Latter-day Jane

A happy diversion of life, love and sisterly advice for Jane Austen fans everywhere. [There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart. -Jane Austen]

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Beware of Wolves, my son; Become a Woodsman

My Dear Son,

The days of your childhood are passing through my fingers like the silver-winged butterflies of fairytales, and as much as I might like to try, I cannot reach into the pages of life’s book to catch them. You are still little enough now – little enough to delight in feeding the Canada Geese, little enough to ask, and ask, and ask again the questions that will help you better understand the bits of life unfolding around you, and little enough to occasionally bring a treasured blanket as we cuddle together and read.  


My son, feeding Canada Geese.

But one day, my son, one day (much sooner than I can help you understand), you will not be little anymore. You will be big, and it will be time for you to go out into this forest of a world. I’ll be there with you for a while, sharing the things I have learned along the way. But the day will come when you will be called upon to make your way through the tree-covered paths without me. This journey will require courage.

In this forest, you will see the beautiful as well as the monstrous, radiating from the hearts of those you chance to meet. You will encounter wonder and joy, along with sadness. And you will be challenged in ways I cannot foretell.

You will have opportunities to become many things, and to shape the forest in many ways. Be careful what you choose, for in the forest, there are those who protect life, as well as those who seek to tear it apart.


My little one, taking in a magical scene.

There will be wolves in the forest. Some may appear sleek, elegant, and grace-filled. Others may be masterful shape-shifters, not resembling wolves at all. You may be surprised by their strength as well as the apparent ease with which they move about. They will captivate many with a fixed gaze and a melodic voice. Take care, my dear one, for their words are as rich as they are dangerous. Their mercenary minds will attempt to discover your mission, your direction, and any potential weakness, that they might take advantage, or slow your progress.  

It is not enough though, to warn you away from the influence of these wolves. It is not enough to dodge, hide, or run away. As is the way of the forest, my son, your journey is perhaps even more about what you must become than what you must not.  

The being you must choose to become during this journey is a woodsman. A woodsman knows the forest, and quietly observes everything in it. A woodsman is a hard worker who gladly seeks to share. A woodsman is not only aware of the danger inherent in wolves, but keeps a listening ear at the ready, in case there is a cry for help. A woodsman is humble and kind; even as he offers a helping hand, he does not boast of the strength in the arm that moves it. (There is wisdom in the story of Little Red Riding Hood, my son, and if you’ve forgotten just how it goes, it’s worth reading again.)

Yes, a woodsman is what you must seek to become, in your mind, and in your heart.  

As a woodsman, you must carry a torch of truth.

As a woodsman, you must work hard and be watchful.

As a woodsman, you must be mindful of those around you.

As a woodsman, you must seek to spread hope and kindness, in the face of danger and doubt.

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The forest is counting on you, my son, and others like you. You’ll learn to recognize the others as you observe and grow – these woodsmen who carry torches of truth.

And whether I am by your side, or watching from the lush banks of a stream just beyond your view, as often as I can, I will whisper in your ear this fervent reminder:

Beware of wolves, my son; become a woodsman.

Sarah Elizabeth resides in a small Southern town with her husband, son, and their not-quite-therapy comfort dogs. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning reporter, and marketing professional, but these days her life is much more quiet. She writes about life observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane and Sweeten the Lemons are her thinking places. Click here to follow on Facebook. 




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Four Empty Stockings

Jennifer was bright; her inner light glowed in an excited, hungry-for-life kind of way. She was kind, she was earnest, and she was honest. You always knew where you stood with Jenn on any given day, and it sometimes varied. Her fair, pink-hued skin, naturally blonde hair, and light blue eyes would’ve made her a natural stand-in for a townsperson in Disney’s Frozen. She talked loudly and laughed loudly, and she demanded that life be fair and just, despite behind-the-scenes circumstances in her own life that were anything but fair. We didn’t agree on everything, but our friendship respected those differences.

Jennifer circle.png

Jennifer in high school.


For all the things Jenn was and would become, there was one thing she would not be.

Jenn would not be a domestic violence survivor.

[A caution for those who have experienced domestic abuse in any of its many forms – the story that follows may be a trigger.]

The news of Jenn’s death reached me on Christmas Eve day in 2007. I had finished my early morning shift at the news station where I reported, followed by a late lunch with my mom and younger sisters. Christmas Day would be filled with love, warmth, and board and card game challenges, all with the people I loved best. There would be a fire crackling in the farm house where I grew up, and I’d spend most of the day there relaxing, soaking up the memories of the past, while hoping the new chapters I’d planned would take root in the coming year.

But as I stood against my kitchen counter opening the mail late that afternoon, my growing baby bump starting to get in the way, all of those hopes and thoughts were traded in for a single, overwhelming emotion:


In that day’s mail was a Christmas card I had mailed to Jenn two weeks prior. It had been returned unopened, with a bright yellow sticker that read “not deliverable as addressed.”

That’s strange, I thought, reviewing the marks I had made on the front. She said that was her new address.

In the same stack, there was a manila envelope with a return address label bearing the name of Jenn’s mom.

Oh, I reasoned as I eagerly opened it. Plans must have changed. Maybe she’s still staying with her mom for the time being.

There were two things inside that manila envelope that would dash all hope of that: an unopened envelope with a Christmassy border, addressed to me in Jenn’s own hand, and a single sheet of white paper – a letter. The writing seemed cramped, and as I read, I could feel the intense pain behind each word. It was from Jenn’s mother; her signature stood alone at the bottom, bearing witness of something too terrible to fully comprehend:


I don’t know if you heard or not, but Jennifer, Olivia and Magnus were killed last Friday by Jenn’s ex-husband and the kids’ father. In the process of cleaning her apartment we came across some Christmas cards that she was getting ready to mail. I don’t know if you will want to keep this but I thought I would go ahead and send it to you. Jenn talked about you often. I know that your friendship meant a great deal to her. Thank you for being her friend.

I gripped the kitchen counter, blinded by tears as I choked out unintelligible sobs.

Jenn had been killed?

JenniferBernsdorff 1

Jennifer with Magnus and Olivia.


Her children had been killed?


What happened?

As I continued to process this information, my mind sifted through the previous months. That summer, Jenn had included me on a friends and family email, explaining that she was gay, and would be leaving her husband. What she left unsaid was that her husband was becoming increasingly abusive, and she was desperate to escape. Their marriage had not been the rosy picture their personal and family websites painted to the outside world. Behind the excited announcements of vacations, home births in water pools, mindful mothering, midwifery, and community involvement, there was turmoil.

There was a hidden fissure deep below the surface that threatened to tremble and quake with a magnitude that would break that carefully crafted façade into a million tiny, jagged pieces.

At first, Jenn took refuge with her mom. She said she’d have unlimited visits with her children while they continued to reside with their father in their family home, as Jenn got on her feet and figured out a way forward. I didn’t know at the time that his custody had more to do with her feeling that she didn’t have the strength to fight him. That would take time. As time went on and in subsequent emails, Jenn explained she’d fallen in love with a woman — someone much older — someone with whom I presume she felt safe. She then moved in with her girlfriend, and those close to her would later say she was putting a plan in place to get custody of her children.

As I sorted through these thoughts, I went in search of news coverage from Florida, where Jenn had resided ever since moving halfway through high school. With police and family members providing the missing pieces, reporters there developed a clearer picture of the events on the day Jenn died, December 14, 2007.

Jenn had become increasingly afraid of her ex-husband, going so far as to speak with a domestic violence specialist with the local police department, in an effort to form a safety plan. Her family described a marriage that had become more and more violent – one that left her afraid and desperate to escape. They described physical violence after the divorce that caused Jenn to fear for her personal safety.

I never knew.

For as much as Jenn did share, there was so much she didn’t.


Celebrating with Jenn during happier times, mid 90s.


It appeared her ex-husband had been something of a dreamer and a big spender, without the necessary career path to keep up with the mounting debt. During and after the divorce, his anger towards Jenn blossomed into hatred and instability. He seemed intent to fixate on what he perceived as a rotten hand of cards he’d been dealt, believing that fate, along with the actions of others, had backed him into a corner with no real way out.

So he sat down and devised a way. That deranged way out would ultimately end five lives: that of Jennifer, their two young children, and Jennifer’s girlfriend. Each was shot more than once. A determined killer, he took no chances. The fifth life he ended would be his own, to avoid facing the consequences for the atrocities he had committed.

Miraculously, the 4-year-old daughter of Jennifer’s girlfriend was unharmed during the killing spree. That’s in sharp contrast to Jenn’s children, Olivia and Magnus. Their calculating father placed a phone call cancelling their school pick-up that morning, claiming he’d be keeping them home to “do something fun.” He didn’t want his horrific crimes to be discovered before he had finished the entire string of them.

In the days and weeks that followed the murders, police sifted through the home Jenn had once shared with her ex-husband (though I know his name, I choose not to write it – nor did Jennifer’s mom in the letter she sent me). Along with the child pornography hiding away on his personal computer, authorities found a rambling manifesto in which he talked angrily of Jenn’s supposed psychological shortcomings, as well as those of his children, who he labeled “future time bombs” due to the influence of Jenn. That, he reasoned, would justify ending their lives.

The result of these carefully planned pre-Christmas killings is this:

  • Jenn’s children are gone – their lives snuffed out not long after they began.
  • Jenn and her partner, who worked to help others as employees of the local Hospice chapter – are gone.
  • Somewhere out there, a 12-year-old girl has likely endured years of pain and emotional trauma – a result of being present as her mother’s life was extinguished.
  • The lives of loved ones have been ripped apart and reshaped again, as a result of this heavy burden.

Why do I share this?

I share this because Jenn’s story matters. Her life mattered. Her children’s lives mattered, as did the life of her girlfriend.  Her ex-husband’s life mattered, though I struggle mightily to understand the path he chose and the evil he embraced.


Another day at school, mid-90s. Jenn is on the right.


Sometimes, we compartmentalize abuse and all its forms — physical, emotional, psychological, and so on — into a specific week or month of awareness. We talk about it when someone famous behaves reprehensibly, or when someone famous is on the receiving end of that reprehensible behavior.

We talk about it less when it resides next door, or across the street — when we suspect that someone in our extended family or at work is in trouble. And unimaginable as we might wish it to be, we have a hard time talking about it when it remains carefully masked in a church pew next to ours. It’s a delicate subject, after all, and we don’t want to embarrass, make things awkward, or cause undue pain.

But then?

Then before we know it, the pain, the ugly, and the unthinkable are all clawing their way to the surface, and suddenly, the thing – domestic violence – is threatening to beat the door down for want of recognition.

It’s especially unpleasant to give it thought during the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s – it’s so easy to become wrapped up in the reverie, or just as easily the stress, to see that there are people who are experiencing intense grief and pain. Among those, there are people whose fears are mounting, because those they fear are expressing anger, hatred, or increased bouts of delusion. It’s not an altogether new phenomenon.

My grandfather saw it back in the 50s and 60s, as he served as an assistant police chief in our hometown. On his rounds one day, he found a man inside a local watering hole, gripping the sides of a juke box, tears streaming down his face. The mournful sound of Blue Christmas came out through the speakers; that was the song the man had wanted to play after killing his wife in a holiday rage. Even now, when my mom hears that song, she says that haunting story is the first thing that comes to mind.

The holidays can be difficult. As much as they remind so many of life’s goodness and bounty, they also serve to remind others of life’s deepest forms of despair.

There are people you know who are silently suffering this holiday season. They may be looking for support or help. Maybe they haven’t gotten out yet. Maybe they’re like Jenn – out, but facing real and immediate danger.  Or perhaps they’re dealing with the painful ghosts of the past that can visit unbidden in thoughts and in nightmares, creeping in after years of struggle.

My hope is that we can stop for a moment and look around us –- that we can see those who are in need of help — and that we can find the strength to offer that help, even in the smallest of ways.

Jenn would’ve done it for someone else. She wouldn’t have hesitated. Although I hadn’t seen her in person since we were teenagers, that’s the kind of person she was then, and I like to think that’s the person she became as an adult. Maybe in some way, our noticing of others can honor her memory, and the memories of so many others like her.

Merry Christmas, Jenn. You are missed, but your memory lives on.

To read more about what happened on December 14, 2007, I suggest the following article at, published some months after the tragedy.

Sarah Elizabeth resides in a small Southern town with her husband, son, and their not-quite-therapy comfort dogs, a miniature Schnoodle and Goldendoodle. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning reporter, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about life observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane and Sweeten the Lemons are her thinking places. Click here to follow on Facebook. 







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Rare 30% Off Any Book (Amazon Promo Code)

If you’re a book lover like me, this Black Friday weekend deal is going to make you do your happy dance — even if silently, in your head. Today through Sunday, November 29th, Amazon is giving us 30% off any one print book! Just use the promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout.

Important notes: this works on only one print book per Amazon account, and is good only on a book sold by Amazon. The maximum discount is $10. Shipping is free on orders of $35+, but of course the Amazon Prime subscription service offers free Prime shipping anytime. If you’re interested in the 30-day free trial, this is where you sign up.


Whether you’re treating yourself to something on the bestseller list, or snagging a great buy on a gift to go under the tree, enjoy the 30% off money-saver!

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Edenbrooke fans, it’s finally here!

Sandwiched between texts describing the goings on of my beloved nieces and nephews, my sister reminded me that today would be the day. Edenbrooke fans, IT’S HERE — and you’re not going to be able to wait until Christmas to read it.

Julianne Donaldson has just released the prequel to Edenbrooke, one of my favorite stories of all time. The newly released novelette is Heir to Edenbrooke, told from the perspective of Philip Wyndham, the most sought-after bachelor in London. It’s available electronically for $3.99. (There’s a free Kindle app that can be downloaded for most smartphones and tablets.)


If you’re not familiar with Edenbrooke, it combines romance (the clean kind) with adventure, wit and intelligence. I’ve recommended it time and again, and it doesn’t disappoint. Julianne Donaldson is a masterful storyteller, and her debut novel took so many by complete surprise. I was one of them.


She turned us into eager overnight fans. (Overnight, because we found ourselves unable to put the book down.) If you’re unfamiliar with Edenbrooke, treat yourself. I have a feeling you’re going to love it!

Sarah Elizabeth resides in a small Southern town with her husband, son, and their not-quite-therapy comfort dogs, a miniature Schnoodle and Goldendoodle. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning reporter, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about life observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, other chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen.  Click here to follow on Facebook. 



Select Magformers are 40% off today only at Amazon! (November 9)

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40% off Magformers (awesome toy for Christmas!)

Every now and then, I come across a deal that is just too good not to share.

Today only, select Magformers sets are 40% off at Amazon. This has the coveted 5 ***** rating. The most popular sets will likely sell out at this price point, so if you’re interested, don’t wait — if it’s anything like last year, your selection will be more limited as the day goes on.

Select Magformers are 40% off today only at Amazon! (November 9)

Some sets are recommended for ages 3 and up, others are marked for ages 6 and up. My son started playing with Magformers at age 3, and still plays with them now, several years later. I first learned about them through extended family (there was talk of these being something of a miracle distraction for little ones at restaurants). That momma who passed the word along deserves a mothering medal for discovering these!

We started with a small set, and they far exceeded my expectations — we’ve purchased several sets since! A handful of these provide a perfect distraction for eating out, quiet play at church, and for learning and play right at home. Little ones will surprise you with the 3-D shapes they’re able to think up. These make wonderful Christmas gifts, and they’ll be enjoyed for years to come.

Gift exchange or holiday scam? Here's how to tell.

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Is your gift exchange really a holiday scam? Here’s how to tell.

The following comes from Sweeten the Lemons, my new place for sharing thoughts.

Please BEWARE before you fork over $10+ for a “gift exchange” via facebook posts or other social media sharing this holiday season. It may be a scam!

Gift exchange or scam? (Graphic) Here's how to tell.

A true gift exchange = give one gift + receive one gift. Simple.

In a true gift exchange, there is a limited number of people, each giving and receiving a gift. It can be a lovely holiday tradition! However, the model circulating on facebook, where one gift is sent with the hope of receiving 6+ gifts in return is NOT a gift exchange. It is considered a scam called a “pyramid scheme” and is usually illegal.

To find out why, please continue reading on the new blog.



A Rescue Mission for Sweet Briar College

The board of directors and interim president at Sweet Briar College, in Sweet Briar, VA, have a problem on their hands.

That problem comes down to this: women. Responsible, intelligent, free-thinking, probing, won’t-go-down-without-a-fight, you-owe-us-an-explanation kind of women. Given that Sweet Briar is an all-women’s institution, the beautiful irony of the situation is apparent.

Taking the #savesweetbriar message to The Today show.

Taking the #savesweetbriar message to The Today show.

Last week, with no warning and very little fanfare, those charged with the protection and welfare of the college quietly announced that they would be closing Sweet Briar’s doors at the end of the current term, citing a lack of funds and a lack of viable options going forward — in other words, it would be better to shut down immediately, rather than drag out what they feel is an inevitable process of closure.

I’m not sure what they expected following their announcement, but I don’t think they expected to have a problem with these women. They do though. Because these women aren’t willing to give up. They aren’t willing to accept the “inevitable” without an intelligent fight, and they aren’t willing to cower in the corner. They’re asking questions. They’re demanding honest answers. And while they’re waiting for the latter, they have taken it upon themselves to save their alma mater.

There are hundreds of them — thousands, more likely — alumnae, students, parents, and friends, and they’re banding together, refusing to accept this outcome. They’ve sounded the alarms. They’ve hired a legal team. They’ve attracted media attention. They’ve created a website, and a social media movement.

Save Sweet Briar

In only two days, they have amassed more than $2 Million in pledges to help save the school — a sum they hope can be replicated many times over. Someone has even uncovered the will of the founder, which stated very clearly that the gift of Sweet Briar could not be sold . (The latter is relevant because there have been questions about the motivation to give up and close doors so quickly.)

Sweet Briar Pledges

Although I didn’t attend Sweet Briar College, its fate matters to me. I hope it matters to you too. Small liberal arts colleges make up a rich piece of America’s higher education tapestry. They are crucial in the development of a robust society of critical thinkers and leaders, and in the case of Sweet Briar, budding equestriennes.

Sweet Briar College has a rich history and legacy that should be preserved for future generations. I think it can be, if these alumnae have anything to say about it.

For more information, or to find out how you can get involved, visit

think is for girls

Sarah Elizabeth is a wife and mother residing in a small Southern town filled with rolling green hills and thousands of kind, beautiful faces. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning television journalist, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about her daily observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane is her blog. Click here to follow her on Facebook. 


Brian Williams & the Truths His Story Tells

Brian Williams Truths Blog

I wasn’t surprised when I found out Brian Williams had been temporarily ousted from the anchor chair at NBC Nightly News.

After years of retelling what turned out to be a false account of riding in a helicopter that was forced down by enemy fire in Iraq, the mask was unceremoniously ripped off. It started after what appeared to be a good deed turned publicity stunt — one in which Williams honored a veteran by accompanying him to a hockey game with cameras rolling. As the event was recalled during the Nightly News soon thereafter, Williams told his war story for what would become the final time. It was the last straw for the weary soldiers who had actually endured what the news man claimed to have experienced. Days later he apologized on air, but it seemed the tangled mess was beyond the stage of a quick fix.

“We have decided today to suspend Brian Williams as Managing Editor and Anchor of NBC Nightly News for six months,” began the February 10th all staff memo by Deborah Turness, president of NBC News. “The suspension will be without pay and is effective immediately.”

[Read the full text of the memo here.]

Turness acknowledged Brian’s “responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”

The story from Iraq isn’t the only thing now in question. Personal details from other news events, even an account of being mugged at gunpoint while volunteering in his quiet hometown as a young man, are now being examined more closely, with some uncertainty as to whether they pass muster.

Where we thought stood an infallible house of bricks, there are scattered remnants of what looks more like a house of cards.

But within that pile, there are some gems of truth that need to be pocketed.

Truth #1: Tell it. The truth, that is.

Live life with integrity. Speak and act truthfully. It becomes a hallmark of character.

Truth #2: When you make a mistake, apologize. If it can be fixed, fix it.

At some point, we all mess up. Our stories are different, but the lack of perfection is shared by all. Genuine remorse can work wonders for our own hearts and minds, as well as for those who may have been affected by our mistakes.

Truth #3: Don’t get too big for your britches.

I love this old-fashioned southern idiom. It’s something my grandmother used to say. If a person has gotten too big for their britches, it means they have an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Whether it’s the president, the country’s top news man, a paper-pusher, or keyboard clicker, no one is so important that they can disregard decency.

Truth #4: Recommit. Forgive. Move on.

We need to forgive ourselves as well as others. That doesn’t mean there’s an absence of consequences. It doesn’t mean we blindly trust, without applying common sense. It does mean that we look for every possible good. It means we recognize that everyone makes mistakes — even the person looking back at us in the mirror. We recommit to ourselves and our values. And we move on, determined to live them.


Despite the glamorous stereotype, being a journalist isn’t easy, and it’s rarely glamorous. It’s a high-stress environment, and there’s a lot of pressure to perform. I’m not saying this as a way of excusing Brian Williams’ mistakes, but I think it’s worth acknowledging nonetheless.

I can still remember one of my first assignments on the job in the last newsroom where I worked. A reporter from a competing station scooped me by reporting a tidbit of information I didn’t yet have. Minutes after our reports aired, there was a terse reprimand from my assistant news director. I vowed then and there that I would never be bested again. It did inevitably happen on occasion, but it was uncommon. (That assistant news director, by the way? Still one of my favorite people.) My co-workers at that station were like a second family, and there was a fantastic sense of comradery and trust there.

It wasn’t like that at the first news station where I worked as an anchor and reporter, which required a healthy sense of paranoia to survive.

Because the news was often slow and the resources quite limited, some of the news staff decided to create their own news, inside the outdated station walls. Enter the back-stabbing and spiteful behavior that most folks left behind in high school. Even some who were old enough to know better got swept up in it, lured in by the tantalizing promise of youth and attention. Although there were a few genuinely kind people there, the environment as a whole was toxic. There’s a reason why I felt more at home with the production crew. Sure, they laughed at me when I messed up (and taught me to laugh at myself), but they had my back on more than one occasion. I think that’s because they saw firsthand some of the knife-throwing that went on behind the scenes, and they knew I wanted no part of it.

Adding to the performance and social pressures, there’s the pressure of the news itself. While I never reported on wars or hurricanes, in the station and town that felt most like family, I saw a lot of heartache and pain. There were fires and wrecks, a horrific plane crash, murders, assaults, freak accidents, and child abuse — along with tornadoes, snow, and ice. I saw, heard, and felt things I will never forget. Despite the heartache in some of the day-to-day, I felt a sense of honor in being on some of those scenes, because I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion. When I saw people hurting, I felt some of that hurt. I didn’t relish being in their private space, but when they wanted to share their voices — to tell their stories — I was there to help them do it.

In all of that, there is one thing that never occurred to me — and that’s to exaggerate what I saw or experienced. It was difficult enough by itself. Intentionally adding to or falsely reporting a story would not only have been wrong, it would have been mocking the profession which I had spent most of my formative years working towards.

Journalism ought to be synonymous with truth and the pursuit of it.

It’s also true that people are in the business for all kinds of reasons. There are those who desperately want to see themselves on television, or their names in print. There are those who crave the feelings of importance and power. And there are those who have idealistic hopes of helping others and making the world a better place.

I identified with the latter — I wanted to (and believed I could) make a difference somehow.

I’d like to think that Brian Williams pitches his tent in that same camp, and that along the way, he got a little sidetracked. Maybe it was the stress or the pressure. Maybe it was the siren call of attention. Maybe it was a medical issue that involved a really faulty series of memories. Only he knows the answer to that.

But if he is in that camp, and there’s a good heart at the center of it all, and a commitment to truth in journalism, I’d like to see him make his way back. I don’t know if he’ll be able to captain the ship again in quite the way he was accustomed to doing, but I think there’s still room for him as a news man.

That’s my hope, anyway. Time will tell.

[Watch the video clips compiled by the New York Times.]

Sarah Elizabeth is a wife and mother residing in a small Southern town filled with rolling green hills and thousands of kind, beautiful faces. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning television journalist, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about her daily observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane is her blog. Click here to follow her on Facebook. 


Kanye West Deserves Our Thanks… and a Gold Star

Kanye West deserves our thanks. The gift he promised — or threatened — following the 2015 Grammy Awards is priceless.

In the middle of a rant about the terrible injustice of Beck winning Album of the Year, Kanye had a moment of brilliance. Pure brilliance. As in — I hope he’s flooded with heartfelt thank-you notes from sweet little lace-sweatered grannies across the country. It’s that brilliant.

“We ain’t gonna play with them no more,” he told E! in an interview right after the awards show.

See? Brilliant.

While I don’t know what Kanye meant exactly, I’m going to interpret it in the broadest possible sense, because that gives me the most possible hope.

Maybe this means he won’t be attending the Grammysno more.

That he won’t be hogging the spotlight and delivering long-winded tiradesno more.

And that he won’t be subjecting us to his classless, money-flaunting, crotch-grabbing personano more.

If you missed the Grammys, you’ll need a little context. There were five nominees for the night’s most coveted prize — Album of the Year. They were: Beck’s Morning Phase, Beyoncé’s self-titled album, Ed Sheeran’s X, Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, and Pharrell Williams’ Girl.

Beck won.

He wasn’t even expecting it, which made it all the more delightful. His wide-eyed, walk of excitement seemed genuine. Although he’s been nominated for Album of the Year twice before, this marked his first-ever win for the biggest prize. And although he’s won three Grammys before, the last one was 15 years ago. So this? This was pretty amazing for him, all the way around.

But when Beck took the stage to accept his award, Kanye jumped up, ready to steal the spotlight. Hundreds of faces in the audience went wide-eyed in horror for that split second, fearing he might pull a repeat of his 2009 VMAs performance — the one where he interrupted a young and awestruck Taylor Swift, to say that someone else deserved her award.

photo courtesy:

photo courtesy:

But no.

That split second passed, and Kanye hopped back off the stage. He sat down — phew. Bullet dodged. Relief, smiles, even nervous snickers and giggles could be seen amongst the Grammy-goers.

Good one, Kanye, they seemed to be thinking. He’s poking fun at himself. Yeah, he’s already performed, already taken his share of the spotlight, but this ill-timed moment of comic relief might just show a quirky bit of character.

It was a nice thought, affording him the benefit of the doubt. Sadly, those who thought it turned out to be wrong.

Kanye wasn’t trying to be funny. He was just being himself. He fully intended to ruin Beck’s moment in the spotlight, but for some reason — maybe a look of embarrassment from pal Jay Z or wife Kim K — he thought better of it at the last second and opted to save his rant.

And what a rant it was. [Watch it here.]

“The Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us,” he said in his interview with E! after the show. “We ain’t gonna play with them no more. Flawless Beyoncé video, and Beck needs to respect artistry, and he should have given his award to Beyoncé. At this point, we tired of it… What happens is, when you keep on diminishing art, and not respecting the craft, and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration… No, we not playing with them no more.”

All of that foolishness because Beck won, and Beyoncé did not. I should probably disclose that I’m not a Beck groupie. I haven’t heard a single song on his award-winning album. I’ve heard some of his work in the past, but it’s not really my style. Still, I think the way he handled the situation shows what an incredibly classy and humble and genuine guy he is. Beck brushed Kanye’s attacks off by saying Kanye deserved to be on stage as much as anybody, acknowledging that Beyoncé’s album was indeed worthy of an award, and then, saying Kanye was a “genius”. I hope the last part was high-brow sarcasm, but I tend to think it wasn’t, and for that, I have to give him bonus points.

Because let’s face it — Kanye peed in the sandbox, and Beck just kind of shook his head and laughed it off. 

It really is kind of like one giant Kindergarten sandbox, when it comes down to it. There are musical artists in every possible genre, and everybody is playing together, albeit in different ways. Some are building sandcastles, others are scooping up and pouring out shovels full of sand, delighted in the artistry of those perfect little heaps that form below. And then, there’s the kid who doesn’t quite grasp the concept. Because I guess sandboxes can be hard. You know the kid I’m talking about, right? The one who is throwing sand in the eyes of other kids, after having taken a tinkle — or a poo — over in the corner.  Yeah. That’s the one.

That kid is Kanye.

I champion the cause of beauty in its many forms. When people poke fun of others for their appearances, their abilities, or their personal decisions, I am incensed. But boorish, self-serving behavior? For that, I cannot be a champion. In fact, my tolerance level is rather low.

So when Kanye West says “We ain’t gonna play with them no more”, I find myself doing a little cheer.

Because maybe, just maybe, that means he’ll be going to another sandbox. Maybe that means I won’t see the latest faux news tidbits on his wardrobe, or his musical artistry, or his intimate escapades with wife Kim Kardashian. Maybe it means I won’t see the almost-everything-bared fashion statements, the gold this-and-that, the in-your-face, break-the-internet, give us attention for anything and everything because we are Hollywood Royals charade.

And maybe that also means there will be no tinkling — or pooing — in the sandbox, at least for the time being.

Sarah Elizabeth is a wife and mother residing in a small Southern town filled with rolling green hills and thousands of kind, beautiful faces. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning television journalist, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about her daily observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane is her blog. Click here to follow her on Facebook. 

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10 Winning Super Bowl Commercials (and the rotten tomato we can’t forget)

The real reason I watch the Super Bowl is no secret.

I’m in it for the commercials.

Debuting an commercial during the Super Bowl is the equivalent of a red-carpet twirl on Oscar night — and that thirty-second spin in front of the massive crowd costs about $4 Million.

There were some funny moments in this year’s ads as we’ve come to expect, but the days of big-crazy-funny seem to have run their course, in favor of dig-deep, feel-the-feelings commercials. Brands want to be remembered for a feeling, a cause, a statement. They know that we’re sharing meaningful messages on social media, and they want to link themselves to the messages that matter. That’s a powerful thing.

Here are Latter-day Jane’s Top 10 Commercials of Super Bowl XLIX, followed by the rotten tomato that no one can forget.

1. Budweiser’s “Lost Dog”

I don’t drink adult beverages — never have and never plan to. But I can appreciate a good commercial, and Budweiser has a killer marketing and ad team. This year’s spot, featuring their signature mascots, the Budweiser Clydesdales, is even more touching than usual, as they team up to help bring home a lost puppy.

Budweiser "Lost Dog"

2. Snickers “The Brady Bunch”

Remember Snickers’ “you’re not yourself when you’re hungry” campaign? They featured the much-loved Betty White last year. This is another in that series, this time featuring The Brady Bunch.

Snickers "The Brady Bunch

3. Always “Like a Girl”

The “Like a Girl” campaign created a social media firestorm a few months ago, and for good reason. The message is powerful. An excellent choice for the Super Bowl. Props to P&G and their Always brand for aligning themselves with a message like this.

Always "Like a Girl"

4. Coca-Cola “Make it Happy”

This is another not-to-be-missed social message, addressing online bullying.


5. “Domestic Violence PSA”

For the first time in Super Bowl history, a public service announcement aired on the subject of domestic violence. The 30-second slot worth an estimated $4 Million, features an actual 911 emergency call. The air space was donated by the NFL, in an attempt to make good on some poor decision-making surrounding public relations crises involving some of their players during the last year. This links to the full-length 60 second version, and it’s worth your time. A shortened 30-second spot ran during the Super Bowl.


6. Toyota “How Great I Am” 

Get ready to be blown away by Amy Purdy, a Sochi Paralympic medalist and double amputee who is embracing life in a way that many people only dream of doing. This inspires me to dream big. 

Toyota How Great I AM

7. Microsoft “Empowering: Braylon O’Neill”

Microsoft’s series of “empowering” commercials were incredibly touching. This one really spoke to me, as a mother, and as a human being. Get a tissue and get ready to fall in love with this determined little boy and his equally determined parents.


8. Doritos “When Pigs Fly”

One of two winners in Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest, “When Pigs Fly” was produced by Canada’s Nelson Talbot. It’s pretty darn cute. 

doritos commerical

9. Dodge “Wisdom” (warning: mild language)

I love the messages in this one, and they come straight from the mouths of centenarians — people who arguably know a thing or two about living. I don’t find this offensive personally, but I’ve included a mild language warning in case you have little ones nearby. One of the gentlemen in this spot uses the word “b*tch” as a synonym for “complain” — as in “don’t complain”. Growing up, I would’ve heard my WWII vet, retired police officer grandfather say something like this without reservation. My grandmother would’ve given him a stern warning too: “Not in front of the children!”

The Dodge brand celebrated its 100th anniversary April 16 with a

10. Fiat “The Fiat Blue Pill” (warning: adult-themed content)

And finally — Fiat. I couldn’t help but laugh. There’s nothing overly sensual in this ad (nothing more than you’d see in a movie with a PG rating), but you probably don’t want to have to explain to your kids why this sweet grandpa is so disappointed over losing a little blue pill. 


11. Toyota “My Bold Dad” 

The list grew to 11. It couldn’t be helped. This is beautiful. “Being a dad is more than being a father…” Get the tissues ready.


And not to be forgotten…

The ROTTEN TOMATO ad of Super Bowl XLIX. 

Nationwide “Make Safe Happen”

If you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle — or connected to a child in any way — this one is going to make your heart drop down to your gut. The thought process was good. The message could have been good. I repeat: could have been. There was a big fumble in the execution and as a result, the disappointed masses have been voicing profound disappointment over one of the most depressing Super Bowl commercials they’ve ever seen. Watch it for yourself, if you must. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during the team marketing meeting at Nationwide Insurance this week.

Nationwide ad

Did your favorite commercial or commercials make the cut? If not, which ones would you have included?

Sarah Elizabeth is a wife and mother residing in a small Southern town filled with rolling green hills and thousands of kind, beautiful faces. She once enjoyed a life with a slightly faster pace as an award-winning television journalist, and marketing professional, but these days, her life is much more quiet. She writes about her daily observations, experiences with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic illness, and occasionally, her love of Jane Austen. Latter-day Jane is her blog. Click here to follow her on Facebook.