Friday, December 15, 2017

Casual Fridays

Hello internet! I have been pretty inconsistent with the Casual Fridays around here lately, but hello. We call them Casual Fridays for a reason. (note the emphasis on "casual") I will now proceed to throw a bunch of semi-recent photos at you and call this a Photo-Prompted Post. May the force be ever in your favor. Or something. 
First of all, books and reading because #priorities. Since our last Casual Friday post, I've finished reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson (not my fav), Anne of Green Gables (ALWAYS my fav), and I've started in on some super-fun Christmas-y reads that I've been saving for the end of the year. I also posted my recap of Murder on the Orient Express which brings me to my next photo/topic....
As promised, I am telling you what I thought of the movie. And I have to say: thumbs down. Now, before you go accusing me of being a total book purist and Scrooge or whatever else, hear me out. I went into this really wanting to love the movie. I had high hopes because, as I told my husband before we went, the book reads practically like a screenplay already. Straightforward. No rabbit trails. Good character description and dialogue. Not hard, right? But once again, Hollywood royally screwed it up. To be fair, this is the only Agatha Christie novel I have ever read so I have no idea if they were drawing from any other stories of Poirot to create a character with more depth, but even if they were: unnecessary. Just my opinion. Hate me if you must. If you want Murder on the Orient Express, skip the movie. Read the book. 

On to happier things like girlfriends and pumpkin pie soda. Yes, you read that right, and yes, I really loved it. I know I'm a little crazy about all the pumpkin things, but even I was a little skeptical about pumpkin pie soda. However, it was fantastic, and I wish I was sipping on an icy cold bottle of it right now. (Thanks, Emily!) The week of Thanksgiving, I got to have these sweet friends over for a little mini-Camp Gilead reunion. We all became forever friends working as counselors the summer of '07, and I'm so thankful we got to snag this little pocket of time to catch up with each other. We're not waiting another 7 years to do this again, right girls??
I can't not share this one. How cute are these three? This is a snapshot of my everyday, and I love it so much. These guys are best buddies, and I love watching them all entertain each other. Definitely makes my job easier. 
And the sweetest ballerina had her first recital. Remember how it was the biggest deal on my calendar? Well, we missed it. Because apparently, 3:00 means 2:50 and "recitals" these days only consist of one three-minute song. Oy. It's totally fine. We made her do her dance for us in the parking lot with the phone cranked up as loud as it would go, and it was the most adorable thing you ever did see. 

Speaking of phones, I am definitely living that flip phone life again (aka: my best life). My little iPhone 4 died a long, drawn out death, and, while that was a fun 2 and 1/2 year experiment, I can't say I'm sad it's over. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to find a phone that doesn't have a touch screen these days. My little no-contract phone company (shout out to straighttalk!) only had ONE option. Good riddance, Smart phone.
My BFF Danette and I had a little matinee movie and lunch date last weekend, and it couldn't have been more perfect. If any of you are looking for a GOOD movie to see (unlike that Murder on the Orient Express trainwreck—oh yes, pun intended) you should definitely go see Wonder starring Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts. But don't go without tissues because, unless you are the actual Grinch, you will absolutely need them. LOVED it, and I always love spending time with this girl.
My amazing, hard-working man built me this beautiful fire pit this week. Y'all, I know everyone is getting snow and everything but it's cold in Florida. I mean, 55 degrees in the middle of the day? I can't. Anyway, not only did my husband build this fire pit with his bare hands, he tore an eyesore of a fig tree out of the ground and put the fire pit where the tree had been. He's my hero, and I love him. And I especially love sitting by a blazing fire with him, trying to find shooting stars during a meteor shower. Merry Christmas to me.
Our church's Christmas concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say, even though I was singing in the choir and not sitting in the audience enjoying it, I was so blessed to be there. Our choir director chose beautiful music and Scripture passages, and he worked hard with us and the orchestra to make everything excellent. And it came together. If you missed it, you missed out.
Don't miss out again. If you want to take some time out of the crazy that is December to quiet your soul and focus on Christmas, this is the service you want to come to. And you are welcome.

I'm going to wrap this post up with a little Link Love because why not?

- The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul : Yes. Yes, it is.

- Sick People : Just stay home, y'all.

- Free Hugs : Because we just need a little of this in our lives sometimes.

- Arch-Nemeses : Because today's the day! Even though I probably won't get around to seeing it for a few more weeks.

- Food of Life : It's Christmas, y'all. You just eat whatever you want, okay? No judgment here.

P.S. I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated to Compassion for my birthday. With your generosity, we raised more than enough money for 15 water filters. That's so awesome. Thank you. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"Never throw off the best affections of nature in the moment when they become most precious to their object; nor fear to extend your hand to save another, lest you should sink yourself."

~Thomas Jefferson~

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Well, I read two full presidential biographies this year. And I've decided that will be the goal from now on. Because if I don't read more than one a year on a pretty regular basis, there's a good chance I'll never get through the presidents. Because I'm old. *sob* Let's not get sidetracked about this. On to the recap.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power was written by Jon Meacham in 2012, and so far, it comes in 3rd place out of the 4 presidential biographies I've read with John Adams by David McCullough taking 1st place, His Excellency by Joseph J. Ellis taking 2nd, and TR by Brands in dead last. 

I was a little bit disappointed in this biography because it seemed to focus more on Jefferson's character and personality than on his actual life and accomplishments. To be fair, the author did say in his notes that he did not set out to write a comprehensive work of Jefferson's life and times because "too much happened to him and around him for a single volume to do justice to the immensity of scholarship about the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries." I get that. But his notes were at the very end of the book, and I didn't read them until after I was finished. C'est la vie. It wasn't bad, just wasn't what I was expecting.

Jefferson himself was a master-manipulator. Many of his political ideas and goals were carried out by other people through the power of his suggestion. He managed much of his work through letter writing, and a common ploy he utilized seemed to be giving his exact plan or opinion as what must be done but then saying he, of course, would never dream of interfering in whatever circumstance he was writing about because it wasn't his place. Smart. Usually, his ideas really were good so that tactic was very effective. 

He was a philosophical idealist, but a practical politician. He certainly had a talent for stimulating the nation with his visionary and romantic words, but then adapting those hypothetical ideals to real-life practice making smart compromises to achieve his ends. For instance, his entire platform as a Republican was limited government, but he unilaterally made the Louisiana Purchase without the support of Congress, much less that of the people. But guess what: the Louisiana Purchase was truly one of the best acquisitions our country has ever made so Jefferson has been praised for it even to this day. And rightly so. For roughly three cents an acre, he more than doubled the physical size of the United States and effectually bought more security from potential European encroachment. 

He was a southern gentleman and polite to his very core. Even people who were vehemently opposed to him politically-speaking couldn't help but like him after meeting him in person. He was a brilliant conversationalist, and he was good at making others feel important and respected, a talent he certainly employed in getting people to do what he wanted. 

Although after reading this biography I would concede that Thomas Jefferson was a good politician and even an excellent president, he's still an enigma to me and I'm not sure we would have been friends. He truly loved his family, and it's tragic how much of that family he lost while alive. But he also had no problem pursuing married women or apparently carrying on a decades-long sexual liaison with his young (30 years younger than him to be exact) slave, Sally Hemings, which produced several children. Granted, he seemed to be devotedly faithful to his wife while she lived, but before he married her and after she died, he was totally a scoundrel with the ladies. He also rejected the divinity of Jesus while still respecting him as a great moral teacher and cherry-picking the Scriptures for what suited his agenda. While he was a true champion for religious freedom, he also used religion as a political tool to gain power. He loved science and architecture, and he was passionate about education, founding the University of Virginia after serving as president, an institution that endures today. He thought slavery was morally wrong, but was a slave-owner all his life, and, although he did think slavery would eventually be eradicated, he couldn't envision a society in which blacks and whites could live together freely and he did not free his own slaves (except, interestingly, the children of Sally Hemings). He was extremely sensitive to criticism, a trait he shared with George Washington and Theodore Roosevelt, and he expanded the presidency more than Washington or Adams did before him. While I don't really appreciate the power he exerted once he gained the presidency, it's a little more forgivable in him since the presidency was really still being defined while he was occupying it and also because he made good choices. One thing that Meacham made a point of in this biography and something I've learned and come to appreciate about our founding fathers since beginning this journey of reading through the American presidents is that they seriously feared the failure of the American experiment. While it's easy to look back now and criticize them for choices they made, they truly believed that America could quickly collapse and return to a monarchy, and they were making essential decisions through that perspective. The presidency has never been an easy job, but it was possibly an even heavier and more burdensome role then than it is now.

All of us as human beings are complex, but Jefferson was dizzyingly so. If you're looking for a good biography of him, I wouldn't necessarily discourage you from this one, but I might encourage you to look for one even better. I would have liked something a bit more chronological and straightforward that spent a little more effort focusing on some of the major events that happened in his life such as the Embargo of 1807 and the Burr conspiracy (among others). I'm very interested in reading a good biography of Aaron Burr after reading this biography of Jefferson. 

Ultimately, I think Jefferson really tried to do the best he could as a politician even though his methods weren't always praiseworthy. I sincerely hope he placed his faith in Jesus before his death. He did believe in an afterlife and was sure he would be reunited with his loved ones which is very sad if he ended his life condemned. I'm having a hard time wrapping up this recap because of how interesting and discussable Jefferson and the times in which he lived are. So.....the end.

Have you read a good biography on Thomas Jefferson or any of the founding fathers? What do you think of him? Would you have liked living in Revolutionary times? Who from the Revolutionary period are you most interested in learning about? Hamilton? Burr? Marshall? Lafayette? 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly."

~Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"What is the name of that geranium on the windowsill, please?"

"That's the apple-scented geranium."

"Oh, I don't mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn't you give it a name? May I give it one then? May I call it—let me see—Bonny would do—may I call it Bonny while I'm here? Oh, do let me!"

"Goodness, I don't care. But where on earth is the sense of naming a geranium?"

"Oh, I like things to have handles even if they are only geraniums. It makes them seem more like people. How do you know but that it hurts a geranium's feelings just to be called a geranium and nothing else? You wouldn't like to be called nothing but a woman all the time. Yes, I shall call it Bonny."

~a conversation between Marilla and Anne in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"My great wish is to go on in a strict but silent performance of my duty: 
to avoid attracting notice and to keep my name out of newspapers, 
because I find the pain of a little censure, even when it is unfounded, 
is more acute than the pleasure of much praise."

~Thomas Jefferson~

Friday, November 17, 2017

Birthday Joy!

I'd 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, I share a birthday with our sweet girl Shallot. She lives in Uganda, and today, she turns 10 years old. She wants to be a nurse when she grows up. 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 Shallot 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. 

Also, I have dedicated my birthday this year to helping Compassion raise money for clean water. If you aren't in a position to take on an ongoing financial commitment like becoming a child's sponsor, please consider making a one-time gift to this fundraiser to provide a family with the life-changing gift of clean water. Click here to learn more!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? 
It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it's such an interesting world. 
It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? 
There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?"

~Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, November 13, 2017

Let's Bust a Recap : Murder on the Orient Express

Well, I have finally arrived in the world of Agatha Christie. This was my first of her many, many novels and it took a major motion picture coming out this month to finally kick my booty into gear. I'll be honest: Agatha Christie has never been a real high priority of mine. Despite her status as the best-selling novelist of all time and the fact that her works trail only the Bible and Shakespeare as the world's most widely published books, I have never at any point in my life been dying to read her. But what with the aforementioned movie coming out, Christie shot up to the top of my Life List and into the murder mystery pool I dove. 

Murder on the Orient Express was first published at the beginning of 1934 and features Christie's popular Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. (Somebody please school me on the pronunciation of that name. To the best of my knowledge, it comes out sounding something like "air-kyul pwarrow"....am I close?) Our famous detective finds himself stuck on a train that has gone straight into a snowbank, but to make matters worse, one of the passengers turns up dead in his bed having been stabbed 12 times sometime in the middle of the night. The killer has to be on the train because of their unexpected stop in the snow. Can Hercule Poirot figure this out? 

Oh he can, y'all. Because apparently, he is the smartest, most clever detective you ever did see. 

What I liked most about this book was the way all the facts, evidence, and testimonies were laid out had me trying to solve the mystery right along with Poirot. I mean, I almost got out my own little notebook to start taking my own notes on the case, but I'm just not that dedicated. And I DID figure part of it out. But the conclusion was so intricate, masterful, and outrageous that it left me sitting with a stupefied grin on my face. Literally. I just sat in my rocker for a good 3 minutes grinning like an idiot and trying to decide how I felt about the ending. I also appreciated the humor in this novel as Christie had Poirot's cronies jumping to conclusions all over the place and getting more and more exasperated at the seeming impossibility of the case. 

If you're looking for cons, Murder on the Orient Express was not as unputdownable as I was expecting it to be. Every Christie fan talks about how engrossing her novels are, and I would not quite put this one in that category. If you are trying to solve it along with Hercule, the details start to get a little overwhelming as there are so many suspects. 

Overall though, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I look forward to reading more of Christie's work. Not all of it, mind you, but definitely more. I purchased Murder on the Orient Express in a box set of "The World's Favourite Agatha Christie" which also included And Then There Were None and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Both of those come highly recommended by friends of mine so I'm psyched to read them. I would also like to read one of her Miss Marple novels at some point. 

So let me have it: what are your favorite novels by Agatha Christie? What can I not miss? Have you read any of the Miss Marple mysteries? Which one(s) should I read? Bring it on. I can handle it. Did any of you see the movie over the weekend? No spoilers, please, but what did you think? I plan to see it this coming weekend, and I'll definitely let you know what I think. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Casual Fridays

Where to even start? It's been a hot minute since we had a Casual Friday around here, and let me tell you why:
We got another puppy! I'm so kidding (what do you think I'm insane?!), but we did have him over for a few days while his family was out of town. We also went to Alabama for a weekend and finally got to spend time with my entire family. It's been way too long since we had all been together. Like, over two years, y'all. That's too long.
We had a Celebration of the Reformation concert at my church in which I was part of the choir, both puppies have had health issues lately, Halloween came and went, work, dentist, AWANA: suffice it to say, things have been busy around here.

But not too busy for me to read two books in the last two weeks. Sunset Lullaby by Robin Jones Gunn (the very last book from my 2017 book list!) and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 
What can I even say about this precious book? It was the perfect way to wrap up the series I've been reading for over 15 years now. I was actually bawling at the end. That's not an exaggeration. I was ugly-crying, y'all. In the best way. I'm not planning to recap this one, so let me just say that I really do think this was the perfect way to end the Christy Miller saga. However, Robin has announced that she has begun writing a new book to be the first in the Gather series in which Christy will be a main character. I have mixed feelings about this because it's all about a group of young moms encouraging and supporting each other during the child-raising years. I'm not in that club, but, as you know, I love Robin Jones Gunn and everything she touches. So....to read or not to read: that is the question.

There will be a recap of Murder on the Orient Express coming to a blog near you soon (hint: this blog, Monday) so that's all I'll say about that for now. I'm currently reading a biography of Thomas Jefferson (over halfway done!), Anne of Green Gables (for like, the hundredth time), and the Gospel of John. Which brings me to something I've always wondered about: what do you think the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist was like before Jesus' ministry years? I mean, they were related and John's mother certainly understood who Jesus was. Don't you think she told John stories growing up about the miraculous circumstances surrounding his own existence, his father's dumb days, that his cousin Jesus was the Messiah? Do you think John and Jesus ever met each other and played together at family reunions when they were boys? I wonder about these things.
Did you really think you'd get out of this post without me gushing at some point or other about my nieces? Let's just start with the top left: are they not the cutest trick-or-treaters on the planet? Especially that little ladybug. I can't. And what does the top right say to you? Pure joy? Correct. Bottom left: my oldest niece is a ballerina. Not for Halloween, she has started taking ballet classes. Her recital at the beginning of December is literally the biggest deal on my calendar right now. And obviously, I am my niece's B.F.F. That goes for all of them, bottom right there is just the mascot. Insert all the heart-related emojis imaginable. 
We have completed another puzzle, you guys. And when I say "we" I really just mean "me". I did this one almost completely by myself. And I finished it in like a week. I was addicted to this puzzle. I need to go get some custom frames made for this one and the pumpkin one. 12x34 inches. I'll probably go to Michael's but does anyone know of any other place that does custom framing that might be better (read: cheaper)?
I gave myself a pedicure recently, and I once again achieved smudge-free status! I think my BFF Lyndsey's trick of doing thin coats and letting them dry completely is the key. My toes were sorely in need of some TLC, and I actually went to Tips & Toes for a real pedi, but after waiting over 45 minutes with not even an acknowledgement from anyone that I was even there (and three other ladies coming in for scheduled appointments and no one acknowledging THEY were there either), I left and went home to do it myself. I mean, can you really beat having two puppies snuggled up to you with Gilmore Girls on the TV while your toes dry? I think not.

And speaking of Gilmore Girls, I've finally decided that I'm not #TeamJess or #TeamLogan or #TeamDean (I can't even believe there are #TeamDean people in the world, but apparently they exist); I've decided I'm #TeamMarty (which could also be called #TeamNakedGuy if we wanted to get cute about it). He definitely got the shaft and if Rory really does turn out as horribly as A Year In The Life made her out to be, then Marty's the only guy on her level. Jess is too good for her. Yeah, I said it. 
And if you're still reading, you may remember from back at the beginning of this never-ending post that I mentioned my poor, sweet puppies having health drama lately. Colonel somehow got a staff infection which meant we had to shove pills down his throat twice a day for two whole weeks, and now Major is getting over pink eye which means we've been putting some kind of steroid goop on his eye all week. (Don't get me started.) They are the best, but they have been a bit on the high-maintenance side lately. Bless.

Ok. We've been here way too long. I just have to throw in a quick plug for my latest obsession: Heather Land - I Ain't Doin It. She is hilarious and you need her in your life.

Also, my birthday is one week from today. Please consider donating to Compassion in honor of me turning 30. So far, we've raised enough money for 4 water filters and we're halfway to a 5th one, but if we're going to make it to 30, we've got a ways to go.

Much love, homies. Over and out.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"It is error alone that needs the support of government.
Truth can stand by itself."

~Thomas Jefferson~

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"Of all the cankers of human happiness, 
none corrodes it with so silent, yet so baneful, a tooth, as indolence."

~Thomas Jefferson~

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Pumpkin Carving 2017

Happy Halloween! Time for some pumpkin pictures. And y'all will have to decide which pumpkin wins this year because we honestly can't. Both of us are at the top of our pumpkin carving games, respectively, and these may be our best pumpkins yet. 
Colonel was totally over it this year. He came over before we got into things, sniffed around, then left the kitchen and just casually kept an eye on us from afar. Major, however, kept his sweet little head on my knee the entire time I was carving my pumpkin. He's just too much, you guys.
Our pumpkins had been sitting outside our front door and they were sunshiney warm when we started cutting into them. And let me just tell you, scooping pumpkin guts out of steamy pumpkins is substantially grosser than scooping pumpkin guts out of cool or room temperature pumpkins. I'm just sayin'. 
Yes. That is my husband using a drill to carve his pumpkin. #polkcountystyle
October 30, 2017

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Word for Wednesday

"What arrested him now as of value in life was less its beauty than its pathos...
Who was the moral man? Still more pertinently, who was the moral woman? 
The beauty or ugliness of a character lay not only in its achievements, but in its aims and impulses; its true history lay, not among things done, but among things willed."

~from Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy~

Monday, October 23, 2017

Indiana

Well, for all who were dying to know, the third state we checked off our Bucket List on our crazy roadtrip was Indiana. 
Obviously, we drove through several states on this trip (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois if you must know), but the only three we counted for our official goal to #SeeAll50 were Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana. Remember, our parameter for this goal is to actually stop and do a specific activity unique to the state to be able to check it off the list. So in Indiana, we voluntarily spent the night in jail.
I kid you not. The Old Jail Inn served as Parke County, Indiana's jail and sheriff's office from 1879 to 1998 and was converted and opened as a Bed & Breakfast in 2010. The cells each have their own theme and we spent our night behind bars in the Bonnie and Clyde cell.
Not only is Parke County, Indiana home to the Old Jail Inn, it's the covered bridge capital of the world with a whopping 31 covered bridges so we spent the first day of October on a covered bridge scavenger hunt.
How sweet are these bridges?! We found 10 out of 31 and at our 10th covered bridge, we also visited the oldest continually operating sawmill west of the Alleghenies. They sell all sorts of yummy goods and I picked up a bag of fresh ground, whole grain pumpkin pancake mix.
These Parke County people know their market--we found the most adorable little antique shop called Lover's Lane Antiques. To get inside, you have to go through their own covered bridge. Come. On.
As fun as finding each lovely covered bridge was, my favorite part of our quest was driving down streets like this to find them:
Gravel roads, miles of undeveloped land, corn taller than my husband, windmills slowly turning in the sunset: I loved driving through Indiana.
And speaking of the drive, the real star of this insane 6-day, 2,800+ mile roadtrip was our Fit. This was the first big trip we took in our little car and we couldn't be prouder of our Honda. She handled the long days, gravel roads, and countless detours like a champ, and we're ready to take her back out whenever the travel bug bites us next.

Indiana : done.

5 down, 45 to go. And we even have our next trip planned out and ready to go. What are some things we can't miss as we visit the 45 remaining states on our list? Have you ever driven through a covered wooden bridge? Have you spent any memorable nights in jail, voluntarily or otherwise? Tell me all your stories.