Friday, May 25, 2018

Casual Fridays

First things first: I got a little "Currently Reading" widget on the blog! (It's the little things, y'all. And go me for even knowing what a widget is, right?!) Look over to the right of the screen and check it out. (If you read my blog on your phone, it's very likely that you'll need to scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Web View" in order to see all the extras I have on the side of the blog. I wouldn't personally know because I'm back to that flip phone life, but that's usually how it works.) I created a GoodReads account solely for the purpose of getting that little widget for my blog. So if you ever just want to stop by and check on what I'm actually reading, you can! I'll do my best to keep it up to date. 

And now I will proceed to talk about my anniversary which may get me all sappy and romantic and braggy about my amazing husband so if that totally makes you gag, feel free to skip this part because I so get that. (But don't miss out on the crazy book haul which I will definitely be talking about later in this post.)

Our anniversary fell on a Saturday this year, and my sweetheart's schedule had him working the three days leading up to it (he's an emergency room nurse so his schedule is whack). So Friday night after another long 12-hour shift, he stopped by the store to pick up some goodies for our 4-day weekend. Usually, this means that he will walk in the door with flowers for me and I would be lying right now if I say that a teeny tiny corner of my heart wasn't a bit disappointed that that wasn't the case Friday night. 

However, I wake up at 4 in the morning alone in bed and go out in search of my husband. He intercepts me in the hallway and says he needed to get a drink of water or some such nonsense like that and sends me back to bed. Well, after several minutes of him still not coming back to the bedroom, I walk out to the front part of the house to find him arranging the most gorgeous dozen red roses you ever saw and setting up the table with this banner from our wedding day that I thought had never survived the drive away from the church. Enter scene of Cody being so exasperated that I ruined his sweet surprise and me having an emotional meltdown because I actually married the best guy on the planet and I can't even handle it. We ended up staying awake and exchanging cards (which were not identical but they both said "Happy You & Me Day" on the front—stop it), reading our love letters out loud to one another (more waterworks: we wrote these as a part of our pre-marital counseling and they are framed and hang in a prominent place in our home—even if you're already married and didn't do this, I highly recommend it; it's the sweetest), and dancing to our song (I warned you how sappy this could get, don't hate me). The whole morning is my new favorite memory and I never want to forget a single detail. 

I love you, Cody Aaron Hancock, and I don't deserve you. 

Anyway (for those of you trying to get past all the mush, here's where you should tune back in), later that morning, we drove out to Lake Wales to check out a new little used bookstore I've been hearing whispers about, and we hit the mother lode, y'all. We walked out of there with no less than 14 books, and that was only after me getting through one shelf. You guys, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It's called The Book Shelter and they're only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10AM-6PM, but you need to check it out. They have a fantastic selection (obviously), great incentives (we got a free book just for finding the silverfish—ask me what this means), and the prices are insane (to put this in perspective, the stack of books from The Book Shelter on the left side of the roses cost less than the four new books from Barnes & Noble on the right side of the roses). I can't even, and yes I'm going to list all the books we got because I know you want to know. If you decide to check it out, tell them I sent you. 

And now for the books. The stack on the left side from top to bottom are as follows:

A Walk to Remember : Nicholas Sparks
Hatchet : Gary Paulsen
Dogsong : Gary Paulsen
Mrs. Dalloway : Virginia Woolf
The Joy Luck Club : Amy Tan
The Devil in the White City : Erik Larson
Housekeeping : Marilynne Robinson
Lila : Marilynne Robinson
Gilead : Marilynne Robinson
The Idiot : Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Scarlet Pimpernel : Baroness Orczy
Love in the Time of Cholera : Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Beloved : Toni Morrison
East of Eden : John Steinbeck

And the new ones from Barnes & Noble because we don't just throw tradition to the wind even when we've already bought 14 books somewhere else:

Present Concerns : C.S. Lewis
The Woman in White : Wilkie Collins
I Am The Messenger : Markus Zusak
The Hunt for Red October : Tom Clancy

Cody only chose three out of all of these. I have a problem. We also walked down the street from The Book Shelter and finally spent a gift card I've literally had since our wedding. Six years seemed like long enough to hang onto it. And, of course, we had our date night to The Melting Pot and Barnes & Noble. Six years and it just keeps getting sweeter. 
The Melting Pot : 5/19/2018
Have you read any of the books from my list up there? Can you guess which three Cody picked out? Can you guess which two I've already read since Saturday? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Sometimes she would cry bitterly for hours, 
with Toto sitting at her feet and looking into her face, 
whining dismally to show how sorry he was for his little mistress. 
Toto did not really care whether he was in Kansas or the Land of Oz 
so long as Dorothy was with him; 
but he knew the little girl was unhappy, and that made him unhappy too."

~from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum~

Monday, May 21, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Night

"I remember, May 1944: I was 15-and-a-half, and I was thrown into a haunted universe where the story of the human adventure seemed to swing irrevocably between horror and malediction."

Night is a memoir of Elie Wiesel about his experience in Nazi German concentration camps at the end of World War II. It is very dark, hopeless, and depressing. It's actually the first in a trilogy by Elie Wiesel in which he describes his personal transition from darkness to light during and after the war. The following books in the trilogy are entitled "Dawn" and "Day".

The road to getting Night published was not easy. After being liberated from Buchenwald at the end of the war, age 16, Wiesel moved to Paris and in 1954 completed an 862-page manuscript about his experiences. This was somehow cut down to 245 pages and published in Argentina under the title "And the World Remained Silent". The French novelist Francois Mauriac took it upon himself to find a French publisher for Wiesel's work and in 1958, after more cuts, a 178-page book entitled "La Nuit" was published in France. Two years later in 1960, a 116-page English translation was published in New York under the title "Night". Over 40 years later, Farrar, Straus and Giroux approached Wiesel's wife Marion about preparing a new translation of Night and she accepted. In 2006, that translation was published and that is the book that I read on my way to Israel the first week of April.

In an introduction to the translation by his wife, Wiesel says that when the book was originally published in English, he was an unknown writer who was just getting started and whose English was far from good. Since that time, his wife has translated many of his other works and, according to Wiesel, she knows how to transmit his voice better than anyone else. As a result of her work, he maintains that Night is better than it was. 

I chose to read Night on my trip to Israel because we would be visiting Yad Vashem while in Jerusalem and it seemed appropriate. I finished the slim, 120-page volume on the way there. The weight of all that the Jewish nation survived during that horrific time in our not-so-distant history stayed on me during my time in Israel.

It's not fun to read about entire communities being slaughtered, families being ripped apart and never seeing each other again, living babies being tossed in the air by soldiers for target practice, a teenage son watching his father being beaten to death and then living with guilt for being afraid to stop it: these things ought never to be. But they happened. And we dishonor the lives lost if we sweep that part of our history under the rug.

While it is never pleasant to read accounts of such depraved, disgusting human behavior, I believe it is important to do so. The crimes and sins committed by humanity against humanity should rightly horrify and outrage us. Forgetting them may make us feel more comfortable, but by ignoring the past or blotting it out, we become far more susceptible to repeating it.

Night doesn't end on a happy or hopeful note. It is not uplifting in any way, shape, or form. Wiesel's writing is raw, heartbreaking, and painful. Despite all that, I would definitely recommend this book and because of all that, I would really like to read his following books Dawn and Day. Have any of you read them?

"Because I remember, I despair. 
Because I remember, I have the duty to reject despair."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Six Years

Happy Anniversary, my sweet thing!
I did, I do, I will....always, always, always. 
Augustine Grace Photography

Friday, May 18, 2018

Casual Fridays

Hello friends! This blog has been sadly neglected of late, but hopefully you've been enjoying our Wednesday quotes and you can forgive me for not posting anything else since our recap of The Wizard of Oz waaaaaaay back on April the 2nd. 
Dead Sea ~ 4/11/18
Shortly after that post, I left the country to fulfill a lifelong bucket list goal of mine on a trip to Israel. (I plan to blog about it someday, but it was a big trip and even the thought of trying to blog it is a tad overwhelming.) I've also been overjoyed to welcome two of the sweetest little men you ever did meet into this world, and they have entirely stolen my heart. They bookended my April arriving on the 1st and the 30th, and I can't get enough sweet snuggles. This Auntie's heart is full to overflowing.
I've also gotten some serious quality time with all my favorite girls in the form of soccer games, backyard camp outs, and just general gypsy-princessing. 
So there's been a lot going on and I haven't been blogging. I have still been reading. A little. I managed to read 3 books during the month of April, and I'm just starting to come out of the dark place they took me enough to attempt some recaps so stay tuned for those coming the next few weeks. I'm currently still slugging my way through Anna Karenina (I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I may not finish in May but definitely June), and I've also just barely started The Professor by Charlotte Bronte. 
That's all for this little snapshot of my sweet life these days. Excited to celebrate 6 years of marriage with my honey this weekend. Much love to you and yours, and please fill me in on what your April and May have looked like this year down in those comments! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call Kansas."

"That is because you have no brains," answered the girl. "No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home."

~from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum~

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it
 is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. 
Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, 
and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives...
What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable than that of liberty and learning, 
each leaning on the other for their mutual and surest support?"

~James Madison~

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"This is the life! How good! This is how I'd like to live!"

"Who's stopping you?" said Levin smiling.

"No, you're a lucky man. You have everything you love. You love horses—you have them; dogs—you have them; hunting—you have it; farming—you have it."

"Maybe it's because I rejoice over what I have and don't grieve over what I don't have," said Levin.

~from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy~

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"There's magic in the words 'silk' and 'lace,' isn't there?" said Aunt Jamesina. "The very sound of them makes me feel like skipping off to a dance. And yellow silk. It makes one think of a dress of sunshine. I always wanted a yellow silk dress, but first my mother and then my husband wouldn't hear of it. The very first thing I'm going to do when I get to heaven is to get a yellow silk dress."

~Aunt Jamesina in Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Anne walked home very slowly in the moonlight. The evening had changed something for her. 
Life held a different meaning, a deeper purpose. 
On the surface it would go on just the same; but the deeps had beens stirred. 
It must not be with her as with poor butterfly Ruby. 
When she came to the end of one life 
it must not be to face the next with the shrinking terror of something wholly different—something for which accustomed thought and ideal and aspiration had unfitted her. 
The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; 
the highest must be sought and followed; 
the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."

~from Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Everything is changing—or going to change," said Diana sadly. "I have a feeling that things will never be the same again, Anne."

"We have come to a parting of the ways, I suppose," said Anne thoughtfully. "We had to come to it. Do you think, Diana, that being grown-up is really as nice as we used to imagine it would be when we were children?"

"I don't know—there are some nice things about it," answered Diana, again caressing her ring with that little smile which always had the effect of making Anne feel suddenly left out and inexperienced. "But there are so many puzzling things, too. Sometimes I feel as if being grown-up just frightened me—and then I would give anything to be a little girl again."

"I suppose we'll get used to being grown-up in time," said Anne cheerfully. "There won't be so many unexpected things about it by and by—though, after all, I fancy it's the unexpected things that give spice to life."

~Anne Shirley & Diana Barry in Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, April 2, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Wizard of Oz

Oh sad, sad day. The slippers were not really ruby red, y'all. They were silver. I feel so disillusioned. Did everyone know? Have you all been shielding me from this disappointment my whole life? Oh Hollywood, you fickle friend. Why must you take such wild liberties with classic children's literature? My husband tried to give me some lame excuse about silver shoes not having the same effect on the bigscreen with the groundbreaking technicolor advances of the time, but I'm just not okay with this, you guys. The shoes were SILVER.

My whole childhood has been a lie. Reagan, did you know??

Anyway, let me try to reel in the melodrama long enough to recap The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This beloved children's novel was written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W. W. Denslow, and it was first published in 1900. (Also, completely random fun fact: I had to double-check myself with century timelines because I use century tags in my recaps, in case you hadn't noticed. The new century doesn't begin until the first year of the new millennium. i.e. The 19th Century was from 1801-1900; the 20th Century was from 1901-2000, et cetera et cetera. Get it? Too off the point? Right: back to the recap.) My particular edition of this classic was published in 2013 by Barnes & Noble and includes the charming original illustrations by W. W. Denslow. Except for the misleading RUBY RED SLIPPERS on the cover of the book (no, I will never get over it), it is one of the sweetest books you ever did see. (This was one of the pretty Barnes & Noble classics my hubby gave me on my birthday in 2016.) The novel is one of the best-known in all of American literature, and the Library of Congress has even declared it "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale". After (finally) having read it for myself, I would wholeheartedly agree. I loved it.

Baum's intention with The Wizard of Oz was to write an updated fairytale avoiding the traditional stereotypical characters you'd find in the fairytales of Grimm or Anderson (like genies and dwarfs) and removing the association of violence and moral teachings. He also intentionally omitted any emphasis on romance believing that romantic love was uninteresting and largely incomprehensible for children. His introduction to The Wizard of Oz (which, to be honest, was a little off-putting for me) is often cited as the beginnings of the sanitization of children's stories. However, as I read I came to realize that while he did do away with a harsh moral lesson, he did so without actually doing away with all morals.

I'm sorry if you've somehow never seen the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, but I cannot possibly write this recap without referencing it. My brother wore it out when we were little (to the point that the rest of us got pretty sick of Oz for a while), and I was pretty much holding the book up in comparison to it throughout my reading of it. I have to say, I will always love that movie and it mostly did a good job of maintaining the integrity of the book....

....except for those ruby red slippers, y'all. *sob* (Are you so over this? Too bad. We will never be done with it.)

Obviously, as is the case with nearly every book/movie adaptation comparison, the book is more fully developed and provides more background than the movie can. Elements of the book that I dearly loved which the movie excluded were the Good Witch of the North's kiss of protection, the field mice who helped save the Cowardly Lion from the poppies, the REAL story of the flying monkeys, and the dainty china country.

I also loved how the Power of Good was always stronger than the Power of Evil and that loyalty was portrayed as a natural and unquestionable byproduct of friendship. It never even occurred to the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion not to stick with Dorothy until she could find her way back to Kansas, even after their deepest desires were granted them and they each became rulers of their own kingdoms. They stayed with their little friend until her wish was fulfilled as well, even risking danger and their kingdoms to do it.

And my favorite character of all? Toto. Hands down. I will always fall in love with a faithful little dog, and Toto won my heart from the very beginning. He was the linchpin, y'all.

To sum it up, I absolutely loved The Wizard of Oz and would unreservedly recommend it. It was the charming book for children I wanted A Wrinkle in Time to be at the beginning of the year. If you've never read it, you're missing out.

Have you ever read The Wizard of Oz or any of L. Frank Baum's other books on Oz? (He ended up writing 13 sequels!) Do you love the movie? Are any of you as upset as I am about those dang slippers?! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"As the woman in the Bible who had suffered from hemorrhages during twelve long years, 
I too, longed to touch this Jesus, all the while trembling, 
not from apprehension that He would reject me, 
but that I would find Him as I feared He was. 
As Zacchaeus, I wanted to climb a tree so that I might see Him better, 
but at the same time, I feared He would turn His illuminated face towards me, 
and that He would call me by name. 
Such was the delicious fear that the Person of Jesus awakened in me." 

~Dr. Jamel Attar~

Monday, March 26, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : The Masterpiece

Well. I've read yet another book that was not on my 2018 book list. But you know what: I finished a presidential biography this month and I'm plugging away pretty steadily at Anna Karenina and I have completed 6 whole books from my original list so who cares? Of course I'm going to ditch my list when one of my favorite authors publishes a brand new book. I'm just proud of myself for even holding out long enough to finish J.Mad while this gem was sitting on my shelf waiting for me. So there. 

That being said, let's talk about Francine Rivers' newest book The Masterpiece which was just published last month. In this novel, we meet Roman Velasco and Grace Moore: two people who couldn't be more different from one another....or so we think. Velasco is a troubled artist, and Grace is a young, single mom trying to get her life together enough to raise her son. Throughout the book, we get glimpses into their childhoods and learn about the events that brought them to where they are today. This story deals with abandonment, loss, anger, redemption, and the power that God has over the darkness. 

I loved it.

Francine Rivers was inducted into the Romance Writers' of America Hall of Fame in 1997 so let's not kid ourselves: I knew where the story was heading. But that didn't make it any less of a pleasure to read. I couldn't put this novel down until I was done with it, and I finished the almost 500 page story in less than 3 days (I mean, I still had to cook dinner and do my job, you guys, I'm not a wizard). I especially appreciated how Rivers dealt with a very difficult and unpopular subject: Hell. She did not shy away from the very real existence of a place of eternal damnation and even included a note in the book making a point to say that although God's love is real, so is His holiness and righteousness. Believing in or talking about Hell is certainly not in vogue in our believe-your-own-truth and everybody-goes-to-Heaven society. But God is just and if you reject Him, you will spend eternity separated from Him. 

I would definitely recommend this book, as I would all Francine Rivers' books. I've yet to read one that didn't suck me in. (Though if we're being completely honest, the Sons of Encouragement series rank last and The Atonement Child and the Mark of the Lion series are my favs.) While these books are certainly Christian and I personally don't think Francine Rivers crosses any lines in her writing, her books deal with some tough subjects and are most definitely written for adults so if you happen to be younger than 18 and reading this post, maybe check with your mom before reading one. I know I started reading Rivers' novels in high school, but I suppose not every parent would want their kids reading this until they reached a certain age. 

Two thumbs up, all the stars, and whatever other positive rating indications I can give to The Masterpiece. Can't wait for your next book, Ms. Francine!

Have you read anything by Francine Rivers? What is your favorite book by her? Least favorite? The only title I haven't read by her is her non-fiction devotional entitled Earth Psalms. Have any of you read that one? What did you think of it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"But, Anne, a broken heart in real life isn't half as dreadful as it is in books. It's a good deal like a bad tooth...though you won't think that a very romantic simile. It takes spells of aching and gives you a sleepless night now and then, but between times it lets you enjoy life and dreams and echoes and peanut candy as if there were nothing the matter with it."

~Miss Lavendar Lewis in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, March 19, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : James Madison

Well, I have completed my first presidential biography of 2018. I have made it to our nation's 4th president, and I'm actually going to read another biography of him this year because I got it for Christmas and we can't just ignore a book, y'all. I'm also hoping to squeeze in a biography on Monroe so that we can keep this train rolling, but I'm having a serious dilemma and I need you to weigh in on this. There are two good biographies (only two?! yes. only two.) of Monroe out there and I can not decide which one I should read (and I don't want to read both). We have Harry Ammon's James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity originally published in 1971 and written to inform (read: boring) or we have Harlow Unger's The Last Founding Father: James Monroe originally published in 2009 and written to captivate (read: biased). Y'all. I'm so torn. I need you to help me out with this. Or if you know of another option, I'd be happy to check that out. 

Anyway, we're supposed to be talking about Madison, not Monroe, so let's get back on track. James Madison: A Life Reconsidered was written by Lynne Cheney and was just published in 2014 making it the most recent biography written of our 4th president until Noah Feldman got his work on Madison (The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President—the one I got for Christmas) published last October. Cheney decided a fresh look at Madison was in order because of her puzzlement over the popular portrayal of Madison as weak and shy despite his many accomplishments. (Here's a revolutionary thought, Lynne: all the biographers who came before you were actually correct—Madison was sickly and shy. Intelligence doesn't dictate personality.) This was the first presidential biography I've read that was written by a woman, and let me tell you, I noticed the difference pretty quickly. The prologue reads like a gushing, teen girl's fan letter to her adored celebrity crush and her use of the words "One imagines..." to fill in the gaps got old very quickly. Everything in the book seemed to be spun to cast Madison in the best possible light and any flaws, poor decisions, or incorrect thinking was briefly glossed over and dismissed. The book wasn't terrible (I definitely learned a lot about Madison), but I would assert that reading critically (which, really, we should always do that) is an absolute must for this one. 

Madison lived from 1751 to 1836 through the American Revolution, the founding of our nation, and the War of 1812. He is known as the Father of the Constitution for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the Constitution and Bill of Rights which is very impressive, but the time of his life that impressed me the most was actually his time as president during the War of 1812. He prepared the country to enter the war and led them well through it despite the poor performance by Congress and his Secretary of War John Armstrong, Jr. and even as he and Dolley were driven out of the White House while Washington was burned by the British. He acted decisively and re-entered the Capitol immediately to resume the business of governing the country. He was committed to the Constitution and to the very last day of his presidency, he worked to make sure that the Constitution was interpreted correctly especially as concerned the balance between federal and states rights. 

He was a career politician and part-time farmer. Politics were his life more than any president I've read about up to this point. He left the bulk of the work of running his estate to others while he worked in the state and federal governments. He was modest and moderate in pretty much everything, which I can really appreciate about him, and, unlike other presidents I've read about so far, he could let personal criticism roll off his back and even joke about it. He had impeccable moral integrity (unlike Jefferson, Hamilton, or Burr) and he was wholly devoted to his wife. He was prone to epileptic fits and never traveled overseas. He is widely regarded as a genius and our country and government is the way it is today largely because of him. 

One area of Madison's life that was very vague were his religious beliefs. He was extremely committed to religious freedom, possibly more so than any president that went before him. Because epilepsy was still widely considered to be the result of supernatural causes (such as demon possession) requiring supernatural healing, it makes sense that Madison was particularly sensitive that there be no government mandated religious restrictions or state supported religion. We really don't know much about the extent of Madison's epileptic episodes or health issues because he was careful to conceal that part of his life and when he got sick, he shut himself away from the public eye. Despite all his health issues, he outlived all the other founding fathers. Like Washington and Jefferson, Madison was concerned with what posterity would remember of him and edited his papers and destroyed a lot of his personal communication. He died heavily in debt and Dolley eventually had to sell Montpelier and lived the rest of her life in a sort of genteel poverty with creditors breathing down her neck any time they learned she acquired any money. 

The thing that got to me while reading this particular biography is that politicians and the media have always sucked. There really is nothing new under the sun. We like to complain about the deplorable state of our government today and act shocked when we hear of another politician's latest scandal, but this is the way it's been since the very beginning. It's easy to criticize people in power, but I'd say we've come a pretty long way from the days when congressmen would actually challenge each other to duels and kill each other over insults. I mean, maybe I just haven't been following the news closely enough, but I haven't heard of any state representatives slapping or caning each other during a congressional debate lately. People are just people and they always will be. 

The times in which he lived and his personal genius make Madison a noteworthy man for sure but for all that, he still kindof bored me. Once again, I'm intrigued by Aaron Burr's life and wonder if anyone out there would recommend a good biography on him. As I already mentioned, this biography didn't wow me, but at 458 pages, it was definitely manageable and informative. I'm interested to compare this Madison biography by Lynne Cheney to Feldman's, and I'll definitely let you know which one I think is better. 

Don't forget to tell me what I should do concerning the Monroe biography! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Casual Fridays

Ok, I have a lot of thoughts today, but the first thing we need to talk about is this: I was recently on a day trip to Gatorland with a group of 5th and 6th grade girls from my church as a chaperone (really, this should have been my first clue). I work with these girls in my church's AWANA program. Miss Mary has been running this group since I was in 5th grade and whenever I go on these outings with them, in my mind, I'm still one of Miss Mary's girls. So all these adorable girls show up with their cute little colorful backpacks, and we're all talking and giggling and comparing our accessories fashion when I have this sudden stroke of enlightenment that I've owned the little drawstring backpack on my back—which I got during my college days—longer than these girls have been alive. 
And then I died. The end.

But seriously when did I go from being a 5th grade girl to being old enough to have a 5th grade girl?? I can't. Let's move on.
LPL was a few weeks ago, and the dynamic was so different this year. It was right down the road from where the Parkland school shooting happened and there were family members of some of the victims in attendance. As a Floridian, I know I was feeling pretty numb that weekend, and it was hard to enter in to some of the more joyful worship that the LPL crew always bring. They began the weekend with a beautiful tribute to the lives that were lost in the shooting, and it was good to have an outlet for the grief that that heinous crime brought. Ms. Beth gave us a little "Hydrology Theology," speaking on how the Holy Spirit is the spring of Living Water within us. The best part of the weekend though was being able to attend the SSMT Celebration after the official LPL event concluded. 2017 was my third year participating in SSMT, but I haven't made it to any of the celebrations before now because they're usually in Houston. It was so fun meeting some of my Siestas and cheering each other on as we recited our Scriptures to each other. 
February 17th was a day for pink books and teeny tiny broken shells. The waves that pound you somehow have a way of smoothing the rough edges, too. God is good in the midst of it all. 

"I have learned to kiss the wave that drives me against the Rock of Ages." 
-Charles Spurgeon-

And here are just some random photos of life lately....
The crazies got haircuts this week. Yay! for less dog hair flying around! Aren't they sweet?
This happened. 
That's a 523 on the electronic Yahtzee. 
I'm such a winner, you guys. 
And stop judging me for keeping an electronic Yahtzee game in my purse. 
And now I will share with you my Mini-Banana Muffin recipe which is a total homerun. When we get random cold snaps in March (not funny, Florida), I bake. Seriously, this recipe doesn't miss. You're welcome. 

3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (I tend to go heavier on the cinnamon than the average human.)

2 ripe bananas (seriously, the browner the better)
1/4 cup + 2T sugar
2T + 2 tsp butter
1/2 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees then mix your dry and wet ingredients separately. Add the dry mixture to your banana mixture and mix till smooth. Spray your muffin tin with non-stick spray and then spoon your mixture into it. Bake for 10 minutes and enjoy. This recipe yields exactly 24 muffins which is one mini-muffin tray. Perfect. 

Link Love
- HiHo Kids : Welcome to my latest youtube obsession. Literally.

International Women's Day : My feelings exactly.

- Family First : And while we're on James Breakwell—I died. This guy is too funny.

- KFC/Taco Bell : This makes me laugh so hard. Maybe my sense of humor is really immature, but I just don't care. 

- Savchenko & Massot : Because just because the Olympics are over doesn't mean I'm ever going to stop watching this flawless routine by the Germans. Wow. Make sure to watch all the way to 6:00. 

- James & Cipres : Bonus figure skating video. It's not from the Olympics, but it's also mesmerizing. Be sure to watch till 5:15.

- I Ain't Doin' It (Easter Edition) : She just keeps gettin' better, y'all. 

And finally, my sister-in-love who is the prettiest pregnant fairy princess ever is due today, and I'm dying to meet my newest little niece or nephew. Let's go, Baby Oz!!
Jennifer Corcoran Photography

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"I think her parents gave her the only right and fitting name that could possibly be given her," said Anne. "If they had been so blind as to name her Elizabeth or Nellie or Muriel she must have been called Lavendar just the same, I think. It's so suggestive of sweetness and old-fashioned graces and 'silk attire.' Now, my name just smacks of bread and butter, patchwork and chores."

"Oh I don't think so," said Diana. "Anne seems to me real stately and like a queen. But I'd like Kerrenhappuch if it happened to be your name. I think people make their names nice or ugly just by what they are themselves. I can't bear Josie or Gertie for names now but before I knew the Pye girls I thought them real pretty."

"That's a lovely idea, Diana," said Anne enthusiastically. "Living so that you beautify your name, even if it wasn't beautiful to begin with...making it stand in people's thoughts for something so lovely and pleasant that they never think of it by itself."

~Anne Shirley & Diana Barry on names in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"After all," Anne had said to Marilla once, "I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."

~Anne Shirley in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, March 5, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Twelfth Night

Ok, despite this post coming to you in March, I did manage to squeeze Twelfth Night into the month of February so huzzah! for a new tradition. And if this is your first time reading one of my Shakespearean recaps, you may as well know that I give all the spoilers so if you've lived this long without ever seeing She's the Man (or, I guess, actually reading the play itself) and you'd like to stay in the dark on how this one turns out, by my troth, get out of here already. 

Twelfth Night opens on the completely lovesick Duke of Illyria (named Orsino) lamenting the fact that Olivia will not give him the time of day because she's sworn off men since her brother died (don't even get me started on the potential implications of that crazy—all things considered, Shakespeare's humor has always been a bit on the twisted side). 

After we've established the fact that this Orsino guy has it bad for this Olivia chick, we meet Viola who has washed up on the shore of Illyria after surviving some type of gnarly storm at sea and has enlisted her friend the sea captain to help her disguise herself as a man for reasons that will forever remain a mystery to me. She promptly offers her services to Orsino whom she even more promptly falls in love with. 

Orsino sends Viola off to talk Olivia into loving him. But Viola is apparently one very attractive dude (which makes me seriously question her potential for beauty as a female, I'm just sayin') and Olivia falls in love with her. 

In the meantime, we have several minor characters who are up to all sorts of ridiculous shenanigans including Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch (what a name), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (who is also interested in Olivia and is being prodded on by Sir Toby to go for it even though he keeps talking about leaving since he obviously doesn't have a chance with her), and Malvolio (that guy everyone hates because he's so full of his own goodness—you know the one) and Maria (maybe the weirdest character in the entire play) who are servants of Olivia. Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and Maria conspire to make Malvolio believe that Olivia is actually in love with him so that he'll make a total fool of himself and they can make his life miserable. (I mean, you get what you get when you make yourself despicable, am I right?)

By the way, their scheme totally works and they lock Malvolio up in a dungeon.

While Malvolio is stuck in the dungeon talking to a clown pretending to be a priest (yeah...), Sir Toby is playing mind games with Sir Andrew trying to get him to duel with Cesario aka Viola. At this point, Antonio shows up to rescue Viola because he thinks she's her twin brother Sebastian.

Oh did I forget to mention Viola has a twin brother named Sebastian who she thought had died in the gnarly sea-storm? Well, she does and they both thought the other died. Sebastian was rescued by some guy named Antonio and they showed up in Illyria sometime in the middle of all this. And apparently, Antonio's got bad blood with people in Illyria.

So when Antonio comes to Viola's rescue by drawing his sword on Sir Andrew, he gets arrested. And he's all, "Yo Sebastian man, can I get my money, bruh?" And Viola's all, "Look, I really appreciate you saving my life and all but I have no idea what you're talking about."

While all that's going down, the real Sebastian is busy running into Olivia and marrying her upon request because even though he has no idea what's going on and thinks he must be dreaming, Olivia is supa' fly and can get any guy she wants. And in Shakespeare's world, marrying a perfect stranger is entirely acceptable behavior.

Meanwhile, Orsino has decided he is not taking no for an answer, and he and poor, tormented, lovesick Viola go to find Olivia so he can sweep her off her feet. When they find her, Olivia's all, "Oh hey husband!" to Viola and Orsino's all, "How could you betray me like that, man?!" and Viola's all, "What in the actual is going on here?!?!" and things are about to go south in a major way when Sebastian shows up, he and Viola realize they're both still alive, Sebastian admits to marrying Olivia, Orsino figures out Viola's a girl and totally in love with him, and all the goons confess what they did to Malvolio.

So naturally, Orsino tells Viola to go dress like a girl and he'll marry her and they'll all be one big happy family. Because playing second fiddle to Olivia is evidently no problem for Viola as long as she gets Orsino. Whatever, sister.

And Sir Toby Belch and Olivia's maid Maria get married. Because apparently plaguing Malvolio's life out together constitutes a courtship. Good luck with that relationship.

And everyone lives happily ever after. Sure, pal.

Except Malvolio. You had it coming, bro.

Definitely entertaining and definitely just as outrageous (if not more so) as the rest of Shakespeare's comedies. I flew through this one. It was a little easier to get into because I was pretty familiar with the plot already. Much Ado About Nothing is still tops for me (with the possible exception of The Taming of the Shrew), but I would rank Twelfth Night higher than A Midsummer-Night's Dream. I think this would be a pretty fun one to start with if you're thinking about breaking into Shakespeare for the first time.

Have you read this one? What's your favorite Shakespearean comedy? And which one should go on next year's list? I'm leaning towards As You Like It or All's Well That Ends Well. Feel free to cast your vote below or suggest something entirely different.

For now, I'll just go watch She's the Man for about the millionth time. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"You're never safe from being surprised till you're dead."

~Mrs. Rachel Lynde in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

A Tuesday Confession

Sometimes (read: more often than not) I leave the lid of my washing machine open when I'm doing laundry.
Not on purpose.
But because I actually forget to close it once I get the load in.
And then I come back to put the clothes in the dryer and my washer is just sitting there wide open with a load of wet clothes inside.

Getting old is hard, y'all.

At least the load actually runs with the lid up, and I can just roll my eyes and shake my head while I'm moving my clean clothes over into the dryer.

Anyone else?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"A fellow has to fight something all through life...didn't somebody once define man as a fighting animal?...and I want to fight disease and pain and ignorance...which are all members one of another. I want to do my share of honest, real work in the world, Anne...add a little to the sum of human knowledge that all the good men have been accumulating since it began. The folks who lived before me have done so much for me that I want to show my gratitude by doing something for the folks who will live after me. It seems to me that is the only way a fellow can get square with his obligations to the race."

"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people know more...though I know that is the noblest ambition...but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born."

~Gilbert Blythe & Anne Shirley on their ambitions in Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~

Monday, February 19, 2018

Let's Bust a Recap : Outrageous Grace

Wow. I'm a bit awestruck after reading this beautiful book. Outrageous Grace is the true story of Edmund and Grace Fabian who traveled to Papua New Guinea on Christmas Day in 1969 to begin the difficult work of learning the Nabak language and translating God's Word for the Nabak people. In their many years there, they not only learned this complicated language, they created an alphabet for it and translated the New Testament into Nabak. In Outrageous Grace, Mrs. Fabian tells their story. 
As if learning an unwritten language in the middle of a jungle thousands of miles away from family while growing their own young family wasn't outrageous enough, on April 29, 1993, a little over 23 years into their time in Papua New Guinea, Edmund Fabian was brutally murdered. And by God's grace, amidst threats of violence and senseless hostility, Grace Fabian stayed and finished the work. 

I don't even know what else to say. Reading this book was challenging and humbling. Grace Fabian is just a person like anyone else, but God used her in mighty and powerful ways. Her faithfulness to Him is inspiring, and her sacrificial love for the Nabak people is staggering. 

As a book, Outrageous Grace was so readable. Mrs. Fabian's writing is just real. Her stories are engaging and exciting. The beautifully profound object lessons sprinkled throughout the book of faith, love, and grace will have me coming back to it for sure. The challenge to serve God with my talents and follow wherever He leads is clear and prominent and worthwhile. Reading books like this one or The Hiding Place or I Believed in 'Issa, I Met Jesus are highly profitable and stimulate me to love and good works. What an immeasurable blessing to be surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses

And BONUS: Grace Fabian will be sharing her testimony (and signing books!) at my very own church this upcoming weekend at our annual missions conference. Not only do you need to read this book, you should definitely come and hear Mrs. Fabian speak. You will most certainly be blessed by her testimony and afterwards, we're even having a Foreign Food Fellowship where you can sample food from around the globe. If you live in Central Florida (or even if you don't but feel like traveling), I invite you to join us. Mrs. Fabian will be speaking Sunday  night (February 25th) at 6:00. For the rest of the conference details, click on this handy link I've provided to my church's website. Hope to see you there.

Whose example inspires you to run the race well? What books have impacted your life and faith? If you are interested in buying your own copy of this book, my church still has a few for sale (so come on by!) or you can find it here or here

Friday, February 16, 2018

Casual Fridays

I have been doing pretty great with the book recaps (4 straight Mondays in a row, but who's counting?), but I have totally fallen off the Casual Fridays wagon. I think it's time to remedy that. Let's have a little catch-up. Go grab a hot cup of tea (or coffee, if that's your jam) and settle in for a chat because it's been a while, am I right?!

Let's start by talking about reading because duh. If you've been keeping up around here, you know that I started 2018 firing on all cylinders reading 5 whole books in January. And 4 of those were even from my 2018 book list. Go me! I wanted to start strong because I have some pretty hefty reads coming up. Since the beginning of February, I've started Anna Karenina (my first Russian) and a biography on James Madison. After finishing Part 1 of Anna and getting almost 5 chapters into J.Mad, I took a break to read Outrageous Grace (recap coming Monday!) in preparation for my church's annual missions conference. It's coming up on February 24-25 and the author is going to be there! I'm pretty psyched to meet her, especially after reading her amazing story. I'd like to try to fit Twelfth Night in during the month of February also because for the last two years in a row, I unintentionally read my Shakespearean comedy in February and my tragedy in August so now I think I should just make it an official tradition.

My cutie niece has lost teeth #5 and #6. So basically she is a grown-up and I'm an emotional mess because will they ever listen and stop growing up already?!

My husband bought me a brand spanking new 2017 Chevy Spark and it is the cutest thing I have ever driven. Seriously, it had 13 miles on it when we got it, and I don't think I've ever driven a car that new. Even rentals have more than 13 miles on them.

And it's the sweetest beachy yellow.

And it's a 5-speed.

And it has old-school handcrank windows. But there's still a place to plug in my iPod and it has a backup camera.

Basically, it's my dream car.

But just in case you're thinking my life is too good for me: keep in mind we've had to replace both our vehicles in a 6 month period, our garage door broke, and the heating element in our dryer burned out. Because apparently when you're a grown-up, everything breaks at the same time and you still have to be responsible and fix it with your own money. But you can at least look fabulous driving around your super-cute yellow Spark which you call Daisy because even though you're a grown-up that's not going to stop you from naming all your stuff.
Last weekend, my mom and I flew up to Georgia for the sweetest double baby shower. My sister Caroline and her sister Mary Lou are both expecting new babies in March and April and their other sister Theresa threw them the shower to end all showers. It was ace but the real reason we went was to see that insanely cute big-sister-to-be. Obvs. She is the main event and what we are going to do when her little brother or sister gets here I don't even know.

I have had golden toes for the past couple of weeks now, and I've decided that it's a tragedy that my toes can't permanently be this fun, sparkly color.

Like honestly, every little girl should be born with sparkly, fabulous toes.

And also, my sister Lyndsey is right, the key to a perfect pedicure is letting the coats dry completely before you add the next one. No smudges!
How are the crazies, you ask? Just as lovable as can be. I mean, look at Major all snuggled up with his boy. Give me a break. I think I got a cavity just looking at that sweetness. My sister Savannah got this fancy new phone that takes practically professional photographs. (Hence the two glamor shots on the top of the collage.) I think she really captured their two, polar-opposite personalities. Major: head up, excited about everything, ready to go. Colonel: an old soul who gets really sad when I leave for a weekend. I love them both.

Time for a throwback. Cody and I brought in the New Year celebrating with millions of people in the great state of New York. He snagged the snowy shot of me trying not to freeze to death on the right. The shot on the left is me 20 years ago (who feels old? *sob*) on possibly the hottest day of summer New York has ever experienced rocking slightly too long bangs (my signature look in the 90s) and my Tweety Pie t-shirt. My, how the times have changed.

First of all, I'm not sure which was worse: being overheated to the point of nearly passing out and never making it to the crown, or being so cold I was actually crying standing in line in the snow. But I do know that both experiences were memorable and I shared them with the people I love most in this world so both trips to Lady Liberty were a bigtime #win in my book. And I'm pretty sure I still have that calendar somewhere.

Are you so over this post yet? Oh we're not done. I said we were going to have a catch-up, and I meant it.

Let's talk Yahtzee. In the past month, I have had not just 1 but 2 record-breaking Yahtzee games. A few weeks ago (January 5th to be exact because yes, I date our scoresheets), Cody and I were playing Yahtzee with my brother and his wife and our friends Matt and Lauren over the facetime (okay, yes, we're the biggest nerds possibly on the entire planet: I can admit it), and I scored a 528. Which is nearly impossible. But then just a few days ago, I was playing Cody because he downloaded this really cool program that keeps score for you on the computer (I already admitted we were the biggest nerds on the planet, no need to rub my face in it), and he rolled a 305 which is nothing to sneeze at, but I rolled a 529.

Y'all. Just go ahead and crown me Yahtzee Queen of All Time now and forget about it. I am on fire.
Here's a cute picture of my two little munchkins you can look at while I mention that my amazing mommy-in-law graduated from nursing school in December AND she passed her NCLEX on her first try AND she got a job in a Labor & Delivery unit which is exactly what she wanted because she is such a rockstar and I am so, so proud of her, but she has all the pictures from her graduation and party so I've got nothing to show for this paragraph right now. Mommy Trina, I love you so much and I admire the heck out of you. (And I need to come steal some photos soon.)

Did you think we were done talking about books? Because we are never done talking about books. We started this post with books and we're gonna end it with books.

My sexy husband got me yellow roses and a box set of Mary Poppins books for Valentines Day this year. I can't even. That's it for my book list because no way am I not reading these this year. Despite Mary Poppins being my all-time favorite movie (seriously, just ask my mom), I have never read a single one of the books, and can you even get over how adorable these striped copies are?!

I love, love, love them.

How was your Christmas and New Years? And how have you been liking 2018 so far? Did you get anything particularly sweet for Valentines Day? Have you ever seen or sat in a Chevy Spark? They are the teeniest, tiniest, cutest cars! What have you been reading lately? Catch me up with you!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Word for Wednesday

"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, 
like a gay knight riding down; 
perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; 
perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, 
until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, 
as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."

~from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery~
Happy Valentines Day!