When I still lived in Illinois, February was the month of doom and gloom. Winter at its worst. The mere thought makes me shiver. This February, however, has been filled with sunshine. And 60 degree weather. And even a couple of 70 degree days as well. I almost haven't known what to do with myself. Almost.
Feel free to skip around to the sections that interest you the most. This is a long one.
Read and Reading:
The Language of Flowers (Diffenbaugh) had such a haunting start, I was hooked right away. We meet Victoria the day of her 18th birthday. Emancipated from the foster system but wary and distrustful, Victoria is consumed by flowers, specifically what flowers say according to the Victorians. As we progress in to Victoria's world, the author alternates flashbacks of the one foster mother who loved Victoria. The symmetry of these flashbacks with the choices Victoria makes present day is stunning. And while there were times I hated what Victoria was doing, I understood it. This is ultimately a story of redemption. I will never look at flowers the same way again.
I read Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Simonson) for my first time at Book Club. I loved the ladies in the group and our discussion of this refreshing novel. Major Pettigrew is a richly drawn and unique character, a product of his time and unwilling to bend to modern conveniences or the sullying of manners. His unusual friendship with the widowed Mrs. Ali sets the town on its head and has him wondering whether he should break away from tradition. Well-written exploration of friendship, race, love, and diversity.
Surprised by Oxford (Weber) has been on my To Read list since the spiritual memoir came out this past August. Though our upbringings couldn't be more different, I found Weber to be a kindred spirit. There were the many literary references, for one. Her excellent questions of and about God and faith, for another. One need not divorce faith from intellect, a truth very evident in these pages. As Weber takes the reader through her first academic year at Oxford, I fell in love with her descriptions of the school and town. And then I fell in love with TDH (short for tall, dark, and handsome, of course) who was first her friend and then something more. Surprised by Oxford is a love story in many ways. Weber's words were poetry for my soul and I was quite sad to finish it. Luckily for me, Weber has a blog, wonderfully named Pressing Save.
I read Rules of Civility (Towles) for The Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club over Pancakes & French Fries. Filled with sly humor, I could not put this book down. It's about a young girl on the edges of High Society New York in the late 1930s. I don't often feel this way but there were certain sentences that were so well-crafted, I was angry that I wasn't the one who wrote them.
Update 3/3/12: Forgot to mention Unbroken (Hillenbrand) the first time around. The well-written biography of Louie Zamperini's life is incredible. He overcomes odds that would kill most people: surviving being lost at sea during WWII only to be captured by the Japanese and interred at a brutal POW camp. I was in awe of his courage. I didn't know as much about the Japanese aspect of WWII, especially what POWs faced. I haven't read Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand's other book, but I gather she's an impressive researcher.
I've started The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Church's Backbone? (Henderson). Very thought-provoking so far.
(I read 8 books this month.)
TV: My must-see TV: Once Upon a Time, Downton Abbey, Revenge, Parenthood, Parks & Rec, The New Girl, The Vampire Diaries
Oh, Downton Abbey. Be still my heart. Please rush season 3 to us soon and very soon. I was spellbound the whole season and can't wait to see where things go next. I'm very torn up over Bates. I'm relieved that Matthew and Mary are finally together and hope the writers won't throw too many roadblocks their way. And I quite missed Sybil on the Christmas episode/American season finale. Lady Violet's zingers FTW!
I've sporadically watched Project Runway: All Stars. I'm beginning to think I don't care about the show anymore. It says a lot that not even Sweet P, Kenley, and Mondo can hold my attention any more.
Anyone else a fan of Revenge? I'm beyond words excited that we finally know what happened during the big shocking beginning to the series. Daniel's not dead! Creepy Tyler is! This show is deliciously soapy and dramatic. I can't get enough.
Don't mind me. Just waiting around for The Hunger Games to come out. (!!!)
Favorite YouTube Video:
My friend Todd posted The Guy on a Buffalo on Facebook and before I knew it, I was watching all 4 videos, howling with laughter. Since then, I've done my best to show them to everyone I know. Don't blame me if you have "it's the guy on a buffalooooooo" stuck in your head for days on end. Or if you find yourself yelling, "hey varmint, don't mess with this guy!"
Super excited to see Mumford & Sons at the Ryman next week. I was fully prepared to beg, cheat, and steal but I managed to get tickets the old-fashioned way.
I returned to Burger UP while company was in town this past weekend. I knew we'd need an order of their delectable fried pickles but decided to branch out in my burger choice. The lamb burger changed my life. Who knew honey mint dijon aioli was so addictive? My friends teased me because I didn't say a word until I was halfway through eating it. I am quite focused when it comes to good food.
Dinner Club headed to Edley's Bar-b-que a couple of weeks ago. Two of us split an order of fried pickles (huge! definitely in my top 10) and barbecue nachos. Now, I must clarify. I don't typically like red barbecue sauce but on barbecue nachos, I say welcome, old friend. Barbecue nachos might be my new food obsession. They'll never replace fried pickles, mind you. But still.
New Additions to my Reader:
Pressing Save, of course. I also added two food blogs in January: Gluten Free Girl and the Chef and Remedial Eating. I'm not a big food blog reader but these are beautifully written gems. There are glorious recipes, of course, but it is the glimpses of light and life and love that reeled me in from the start.
In the Blogosphere:
David Nilsen had a fantastic series on race, diversity, and transracial adoption.
Set the title aside and let grace overwhelm you, as it did me.
I've been meaning to weed through my old professional wardrobe and this post at Simple Mom inspired me to follow through.
For those who are suffering from Downton Abbey withdrawal, why don't you whip up a character-inspired cocktail? Or consider the way characters are held accountable for their choices, over at her.menteutics.
This letter from Tim Owens to his young daughter blew me away. "May you never mistake the pronouns of God with the character of God. May you never be so grateful for being created in the image of God that you seek to return the favor."
I've been meaning to watch the short films about how pastor Ed Dobson is facing the end of his life. This article was a good reminder to do so.
Many Steward writes, " it was eye-opening to think people might actually desire time alone with me." Yes, and eye-opening for me as well.
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary brilliantly asks "what happens when, as Christians, we let ourselves be so far “set apart” from the world that we end up looking like a bunch of tourists, instead of the ones with the answers."
It's almost not fair that Momastery makes the connections she does. Then again, seeing these truths means that it's in me, too. "you respond to my beauty only because in it you see a reflection of your beauty."
For the next time you want to call a man a pig or wolf whistle at a woman walking down the street. Powerful article. Overcoming Sexualization and Depersonalization. Along those same lines, everyone should read Reaffirming the Violence Against Women Act is Every Man's Moral Obligation at Sojourners.
Kathy Escobar encourages anyone disillusioned by the church to plant new trees.
Surely you've already read my friend Tamara Out Loud's beautiful piece Watering Weeds into Flowers. I related, even as a non-parent. What are the weeds you need to water?
I read Sarah Markley's Wishing You Are You on a day when I needed to receive that message. Maybe you do too.
Much has been written about the Mars Hill excommunication debacle. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, it's worth reading Why the Church Needs to Shut Up and Listen. Because it's true. For far too many people, the church is a dangerously unsafe place to be and that saddens me greatly.
Ed Cyzewski's Women in Ministry series has been so powerful. I especially loved Faith is a Line, Faith is a Circle.
On Ye Olde Blog:
Hope you've enjoyed all the This Is How We Met stories so far! Though I'm looking forward to having my blog back, this is not the end of TIHWM. Not by a long shot. If you want to submit your own story, please read the guidelines.
Of the few pieces I did write this month, I am most proud of To the Girl Who Has Never Dated. I didn't expect it would resonate with married and single alike. It was even nominated for Rachel Held Evans' Sunday Superlatives (I'm still squealing with happiness). Simply: wow.
What have you been into this month?