipulative little witch and if your schemes have come to nothing, I’m delighted.

Two of a kind, those two. 

5. You knew I'd save the best for last, didn't you? My absolutely favorite line of the episode, and one which I fully intend to bring into my own vernacular, was the delicious line from Mrs. Patmore: "Daisy, get a wiggle on!"

And with that, I must get my own wiggle on.

(Just in case you didn't get the context, getting one's "wiggle on" means "hurry up!")

So tell me, what was YOUR favorite line?

Top 5 Lines from DA, S4:E1
Top 5 Lines from DA, S4:E2

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E2

Spoiler alert: If you haven't seen Episode 2 of Season 4 yet, don't read on until you do. You'll be sorry. 


Oh, Downton, you just about killed me this week. I cannot believe what happened to my beloved Anna, and when I think about it now, two days later, I'm still overcome with sadness. I know you're fictional and your characters aren't real, but seriously, the way things played out, the way the scene was filmed, and the seriousness of it all--it just felt so very real.

Besides that, when I talked to one of my girls about it, she said, "I suppose stuff like that happened all the time back then." 

I know she's probably right, but we don't like to see the seedy side of life in a place that feels so utterly idyllic, do we? I mean, juxtapose the scene with Anna to the scene with Mary riding peacefully through the grounds with Lord Gillingham and you get a sense of what I mean.

Which brings me to another topic I feel I must discuss. A friend of Facebook this week mentioned that she's getting frustrated with all of the sitting-around-waiting-for-the-next-meal that goes on Upstairs. "It's like nobody does anything!" she said. Meanwhile, Downstairs is hustling and bustling to make sure Upstairs maintains a sense of calm. Anybody ever wonder what's up with that? 

I have a theory. My theory is that this is done on purpose and that Julian Fellowes, brilliant man that he is, is slowly unfolding the truth about life in post-Edwardian England. That truth? That Downstairs really runs the show. And while everyone Upstairs appears to have it all together as they wait for their next meal, it's the Downstairs folks who really run the engine. 

One more thing. Is anyone else getting sick of Robert? I mean, honestly, how has Cora put up with him all these years? I've only known him for four seasons, and I'm ready to throw him off the horse. Or a wall. Or a very tall building.

Again, though, I think Julian Fellowes is so brilliant in his development (or anti-development) of Robert through the years. In Season 1, I was so enamored by Robert--I thought he was such an honorable man. Today, however, I just see a man who is weak and pitiful. He lies to his wife about his gambling debts. He wants to keep his daughter in mourning so he won't have to share the responsibility of running the estate. And, worst of all, he is completely out of touch with the rest of the world.

Which brings me to my first quote of the night.

1. Cora has just received the news that the world-famous opera singer, Nelly Melba (don't you just love that name?!), has been relegated to eating in her bedroom. Cora, rightfully so, is outraged and confronts Robert.

Cora (whispering so that the other guests won't hear): A world famous singer is in our house, a great artist honored by the King, but you’ve held it beneath your dignity to eat. with. her?

Robert, stammering: I don’t remem . . .
Cora: Am I the only member of this family who lives in the 20th century? Now, you will have her next to you at dinner . . . and you will like it!
Robert: But what will I say to her? What does one say to a singer?

All I can say to that is OH GOOD GRIEF!!!

2. Earlier, we see that Mr. Molesley's troubles continue--so much so that he shows up in the kitchen with a delivery of groceries for Mrs. Patmore. He's embarrassed enough, but then Daisy steps right in it.

Daisy: Oh, you’re a delivery boy!
Mrs. Patmore: Now, now, Daisy. There’s no shame in hard work.

Preach it, Mrs. Patmore!

3. Meanwhile, Thomas continues to sit on his high horse, refusing to serve as footman for a night after Jimmy sprains his wrist and can't carry the trays upstairs.

Thomas: Mr. Carson, may I remind you that I am the under butler?
Carson: I don’t care if you’re the High Cockalorum, you’re a footman tonight.

Now, I'll admit that, for as hard as I laughed at that line (Carson's delivery was perfect!), I had to do a little research here to try to dig up the meaning behind Carson's words. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "high cockalorum," when applied to a person, means "little or young cock, bantam; self-important little man."

Need I say more?

4. Poor Tom. He really is such a nice man, handling his grief quietly and trying his best to work hard and fit in. But this week we start to see just how difficult life at the Abbey is for Tom. At the house party, Tom calls the old Dutchess "Your Grace," which Violet quickly moves in to correct, telling him the terms that old royalty should be called and in which venue.

Truly, I'd be scratching my head, too.

Tom: There’s no logic in it.
Violet to Tom: If I were ever to search for logic, I should not look for it among the English upper class.

Don't you just love it when they make fun of themselves?

5. You've got to hand it to Violet, she really was so kind to Isobel tonight. (Makes you wonder what she has planned for future episodes.) She actually had her driver stop the car in town so that she could get out to talk Isobel into attending the dinner and concert that night. So unrefined, talking out in broad daylight like that!

Anyway, at the end of the evening, Robert walked both Violet and Isobel outside to bid them adieu. 

Robert (to Isobel): I’m so pleased you came.
Isobel: So am I. I was wrong to hesitate, but then Guilt has the power to make all of us do strange things.
Violet: Oh, not all of us. Guilt has never played a major part in my life.
Robert (under his breath): Amen to that.

Ah, the mother and child reunion! Gotta love both of those lines.

Well, there we go. I have to say that I'm so curious about next week. What will happen with Anna? Will she and Bates ever have an easy time of things? 

We have some predictions around here, but I'd love to hear yours.

What do you think will happen next?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E1

Alright now, for as much as I talk about wanting this place to be a place of substance, I can't help myself. I just have to talk about Downton Abbey.

Not to say that DA isn't substantive. Forgive me if that's what you may have inferred. Actually, I watch Downton Abbey because it is a little more thoughtful than most of what's on T.V. today. (And, again, this isn't to say that I don't watch my fair share of mindless television.)

(Boy, I'm digging myself in deep here, aren't I?)

Anyway, despite my earlier post claiming that I wanted to start blogging again by writing what I would want to read--or maybe because of that claim--I've decided that the Downton Abbey posts must stay. I get a lot of pleasure from writing them, and I suspect that some of you get some pleasure from reading them.

And now you're thinking, as am I, that it's very near the end of Tuesday and this post may be bordering on being outdated. That's O.K. I'm not giving any excuses because there just may have been a hockey game to attend on Sunday night and then I had to watch DA a couple of times to make sure I got this right.

I promise, not every post will have this many caveats attached to it.

So now, as I've done for the previous three seasons, I bring you my Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, Season 4, Episode 1.

Such sadness in the big house, isn't there? Matthew has been gone for six months and Mary is still looking like a deer in the headlights. Poor thing. We'll get to her.

Things are in an uproar right away because O'Brien has left. Who knew that a Lady's Maid leaving would cause such trauma both Upstairs and Downstairs? That O'Brien really had a way of causing a ruckus, and she's still managing to do so even by NOT being there.

1. And Thomas. Still up to his old tricks. My first favorite line came fairly early on in the show when Thomas was sitting around (he never really seems to do any real work, does he?) complaining to Mr. Bates about Nanny West who had asked him to do her a favor.

Bates: You mean she mistook you for a servant?
Alfred, confused as usual: But he is a servant.
Bates: Don’t tell him that, he’ll never get over the shock.

2. Ah, Violet. My Lady was in beautiful form this week as she handed out advice and one-liners like penny candy to the children. 

Violet, in an attempt to pull Isobel out of her grief, pays a visit to Crawley House, suggesting that Isobel snap out of it.

Violet: You say you have no purpose. But what about Little George? Surely you’re interested in him.
Isobel: Of course, but I’m not going to drive Mary mad by interfering.
Violet: It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.

Tucking that one away for the future.

3. Poor Mr. Molesley. I felt so sorry for him this week, and I wonder what will be in store for him as he's sunk so low. 
But I loved the sweet scene between Mr. Molesley and his father, Mr. Molesley. It seems there was a lot of shoring up to do this week because between Violet and Mr. Molesley the Elder, there was a lot of good advice dispensed.

Here's the line I loved: In your game, if you want the best, you have to be the best and work at it.

Good parental advice from the elder Mr. M.

4. And what about the sweet scene between Violet and Mary in Mary's bedroom? Words that rarely have been spoken at that house seemed to make all the difference.

Mary: I suppose you think I behaved very badly down there.
Violet: My dear, I’m not very interested in whether you behaved badly or well.
Mary: No?
Violet: I’m not your governess. I’m your grandmother.
Mary: And the difference is?
Violet: The difference is . . . I love you.

I don't think I've ever heard a Grantham speak those words--they just weren't said back then--but as soon as Mary heard her grandmother say them, she seemed to perk up, confessing to Violet that she didn't think she'd make a very good mother.

And Violet spoke such life-giving words to her granddaughter (and to all of us who feel we've failed at motherhood a time or two): My dear, there is more than one type of good mother.

Thank you, Dowager. Thank you.

5. Finally, I had to choose the scene between Mrs. Hughes and Carson toward the end of the episode. The two were in Carson's office discussing his broken relationship with Mr. Griggs, and Mrs. Hughes offered this gem of wisdom: It’s an open wound. I don’t know why, but I do know this—you’d do better to stitch it up and let it heal.

Oh, there were so many more good lines and wonderful scenes, but I had to keep myself to five and these are my favorites. 

OK, if I were to add one more, it would be the tender scene between Carson and Mary in Carson's office when she finally broke down and cried, and Carson comforted her: You cry, my Lady. You have a good cry. That’s what’s needed now. And when you are ready, you can get to work. Because you are strong enough. You are strong enough for the task.


Downton Abbey, I'm so glad you're back. These cold winter nights are made just a bit warmer with you around.

How about you? Did you watch? What were your favorite lines?

Saturday, January 4, 2014


We had a plan . . . sort of.

Armed with a list of places we had wanted to try, the girls and I set out for the city. I had been looking forward to this day since before our break even began, and I didn’t want meltdowns or hunger or a lack of a plan to spoil our time together.

And then there was the weather. Eleven inches of snow had fallen in the two days prior to our trip and the roads were not quite clear yet. No matter. I had my front-wheel drive mini van and a lot of determination. We’d make it.

We started out at Mario Batali’s newest Chicago home, Eataly. Very cool. Very hip.

Very overwhelming.

We weren’t quite sure how to conquer this monster, so we wandered for a while, admiring the exquisite chocolates, cheeses, and pastas. Soon, however, hunger crept in, an enemy that had ruined many a Chicago outing for our family. I would not let it ruin this day.

Since the wait for a table was an hour long, we decided to grab some of their famous focaccia bread as a quick snack. We found a place to stand while we ate and discussed our next move.

We were on a mission to visit some of Chicago’s best eateries.

“Donuts. We need to try some donuts.”

“Coffee. Definitely need coffee.”

“All I know is that we need to get out of here.”

So we finished our bread (which was delicious), made a few purchases, and headed out.

The tactical error was all mine; I’ll accept full responsibility for it. While we were regrouping at Eataly’s front door, I asked, “So what’s next? Do you guys want to shop for a while since we’re down here? Should we go to our next destination? (What IS our next destination?) What do you want to do?”

I should have known better than to throw out options like shopping when we were clearly on a food mission. But there it was.

The options were just too many.

I could tell that frustrations were starting to mount. Our plan had been compromised, and nobody knew what should come next.

“I think we need to stay focused.”

The voice of reason that knocked us all back into consciousness.

“I mean, since we came down here to taste foods, let’s just focus on food.”

Everyone quickly agreed. Focus was what we needed; focus was what we would do.

We happily headed to the car, parking voucher in one hand, Google maps in the other.

For the rest of the day we focused. 

And we ate. And we laughed at the silliness of it all.

But in the end, we were so glad we did it.

These are the days that memories are made of.

Here’s what I learned: the City of Chicago is just too big to take in one bite. You have to focus your efforts and save room for more later.

The city (and the food) will always be there.


Here's a list of the places we visited:

Where would you go for the best foods in YOUR city?

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Well, hello!

I hardly know where to start, it's been so long since I've been around here. I guess I took a blogging break.

I didn't mean to take a break. I really didn't.

All of a sudden the semester was upon me, and lesson plans and grading took over my life and here I was . . . not writing.

And every day that went by . . . not writing . . . just felt right for a while.

At one point I said to Kate, "I feel just terrible that I haven't written anything this fall." Her response was such grace to me--words I've held on to: "It's O.K., Mom. You're just in a period of quiet."

Yes, I think that was it. A time of quiet. When my heart and my soul just didn't have much to say.

I'm still not sure I have much to say even now, but I've missed writing so much. And I feel I should probably take the advice I give to my students: you have to exercise that writing muscle in order to write anything of substance.

So today I'm practicing and exercising and hoping beyond hope that something of substance will come out of this period of quiet.

I've tossed and turned this around in my mind, trying to figure out why I went quiet for a while, and I've come up with a couple of theories. Choose whichever one fits.

1. Coming off of the busiest summer of my life and jumping right into a busy fall semester of teaching was just a whole lot of crazy and not enough "thinking" space for this introvert.

2. Kate being gone this fall threw me off. (As in, it's easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility myself. Way to go, Mom!)

3. I just didn't have much to say.

I pick either 1 or 3.

(Yes, Kate was gone, and it was weird to have her so far away, but it was O.K. We survived. We even got to see her a few times, so it wasn't that bad.)

So, let's talk about number 1 for a minute. I definitely think that, while my summer was indeed invigorating and that renovating an entire townhouse in eight weeks was somewhat satisfying, it was also exhausting. And, again, while traveling to Europe with my mom was such a special and extravagant experience, it was not restful--I came home as tired as when I left. In other words, I started my semester from a place of exhaustion, which any professor will tell you is not a good place to be.

And number 3. Honestly? I think that's more it than anything. What I really want for this space, this very small blog, is to be a place of substance. What I want is to write something that I would want to read, and, if I'm to be perfectly honest, I haven't always done that. To write with authenticity and vulnerability, all the while pushing myself and my reader closer to God, that's what I'd like to do here.

So it's a new year. Time to throw off the old, to forget about the failures of 2013 (there were many), and to move ahead.

Will you join me?