The Up-Down Lifestyle

In the past 24 hours I’ve . . .

  1. Learned how to play pick-up sticks.
  2. Lost all my Words with Friends games.  Literally and figuratively literally.  I can’t find the link anymore.  Facebook Fail.
  3. Discovered that I score just as well at Mancala if I randomly pick a handful of stones when it’s my turn, while checking e-mail, as I do if I concentrate and try to win.  Only I enjoy it much more.
  4. Did Mrs. Darwin’s Immediate Book Meme.  Answers posted at the blorg bookshelf.
  5. Figured out that I have no clue how to pace myself.

#5 We’ve always known, haven’t we?  It’s just more dramatic now. I’m thrilled to be off the mandatory complete rest thing, because: Insomnia.  But what seems to me like a very light activity level really isn’t.  Serious intervals-action going on: When I’m up, I’m more up than I’ve been in ten days.  But a couple hours of acting vaguely like a normal person, and I’m completely wiped out. Brain. Body. All of it gone.

I’m sure such a thing as a ‘happy medium’ exists.  I’ve never actually experienced it, but I’ve heard about it.  Okay, strictly speaking I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s mythical.

Seven Takes: Life, Death, Warped Things Governments Do

No, I’m not back to regular blogging.  But I had approximately seven things to say, and it’s a Friday, so that makes this Seven Quick Takes, right?

1.  Why yes, that was us you saw at the National Vocations Meet-Up March for Life.

Low point:  Children in tears due to experience of being a southern-person whose mother does not know how to dress them for cold weather.

High point: Making a brief retreat into the National Gallery to go potty, rest, and warm-up, then re-emerging to a gentle made-for-TV snow flurry, taking up our signs, and falling into line with these guys.  Who sing beautifully.

Weird Point: The Metronome, as my 3rd-grader calls it, is determined not to take my money.  I kept trying to pay full fare, but the machines refused me at every turn. Fortunately the kind metro-ladies are apparently used to clueless tourists with five children in tow, and sorted me out with a combination of generosity and exasperation that I think must be the hallmark of the metro system.

2. Petersburg National Battlefield is a good place to run the kids and get your history fix all at once.  The ranger does come around checking to see if you’ve paid.

–> Touring tip:  Always ask if you’re supposed to pay.  Because they expect you to pay, even if they never ever tell you that.  And the ranger lady has a gun.  Luckily I had asked.

Discussion Question: Any Particular Reason the Union had to engage in war?  Why not just let the Confederacy secede, and work on patching things up diplomatically?  Put another way:  Did the US Civil War meet just war criteria for the Union?

My boy says yes.  I’m playing neutral professor-person.

In other US history topics: The essay “Smuggler Nation” in this month’s Harpers is really quite good. One more shovel of fodder for that pirates-vs.-privateers topic that’s always coming up around this household.

Our other airline-miles magazine subscription, Western Horseman ran a great piece a month or so ago on the troubles ranchers along the US-Mexican border are having with Mexican smugglers, and the lack of cooperation from some of the US border patrol in keeping their lands safe.  I can’t seem to find an article link.  But let me just say right now, that if you purchase approximately one plane ticket every five years, and want a family-friendly periodical to purchase with your miles before they expire, WH is the one.

3.  My son objects to the strong language in Dorothy Sayer’s Lord Peter Views the Body.  It pleases me greatly to discover I’ve reared a middle-schooler who complains about words like “damn” and “hell” improperly used.

4.  My January New Evangelizers column was 10 Ways to Support Evangelization Even When Your Parish is Falling Apart.

I picked this photo.

Apparently it grabbed someone’s attention, because the Catholic Vitamins people invited me to do an interview for their podcast.  Which is exciting, in an I-hope-my-phone-battery-doesn’t-die-while-we’re-talking kind of way.  I think I can bribe my kids into being quiet with the promise of Krispy Kreme donuts.  Also, presumably this is just one step on the long road towards true fame? By which I mean, of course, being on Rhett & Link’s Good Mythical Morning? My son doesn’t think I’ll ever be quite that good, but he puts on an encouraging face all the same.

5.  Helen Alvare nails it on the head in her analysis of the new HSS regulations.

Let me observe once again that there would be no moral objection at all if the government merely required employers to pay workers a sum sufficient to pay for the desired contraceptive services — for example, by putting the necessary funds into a healthcare savings account that employees could then use to purchase supplemental insurance if they so chose.

And how exactly is it “freedom of religion” if insurance companies and self-insurance administrators must sell (or give away, per the new iteration of regulations) products they may themselves object to?  Is there no legal right to sell insurance for some but not all health care services?  Will insurers eventually be required to pay for euthanasia as well?  Apparently there is a religious test required in order to enter the insurance industry.

6.  Speakin’ of that constitution thing . . . my boy observes that 2/3rds of gun deaths are suicides.  (Wikipedia’s citing 60%.) Which puts a certain corner of the culture in the odd position of wanting to outlaw something they’re trying to legalize.  Apparently depressed and disabled people should die, but only at the hands of licensed death-care providers?

If you aren’t from Gunlandia, you probably should not visit It takes a special red-state redness to enjoy.

7.  You know you live in a warped culture when you feel the need to clarify something like this: “For the record, I’m 100% opposed to all forms of murder and suicide.”

Ooh, oooh, want me to exasperate everybody in one single catechism quote? How about this one?  Enough to make everyone you know get all squirmy-wormy:

2269 The fifth commandment forbids doing anything with the intention of indirectly bringing about a person’s death. The moral law prohibits exposing someone to mortal danger without grave reason, as well as refusing assistance to a person in danger.

The acceptance by human society of murderous famines, without efforts to remedy them, is a scandalous injustice and a grave offense. Those whose usurious and avaricious dealings lead to the hunger and death of their brethren in the human family indirectly commit homicide, which is imputable to them.70

Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reasons, he has acted in a way that brings about someone’s death, even without the intention to do so.

Happy February.

Liturgy and Catechesis: The Blessing for a Child in the Womb

In which I use this coming weekend’s minor festivities to illustrate how formal catechetical programs are just one piece of a much bigger faith-formation spider wedding cake pie.  Or something. Okay, actually the whole post is just a chance to show off how cool my diocese can be.  Because yeah. Sometimes we are.

Oh and hey, speaking of cool palmetto-state Catholic things, go subscribe to Fr. L’s newsletter.  It’s really quite good.  And free.

Book Giveaway at The Rite by Matt Baglio

Sarah Reinhard’s giving away a copy of The Rite by Matt Baglio.  I recommend this book, and review it here.  Go over to her blog, put your name in the combox for a chance to win. I don’t think her contests are huge, so your odds are decent, in light of the 30 seconds it’ll take you enter.


World Communication Day & Promote Catholicism Day, part 2

Time for part 2 of the  Catholic media fest:

Then, on Thursday, May 24, please share the fruit of that day of prayer and silence with everyone, by posting your answer to the question: “What in Catholic Media has had an impact on me during the past year?” Share it on the New Evangelizers website at:

Half of you may have noticed, my efforts at internet silence were not so successful.  So this will be fruit-of-the-noise as well.

1.  Have I mentioned how much I love the printing press?

I’ve got an old version of one of these guys, not the hardback, and the spine’s peeling away.  I think most of my friends who do book repair are also solidly anti-Catholic, which makes it awkward to ask for advice.

2. SuperHusband swears by the iBreviary. It is indeed super cool.  I mean, yes, wow.  But I still prefer paper.

3. Review Books.  Yesterday in my failure to sit on my hands, I stumbled on RAnn’s list of Top Ten Sources for Review Books.  My current title from The Catholic Company is Benedict of Bavaria.  I picked it because that little voice told me I should, and my brain informed me that it was time I made myself read something substantial for a change, and this looked like it.  Ha!  I love being wrong.

“Substantial” is my code word for “thick” and “slog through long paragraphs written by people who need to get re-acquainted with the period key, and also not use the word ontological quite so much”.  Not so.  Eminentally readable, and super interesting — quite the departure from my usual association of Pope Topics = Too Smart for Me.  I love the printing press.  Love it.

4. Local Catholic Bookstores.  OSV Weekly has this cute little sidebar about “How to Read More.”  It’s like telling someone on a diet How to Eat More.  No, really, I read enough already.  If the meat thing doesn’t work out, Not Reading is my most painful alternate penance.

But the pleasure of the review programs sponsored by the big guys is that a) It supports the bookstores who provide for those who don’t have local bookstores b) sometimes I find a great book my local store doesn’t know about, and then I can pass it on, and c) I still have my book money left to spend with the local guys.

Support your local Catholic bookstore.  If you don’t have one, and your parish has a spare coat closet they can spare, consider starting one.  Nothing beats being able to browse in person, especially for kids.

5. A great book my local bookstore is about to find out about.  One of the tremendous pleasures of Catholic New Media has been getting to know other writers online.  Which is how I ended up with the announcement of this book in my inbox yesterday:

I can’t wait to the see the inside.

Another great moment in New Media e-mails yesterday . . . Julie Davis let me look at a sneak preview of a project she’s working on.  That’s all I can say right now.  But listen: There is a super-awesome, unbelievably gorgeous book in the works.  When the time comes, I will so tell the world it’s gonna be sort of annoying.  If your name is SuperMother-in-Law, I’m getting you one for Christmas.  (Not this Christmas.  You have to wait until it meets the printing press, which is still a ways off.)  With my own money.

6.  And that’s something I love about the Catholic new media: Catholic writers being able to connect with one another and collaborate on projects.  Writers in general can be a little paranoid.  What if someone else writes my book before I do?  In the Catholic world, yes that fear can be there.  But when your mission is  to evangelize, most of all there’s a tremendous sense of relief: Thank goodness someone wrote that book so I don’t have to.

When you’re still in that long aspiring-writer time of life, with 10,000 book ideas swirling in your head and a powerful desire to write them all, you don’t feel that way so much.  But once you actually go to write a whole book and make it see light of day, and you’ve gotten past the about the 4th draft of a completed manuscript, and discover how much work is required to write anything halfway decent . . . yeah, please.  Thank you all seventy-bazillion Catholic writers for being on the job.  You are so desperately needed.

7.  Um, there’s not much money in it.   Just so you know.  But listen, accounting is a great.  Engineering?  Janitorial work?  Lots of ways to support that writing habit.  And it’s all Catholic.


When I was first staying home to raise kids, I’d listen to Focus on the Family, and there was often mention of the incredible loneliness of the stay-at-home mom.  The internet has eased that isolation, especially for those of us introverts who would rather read and write than chit-chat at one of those mingle-y things.

Whenever you get to know somebody, no matter how, you only get to know part of them.  You never know the whole person. And at first, you only know a very small slice of the person.  The internet is only different in which slice you meet.

I love, LOVE, having a way to meet people from the inside out.  To not be distracted by their clothes or their accent or their weird habits or lack of weird habits.  To cut out the small talk and go straight to the issues . . . it takes so long at Donut Hour to find someone willing and able to hold a substantial conversation.  I love small blogs because you can have real conversation.  Yes, I’m like a moth to flame, leaving comments at Jen Fulwiler’s and Simcha’s and Msgr. Pope’s blogs.  But I always go to Darwin’s personal site, and not The American Catholic, because it’s small enough you can actually exchange ideas, and not just shout to the stadium.

So to you who write only very small blogs, let me say THANK YOU.   The big guys are doing an important work, and I’m grateful for them.  But small blogs fill a spot no one else can fill.  Keep going.


Also I beg you.  If it is at all within your power, please change your blog settings to allow the “subscribe to comments” feature.  Thank you.

3.5 Time Outs: Feminine Genius

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, without whom Tuesdays would be so . . . different.

Not everyone's a girl-blogger. Click the photo to find out what the guys are saying.


I don’t see an official announcement yet, so I won’t spill the beans on the details, but I’ve been instructed to spend the next month or two pondering the word women.  I can’t decide if I was the intentional choice for that one, or just lucky.  There are so many seriously-girlesque-with-hearts-on-top ladies out there in the Catholic blogosphere, and here I am, feeling pretty fashionable when I’ve got on a new black t-shirt and jeans instead of an old black t-shirt and jeans.  Then again, I am not the only Catholic homeschooling mom at my parish who played rugby in college.

But anyway, it’s got me thinking about that word.  Okay I’m familiar with the biological details, but what, exactly, is it that makes girls different enough to get their own apostolic letter?


Ladies, will somebody please tell Larry the secret code for getting all those cute little post-it-notes above his frog?  DorianHallie? Fulwilinator? Anyone?  Anyone?  Please?  He’ll never even own half of Tuesday, if that frog keeps hiding away his linkfest inside the frog cave.  Maybe someone should check with Mrs. D. to confirm he’s in good standing and can be admitted to auxiliary membership.

UPDATE: Larry says you get what you pay for.  Not his fault he’d rather spend his cash on the worthy Mrs. D.  Masculine genius, right there.  I’m with it.


Internet Valentines:

At CWG, Karina Fabian applies the bacon analogy to the new non-compromise.  If you like her post, she asks you to please share it around.

Also hidden in the CWG Monday line-up (yes, I am personally responsible for the post pile-on, go ahead, flog me), Ellen Gable Hrkach tells you the cold hard truth about the work required to succeed at self-publishing.  Now you know what it is traditional publishers have been doing all these years.

And super-bonus: Today we have an actual Valentine-themed post. Ordinarily Kathryn writes on third Tuesdays, but I bumped her up a week when I saw what she had planned.

I think the similarity of color-schemes between the CWG blog and the Vatican website is coincidental.  Only Ann Lewis knows for sure.  Has anyone noticed whether she’s got the Vatican-spy secret decoder ring?

If you know someone who takes that last question seriously, you need a dose of masculine genius:

Perfect valentine for your budding junior apologist.  Nothing like a good argument with a lunatic to really make an adolescent boy enjoy religion.

Free girl-book, today only: My friend’s mom Christine Bush has her kindle romance Cowboy Boots on sale today for Valentine’s Day.  Free download.  I haven’t read it yet, but thought it was worth a look at that price.

From my inbox: The Catholic Company is offering 14% off all orders today only, use coupon code LOVE14 during checkout.  Timely if you owe your godchildren across-country some good Lenten reading.  I imagine there are other discounts to be had today, feel free to share your info in the combox.


Sursum Corda?  I saw it on a Confederate battle flag.   SC’s 7th Batallion.  The full motto is Sursum Corda – Quid Non Pro Patria? on a field of blue with a cross made of stars in the center.  It was made by the Ursuline nuns in Columbia. Very cool detail: metal sequins on the stars.

If you go [no visit to the Inferno is complete without a quick stroll right past the inner door to the State Museum and on to the end of the hall where the good exhibits hide], call ahead and arrange a tour with the curator for education, Joe Long. He isn’t Catholic, but ask him to tell you his St. Anthony story.  It’s a classic.

The only kind of water that ever, ever, touches the single malt my Valentine sent me.

3.5 Time Outs: Sursum Corda

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who, I am sorry to learn, does not like leftovers for breakfast.   Read the whole tragic childhood tale by clicking the photo:

The Fulwilinator is on leave . . . will Larry finally seize power, or will SuperGirl Hallie Lord keep him at bay?


You’ll never guess where I saw the words Sursum Corda last Friday, when I was busy not getting my seven takes up on time for that other person.


Also I learned later in the day:  Though “Sursum Corda” sure sounds like the name of a papal encyclical, it isn’t.

Which means: I gave somebody a little bit of wrong information.  Nuts.  But I also gave a lot of correct information.  For example, you would have found it in this book – p. xxvii.  And others like it.


But you know, if you google the words Sursum Corda + Pope Benedict, you get a lot of hits.  Is it my fault I spend too much time on the Internet reading this stuff until it becomes one giant jumble of confused trivia? Wait, don’t answer that.


You may have noticed that adolescent boys don’t necessarily google these same topics.  Which is why I have begun a massive print propaganda campaign, in which I subscribe to the publications I think my child should read, then leave them on the bathroom counter for him to discover when he’s hiding from his math homework.

Might I add that Catholic Answers, Envoy, OSV and The Register run some seriously good articles?  It is as if all the stuff you read for free online is not the very best of contemporary Catholic writing, and that there is value to be had in paying writers for their work.  I never guessed.


So your hints for the solution to #1 are:

A.) The Inferno.

B.)  In which city you can still see this guy’s house:

C. )  And this hat. Which causes me to pun horribly every time I see it:

Mighty Mitres, Batman!

7 Quick Takes: PSA’s

Many thanks to our hostess Hallie Lord, who is not taking attendance while Jen Fulwiler is on writing-leave, so hopefully I won’t be demoted for participating late.


Funnix is running the free-download program again.  I don’t see the deadline, but I’m going to guess it is only during February.  (They did this last year.  Thank you kind phonics people.  Also thank you to my internet acquaintance Cynthia for pointing me and other moms to the link.)  I have no particularly opinion on the program other than that some people like it and, look! free!


I’ve entered this new special time in my life as an internet person, when I receive not just spam, but Catholic Spam.  It’s sorta weird.  But here’s the unsettling part:  Sometimes I really cannot tell if I’ve gotten a Catholic-Spam Troll Form Letter, or if there’s a human who knows me (if only via a blog) and is trying to communicate useful information, but has accidentally written an e-mail that has the look-n-feel of Spamalot.

So anyway, the PSA is this:  If you are a real live person who wanted to share a link or tell me about your great works, and the first time you e-mailed me it got lost in cyberspace and you never ever heard anything . . . just e-mail me again?  Okay?  With some extra words this time that maybe tell me how you know me (this blog, or the CWG, or you’re a friend of my friend’s cousin’s uncle-in-law, or whatever) and anything else that would help establish yourself as a sentient creature who knows my name.



What kind of dog is this?

A stray dog.  Possibly a lucky dog.  Well, lucky whether he ends up here or moves to the local no-kill, where I’m sure he’ll find a home because he is both cute and nice.  If energetic.  My facebook friends are voting Jack Russell, with maybe some Fox Terrier or Bull Terrier.  Any other votes?


A few months ago I subscribed to the Jimmy Akin Secret Info Club.  Yes, yes, of course it exists to help the man sell books.  He writes good books.  And no, the information is not truly secret . . . in the sense that comes from sources that people treat as classified documents but actually you are allowed to read them, such as the Bible, or the Catechism, or the writings of the Church fathers.

But hey, it’s a handy little newsletter.  About once a month I get a short e-mail that is a refresher on some topic related to the faith — for example this month’s was on private vs. public revelation.  Nothing earth-shattering, but sort of a continuing-ed workshop delivered straight your inbox.  Worth checking out.


It’s that time again. Allie Hathaway.  Pray.


If you like to write, go register for the Catholic Writers Conference Online.  No, really.  Even if you aren’t Catholic*.  It is free, open to the public, and you can participate as much or as little as you like.  Which means if you discover you hate it or you’d rather be learning something else that week, nothing lost.  Because remember, free?

Registration closes . . . I’m not sure when.  I thought March 1, but I don’t see the date, so I can’t be 100% sure.  But look if you obey your local blogger and just sign up right now, it won’t matter when registration closes.

So what’s the catch?

You would be, in your own small way, cooperating with the mission of the Catholic Writers Guild.  Which is to fill the world with more better writers.


*It is like attending any Catholic school, you have to be polite and not say mean things in class.  But whereas the specific mission of the CWG is to promote Catholic writing and publishing, the online conference includes topics of interest to any writer.  If you read here, you totally have what it takes to attend the online conference and enjoy it.


3.5 Time Outs: Plague Journal

Thanks to our host at Acts of the Apostasy for giving me new mid-week writing ambitions.  The 1/2 was going to kill me, until I realized how good I am at  not finishing things.


SuperHusband wants to buy a camera adapter for our microscope.  I used accounting stalling techniques to put him off.  And then I remembered that my resident photographers give me a treasure-trove of material for blog work.  Tempting.  Very tempting.  On the other hand, though he tried to lure me in with promises of breath-taking snowflake photography, mostly our microscope is used for insect post-mortems.  Half-smushed ants.  I think I might get fired from the Internet and made to sit in the back row at church, if I posted any of those.


PSA #1: Best lip balm in the universe:

PSA#2: Don’t store it in your truck.  You want to.  But don’t.


Dan Castell’s latest Marx Brother’s story is up:

I’ve been taking advantage of the plague to work through the manuscript of the magnum opus from which these are drawn.  On the one hand, the leisurely, relax-and-enjoy style of the genre is perfect for the convalescent.  On the other hand, if you aren’t supposed laugh because it makes you cough, hmnn.  The frail read at their own risk.

3 1/2

The boy just called me in excitedly, to show me the printing dots, as viewed under the microscope, of this book:

The book is great.  Super great.  Best treatment of the topic ever.  And under a low-power microscope, it looks like:


Well, that’s all for this week.  And unlike our kind host, I won’t be able to finish my half until SuperHusband talks me into the next big gear purchase, so that could be later than Volume 3.  We figured out he could use his photography/consulting money to fund his gadget habit, so there’s hope for you.  I only hope he doesn’t decide we should manage my book budget the same way.  Shhh.