Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Problem of Moving...Solved!

Thanks, Pinterest!
Growing up, I moved every year or so (sometimes more, sometimes less) until I was nine.  I've never minded the frequent moving.  In fact, I'm glad my family moved a lot.  The moves let me see lots of the eastern half of the United States.

However, I would be lying if I said I never wished I had friends from my childhood, people I could say I'd known since we were born...or something.

I've always said I want to move a lot, never really settle down.  But, sometimes a part of me likes the idea of making roots, retaining friends in near vicinity and living life with them for  a while.  Then, I find myself in a quandary.  Move often, experience lots, and make new friends....all.the.time?  Or, move less often, visit places, but create a family of friends, connections, and familiarity with fewer places as HOME?

While gazing out the window at the rain a few minutes ago, I thought of a solution.  Feel free, move a lot.  But, buy a vacation know, in the south of France...and that can be the steady factor.

I'm just trying to think ahead and plan for my maybe-one-day, imaginary children.  Of course, if I don't have children, it won't matter so much--I will just enjoy my vacation home regardless of where I usually live ;)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Confessions of an Extrovert

Photo By: Abby Dufour

If I were to take the Myers Briggs personality test right this minute, I would probably score off the charts as an extrovert. 

Seriously, it would be like going grocery shopping without having eaten ALL day long. 

If I ever doubted my extrovertism, tonight has cleared that up.  I feel as though I may implode from lack of outside people (i.e. people with whom I don't live) interaction.

It's like...drugs?  (I'm speaking out of my lack of experience in that area)'s torture...and then a quick fix puts you back in a great mood (almost instantly).

Is anyone else able to relate to these extreme feelings?  Or am I just crazy? = )

Rainy Days Soothe My Soul

Photo By: Abbie Slate
 Today is a perfect curl up with a good book, stay in pajamas, and drink tea all day kind of day.

It is overcast.
Drops on my windows are just showing.
I can see the rain coming down.

For the perfect setting, I don't quite know what to do with myself.
I am about to Skype with the lovely Marie.
My Vogue magazines have piled up.
I could make it my goal to work through them.
And, I have some actual work work I could do.

Maybe I should drive out to the river.
It's a perfect day to leave the door open and read inside.
Oh, and I could stomp around in my wellies while carrying my umbrella.

What sorts of things make you happy on rainy days?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Productivity Achieved?

After writing my motivation list, I did get out of bed.

On my to do list was a trip to the post office.  I stood in line far longer than I would have preferred.  But, I was given the opportunity to listen to small town chatter, observe, and have a few chuckles.  The weather was glorious.  Rather than immediately going to my car, I decided to take some time to walk through town.

There is a new tea room in town.  Next door, an Irish/Scottish shop is open (except it was closed today).  I peeked through the Irish/Scottish window, and what should I see?  Digestives and red label Yorkshire tea.  I may have had a little freak and immediately tweeted about this wonder.

Anyway, back to the tea room.  Actually, another side note about tea rooms.  In one of the Christy movies, a tea room opens in a nearby town.  This tea room serves whiskey or moonshine in tea cups and strippers provide the entertainment.  That memory sometimes pops in my head after saying "tea room."

Now, really, back to the tea room.  It is tucked away in a cute corner.  Mixed and matched tea cups decorate the tables, and tea pots take up residence in the table centers.  There are three menus: breakfast, lunch, and tea.  I can't wait to pop in and try some of the yummy items!

Now, I relax and wait for White Collar to come on television at 10.  I may do something productive between now and then...but I don't suggest holding your breath : )

Have a lovely night!

Self-Motivation: A List

I need a shot of it.

To write my "To Do" list.

My phone needs to ring with a subbing job.

I'm extroverted and can only be alone for so long.

Today calls for sandals.

I need to have my racquet restrung.

I need to get out of it.

Here is to a full and productive day!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Christmas and Champagne

Delicious balsamic vinegar!

If you are in Winter Park, FL, check out the Ancient Olive!

Sister store!  Go smell some teas and spices!  Also in WP, FL

Park Ave. Winter Park, FL--my favorite street!

Pink's becoming my signature ;)

Christmas Eve Shrimp

Honor the toil that goes into a bottle of wine--get the last 9-11 drips after it's empty

Emily Ellyn's lovely champagne brunch--scrumptious food!

Lots of mixing options!

A beautiful decanter!

With the hostess!  Photo Credit: Scott Richardson; @1educatedpalate

Christmas lasted a little more than a month longer than usual.
Due to my previous job, I was unable to visit my dad and step-mom in Florida during the holidays.
I planned to visit in January, though.

Thursday I flew from Roanoke to Orlando.
Wednesday I was trying to figure out how to dress for 21 and 70 degree weather.
Thanks to my new, favorite J.Crew chambray shirt layered with a short sleeve shirt, I was successful.

To my complete surprise, the Christmas decorations were still up (and the tree was still alive!).
So, when we celebrated Christmas Eve with our traditional shrimp dinner, the Christmas tree was on.
Saturday morning was our Christmas morning, during which we enjoyed coffee, tea, and cinnamon buns.

After "Christmas" ended, we popped over to Emily Ellyn's (Food Network Star Season 8 finalist) house for a champagne brunch (my first!).
Everything was lovely, from the food, to the decor, to the drinks.  It was a fabulous time!
Her guests were a fun, eclectic group of people with fun backgrounds and great personalities!

Daddy, Pennisu, and I had planned to order sushi and watch Djokovic take on Murray at the Australian Open Saturday night.
However, (and this is why I rarely watch the AO) I had the time messed up.
So, we ordered sushi, watched the latest episode of Downton, and went to bed (because we had to wake up at 3AM to watch the final).

3AM arrived, we watched part of the AO Final, I packed, we left for the airport, and I slept most of the way home.
Elizabeth and Michael picked me up from the airport, along with Isabelle and Amelie (who looked like Eloise in matching pink tutus, white shirts and tights, and black, sparkly shoes).

It was a fantastic trip with visits to the dentist and doctor, an awesome visit with a different Emily (future London roommate!), and a stroll through Winter Park with a visit to the Olive Oil and Tea shops!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Do You Have An Eleven Year Old Guest Posting?

Photo by Wendy Smith

Dear Friends, Bloggers, and Readers,

Today, I present you with the beginning of Miss Noelle S.'s book (that she has since edited; this is an earlier draft).  I edited two things, so minor that they don't change a thing.  Everything else is as it was sent.  I want you to see what a fantastic writer this ELEVEN year old is!  Noelle is an amazing girl.  She is sweet, well-read, funny, and stylish.  Oh, and her mom used to babysit me!  So, please, enjoy this lovely story, and take note of her name so when she is famous you can say, "I remember when..."

The Magical Story of Melissa Jones

By Noelle S.

Prologue - A mother of un-ordinary, Anna Jones... no we must not forget her, she bore a baby named Melissa.  Melissa was a special baby but her older brother was fierce.  He ran away and Melissa's parents died of what everyone thought was heartache.  Melissa forgot what happened and was left with her other relatives, and for what her relatives thought the magic of her parents was gone.

Chapter 1 - The Fairy

Melissa Jones stepped into her warm, big house from the bitter cold outside.  Melissa had just been sent on an errand to fetch a bag of potatoes from the market.  Melissa couldn't wait.  Tonight they were going to have Aunt Martha's famous potato soup for dinner.  Just thinking about it made her mouth water.  
Melissa's parents died when she was a young age.  She was sent to live in the "Big House of Relatives" they so called it.  She lived with her Uncle Watson, Aunt Pat, Uncle Charlie, Aunt Martha, Grandma Mary, Grandma Sherrie, (Melissa always loved how their names rhymed), Grandpa Mike, Grandpa Steve, Nelson, (whose parents were on a very long business trip), and her two cousins, twins Nick & Natalie.
Melissa crept into the kitchen quietly.  She wanted to sneak out of the house to see her best friend.  She quietly tiptoed to the counter and set the potatoes down.  She crept quietly back to the door and was almost out of the house when- "MELISSA JONES!"  Melissa, startled, turned around to meet the round, pinched face of Aunt Martha.  "What are you doing, child?" asked Aunt Martha, more kindly.
"Well, Well y-you see-"  Aunt Martha raised her eyebrows.  "I-I was just- Aunt Martha, don't be mad, I was just going to see Liv-I-I mean Olivia and I didn't want Nelson," Melissa's voice wandered off.  
"Well I suspect you should put on some winter gear.  It is almost Christmas."  Melissa nodded and slipped on her coat, hat, and mittens.
Melissa walked two miserable blocks in the freezing snow.  When she finally reached her friend Olivia's house she felt almost frozen to the bone.  She walked up the steps to the door and rang the doorbell.  "Come in!" said a cheery voice.  Melissa stepped in.  Olivia's house was an ordinary one, unlike hers.  Pictures of Olivia and her family were on the walls.  In Melissa's house paintings of old ancestors were on the walls.  A tiny chandelier hung over the tiny dinner table.  At the "Big House of Relatives" blue candles hung over the huge dinner table.  
"You must be Melissa," said the cheery voice.  Melissa, surprised, turned around to see a straight-figured woman.  She wore thin rimmed glasses and had auburn, curly hair.  She had a white dress with little roses on it that matched the color of her cheeks.  
"Um, yes," said Melissa quietly.
"Well, Olivia has wanted to see you."  The woman hesitated for a moment.  "She's been acting strange ever since last night.  You know where her room is, right?"  Melissa nodded.  Utterly confused, Melissa walked up the stairs.  
Strange acting?  Olivia?  Melissa thought.  Olivia was the most normal, kind, polite, un-strange person she knew.  Melissa politely knocked on the door labeled "Olivia."  Grandma Sherrie made it clear it was impolite not to knock.  The door cracked open and the curly blond head popped out.  "Good, it's you," whispered Olivia as she tugged Melissa by the arm inside her room.  
Olivia's room was colorful, with rainbow painted walls, bright pink bed sheets, green pillows, and light blue carpeting.  Then there was a little, yellow dollhouse that Olivia and Melissa used to play with.  But now they were tall twelve year-olds.  
"I think we need to talk," said Olivia, as they both sat down on her bed.  
"Your mother said you were acting strange ever since last night," questioned Melissa.
"Something weird happened last night," began Olivia.  "I was sleeping and - Lissy, a fairy came."
"Riggghhtttttttttt," said Melissa.  "Do you have a fever or have any medications or-"
"No, it's true, Lissy!"  
"Okay, then show me, um-"
"-Her," interrupted Olivia.  Olivia carefully made her way to the little dollhouse and put her hand out flat.  There was a faint voice which kept saying short sentences like,
"Move your giant hand forward!" or "Your big finger is on my foot!"  
Then Olivia carried in cupped hands a small three inch figure to the bed.
"Wow," was all Melissa could say.  The fairy was quite stunning.  She wore a blue, winter dress that looked like it was made from forget-me-not flowers.  She had brown, delicate braids that were piled neatly on her head and elf-looking shoes with a hint of glitter.  But what attracted Melissa the most was a glowing pouch that hung around her neck.
"You must be Melissa," said a cheery voice.  Melissa turned to the fairy.  Was that an imaginary voice? No, it was real.  It was the fairy!  
"How do you know my name?" asked Melissa.
Before the fairy could open her mouth, Olivia blurted out, "You can understand her!"
"Yeah, " said Melissa, "Can't you?"
"No, all I can hear is bells!" said Olivia, bluntly.
Melissa thought for a minute.  "I can translate what the fairy says and say it to you."  
"Okay," Olivia said.
"I have a name, you know, "said the fairy.
"Oh, sorry.  What is your name?"
"Zoey," said the fairy, "But you can call me Zoe.  Mawaka named me," continued Zoe.  "He found me when I was a very young fairy."
"What's she saying?" asked Olivia impatiently.
"Just a minute!" said Melissa.  "Who is Mawaka?"
"Well," began Zoe, "He is African and isn't magic-"
"Wait!" interrupted Melissa, "You're saying magic is real?"
Zoe sighed.  "My dear, what do you think I am?"  She has a point, thought Melissa.  "Shall I continue?" prodded Zoe.  Melissa nodded.  "He also lives on Gymth Road and-"
"Gymth Road!"
"Yes, my dear, Gymth Road."
"That place is h-haunted," Melissa stuttered.  At this, Zoe did what was quite unexpected.  She did what was perhaps a fairy laugh.  At first it was a little jingle of bells but then it got louder and louder until she got so pale that she had to stop.  Melissa cleared her throat awkwardly.  "Um, may I ask what is so funny about Gymth Road being haunted?"
The fairy smiled.  "That's because Gymth Road isn't haunted.  Haunted is really not the word."
Melissa looked puzzled.  "I don't understand."
"Well, you see 'haunted' is a word you humans use-"
"-No, about Gymth Road not being haunted," Melissa interrupted.
"Can you tell me what she's saying?"  Melissa looked up, startled.  She almost had forgotten about Olivia.  
Melissa looked at Olivia pleadingly.  "I'm sorry, just one more minute, Olivia?"  She nodded, disappointed.  
Zoe piped up to answer her question.  "Tell me dear," she started, "Who told you that Gymth Road was haunted?"
Melissa paused for a moment.  "Um, some kids in my school, I guess.  But-"
"-And have they ever been to Gymth Road?"
"No, because-"
"So how do they know that Gymth Road is haunted?"
"Because they heard stories about-"
"-Stories, you say," interrupted Zoe.  "Tales.  Lies.  do you really think this is true?"
Melissa pondered this.  Zoe did have a point.  "No, I guess I don't."
"You should know you don't."  Melissa's anger rose.  Zoe didn't have the authority to order her around.  But she kept her lips shut.  Zoe's expression turned to concern and then anxiety.  "You must go to Mawaka for even as I am talking we're in extreme danger," she said, looking cautiously around.  "Mawaka will tell you the rest."  
Melissa looked over at Olivia who was waiting impatiently.  Melissa told Olivia briefly what Zoe had said.  Olivia thought for a moment.  "I think you should go visit Mawaka.  These magic things might be in danger."
"Do you mean fairies?" asked Melissa.  
"Maybe," replied Olivia.
Melissa sighed.  This magic thing was so new to her.  "What do I bring, Zoe?"
Zoe's face brightened.  "Nothing.  Mawaka will have everything."
"When do I go?"
Zoe thought for a moment.  "To be safe, how about one o'clock in the morning?"
Melissa looked puzzled.  "Surely I don't need that much time to pick you up and call a taxi to drive us to Gymth Road?" she asked.
Zoe looked horrified.  "A taxi!  Do you know how dangerous that would be?!?"
Melisa looked even more horrified.  "W-w-walk to G-Gymth Road?"
Zoe sighed.  "If you think it's hard to walk to Gymth Road you are not the girl for the mission." 
Melissa shook her head.  "I will pick you up tomorrow at one and we will - walk."  And that's how Melissa Jones' adventure began.

Chapter 2 - The Entrance

Melissa walked briskly to Olivia's house.  It was twelve-thirty sharp and she was not aware of a figure in the distance, following her.  For no little girl would think that a soul would want to be up at this time, and especially not following her.  It was a very cold Saturday morning indeed.  But it was the feeling like hen you get up early in the morning and it's cold, but not as bitter as it could be.  Excitement is in the air and the birds are singing carols as you get ready for a new day.  That feeling.  But only little girls can understand.  Olivia was up too.  She was packing Zoe's stuff up which was kind of hard because Olivia had clumsy, big fingers, very unlike Zoe's.  By the time she was done there was a soft knock on the door.....

To be continued!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

If You're Curious...

It's been a while since I shared any sort of life update.

The time has arrived.

For close to two months I have pursued various options for this spring, and slowly watched as each option was eliminated.  I was all set to move to England in February.  Then, after searching for jobs, jobs began finding me.  I was adamantly against staying in the United States for any time longer than absolutely necessary.  However, based on my track record of being adamantly against something and then finding myself wanting whatever it was I was adamantly against, I began processing different ideas.

I sought thoughts from others.  I prayed about it.  Everything seemed to be pointing to England.  Well, after a wonderful conversation with Mrs. C, an interview with the newspaper, and several discussions with my parents, I decided to postpone moving.  There are many factors, some large and some small.

I will continue substitute teaching, I am now a part-time reporter for our local newspaper (first official job is tomorrow!), and there may be some other little endeavor up my sleeve.

England is in my DNA, it is in my heart.  I will be a part of it soon enough.  For now, I am going to engage in friendships, familyships, and gaining life experience.

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

**A word of caution before proceeding.  This post is not intended to offend anyone.  It is to point to a beautiful experience I had yesterday.**

The past three years, Black History Month has been a time of great frustration for me.  My Alma Mater began dedicating a week to it during my sophomore year.  Almost every chapel or gathering would leave me feeling guilty for being white, something over which I have no control. 

Yesterday, I went downtown to practice covering a story for the paper before legitimately covering stories (starting tomorrow).  The event was an annual legacy walk to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I milled around, observed, and took notes, I realized I recognized a number of faces.

The walk ended at the Town Hall steps.  A local pastor, who heard Dr. King give his "I Have a Dream" speech, read the powerful words that forever changed the fight for equality.  As the words echoed on our ears, the meaning echoed in my heart.  The original motivation for the speech came from a man who desired freedom and equal treatment for ALL.  He experienced being treated as less of a person than someone else.

A song was sung, a welcome given, and a prayer lifted up.  Various members of the community, black and white, spoke a few words.  The theme echoing from the lips of pastors, government officials, and community members was "look how far we have come, and see where we can go!"  It was a celebration of the fight put forth by MLK and others.  It was an encouragement to persevere and continue the fight for which many gave their lives.

Sunglasses hid the tears that threatened to fall.  I swayed to the music.  I laughed and smiled.  Inside, I rejoiced with those around me.  And, afterwards I enjoyed good food and community.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday's Letters

Driving home in the snow
Dear Friday, I'm so glad you've arrived!  It is my last day of work.
Dear Weekend, girls time with Jamison in C-ville!  It's been a while since we've hung out.
Dear Snow, thank you for finally showing up!  It was great fun being snowed in with my cousins.
Dear Starbucks, you make such a great place to catch up with friends.
Dear Bath County, it was wonderful to see you again, catch up with friends, and see people I love.  Oh yeah, and go to my first high school basketball game in about four years??  Or more??
Dear Laura's Boutique, I've been thinking about those two dresses ever since I tried them on.  I think I need them.
Dear Ginny, I'm going to miss just crashing at your place.  I love spending time with you!  Cousin time is the best.
Dear Pinterest, it's funny watching Ginny discover how many great ideas you have.
Dear Downton Abbey, prepare to be watched by me, on time, with scones and tea!

Other Friday Letters and more can be found at The Sweet Season blog.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Bare Necessities: Wellies

No entourage to take my photograph...

Wellies are at the top of my "Must Have" list.
They are the impenetrable, all-purpose foot attire.
Today, I looked super cute (sorry, that sounds so vain) and my feet stayed dry and mud free.

The weather was positively stormy.
It felt very English.
I wanted to take off across the distant field without a care in the world.

Instead of traipsing through a slippery field, I drove off.
However, I put my wellies to use by stepping in puddles and sliding in mud without worry.
I felt safe and came out unscathed.

Therefore, wellies and heels shall forever be a necessity in my closet

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Life Is Precious

Life is precious.

I am grieved for the young lives lost.
Never has a close friend died.  Nor, for that matter, has a distant friend died.

I remember the day I arrived at school and a fellow student had died in an accident.
Grief surrounded me.
I felt sorrow for what my friends were feeling, but I was not personally affected.

Time and time again the same scenario happens.
People whom I love lose someone close, someone young, someone it seems wrong to lose.

Maybe it is the small community that amplifies the loss.
Perhaps, if a ratio were given, it would show more young people in my area die than should.
The causes are often not pleasant, not that death is ever pleasant.
It cannot be as simple as a health issue.
No, it must be accidents, drugs, or suicide.

To those grieving, I pray comfort for you.
To those living, play safe.

We are not immortal.
God has given us one life.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Downton, Better than Real Housewives

Image via The Telegraph
I hurried home from work last night to watch the next episode of Downton Abbey.

Once again, the only disappointment came when the episode was over.  Next week's episode looks like it is going to be a doozy!

Really, why do we need to watch housewives in random cities when we have Downton?  Classless versus Classy.  Is there even a competition?

Throughout the show, I find myself empathizing with the older Lady Grantham and Lady Mary.  I love the tradition that their estate represents.  Could they relax a bit?  Certainly.  However, they are trying to hold on to something beautiful.

I do wish the writers would allow Thomas to be gotten in trouble with Lord Grantham.  He (Thomas) is the most irritating, deceiving, and smug character.  I hate how he is never caught, despite all the nonsense he puts in Daisy's head, the trouble he gets people into, and his complete double-faced personality.

Shirley MacLaine is my favourite.  I love her and wish she would not go back to America.  Her character adds spice to the chemistry among the family that is great fun to watch.  Of course, now that Lady Edith is getting married, her return to America will probably be postponed.

Let's talk about Lady Edith for a moment.  Poor thing really is set on the back burner a bit.  But, she isn't my favourite character.  In fact, she is a bit dull.  Plus, I know you've seen the way she throws herself at Sir Strallan.  He is awfully old.  But, he seems to be the only option the writers decided to write into the script for her.

When the part is about to fall apart, MacLaine just goes right into planning mode.  LOVE IT!  She take charge, makes it all fabulous, and the night is a raging success!

Oh, did anyone else find it awkward and funny when Shirley MacLaine finished the song by practically serenading the older Lady Grantham?

The next episode should be great!  Till next week!

What Is This Grace?

"The fact that even some Christians fail to grasp the radical nature of God's unconditional love suggests just how deeply we humans are embedded in a world ruled by law, expectations, duty, control and obedience."~Mark Galli, Focus on Grace, Not Control

I saw an article on Facebook about parenting with the focus on grace rather than control.  For several reasons, it immediately caught my attention.

The title of the article by Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, is Focus on Grace, Not Control.  When I read the title, my mind immediately thought (in summary), grace and not control?  How will a child learn right and wrong if all they know is grace when they disobey That is just parents giving in to their children and not keeping control.  I knew I had to read it.  I wanted to know the author's perspective on grace in parenting.  Granted, my intent was not initially pure, but before I reached the end, I was thinking to myself, ah, yes, I am relating to what he is sayingGrace is so important.  Why, then, is it so difficult for me?

Mark Galli contrasts the legalism that appears in many conservative, Christian homes to the grace displayed all through the Gospels by Jesus and throughout the New Testament as instruction for how we, the body of Christ, should treat others.  Galli mentions the inclination humanity has to rules and regulations, which, if you think about it, is an odd attraction considering the affect rebellion has on humanity, as a result of the fall.  However, the point is, grace is everywhere, from Genesis to Revelation, yet so often Christians fail to grasp it.

I am one of those Christians.  I like rules, except when I don't.  I usually follow rules, except when I speed.  Of course, I want grace extended to me.  Why, then, do I fight showing grace to others?  I want justification, retribution, people should pay for the wrong they have done, especially when they have wronged me.  But, if Jesus took that approach, I would have no hope of salvation.  I would be damned to Hell for all eternity.  How thankful I am that Jesus shows me grace every day, even when I struggle (or fail) to recognize it or accept it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Another Thought, Another Step

Photo by K.L.R
I don't understand.....

My mind flooded this week.  Thoughts, scenarios, ideas, emotion, contemplation, and much more caused me sleep deprivation, stress, happiness, and, possibly, slight depression.  Next week is the ending of a section of a chapter.  The pretty squiggle that separates parts of a story will be made, and my time of work and life in Lynchburg will end.

I'm waiting for definitive answers of what will come next.  Monday night, after work, I will drive home, take many of my belongings with me, visit some people, tend to some responsibilities, and then drive back to fulfill my last two days of work.

The future is bright and exciting, filled with the unknown.  Someone reminded me today to be still know that God is God.

As I approach decisions and crossroads, I will pray for guidance, seek wisdom, and not stand still.  I must move forward, ever pushing on doors to see which one will open.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

There She Is, Miss America

Before the Pageant
 Watching Miss America is something I hope to do my whole life.

I love the excitement, experiencing the emotion, critiquing the wardrobe choices, and criticizing the changes I don't like.  This year was the first time I watched it physically alone.  However, I was skyping with Marie, talking on the phone with my mother and step-mother, texting multiple people, and keeping track of who I liked on my chart.

As usual, the network (ABC) threw in some twists.  I don't like the decision to allow the public to vote someone in who otherwise might not have made it.  We do not know all that the judges know.  All we see is a pretty face or, in the case of this year's People's Choice winner, a cause we feel sympathy towards (I am not at ALL knocking Miss Montana.  She is beautiful and has conquered great challenges to do what she has done).  However, only the judges can critique the interviews, which counts for a lot.  They see and judge the girls' character to the best of their abilities.  They know who will be a good choice to be a role model to people everywhere.

Anyway, congratulations to Miss New York!  I am sure she will do an excellent job as Miss America 2013.  My step-mom actually helped with the Miss New York 2012 pageant, so she was especially happy.  My first and second choices were Miss Wyoming and Miss South Carolina.  Unfortunately, Miss Wyoming did not place as high as I would have liked.

Also, was anyone else irritated that the Miss America song was not played???

After the Pageant

Who Will Be Crowned?

Last year's chart
Today is the day.

What day, you ask?

Kirsten's Super Bowl, aka, Miss America!

Tonight, I will begin preparing for Miss America 2013.  It begins with a pre-show something or another at 8PM and the pageant begins at 9PM!  So excited.

Yesterday I began thinking about ways to have a more efficient chart to track who I think will win.  Last year I made an improvement on the year before.  I just want to make sure I am organized and keep up with who my choices are.

Unfortunately, this will be my first year watching it by myself........ever???  Oh my word.  This is a tragedy!  If anyone wants to join me, just let me know!

I will, I'm sure, be texting multiple people about it.  And, hopefully my lovely cousin, Nikki, will be my long-distance watching buddy.

Till tonight, my friends!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An Ecclesiastes Moment

Photo by K.L.R.
If you've been reading for a while, you have probably seen me mention my amazing church in Columbia.  I wrote earlier in the week that the pain of missing the church seemed to have passed.  There was a long time during the summer and fall where I missed it so greatly, it was hard to attend anywhere else.

Today I've been a little more emotional than usual.  A lot is on my mind, and when something is on my mind I tend to stew on it.  Weirdly, I like stewing...even if it makes me miserable.

Since graduating from college I have been trying to learn how to operate and have a relationship with God in this new stage of life.  It is difficult, especially knowing the closest thing to a true church community I've known is five and a half hours away.  And, I'm not going to be a regular attendee, probably, ever again.

Tonight, a professor from my Alma Mater, who is the Lay Pastor of the Music and Arts at my church, posted a song he recorded.  This song is one we sing at church.  As I listened to it, the cry I've been needing came.  It is hard to have something as beautiful as a church community taken away.

I think it is time to read Ecclesiastes again.

You can purchase and download O God, Eternal Light, performed by Dr. Rod Lewis, here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How to Handle Lunch Table Bullies by Shania

Last night The New Normal returned to the television after a short, holiday break.

Shania, the daughter of the surrogate mother, is easily one of my favorite characters.  She is a unique individual who doesn't bend to the norm, but she still wants what everyone wants, to be accepted.  Some girls at school were being rude and bullying her. 

Her grandmother tried to help by putting her in a "Nancy Reagan Red" suit, complete with pearls.  You guessed it, it didn't work. 

Next, the assistant taught her to wiggle her head, wag her finger, and knock them from their high horses by pointing out their flaws and declaring herself Queen Bee.  It worked.

Later, you see them all at Shania's house.  Shania is standing on the coffee table carrying on...until finally she declares there will be no Queen Bee.  The other girls are confused, which Shania follows up with the need for women to support each other (she then hands them books about her favorite feminists).  But, the best part is her saying they were going to burn all their barbies to break the idea of their bodies having to look a certain way and then " intoxicated by the plastic fumes."  Seriously, I cracked up.

Anyway, I just needed to share that quote.

Happy Birthday, Wolverine

Freshman Throwback; Superbowling
 I have this friend who refuses to tilt her fedora like Sinatra.
Instead, she wears it flat on her head.
Mules should take stubborn lessons from her.
Cats could take loyalty lessons from her ;)

We became friends our Freshman year.
Our personalities are very different, but we click.
I call her Hollander.
She teases me about what ever girly, pink, sparkly, dramatic, crazy planning thing I happen to do.

During our sophomore year she brought it to our hall's attention that someone was stealing her food.
My roommate and I promptly went and told her it was not us, but we felt so guilty.
Then, we (Hollander and I) surprised everyone by doing a wicked rendition of Loathing from, you guessed it, Wicked.  (We were awesome)

Holland is creative, talented, spontaneous, and a little bit crazy (in the good way).
And, I am most blessed to have her as a friend!
She has stretched my character.
She is a true friend.

Happy Birthday and I love you, Hollander!

P.S.  And she doubles as Wolverine!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Few Dates for Your Calendar

I've opened this page to write about three times today?  Or maybe more, if I include last night.
Nothing seems to stick.  Some things are better left to one's personal journal.

Well, a few things of note:
The Australian Open begins January 14!
Miss America is this Saturday at 9PM EST =)  (Party!)
Shows are starting to pick up the next part of their seasons (Yippee!)
And, our President will be reinstated at his inauguration on January 21, 2013!
Also, White Collar comes back January 22!!!

Speaking of 2013, anyone else forgetting to change from a 2 to a 3?
I may have written 2012 in my journal.
Imagine switching from the year 2999 to 3000.  Personally, I think it will be mind blowing.

So far this morning, I have successfully avoided that which I set out to do.
I must now go and do it.

Till next time!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Return of Downton: Celebrate!

Found here
The third season of Downton Abbey premiered last night.  I've only been waiting since...June?  My gratification was delayed because of this little thing called work.  But, upon arriving home around midnight, I watched the first episode (and ate some Christmas chocolate)!

Initially, it was difficult getting back in the swing of things, but after twenty minutes or so, things went back to normal.  It was exciting, intriguing, and satisfying.  I appreciate the writers allowing us to see the wedding, rather than postponing till the next episode.  In fact, that is what I like about the way the show is written.  There is a level of completeness, even when many situations are still unresolved.  Like the end of season two.  Instead of making us anxiously wait SIX MONTHS for Matthew to propose, they rounded out the season with a most lovely the snow...with stars, if my memory recalls correctly.  It was a dream.

A few of my favourite Downton people:
-Lady Grantham: Her wit and humor are fabulous.  I will always side with her (my apologies, Mrs. Crawley).
-Lady Mary: Her line at the wedding, "I should hate to be predictable."  She exudes class and adventure.  One of my goals.
-Lady Cora Crawley: Patience, wit, and totally in control...well, except over her money (poor thing).
-Shirley MacLaine as the American Grandmother:  Brilliant move.  She is fabulous!  "Now Mary, do tell me all of your wedding plans, and I'll see what I can do to improve them."

Least favourite Downton people:
-Thomas: Smug, irritating, and deceitful.
-Mrs. O'Brian: Sly, manipulative, and odd loyalties

In a few weeks I will be home on a Sunday night, which means, Mama and I must make tea and scones to enjoy episode three!

Do you love Downton, too?
I'm happy to say, I've hooked several people on to the show ;)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Behind "The New Normal"

               While reading the reason behind this display, tears almost came to my eyes.
I remember seeing a new NBC show advertised at the end of the summer.

The New Normal caught my attention because its purpose was to substitute the "normal" family (i.e. male, female, children) with a "new normal" family (i.e. a gay couple preparing to have a child).  I wanted to see the show when it came out, but life was busy, I forgot about it, and only remembered it last week.  I found the show and began watching it.

The show does not attempt objectivity.  It creates tension between those who are gay and pro-gay and those who are anti-gay.  Two extremes are shown, with very little/to no balance.  Situations that occur are thought provoking.  The stereotype of Christians, especially conservative Christians (that, sadly, is often true), is written into the show.  Political propaganda and jabs are made throughout many episodes.  The homosexual lifestyle is lauded and placed in the best possible light, while the heterosexual marriages shown or alluded to have either fallen apart or are currently falling apart.

Does the show make me uncomfortable?  Sometimes.  Is the content thought provoking and educational?  Very.  The family on the screen is kind and loving.  I would like to know them.  The show brought issues to light that I have not thought about.  The struggles and prejudices that are faced by anyone not "normal", even by other people not considered "normal", but in a different way, are saddening.  People need to be loved, regardless of gender, sexuality, age, race, culture, ability or disability, etc.

All through college I found myself interacting with the questions of homosexuality.  Early freshman year a group called Soul Force visited my school.  A group of students, including me, spent several hours visiting with this organization advocating the acceptance of LGBT(Q) (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender, and most recently added, Queer--those confused and figuring out their sexuality).  There were large groups talking in circles, small groups sitting around conversing, and cliques of two and three people chatting over open Bibles.  Our school provided lunch for everyone as we learned more about each other and our beliefs.

To round off my university career, a Christian, gay man named Wesley Hill came to speak at my church.  He wrote a book called Washed and Waiting (that, for the record, I intend to read...just haven't yet) that addresses the challenges of being gay, celibate, and a Christian.  The statement that most stood out to me from his talks, and is ingrained in my mind, is that we (Christians) should be accepting (of homosexuals--in and out of the church, but especially in) but not affirming (of the non-celibate, gay lifestyle).  Listening to Wesley talk blew my mind.  My thoughts about homosexuals and homosexuality were challenged.  I was not a gay hater, but I didn't know how to interact with a gay person while disagreeing with their lifestyle choice.  By no means have I figured it out, but I have a new perspective.

Back to the show.  As a result of my various experiences in college, I want to think I was filtering the show through different lenses.  Yes, aspects of the show made me uncomfortable, but as a Christian I cannot veil myself from the things I do not like and/or agree with.  The show has positive points.  It portrays many of the ways our culture and sub cultures are prejudiced, and not just towards homosexuals.

One of the most important things I learned in college is to think, and to think critically.  It takes practice, but while watching The New Normal, it was my goal.

Wanting to Write and Not Wait

Photo by K.L.R.
Excitement and anticipation are two of the most overwhelming emotions.
All I want to do is write. But, it is not time to share what I want to share.
I must remember, these are my Roaring Twenties, and I want them to be good.
I should make a painting or a collage to remind myself.

In the months after graduation, I had to figure out how to no longer be an official student.  The realization hit me a few days ago, I am in real life.  I am here, standing, not missing college (except for the occasional day).  I am finding a new identity (title wise).  Moving on is part of life, albeit a difficult part, and certainly my least favourite part.  I don't ache missing my church any longer.  The vacancy is there--probably will always be--but I have to move forward.  (Ok, maybe I just ignore missing it to avoid the ache...but I have definitely improved.)

I feel a bit in limbo. 
It should go away soon. 
I'll start a new life. 
I'm off and away!
*Feeling a little Seussy*

Friday, January 4, 2013

Just An Average New Years...with Nerf Guns

New Years Day was full of family.
Most of the cousins were together.
Best time of the day, you ask?
When they brought out a nerf gun and started shooting at the bay window in the living room (you know, the room with the breakable stuff  ;) ).
My cousin, Gabriel, grabbed a couple of dry erase markers and drew a bulls eye on the window.
Then, from ages 3 to 50+ we clamored for a turn at shooting the gun.
**I was the only one to get a straight bulls eye!**

Of course, the usual happened.
We watched the Rose Parade, ate tons of food, drank New Years punch, played games, watched football, laughed, and enjoyed the little ones.
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