Sherlock S3 Ep2 (With Spoilers)

loved this episode. I’ll have to re-watch it to be certain, but it just might be my favorite episode of the entire series thus far. I felt it even cleared up some of my frustrations with The Empty Hearse – because here, finally, we got to see the heart of Sherlock.

We got to see that he does have emotions, he just doesn’t have the ability to understand them, and so he ends up making huge missteps, both to try to stuff the emotions back down and to try to work around/with them. So messing with John’s head about the bomb? Not necessarily being manipulative and sneaky, but more “I have all these weird things that I think are called feelings and I don’t know how to process them or work with them and I don’t know what to do so I’ll just do this stupid thing and hope somehow it helps.” Goodness knows I use humor – occasionally inappropriately – to get me through an awkward situation or a time when my emotions are threatening to overwhelm me.

But here, in The Sign of Three, we get to see Sherlock coming to terms with the fact that he does have emotions, and attempting to communicate them, and it’s beautiful. Despite the fact that the speech is planned and choreographed, it’s still genuine, and he’s never just saying the words because it’s what society expects (well, until he gets to the funny stories).

This was one of the funniest episodes in the series, and I loved that, loved the combination of the solemnity of Sherlock trying to express what John means to him and then getting to see the two of them interacting and being utterly ridiculous. The stag night drinking, and trying to solve the case while completely out of it, and Lestrade’s glee over having to get them out of jail – LOVED IT.

And oh my, Sherlock’s decision, whether conscious or unconscious, to include Mary in his group of “people he protects,” because John loves her and she loves John – beautiful. The scene with the usher, where Sherlock threatens him if he ever tries to weasel his way into Mary’s affections, was both funny and poignant, because for him to do that meant that Mary, now, was one of his. And of course he reiterated that at the end, much more bluntly.

(Side note: the “yeah, okay” to Archie’s request to see corpses was brilliant. I chortled.)

Speaking of Mary … can I just say how much I love her? Playing John and Sherlock off each other so they go solve a case, reassuring them and incidentally getting them out of her hair at the same time? “I’m not John, Sherlock, I can tell when you’re fibbing.” ZING. Teasing Sherlock at the wedding about neither of them being John’s first. She is completely unthreatened by their friendship, completely unintimidated by Sherlock, treats him as a human being, lets them do their mystery-solving thing but joins in when necessary without forcing anything, and in short is pretty much my favorite character on the show. If they kill her off in Episode 3 I am going to be SO MAD.

The mysteries were a side note here to the human stories, and I think that’s why I loved it so well. We got to see – everyone got to see – why John and Sherlock work so well together, that John is not an idiot but chooses to focus on people rather than problems, while Sherlock deals with problems over people, and how well they balance each other, even while sometimes they drive each other mad. I could go on and on, detailing every aspect that I enjoyed, but really, that sums it all up.

Nationals Aftermath, Men and Ladies

The men’s short program was fantastic. I loved every second. The free skate was a wee bit of a disappointment compared to that (ack, Ricky Dornbush especially. I sat there in my kitchen shouting “No! No! You’re so much better than this! FIGHT!” at my computer screen, but alas, to no avail), but still miles ahead of any free skate in recent years. I was so sad for Adam Rippon, who’s from Clarks Summit and broke onto the senior scene when we were still living in Scranton, and so I have cheered for ever since (for those of you not familiar with Pennsylvania, Scranton and Clarks Summit are right next to each other), but I was thrilled to see the strides Max Aaron had made since last year, and Joshua Farris did great, and we’ve got some promising young blood coming up in the ranks who will be ones to watch in the next four years.

About Max, though – I hope he gets his style figured out soon. You can be a guy on the ice and still be masculine and even a little butch. You don’t have to go all-out Elvis Stojko, but poor Max looked, in his short program especially, as though he were being forced into a suit of clothes completely the wrong size for him. The long program suited his powerful, explosive natural style much better, but he still looked stilted and uncomfortable in much of it. Watch Brian Boitano. Watch Scott Hamilton and Kurt Browning and Todd Eldredge and Michael Weiss and yes, even watch Elvis Stojko, and see how they manage to be powerful and still artistic. Just please, please, don’t become a cookie-cutter skater, Max, because you’ve got so much more than that.

I am not a fan of Jeremy Abbott’s skating, or his appalling tendency to never be able to put two decent programs on the ice at the same competition, or that the USFSA (sorry, USFS – I don’t know why they’ve dropped the “A” from the acronym when “Association” is still part of the official name, and it drives me nuts) and all the commentators overlook his horrific inconsistency and weak skills with “but when he’s on, he’s so on” BUT HE’S NEVER ON ALL THE WAY HE’S ONLY EVER HALFWAY THERE. However, I will say that he did manage to pull it together for this Nationals, and I am politely wishing him well at the Olympics, because my dislike is for his skating, not for him, and I would never wish anyone to fall apart at the moment they’ve been dreaming of their entire lives.

(Yes, I know I’ve left someone out of the men. I’m saving him for the end.)

The ladies. Oh, the ladies.

I am THRILLED for Gracie Gold. I think she’s phenomenal. And I really like the sprite-like Polina Edmunds, and I’m eager to see what she does in the next four years.

Mirai Nagasu … I am heartbroken for. Crushed. After everything she’s gone through in the last four years, she finally, finally found her joy on the ice again, she broke through years of uncertainty and discouragement, and oh, she skated so, so beautifully. She made my heart sing.

I understand the decision to leave her off the team. I think it’s the wrong decision, and I wish USFS could admit that yes, part of their decision is political (because it IS and everyone knows it), part of their decision was deliberate to cause controversy and get people watching the skating again (because that plays a role too, of course it does), and yes, part of their decision has to do with the entire season, not just the Nationals. Because by claiming it ONLY has to do with the skating, they’ve left themselves open to the very obvious question of “Then why is Polina, who hasn’t had any senior international experience, on the team instead of Mirai?”

What I cannot forgive USFS for is leaving Mirai off the World team. In men and pairs, they switched the bronze medalists for the silver for the Worlds, and yet the ladies team stays the same. You know what that says to me? Either they have a grudge against Mirai (PETTY), or they’re afraid that she would do really well at the Worlds, and then they’d have to justify the decision to leave her off the Olympic team all over again. Not cool, USFS.

(This routine made me cry. Actually, no. Mirai’s courage and grace made me cry during this routine. She is an amazing person.)

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t hate Ashley Wagner. As with Jeremy Abbott, I’m not a huge fan of her skating. With her, it isn’t so much her problems with consistency as it is I just plain find her boring to watch. She seems to me one of those cookie-cutter skaters I mentioned above, nothing that stands out or makes me remember her or care.

BUT. The way fans have been treating her is atrocious, horrible, and completely uncalled for. She did not “steal” the spot from Mirai. USFS gave it to her. You might think that the decent thing for her to do would be to refuse to accept it, but come on. This is the Olympics. If you were in her shoes, would you? COULD you? I’d like to think that I would be noble-souled enough to give up on my lifelong dream because I felt it was unfairly granted to me, but would I, really? I doubt it. Especially if I really did believe that I had earned that spot through my blood, sweat, and tears over the last few years, and that the two nights that did not go my way were anomalies instead of patterns. And Ashley does believe that.

And no matter what, Ashley is a human being, just as Mirai is, and no human being ever, ever deserves to be treated the way fans have been treating Ashley. I read for myself some of the things said to her and about her on Twitter. Shame on those who would dare speak so to another person. Shame. I may not be her biggest fan, but after reading some of those tweets, I hoped – and still hope – she goes to the Olympics and skates better than anyone has ever seen her skate in her life. That’s what I hope, because I want to see her make people choke on their own hatred by the sheer triumph of rising above it.

And now … yes, I was saving the best for last. I told you I was going to bring in the missing men’s skater at the end, didn’t I?

Watch him. Watch this routine, you guys. Look, I’ve seen Bourne and Kraatz skate to Riverdance – live – and I saw Riverdance on Ice in Lowell, MA a few years back, and both of those were incredible, breathtaking experiences. I have never seen anything like this. Jason, more than anyone else ever, has given me hope that the point system has not killed the joy of skating entirely. I am so, so excited for when he gets his quad, because he is going to BLOW EVERYONE ELSE OUT OF THE WATER. Or off the ice, as the case may be.

And on top of all that, he is a genuinely nice and awesome kid. What more can you ask?

Between Davis & White, Chock & Bates, Gold, and Brown, I am PUMPED to see what Team USA does at the Olympics this year. I think it’s going to be awesome.

Nationals Aftermath, Pairs and Dance

Before I begin, thank you all for your comments and encouragement with regard to my last post. They truly did help, and just the simple act of sharing what I was going through helped as well. I think I can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

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It’s been a little while now since the US Figure Skating Championships (shorthand for which is simply “Nationals” in skating circles), and I believe I can think/speak about them with some coherency by this point.

First, the good. And was there ever good. Overall, the quality of skating at this Nationals was better than I have seen in over a decade. Certainly the best I’ve seen since the new judging system was put in place (yes I know it’s been around long enough we can’t really call it new, but hey, I grew up on the 6.0 system and even though I *get* the whole point system it still seems foreign and strange to me, and I have to ask Carl every single time if the scores are really impressive or not, because while I always knew that a 6.0 was awesome, I can’t always remember the numbers here, whereas the engineer can keep it all straight without trying). I was actually excited to watch, instead of watching in hopes that something would happen to make me remember why I love this sport. It gives me hope that maybe, finally, we are starting to get our feet under us again as a skating association.

Pairs is still struggling. It would be nice to see more than just our top team sticking together instead of switching partners every so often. It’s not a square dance, chums. It’s a dedicated, hard, tiring journey. The most important factor in a pair team is trust. How can you build trust when you know that both you and your partner are willing to jump ship at the first sign of trouble? I’m not saying that your first partner has to be your final one, no matter what – Meno and Sand weren’t each other’s first partners, nor were Sale and Pelletier, nor Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze, etc.  (Also, I will have you know I spelled those latter two names correctly, the first time, without looking it up.) But it’s a sad statement that the American team that has been together the longest has been together for eight years. That’d be about a starting point for the Chinese.

Having said that, I really do like Castelli and Shnapir, in part because Shnapir reminds me of my cousin Peter (same height and build, same un-self-conscious air, same friendly grin). (Except Peter loves hockey and considers figure skating an insult to the ice, poor deluded lad.) And my fingers are crossed for them to land that quad throw salchow at the Olympics, not because I think it will put them in medal contention, but simply because it’d be awesome.

I thought Denney and Coughlin were all right, but not spectacular, so I wasn’t too upset about them missing the Olympic team, though disappointed on their behalf, naturally. I sincerely hope that Zhang and Bartholomay stick together for at least another four years, because while they might not be able to make an impression on the world scene now, I honestly think they have a ton of potential, and I’d love to see them as honest-to-goodness contenders at the 2018 Olympics.

Ice dance, now … oh my. I stood up while watching Davis and White, because I didn’t think I could take it sitting down. And then I forgot to breathe until they were finished. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit in the arena and watch it live. Well, I can almost imagine it, because I got to watch Bourne and Kraatz skate Riverdance live at the ’98 Worlds (shut up, yes I know I’m old), and I’m pretty sure this would have been even better. And that’s something I never thought I’d say. Anyone who doesn’t think ice dance belongs in the Olympics needs to watch this. And if you still don’t think ice dance belongs in the Olympics after watching, then … I’m not sure you get what the Olympics are all about. It’s sport, and more than sport. It transcends sport, and isn’t that what the Olympics are all about? Sport becoming something more, something greater, something that celebrates the human spirit? Tell me this doesn’t do that. You can’t. It’s perfection.

I was thrilled also with Bates and Chock (how can I not root for the team with one partner named Bates?). (Fun side note: there’s a good chance we’re actually distantly related; as I understand family lore, there were two Bates brothers who came to America from England back in the day. One came to NY state and settled in the Thousand Islands region, and became my great-something-grandfather. The other settled somewhere in Michigan, which is where Evan Bates trains and went to college, at least, though I’ve never been an obsessive enough fan to see if that’s actually where he’s from. But still. I totally can claim I have a cousin who’s an Olympian, right?) Their routine was fabulous, and if it weren’t for Davis and White, it would have been my favorite of the competition. Love the Shibutanis as well, not least for the fact that their programs never gross me out over the fact that they’re brother and sister practically making out on the ice (I don’t really like ANY of the dance teams that are over-sexualized in their routines, but it’s especially nasty when they are siblings). Even aside from that, though, the ShibSibs are just plain fun to watch.

I think both our pairs teams and our dance teams heading to the Olympics are going to do this country proud, and if Davis and White don’t bring home the ice dance gold, you’ll be scraping me off the floor where I collapsed in shock and horror.

I realize that I am way too wordy to keep the entire competition to one post, so I’ll do this one now, and give you my thoughts and opinions on the men and ladies in the next.

Shaky Ground

I knew, before publishing Magic Most Deadly, that almost all authors go through a stage of ennui, discouragement, and even fear that they’ll never be able to write again after they publish their first book.

So when it all happened, I was prepared for it.

I just wasn’t prepared for it to last so long.

I am writing again—but it’s hard. Nothing flows. Nothing feels right. There’s no spark. I find myself putting off writing to read, or to wash dishes, or bake, or any of a hundred other numerous things that are good and important in and of themselves but should never come in the way of my writing time.

Part of it is disappointment. I knew MMD wasn’t going to set the world on fire. I knew the internet wasn’t going to explode over it, that people wouldn’t be lining up to buy copies, that nobody would be pounding on my door to beg an interview, that publishers wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to offer me a contract. And yet … the fact that it came out with a whimper instead of a bang, and fizzled almost at once was—and is—hard.

If I didn’t care about people reading what I write, I wouldn’t bother with publishing at all. I’d just write my own stories for my own amusement and leave it at that. But there is something deep inside me that needs to share my writing with other people. It is deeply important to me. Not for fame or for money (although, not gonna lie, I would sooo love to be able to support the family while Carl’s in seminary, rather than him having to work and do school), and I’m not even sure why, but there it is.

So when I offer the world this story, and the world doesn’t even notice it was offered, yes, it stings. And it makes it hard to remind myself that my voice counts, that my stories matter, even if they are just light-hearted and fun.

It makes it hard to persevere.

am persevering, because like Emily Starr, if you took everything else away from me I would still write. I can’t not write, but it has lost, I hope temporarily, much of its zest and joy for me.

Carl has reminded me that it is winter, and I went through the incredibly painful process of losing my grandfather in December, followed immediately by a whirlwind of holiday busyness, followed by sickness felling everyone but me in the family one by one in recent weeks (thank you, thank you God and vitamin supplements, for fixing my immune system so that thus far I’ve resisted the illnesses), and that it’s natural for me to feel discouraged this time of year, whatever is going on, due to lack of sunlight and fresh air and constantly being cold (although I’d actually rather be perpetually cold than hot, but that’s neither here nor there). So I’m trying not to take the discouragement too seriously. At the same time, I don’t want to dismiss it altogether.

Last night, once again frustrated that everything I write lately never gets beyond surface depth, and yet doesn’t have any of the humor I value so much either, I re-read something I’d written about two years ago. A crazy fan-fiction mash-up of all my favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories, with me in the thick of it (yes, a self-insert, but not technically a Mary-Sue since nobody fell in love with me, and I didn’t save the world and die tragically) (well okay, I did sort-of die tragically, but not for real, and Voyager’s doctor and Mara Jade brought me back to life, and it was mostly a plot device to let them be grumpy and snarky, not for me to be a Heroine), with not much plot but just a whole lot of fun.

I actually laughed out loud at parts, bits I had forgotten I had ever written, and other parts made me really impressed with their unexpected depth. It was simultaneously great and awful, because it told me that I can write humor and passion and Truth, but it also made me wonder if I can only do so when playing with other people’s characters, in a story never meant for anyone’s eyes but my own.

I don’t have a neat, pithy ending paragraph to end with here. I guess the title of this post says it all, really—I’m not sinking, but I’m not on solid ground, either. Everything is currently very shaky beneath my feet. The best I can do is keep cautiously inching my way forward, hoping to eventually get out of the mire and back onto the firm path, and can move forward once more.

Sherlock S3 Ep1 (Spoilers!!)

I, being the patient part of the fandom, waited to watch Sherlock S3 until it aired here in the States. And then I waited one more day because a 10:00 start time is way too late for me, especially when the next day is a school day and I must have some semblance of a brain in order to teach.

But now! Now I’ve watched it, and I’m exploding with Thoughts.

(Spoilers follow. You’ve been warned.)

(I personally don’t mind spoilers for some things, but I did, very much, want to watch Sherlock without anyone else’s thoughts or reactions influencing mine, so for this one I did avoid spoilers like the plague.)

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I loved it. Mostly.

Side note: I have struggled, in the past, with calling myself a fan, because I don’t obsess over things, or have to know every detail, and because I don’t mind admitting when the Thing I Love has flaws. But I’m getting over that, and even though I say yes, Sherlock has flaws, and even though I waited to watch it until a sensible time, I really am a fan. Just not a fanatic.

So yes, it had flaws. I really dislike how the show has gone from Sherlock being aware of social conventions and how people will react to him, and merely choosing to ignore it, to how he is utterly clueless about everyone. Before he was well aware that the things he said were hurtful, and just didn’t care. Now, especially with John, he hasn’t got a clue. “No, of course John won’t mind that I never told him I was dead! Of course he’ll think it a big joke that I surprise him in a restaurant, in public, while he’s on a date, to reveal that I’m alive!”

Um, no. Sherlock Holmes is many things, but he’s not dense.

(I also don’t like how the viewers are invited to wink wink, nudge nudge, snicker snicker along with him whenever he plays John. The raw pain of John’s goodbye last season is not something I care to giggle about now that it’s over. Sorry.)

But! I love Mary (really, really, surprising even myself, love her character). I love how smart she is (she figured out the code within moments!) and her common sense, and her adventurous side, and her warmth, and pretty much everything about her. I hope she sticks around for the rest of the show’s duration, because it would be tragic to lose her.

I like the playing with all the different theories the fandom has concocted explaining Sherlock’s demise, and that we’re never exactly sure how it really did go down. I do hope that the explanation Sherlock gives Anderson is at least partially correct, because that was MY theory – the before part, not the actual jump part.

I was certain, upon my last watch of Reichenbach Fall, that Sherlock and Mycroft were playing Moriarty from the beginning. It seemed impossible to me that he could trick Mycroft the way he claimed to, or that Sherlock could really be two steps behind him all the way. I wasn’t quite sure of their purpose in playing him, but I knew that they were. So when Sherlock told Anderson that he and Mycroft had it all planned, in order to discover the extent of Moriarty’s network, I felt rather pleased with myself. I don’t care if the jump part is right, but I very much want that aspect to be true.

I like the relationship between Molly and Sherlock, and how she humanizes him more than John, even, maybe because he got used to John and didn’t listen to him after a while, but he’s not as familiar with Molly and so still pays attention to her. I  love how she’s not intimidated by him anymore. All in all, it was the women of Sherlock that really won me over this episode (Mrs Hudson, of course, was spot on as always. Her little comments during Sherlock’s exchange with Mycroft in the flat were priceless.).

The mystery itself was fairly uninspiring. I never felt much tension over it, or even cared that much – but that was okay. The focus of the episode was clearly on Sherlock coming back to life, and that’s as it should be. I did hate the scene at the end, where Sherlock tricks John into forgiving him, and John finally breaks down and laughs, ha ha, you’re a jerk Sherlock but that’s okay, everything’s fine. Um, no. Mary, please slap both of them upside the head.

Although I did like how they poked gentle fun at the shows where, with one minute left on the ticking clock, the scene plays out for fifteen or so minutes. I was sitting there snarkily going “well, that’s the longest two minutes ever,” and then you find out Sherlock stopped the clock and it really wasn’t meant to be two minutes at all. Well played that, show.

All in all, it was a great episode, and I do like how they’re trying to show Sherlock becoming more human. It’s a fumbling effort on their part, but that’s okay, because one can only imagine Sherlock is fumbling in it too. He’s very adept at pretending to be human, but he sucks at the real thing. It’s okay if the show drops the ball here and there, too.

Have you seen it? What are your thoughts, if so?

January School Days

We unintentionally took most of the month of December off from scheduled school, due to my grandfather’s death, our unplanned trip to up my folks’ for the calling hours and burial, and then, of course, CHRISTMAS. We’d planned to take the first two weeks of January off because of traveling, which did indeed happen. All told, though, it’s been somewhere between four to six weeks since we sat down at the table and actually did a day’s worth of schoolwork. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Joy and I sat down with her math book this morning and she couldn’t even remember how to add up to ten without counting on her fingers.

We’re plugging away at it, though, and I trust that we’ll be back in the swing of things by the end of the week. I hope so, because I want to add “project time” to our school day soon – a time set aside for the girls to work on a specific self-directed project, with me available to assist and talk if they need it, but not in charge. I think first those will be finishing up some previously started and then abandoned projects, but then we will be starting from scratch. Much of our apartment rearranging right after the New Year was to give the girls a space dedicated to their project work – we have their little table and a desk set aside just for them now, right by the big window in the living room.

Gracie is almost finished with her Kumon preschool books. She can read “cat” “dog” “kitten” “woof” “meow” and “Biscuit.” (Can you guess what her favorite stories are?) With help, she can sound out most other basic words. It is just as thrilling to see her start to unlock the joys of reading as it was her sister. Never, ever gets old.

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Joy and I have learned about the desert and the woods as habitats; the difference between mammals and invertebrates; tackled bacteria briefly before deciding it was too advanced for first grade; and are now learning about birds. Science is her favorite subject right now. We’re partway through her Singapore Math 1A book. It’s a slow process, but since these are basic and crucial skills, I want to make sure she’s grasped them before moving on to the next level. We’ve made it up to Moses and the Exodus from Egypt in our Story of the World social studies book, and will be reading about the Phoenicians next. She’s almost finished with her handwriting book, which means it will be time to start grammar soon (she’s actually excited about this, because she’s started writing stories and wants to know how to use punctuation properly). We’d been reading through Little House in the Big Woods for school, but she reads enough – and at a high enough level – on her own free time that I’ve not been pushing that recently.

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Drawing, ballet, figure skating, knitting, weaving, winter walks, cooking … we try to keep up with all these “extra-curricular” activities, too. As well as getting together with friends outside of scheduled activities on a regular basis!

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We’re still mostly following a classical model, but we eased the pressure off of ourselves to adhere too strictly to the curriculum – aside from math, she’s already well ahead of most public schooled first graders, so I don’t think I need to panic quite so much about us being told she’s not receiving a proper education at the end of the year. Which was, honestly, my main reason for trying to do SO much. Our main goal, for both girls, is that they learn how to learn, how to think, how to figure something out if they don’t know how to do it, and how to take charge of their own education (eventually). Carl and I spent a lot of time over “winter break” discussing goals, methods, plans, curriculum, etc, and I think we’re both really excited for laying the groundwork over these next few years for the kids to grow into enthusiastic and independent learners.

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{Don’t} Plug In

In the second year of our marriage, all the guys in our Young Marrieds/College Student Bible Study got together for a game night. Hey, thought I, I’ll invite the girls over to our apartment that same evening for movies and snacks. I sent out the invite, everyone responded enthusiastically, I spent that day cleaning and baking in prep.

Carl headed out for the game night, and I eagerly anticipated doing one of the things we’d dreamed about when we were engaged and talking about married life – opening our home to others, making it a warm, welcoming place, having it be full of life and laughter. We hadn’t had too many chances to invite people into our home yet; somehow, the folks in the church seemed hard to get to know, despite their often-quoted statement of “plug yourselves in! Find where you fit! Reach out to others!” This, though, reminded me of the Saturday game/movie/pizza nights I’d hosted all through college. This, surely, would start to bring us closer to people.

Five minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive, just as I was starting to hover by the window in case anyone got there early, I got a phone call from our Bible Study leader. Everyone had called her earlier in the day to let her know they weren’t going to be able to make it after all. She couldn’t come either, and she felt so bad about nobody coming that she hadn’t been able to bring herself to call me before. She felt so bad about making me feel bad, in fact, that I had to spend our entire  conversation consoling her. When I finally hung up the phone, feeling a bit bemused, I thought that at least Carl and I would have plenty of baked goods and a nice clean apartment for the next few days.

Then I got another phone call, this one from the new girl in church, the college student who had just started coming, the one that I hadn’t even met yet but only communicated with through email, the one I had invited on impulse, thinking she might like a chance to get to know some other students. She was on her way, she said, but she was going to be a little bit late because she’d gotten lost. I told her not to worry – it looked like it was just going to be the two of us, so she wasn’t holding anyone up.

By the time Carl got home that evening, Ash and I had been so busy talking that we’d completely forgotten about watching a movie. She left with the invitation to return for dinner in a couple days, and the promise that we would, in fact, get to watching the movie soon.

In the next four years that we lived in Pennsylvania, Ash became much more than just a friend – she was our little sister. She helped me buy a pregnancy test when I was too scared to go alone. She was actually at our house when I took the test and found out Joy was on her way. She came to us with family troubles, with guy troubles, with her joys and fears, and we likewise shared with her ours. She spent many a night on our couch because she’d stayed too late for us to trust her to stay awake driving home. She used our house and kitchen when she wanted to cook for friends. She and I went skating together, sharing our love for the sport. When she fell in love, it was our house she brought her boyfriend to, for our approval, not her actual family’s.

I’ve lost touch with most of the people from that Bible Study. Some I keep in very casual contact with through FB. But Ash is still one of my dearest friends. I was matron-of-honor in her wedding; Joy was flower girl. Through many moves and life changes we’ve stayed in touch, even if it’s only a few emails a year, and we each have a standing invitation to come to the other’s home if we’re ever in the area, even if a visit isn’t planned.

I am not a fan of the “plug yourself in to a group” mentality. To me, authentic friendship takes time, it takes effort, it takes a few individuals working together to build something meaningful. Even in blogging – when I try just jumping in and commenting on someone’s blog, I most often get no response. But there are one or two bloggers with whom I’ve slowly, over time, with both of us making the effort to get to know each other, gotten to be good friends with. And those relationships are far more meaningful to me than a few scattered comments on (or even from) a hundred different blogs.

Maybe, instead of “plugging in,” giving an image of instant electricity, we should start trying to “build fires” instead – a slow, painstaking process, but one infinitely more satisfying in the end.

Baby Joy with “Tia” Ash on a family picnic