Friday, July 21, 2017

Thought-provoking Moments in Fiction

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

No such associations had Barton; yet he felt the contrast between the well-filled, well-lighted shops and the dim gloomy cellar, and it made him moody that such contrasts should exist.  They are the mysterious problem of life to more than him.  He wondered if any in all the hurrying crowd had come from such a house of mourning.  He thought they all looked joyous, and he was angry with them.  But he could not, you cannot, read the lot of those who daily pass you by in the street.  How do you know the wild romances of their lives; the trials, the temptations they are even now enduring, resisting, sinking under?  You may be elbowed one instant by the girl desperate in her abandonment, laughing in mad merriment with her outward gesture, while her soul is longing for the rest of the dead, and bringing itself to think of the cold-flowing river as the only mercy of God remaining to her here.  You may pass the criminal, meditating crimes at which you will to-morrow shudder with horror as you ream them.  You may push against one, humble and unnoticed, the last upon earth, who in heaven will for ever be in the immediate light of God's countenance.  Errands of mercy--errands of sin--did you ever think where all the thousands of people you daily meet are bound?  Barton's was an errand of mercy; but the thoughts of his heart were touched by sin, by bitter hatred of the happy, whom he, for the time, confounded with the selfish.


Wow.  This is such an amazingly  true and vivid picture of life; and our oftentimes faulty perceptions of it.  Truly, how often do we find ourselves in a crowd of people, pitying our lot and feeling angry at everyone else for being so happy, and having everything so easy?  And yet, we really have no idea at all what those people are thinking or feeling.   What trials and temptations "they are even now enduring, resisting, sinking under?"  We haven't a clue.  And because they appear happy on the outside we consider them selfish for not noticing and caring about our misery.  And yet, if you think about it, they haven't any more idea about our discomfort than we do about theirs, for it is our natural tendency to mask our struggles with a smile.  We do it.   All the time.   And if we can't read their thoughts, we can hardly expect them to read ours.  It's humbling to remember that even those people who appear the most confident--and as if they have everything together--still struggle at times with feelings of failure, and loneliness, and confusion.  We're none of us without these feelings, I think, and so we must look for ways of encouraging others instead of constantly thinking about how others should be encouraging us.  (There.  That's your sermon for today.  Mine, too, actually.  I'm afraid I'm an expert at feeling sorry for myself.  ;))

Light from Heaven by Christmas Carol Kauffman

     "Art," said Joseph one morning after church, "why don't you give your heart to God?"
     Art looked up in surprise and took a step backward.  He put both hands deep in his pockets and looked Joseph straight in the eyes.
     "You don't care," he said musingly.
     "Don't care?" asked Joseph in surprise.  "Why do you say that?"
     "Do you honestly think my soul is lost and I'm doomed to hell?"
     "If the Bible is true," answered Joseph, "and I know it is, unless you confess Christ you cannot be save."
     "Then why," asked Art, "If you actually believe that, why haven't you or Freddie spoken to me before?  Not once in twenty months have either of you asked me if I'd--"
     "Art!" cried Joseph.  He was struck.  It was as if a chastening rod had dealt him an unexpected blow.  "But we've been praying for you."
     "You have?"  A faint smile played around Art Olterham's lips, and he walked away slowly.


My dad read this book to us several years ago, and this part really stood out to me because it made me see evangelizing in a new light.  So often I'm scared to ask people about their knowledge of salvation because I don't want to be pushy and I don't want to offend them.  But it just blew me away, that here's this guy wanting to be asked.  And in fact, feeling that his friends don't care about him, because they haven't ask him.  It's food for thought, that's for sure.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

What is natural in me, is natural in many other men, I infer, and so I am not afraid to write that I never had loved Steerforth better than when the ties that bound me to him were broken.  In the keen distress of the discovery of his unworthiness, I thought more of all that was brilliant in him, I softened more toward all that was good in him, I did more justice to the qualities that might have made him a man of a noble nature and a great name, then ever I had done in the height of my devotion to him.  Deeply as I felt my own unconscious part in his pollution of an honest home, I believe that if I had been brought face to face with him, I could not have uttered one reproach.  I should have loved him so well still--though he fascinated me no longer--I should have held in so much tenderness the memory of my affection for him, that I think I should have been as weak as a spirit-wounded child, in all but the entertainment of a thought that we could ever be re-untied.  That thought I never had.  I felt, as he had felt, that all was at an end between us.  What his remembrances of me were, I have never known--they were light enough, perhaps, and easily dismissed--but mine of him were as the remembrances of a cherished friend, who was dead. 

(Oh my goodness!  How does a person write like this?  There's so much emotion here.  So many feelings.  I'm blown away by the shear depth of it.)  This passage kind of breaks my heart.  Steerforth was awful.  This is true.  Unprincipled and lacking in morals, he's certainly not someone to emulate or put your trust in.  But ohhh!  I agree with David.  When you have a good friend that you've always loved and looked up to, and that friend falls like Steerforth fell, I seriously believe you would cling to all that was good in him even more than you did before.  I can't say I've actually had a real personal experience like this myself, but just reading this passage had my heart crying out for the good Steerforth to rise up and take over the bad--for him to have a real change of heart and become a better man--and if I'm feeling that way over a fictional character how much more would I feel it over a real life friend?
Don't give up on those wayward friends.  They need your prayers and love like no one else does! 
Well, there's my jumbled thoughts for you.  Hope you were able to get something out of that.  I started this post quite a long time ago and figured it was about time I published it, so for what's it's it is.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Someone had a birthday yesterday...


Can you guess whose it was?
Of course you can.
It was Natalie!!

Bring on the cake and let's celebrate!!

Oh but first I must explain why I'm writing a birthday post for Natalie the day after her birthday.
That was not the original plan, folks, I assure you.
Naturally I meant to have this post written much, much sooner.
But (naturally again) that didn't happen.   (You know me.  Always on time for everything.)

Yes, well.  Mark that down to lack of time, procrastination, or whatever you wish.  I won't argue with you.  In my defense though, I did start this post last night, hoping to have it done before midnight.  I failed.  Obviously.  But hey!  It's the thought that counts!  Aren't people always saying that?  
Anyway, enough about my tardiness.  Let's move on from this sorry subject, shall we?  After all,  I didn't come here to talk about myself, I came here to talk about Natalie.  (So stop giving me grief about being late, okay?  Great.  Thank you.)
Since Natalie is now nineteen years old, I've decided to share with you...

Nineteen Facts About Natalie

(Because that just sounded like a good idea, so why not?)

1) Natalie is not a late night person.  At least, not generally.  Which is why it was very surprising that she survived a recent visit from a friend who kept her up till all hours of the night.  And even then she went so far as to say that she wasn't feeling all that worn out.  Well!  I guess we all have hidden strengths which come to our aid when dire circumstances arise.  ;)

2) She loves good books.  Books by authors such as Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, J.R.R. Tolkien...only the best.  And she reads quite a lot, too.   
I can totally see her enjoying a good story in this little nook here...or perhaps writing her own story--oh! but that should go under point number 3.
3)  Natalie is a writer.  She actually--and I'm not kidding--writes her own stories!  And they're good, too.  Her characters are lovely.  And her dialogue is splendid.  I remember saying to myself one of the first times I read a sample of her writing, "This is just the sort of dialogue that I like!"  She's shared snippets before on her blog, so click here and see for yourself.  :)
It's not like you're going to regret it or anything.
You have Henry's word for it.
4)   She enjoys photography and is quite good at it.  I would steal one of her pictures to prove it to you but...I don't steal.  That's naughty.  (Actually, I guess technically I stole all the pictures in this post but, well...that's different.  Nobody told me not to...)
5)  Natalie and her family have two "outside" dogs.  That is to say, they were outside dogs but apparently things change???  (Sorry, Natalie, I couldn't resist.  ;))  (And they're nice dogs.  Of course they are.  I did not say anything derogatory about the dogs.)
6)  She's very good at making decisions.  (Well, better than some people anyway.)
7)  She loves period drama films.  And I'm quite happy to say that while Emma 2009 didn't impress her too much the first time she watched it, it has grown on her considerably since then.  Which is just as it should be.

8)  While we're on the subject of period dramas...long movies...and all that jazz--I found this quote on Natalie's Pinterest.  I'd say it's pretty accurate.  :)

Haha.  She would totally do that.  Don't ever doubt it.
9)  Speaking of drinks, Natalie very much enjoys a nice cup of tea and/or coffee.  (I don't pretend to understand about the coffee but, 'hem, one must make allowances for a friend's peculiar tastes.)  

So.  A cup of tea for you, Natalie!  Enjoy.  (Enjoy looking at it anyway.)
I took this off of Natalie's Pinterest, too.  ;)
10)  Natalie is an introvert.  She doesn't relish being the center of attention and having to think of things to say and all that...but get this!  She actually went and auditioned for a play this year!  Stood up in front of people and sang a song all by herself.  Don't ever let her tell you she's not a brave person, because she is!!  (And then of course there was that incident with the bridge...but 'hem.  We won't go into that.) 
11)  Natalie is one of the sweetest most caring people ever.  Proof?  This is the last paragraph of the first comment she ever left on my blog, before she even knew me. 

I'm so sorry for the hard time you've been going through. I can keep you and your family in my prayers, if you'd like! :) And I love your blog's so happy and puts me in mind of a quiet garden corner, maybe with a bench and a leafy tree, with the sun shining on it. :)
Welcome to the blogging world, Miss March!
I can't tell you how much that comment meant to me as a new blogger.  It was just so kind.  And she's been the same kind person ever since.
12)  She's so understanding, too.  Like so understanding.  I worry sometimes that I've said something the wrong way and it's going to offend her but then it never does.  Somehow she always manages to see through my bumbling explanations to the heart of what I'm trying to say. 
13)  Natalie loves her home and her family.  She's a bit of a homebody.  But at the same time she loves to be going and doing things and she definitely has an adventurous streak in her. 
14)  She loves fairy tales and castles and good old-fashioned romance. 
15)  She enjoys playing the piano, and has a collection of song books from some of her favorite movies.  (Newsies, Fiddler on the Roof, Jane Austen films...) 
(She also collects pretty pictures like this on her Pinterest page which I then take and put in a post about her.  Convenient, what?)
16)  Natalie's a country girl.  She would far rather live in the country than in the city.
17)  And she'd love to travel sometime.  Just about anywhere.  I think she would travel to every country in the world if she could. 
18)  Another quote that describes Natalie pretty accurately--which I also took from her Pinterest page, because obviously that's what I was doing last night, snooping on Pinterest...
Ahem.  I can relate to that.  Just a little.  Maybe that's why we get along so well.  ;)
19)  And last but certainly not least, Natalie has a very tender heart toward God.  She's the kind of friend you can talk to about the deep things in life because those are the things she most values.  Her greatest desire is to live for God and fulfill His purpose for her life, even when life is hard and painfully confusing.

She's just an all around great person, and I'm so glad to be able to call her friend. 

Happy Birthday, Natalie!! 
Thank you for being such a faithful and encouraging friend.  You're a joy and a blessing to so many people!  
This is you all over!!  *hugs*
I hope your birthday was wonderful!  I would tell you to save me a piece of cake, but it's kind of late for that now and besides you'd probably just tell me to get my own cake.  And on further thought I guess the cake probably wouldn't be any good to eat by the time I got to it so...never mind.  Forget I mentioned it. 
Sorry this post was a day late.  I guess I'll just have make up for it by wishing you a very merry un-birthday as well.  And a splendid birthday week.  And...
A wonderful, wonderful year ahead!
Love you, friend.
P.S.  I noticed after starting this post yesterday that two other blogging friends had written birthday posts for Natalie as well.  Way to go Heidi and Eowyn!   We'll drown her in birthday wishes.  (A good kind of drowning of course. ;)) 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Followers, Vacations, Cars, and Work

This post is going to be a bullet point post because I feel like stating things matter-of-factly without my usual complicated turn of phrase.  (Also, it's late and I have a feeling this will be quicker.)  (I just said I had a feeling.  I didn't say my feelings are always correct.) 
    • yesterday
    • first car ever
    • drove it to work twice already
    • "smooth as silk"  (extra points to anyone who knows that quote)
    • trying to think of a name for it
    • hoping to write a more detailed post about it sometime in the not too distant future (famous last words)
Hurray for me!  I did it!  I bought a car!  I made a decision! 
(Natalie, you can be proud.  ;))
    • WHAT?
    • Eeeeee!
    • (That means I'm happy about it)
    • Well, it is kind of a milestone.  You have to admit that.
    • Just thank you all so much!  You're all so kind and I can't tell you how encouraging it is to know that people actually enjoy reading my writing. :)  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!  :D
    • Learning a lot of new things
    • Shadowing other Front Desk Representatives and observing their routine of checking in guests, entering information into the computer system, answering all the random questions guests bring to them, collecting payments and so on and so forth.
    • Still a lot to learn
    • August schedule has me starting regular shifts which include staying overnight for a night or two at a time. 
    • (Will I be ready for it?  *gulp*  Let us hope so.)
Why what a question!  Of course I'll be ready. 
Things like that don't scare me none.  I'm brave.
    • Sunday morning early we leave for Illinois to visit my grandparents for a week
    • We'll all be going--married siblings and their families included--22 people in all
    • I won't be taking my computer with me so you probably won't be hearing from again until sometime after Sunday the 16th.  (Come now.  There's no need to get all that excited about it.)
(Actually this is the sensible side of me celebrating at the prospect of being without internet for a week.) 
(Because the sensible side of me knows I need it.)
    • Thanks to Natalie who started me on The Blue Castle back in June (I had so much fun reading that!)...
    • ...and then recommended (no, insisted) that I read Mara Daughter of the Nile which I decided I'd better do, especially as she wasn't the first to recommend it to me.    (Enjoyed that one a lot, too!)
    • And now I'm reading Daddy-Long-Legs.  And it's such a great feeling to have a book which keeps telling me to pick it up and read it!  And which I'm quite happy to oblige!  :)  (I even read in bed with a  flashlight a couple nights this week, and I haven't done that in a long time!)
  • I guess that's it.
    • Yup
    • Can't think of anything else
    • Nothing left to say
    • So
    • So, so, so
    • I will show you another good trick that I know
    • Actually, I'll just say good-bye
    • Good-bye
    • Farewell 
    • PIP NOW!
P.S.  Speaking of Pip, I've taken up reading Great Expectations to my brother again.  We started it...oh, I don't know...over a year ago I guess, and have been neglecting it shamefully ever since.  But we're getting back into it, and are enjoying it very much.  We came across some excellent quotes the other day but I'm afraid I can't share them with you just now.  That will have to wait until another time.
Good-bye again!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

And the Moral of the Story is...Dads Need Help! Lots of Help!

(Or it may be that Miss March needs help as she's about to plunge into a pathetic, rant filled post couched in her usual strange, obnoxious style.  Do beware.)

Okay, so you've all seen those movies that have an obvious theme or lesson woven into the story, right?  Those kinds that attempt to instruct the audience on how to overcome a specific problem commonly found in their day to day lives? (I guess I'm thinking primarily of Christian-made films, though there are definitely some non-Christian films that fit into this category as well.)   

Anyway, I'm here today to talk about these sorts of movies and I'd like to begin by saying that this type of film can be very instructive and very helpful.  (Stop it.  Why do you always think I'm being sarcastic?)  Really though, if you think about it, it makes sense.  By watching the failings of a person on screen, one can be led to look at one's own life and contemplate how and why one does what one does, and whether what one does is what one should be doing or whether one should be doing something entirely different.  (Got that?)  When one sees the fatal consequences of someone else's bad behavior, one is apt to consider whether one's own behavior might not lead toward a similar end, and whether one truly would relish such a prospect.  This is good.  This is what movies with moral lessons are all about.  They tell a story in such a way as to teach those who watch them without actually coming straight out and saying to the audience, "You're a bad person!  Shape up!"  (Okay.  So some do it better than others.  There are of course those which don't stick to the rules of subtly at all.  Like those particular movies where the story is merely a backdrop for a sermon?  Ever seen 'em?  Yeah.  That is not my idea of good storytelling. But I digress.) 
To get to the point.  (Yes, all of that up there was just an introduction which we really didn't need, but I'm an expert at including unnecessary stuff and what are you going to do about it, hmm?) 

What I really I wish to say is this.  It seems to me that in this particular genre of filmmaking there is a prevailing opinion that the people most in need of advice and redirection are fathers

Naturally, I'm no expert on fatherhood, therefore I cannot say whether this idea is rightly founded or not...but suffice it to say, there is a wealth of instruction out there for any dad who may be wondering if he is doing a good job fathering his children.  (Or perhaps I should say "child" as they rarely have more than one.)

These stories of "bad" dads could probably be combined into one single movie and you wouldn't know the difference, but as it is much more fun to play around with the basic plotline and come up with new twists and turns, there are a great many out there to choose from.  All equally "creative" and...painfully predictable.  

Holding them up together we are able to come to a pretty good overall conclusion of what a "bad" dad is, and how that "bad" dad can become a "good" dad by the end of the film.  Let's take a look.

~ First off, dads have a pervading habit of never being home enough.  They work too much.  Always.  This is a failing indeed.

Child: *sigh* "Dad's at the office again.  I wonder if he still remembers what I look like."

~ Secondly when they do finally come home...oh tragedy, oh horrors!...they have the nerve to be too tired to do anything with their child!  Can you believe it?  And so the poor kid begins to pine for her father's attention. 


And that is where we the audience begin to realize that this dad is very quickly making his way down the slope toward "bad" fatherhood. 

*dramatic music of impending disaster*

~ The dad reaches the bottom of the slope, and puts all doubt of his being a "bad" dad out of our minds, when his frustrated wife informs him that he missed his daughter's dance recital (or piano recital, or singing name it.)  This is the point of no return.

*sorrowful strains of regret and despair*

Wife: "To think that it should have come to this.  (Face it, dear.  You're a bad dad.  And you can't hide behind your paper forever.)"

Oh but wait!  Surprises in store for us!  We thought that was the point of no return, but miracle of miracles, it isn't!!  You see, it totally would have been except that suddenly!...


...out of the blue the dad receives a lightning bolt, realizes in a flash (no pun intended.  Or maybe it was.  Whatever)...realizes in a flash what a rat he's been, has a sudden unexplainable change of heart, and becomes overnight the most delightful, fun, engaging father ever to grace this fallen world! 

*happy, exhilarating, triumphant music*

Isn't that amazing?!

I don't know how it happened.  But it happened.  And this is truly a story to warm a person's heart--to thrill one to the core of one's being!--for you just know such a thing could never have happened...

without a script.  (cough)

I mean really.  To go from a "neglectful" dad to a fully engaged dad all in the space of one day?  That's a bit too much, I'd say.

In fact, it's pathetic.  The entire story's pathetic.  The problem's pathetic.  The resolution's pathetic.  It's pathetic, pathetic, pathetic.  (And did I  mention "pathetic"?) 

And for that matter...



And why does that problem have to be so lame?  Like that one dad for instance.  What was so awful about him?  Sure he worked a lot.  Sure he was busy.  But it wasn't like he was completely ignoring his daughter or anything.  Give him a break! 

Or that other dad?  What was his unforgiveable failure?  Just because his kid had a rotten attitude because his father wouldn't join him in his favorite sport.  I ask you!  What kind of failure is that to write home about?  I mean the kid was practically obsessed over his sport anyway.  He probably needed to hear "no" from his dad.

Like grow up, kid!  You can't have it your way all the time!
Okay.  Rant over.  (I think.)
Basically if you're not a movie person, let me just give you your dad advice in a nutshell.  Don't EVER work too much (even if your family's welfare depends upon it).  Don't EVER be sleepy in the evening when your daughter wants to do something with you, because it'll scar her for life!  Believe me.  And don't ever, EVER forget about your daughter's recital because that's just the awfullest thing you could ever do to your child.  If you stay clear of these mistakes, making sure to spend time with your child doing all the fun things they want to do, and never saying no to them, well.  You'll be a good dad and no one could say different.

Ahem and a-hem(And no, of course I'm not being sarcastic!  Why do I have to keep telling you that?!)

In all seriousness, someone really needs to come up with a  more creative and relatable story about fathers.  Like why doesn't someone make a movie about a dad who's doing things the right way, and see if people can't learn something from that?  At least let's deal with some real issues and not make decent dads out to be horrible just because they don't bend over backgrounds for their child's every whim.  (That's just my two hundred cents for you.)

Oh, and another thing.  Why don't we have more movies about mom's working too much and not being home enough?  Equal rights for women you know! They can do anything men can do!  Let's be fair here.  (Was that a jab at feminism?  Surely not!)
Disclaimer: Naturally there are a great many movies out there which I've never seen, so there may be a host of counter-examples which would completely debunk my theory that the "bad fatherhood" theme is overused.  But be that as it may, I've personally seen enough movies dealing with this subject that I can with all sincerity say this:  "Enough is enough!  Let's use some imagination here, people!" 
Good-bye and good-bye.

What are some themes in movies that you think are overused?
Do you ever feel that dads get picked on in movies?  (Like for instance, too often being portrayed as bumbling and incompetent or something along those lines?)  I must say I do.
If you were making a film about fatherhood, what sort of angle would you like to take?
P.S. Tell me, is this a very strange post?  I'm not sure why but I have a feeling it is.  Kind of like, "where  in the world did that come from?"   You know?   (Honestly, friends, sometimes I don't know why I write what I write.  But there it is.  And the moral of the story is, Miss March needs to shut up.  :P)  (Oh dear, did I say that?  ;))

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hi! I'm back from my blogging break. (Kinda, sorta, maybe.)

I mean I'm sitting here at my computer typing a blog post.  That must mean I'm back, right?

But how much of me is back?
All of me?  Half of me?  A quarter of me? 
(Ugh.  That's disgusting.  Let's keep things together here, shall we?  All this quartering and half-ing is giving me the creeps.) 
I don't care.  I'm too tired to care.  Maybe after all there's really only an eighth of me here.
Maybe after all you're a complete nut! 
*shrug*  Possibly.  But who cares?  What's the point of having a strong intellect if you're too tired to use it?
You, ma'am, need to get more sleep!
*yawn*  What good will that do?  I'll only get tired again.  Besides all the fun things happen at night.  I can't possibly go to bed early when fun things are happening.
You're pathetic.  Did you have something to say or did you just come here to whine about how tired you are?

I most certainly did have something to say!  What do you take me for?  I came here to say hi to my friends because I miss them.  *sniff* *sob*

Oh stop.  I can't stand emotional people.

I can't help it.  It's the truth.  I miss my friends.  I miss our conversations.  I want to be back in the swing of things, blogging regularly, keeping up with everyone, but... 

I don't know if I can do it.

I've just been so tired lately.

So tired.

Well, I have a suggestion for you.


Put off your blogging and your whining till another day.


I have to admit, bed does sound rather nice right now.  *silly, exhausted grin*

*rolls eyes*   I should think so. 

But wait!  *tries desperately to keep eyes open*  I need to give some sort of update on what I've been doing...or something...or...I don't know.  This is such a pointless post otherwise.

You're telling me.

Give me a minute.  I'll think of something.  Oh yes.  I started my new job.  I'm two days in and...yeah.  That's part of the reason why I'm so tired.  (But mostly it's because she never goes to bed on time.)  A-hem.  I mean it's not like it's hard physical labor or anything but still it's a lot of new stuff to learn and learning new stuff can be exhausting.  (Not to mention the fact that I had to get up at 6:00 am this morning.)  I'm going in to work again tomorrow and Saturday and Sunday and...what's that?  A pillow?  I WANT A PILLOW!  Ohhh, for a soft, fluffy, comfortable pillow.  Somebody please give me a pillow on which to rest my weary head!

(Oh good grief.  She's really losing it, folks.) 
That's it.  You're going to bed even if I have to drag you there!
No, no, wait!  I didn't tell them about how I went car shopping this afternoon...

Big whoop.  You didn't even find anything.  Wait until you find a car and then tell them about it.  (Though I don't know why anyone would care to hear about such boring details.)

But there was more to it than that.  I was going to explain how all that driving around this afternoon made me even more tired.

You did come here just to whine about how tired you are.  This is beyond belief. 

I don't whine.  I gripe.

Oooh.  I see.  And that makes all the difference.  Yes.  Griping is much better than whining.  Everybody knows that.
Go to bed.  Please.

Fine.  I will.  Good-night.
Good-night.  (If it is a good night.  Which I doubt.)  (Really, I'm beginning to think I won't get a wink of sleep tonight.  Who could with a loony in the house?)
I heard that.
That's okay.  I don't mind.
P.S.  (From the sensible Miss March who's still alive here somewhere)  Hello dear friends!  I've missed you!  I hope all's well with you (and that you're taking better care of your mental health than I am, heehee.)  What's been happening in your lives lately?  Do tell!  :D
(Also, Natalie should never have shown me that website full of Emma screen caps.  I'm afraid I'm going to be using them far too often.)