Friday, January 30, 2015

Re-post: Intentional Parenting Conclusion



A dear friend, a young mom with three little ones, has been a sweet encouragement to me over the past several years. I love getting together with her to "talk shop" (i.e. parenting). Last week she reminded me of this post that I wrote for her before her first child was born. Boy, has time ever flown!

Anyway, I re-read this post this week and thought I'd share it with you again. I love writing about parenting and I love writing to parents. On Facebook last week several friends asked me to write more about parenting, so I think that over the next few weeks I may be doing just that. Do you have any parenting issues you'd like to see addressed?

I hope you enjoy this re-post from 2010. And if you're interested in reading the rest of my Intentional Parenting Series, click here.


*****

Dear H:

This week you will receive a gift. A gift like none you’ve ever received. A gift more valuable than the most precious of jewels, more rewarding than the highest of degrees you could attain, more enthralling than your greatest love.

This week God will deliver to you a child. He is entrusting this gift to you and R because he knows you will take your responsibility seriously. He knows you will treat her with care. He knows you will love her deeply—you already do.

But He also knows that you will never love her as much as He does. He knows that, and He still gives us children—isn’t that amazing?

Having been down this road a time or three, I’ve thought long and hard about the adventure you’re about to take. Sure, you’ve been warned about the diapers, the laundry, the sleepless nights, but has anyone told you about those moments when you are so filled with love for your daughter that your heart just hurts? Or when you stare so deeply into your baby’s eyes that you feel like you can see into her soul? Or the worry that will fill you as you look at our fallen world and you wonder what kind of future there could possibly be for her?

H, you are in for a ride like none other.

So here’s my advice as you embark on this journey: be intentional. Every day, have a plan and seek to carry it out. Now, I know that sounds completely overwhelming, but it’s not. I can break it down into two simple steps—Intentional Love and Intentional Trust.

Intentional Love. You already love this little girl—everyone who knows you knows that. But there will be days, trust me, when she won’t be loveable. There will be days when you’ll want to put your comfort above hers—a little more sleep, a little more time, a little more . . .

But parenthood is never for us or about us. It’s about loving these gifts that God entrusts to us by putting their needs above our own. And by needs, I don’t mean the “stuff” of this world. What our kids need is discipline, responsibility, a sense of right and wrong. Jesus. Teaching these things takes time and energy, and you never, ever stop.

That is love.

Intentional Trust. It’s a funny thing, parenthood. God entrusts these children to us, knowing full well that we cannot do it on our own. He knows we are not equipped to do this job the way He intends, and yet He gives them to us anyway. Thankfully, He gives us His word and prayer—two mighty defenses that we need in order to conquer our daily battles.

And in return, we must give God our trust. I’ve written and spoken on this topic quite a bit, you know, but I believe with all my heart that God does not want us to live in fear. Yes, this world is scary. Yes, having kids in this world is scary. Yes, there is so much that could go wrong. And yet, God tells us, “Do not fear.”

One of my favorite verses is Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

As you step out into the battlefield, fighting for this child every day—praying for her, defending her, loving her—trust in the One who gave her to you to walk beside you wherever you go. He has promised to do this, and you can trust Him.

So, do not fear, H. God is with you.

And you, and R, and your daughter are loved.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S5 :: E4


Are things beginning to heat up in Granthamland? This week’s episode left me with a lot of questions, not the least among them: DID ANNA KILL MR. GREENE??!!??

It wasn’t much, just a subtle hint toward the very end of the show, but there seemed to be something there to suggest that, perhaps, Anna herself might have traveled to London to do the deed. Interesting to think about, and logistically, it would make sense.

See, there's something I've been wondering about. I’ve taken the train from London to York, and I know that it’s about a four-hour train ride even in these modern times. Back in the early 1920s, it would have taken Bates probably eight hours or more to travel to London from York. That would mean he would have to hunt down Greene somewhere randomly on the streets of a huge city (even back then the population wasn't too much different than it is today--about 8 million people), push him in front of a bus, and then travel BACK to York all in the same day. From the very beginning I wondered how it could happen, but now I’m REALLY wondering.

So it’s all starting to come together. I’m dying to see what happens with Anna. (As an aside, I’ve noticed that she hasn’t had more than a few speaking lines in the first four episodes. Have they deliberately been keeping her on the sidelines, just waiting for her next big story line? Hmmmmm.)

Alright, so let’s move ahead. I’ve got to admit, this season, so far, hasn’t been my favorite. Oh sure, there are some intriguing characters and some fascinating plot possibilities, but mostly I think this season has been a little boring.

Is it just me?

This week we found Mr. Bricker still panting like a puppy about Cora, following her around with that stupid smile on his face. From Downton to London and now look! back to Downton again.

Hasn’t he ever heard of a camera? He could take a photograph of the picture and use that for his “research.” Good grief, I’m tired of this guy.

I think Robert is getting tired of him, too, but he just doesn’t know what to do about it.

1. Which brings me to my first favorite line. It’s at the dinner party. Or should I say THE Dinner Party. The one that will go down in infamy. I’ll get to more of that later, but at first, Robert is just ticked off that Mr. Bricker keeps showing such unabashed attention to his wife.

Or maybe he’s just ticked off that Cora is loving every minute of it.

So there’s Robert, sitting, as usual, next to his mother at the dinner table (it just occurred to me that he’s still such a little boy in so many ways—still living in his boyhood home and eating dinner next to his mother), complaining about the shenanigans taking place across the table from him: “He flatters her. He asks her opinion about everything.”

But it’s Violet’s response that I absolutely loved this week:

“Well, don’t you ask her opinion?”

Right on, Vi.

2. My second pick of the week goes to Robert. It’s just a subtle dig, but one that might have been spoken in my own home from time to time. It just made me laugh.

Mary is getting ready to head to London . . . again . . . and can’t stay home to discuss the Pipp’s Corner devlopement with Robert. 


“Not me. Aunt Rosamund’s taking me to a dress show.”

To which Robert replies, “It’s good to know you’ve got your priorities straight.”

3. I am absolutely loving how they have developed the relationship between Violet and Isobel this season. So many funny situations and hilarious banter between those two. They are like long-lost sisters, constantly sniping at each other.

Early in the episode Violet is waxing poetic over her past life with the Russian Count, but Isobel won’t let her off the hook.

Violet: Hope is a tease designed to prevent us accepting reality.
Isobel: Oh, you only say that to sound clever.

My happiness, though, came from Violet’s quick response: 
“I know. You should try it.”

I only wish I could be that quick on my feet.

4. Now, about that dinner party. THE Dinner Party.

Wasn’t that fun?! It was like being a fly on the wall at the world’s most awkward, hilarious, so-many-things-going-on dinner party. One you think you might like to attend, but you’re not really quite sure you could stomach it. So the writers of Downton gave us a front row seat without our having to eat treacle . . . or having to cower at the complete horror of it all.

Thank you, Mr. Fellowes! I found this scene delightful. I’ve watched it over and over.

Two favorite lines came out of THE Dinner Party for me. Actually, more than two, but I only have two spots left, so I’ll choose my favorites.

Oh, but first let me say that I think Sarah Bunting got exactly what she deserved. The woman just does not know when to stop! Tom had better not end up with her or he’ll spend the rest of his life in misery—she’ll be pick, pick, picking at him for not being “who he really is” for the rest of his life. UGH.

Have I mentioned that I can’t stand her? And NOT for her political leanings, whatever those may be. It’s all about her rudeness. She embarrassed her hosts. She embarrassed the servants. And, worst of all, she embarrassed our beloved Tom.


The only person not embarrassed was Sarah Bunting.

So, you know what happened. Robert has finally had enough of the challenges and the ridicule and the embarrassment. He orders Miss Bunting out of his home with what may be one of my favorite lines EVER on Downton Abbey:

“There is only one thing I would like, and that I would like passionately. That is for you to leave this house and never come back!”


You go, Robert. Finally, a spine.

5. Shortly after the party when things in the house have calmed down and everyone is retreating to their bedrooms, Tom meets Robert on the staircase and tries to apologize.

Thankfully, the two have made amends and can kind of chuckle over the situation.

Tom tells Robert, “She knows how to goad you.”

To which Robert replies, “With the precision of a surgeon.”

Ah, yes. And with that, Julian Fellowes precisely lands the knife.

Hopefully that will be the last we see of Miss Bunting.

*****
Bonus line!!

You thought I was done, didn't you? So did I, but when I went back to watch the episode for the third time, I realized that I couldn't not mention Daisy's sweet soliloquy. I almost hate to share it because it might make some of you feel warm, fuzzy feelings toward Miss Bunting, but I just have to. It was so sweet and so special, especially to those of us who try to impart knowledge for a living.

It was at the dinner party. THE Dinner Party. After Robert ordered Daisy and Miss Patmore upstairs to the dining room to ask whether Daisy's homework has gotten in the way of her "real" work. They agree that, no, Daisy is keeping up just fine, but then Daisy says this, which I loved:


"Well, I’m sorry if I’ve made trouble downstairs, but I must say this, My Lord. . . . Miss Bunting here has opened my eyes to a world of knowledge I knew nothing about. Maybe I’ll stay a cook all my life, but I have choices now, interests, facts at my fingertips, and I’d never have any of that if she hadn’t come here to teach me."

Ahhhh. I love Daisy.

*****

Now tell me, what did you think of this episode? What do you think of this season? What do you think of Sarah Bunting? Dish it up in the comments!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Two Yellow Cabs


I rode away in a yellow cab with a driver I couldn’t understand and windshield wipers pounding furiously at the driving rain. I worried that my flight wouldn’t be able to take off. I wondered what my people at home were doing. And I waved goodbye to my oldest child as she rode away in her own yellow cab that would take her in the opposite direction.

It didn’t seem right. A child is supposed to travel home from a trip with her parent, right? The parent’s job is to protect her and to see her safely home. Or so I thought.

But this weekend was a little different—our first weekend away since my oldest graduated, moved out, and got a new job that takes her to various places every week. Lately her home-away-from-home has been New York and, you know, it’s been waiting for me, and so has she, so I went.

For weeks we’d been planning our trip—which streets to shop, things to see, places to eat. Even though Kate works there most days, she doesn’t get to play tourist, so we were excited about exploring the big city together.


Those of you who have been around here for a while might remember that Kate and I and two of her friends explored New York together over Spring Break one year (we even met Meredith Viera!), but I hadn’t been there in four years, so it was fun to plan a new adventure.

I’m always up for a new adventure, right?!

Just like four years ago, we covered a lot of ground—Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, Times Square, Ellis Island, East Village, and, my personal favorite, the Met. I even got to see where my grown-up daughter works—directly across the street from this building.


It was, at times, surreal to be walking with this grown up person, independent, who knew where the best restaurants were and how to hail a cab. And yet there were times that felt perfectly natural, back in our hotel, laughing and talking like the old days.

My mother's-heart practically burst all weekend--it was so good to be with her again.

Sunday morning brought a fitting sort of rain. The kind of rain that makes it impossible to walk down the street or take in the sights. The kind of rain that comes from thick clouds stretching for miles. The kind of rain that soaks not just your skin, but your heart.

We made the best of our Sunday: brunch on Houston Street, a few final hours hanging out at the hotel. We still had some time before my flight, so we decided to store our bags and take a cab to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or, as New Yorker’s call it: The Met).

We only had a couple of hours there, but it was so worth it. Something about walking through a beautiful building taking in beautiful things made the ugly day outside just a little bit better. I wanted to walk slowly, to savor every painting and every moment, to slow down time so that I wouldn’t have to walk back outside to the rain and to goodbyes.

Our time ended much too soon, and Kate and I decided that we would have to make another trip to the Met someday. (We didn’t even see half of it, I’m sure.) Soon, we were back at our hotel, collecting bags, hailing cabs, and hugging each other tightly.

As I drove away, tears mingling with raindrops on my already-wet coat, I realized that the ground had shifted yet again in my parenting journey as two yellow cabs drove through the rainy streets of Manhattan in opposite directions.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey :: S5, E3

If last week’s theme was secrets, this week had a theme, too: brats.

Spoiled brats, to be more specific.

What’s gotten into everyone? Even the servants were acting like spoiled brats this week.

The only person not acting like a spoiled brat is the original spoiled brat herself: Rose. She was too busy trying to cheer up some Russian refugees.

I’ll be honest, I had a tough time coming up with five lines that actually stood out to me or made me laugh this week because throughout the episode I just kept shaking my head or yelling, “No! Don’t do it!” But I persevered and have come up with my Top Five Lines from the episode, or, to put it another way, Top Five Examples of Bratage in the Big House.

1. Let’s start with the most obvious, shall we?


Mary.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary.

You seem to think that 1924 is actually 2014 what with your “modernized” value system and all. You act like it’s NBD that you went to Liverpool with a man who isn’t your husband, checked into adjoining rooms with him, slept with him for a week, and now are thinking of dumping him because you’re just not that into him.

And then you dare to patronize your grandmother when she tries to call you on it.

“Darling Granny, you know how much I value your advice.”

To which Granny responds as any knowing parent would: “Which means you intend to ignore it.”

Granny was right, you know, Mary. It is scandalous in 1924. And for some of us, your behavior is even scandalous in 2014.

2. Spratt the Brat.


Did you just love the scene with Spratt and The Dowager just after he came back from catching Mary in the act in Liverpool?

Spratt’s all: *shuffle, shuffle* I-didn’t-want-to-tell-you-anything-M’-Lady.

And Violet’s all: Well-then-get-on-with-you-I’d-like-some-tea-already.

And Spratt’s all: *shuffle, shuffle* I-didn’t-see-anything.

And Violet’s all: My-patience-is-wearing-thin-Spratt-what-is-on-your-mind?

And finally Spratt says: “I. Hope. Lady Mary. Enjoyed. Her. Time. In. Liverpool.”

*wink wink*

(Brat to the nth degree.)

But Violet recovers ever so quickly so as to avoid the townsfolk talking even more about her family than they already do.


You didn’t think anything vulgar was going on did you, Spratt? Nothing beneath the dignity of this house, certainly?

Whew! That sure shut him up.

Crisis averted.

3. Mrs. Patmore even gets into the bratty brigade this week. She stomps and stews over getting her precious Army-deserting nephew’s name onto a memorial. Any memorial. Somewhere. Anywhere.

And so she convinces Mrs. Hughes to talk to Carson about getting Artie’s name put on the local memorial, even though her nephew never set foot in their town.

When Mr. Carson refuses (as he should), Mrs. Patmore will take no sympathy from anyone because, as she says,

“Sympathy butters no parsnips.”


4. Mrs. Hughes took a swipe at being a brat this week as well. Even she gets mad at Mr. Carson for not being taken in by her big brown eyes and her jingling keychain, when he refuses her BFF’s request. And poor Daisy, eager learner that she is, gets caught in the crossfire.

“My advice, Daisy, is to go as far in life as God and luck allow.”

5. Robert.

What can I say? Robert is pretty much always a brat—he’s never really grown up—but this week brings him to a new bratty low.

When he suddenly wakes up and realizes that his wife has run off to London to visit an art museum with another man, he decides to delight Cora with his presence and jumps on the next train to London.


But his little plan backfires when Simon Bricker invites Cora to an impromptu dinner and she blushingly accepts. When she arrives at Rosamund’s townhouse, Cora is greeted by the original brat himself who berates her for not being available at his beck and call for the “surprise” visit (which, if you ask me, was nothing more than a check to make sure she wasn’t cheating on him).

He moans:

“I try to surprise my wife by coming to London . . .”
“I got a table at Claridges so we could make a night of it.”
“Don’t worry I cancelled everything when we got Mr. Bricker’s telegram.”
“Rosamund gave me your dinner and went to bed.” (Translation: I’m eating the dog’s food.)

Cora apologizes: I’m dreadfully sorry.
Robert: So you said.

Cora finally wakes up enough to say, “Wait. I don’t know that I’ve done anything wrong here.”


“No? I travel to London in order to give my wife a treat only to find out she’s out dining with another man.” 

("Oh, and by the way, what would an ART EXPERT want with you? You can barely tie your shoes by yourself, so I highly doubt that you know anything about art. Ugh. You disgust me.")

Now, I get it if you think Cora was being amazingly na├»ve in this situation. I’d even go so far as to agree with you. But right now we’re talking about the Brat Factor, and Robert’s got it in spades.

He always has.

***
So tell me, did you have any favorite moments from this episode? Leave me a comment!

***
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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey :: S5, E2

Oh, beloved Downton. You did not disappoint. This week seemed to be centered on the secrets flying about the house—it’s hard to keep up with them all!

Edith and Marigold.

Mary and Lord Gillingham.

Miss Baxter and Thomas.

It’s amazing for people who live in such close quarters to really not have a clue about what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Well, except for Cora. She's pretty much always clueless.

Which brings me to my first favorite quote of the night.

1. Charles Blake brings his friend Simon Bricker to the Big House for an evening of merriment. Apparently Simon is doing some art history research and wants to see a painting by a famous artist that the Crawley-Grantham’s just “happen” to own.

I really think Blake tagged along so he could have his moment with Mary. But that’s not the point here.

Simon B. and Clueless, I mean Cora, are standing alone in a room with the painting and Simon puts on the full court press. He’s shameless! Cora doesn’t seem to get it, we think, until bedtime as she listens to Robert grouse about the evening (as he does pretty much any time company comes to visit).

This time Robert is in a tizzy over Tom and Sarah Bunting and the possibility that Tom would take Sibbie away from all of them. He huffs and puffs his way into bed and throws in this wonderful line for good measure:

“And tell your friend Bricker to stop flirting with Isis. There’s nothing more ill-bred than trying to steal the affections of someone else’s dog.”
Or wife.

2. The Wireless.

(Small side note: look in the lower right hand corner of this picture. That's Sibbie!)

Good grief! Could one small electrical appliance cause so much angst in one family? I know the telephone was a big deal, but this wireless situation makes one think the world is coming to an end.

I loved Daisy:
“Why is it called a wire-less when there are so many wires?”
But the best (in relation to the wireless) was, again, grumpy Gus, I mean Robert who said:
“It’s a fad. It won’t last.” 
Yeah, and that train line across Canada was a good investment, too.

3. I am really starting to love Miss Baxter. We haven’t gotten to know much about her, but we are starting to learn some things this season. I think she is a multi-dimensional character who not only has secrets . . . and a past . . . and some problems with Thomas . . . but she is also a changed person.


I think I’m also starting to like what they are doing with Molesley and Baxter. They kind of bring out the best in each other. Like how Molesley is starting to get a backbone and stand up to Thomas. And how Baxter is trying, in her own quiet way, to win his affections.

Their scene in the courtyard was precious as Molesley tried to work out how to think about Baxter in light of her recent jewel thief confession.

Baxter didn’t beg and plead with him to accept her, she just said in her very quiet way, 
“I would only say that I am not that person now.”
And left it at that. So classy.

4. Vi and Izzy were in rare form this week, weren’t they? I loved the scene when they were at tea at Lord What’s-His-Face’s house, cawing over the male/femaleness of each room. (What even IS that?! I’ve never heard of such a thing.)

Of course Isobel is an expert at interior decorating because she is an expert at All The Things. And Lord What’s-His-Face is all “I could use a guiding hand in that area (or any area you’d want to help guide me)” and Izzy just blushes and the two women exchange looks across the table.


Finally, Violet chirps,
“Mrs. Crawley is never happier than when she has a chance to use her guiding hand.”
Now I’m blushing!

5. I wanted to end with Carson and Mrs. Hughes because, is it just me or do the writers seem to be hinting at a bit of a development between the two?


Early in the episode, Carson and Mrs. Hughes are talking about the War Memorial (is anyone besides me already sick of the Memorial story line?). Carson wants it on the cricket pitch, but Robert isn’t so easily convinced. He thinks the memorial should be placed in the center of town where everyone can see it and give a nod to their lost loved ones. (And also not mess with his cricket pitch.)

Mrs. Hughes agrees with Robert—the memorial should be more public. Carson, not so much, and he tells her in not so many words how disappointed he is with her. But Mrs. Hughes quietly responds, 
“Well, every relationship has its ups and downs.”
Hmmmmm?

Later, after the issue seems to be resolved and Robert has gotten his way again (spoiled brat), Carson attempts to make amends with Mrs. Hughes.

Carson: I don’t like it when we’re not on the same side.
Mrs. Hughes: We’re different people. We won’t always agree.
Carson: I know, but I don’t like it.

*sigh*

Personally, this week I liked the Downstairs crew a whole lot more than the Upstairs crew. Such sweet story lines going on Downstairs (Daisy learning arithmetic!). Such naughty ones Upstairs (Mary, I’m looking at you!).

Let’s see if those badly behaved bluebloods can get their acts together next week. Or maybe they’ll start some new secrets.

We’ll see . . .

*****
So what were YOUR favorite lines this week?

*****

Make sure you keep up with my Downton Abbey posts each week. You can sign up to get my posts emailed to you right over there ------------>.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fabulous Friday Food - Roasted Rosemary Cashews (via Ina)


It's cold in these parts this week. Kids have missed school for two days (don't EVEN get me started), but they went back yesterday. Lots of thoughts about "cold days" floating around. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

It is, after all, winter in the Midwest. Isn't is supposed to be cold?

Whatever.

Whenever winter sets in I like to bake (oh, let's face it, I always like to bake), so on Thursday I baked up a batch of Honey Whole Wheat Bread because I'm having special guests here this weekend--a dear friend from college, her daughter, and her granddaughter (!). (A BABY in my house!) We devoured one loaf at dinner earlier this week, but hopefully we had a couple of loaves to share with our friends.

Since I redecorated my guest room this fall (OH MY WORD I JUST REALIZED THAT I NEVER SHOWED YOU MY GUEST ROOM RE-DO!!! Stay tuned . . .) we've had lots of guests, which I absolutely love. As a hospitality person, I'm happiest when my house is full.

And when my house is full, I like to have snacks on hand that are somewhat healthy and always delicious. That's what I bring you today.

I first saw Ina make these Rosemary Roasted Cashews on her show and knew immediately that I HAD to make them. I have made them several times since, and have, of course, tweaked the recipe to my own taste (primarily, I leave out the cayenne pepper and amped up the brown sugar and salt). Let me tell you, everyone who has tried these has loved them.

So, for your weekend, I give you a quick, easy snack to enjoy with guests or just with your family. Or while watching hockey. Or, perhaps, watching Downton Abbey. *wink wink*

The possibilities are endless.

You need to gather only five ingredients: cashews, rosemary, butter, brown sugar, and salt.


First, roast the cashews. Simply place them on a dry baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes. Be sure to watch them so the cashews don't burn--you only want a golden brown, not a deep brown. Burned nuts are bitter, and we don't want that.


Next, chop the rosemary very fine (nobody wants to get a huge chunk of rosemary in their mouth).



Combine the rosemary, brown sugar, and salt in a bowl.


Add the melted butter and stir well to combine.

When the cashews are done, add them to the butter/sugar/rosemary mixture and stir very well.

If you have some lumps of brown sugar, keep stirring to break those up. I have also put the cashews back into the oven for about 2-3 minutes just to melt the sugar and combine everything.

Simply place the cashews in a bowl and enjoy!


And now, I'm going to prepare my cashews for this weekend. Hope you have a great one!

For a printable recipe click here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

One Word for 2015



Four years ago I chose my “One Word” for the first time. That word was Grace.

Two years ago I chose another word: Love.

Last year I didn’t bother. I was too busy or bogged down or burdened to even choose one word. What a waste—I could have used a word last year.

A few weeks ago while walking the dog I started thinking about choosing a word for 2015. So, as I often do while I’m walking the dog, I prayed about it: “Lord, what word would you have me think about in 2015?”

Almost immediately I felt God saying to me, “Shelly, just pursue me and I’ll take care of the rest.”

Whoa.

That doesn’t happen often, people. It’s not like God speaks audibly to me, like, ever, but He does sometimes impress something so clearly on my heart that I know it’s from Him. And this was one of those moments.

And then I put it away.

Because I wanted a cool word, a holy word, a word that would change my life. “Pursue” just didn’t feel like that word.

So last week, while walking, of course, I asked the Lord again (same scenario, take two): “What should my word be?”

Again, the impression felt so clear: Pursue me and I’ll take care of the rest.

I may be slow on the uptake sometimes, but I’m no dummy, so I gave in and decided right there on the corner of Cross and Union that my word would be Pursue.

As I’ve been thinking about this word, I've realized something. My last two words-of-the-year were nouns: concrete ways that I could give to others. Grace and Love were words that caused me to focus on the way I treat others, and these were necessary in my life at that time.

But this word, pursue, is a verb. It’s active, and it means “to chase after someone or something.”

(Of course it also means "to continue to annoy, afflict, or trouble." Hmmm. To cause a ruckus, perhaps?)

For me, the idea of chasing after someone or something is perfect for this year. I sense this word pushing me forward in two ways.

First, as I’ve already mentioned, I think the word will encourage me to pursue my relationship with God even more. It’s easy in this busy life to sometimes let that fall aside, but God has told me in His word that if I pursue Him, everything else will fall into place.
“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
 Second, I hope this word will give me courage to pursue my writing goals this year. It reminds me that if I want to achieve something I can’t sit idly by and simply wait for my goals to happen--I have to pursue them.

And that’s why I love that I’ve chosen a verb. Verbs have to be active, moving, pushing ahead—it’s who they are—they are not static like nouns. Verbs are doers--movers and shakers--and that’s what I want to be this year.

So, onward we go into this new year. I hope to cause a ruckus.

Pursue.

So tell me, have you chosen a word for 2015? What is it?


Monday, January 5, 2015

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey, S5:E1

Happy Monday, dear friends. And it IS a happy Monday today because Downton Abbey Season 5 premiered last night.

I’m still thinking about it, laughing to myself over all the antics and hilarious possibilities for the upcoming season. They certainly didn’t waste time getting to the good stuff, did they?

As always and because I just can’t help myself, I’m going to post my Top Five lines of each episode.

(If you’re not a Downton fan, just come back in a couple of days. Please?)

As I said, they didn’t waste time getting to the good stuff by continuing story lines that were left hanging last season (Mary and Lord Gillingham? Edith’s baby? Thomas’s harassment of Miss Baxter?) and starting some new, potentially interesting stories (James and Lady Anstruther? Sarah Bunting? Molesley and Baxter?).

And, of course there was Violet, Dowager Countess. Always the star of the show, in my opinion.

And while Violet may be the star (and recipient of all the best lines), my favorite character is still Daisy.

1. So let’s start with Daisy, shall we? Because she had a bit of an interesting development this week. 


Mrs. Patmore walks into the kitchen to find Daisy pouring over some accounting books and asks her what this is all about.

Daisy: I was rubbish at numbers in school.
Mrs. Patmore, laughing: Well all the best people were rubbish at numbers in school.

Thank you for confirming what I’ve always known, Mrs. Patmore.

2. Moving along, what is the deal with James and Lady Anstruther, whom we had never met until this week? James thinks he knows: she’s getting older and trying to recapture her youth with him. 

And I don’t think he thinks that’s all bad.


Talking with Thomas in the servants’ hall, he reveals a bit of his thoughts about the Lady A situation.

Barrow: Still, it’s pathetic for a Lady to be pining over a footman.
James: Excuse me, I think it shows very good taste.

Hubris will be your downfall, James.

3. Hands up if you like Sarah Bunting, especially Sarah Bunting with our beloved Tom.

I didn’t think so.

There’s just something about that woman that bothers me. I think it has to do with her smug, sanctimonious, self-righteous swagger. But that might just be me.

Anyway, she did get a great line last night (hopefully her last) in the pre-dinner scene in the drawing room. Rose, attempting to be a polite hostess, introduces her friend Kitty Colthurst to Sarah Bunting, mentioning that Sarah is a teacher (which, by the way, is the most polite way to introduce someone—tell an interesting fact about the people you are introducing. A free etiquette lesson for you.)

The exchange between the two women is hilarious—especially Sarah Bunting’s zinger at the end.

Kitty Colthurst: Oh golly, how clever! What do you teach?
Sarah Bunting: The usual things: writing, mathematics . . .
Kitty: Crikey! Writing’s always beyond me, and I wouldn’t know where to start with mathematics.
Sarah: Well then, you must marry a man rich enough to ensure you’ll never need to.

I guess that’s my problem with Sarah—her zingers may be funny, but they’re mostly cruel.

4. The pre-dinner event leads, naturally, to dinner, which turns out to be the most awkward dinner party in the history of dinner parties, thanks, of course, to Sarah Bunting (I’m starting to really not like that girl). In the meantime, Lady Anstruther slips a note into James’s pocket. Sarah and Isobel can’t keep their opinions to themselves. And everyone gets into a huge fight over the war.


All the while, Robert strives “to keep things light.” (I guess that’s what makes for a good dinner party—light talk, nothing controversial.)

For once, Violet comes to Robert’s aid and ends up with the funniest line of the night.

Violet: Now, if you could all put your swords away, perhaps we could finish our dinner in a civilized manner.
Isobel: But I admire it when young people stand up for their principles.
Violet: Principles are like prayers. Noble, of course, but awkward at a party.

5. The episode ends with what will surely go down in history as The Great Fire. 


Edith, in a fit of despair, throws her lover’s book into the fireplace. Somehow she falls asleep before she sees that some of the book has fallen onto the carpet in front of the fireplace, causing a huge fire.

Thomas, who had been skulking about in the hallway just to see if Jimmy and Lady A “needed anything,” smells smoke, rescues Edith, and saves Downton (and simultaneously his own you-know-what).

In the midst of all the fire havoc, Robert shouts out orders: “Get the sand buckets!” (Because I don’t know where they are.) “Tell everyone downstairs!” (Because God forbid I should have to do it.)

And my favorite line of all: “Save the dog!”

With that, I shall go try to rescue my own dog who, by the way, looks very much like Isis and who has been very naughty lately.

I can’t wait to see what they have for us next week. Until then . . .

Did you watch Episode 1 last night? What were your favorite moments?

*****

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Recap


I spent most of the day on the couch yesterday, ringing in the New Year by catching up on blog reading. I love reading the reflections of other bloggers and getting a sense of how they felt their year went. Most were upbeat and cheerful, but for some reason I especially resonated with those like my friend Mary, who wrote a post titled, “When Your ‘Best Of’ List Comes UpEmpty.”

Some years don’t quite meet expectations.

Somehow it just feels right that I’m reflecting on 2014 two days late because that’s how the year felt to me—like I just couldn’t keep up.

With anything.

Every day left me collapsing into bed feeling like there was something left undone, and most days that feeling was spot on. There was always more to be done.

I’ll be honest, that’s a frustrating place to be, so when I read other bloggers recap their successful 2014s, I kind of cringe. My 2014 feels so inadequate, incomplete, small.

But really, it feels like this only when I compare myself to what other bloggers are doing—writing, speaking, publishing. I know better than to compare, but it’s all so public when its “out there” the way it is in the blogging world. Everyone knows what people want you to know, but they don’t know the thousands of other areas in which we may be struggling . . . or serving . . . and reading the successful recaps of others just makes my green-eyed jealousy monster come out.

Ugh.

2014, for me, was a year of serving behind the scenes, in a way. I didn’t have much time to write on my blog because I was busy in my “real life” in ways I had never been before. And when I think about my year in these terms, it doesn’t feel quite so inadequate, incomplete, or small.

So let me tell you about my year as it was NOT documented on the blog.

This year I . . .
  •         taught kindergarten Sunday School, which was a blast and a half. Those kids!
  •         spoke at three women’s retreats. I love doing that!
  •         taught writing to college students for the umpteenth time. Again, a blast, and yet a humbling learning experience. Always.
  •         explored Boston and Newport with Caroline. Seriously, I cannot stress how much these mother/daughter trips mean to me.
  •          took Julia to England and loved every minute of it. Ditto on the above comment.
  •      attended the Festival of Faith and Writing with Kate, which was an amazing weekend in every way.
  •         spent two weeks with B in one of our favorite spots right next to a lake. Heavenly.
  •         hosted a group of college students for Bible study every Tuesday night. They keep us young!
  •         mentored a college student whom I care about deeply. Challenging, stretching, and rewarding in many ways.
  •         watched my oldest graduate from college and move into her first apartment. No words can express how proud I am of her.
  •         served on various committees and boards at church.

Truthfully, this isn’t even the complete list—I just had to stop because it kind of makes my head spin.

Sometime around May, I finally had had it with all the crazy. I desperately needed a change, to simplify some of my life in order to make room for what I really felt like I should be doing.

So I started listing.

I made one list of all of my current commitments and another list of what I really wanted to be doing.

B and I spent a lot of time talking through these lists when we were on vacation this summer, and we came up with some strategies to make some changes. But change of this sort doesn’t come quickly, and I’m still in the middle of untangling some knots in my schedule in order to make space for other priorities.

So what does that mean for 2015? For my blog? For my writing?

It means some changes need to take place. It means that I am working hard to create white space in my life so that I can tend to this blog and so that I can get to work doing the writing that I want to do.

It means that this coming semester is my last semester of teaching for a while. (I know, I said that last year, but this time I really mean it.)

It means that I’m going to try harder to stick to a writing schedule. You should see me around here at least twice a week, maybe three times a week during Downton Abbey season. *wink wink*

It means that I’m going to pursue other writing opportunities as well. I’ve already got a couple of guest posts lined up and am looking for more.

It means a shifting of priorities and commitments that feels a little awkward, but also good and right and necessary.

It means I could use your prayers as you think of me.

*****
So what did happen on the blog this year?

I took a look back to see what my most-viewed posts were and thought I’d share them with you.

Interestingly to me, my top post of the year was a Downton Abbey post that must have gotten passed around a LOT because it got so many more views than any other post this year: Top 5 Lines from Downton Abbey, S4:E5(that’s Season 4: Episode 5 for those of you who can’t decode my title).


Downton fans, take heart. You can be sure that my little fingers will by typing away during the first episode of Season 5 this Sunday and all throughout this season. Can’t wait!

In February of last year I did a little series called “The Spectacular Ordinary,” in which I looked for the small bits of amazing in every day. As I look back over that series, I realize that that was one of my favorite series of the year. I might have to do it again. Anyway, this post about Kate’s car accident seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

I have a lot to say about giving kids space and letting them take risks as appropriate. This series, “Reflecting on Risk,” touched a nerve with several of you.


If you’ve been around here for any amount of time, you know that I love to travel. This post, “Five Reasons I Travel with My Kids,” was very popular last year.

How to Let Go of Regret,” was a post that landed in my Top 5 this year. It’s a lesson I need to preach to myself over and over again.

In the fall I resurrected my Fabulous Friday Food posts for a while (something I hope to do more of in the new year). My “World’s BestChili” was a favorite post and, according to your feedback, a new favorite chili recipe. Yea!

Finally, one of my most popular posts was also my favorite from the year. It was a heart wrenching post to write because it was personal to me, but, I felt, one that needed to be written. Interestingly, this happened before the grand jury decision and all of the ugliness of Ferguson took place. “The Ugly Truth about ‘Life’s Not Fair.’”

Friends, I cannot thank you enough for sticking with me this past year, especially for reading and commenting. You who read here are important to me, and I look forward to growing together in the year ahead.

*****

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