Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"It is never too early to try and plant [good principles] in a child and never too late to cultivate them in the most neglected person."
~from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott~

Friday, August 26, 2016

Casual Fridays

Y'all. Today we have one topic and one topic only to discuss. And we're not going to discuss it as much as I'm just going to gush about it, and you're probably just going to roll your eyes at me and go about your day.
Boom. It's an elephant mug. Not a mug with an elephant on it. But an actual mug that is an elephant. I'm dead. 
Is that not the most ridiculously adorable and perfect thing you've ever seen? Well? Isn't it?! And the best part of it is, it just showed up on my doorstep, totally out of the blue, a complete surprise from around the world. I mentioned a while back that there's just something so fun about getting a package in the mail and yesterday, I got one. I thought it was some books I ordered (do I ever not have books on order?), but it turned out to be this little guy from my sister-in-love (and probably my brother too, but I know who the real culprit is) who lives in Japan. They are the best. 

Anyway, I've dubbed him Gerald ("Jer" for short, although I'm the only one who gets to call him that and while we're on the subject, I'm conflicted about using a "J" for his nickname....thoughts?), and in case you didn't notice, his head holds your tea bag when you're done steeping it. You guys, really. Have you ever seen anything so great?
Well, I'm going to go walk the monsters before it gets so blazing hot all I want to do is submerge myself in water. Pinkies up!

What's your favorite thing lately? Was there a time you got a complete surprise package delivered to your door? What was it and who was it from?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"For no matter how lost and soiled and worn out wandering sons may be, mothers can forgive and forget everything as they fold them in their fostering arms. Happy the son whose faith in his mother remains unchanged, and who, through all his wanderings, has kept some filial token to repay her brave and tender love."
~from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott~

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Tuesday Confession

Did you read my Top 10 list from Friday?
Apparently, I wrote it because I was needing a good Cry It Out sesh.
I came home from church Sunday afternoon and watched two movies from my list: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and Martian Child.
Then I came home from Sunday evening service, fed my husband, got in bed, and watched Ramona and Beezus and The Help.
I was up till 1:30 AM.
And I probably cried more Sunday than is healthy for any one human being.
I finished off two boxes of tissues.
Tell me I'm not crazy.

When was the last time you had a good cry?

Monday, August 22, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : Macbeth

Ok, so: I made it through more than one Shakespearean play this year. (yay me!) And in my opinion, this was the first major one I've ever read of my own volition because Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer-Night's Dream are both short and funny and easy. Macbeth? Definitely a tragedy, pretty dark, and not quite so easy, but definitely the biggest page-turner yet. Let's break it down and SPOILER! I'm going to talk about the whole dang thing, so if you've somehow been living under a rock and don't know the basic plot of one of Shakespeare's biggest plays, well, don't feel bad because, truth be told, I didn't really either, but I am warning you here and now that I will be revealing the entire story, so if you want to stay under your rock in sweet oblivion until that future time when you might actually read it for yourself, go ahead and be on your way.

Let's first list off some of our main characters: Macbeth (obviously), Lady Macbeth (his wife, duh), Banquo (his friend...or SO WE THINK), Duncan (king of Scotland), Donalbain (one of Duncan's sons), and Macduff (a soldier and the hero of the story). There are several others but for the purpose of this recap, these are the only characters I really care about.

At the beginning of the play, we learn that Macbeth is this totally awesome soldier, moving up in the ranks, and grabbing titles left and right. Everyone loves him. Everyone trusts him. Yay Macbeth.

Then he and his buddy Banquo come across three crazy witches (literally, witches), and these witches tell them their future which includes Macbeth becoming king of Scotland. Banquo and Macbeth think, "Surely not....this can't be true....loyal to Duncan forever....blah blah blah." But then some of what the witches told them starts to come true and they start thinking, "Hmmm....maybe they had something....what sorcery is this?!"

Macbeth writes home to Lady Macbeth telling her about the encounter and the lofty predictions, and that crazy chic starts lamenting how weak Macbeth is and how she's going to have to prod him to murder Duncan. (Be very careful about who you marry, folks. Don't end up with a Lady Macbeth.) Macbeth gets home and his wife tells him to man up and kill the king so that they can become Scotland's new royalty.

The king and several of the noblemen come to visit Macbeth, and Macbeth and the Mrs. murder him in his sleep and frame it on his two personal guards who Macbeth also kills when they all "discover" Duncan dead because "who can remain calm when seeing the king he loves so much slaughtered by these guys." (Oh please.) At this point, Duncan's sons flee the country because they know what's good for them.

So Macbeth is crowned king, but instead of stopping there, he basically goes on a killing rampage because part of the witches' little divination included Banquo's seed also ascending to the throne so, of course, he has to have Banquo and his son killed (although Banquo's son actually escapes), and then after that he starts going crazy seeing Banquo's ghost and becoming totally paranoid which is warranted because when you start killing people, you should probably feel guilty and a tad insecure.

In the meantime, Macduff has figured out what is going on and rushes to find Donalbain (Duncan's son and rightful heir to the throne, in case you forgot) to beg him to come wage war against Macbeth and make things right. After a little back-and-forth, Macduff wins Donalbain over and along with 10,000 English troops, they march on Scotland. Lady Macbeth goes insane and commits suicide, Macduff finds Macbeth and kills him, and Scotland lives happily ever after with Donalbain as its king at the end of the play.

Pretty dark, right? The moral of the story: steer clear of witches.

I would recommend Macbeth because (as I've said before) it's Shakespeare. But I'll probably never read it again because 1) I have a long way to go before I've read everything else Shakespeare has to offer and 2) Shakespeare isn't exactly the most fun reading material. We don't talk like that anymore, and if I'm going to re-read something, it's going to be Anne of Green Gables or the Christy Miller series, not complicated prose that works my brain to death just trying to understand the language. So in future, if I'm trying to remember what Macbeth was all about, I'll most likely just come back to this post. #beneficialblogging

Have you ever read Macbeth? What is your favorite Shakespearean tragedy? Pretty sure Hamlet will be making the 2017 book list, but feel free to suggest your favorite in the comments.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Casual Fridays

A few weeks ago I attempted my first ever Top 10 list on the blog and despite all my disclaimers and difficulties, it seemed to go over well and it was pretty fun to put together so I thought I'd try another one today. I'm calling it "Top 10 Movies to Watch When You Just Need A Good Cry". It's a working title, but you get the idea. While most movies usually get me a little choked up at some point or other (seriously, I'm probably one of the most ridiculously emotional people alive), these are my go-to movies when I just want to cry out all my feelings and frustrations. Am I crazy or do other people do this too? Anyway, here we go.

1. A Walk to Remember starring Mandy Moore & Shane West (2002)
The first time I ever watched this movie, it was with my whole family on a vacation we were on because someone had recommended it to my mom. I'll never forget it. At the beginning of the movie, my mom was all, "oh this isn't good....teenagers making bad choices....language" etc. etc. And by the end of the movie she was sobbing. Loudly. We were all too busy laughing at Mom's meltdown (bless her heart) to be sad ourselves. But now I totally get it. This movie makes me ugly-cry too, and it seems like every time I watch it, I just start crying earlier and earlier in the film. When Landon brings Jamie the pink sweater, I lose it every time. 

2. Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington & Will Patton (2000)
If you've ever watched this movie and made it to the end dry-eyed, I don't know how you did it. My dad doesn't like to watch the end of this movie because it even makes him cry. When Julius walks into Gerry's hospital room, sees how bad Gerry's condition is, and says, "You can't be hurt like this. You're Superman." I die a little inside. It's such a powerful scene. I'm getting teary just now thinking about it.

3. Marley & Me starring Owen Wilson & Jennifer Aniston (2008)
Oh man. I think I scared small children when I saw this one in the theater, I was crying so hard. Lyndsey and I went together thinking it would be a funny, heartwarming movie (which it totally was) but by the end of it, I was bawling and I couldn't stop. Why would they release this kind of movie on Christmas day??? We didn't go on Christmas (thankfully), but still. All the tears. Whenever Jenny comes home from the hospital after her miscarriage and Marley just lays his head in her lap, I can't keep it together.

4. Return to Me starring Minnie Driver & David Duchovny (2000)
I've mentioned this movie on the blog before. It's one of my all-time favorites, and I cry from beginning to end. From Bob coming home from the hospital after his wife dies and telling their dog she's not coming home, to his and Grace's first date where he asks if he can hold her hand while they're standing on the roof of a building he built, to Marty telling Bob that Grace's heart beat truly for the first time when she saw him, I can not stop the tears. Such a sweet story.

5. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants starring Tamblyn, Bledel, Ferrera, & Lively (2005)
TIBBY AND BAILEY'S RELATIONSHIP. That's all I have to say about that.

6. Martian Child starring John Cusack & Bobby Coleman (2007)
I don't have words for this one. Just watch this scene from the end of the movie. All the feels.

Okay, pretty much every Disney movie makes me cry. Fox & the Hound, Finding Nemo, Tarzan, Toy Story 3. Just pass the tissues, please. But The Princess and the Frog has a special place in my heart because I went to see this movie while I was living in South Africa. My BFF Helen had just left to go home, my twins had just been adopted, and I went to this movie by myself, sat in the back of the theater, and sobbed my little heart out. When Ray died, I think a little piece of me died, too. 

8. Cinderella starring Lily James & Richard Madden (2015)
This is a new one, but it instantly made the Cry It Out list when it had me crying in the VERY FIRST SCENE. But the part that gets me probably more than any other is when Kit curls up on his father's bed as his father, the king, is dying. My mom and I were both crying right along with him. And speaking of my mother, she's the one I get this compulsive need to have a good cry now and then from. Thanks, Mom.

9. Ramona and Beezus starring Joey King & Selena Gomez (2010)
When Ramona finds the bowling ball in her suitcase? When Picky Picky dies? When Beezus asks Ramona to sleep in her bed? When Aunt Bea drives off with Hobart? I can't even.

10. Pollyanna starring Hayley Mills (1960)
And finally, an oldie but a goodie. Who can help it when they carry Pollyanna out of her room with those limp little legs and the entire town is there to help her be glad and see her off?! Not me. Just get ready for the waterworks. 

So there you have it. Don't even get me started on Honorable Mentions because we'll be here all day. Richard Gere coming up the escalator with a single red rose for his wife in Shall We Dance? Holly bursting into the bar to cry on her mother's shoulder in P.S. I Love You? Celia Foote burying another miscarried baby all by herself in The Help? Seriously. The list goes on and on. But the 10 I've listed above are the tried and true ones that require more than one tissue to make it to the end. And in making this list, I think it's worth mentioning that the great Cry It Out movies don't just make you cry, they make you laugh too. 

What's your go-to movie when you need a good cry? Don't leave me hanging here. I can't be the only woman on the planet who will sit down and watch a movie just to have a cry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"A lie is a lie, and though we all tell many polite untruths in this queer world of ours, it is not right, and everybody knows it."
~from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott~

Monday, August 15, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : Departures

Good morning and a happy Monday to you! Today we're partying like it's 1999 which is the year our book of the day was first published. Departures by Robin Jones Gunn is the first of my new Robin Jones Gunn books that I've read, and let me tell you, it has taken some serious self-control to not move straight to the other two, but I've decided to use them as motivation to knock out some of the other books on my actual book list for the year. If I complete books from my list, I get to reward myself with Robin Jones Gunn. Pathetic? Maybe, but it works for me. 

Anyway, let's get to our actual recap. Departures is actually like two books in one (yay!), and I loved getting to discover these two lost little stories. Robin Jones Gunn has written entire series of books based off the characters Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen, and in Departures, we get an extra story about each of these girls. 

Our first story, "Now Boarding at Gate 10", is from Christy Miller's life, and if you've read the series, it takes place between books 11 and 12 right after Christy has just broken up with Todd and graduated from high school. Christy and her family are on a little weekend trip for the 50th wedding anniversary of Christy's grandparents, and this story is all about Christy going back to Brightwater, Wisconsin and thinking about how her life might have been different if her family hadn't moved to Escondido, California her sophomore year of high school. Christy also learns some important lessons about relationships from her grandparents which Robin Jones Gunn alludes to later in The College Series about Christy Miller.

Our second story, "In the Event of a Water Landing", is from Sierra Jensen's life, and if you've read her series, this story actually takes place right before her books begin. Her family hasn't yet moved to Oregon to live with her Granna Mae, and Sierra is on her own little weekend trip with some of her Pineville friends to their cabin in Montana. In this story, Sierra is being pulled between childhood and womanhood and trying to navigate all the tricky emotions and decisions that go with that. 

I read this book in two sittings: Christy's story in one sitting, Sierra's in the other. I loved every second of it. If you've read the Christy Miller or the Sierra Jensen series but somehow missed this little treasure like I did, I definitely recommend picking it up and giving it a read. Obviously, my recommendation shouldn't come as a big shock to anyone since you should all know by now what a huge fan of Robin Jones Gunn I am. This was definitely a welcome addition to my reading for 2016 although I must say, I've thoroughly enjoyed everything I've read this year. 

Have you read anything by Robin Jones Gunn? What have you been reading this year? Do you have any fond memories of a summer trip you took when you were a teenager? Is it totally ridiculous that I'm still so into these books even though I'm supposed to be a grown-up? #dontcare #foreverfriends

Friday, August 12, 2016

Psalm 34:18

Today I am heading to a Celebration of Life for a 5 year old. 

There is just nothing fair about that. 

Parents should never have to bury their children. 

Please keep my sweet friend and all of her precious family in your prayers as they lay their beloved boy to rest and try to pick up the pieces of their lives now that he is with Jesus.

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"It takes so little to make a child happy that it is a pity, in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, or lonely little hearts."
~from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott~

Monday, August 8, 2016

Let's Bust A Recap : The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Another Monday, another recap. Y'all. This is my fourth straight week posting a book recap. I'm tearing up my 2016 book list, and I am right on track to meet my 20-book goal this year. #winning
Today we're bustin' the recap on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and before we get into it, let me share a few interesting details about the author with you. Mark Twain has been lauded as the "greatest American humorist of his age", and Faulkner called him "the father of American literature". He picked up his pen name piloting steamboats. "Mark twain" was the leadsman's cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms which was a safe water depth for steamboats. Mark Twain was born in November of 1835 shortly after the closest approach to Earth by Halley's Comet. In 1909, Twain predicted he would go out with the comet saying:
"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'"
And as Providence would have it, Twain died of a heart attack the day after the comet's closest approach to Earth. Interesting, right? Mark Twain was probably best known for his novels about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and with that, let's talk about Huck Finn.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was published in 1885 as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer which was published nine years earlier in 1876. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has come to be known as "The Great American Novel" and it was Huck Finn that established Mark Twain as one of the greatest writers America would ever produce. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just that: the escapades and scrapes of a 14 year old boy named Huckleberry Finn strung together and presented in book form. Mark Twain gives notice before the book begins that any "persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." And it's a pretty fair warning. To be honest, it took me a little while to get into this one, and for the first 18 chapters, I really was wondering to myself why this little novel was such a big deal. I mean, it was amusing, but it certainly didn't seem very compelling or mind-blowing to me. Once I hit chapter 19 though, I was invested and I finished it up in a matter of days. 

I'm not really sure how to describe this book. It was kindof heartbreaking and hilarious all at once. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This is the Anne of Green Gables for boys." Not much of a plot, but you can't help loving it and wanting to be with Huck on his raft floating down the Mississippi River and inventing tall tales to get you out of whatever mischief you've just gotten yourself into. I really wish I had read Tom Sawyer first, but as you may know, I didn't have that one when I was making my list for this year. I have since acquired it and plan to put it on next year's list. Tom Sawyer had his share in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and he is a trip. I was laughing out loud at his antics, and I'm really looking forward to reading his adventures. 

All in all, I would recommend this book just because of its renown if for no other reason. It made me laugh, it made me sad, and at times it even made me think. For whatever reason, this books feels really personal to me. Reading it was like visiting with a friend that you can be completely vulnerable with, and for reasons I can't even explain, I feel protective of the thoughts I had while I was in its pages. It's like Huck Finn shared secrets with me that I can't share with anyone else. Even now, I feel as if I've said too much, and if you're reading this, you probably think I'm bat-crazy. But I'm okay with that. Mainly because I am a little crazy, I guess, and if you haven't figured that out by now, you probably haven't been reading this blog long enough. 

Have you ever read Huck Finn? Are you ready to have me committed after that last paragraph? What were your thoughts while reading it? Did you love it, hate it, or did you just read it because you had to for school? Would you recommend it to others? I'd love to discuss this more in the comments, so bring it on!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Happy Birthday to My Sweethearts!

Happy Birthday, babe! I love you forever!
Parasailing in the Bahamas - August 2012
And Happy Birthday, Najati! We love you so much!
I'd also like to take today to direct your attention to the right side of your screen (if you are viewing my blog on your phone, you're going to need to scroll down to the bottom and change to the web view). Have you noticed that Compassion box? As you can see, Cody shares a birthday with our oldest girl Najati. She lives in Tanzania, and today, she becomes a teenager. We love her dearly and pray for her consistently. We write her letters, and she writes us back. I would encourage you to consider sponsoring a child in need. You will change his or her life for the better and fall in love in the process. We hope to be able to visit Najati one day, but we may never get to hug her this side of Heaven. If you have questions about how this all works, I would love to talk to you more about this amazing ministry. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Casual Fridays's Friday again. Three quick topics for today starting with: Busch Gardens!
We went yesterday, and since it's Cody's birthday month, we got to bring Reagan for free. We had an absolutely awesome day, and since our passes expire in a couple weeks, this may very well have been our last trip for a while. We, of course, ducked into the Animal Care Center first thing, but all they were doing was a check-up on a disgusting milk snake so we didn't hang around too long. We then hopped the train, and it was apparently the perfect time to check out the animals. The giraffes were so close to the track, the train actually had to come to a complete stop while one of them crossed right in front of us. It was a pretty rainy morning so the park wasn't crowded, we had relatively short wait times on all the rides (we rode Kumba 4 times! well, I rode it 4 times. the boys rode it 3 times), and since we were already all wet from walking around in the rain, we braved the Congo River Rapids and got thoroughly soaked. No problem drying out because the sun came out, and it turned into a truly gorgeous day. We also rode the brand new rollercoaster, Cobra's Curse. Except for the very first big drop which legitimately freaked me out, it was a pretty fun ride. One final anecdote from our Busch Gardens visit: check out the pic of the tortoises in the very top lefthand corner of our collage. We stopped to check out the big guys, and the tortoise on the right in the photo was several yards away from the one on the left with several large boulders separating them. As we watched, he got up and made his way over the boulders to lay right next to the first one. It was like he just needed to be by his friend. I thought it was pretty much the sweetest thing ever. (Doesn't take much to make my day, I know.) All in all, a 10-star day at Busch Gardens and a great way to conclude our year as annual passholders. It's really such a great park. 
Our next topic: puzzle! We bought this puzzle shortly into our second year of our marriage, and our first attempt to put it together met with a little disaster in the form of one of our favorite nieces. We had completed the border and the entire heart when she decided it would be fun to destroy our progress, little sneak. 2 year olds, amiright? The puzzle went back in the box, and it was a while before we could bring ourselves to try it again. This puzzle has some of the most bizarre shaped pieces I have ever seen in my life, and what was most frustrating was trying to complete the border when apparently, flat edges do not always a border piece make. Oy. We finally decided to tackle it again though, and (thanks to some major help from the Puzzle Master, Amy, at our little '06 reunion a couple weekends ago) we finished it Monday night. And let me tell ya, it was a good feeling putting that last piece in place. #success
And our final topic: Jason Bourne. We went to see it last night, and I have to say: disappointing. Especially after watching the first three in anticipation for this event, the new one seemed even more poorly cast, predictable, and (dare I say it?) contrived in comparison. I really was so underwhelmed. And the thing is, I didn't even have unrealistically high expectations for this film to begin with so the fact that I still was this unimpressed is a pretty big statement. Meh. No stars for Jason Bourne. Give it up, Matt. If you've seen it and loved it, I would love to hear you try to change my mind down in the comment section. Make my day.

So that's it for today. Have any of you been to Busch Gardens lately to ride the new coaster? What did you think of it? Any other Bourne fans out there? (Because I am a fan of the original trilogy.) Would anyone like to share any heartwarming animal anecdotes á la my tortoise story? Feel free!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?"
~C.S. Lewis~

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : Little Men

Um, hi. It's August already. Can you even believe it? It seems like this year is flying by at breakneck speeds, and I'm barely hanging on. 

Anyway, it's time to recap the third and final book I read on my trip to Japan: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. 

As you already know if you've been following my blog, I'm a huge fan of Little Women, and Little Men is actually the second book in what some might consider an unofficial Little Women trilogy which concludes with Alcott's 1886 novel Jo's Boys (which someone needs to get me for Christmas so I can keep this party rolling, HINT HINT!). Little Men (also called Life at Plumfield with Jo's Boys) was published in 1871 in response to the overwhelming popularity of Little Women and the demand from readers to hear more about their beloved literary characters. 

The story of Little Men spans 6 months in the lives of the Bhaer family (Jo and her husband and sons) and their home-slash-school for a dozen ragtag boys. It is every bit as heartwarming and delicious as Little Women, and I 100% recommend it. In Little Men, we also catch up with the rest of the March family, and it's absolutely delightful to visit with Laurie and Amy, Meg and John, Marmee and Grandpa March and see the ways they're involved with the boys at Plumfield. 

Little Men isn't without it's heartbreak though, and I would caution you against reading this book in public places as I was bawling in the Tokyo airport as I finished it up. I got a few odd glances cast in my direction, and I'm sure people were wondering what in the Sam Hill was my problem. #notashamed #worthit

To sum it up, Louisa May Alcott is absolutely brilliant and everything she writes is completely lovely. Easily a 5 out of 5 stars, and you should definitely read it. And don't you worry, we have almost as many Wednesdays booked with Little Men quotes as we did with Great Expectations so get excited.

Have you ever read Little Men? Who is your favorite of Jo's boys? (#TeamLaurieForever) And most importantly, who is going to buy me Jo's Boys for Christmas? #nopressure #butseriously

Monday, August 1, 2016

Happy Birthday to My Sissy!

Happy Birthday, Sarah Beth! I love you forever!
FBC - AWANA Olympics - 2011