Friday, December 6, 2013


I love snow. I love the feel of it on my face and hands and tongue and the look of it in my hair and on my coat and on my scarf. I love staring at it as it falls through the air.

I had some things get cancelled today because of the weather. I can't say that I was happy about anything getting cancelled that did--not even the eight o'clock in the morning class (we were going to be doing Christmas carols. How could I complain about that?). And I'm definitely disappointed about not playing the concert we were going to play tonight.

All the same, it's nice to take a little time out. I spent the morning hanging around my apartment drinking tea and playing guitar and so far this afternoon I meandered around in the snow and now I'm cuddling up drinking more tea trying to warm up. Coincidentally--or--well--not coincidentally, I don't believe in coincidences when it comes to things like this, I was already doing a 24-hour fast, not from food, but from tv, as a way of taking a little more quiet and still time... and now I have the day free and this is becoming a time of much-needed forced rest and reflection.

So, I turned down an offer of a ride home saying that I rather looked forward to the idea of walking home in the snow. I meant it, and I enjoyed it. I got quite carried away in my enthusiasm and took about twenty pictures of various things I walk past every day without thinking about them. And that got me thinking. I was excited about how beautiful these ordinary things were because of the transformative power of snow. That transformation is not unlike what God does, with people and events and everything really. He takes the ordinary or the ugly or the broken and covers it with His attributes to become extraordinary and beautiful and pure. When He looks at the souls of His redeemed He sees the snow-white version, all the imperfections obliterated by His grace.

Thank God for snow--and quiet--and grace.

Friday, November 29, 2013

a tale of trying to do NaNoWriMo when you know you will almost certainly fail before you even start

I did it. I did something I'd been meaning to do for years. I signed up on the National Novel Writing Month website and opened up a document and started trying to write this story that's been in my head as "what I would write about if I did NaNoWriMo" for four or five years running now.

It was something of a doomed attempt. I can't really explain why I picked this year to try to do it. All the reasons I had for deciding not to every year I've thought about it before still stood. But sometime past 9 pm on November 1st I was thinking and feeling a lot of things I don't really remember and I decided to give it a shot.

As you may have guessed, I don't have 50,000 words. I only reached 10,000 words as of tonight. I think it's safe to say I'm not going to write 40,000 more between now and midnight tomorrow. I suppose I could try and see how close I could get if I literally did nothing else between now and then, but that's not a good option (nope, not even on thanksgiving break. I have to practice and do laundry and things like that--exciting, I know).

I didn't write every day. At first I was writing every other day or every few days and catching up or almost catching up on the word count on the days I did write. Then I went two weeks without writing in it at all. Could I have reached 50,000 words if I'd written every day? Maybe? Could I have written every day? Maybe? Should I have written every day on an optional project that was just for me, considering all the other things I'm supposed to be doing? Probably not?

I don't think reaching the word count goal was really the point. Not for me, not right now. So was there a point? Actually, I think there was.

See, I wasn't writing my "novel" (which hopes to grow up and get a real plot someday) when I would otherwise have been practicing or doing my own homework or engaged in teaching-assistant duties. I was writing my story when I probably would otherwise have been feeling... whatever it is I've been feeling a lot lately. The point is I was doing it because settling down to some creative writing again was a healthy thing for me to do. And I'm glad I did it. I may or may not write much more tonight or tomorrow. We'll see. But I'm thinking of declaring December "November extension month" and just... not stopping. Because it is good for me to write, because I do care about figuring out where this story is going and finding out what happens to these characters. I think doing NaNoWriMo wasn't about writing a novel so much as it was about admitting that it's OK to devote a little time and effort to taking care of myself. So. Consider this my confession: I took time to write this month, because I wanted to, and I am glad I did, even if I didn't reach any impressive word-count goals.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Visibility

O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
--Psalm 139:1-6

In other words:

You are not invisible. You are not unimportant. God sees you; God pays attention to what you do and do not do. He hears the thoughts that you don't want to speak aloud; He hears the thoughts that you want to say but don't. He keeps track of your actions and inactions, your thoughts and attitudes, every day, all day, and every night, all night, and don't think He ignores what you do at dusk or dawn either. He notices whether you eat or not and whether you sleep or not. If you're genuinely trying to do something and feel like you're failing, He does not miss the fact that you are trying. He is present as a Person in your now, your yesterdays, and your tomorrows. You are not a statistic to Him as He surveys the entire human race; you are not a little speck that He doesn't see in the big picture. He is focusing in on you and aware of you and thinking about you and planning for you as surely as He is holding the universe together. Is that intimidating? Maybe, but He is looking at you with love and with the desire for your good. Is it sobering? It probably should make you consider your thoughts and actions carefeully, but keep in mind that if you have accepted His forgiveness, then when He looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His Son. Is it reassuring? Yes, you can know that you are never over-looked, never ignored, never inconsequential. You matter every moment, every breath, every heartbeat, to the greatest Being that ever was, is, or will be. Take comfort, dear heart: He cares for you.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Incompleteness is a part of this world. It's in our governemnts and our transportation, our cities and our countryside. It's in our relationships and in our careers, in our grades and in our textbooks. It's in my life, and yours, and that of each of our neighbors. It's inside my head, my heart, and my body, and yours too, and that of everyone we've ever met, except for God.

In Him our truest and best longings are fulfilled; in Him is the completeness we lack. In recognizing our own incompleteness we can realize our need for Him. In acknowledging that in Him and Him only is that completeness we seek we can give Him true worship.

I need Him tonight. I need His fullness of love and strength and peace around me. And I take comfort in knowing that whether I feel it or not, He is all that I need and more.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On Watching a Dance Rehearsal (poem)

I watch the dancers move, the lights transmute
The colors shift, the shapes converge and drift
I hear the singer's voice and I am mute
Responding to it all I droop and lift
I see emotions, hear my silent heart
And in the words come thoughts I'm shoving down
Involuntarily the tears will start
To form, but might not fall, I might not frown
The past, the present, future, all of these
My dreams and hopes, my plans and memories
Converging in my thoughts and in my heart
In unwilling reaction to this art
It's good to be reminded how to see
And in the vision and the sounds, to be.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pieces of the Puzzle

I am only one piece of a very big puzzle made by Someone very wise and very loving. I am not the same mix of colors as the piece next to me or any other piece I can see. I am not the same shape as the piece next to me or any other piece I can see. My neighbors might have what I sometimes think of as brighter colors or prettier colors or a more harmonious combination of colors. My neighbors might have what I consider to be a shape of superior usefulness. I might look at my colors and my shape and think they are illogical and annoying.

The Puzzlemaker, however, has a different perspective. He knows precisely how my shape and my colors are necessary as a part of the very large Image that He is creating with all of His puzzle pieces. He knows exactly what the image ought to be, and He has chosen my part in it.

Therefore, when I want to cover up or change or cut off some part of the piece that He made me to be because I don't like it or it's not convenient; when I doubt if the Image shall be at all improved for my being in it; when I feel that every other piece of the puzzle is superior; I grieve Him. He has formed and is forming in me exactly the sort of beauty and usefulness that He wishes me to have, and He has made me part of the puzzle. Do I doubt His wisdom in making me this shape? Do I doubt His love in giving me these colors? Do I think that I know better than He what the Puzzle requires to be complete?

In short, if a piece of the puzzle doubts that it has been made the right shape, with the right colors, and has a valid place in the Image when the Puzzle shall be put together, it is doubting the Puzzlemaker. And the Puzzlemaker is the only truly infallible Being that is.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Underneath the stillness

Underneath the stillness, behind the words
Bursting to go and afraid to leave
The core of me trembles but dares to believe
In shadows undarkened and pictures unblurred.

Chasing an echo, a rainbow, a dream
An ideal unbroken, an art unrestrained
A heart that is pure and a feeling unfeigned
A song with an unspoken heavenly theme

My God, let my insides be pleasing to You
Heal my hurts, take my sins, teach me how to forgive
I long to be able in fullness to live
Please show me the way I can serve all that's true

In Beauty, in Goodness, in Love I see... You!
Let each thing I chase be a small piece of Thee
That in the end I strive for You not for Me
May Your nature shine through in all that I do!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Good and Evil

Evil is not really the opposite (in the sense of the opposing and equal counterpart) of good. Trying only to do the opposite of an evil, by studying some particular sin and avoiding it at great effort, doesn't necessarily lead to doing good, but may lead to engaging in quite a different form of evil. The truth is that it has to go in the other direction; the goal must not be just to NOT be evil, it must be to actually BE good. Good is not only that which is not evil; at least, that isn't a useful definition,  not a practical one for understanding which acts or attitudes are good and which are evil, for one can follow a list of things not to do, and still do no good; instead, evil is that which is not good. Goodness is like light, or warmth, or sound; it is a thing in itself. Evil is the absence of it, like darkness, or cold, or silence. Evil is the echo, or the distortion, or the shadow, Good is the original sound, the original image, and the Real Thing.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Brief poetic interlude (on frightening things)

Sights and sounds and scary scenes
Shapes and shadows in my dreams
Never stronger than the angels
Keeping me in love surrounded
And my brain in God's truth grounded
Knowing that the light SHALL win
And in that trust can peace begin...

Monday, May 20, 2013


I often hunger for silence. I need silence in which to reflect, to recover, just to be for awhile. But as much as I need it I am often the one surrounding myself with noise to avoid it. Not to avoid the silence, precisely, because the silence is never silent; it is a space for me to think, and I do not always want to think. The way for me to reach the state of peace and contentment is through the silence but it is not the silence. Allowing silence means allowing a blank canvas, a white space, an emptiness, and that is never the goal-- the goal is to hear and see and feel. To hear myself; to hear God; to see truth; to feel whatever it is that I feel. It takes courage for me to allow that emptiness because I never quite know ahead of time with what it will be filled. But if I do not allow it then I become over-stimulated and exhausted and... numb. I know that can't be the goal. I must schedule silence into my life so that I can sing my prayers to God, so that I can process things, so that I can tap into the creative gifts that God gave me, that He gave me and which therefore I'm certain He intends me not to stifle with too much external stimulation, but to use.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

On finding contentment

I didn't want this time of my life to be remembered as "the time that I had the time to write, read, crochet, draw, study languages for fun, and practice instruments other than my primary instrument, but didn't take advantage of it" so I am insisting that I pick up some projects I had wandered away from and work on them again. I haven't gotten to all of them yet and I might not; I almost never manage to quite do as much as I expect, probably because my expectations don't tend to be very realistic.

However, in just having done what I've done in the past few days, I am feeling an increasing sense of peace and contentment. I remember why I liked doing these things in the first place; they rearrange my insides somehow, into something more -- I'm not sure what the word is. More settled, perhaps; more peaceful, less troubled, less wallowing in unhelpful thoughts and more giving things an outlet and a place to exist outside of my own mind.

As I'm writing this, I remember that that's why I wanted to pursue the arts in the first place. Because I need it as my own sort of soul-therapy, but also because I want to give that help to other people. If I have sat in the audience of a concert feeling thoughts and emotions well up inside me and get expressed through the music, things I wasn't even letting myself notice I was feeling, but that I needed to feel, and then walked out feeling more whole, more like a person-- well, that's what I want to do for other people, if I can. I just hope that I remember that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some crocheting to do in the few minutes before I go to bed.

Monday, May 13, 2013

What He wants from me*

Approaching Thee with open arms I say:
"Command me, Lord; what hard thing wouldst of me?
What sacrifice, what dreadful price to pay?
What quest, what secret hero must I be?"

Embracing me with open arms You say:
"To live your life, with courage, and with joy
In fellowship with Me to walk each day
Pursue your dreams, your talents to employ

"Be your best self, that is, the girl I made
But think not of the price, for it is paid."

Approaching Thee again I fearful plea:
"But, Lord, I am confused, how could this be?
It sounds so selfish, like I'd live for me
There must be some mistake, life can't be free..."

Embracing me again You smiling say:
"The price, I said, you do not need to pay
And as for selfishness, it is not so
Not if it is because I ask you go.

"Let love for Me be motive for your quest
And pleasing Me be why you try your best."

*an attempt at a poetic paraphrase of a conversation that has happened, well, rather more than once.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On Fairy-tales

So many greater pens than mine have written original fairy-tales, or fairy-tale adaptations, or essays on the importance of fairy-tales, that I doubt I will manage to say anything new. But I can at least write about why fairy-tales are important to me.

I was pondering why I enjoy certain fairy-tale based works, even though they are far scarier than I (a self-proclaimed wimp) normally tolerate. It hit me last night exactly why: it's not because of the scary monsters and the terrible things that happen, it's because they show heroes fighting against those monsters and winning. Is the faery-land in my mind more peopled with terrifying creatures than it used to be? Maybe, maybe not-- I came up with some surprisingly terrifying nightmares all on my own even as a child. The thing is, along with those terrifying creatures I've met have come brave and capable heroes, loyal friendships, incredible rescues, and true love conquering all manner of difficulties.

A quote I read attributed to GK Chesterton sums it up better than I do: "Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten."

That is exactly why I love--no, not just love, need--fairy tales as much as I do. I need no reminding that there is darkness in the world. I need reminding that there is good, that there is light and love and courage and kindness and justice, and that in the end these are the things that conquer, these are the things that matter, these are the things that will eventually receive their reward.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comfort versus Adventure: the Reconciliation Edition

Comfort is reassurance of love and worthiness; security in being taken care of; promises of redemption from and resurrection for situations, feelings, my mistakes, other peoples' mistakes; a faithfulness that can be depended upon; a rebuke that is gentle instead of harsh, that brings forgiveness and mercy and newfound courage and understanding instead of more hurt and guilt; and sometimes, a place of refuge and escape that is necessary for a time in order to heal, rest, and rebuild before venturing out again.

Adventure is just that--venturing out. Doing the unfamiliar or unexpected, braving a less than ideal situation, attempting tasks previously thought difficult or impossible or scary. Standing up or speaking out if you tend to sit still and keep quiet; sometimes, sitting still or keeping quiet when you want to do and do and do is the challenge, the thing that takes courage.

If one thinks of comfort as snuggling up only considering or seeking one's own happiness with no regard to duty or the happiness of others or the will of God--or if one thinks of adventure as seeking adrenaline for the sake of adrenaline--or if one thinks unremitting inconvenience and gritting one's teeth doing unappealing things with no pleasure is the only way to submit one's life to a higher calling--then one might think that comfort and adventure have nothing to do with one another, and that both are antithetical to following the will of God.

I would like to submit that it is possible to think of God's plan for my life as a comfortable adventure. Comfortable, because He will never leave me nor forsake me; and an adventure, because He calls me to action, yet tells me not the results ahead of time. Because He leads me by the hand on a path I do not know. Because He asks of me a bravery beyond my certainty, but promises to never ask of me more strength than He will provide. Because He asks me to subordinate my pleasure to His will but gives me unexpected pleasures along the path of submission.

Because He loves me enough to comfort me, and loves me enough to be unwilling to allow me to settle for less than the life He made me to live.

Friday, March 8, 2013


I often think of myself as incompetent. Not in academic things like reading and writing and so on, and not even at music (although that can happen too), but at general life skills. I can have a lot of fear about things like calling people on the phone, or asking for help. In groups I depend on other people to take care of most logistics and map-reading and anything else I think of myself as not being very good at.

And then, I, this person who has that view of herself of being an incompetent scaredy-cat, spent the better part of two weeks traveling, by herself, to auditions for flute grad school. And I survived. I did nearly all of the trip-planning myself as well, and honestly, I think I did a pretty good job. So that was definitely a learning experience.

Lesson one: I'm not as helpless as I think I am. If asking the hotel front desk how to get on the internet and then calling a delivery place to ask about their ingredients and to order food stands between me and dinner when I am hungry, I can do it. If calling a taxi is the only way to get where I need to go, I can do it. If asking someone for directions is the only way I can find the campus building I am looking for, I can do it.

Lesson two: Planning well really does take a lot of the stress out of the actual trip. And I am decent at planning.

Lesson three: Making mistakes can be part of a learning process; it doesn't automatically lead to The Ruin of The Whole Project. There were definitely elements that were not as well planned or well executed as they could have been, but I still eventually ended up where I needed to be by the time I needed to be there. As an example of poor planning: thinking about the time change when picking flights to go to California is a good idea. I didn't. My sleep schedule did not thank me. Printing out a map of an unfamiliar campus I will be walking around is also a good idea (didn't first trip, did later). Those weren't the only things, either, but I am confident that if I am ever doing anything like this again I will remember those experiences and do better. Except for the part about dressing appropriately for the weather, I have a history of not caring enough about that to actually fix it. I seem to think staying warm is over-rated.

Lesson four: Do not neglect eating real food. Truly. Sitting at a table in a restaurant by yourself may be awkward, lonely, and sad, but if this is for more than, say, one day or one meal, your body prefers you to eat lonely real food than to subsist on coffee, chocolate, trail mix, and so on for days. (This would fall into the category of "things I'm going to do better if I do this again," not "things I did right this time").

The main lesson, though, really, is that things I am scared of are usually not as scary as I think they are. Fear can give a very skewed perspective of the problem.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thoughts (a meta-post in which I think about thinking)

What do you think in? I think primarily in words, and by in words I mean in written words. Having taken linguistics classes, I am fully aware that the written word is a representation of the spoken word, but my usual thought process remains convinced that it is the other way around. To me, the written word is the word. Also, words and meaning are linked more or less inextricably (although this has gotten better now that I am somewhat bilingual). For instance, paraphrasing things is rather difficult for me, because it involves taking the words and divorcing the meaning from them so as to put it in alternate words. I used to have to literally do it by thinking of synonyms and moving clauses around mechanically instead of being able to do it any natural way (again, being able to think in two different languages seriously improved this).
Interestingly, even though I am a musician, I similarly tend to think of the shapes and patterns of the written music as being the music instead of merely representing it. Yes, I know the music is the sound. Yes, I know this probably means I am weird.
Also please note that this is about thinking, not feeling.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

On a wet and dreary day not too many days ago, I was feeling gloomy and the weather was looking grey. Then a bluebird alit on a branch right outside my window and stayed there for awhile, and I remembered that a blue bird is sometimes a symbol for happiness. I decided to take it as an image and a sign for me, a reminder to notice any small bit of happy in the midst of gloominess.

I only recently stopped to consider the phrase "the pursuit of happiness" and what it could mean. I think I had always dismissed it, because I believe our lives are intended to have much greater meaning than just "happiness," because pursuing happiness itself is not always the right way to find true fulfillment. However, "pursuing happiness" doesn't have to mean being selfish, or pursuing happiness above all else. It could also mean seeking out, appreciating, and enjoying all of the little bits of happiness that come to us in the everyday.

Today, the sky is blue and the ground is white with snow, and I heard some unexpectedly good news yesterday after writing about faith (very interesting timing, don't you think?). Today, it is easier for me to be happy than it is most days, but even today I could be worrying about how this or that will work out, or I could be noticing and appreciating the good things about this day.

It doesn't mean that I will be happy all of the time, as I am sure I will still get sad and disappointed and frustrated sometimes. But I am making a commitment to try every day to find some little thing that makes me smile and to be glad for that thing.

And really, when I think of it that way, the pursuit of happiness could just as well be called the pursuit of gratitude.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

Faith is stubborn. Faith is an insistence upon hope in the absence of any circumstantial reason for it. Faith confesses hope and trust that in the end it will all work out the way it is supposed to, and that the way it is supposed to work out will be good. Faith confesses this hope with words and thoughts and actions even in the face of feeling hopeless.

Feeling hopeless or despairing or trapped pull to inaction and to confessing a belief that it is not worth the trouble to try. Faith answers that it is worth the trouble. Perhaps one would like to wait for a hopeful feeling before trying, but faith insists upon acting on the substance of a hope not felt, yet still believed in.

I believe in good things. I believe in hoping. I believe in trying. I believe in breathing and trusting and finding peace in the conviction of things not seen.

I believe in God. I believe that God is good. I believe that He is and will be working good things in my life whether I see them or not.

Monday, January 14, 2013


Dear me,

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone sometimes speaks without thinking, gets their facts mixed up, writes with typos, eats candy instead of salad, and forgets to read the directions.

You are not special. You are not perfect. You are just like anybody else. Not meaning those statements in a general way necessarily--each of us is special and unique--but meaning that there is no particular reason that you cannot also make mistakes. If you didn't read the recipe and spent three times as long trying to cook something the wrong way, if you routinely fall short of your goals in how to spend your time during the day, if you have been selfish, that is not an earth-shattering piece of news. Yes, you have done some dumb things. But you mustn't let thinking that you are somehow not allowed to make mistakes keep you from admitting your mistakes and trying to fix them. And you certainly mustn't let self-imposed pressure to Do Something to Perfection keep you from doing it at all.

You are not required to be perfect. You are not required to succeed at everything immediately anymore than anyone else is. You are, however, required to try.

So go--chop up some vegetables and cook some noodles. And then practice however long and however well you can manage today, keeping in mind both physical and psychological limitations. And finish that art project that needs to go in the mail tomorrow. And remember that you have a late Christmas present to send someone, so write a letter to go with it. It doesn't need to be ten pages long and terribly witty. It just needs to be a letter, from you, to the recipient.

And if you mess up some of that? Then laugh about it and try again.

the sensible side of my brain

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Yet Another Poetic Interlude

 My heart I try to share through art and sound;
I seek to strengthen skills in hands and brain
So that I may express both joy and pain
Yet still I feel I can't get off the ground--
Some inhibition in me has me bound.
The hours that for this I strive and strain
Are often on my heart and flesh a drain
But after all: expressiveness--not found.
Until, one day the heavens open up
And golden wine is poured into my cup;
An odd analogy, but never mind
The point is that sometimes I truly find
That for which I've struggled years and years
In spite of all the worries and the fears.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


After reading that some people pray for God to give them a word for each new year--which usually does turn out to have some special meaning(s) for them in that year--I barely even asked Him really, wasn't expecting to get a word, but threw a small thought towards Him wondering what His word for me might be. Almost immediately, the word "lucky" popped into my head. Huh? I thought. "Lucky" isn't exactly a Biblical word. I don't believe in luck as such. God, that wasn't seriously You, was it? What word would You like to send me really? And into my head popped "Lucky. Fortunate. Blessed."

Honestly, I hesitate to post this, because I'm not sure whether God really gave me that word for this year, or it is just a game of my brain. If it is God, He seems to be having a sense of humor, sending me a word that I would have trouble taking seriously, and then responding with synonyms to my linguistic, synonym-loving mind.

Either way, I hope. I hope that perhaps God does have in store for me in this coming year something better than I've been expecting. I'm really nervous about some things about where my life could be heading at the moment, and maybe sending me "lucky" really is His way of reassuring me . . . of telling me that just because my discouraged imagination is dreading that everything will go wrong in no way means that any of those things will come to pass.

Because Murphy's Law is not in the Bible.

ps The other side of the coin is, even if my word for 2013 is "lucky," that does not necessarily mean any of the particular things that I might like it to mean. Yet I hope that a meaning may become clear to me as the year progresses, and in the meantime I will take it as permission to hope--or even a prohibition upon despairing.

Beauty and the Beast and Romance

Watching Beauty and the Beast (Disney) for the first time, probably a month or more ago now, was quite interesting. The main observation I have to make is that it wins hands-down over Cinderella and Snow White in the romance category. As in, the handsome prince was actually a person instead of just a pretty face and voice that represents the idea of romance. There was a real story in how the two people fell in love with each other. The love that they had was also proven to not be a selfish love, because the Beast let Belle go for the sake of her happiness even though he expected it to be the ruin of his, and Belle tried bravely to defend the Beast from the fate that others planned for him, speaking up for his character.

Also, Belle was brave and very loving in what she was willing to sacrifice for her father, even before she fell in love with the Beast. She was a reader, a day-dreamer, a little bit different, and she also had some serious backbone, both with the Beast and with Gaston (who was hilarious).

On an unrelated note to my observations about the stories: Pretty dresses that make me want them! This counts for all three movies so far, but perhaps especially this one. (Interestingly, in Cinderella, I liked the dress her little friends made her better than the fairy godmother one. I suppose that's a matter of opinion.)