Embracing Lent

Do yourself a favor and remind yourself why you’re doing all this penance.

I’m glad this guy is my friend, otherwise I’d be a little jealous of his talent.  Succinct, accessible, orthodox, and hilarious.  I bet you didn’t even realize you were learning something.

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How’d he do it? You’ll soon know.

It’s the question that has been burning in the mind of every Sherlock fan for the last two years.  Yes, two years.  And the answer is only a day away.

For those who don’t watch Sherlock, I’m not sure how to explain what the show does to you.  Is it perfect?  No.  One episode in particular made me quite uncomfortable, and as a result I don’t recommend it wholesale to everyone I meet.  I haven’t been impressed by every episode and every storyline – in fact, I was pretty disappointed by the Hounds of the Baskerville episode.

But somehow that doesn’t matter.  The show has gotten under my skin and I can honestly say I love it.  Perhaps more accurately — the characters have gotten under my skin.  And I love them.

Perhaps fans of Sherlock could quench their anticipation by watching Elementary on CBS. But we all soon found ourselves just thirstier for Sherlock.  The characters of Elementary may bear the same names or occupations of their precursors on the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle (with some slight revisions), but they are just shadows.  In contrast, the way Sherlock is written transforms Cumberbatch and Freeman into Sherlock and Watson in such a way that if I believed in reincarnation (and if we were talking about reality here, not fiction), I would present them as exhibit A.

The brilliant winks and nods to the stories, often overlooked by anyone who is less than obsessed with the original stories, complete the artistry of the show.  It reminds me of those careful details on top of the skyscrapers of New York — designed and executed for the art of it, for the pleasure of the artist, even if no one ever notices them.

Perhaps those used to shows like Foyle’s War or stories from Agatha Christie where every little detail is connected, every character woven together to come to a brilliant conclusion, will be disappointed by some of the strange twists and solutions Sherlock seems to stumble upon rather than unweave. But if you read the original Sherlock Holmes , you’ll find the show just takes its cue from the books.

One episode dragged on and on, getting more obscure and unbelievable.  A Chinese circus?  What the heck?  But the randomness and drawn-out nature is not too unlike Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, which takes the reader to America and follows a seemingly random storyline with Mormons before connecting all the dots.

All of this to say… I couldn’t come on the blog and urge everyone to watch Sherlock tomorrow night like I want to — if you haven’t become involved up until now, the episode’s brilliance will be lost on you. But for those of you who have been waiting for two years, under the spell of Cumberbatch and Freeman, you will be justly rewarded.

I’ve already seen all three episodes, partly due to my impatience but most of all due to my hatred for spoilers.  I’ve waited and wondered for two years how Sherlock Holmes survives his fall; I wasn’t about to find out accidentally thanks to the internet.   I can honestly say this season is my favorite.  Yes, this episode completely panders to those of us who have fallen in love with the show — especially pandering to those obsessed with the show.  But the character development is fantastic, and I finally began to see the another side of Sherlock Holmes – one I questioned in a previous blog post — the more likable side.  Is he still eccentric, rude, and seemingly unaware of human nature?  Yes… but in a much more likable way, more similar to the figure I’ve grown to love in the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle.

So for those of you who already watch the show… enjoy tomorrow night.  We’ve earned this.

If that music makes you excited… yeah, I know how you feel.

Waiting for Downton

Tonight was Theology on Tap, and it was a smashing success.  Well, it was if you consider we had over 70 people and a fantastic speaker.  If you consider that we ran out of room, maybe it was less of a success.  But we rolled with the punches.

Next month I’m speaking on the Art of Waiting.

And in that vein, I thought I’d post the new teaser that PBS released introducing the new characters of Season 4 of Downton Abbey.  It’s kind of funny to think that these are all new characters for you all… because I just spent the last two months with them. Speaking of the art of waiting…. ahem.

It’s just that I hate, hate, hate spoilers, and I know that if I waited until January, I would know way too much about the season.  So I had to imbibe early.  There’s still one episode left — the Christmas episode — and then just when I’m sad it’s over, I can rewatch it all with America!

Stop laughing, I’m trying to sleep.

How have I not heard about this?  How do I not have one of these?

As I prepare for a trans-Atlantic flight and prep myself for the dreaded “You must sleep now, surrounded by strangers, in a two by three foot space, sitting upright.  Ready… go!” I found this.

 

I can’t decide what is funnier — the mental picture of me whipping this out in front of the pilgrimage group I’m leading, or the mental picture of my boss walking into my office and finding me sleeping with this on my head.

7 Not-so-quick Takes

1.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude right now.  God is so good.  I was sitting on my porch tonight, the weather perfect, my citronella candles warding off any scary bugs, and I was overwhelmed with my life.  In fact, my life is so wonderful that I began convincing myself that something awful was just around the corner.  And then I realized — or maybe He reminded me — that God is good, and His blessings are bountiful.  I should be thankful for them rather than assuming life is too good to be true.  So thank you, God.  I’m not sure what I did to deserve this, but thanks.  (Spoiler: we did nothing to deserve anything.)

Earlier this evening I was in a kind of a funk.  I even made a playlist called “Cheer Up,” to listen to while I did the dishes.  But sitting out on my porch, saying my rosary in the dark, something changed.  And I’m glad.  I guess I’m grateful for feelings of gratitude.

I don’t have any news – nothing has really changed in my life – so maybe this praise seems out of left-field.  But when I look around and realize how much other people have to suffer, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the gifts – even the smallest- that He has given me.

2. This year is a bit of a milestone birthday for me, so I’m trying to make big plans.  I may not be where I thought I’d be at this age, but I’m not sure I ever really thought about where I’d be at this age.  Isn’t that kind of funny?  I guess I never thought about growing up and doing anything.  I never dreamed about having ten kids, becoming a doctor, writing the great American novel.  Does that make me a loser?  Perhaps.  But maybe that makes birthdays easier.  I don’t have to blow out candles thinking, “But I didn’t discover the cure for cancer this year.”

Despite my low expectations, it’s still going to be weird to leave this decade of my life, so I’ve decided to celebrate in a big way.  I’m going to the Big Apple.

Maybe if I write it here, it’ll happen.  Because right now I’m having my doubts.  But think of the things I can cross off my bucket list!  Broadway shows!  Bobby Flay’s restaurants!  New York at Christmastime?  Yes, please!  Isn’t it a magical land of store windows, perfect snowfalls, and maybe John Payne walking down the street in a fedora?  No?  Hm. Well, surely Neal Caffrey will be there, right?  Oh, that’s fake, too?  Hm.  Well, it will still be magical.  I know it will.

The only problem is… New York is expensive.  Since most of the friends who could go with me are also single and either students and work for the Church, well, we have our work cut out for us.  But I’m going to make it there.  Somehow.

3. On a completely different note, has anyone else seen American Ninja Warrior?   I heard about it from our new priest on campus, Father Kevin, after he declared to me that he was going to be the first American to conquer Mt. Midoriyama.  I didn’t really get it until I stumbled upon it myself while sick on the couch.  It’s amazing what you watch when you’re feeling too sick to do anything but blow your nose and drink orange juice.

American Ninja Warrior is an obstacle course… for ninjas.  There are various qualifying rounds around the country, but no American has ever completed all four stages of the course.  It’s a spinoff from a Japanese show, and that’s all I really know.  Other than the fact that it’s awesome.

The following clip doesn’t show you half of the insane things these guys have to do, but it shows the salmon ladder, which is my favorite:

The upper body strength of these guys is incredible.  (This is a good example, too; and this is the closest anyone got this year– and is the stage that really got me hooked.) They pull themselves across ledges with only their fingertips.  If you hear about a Catholic priest qualifying, remember you heard it here first.

4. Speaking of things you’ll watch while on your couch sick … did you know the Duggars are still on TV?  I used to watch them all the time.  And now Josh and Anna have three kids!  Where has the time gone?

5. Did I mention I’m leading a trip to Rome next week?  I beg your prayers… not only that we make our connection, but that there are no major mishaps and that we are all open to the graces waiting for us.  I’m counting on your prayers.  And in return… I’ll pray for you!

6. Do I make you suffer through two more of these, just so I can call this 7 Quick Takes?

7.  Happy Birthday to my brother — and happy feast day a day early.  You know, St Matthew – patron of accountants. ; )

Five Favorites – on the right day! (I think)

Here’s a first!  I decided while making dinner that I wanted to post a mishmash of favorite things on the blog tonight, and I thought, “Too bad I don’t ever feel like doing that when Hallie does her Five Favorites.”  So I entered the blog world to see when Hallie usually posted those, so I could joke, “Haha, it’s not ___day, but I felt like doing some favorites…”

And it’s the right day!  The stars have alligned and I’m doing my first “link-up.”

In no particular order, five things I’m loving right now…

1. This video.

2. Fix You by Coldplay.  Yes, I know it’s probably playing on the oldies station these days, but I fell in love with it again and want to make that a soundtrack to something.  I love how it starts mellow and then builds.  It’s kind of funny that I don’t have a particular memory to attach with “where was I in 2005 when Fix You was on the radio” — of course, my very fond memory that has “Yellow” as its soundtrack is from 2006, so I suppose I’m just a little slow.

Anyway, it’s my song of the moment right now.

3. My balcony.  Some days it’s just a normal balcony.  Other days it’s the front seat to a gorgeous display of God’s love.  When I saw this last night, how could I not stop what I was doing and go outside to pray my rosary while the sun set?

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And I love how quickly the sky changes.

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Those hardly do it justice, of course.

4. Rock star mics.  You know, those microphones that go around your ear instead of clipping on to your lapel?  I used my first one a few weeks ago when I was teaching close to 400 catechists in the diocese of Lexington.  If you’re a guy, lapel mics might be easy to use.  But even then your tie might hit it or it might be clipped to your tie and your suit coat hits it or it’s too low or it picks up your heart beating wildly because you’re nervous (okay, maybe not), and if you’re a girl, it’s hard to find a good place to pin it if you’re not wearing a powersuit… etc, etc, etc.  Well, I loved the rock star mic.  You kind of forget they’re there — you can talk in a regular voice and not worry about it picking you up and you can wave your arms and beat your breast and do all sorts of things without worrying about the microphone.  I always kind of made fun of them, especially when priests wore them, because they remind me of Britney Spears.  But they’re awesome.  And I want my own personal one.

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Here’s a random picture of Lexington because it’s beautiful.  Sorry it’s crooked — we were driving down the highway. (I wasn’t driving, don’t worry.)  I’m not posting the selfie I took of me with the rock star mic, because I was trying to take it inconspicuously in front of 400 people and so I have a double chin.

Teaching in front of 400 people was pretty fun — it was only the second time in my life I’ve spoken in front of that many people, and I’m not entirely sure the other group was that large.  So it may have been the largest group I’ve ever taught.  In the middle of my third talk I saw a bride taking pictures in the garden of the church (she was standing where I could see her from the stage but everyone else had their back to her), and I exclaimed — mid-sentence — “Aww, a bride!”  and everyone turned around and laughed. Keepin’ it real, folks.  That’s why they love me.  I’m unpredictable.

5. Leftover mashed potatoes and cottage cheese.  “Weird,” you’re thinking.  That’s because you haven’t tried it.  If you had, you would be thinking, “Awesome.”  I actually made extra mashed potatoes the other night so that I could have leftovers.  I have to give credit to my sister Jill for teaching me the trick.  Something about the warm mashed potatoes and the cold cottage cheese, the difference in texture…  Winner. And that’s my dinner tonight.  (With fresh green beans, of course, for color.  And for manganese and vitamin k.)

Hmm…. Okay, so I thought based on the dates of Hallie’s former Five Favorites posts that it was Tuesday, but maybe it’s Wednesday.  Oh well!  These are my favorites and I’m stickin’ with ’em.