Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ten Minutes A Day?

Ten minutes a DAY??

This is my reaction to my flute teacher on Wednesday. Apparently not picking up my flute at all between lessons is not the way to fame, fortune and glory - or getting a certain selection ready to play in church sometime in late 2017.

I stare at her and laugh but she doesn't back down.

Ten minutes a day, she says. That's it. That's all I ask.

Sure it is... I hasten to point out my problems with this new plan.

I'm too busy to pick up my flute every single day of the week. I don't know if she realizes this or not. She does (why does she have to??) - and shares personal stories. Ok...not all of us can be Superwoman. Besides, playing flute is her life. Career. Passion. Main source of income. I have clearly proven to be of a different mindset and lifestyle. My life is not a commitment to blow through a silver pipe with holes in it.


I offer to promise to practice three days a week - for more than ten minutes. She doesn't take me up on it. Consistency, not sporadic expenditure of time (just my luck), is evidently the key to successful playing.

She says she hates cleaning but forces herself to do ten minutes every day no matter how she feels. She says to set a small goal for each day and then feel free when your time is up to either walk away feeling satisfied or to challenge yourself to go one better.

Grudgingly, I promise to give it a shot. I already know what this is going to turn into.

Yesterday I pulled my flute out and then remembered three other things I had to do. Immediately. I left it on the table and took care of all three - accompanied by several well-timed rabbit trails - before finally putting the thing together and blowing into it.

I think I practiced for half an hour.   

Ten minutes?

My teacher is SO getting the better end of this deal...

I'm going to go kill my metronome.

Til next time!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Period Drama Review: Berkeley Square

Just so you know, this is your lucky day! (That is, if you love period dramas and are looking for something new and if you have not already seen the one I am about to review. Hmm, that's a lot of provisos...) With all the writing I've been so faithfully doing, I've also been working for you. Previewing period dramas. Extensively. Relentlessly. Tirelessly.

This is a sacrifice, you know.

I stumbled upon Berkeley Square between watching Cranford and Return to Cranford. I approached warily, of course, because it had not been recommended by anyone and I had no idea what it might contain. There are only 10 episodes, which is a great disappointment. BBC decided not to continue the series so the end result is a lot of loose ends and a definite lead-on to another season.

Alas and alack, that is where one's imagination must kick in!

Here is my blow-by-blow dissertation on the subject. I'll try to be as concise as possible.

The general plot is set in England in 1902 and follows the lives of three young women: Mattie Wickham, Hannah Randall and Lydia Weston.

Mattie is a girl from the East End who has fought her way to a good position as a nanny in the ritzy Berkeley Square neighborhood. She's very straight-laced, sensible and no-nonsense, but opens cautiously to the idea of romance.

Hannah Randall is a ruined girl - having had a baby with the son of her former employer. Her story is the most interesting due to the fact that a baby with no father back then pretty much destroyed your chance at making a life anywhere your reputation could touch you. Many of the plot twists revolve around her because of this.

Lydia Weston is a farm girl, hired to assist the aging nanny in one of the most affluent homes in Berkeley Square. She's very naive, but good-hearted and eager to learn. This often leads her to romantic trouble, as she has no experience with men and starting out with London men is never a good idea.

The homes these three girls are hired into are as interesting as the girls themselves - each one displaying a different sort of dysfunction.

Mattie works for the St. Johns - not members of the titled class. Mr. St. John is a kind and loving man (heartachingly so) whose wife does not love him. She is discontent and often seen in the company of a certain Captain Mason. Mattie cares for the three children, Thomas, Harriet and baby Imogen. Harriet immediately adores her and Imogen is pretty much a prop to be wheeled about in the pram. Thomas, however, is a tougher nut to crack and has incredibly inconsistent loyalties.

Hannah - after several desperate scrambles - is hired by the Hutchinsons, who soon travel overseas, leaving their two children - Bertie and Charlie - in the overstrict and often unscrupulous charge of the head Nanny Simmons (with whom Hannah has severe personality and disciplinary clashes), and pretty much fade out of the series. However, to take the job, Hannah is forced to leave her baby in the care of a woman she briefly lodges with in East London.

Lydia's home is probably the most interesting of the series. Lord Lamson-Scribener lost his first wife (with whom he had a son, Hugh) and has now married an American woman, with whom he as another son, Ivo. (I kid you not, the baby's name is Ivo. And the way Lydia says it is really quite funny.) Constance, the American wife, is typically outspoken and opinionated but she has a good heart and is incredibly sensible and sensitive when it comes to the affairs of her family. Lord George is very funny and kind-hearted.

The plot covers many interesting twists such as Hannah's efforts to hide her child; Mattie's encounters with the new footman, Ned Jones; Lydia's tastes of the city and the pleasant and unpleasant things it has to offer; the raising of children in the early 1900s; society shifts; the drastic differences between the gentry and the servants; the hierarchies of the staff in the home; the outbreaks of disease in the fester of the East End; baby farming (that was interesting); the repercussions of unwed pregnancies in that age and so forth.

The costumes and sets were excellent and the attention to detail was very evident. I thought it was incredibly well done except that some of the child actors were a little stiff. The upside to that is that there are three incredibly adorable babies. =D

On the whole, I found Berkeley Square to be entirely absorbing and surprisingly clean. Below is a detailed list of everything I recall that might cause consternation to the viewer.

In the whole 10 episodes there is only a handful of profanity. The 'a' word is used perhaps twice. The 'd' word is trotted out once or twice as well. Two different women are referred to with an unsavory term by the same man. There are perhaps one or two more, but the script tends to shy away from them in general.

There are three bedroom scenes - two between unmarried couples. They are handled very delicately, everyone is covered or clothed and nothing is shown. They are brief and the only thing that happens is conversation.

Hugh Lamson-Scribener attempts to kiss Lydia after barging, uninvited, into the nursery. She rejects his attention decisively and no one condones his behavior. It causes appropriate outrage and Hugh suffers the consequences of his actions.

Two men are briefly seen shirtless during a fistfight.  

Captain Mason is a shameless flirt and womanizer. Much like Mr. Wickham in Pride & Prejudice.

Despite these things, I would highly recommend this series. It's suspenseful, interesting, only a little cliche, as clean as most period dramas, historical, not sickeningly romantic (on the most part), and pretty down-to-earth.

Besides, I would hate to see all my hard work and research go to waste. =D

And, as a bonus, every single episode can be viewed FOR FREE on Youtube. I'll link the first part of the first episode here.

Happy watching!

Till next time,

(P.S. Maribeth and Lisa DO NOT watch this together. I am bringing it with me next time I come.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

19th Century Remedies for 19th Century Headaches

Getting bit by the writing bug after 3+ months of lackadaisical pretending is a lot harder than it sounds.

I'm having issues with one-dimensional characters who give me the silent treatment because they're a. not the only hero in the book or b. tired of crying all the time. I am to be reminded often and sternly that my heroine does actually have some dignity that I haven't given her myself. (Well, if I didn't give it to her then where did she get it?)


It seemed, as Mr. Bennett says, "a hopeless business" until several things came to my rescue in the nick of time.

Here are my new and improved {and completely indispensable} writing buddies PLUS a sneak peek at the headquarters of my writing life. =)

#1 - Tea Tray
Vastly superior to the single cup, the tea tray eliminates the need to break up inspiration {if such inspiration exists}
 by running upstairs for numerous and time-consuming refills. Plus, it's very cozy and convenient to have such a large quantity nearby. Especially if it's Republic of Tea's Ginger-Peach tea.

 #2 - Period Dramas
Nothing helps stimulate 19th century inspiration like 19th century chick flicks!

#3 - Anne of Green Gables soundtrack

In case Cranford proves too distracting...=)

#4 - Candles
My absolute favorite candle: White Barn French Baguette. It smells DIVINE. 

 #5 - Headquarters!
 By splitting screens, I can watch Cranford on one side and write on the other. Ingenious arrangement to distract myself from bickering characters and tangled plot-lines.

But it helps.

Especially at 1 or 2 in the morning.

Till next time!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Hand of God

In my lifetime I have had only one memorable near-death experience {just so you know: never, NEVER use all-metal pliers to remove a broken lightbulb from a lamp that is still plugged in}

Now I have two.

I was driving with a friend to Minnesota for Labor Day weekend. One of my best friends is living there currently and we'd snatched the only days we had open between work and college and family vacations to make the most of it.

We were about halfway there. Traffic wasn't bad - there were too many cars on the road to cruise and we discovered that the cruise control on my car didn't work anyway - and we were following a string of cars at 70-some miles per hour.

Up ahead we noticed that a lot of cars were swerving in and out. We naturally wondered why but since there was basically no shoulder between the road and the ditch, I wasn't too keen on driving out on it unless I knew why. {Mind you, this all happened much faster than it sounds}.

Suddenly the car in front of us swerved out at the last minute and we saw what was causing the disturbance.

A blown semi tire was lying in the middle of our lane.

I didn't have time to get out of the way and we were going to fast to stop. I don't think my foot even hit the brake as we drove straight into it. My friend shouted not to swerve right because we would hit the tank truck next to us so I did the only thing I could and wrenched the wheel to the left.

We went skidding somewhere; I have no idea what direction. A cloud of dust - just like it does in movies - kicked up and surrounded us. We couldn't see a thing. All I remember is screaming my friend's name and her screaming mine with an incredible sense of helplessness. My only conscious thought at the moment was "so this is the end". I didn't define "end" because it could have been anything. The end of our trip. The end of my car {my sister totaled her car two months ago in a freak accident. I wasn't expecting anything less.}. The end of our lives hadn't really yet been realized when the car suddenly stopped moving and the dust began to settle.

For half a second we just sat there and then I realized the car was still in drive and that we were moving forward. I slammed it into park and stared out the windshield at the oncoming traffic.

And then the miracles began to reveal themselves.

Miracle #1. We were both alive. We breathlessly asked each other over and over "are you ok?" "are YOU ok?" until we realized that we were both saying the same thing and neither of us was answering the question.

Miracle #2. The man in the tank truck we could have hit had pulled over on the other side of the road and when I rolled down my window he called over to see if we were ok. When I said we were he told us we were lucky because we'd done a complete 360 and hadn't hit or been hit by anything.

Miracle #3. We were parked neatly and safely on the side of the highway, granted we were turned the wrong way, but there was enough room for me to open my door and get out without getting hit.

Miracle #4. The ditch we landed in was very shallow and we'd easily be able to drive out if the car was still driveable.

Miracle #5. Once we'd spent some time thanking God that we were alive, my friend got out of the passenger side and checked the tires and the car. Everything was intact and there wasn't a scratch on it. I handed her the keys and said she could drive now.

Miracle #6. A State Trooper arrived on the scene and removed the tire before anyone else hit it and spun off the road to hit us. He then held back traffic in one lane of the highway while a friendly semi driver stopped traffic in the other.

Miracle #7. We drove out of the ditch and twenty minutes later were back on the road as if nothing had happened.

I don't know how anyone can say that God is not real or that He doesn't care. I have seen His hand and it was covering me.

Till next time!