Together Forever

valentine flowersHappy Valentine’s Day! Today is the 28th Valentine’s Day my husband and I have celebrated together and we graced it with a nice day at home and then dinner out at a local French bistro. As usual, our gifts to one another were small tokens marking the day. I received a lovely bouquet of flowers and a beautiful pair of gold earrings, and in turn I managed to valentine socksfind dark blue dress socks with tiny red hearts to replace the ones that I gave him years and years ago when we were first married. After dinner we walked the dog and then separated into separate television viewing rooms for our respective Sunday night favorites: Downton Abbey for me and Walking Dead for him.

wedding photo boothLady Mary on Downton Abbey had a far less desirable Valentine’s Day, living through the nightmare of her new beau in his racing car being involved in a horrific accident at the track, leaving his racing partner dead in his burning motor car. The incident brought back far too many tragic memories for her, as her first husband Matthew died in his own motorcar, racing home from the hospital after the birth of their firstborn son and future heir to the grand estate of Downton Abbey. At the end of tonight’s episode, she broke off her relationship with Henry Talbot, leaving Tom Branson to counsel her that you can’t stop living just because you don’t want to get hurt. He should know, having had his heart broken and his world ruined in Season 3.

dating photoLife is hard and there are many obstacles along the way that interrupt happiness and bring much sadness to our lives: sickness of loved ones, losing a parent, difficulties at work, financial problems. Finding that one soulmate to walk with and traverse the ups and downs of this journey is critical. While I don’t live in a castle or have a household of servants, I still count myself as one of the lucky ones, someone who has been successful in that quest. My husband and I share our Catholic faith, family values, and much more. We shared household chores and parenting tasks as we raised our two daughters. We were there for each other, as we said we would, in good times and in bad. We may argue and bicker over the day-to-day annoyances of life but we are, as Annie and Daddy Warbucks sing, together forever.

valentine cardsLast year for Valentine’s Day I scoured the internet for ideas of something personal and homemade I could present to my husband as a token of my love. On Pinterest I found the perfect idea: a complete deck of cards, each one emblazoned with one of the 52 things I love about him. 52 things I love about youThis exercise of creating this list and of typing out each of the 52 things I love about him made me realize that it is indeed the small things, the everyday little things, that really count. He was genuinely touched by this simple homemade gift and vowed to read one a day until he had made his way to the end of the deck of cards.

Truth be told, I could have filled several decks of cards with reasons I love him, and I doubt if any of them would have impressed Lady Mary Crawley very much. As much as I love this grand British soap opera/period piece, I do not envy either the upstairs or downstairs inhabitants of the real life Highclere Castle. Lord and Lady Grantham have three grandchildren and they are hardly ever seen. valentine dessertThis is not due to budget restrictions, child labor laws, or finding talented children to play these roles. Children of this time period were raised by the nanny and the governess and spent little time with their parents. I would not trade my time with my daughters for anything in the world, not one minute of the time they were crying babies, crawling toddlers, sassy adolescents, or the wonderful young women they have become today.

With only two more episodes of Downton Abbey left to savor, I wonder how creator Julian Fellowes will leave us in the end. Will Downton Abbey survive the change of times, the fall of grand country estates full of servants? Will Lady Mary find happiness and true love again? Will the series end with her the melancholy young widow but strong heiress running the estate alone, with only her son George at her side?

valentine selfieAs this Valentine’s Day comes to a close, I once again say a prayer of thanksgiving for a whisper in my ear a Sunday evening Mass 29 years ago, when my neighbor and good friend Susan leaned in to tell me, “I think he’s the one. You should go out with him.” He was the one. He is the one. My one and only. My valentine.

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The Art of Creating

discover screen shotOne week ago today I posted my last essay in my “essay a week for one year” project that I started on New Year’s Eve 2014. At the time of posting my last essay “More Questions than Answers”, I was unsure of my next step for my Cajun Girl in a Kilt website. Shortly after posting that last essay, on New Year’s Eve 2015, my website and my “essay a week for one year” project was featured in a round-up of year-end accomplishments on the WordPress site on the Discover page with an intro by Cheri Lucas Rowlands. Since the feature was published, I’ve received quite a bit of traffic to my website and acquired many new followers. Still my next step was unclear.

downton ornamentTonight, promptly at 9:00, I stopped doing laundry and school work and preparing for my first week back at work as a teacher after a two-week Christmas break, to sit and watch the first episode of the sixth and final season of Downton Abbey. To say this is a great series is an understatement. It is the most glorious thing I’ve ever seen on television. It is rich with the colors, characters, costumes, and great country estates of the times, painstakingly accurate in every historical detail. It takes us into that world, as Mrs. Hughes said in tonight’s episode, “warts and all”.

Monarch of the Glen film locationThe father of this masterpiece of television drama is Julian Fellowes, who is the creator, writer, and executive producer of Downton Abbey. Long before Downton Abbey’s conception, I knew him as a major character on another of my favorite British series, Monarch of the Glen, where he played neighbor and frenemy Kilwillie. Monarch of the Glen also takes place on a grand country estate, Ardverikie in the Scottish highlands. With my own ties to Scotland, my maternal grandparents were born and raised in Glasgow, watching Monarch of the Glen and the beautiful landscape of the highlands, made me dream of visiting Scotland again.

Downton Abbey film locationI’ve been filled with mixed feelings all day about the start of this sixth and final season of Downton Abbey, which is filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England. I’ve been waiting (almost) patiently for this day for what seemed like an eternity, when I have Sunday nights reserved for watching the show and finding out what Julian Fellowes has in store for these characters that I have come to know so well. Tonight as the opening credits began playing, I was also filled with dread, anxiety that there are only nine episodes left, and then I will be left with nothing but reruns and the reputed promise of feature length movies in the future.

The opening scene of tonight’s first episode (no spoilers, you are safe to continue reading if you haven’t seen it yet) is that of a typical country hunt, members of the Crawley household, friends, and neighbors riding on horseback with their hunting dogs in chase of a fox. As the scene unfolded, I was struck at how one man created all of this, a fictional world that millions of viewers have fallen for, head over heels. He made up this whole thing, wrote it all out, created characters and gave them voices and lines to speak. He decided who would live and who would die on the Titanic, in World War I, of the Spanish Flu, in childbirth. He decided who would marry and who would be left at the altar, who would marry and who would be widowed, who would love but not marry, who would bear a child and who would miscarry. He decided it all with his words, thought up one by one, and put on paper, whether it be in longhand with a fountain pen or on an IBM Selectric typewriter or on a Mac.

The very thought of this was inspirational enough to lead me to the conclusion that I will continue writing and continue with my Cajun Girl in a Kilt work, for the sheer pleasure of creating something on paper each week, that someone somewhere might read and enjoy. This essay, on the art of creating, will be the first of this new year; it will be my entry into 2016 and wherever my writing leads me this year. In the coming weeks you may notice some new pages on my website, some saplings taking root and spreading their wings, where I can write about two of my passions: food and literature. Whatever it may be tumbling around in “my little grey cells” on Sunday afternoon will find itself somewhere on Cajun Girl in a Kilt. I hope you follow along and I hope you enjoy it. I also resolve to work on my fiction, a story about a missing suitcase, with the goal of getting it on paper, edited, reviewed, and published. As always, I welcome your feedback in the comment section below on any of my work.

Whedon quoteMay you find your own inspiration for the art of creating, using your own unique talents and interests. Best wishes to you for a happy and healthy 2016! Cheers!