Six Things I Needed to Hear – In the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

So this is what it’s like to be a devotional-writer:

I got home from Portland in the middle of the night East Coast time, wide awake because {Coffee + Jet Lag}.  But look! Things came in the mail for me!  No need to be bored.

Box #1 was a stack of these: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. It’s a collection of reusable devotionals for every day of the year, contributed by such a massive collection of Catholic writers that I think they were hard-pressed to find non-co-authors left for the endorsements.  (But they did find a few.)

So I got a beer and flipped through to find my entries, just to see what they looked like and all that.  One gets self-absorbed late at night.  There’s not an index-by-author, so I had to do a combination of trying to remember what days I wrote on and just flipping through.  Three lessons I learned:

1. Goodness gracious I can’t believe who else is in there!  A lot of the co-authors are people I know from the Catholic writing community, some of them famous, some of them up-and-coming.  At the risk of sounding cliche, when you’ve actually met and worked with so many interesting and talented and devoted Catholics? It’s a tremendous honor to be sharing a book with them.

(My favorite part of being involved with the Catholic Writers Guild?  Finding out who the new talent is before the rest of the world gets in on the secret.)

2. Editors are your friend.  When I wrote this post at Patheos, I was in the middle of overhauling a couple of my submissions for this book.  So let’s cut to the chase: We are all very, very glad that my first attempts at the feasts of St. Mary Magdalene and of the Immaculate Conception did not make it into the book.  The revised versions are far better.

3.  I have a predictable soul.  I think I found all my entries (Six? Did I count right?), and there was a consistent theme: The same things I was writing about a year ago are the things I needed to hear just this week.

–> Shout out to my brother-in-law: Why yes, I did get to be the person who wrote on the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  I was stoked. But reader, if you want to know what I’ve been particularly thinking about the past two days, take a look at what I had to say on the feast of St. Rita.

Contents of Box #2 to be revealed in the next post.

Cover art courtesy of and Ave Maria Press.

I’ve got a new book out! Me and thirty of my favorite co-authors, that is.

The general update on me is that I’m holding steady.  No particular news to report, and I’m still keeping up the torrent of punditry at Patheos.

But look .  . I accidentally went and got published again!  Here’s the scoop:

Now out from As Morning Breaks, Daily Gospel Reflections.  It’s available as a Kindle book (very affordable – $2.99), but FYI if you want to get this as a gift for someone, it’s not necessary to own a dedicated device in order to read it. Any PC, tablet, whatever, can read Kindle books, just download the free software from Amazon.


What’s in the book?  A reflection on the daily Gospel reading for every day of 2015.  This is from the team at, so if you’ve been reading those Gospel reflections online, it’s that.  You can preview the first month, which lets you get a taste of each contributor’s style and the kinds of ideas that will be coming your way each day.  If you just want to see my name in print, scroll down to the 16th.

Why is this book better than a bake sale?  Because you can support a good cause without your kids whining over who got the bigger brownie.  All the proceeds from the sale of the book go to help underwrite the cost of keeping up and running.  FYI if you weren’t aware, is basically the largest womens’ mag in the faithfully Catholic world, brought to you free everyday thanks to the contributions of dozens upon dozens of volunteers who give their time and labor to make it happen.

It’s the place where aspiring Catholic writers are incubated, and it’s the place where established Catholic writers who get paid for everything else they publish still turn up to contribute their work pro bono.

It’s a good cause, and you get more than your money’s worth for what you buy.  Check it out.

Novenas! And other updates.

Larry asked for another novena.  Far be it from me to deny him.  I see the feast of the Annunciation is just around the corner, what perfect timing.  If you’re inclined to pray the for-serious way, EWTN has an annunciation novena here, and the US Bishops have one here (PDF).  I’m grateful for even the tiniest thing offered up, though, so please do not scruple.

I see that the bishop’s have titled theirs, “A Heart Open to God’s Will.” Chuckle chuckle.  I love being Catholic.  We have the punniest spirituality going.

Edited to Add: Please keep Larry D.’s intentions in mind this week.  His family’s going through the wringer.


So how’s it going, Jen?  After being silly tired all week, I had a great Saturday daytime.  It turns out the SuperHusband sometimes gets this weird not-quite-right head thing when he’s on a really intense hike in the mountains.  It’s not dizziness, and it’s not lightheadedness like you’re going to faint.  You might say ‘fuzzy-headed’, except that you can think clearly.  But you would be inclined to use one of those words.  Anyway, I did a pile of laundry and cleaning stuff up, paced so that I didn’t cough once, not once.  It turns out that if you persist for enough hours, this unnamed phenomenon turns into a headache.

And then later the shortness of breath was back on the slightest exertion.  Fatigue, huh?  I’m fascinated by all this.  It’s like race training at a microscopic scale.


Busy blorging week. A handful of linky-link posts, and a couple serious columns:

  • I really wasn’t trolling for Atheists when I wrote about free will and suffering, but I guess the title doomed me. Second in the suffering series, and the combox discussion is, well, enlightening.  I shut it down because I was tired of moderating and it was starting to degenerate.  I so did not mean to provoke that conversation.  Cringe.
  • Paging Dorian Speed . . . Christian Leblanc wrote a very good, helpful, encouraging column at Patheos in reponse to a struggling catechist.  I ranted and raved.  But every time I think, “Yeah, I was too mean,” I go back and re-read my post, and I think, “Yeah, that needed to be said.”  But I feel for the poor guy who wrote the letter.  I get the frustration.  I do. I really do.

Elsewhere, maybe I was nicer?  At, a post with thoughts on changing your course to meet the needs of your students.  Don’t hate me because I had smart kids this year, it works both ways.

(What are the Apologetics for Kids students doing while I’m on sick leave? Watching Steve Ray videos, of course.  Footprints of God.  Google it.  You want the whole collection. They are great for kids and grown-ups both.)

And at today, I’m the Gospel-reflector.  Once again, my spirituality could be summed up as, “Just like St. Peter, Before Pentecost Edition.”

Happy Sunday!

Mardi Gras, Family Life, Meat Demon

1. is back up, and here’s my post: Homeschooling and the Art of Living Together.  In which you hear about how cool my son is, and also that there’s more to this parenting thing than where you send your kids to school.

Let me just say that writing a post while feeling favorably disposed towards your children is like begging for them to do all kinds of crazy stuff for the next 48 hours.  Or more.

(Nothing serious.  Just normal everyday reminders that they do need parents. Sigh.  Everyone needs parents.)

2.  At the blorg today: Thwarting the Meat Demon. We have polished off the bacon, and the chicken is next.  Because basically, yes, my spiritual disciplinary advice consists of “Eat a Cheeseburger on Thursday.” You have to start somewhere.

3.  A friend of mine gave me a bag of these:

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzels

Puts the gras in Mardi Gras.  We do it right around here.


Photo courtesy of Trader Joe’s.  Those things are good.

So How’s it Going, Jen?

1. is temporarily under the weather, but when it comes back up (pray for Lisa Hendey’s sanity), my monthly homeschooling column should be there.  I talk about homeschooling-while-sick, but no handy tips, mostly just, “Yeah, my kids are awesome.”  I’ll link to the article when it recovers.

2. Prayer request for me: I’ve got two kids coughing and sneezing. Ordinary colds.  I’m keeping my distance.  I really, really, would be better off not catching this thing.  Recall: I’m already coughing just laughing or moving around too much.  Not in one of those dramatic, “time for the tear-jerking moment in the musical” ways, but still  . . . I’d just rather not go there. Whereever Me + Cold turns out to be.  Thanks.

(If I seem like I’m on social media a ton, instead of hovering over my children while they do their homework, it’s because yes, I’m trying to be in a different room than them. We’re in communication, yes we are.  School is happening, just more hands off than usual.)

3. Speaking of suffering, here’s a preview of my new blorg outpost:

The blog is still under construction, FYI.  Waiting on the header art, need to learn how disqus works, lots of little jobs. But I’m going ahead and getting a few posts up so that the living room isn’t empty when everyone comes over for the big housewarming party.

And yes, I discussed my assimilation situation with Larry D. and he said he’d pray for me.  (Um, seriously, I loved Larry’s Star Trek piece, which I can’t seem to find right now.  Larry & I are good friends online, and respectfully agree to disagree on the prudence of blorging.  Y’all: Larry’s got a special intention he needs prayed for, so regardless of your level of vexation regarding the blorg, say a prayer for him today?  Yes?  Thank you.)

I’ll announce again once the paint is dry and the curtains are hung.

4. What I do with my free time instead of watching infuriating television shows: I break into the spouse’s video editing software, and mostly don’t botch it that badly.  A few technical errors, but for my first attempt at making a movie without swearing or punching walls, I’m okay with it: Lord Have Mercy, There’s a Baby in my Church.

The artwork is from Wikimedia, and the soundtrack can be downloaded here, for free.  Pick the “Whitbourne Conf. Mass.”  Funny story: St. P’s did this twice, once on the weekend, and once for the Confirmation Mass, recorded with two different setups.  Jon asked me to pick which of the two I liked better.  I liked the sound on this recording better than the other, but I also really, really liked the babies.

St. Peter’s doesn’t usually put babies in their choir, but the bishop came, so they pulled out all the stops.

5.  People want to know how I’m doing. So, sometimes, do I.  What I know:

  • I feel perfectly normal as long as I’m sitting around.  I’m getting a lot of writing done.
  • Animated conversation kills me, but calm conversation is okay.  I thought I needed more boring friends.  I think I just need to not talk so loud, and listen more.
  • I cough when I laugh out loud.  This happens all the time, because of the people I live with.  I think it’s probably pretty safe.
  • I cough if I move around too much. I’m getting better at avoiding this.  I’m not sure if it’s from just breathing too deeply, or if it’s something more nefarious.
  • But a little bit of up and down, in moderation, isn’t a problem.  I’m getting better at figuring out what “in moderation” looks like, so I feel better and am less tired than a week ago.
  • Otherwise I’m totally normal. No problem with speed, balance, snarky comments, etc etc.
  • Actually I’m better than normal, since my other minor signs of decrepitude are all aggravated by walking around too much, and I’m nowhere near that level of activity.  Long term, of course, that’s a good way to die early.  But short term it’s pretty funny that being seriously ill = being not in pain, at all, unlike normal life in which a handful of minor aches are just everyday reality.

To do items for this week: Keeping aiming for that exact right combination of rest and activity, and avoid catching the girls’ colds.  Heart cath next week.

6. I’m not freaked out because, you know, catechist.  Forget the nonsense about facing serious illness with a “we can beat this!” attitude.  I mean sure, I’m all about that, and am doing my share to see it done. I strongly, strongly prefer being alive, thank you.  But sooner or later you’re going to drop dead.  Either you’re okay with that or you’re not.  Probably catechesis is not for you if the prospect of eternal life doesn’t take the edge off.



Sinful People Wanted.

It’s the 16th so that means I’ve got Gospel Reflecting Duty at   I submitted this back in January, and frankly this morning as I was reading the Gospel, I found myself wondering, I wonder what I wrote about this?  Nothing I’m thinking of, or that I’ve read around online in various homily-blogs, is what *I* wrote, but I can’t remember what exactly I wrote.

So looked.  Just now.  Hey, I remember that!  Oh yeah!  And I think I did good, too. 

But you can verify.

Plague Journal, Catechesis & Socialization Edition

Plague Journal as a theme is getting mighty old.  Good news: After asking a few friends to pray, I’ve upgraded from “death warmed over” to “death minced with bacon and turned into a proper hash, thank you very much.”  So I’m back to writing stuff again, that’s good.

Meanwhile, since you’re reading this it means you either have time to pray more, or else you have something dreadful to offer up. I’m asking specifically for prayers that: (a) I’ll get an accurate dx on this most recent round o’ plague, and (b) that I’ll get done everything I need to do.  The stuff I don’t need to do? Whatever.  Just the important things, thanks, that’s all I’m asking for.

Meanwhile, some things I wrote before this bout set in quite so aggressively:

At CatholicMom.Com, I answer the old “socialization” question.  I know. I thought I didn’t care about that argument anymore,either.  Then I saw a real live human being worry about it. So it became a topic again.

And if that doesn’t raise your blood pressure enough, at, I wade into the raging debate over whether we ought to have religious education classes for children at all. Lisa Mladnich tells me I’m insightful and clear-thinking, so that settles it.  Read the other opinions, than go see my article to find out what you’re really supposed to think.

My Gospel Reflection at

We’ll see if WP lets this one through . . .

If you missed it, here’s my Gospel reflection for the 16th of January at I’ve got the 16th of the month slot, and Feb – June are written and just waiting for me to get the lined up in the dashboard.  Very good for the soul, making yourself sit down and not just think about the Gospel, but put together thoughts on paper. 

Quick Notes – Homeschooling at our house, kitten-watch, and Pray for the McNichols

Up at Things I’m changing at our homeschool for the new year.

We did Day 1 of this today.  It was successful.  That means nothing.  But it’s always fun enjoying the first day.


In Kitten Watch 2014: The cat is waddling around looking very pregnant.  It was quiet for a while this afternoon — cat now has a shiny collar with a bell on it, so if she’s nosing around, you know — and I walk back to the bedroom and our closet door is open.  And I’m thinking to myself: You’d better not be giving birth in my closet.

Just so you know, that goes for everybody, not just cats.  No giving birth in my closet.  Just no.


BTW if you missed it, please pray for the McNichol family.

The Hard-Headed Life

Snippets since I fell off the internet – no, nothing bad going on, not really.  Just my life.  You know the scene.

1. The weekend before Thanksgiving, three kids are outside playing tag after dark.  Seven-year-old daughter comes inside, weeping and telling us she hit her head.  Mandatory concerned-parents questions, but we determine that it wasn’t that bad, she’s just tired, because what she hit her head on was her brother’s shoulder.  She settles down, though she keeps reminding us her head hurts.

A few minutes later, Mr. Boy comes inside.  His shoulder hurts.  You know — where his sister’s head hit it.  Can’t be that bad, right?

Next morning, as someone who shall not be named is trying to persuade the boy to quit favoring the shoulder and move it around a little so the muscles don’t get tight, the Mom-alarm goes off.  Something is not right with this scene.  Further Mom investigation, followed by confirmation at doc-n-box: Broken collarbone.

PSA: Do not play rugby with my 7-year-old.

2.  I wrote this article at New Evangelizers.  I knew it was slated to run on Thanksgiving, but I wrote it anyway.  Hint: I rant about the usual things I rant about, instead of telling you to be grateful for stuff.

How did writing this column change my life? I resolved to wear hats more often.  Not at church, necessarily.  Just around.  Because I like them.

3. At, I answered this post from Rebecca Frech. In my column, which you can find here, I assert that my children are not too sheltered, though I give no particular evidence on that point.  Those who worried that by “being selective about the movies they watch” you feared I was depriving them of sappy puppy-themed formula films, or hyper-violent Korean parodies of Clint Eastwood films, fear not.  We’re covering those bases tonight, that’s why I have time to blog.

4. Awkward blogger moments: I’m at the Family Honor in-town class session that finishes out the course Jon & I took last summer.  Great class.  Highly recommended.  We’re sitting at dinner, and the program director turns to me, and says, “Jen, I just found out you blog.  I just started blogging.  Tell me — how often to you post?”

I had to explain to him that I had recently fallen off the internet.  I went home resolving to post here ASAP, so I’d look more respectable when he clicked on my blog.  But the DSL was out.

#5 – #17: About the Internet

5. SuperHusband had to take a child to a violin concert Sunday afternoon, so he put Mr. Boy in charge of contacting AT&T to get the DSL fixed. All part of the child’s education.  (So. About all our sincere efforts to not make other people work on Sundays. Isn’t DSL like an ox in the ditch?  Isn’t it?)

So the boy gives it his best.  Of course, he does not himself work in telecom, so he’s fresh meat.  Customer service convinces him we need a new modem.

SuperHusband comes home and rejects this diagnosis.  A new modem is the two-aspirin of the Telcom customer service world.  He starts to make the boy call back customer service and argue more, but I step in and plead mercy, mostly on me but a little bit for the boy and his father, too.  SuperHusband gets on the phone, talks customer service off their ledge, and after a cordial but intense discussion with Nathan in India (is it Sunday in India?), they get the idea that maybe a change of service is in order.  AT&T will send a guy around in the morning.  No, they won’t charge for installation.

I’d been planning to go to Chik-Fil-A in the morning to check my e-mail, but I agree to stay home so the problem can be solved.

6. 8:10 AM the friendly customer service guy rouses me from a sleep even St. Josemaria couldn’t touch.  He’ll be there at 8:40, will that be okay.  Yes.  I lie and tell him yes.  It is not exactly lying if you are also praying that by 8:40 it will be okay.

7. My excuses for being tired include the fact that we are gradually shifting #2’s sleep schedule later and later, so that she can sing at midnight Mass.  Thus, all children are asleep.  Or faking it because they know it’s Monday, always a risk they might have to do work on a Monday.

8. I have no excuses for the way my house looks.

9. So what I need is a WWMDC bracelet. I go to the kitchen and start asking myself, “What would Mrs. Darwin clean next?” I clean that thing, then repeat repeat repeat.  By 8:40, as long as the blinds remain closed, and all the lights except in select cleaned-places remain turned off, the house looks like a place that would not cause a telecom tech guy to call social services.

10. I failed to think about the phone guy when we put chicken prison in exactly the place where the phone lines enter the house.  I apologized.  He pretended it was no big deal.  Tech guys lie just as much as housewives.

11.  He was incredulous when I explained that we had no crawlspace, and yes, the phone lines go through the attic.  A tech had just fallen through someone’s attic only last week.  AT&T does not want to send people into your attic.

12.  There were complications.  Complicated complications.  We eventually get hold of the SuperHusband, who has an intelligent conversation about telecom things with the tech guy.

13.  Tech guy gets permission from AT&T to install the new service on our ancient phone lines. Since running a new cable would involve the attic. And other things.

[Note: During all this time, I am continuing to clean my house. The children wake-up eventually, and I convince them to clean the house, too.  I am acting as if there is some good reason why I woke up to a trashed house on a Monday morning, and that naturally if no DSL problems had arisen, I would not have spent the morning answering e-mail and blogging, I would have done those dishes! Right away!  By the time the tech guy has his marching orders, the house is looking sort of civilized.  My children transition to acting like they are doing school work. They are pro’s at this, and even I am briefly fooled.]

14.  There’s a problem.  The newly-installed service works, but not to the company’s quality standard.  More investigations.  A manager is called.  They visit all the phone jacks in my house.  They are gathering evidence that we have the weirdest wiring in the Southeast.  (There’s a place that’s weirder, I’ve seen the photos, but it’s in Baltimore.)  They need to install new cable.

15.  The manager moves on, the tech guy installs the new cable.  Through the attic, of course.  He sustains no injuries, thanks to my helpful tips.  (Stay on the plywood. Not on the pink stuff.)

16.  It’s not the cable in the attic after all. Maybe it’s the box at the curb . . . the one with the oak roots entangling it, such that the box cannot be opened.

17. More investigations.  Actually, the problem is a few blocks up the road.  Tech guy apologizes for mistakenly upgrading my wiring.

Utterly unrelated. Not really.  #18.  I agreed to be one of’s Gospel-reflection writers for 2014.  Lisa H. immediately signed me up for the 16th of each month, before I had time to change my mind.  This means I have to read a snippet from the Gospel twelve times a year, and think about what the snippet says.

Yes.  I know.  It seemed like a good idea to me, too.