Monday, October 31, 2016

Pumpkin Carving 2016

Happy Halloween, it's time for this year's pumpkin carving post. According to Cody, I won this year, but his pumpkin had a lot more tiny details, so I'm not too sure about that. I'll let you be the judge. This was our first year carving pumpkins in our very own home that we actually have a mortgage on and aren't just renting. And two puppies were in on all the craziness. Woop woop! 
October 28, 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : The Scarlet Letter

Well, for the sake of trying to actually finish my book list this year, I took a break from The Pilgrim's Progress and decided to dive into The Scarlet Letter, and I have to say: it was the perfect October read. With just enough mention of witches, demons, and fiends against a dreary New England setting, this novel (one of the greatest American novels of all time, many say) felt almost haunted. Perfect for curling up under a cozy blanket and reading straight through. (In case you can't tell: I liked it.)
The Scarlet Letter was written in 1850 but set in the 1640s--long before America claimed her independence from England. The Scarlet Letter is considered to be the masterwork of its author Nathaniel Hawthorne, a native of Salem, Massachusetts whose many works feature moral allegories with Puritan inspiration. Hawthorne's fiction was part of the Romantic Movement and classified specifically as Dark Romanticism. (Sounds enticing, right?) He dealt with themes involving the inherent sinfulness of man and his work typically had deep moral messages and a lot of psychological complexity. And The Scarlet Letter is certainly no exception.

The novel tells the tale of the beautiful adulteress Hester Prynne (branded with the scarlet letter "A" for her sin), her elf-like daughter Pearl (conceived from her adulterous affair), the holy Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale (SPOILER! he's her babydaddy, y'all), and old Roger Chillingworth (who is straight-up possessed by the devil). At the beginning of the story, we find Hester Prynne being publicly shamed and punished for the sin of adultery. Despite extreme pressure from the town superiors to reveal her partner in crime, Hester absolutely refuses to name the father of her child. As the novel continues, we see Hester bearing up under the shame of the scarlet letter, raising her little Pearl, and managing to live her life with dignity after her very public humiliation juxtaposed against Arthur Dimmesdale wasting away with the guilt of concealing his role in the affair. (To find out more about nasty, old Roger Chillingworth and his part in this mess, you'll have to read the novel for yourself.)

Confession time: this was assigned reading for me in high school, but I never finished it. I think I got about halfway through before stopping. I had this wicked streak in me during my academic career to never finish books that were required reading. Honestly, I don't know why. Call it the devil, but I wouldn't even finish books I was enjoying. Like this one. Or Wuthering Heights (seriously, I got to chapter 20 and stopped. OUT OF 22 CHAPTERS!). Or Huck Finn. Or The Screwtape Letters (which was a book of my own choosing for my senior thesis paper!). I have read all of these books since high school of my own volition and to my own great enjoyment. Why I was such a decided little rebel back then I credit to the fact that we're all depraved creatures in need of the Good Lord's grace.

All that to say, this was my first time reading all the way through The Scarlet Letter to the end, and even though I had an idea of the basic plot, it felt like a brand-new, first-time read to me. 

And I absolutely loved it and would definitely recommend it with one caveat: skip the dang introduction. It was 32 pages of pure misery that had me believing that between The Pilgrim's Progress and The Scarlet Letter, I would never finish my book list this year. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it took me longer to read that 32 page introduction than it took me to finish the whole 24 chapter book. It's not that important and except for one tiny reference in the very last chapter of the book, you don't need to read it to understand anything in the novel. Spare yourself.

To wrap this up, I just have to reiterate how masterful and psychologically complex this novel is. I think I suffered a moral crisis while reading it, and as I was nearing the end, I really wasn't sure where Hawthorne was taking it or if I'd appreciate the destination when we arrived. He finished beautifully, and I would love to discuss this book in more detail with anyone who's read it. Two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

Have you ever read The Scarlet Letter? Did you have trouble with taking direction in high school (or at any other time of your life)? What is your favorite October-y book to read? Any challenging books you're trying to wrap up before the end of the year?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Friday, October 21, 2016

Casual Fridays

Well, it has been a hot minute since we've had a Casual Friday around here. I attribute this to getting used to being a substitute teacher (oh did I forget to mention that? I'm a sub for Polk County, y'all), being dragged closer and closer to Election Day (this is not a fun one--I'm sure you've noticed), and just general life and busy-ness. I've rejoined the choir at my church after a 10-year hiatus, AWANA is in full swing, and Bible study has started back up. I've barely been home. So let's take a breath and catch up with each other. I think I'll dump some recent photos on ya and call it a Photo-Prompted Post, but don't worry, it won't be as intense as the last one. *insert one of those winky faces here*
Dogs first because aren't they sweet and haven't you missed them? They are loving this cool weather and being outside which is a nice change of pace for Colonel since he typically just goes out to do his business and then comes straight back to the door and sits there until I let him back in. Major, of course, is just always happy. It doesn't matter if it's 110 degrees outside, he still loves it. He loves everything.
And now one of us because people are important too. Arguably more important than dogs even. This was just this past Sunday after Sunday morning service and we took it because we were looking and feeling fabulous. I mean, look at us. I have one smokin' hot husband, you guys. 
This was from our last big Class of '06 outing. We planned several fun activities this summer to celebrate the fact that it's been 10 years since we graduated from high school, but this was the Grand Finale, and it was so fun. We ate like kings and just had a generally great time together like we always do. I love these people, and I loved getting to reconnect with everyone so much this summer. Let's not wait another 10 years to keep doing fun things together. 
My BFF Erin randomly texted me this photo this week. I had not ever even seen it, and I absolutely love it. This was from our Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl (2012, I think?). Every year, a huge gaggle of us go down to the soccer fields and work up a hearty appetite with a little friendly competition. This is my brother and me with Aunt Carol and Uncle Jim. Love, love, love it.
I mentioned that Bible study has started back up, and this is what we're working through right now. I can't get enough of this one, and it's impossible to believe that we're already on the very last week of it. I'm sad we're coming to the close of this precious study. If you're looking for a good Bible study to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend Fight Back With Joy by Margaret Feinberg. 
I think this is the first year since we've been married that Cody had to miss out on the Polk Fall Fest because of work and that's a bummer because it's a fun tradition we have together, but I got to spend it walking around with these two beautiful women so it wasn't a total bust. I don't think I've seen TamiLeigh since last year's Fall Fest, and we decided that absolutely wasn't acceptable so she came over for lunch yesterday. Isn't it just the best catching up with longtime friends? I love these sweet women, and I also love that there was a stand at the Fall Fest selling pumpkin-spiced sweet tea in orange mason jars. $5 well spent.
This was also from Sunday after church. We went to Manny's to celebrate Christina's last birthday in her 20s. (Don't even get me started.) If you've been reading this blog long, you know these are two of my favorite girls on the planet and have been for a long time. I love that we still live in the same town and can hang out on a Sunday afternoon. (That was a veiled plea for you to never leave me.)

And while we're getting all caught up today, how about some Link Love?

- The Scandal of Election 2016 : Yes. Ms. Beth says (much more eloquently) everything I've been feeling during this rough election year. Thank you.

- Julie Andrews is Getting Her Own Netflix Show : If you're anything like me, it's going to take you a minute to pick your jaw back up from off the floor. I'm pretty psyched about this. 

- Latest Features : Listen. I could share every single comic this guy posts. But then we'd be here all day because he posts He is hilarious and you should seriously follow him. I shared this one in particular because it's just so me.

So are we sufficiently caught up? Well, we will be once you leave me a comment and fill me in on what's happening in your life these days. Have a wonderful weekend and soak up these last sweet days of October!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being 'in love' which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two."

~from Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniéres~

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Tuesday Confession

I don't "get dressed for the day" unless I'm going somewhere.
I know a lot of people who claim they function better and feel better about themselves when they take the time to "get dressed for the day".
And I get that.
But if I'm not leaving the house, "getting dressed for the day" just means more laundry to me.
In other words: not worth it.
I'm mostly a homemaker, I live in cotton house-dresses, and I rarely put on any makeup.
And I like it like that.
Is that so wrong?
Do you like to "get dressed for the day"?
Or do you prefer to stay in your pajamas or house-clothes if you're not going anywhere?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"The Lord has given me both vinegar and honey, 
but He has given me the vinegar with a teaspoon and the honey with a ladle."
~Billy Bray~

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Here's What You Should Do

Ok. We're doing this. Our next presidential election is less than one month away, and, until now, I have refrained from making any political remarks. I'm going to say this once, and then I'll be done. 

For the love of your fantasy football team, stop it with all the political guilt-tripping already.

I'm so sick of it. I've posted in the past about keeping yourself informed and writing our Supreme Court Justices and other elected officials. I may not be the smartest person in the world, but I try to keep myself informed and make intelligent decisions when I go to the polls. And here's what I think you should do:

Vote. Period and full stop. 

If you want to vote for Donald Trump, do it. If you want to vote for Hillary Clinton, go right ahead. If you want to vote for some obscure, third-party candidate who may or may not be on the ballot in each state, I will not try to change your mind. Just vote.

I obviously have my own opinions, and you hopefully have yours. But for crying out loud, please stop pummeling the free world with all your unhelpful, unkind, and unnecessary memes about why the candidates you're NOT voting for are unacceptable choices for me and how me not agreeing with you makes me a morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt person. 

This is a difficult election. There is no easy or good choice. I think most of us can admit that and agree that we're having a hard enough time making a decision at all without all the name-calling and condemnation. So unless it is your job--and let me clarify: a "job" means you are receiving actual money to perform a specific task--to campaign for a particular candidate, can you please limit your words to ones that are kind, helpful, AND necessary? And to (once again) further clarify: that "necessary" clause eliminates 97% of anything you're about to say.

I (and the rest of the civilized population) would greatly appreciate it. 

Thanks and God bless.

Monday, October 10, 2016


Y'all. The announcement has finally been made. The next Christy book is coming soon. And you know that confirmation e-mail for my pre-ordered copy is already sitting in my Inbox. In 45 short days, I will be catching up with my very favorite real life fictional friends. I can't wait.
And wouldn't you know, I almost missed the announcement yesterday?! I have been positively haunting--HAUNTING, I SAY--this woman's blog for weeks, and the one day I don't check it, she rolls out the good news. I went over to my friends' house last night after church to hang out and eat pizza, and they casually mention something about seeing the pre-order option on facebook and I lost my mind. I immediately got out my phone (oh, btw, I finally have a reason to appreciate my Smart Phone), checked the blog, and sure enough, there was the post. I promptly proceeded to order my copy, from my phone, sitting on my friends' couch. Because priorities, people. #crisisaverted

That's all. You're welcome. Oh and P.S. I apologize if this post was misleading in any way. To clarify, I am not pregnant. Cody and I are not expecting any tiny humans. This is entirely about my friend favorite book series. The end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Word for Wednesday

"Don't be silly, everybody wants to be kissed--even philosophers."

~Dick Avery (played by Fred Astaire) in Funny Face~

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It Being Election Year And All...

I'm taking a vote. I've hit that time of year (or maybe I've simply gotten to a point on my book list) where I'm just ready to take up with an old familiar friend of a book instead of powering through on my quest to read all the greats before I die. So since this whole blog is about that aforementioned quest, I need your opinion. Should I:

A) Dive with reckless abandon into the world of Anne Shirley for the umpteenth time and don't even look back.

B) Go off-list and read one of my new Robin Jones Gunn books which is bound to be a friendly read for a little break and then hit it hard again once I've finished it.

C) Suck it up and stick to the list because I actually have a shot at finishing it this year which leads to two sub-choices:
1) Keep soldiering on through The Pilgrim's Progress.
2) Take a break from Bunyan and start one of the remaining books on my list that might be a little easier to get through.
So your choices are A, B, C1 or C2. And if your answer is C2, I will then need you to cast a vote from the remaining books on my list.
a) Secrets of the Blessed Man by Paul Tassell
b) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
c) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
d) Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss
This is not a drill, people. I need your honest opinions, and I need them ASAP. Be a pal and vote. Thank you for your consideration in this matter. My name is Hannah Hancock, and I approve this message.