Downton, First Footman Edition

Another interesting week on Downton, and I actually found it more compelling than last week for reasons I really can’t explain. There were just some engaging themes, I guess, and fewer interactions shrouded in secret. This week was just…better. It might not be Grantchester, but it was good.

For starters, everyone needs a relative named Shrimpie. I mean, I do anyway. It’s just a great name. Thanks for being you, Shrimpie, and for the joy you brought me last night each time your name was mentioned.

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Amazing name aside, Shrimpie’s storyline was actually very compelling. Unhappiness in marriage, divorce, changing of the times with attitudes about divorce. Or not. Maybe Shrimpie doesn’t care that he will be shunned; he’s ready to be happy, which is a new thing for him. Is it a new thing for other married folks? Why can’t he just live separately like his daughter suggested? He needs to be free. His wife must be a real jerk.

Speaking of love, I did think it was interesting that Rose articulated her feelings on love (a big theme recently in the show, I’ll take it) and how she’d rather be alone than marry the wrong person. Was that Rose, or maybe Mary? Anyway, it’s a theme that was covered last night and perhaps a trend in feelings of the time. Were people starting to examine how they felt about love, was there more freedom in that area, versus simply being told how things were going to go down.

On that note, I’m sorry but I absolutely loved Violet’s recounting of her almost-tryst (or maybe it happened?) with the Russian and how her husband gave her a framed photo of their children. Reality check. A lifetime of happiness and devotion versus chasing “in the now” feelings. It’s something every married couple needs to acknowledge, that the concept of soul mates is great until you start feeling the inevitable ennui (everyone does, many get through it) and that just because things aren’t always operating at 110 percent in the Wowzah Marriage Department doesn’t mean you’ve made a mistake. It also doesn’t mean you need to wreck a family for what will ultimately be something you can get through if you set your mind to it. I just loved her practical approach to the situation and maybe the lesson was she wasn’t free to “follow her heart” but you get the impression her willingness to her commitments in the end served her (and all her loved ones) best. The Dowager Countess, For The Win!

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Speaking of love, YES. I loved Lord Merton’s proposal and how he clearly explained where he was coming from. Not from a place of loneliness or desperation, but a place of love. It was a sweet little moment and I hope Isobel makes the right choice (meaning I don’t know if he’s genuine, he seems to be, but if he’s the Real Deal I hope she finds love and joy with him). What do you think?

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And now let’s talk about Mary and how she just got herself in a fine fix. Okay, full disclosure: I’m all for her breaking up with Tony. Hear me out! Hear me out. If Tony is going to be a dull life partner, better to find out now than a month after the wedding. And yes Mary did a very bad thing and now Tony is going to make her pay. So she’s getting hers, for breaking the moral code. But let’s admit that the actions of their pre-honeymoon honeymoon are done and shouldn’t mean she’s locked in to anything…I feel really morally bankrupt for writing that. But it’s true.

Can we give Cora some discussion here? The thing is…last week Cora felt useful. And you saw the joy in her as she showed off the art collection and enjoyed her time with a man who (yes we see what’s coming, he’s a weasel) is giving her attention and making her feel special, wanted and necessary. I finally caught on after about the third encounter how Cora is trying to be a part of the land development decision and is continually shut out by her husband and daughter. Last week, in the scene with the gorgeous orange wrap (I was distracted by the wrap last week and had to re-watch to catch the dialogue) she was talking about how wonderful it was, during the war, when she was “running everything with Barrow” and the girls were helping in the hospital. Her life had meaning and purpose, and now it’s back to just ambling about her day. She needs to start getting involved. What should she do?

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It was basically Fashion Week in Downton and In Real Life, such a fun comparison (yes, I follow Fashion Week…I need to know how to dress for my weekly outing to the local Mexican restaurant with friends). So fascinating that it’s basically the same? You are writing down what outfits you plan to wear next season. Exactly like my life. I could seriously relate. (Insert Target weekly flyer pics here).

Thoughts on Bunting (according to my handwritten notes from last night, and I quote): “Ugh.” “She is so short.” “Dang I can’t stand her.”

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I thought for a brief moment Bunting had redeemed herself. Daisy’s moment of clarity was beautiful, “I have choices, interests, facts…” and I was all “Oh Miss Bunting I’ve misjudged you.” And then she just would not let it go and ruined dinner and I love that Mary kind of ganged up on her with her dad and I wish there would have been some kind of beat down.

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(If these feelings are wrong I don’t want to be right.)

And of course, Mr Molesley doesn’t seem to be long for the First Footman world. Are they trying to run him off? And what is Thomas addicted to? Is it time to start feeling sad? These and other questions will (hopefully) be answered in the coming weeks.

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Downton, Three: Let’s Do This.

First off, I’d like to start this post by saying I just sent one of my boys back to his room because he came downstairs all grumpy-gills this morning and I wasn’t having it. The sun is out, we don’t have school. There’s nothing to be sad about so come back down when you’ve snapped out of it. I don’t even know why I admitted that except to say: that’s how things are right now. UPDATE: he just came back downstairs ten minutes later in a totally happy mood. I highly recommend this method. Will be sure to use again if necessary.

Also, Isabel and I were a touch under the weather Saturday and I ended up watching THREE Hallmark movies in a row, each one progressively sappier (slash worse) than the one before. But I can’t quit you, Hallmark movies. You are so great. I don’t care that I can see the pretty packaged ending coming from three miles away. I’ll take it.

We were supposed to go to more basketball games Saturday afternoon (after being at the gym from 5-9:30 the night before) (I know you love how I keep track of all my hours in the Angeldome, like I’m getting paid to be there…) (which I am not). But I woke up Saturday and took Augie to HIS game, at a different gym across town and by the time I got home, with a few hours before our next four-hour stint at another gym, I just wasn’t feeling it. At all. And the fact that (as my mom pointed out) I could sit still and in one place for that many hours of Hallmark television just proves that my body was fighting a little something. I went to bed Saturday night and woke up feeling great Sunday.

sheenazingALSO (I promise I’m done with the play-by-plays) I am SO HONORED to be nominated for an award over at sweet Bonnie’s blog…if you want to vote for me that would be awesome. Because if I win my category that would literally make me the Coolest Blogger! Can you imagine. Thanks to the kind soul who nominated me, I really am honored.

So let’s talk Downton!

Well, for starters, I really enjoyed the show that came on AFTER Downton last night, Grantchester, about a mystery-solving Vicar. As one of my dear friends said, when I asked if he caught Grantchester, “Downton Abby draws the plots out so slow – this show rapidly hurled along and had resolution by the end!”

His is a valid point and one that forces me (again) to admit that Downton is a soap opera. And if it wasn’t before, that’s what it has turned into.

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So many plot lines, where to begin?

1. Well, whadya know, Mary’s week in Liverpool didn’t work out like she hoped. Of course, I suppose the lesson we are to learn is good for her for taking a lover and figuring it all out, otherwise she would have waited and been stuck in a boring, loveless marriage until the end of time…wha? I’m confused but, okay. A week of fun with a man you were previously attracted to results in you realizing y’all aren’t actually compatible? Why didn’t his boring personality surface before?

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2. Edith! The story keeps getting worse. I hope, as the previews are teasing me, that she is honest with someone about this situation before things get any more heartbreaking. And I felt such complicated feelings as the other two toddlers were paraded in for tea, that Edith is also a single parent, just like Tom and Mary, but not free to offer her child the life she would otherwise have.

In moments like this on the show, I often wonder what the little “lesson” is that we, the viewer, are getting. Is the lesson here that social norms and constraints kept women like Edith from having the love and joy they deserved? I’m starting to see (as one dear reader commented last week) that there is no new sin under the sun, just people’s willingness to discuss it.

Would Edith have been spared if she lived in a time where she was allowed to just live her life and not have secrets? She could claim her baby as her own and be a single parent — just like her sister and brother-in-law.

3. Speaking of secrets, I’m so confused about Anna keeping things from Mr. Bates. I can’t imagine that if two servants were married they wouldn’t just share everything with each other. And Bates the character has taken such a backseat this season. I was just remembering the days when he was IT, THE SHOW. But I guess they played out that storyline and we were all ready to move on.

4. “Granny has a past…” This will be an interesting storyline. But don’t you love how the Dowager wasn’t ready to just dive back in to old times with the prince? Propriety and all that.

5. Cora was the star of the show last night, in my opinion. First off, I always love her clothes the best. Does that make me old? I’m just always drawn to the fabrics, colors and necklines of her wardrobe. The orange wrap she wore to get ready for bed one evening was perfection.

I was a little intrigued that she hasn’t caught on to the flirtatious ways of the art critic (who, interestingly, played a servant in Gosford Park, so that was a little distracting). Maybe Cora is so accustomed to not being the center of attention that she didn’t realize what was going on. And Lord Grantham was just being protective, I think. He came off as a jerk but really he didn’t like his wife being out with another man. That’s fair, I think.

6. Poor Spratt, the Dowagers servant. Does he think he’s crazy? He knows what he saw, but Violet was so quick with an explanation. But of course, we knew Mary’s secret trip would come to light, and he was the character for the job.

7. “You have to take control of feelings before they take control of you.” Sage advice! And I love Mary’s love for Tom. I love that they have each other as a sounding board and how their friendship has grown. It’s very endearing.

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Line of the night: when Violet refers to Isobel’s friend as “your aging Romeo.” So great.

What did I miss?

Downton, Week Two

Week two of Downton came and went and now the house has a “wireless” (which is not-at-all wireless) and Mary is off “getting to know” her possible-future husband.

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I think I can safely speak for us all when I predict this will backfire in some form or fashion. I don’t know how or when but these two will either a) get CAUGHT or b) get CAUGHT. And also, are we supposed to be doubting the smarts of Lord Gillingham? I certainly am, now, watching to see if he’s as dull as a victorian cheese knife.

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Will Mary quickly become bored, during this week, and realize she should have gone with Door Number Charles Blake? Is it too late? We need more details!

But I do want to say this, about that: morals aside, I’m relying on Julian Fellowes’ research and knowledge for historic veracity in these situations. Was this a time of people moving in this direction? Was the aristocracy casting off the shackles of propriety and letting it all hang out? I thought that’s what the 70s were all about? Is the truth closer to: people have always done what they wanted, but these days nobody is afraid to admit it?

Anyway, I thought it was a tad pedantic of Mary/Julian to spell it out all “well being married to whomever worked for my grandparents because they lived in such a big home filled with servants, but as you can see, Anna, if you’ve been watching this season of our show, that we are moving away from everyone having a big house and large staff. Did you hear Mrs. Hughes tell our Latin footman Mr Molesley that we are lucky to even have a footman, let alone two or three? Therefore, I must get away with Gillingham to be sure we can actually stand each other once all you servants are gone…”

Sometimes, I think Mr. Fellowes thinks we aren’t too bright.

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So there you are. Mary is off with her man because times are changing and she can’t afford to be in a marriage not based on love, these aren’t the good old days, and if this is really going to work then she better give things a test run.

Which, of course, we are all shaking our heads in solemn disagreement.

There were indeed other things going on in this episode, like Anna having to go to the drugstore for Mary. THIS WILL NOT END WELL. But I won’t lie, I did find it very interesting to see how these sorts of things worked once upon a time.

The storyline with Edith (I have been convinced by all you dear readers, I bet she is Rosamund’s daughter!) well it’s breaking my heart. For the family that has adopted sweet Marigold, for the mother. That poor mother. This girl is her own, not “like her own” and it’s sad to think of this woman not fully understanding the situation and thus thinking her husband is basically just giving the daughter to Edith because she’s the local royalty.

I’d like to stop for a moment here to say the thing that bothers me most about this show is just all the secrets and lies. So much deception. Which, of course, makes me realize we are essentially discussing a soap opera, aren’t we? Should we all admit it now? Or give it another few weeks? Yes, let’s do. Let’s give it another few weeks. But really, so many falsehoods it’s exhausting. Just tell the truth, BAXTER I’M TALKING TO YOU.

Other thoughts:

*Rose, you drive me nuts. Quit inviting the teacher over. Don’t you see how that went last time?

*Dagnabbit, Miss Bunting. Now you’ve gone and made me like you. A tad.

*Anna having to lie to Bates is making me uncomfortable. Again, too much deception.

*”Turning back into who he really is… that’s a bad thing for us maybe but not for him…” A quote of the de-evolution of Tom. He’s going back to whence he came… But I really hope Tom can see the opportunity he has to make positive change in this world as a part of the Crawley family. Cutting ties with the family doesn’t seem worth it, how far will he get being an Island…he needs to consider this.

*Lots of talk on people moving away from being In Service. It really is a fascinating time in history, and as the country moved in that direction, it makes you wonder why anyone would want to stay there living like that (for those downstairs, of course). But then you look at Carson and realize it’s about The Way Things Are, and people who are content to live like that. And of course, some of these men and women really seemed to enjoy what they did. Is that possible? I think so.

*”Every relationship has its ups and downs.” Who said this? I just remember it was the Quote of the Night, in my book!
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Let’s Resolve

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Such bliss and freedom on this face!

Here’s my Southern Cross column from last week…

Happy New Year! Here’s to new beginnings and fresh starts!

Something about this time of year used to make me so nervous. The last days of December would creep in and I’d notice it was almost the New Year which meant time for reflecting on the past.

I’d spend a few days thinking back over the past year, everything that happened and everything that didn’t. I’d consider all the goals for the year that I hadn’t met and also see the coming year as one step further from something. It was the strangest thing and for so long I spent New Year’s Eve with a funny feeling in my stomach.

I’m not sure what happened, but one year my perspective changed from a reflective look at the past year to a hopeful look toward the future. Instead of thinking about all I had failed to do, I was thinking about what I was about to undertake. It was a major thinking shift and gave me so much freedom and joy.

There is a time and a place for everything and there’s certainly something to be said for thinking about where we’ve been. We can’t learn if we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, and taking time for quiet reflection is important in our personal growth.

But there’s a way that too much reflection can keep us from moving forward, and I think that’s no more true than when I consider my resolutions. When I reflect on a new year, my hopes and dreams and prayers for this fresh start, I know the past is an important part of that. But it’s also good to just move, go forward and stop being so afraid.

“Fear is always the first step forward of faith,” wrote my friend Ann Voskamp recently. “Forward! Whenever you are lost, FORWARD is always the way Home.”

Forward can be terribly daunting but it’s really quite simple. It’s one foot, lifted off the ground, moving up and then down again. That’s it. Get a move on, just do it.

It’s all very simple but we want to make it hard. Want to read more? Walk away from your phone. Want to exercise more? Lace up those tennis shoes. Want to eat healthier this year? Don’t start by reading all the cookbooks, step away from the drive-thru.

Personally, I’ve been in a place where I’ve got some plans and goals and I’ve spent the last few months…just thinking about it all. And talking. Thinking and talking and analyzing. But not doing. Which is not terribly effective. I want to talk all about how I’m afraid and unsure and it’s great, because fear loves to be discussed. Fear loves for me to sit back and think about how big IT is. All that talking and thinking leaves little time for doing, and fear loves that.

The only way around fear is through it, which kind of means looking fear in the eye and then…ignoring it. Maybe acknowledging it, but then moving right along. “Fear, I know you are here and you want to be bigger than me. But you are not bigger than God, so here we go.”

And of all the ways fear keeps us bound, big and small, its number one goal is to keep us from God. Because fear wants us to believe that we are not worthy, that we are not good enough and we are too busy and that God doesn’t really care anyway so we might as well just not even try. And that is the number one lie we have to rebuke: God does care and he wants whatever it is we are willing to offer.

This year, in your resolutions big and small, keep God in the center. Ask him to show you his great love, and then look for that baby step to inch your way towards him, a little closer everyday.