Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Book Review: Mansfield Park

If I haven't mentioned it by now, you should know that I love Jane Austen. I have not "known" her long (just since this past summer), but since then, I think of her and her books as dear friends. Mansfield Park is the fourth Austen book that I have read, and like the other three, I couldn't put it down.

Mansfield Park tells the story of Fanny Price. At the young and still impressionable age of ten, Fanny was invited to live in the country with her aunt and uncle Bertram. A mother, especially one so acquainted with the hardships of humble circumstances, could not deny, nor allow her daughter to reject the possibilities that would come available to her as a resident of Mansfield Park. And so, with fear and sorrow, Fanny went. Over time, however Fanny grew to love her new home and was not unaware of the generosity afforded to her, nor was she given opportunity to forget it. For much of her young life, she was not loved, she was not thought of or considered, except for when she might be found useful to a more legitimate member of the household. Her whole childhood would have been a terrible misery had not it been for the friendship she found in her dear cousin Edmund. He alone knew the tenderness and pureness of her heart. He alone was her defender in a home that distinguished no value in her except for what their resources had provided.

Austen's plot thickens as Fanny finds herself fervently pursued by a young and attractive Henry Crawford. Henry's affections would have been readily received by many a young lady out in society, but Fanny was not so easily won. She was a girl of strong convictions and her steady resolve made her suspect to the talents of charm and money. Not only did Mr. Crawford have the stronghold of Fanny's integrity to overcome, but also the fact that her heart was secretly reserved for another.

As I made my way through the novel, I grew to love Fanny Price. I confess she did annoy me at times, moments when she seemed ridiculously fragile or almost "to good to be true." But in the times that Fanny was alone with her true thoughts, I found her jealousy and judgment and suspiciousness refreshing, and I was all the more protective of her.

In fear of this review being all sugary goodness, I will say a couple things: One, I feel that the ending was rushed. The plot thickens and thickens, and then, practically in a chapter, it is resolved. Austen is so descriptive, so thorough in her assessment of the character's emotions, but in the last chapter, it would seem that there was paper enough for facts, and facts alone. I was a little taken back. And two, I think the ending of Mansfield Park leaves the modern reader a bit conflicted. One one hand you feel that all is as it should be, and on the other hand, you're wondering why you're delighted by the other hand.

My final word: Read It! Don't see the movie!
I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Braelyn's First Haircut

Braelyn got her very first real haircut today. As you can see in those two pictures on the side of my blog, her hair was getting so shaggy in front and starting to get in her eyes. It was definitely time. I took her to my stylist, Melissa, who's great! I really like her a lot. Anyways, Braelyn was AMAZING! She sat so quietly and so still the whole time. I was so proud!

And then, for being such a big girl, she got her first sucker. A chocolate tootsie roll pop. Once she figured out what to do, she was a happy and sticky girl.

Here she is! All trimmed up and so thirsty from that delicious tootsie roll pop! What a big day!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving and Back

I think, the hardest part about any holiday is the return to real life. When I was teaching first grade I remember thinking on those first days back from a holiday..."IT'S NOT WORTH IT!" You spend four or five days just lounging around, eating, sleeping, talking, shopping and eating some more, and then WHAM! Back to real life. Being a stay-at-home mom, I thought I would be exempt from this holiday evil...no such luck.

This Thanksgiving we stayed with my parents and had no shortage of help with Braelyn. I was able to shower with the bathroom door closed and I could get completely ready with no interruptions. We got to go out one night. We even got to sleep in a couple of mornings! GLORIOUS! Now we're back, and needless to say, I am having a hard time accepting the fact that I am solely responsible for all of Braelyn's physical and entertainment needs. But we're makin' it! :) It is by far, more enjoyable to return home with my sweet baby girl, than to return to a classroom of twenty well-rested, pumpkin pie stuffed first graders.

Grumbling aside, we had a great Thanksgiving. It was my family and Casey's family together. Casey and I feel quite fortunate that we don't have to do the double-stuff rush on these holidays. Our families are great friends and we enjoy spending these big-meal holidays together.

I learned on this Thanksgiving Day that I am horrible at taking pictures of meaningful events. I don't have pictures of everyone, the pictures I do have aren't real great, and the ones that are fairly decent, I didn't take. So...here are just a few.

Here are the centerpieces that mom and I pulled together at the last minute.
Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

The head chef.
I think she looks cute as a button in that little apron!
(That's my mom, by the way.)

I liked this one of Casey and me.

And finally, the Punkin'.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Regarding Austin

Well, I'd like to start off by saying thanks to all those who left suggestions for the Cease Austin Getaway. Ya'll are amazing! I can't tell you how much we appreciate your tips. We will definitely get to as many spots as we can, and of course...I'll blog and let you know how it goes. It's gonna be great, I can already tell!

Our trip is December 12-16th. Casey's Board of Directors has a Christmas party the 12th, so we will say bye to baby, go to the party and then head to Austin. We'll be getting in late, but this way we have three full days. Oh, and yes, we had already booked our hotel before I blogged. Beautiful suggestions though. We'll keep those in mind, when we're, ahh...you know...richer! :) And sad thing about the Paramount Theater! I saw online that they are showing White Christmas. I was so excited to see it on the big screen, but the last showing is at 7:00 on the 12th and we're not getting in till much later. Bummer! Casey was devastated by the news.

Question: Have you heard about or have an opinion about any of the following places/events?
*23rd Street Artist Market
*Live from the Plaza
*2nd Street District
These are just a couple of things I found online.
Ooh, and another question. I would like to maybe spend a little time in Fredricksburg. Does anyone know how far away it is from Austin?

Anyways, thanks again! If any other great ideas come to mind, don't hesitate to comment!
I don't think I'll get a chance to blog again before Turkey Day, so have a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving! God Bless!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Look What We Did Today, Ya'll!

Before: Around 11:00am

During: Around 2:00pm
After: Around 6:00pm

Ahhhh! What a relief to get that done! It was such a mess!
Special thanks to Nonnie (Casey's mom, Carolyn) who played with Braelyn ALL day so that we could tackle this huge project! Such a help!
And a special thanks to Blake who did lots of cleanin' and haulin' junk. As a token of our appreciation, we give you...Dickens. He is no piece of junk left behind by the previous owner, no sir! He is a treasure...and with love...we give him to you!
And to my Sweetheart, who worked so hard all day, and kept his promise to me that the garage would get cleaned...thank you. I love you!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pump Cran Nasties

I just spent my Saturday evening making 2 batches of pumpkin cranberry muffins. On my first attempt, I got all the ingredients mixed, I got them into their little muffin cups and as soon as I closed the oven door, I realized that I had left out TWO ingredients! Grrrrr!

I went ahead a let these trash-destined muffins do their time in the oven, and in the mean time I proceeded onto batch #2. This time I triple-checked that all the ingredients made their way into the bowl.

I was just about done with batch #2, when the oven alerted me that batch #1 was ready. I was sure they would be delicious (Please note the sarcasm). Um...disgusting! No worries though, that was the baker's error. Batch #2 will be amazing!

So muffins #13-24 spent their 22 minutes in the oven. While I waited I did some blog surfing and was happy to find the blogs of two old friends. Now there's something to celebrate with a pumpkin cranberry muffin! Ah! They're ready!

I immediately placed them on the cooling rack as I was instructed. I placed one happy muffin on my plate and returned to the computer. Um...WHAT!? THEY"RE STILL DISGUSTING! They taste exactly the same as the first batch! Apparently it doesn't matter if you leave out a few of the ingredients. Gross is still gross, even with oil and salt!

These pumpkin cranberry nasties will not follow their brothers into the trash, however. I am out of cereal and milk, and so it's a pump cran nasty for me in the morning. I can hardly wait! (Please note the even more bitter sarcasm...it's late!) :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Public Service Announcement

Someone I love very much is on her way to becoming a non-smoker. I am so excited and so proud of her. This fabulous news reminded me of a little public service announcement I felt compelled to make a few years back while waiting in a London train station.

Public, you have officially been served!
And to the one giving up lighting up, I love you and YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 3

It is good to give THANKS to the Lord
And to sing praises to Your Name,
O Most High;
To declare Your loving kindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night,
With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp,
With resounding music upon the lyre.
Psalm 93:6-7

Today I am thankful for the things that make me laugh, smile, think, try, create, and pay attention. Here's to the little, but wonderfully significant things that make life enjoyable!

I am thankful for verbs! The actions of my everyday.
* Watching::The Office
* Cooking::A new recipe::By myself
* Sewing::With a friend
* Writing::A blog
* Receiving::Comments :)
* Reading::A classic
* Walking::In the park::With Braelyn
* Drinking::A glass of wine::With a delicious meal
* Playing::Scrabble::With Casey
* Shopping::With my mom
* Sharing:: A meal::With friends
* Dancing::For Braelyn
* Talking::Over coffee

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 2

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything by prayer and supplication
with THANKSGIVING let your request be known to God.
Philippians 4:6

Today I give thanks for God's faithful provision to our family.
I know that God provides in countless ways, but I guess today I am specifically talking about His financial provision. Although we have no source of guaranteed income, we have no reason to be anxious about the future. We always have our daily bread and so much more. He has astonished us with His generosity time and again.

Here are just a few ways that God has proven that He is our Provider.
* I am able to be a full-time mom.
* Casey has gone to speak at many events and received much more than he was promised.
* Faithful supporters of Transform continue to give generously.
* Four times Casey's car has needed repair, and four times it was repaired for free.
* We have no credit card debt.
* We have the privilege of sharing what God has entrusted to us.
* Our wonderful friends in Sugar Land remodeled our Brenham bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, I've been meaning to post pictures of the beautiful finished product. I am so grateful to our Crossbridge community group.

A Vacation! What a Capital Idea!

Casey and I are FINALLY going on a vacation! Our first one in almost 2 years! And, not only that, we are going alone. That's right folks...Braelyn is staying with the grandparents for 4 days! This will be the first time that I have left her over night. I am super excited, but also a little nervous to be away from my baby.

So, you may have guessed that we are going to Austin. Just a little getaway to rest, relax, walk, read, shop, eat, and SLEEP IN! Oh, my gosh! Honestly, my heart is all aflutter at the thought of sleeping (uninterrupted) until my body decides that it's time to get up. (This has not happened in 16, almost 17 months!)

Historically, Austin has not been our most successful vacation destination. Apparently, our state's capital does not bring out the best in Casey or me, because every time we've been there, we end up arguing, or we don't know what to do. We just don't end up having that much fun when we're there. "So why are you going back?" you ask. Well, thank you so much for asking! I'll tell you. We are redeeming Austin. We are bound and determined to make great memories there.

Everyone talks about how it's the greatest place ever, and if they could live anywhere in Texas, it would be Austin. Without a doubt, the people who have this opinion are cooler than we are. We are just not hip enough to know where to go and what to do. So all you Austin lovers out there...HELP! We're not planing on scheduling every moment of our trip. We are there to relax, but we would greatly appreciate any tips and inside scoop you have on experiencing Austin.

One thing I know for sure...we are going to the The Book People Book Store. I have never been, but I've heard amazing things! Besides that, clueless. Help us redeem Austin!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Giving Thanks: Part 1

I shall wash my hands in innocents,
And I will go about Your alter,
O Lord,
That I may proclaim with the voice of THANKSGIVING
And declare all Your wonders.
Psalm 26:6-7

Today I give thanks for the history that I have with the Lord.
Over the past few months, it seems that that the Lord has been bound and determined to make a permanent impression on my heart and mind. The brand: REMEMBER. Everywhere I turn lately, His Word, in prayer, at church, I am reminded to remember Him and the great things He has done. And so I give thanks today for His beautiful story, His poem of salvation that began in the garden and it still being written today.

Yesterday, I read this Scripture:

Today if you hear His Voice,
Do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, "They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know My ways."
As I swore in my wrath,
They shall not enter My rest.
Hebrews 3:7-11
{Originally from Psalm 95}

What sense! If I never remember what God has done for His people, or for me personally, any and every new challenge will be a shocking blow, and I will continually be gripped by fear and doubt and faithlessness. There is no rest for the forgetful. But...if I dwell and rejoice and give thanks for the works I know He has accomplished in the past, then it is with great confidence that I can endure the coming wilderness.

And so, with thanksgiving, I remember:
*He always provides::We are able to share
*I am surrounded by loving community::I am never alone
*He has bandaged and healed wounds in our marriage::He continues to make it stronger
*He is my Teacher::I am always learning
*He has blessed me with a daughter::I love being a mother
*He has rescued me::He has invited me to join The Cause

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Book Review: Anna Karenina

Disclaimer: I am no expert on Russian Literature! Or literature in general, for that matter. I just like reading the classics!

I finally finished Anna Karenina. Wow! If you haven't read it, (and find yourself with an obscene amount of free time on your hands) I highly recommend it. The story probably won't go down as one of my favorites, however, it is probably the most beautifully crafted piece of writing I have ever read. What I love most about this book, or perhaps about Tolstoy himself, is how he put words to the most secret of feelings, the ones you don't even acknowledge to yourself. During an argument or an interior monologue, I would find the thoughts and emotions shockingly familiar, although I never could have articulated them with such precision. At times it was delightful, at others, devastating. He delicately brings the truth of our emotions into the light, and reveals how vulnerable and deceitful they are.

The story is about a woman, Anna, who trades her loveless marriage for a passionate affair, but in the deal loses her position in society, her freedom, her son, and eventually her mind. Equally significant to the story is a man named Levin. Although these two characters are connected by family and friends, they do not meet each other until the last chapters of the book, each being relatively inconsequential to the other. It is not until the last pages that you understand why Tolstoy has paralleled the lives of these two characters. Both were on a self-defining journey. Both in despair, both convinced of the meaninglessness of life, but the climax of their struggles brought them to very different conclusions. Redemption for one, death for the other.

There are layers upon layers to this novel: Russian politics, social structure, agricultural philosophies (particularly thrilling), love, adultery, motherhood, faith, hypocrisy, redemption. It was a difficult book. Not knowing anything about Russian history, politics or culture, I struggled to grasp the full significance of the complex setting. On top of that, it was a very emotionally hard, sad novel. Ironically, I would agonize over the pain the characters were feeling and causing, but I never loved the characters, as I loved...Elizabeth Bennet, for example. I found them to be awkward, selfish, silly, prideful, arrogant, or indifferent. Imagine my state if I did love them! Nonetheless, I'm glad I read it. I like that I experienced what history has marked as excellent. It is indeed. I am eager to read more of his work, but I think I'll go for something lighter this time. Mansfield Park, perhaps?!

If you have read Anna Karenina before, I'd love to hear what you thought!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A Brenham Halloween

Some pictures of our first Brenham Halloween.

Here, we are at the Brenham Library for Halloween Story Time. It was so fun to see our library friends all dressed up!

Braelyn havin' some juice. She's a thirsty flower!

Braelyn being sweet to our little German friend. :)

After a few stories, songs and Halloween cake, a few of us took our little ones to the Brenham Rest Home. Hopefully, seeing the kiddos in their costumes made the holiday a little brighter for the residence there.

Halloween night, back at home...

After we took our pictures, we went inside and got everything ready for all the trick-or-treaters. Guess how many came a knockin'? ZERO! Not a single trick-or-treater! I was kinda bummed about that, but the Cease family had a great Halloween together. Hope you did too.