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.



Entrust Your Vexations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Larry D. reminds us that it might be time to freshen up our prayers for the vexing illness.  If you’re ready to move on to Novena #3, join us in praying for the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Why yes, I did pick it because, you know, heart cath, Immaculate Heart . . . Catholics are punny that way.  Also, because, for various reasons that aren’t really anyone’s business, we’re sticking with the Blessed Mother on this.  And look, today is the First Saturday! Coincidence? I think not.

The rules: As always, no scrupling. You can pick your favorite devotion to the Immaculate Heart, or you can do the Very Little Way variation, and just offer up your own vexation on behalf of your prayer intention.

Thank you everyone, and yes, I’m praying for your intentions through all this, so please feel free to post them in the combox.*


*Note: What I tend to do is link a particular nuisance to a particular intention. So for example, ever since my first pregnancy, vomiting is forever linked to a prayer for those struggling with infertility and/or chemotherapy.  Which means that by posting your intention you run the risk that I’ll be remembering you every time something particularly weird or gross happens.  But seriously, be not afraid.  There are worse things.  At least I’m remembering you, right?

No Kittens!

So she was either very very wormy, or . . . I dunno.  No kittens.  I’m telling you, there were kitten-like creatures inside that cat last month.  I guess my future as a cat-midwife is totally written off now.  It’s either writing or accounting for me.  

Meanwhile, SuperHusband dropped the farm cat off at the vet in the morning, and picked her up again after work, transformed into the Cat Who Will Never Be Suspected of Pregnancy Again.  My closet is safe.

No more free cats.  No more free cats.  No more free cats.

News & Links: Four Variations on the Parent Problem.

1. Now up at New Evangelizers, my latest contribution to the RE Conflagration:

The answer to the parent-problem is simple: Evangelize them.  Mom or Dad (or Grandma or Grandpa) has darkened the doors of Church, and so what if they’re just there for the poinsettias or the white dress, run with it!  Welcome them, share the Gospel with them, and bend over backward to make it possible for them to take another step forward in their faith.  They might or might not choose to accept that invitation, but we can at least eliminate as many excuses as possible.

Also you learn something about the state of my garden.  Which is no better than the state of my housekeeping, as it happens. Despite the fact that I love the one and could happily dispense with the other. Go figure.

2. Update from yesterday’s round of vexation, condensed and paraphrased version:

Dr. W: I dunno what’s wrong.  How about we do a heart cath?

Us: Really?

Dr. W: Really.

Us: Really?!

Dr. W: Really.

We did that about twenty different ways, then set a date for March 12th.  He said I was probably quite safe checking the mail in the meantime.  And anything else I feel like doing.

(He didn’t mean “anything I feel like doing” as in: Break into the box of Easter chocolate.  He meant like physical exercise and stuff.)

UPDATE TO CLARIFY per a question from a friend: By “twenty different ways”, what I mean is that we talked about all the medical issues and agreed on a plan.  Didn’t mean that to sound like we just shook the 8 Ball or something.

3. If you want do something double-good this Lent, consider reading one of Ann Frailey’s books.

4. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Larry D’s father.  Who popped into my mind for entirely other reasons, which I’ll chat more about a different day.

Speaking of vexation . . .

Jen Fulwiler nails it this morning:

Look in the mirror. If you don’t see a beautiful person who is worthy of love no matter what size clothes she wears, forget about weight loss for a while. Spend some time talking with friends who build you up, praying, or even getting therapy to help you embrace your status as a beloved child of God. It’s not time to start trying to lose weight until you’re secure in the knowledge that your worth has nothing to do with a number on a scale.

If you pass that test, read the rest of her Lazy Nerd’s Guide to Weight Loss.


I’ll be going in for another round of vexation this afternoon at 2.  Thanks for your prayers, and please keep the SuperHusband in your prayers especially.  He bears the brunt of the vexation.  Also please pray for a special intention on behalf of some lovely friends of ours — the intention isn’t fit for public consumption, but it is most certainly a worthy cause for five lovely souls.  Thanks!

Effort & Illness: The Confusing Habits of Sick People

Since I surround myself with people who know better, no one’s yet given me the dreaded words You don’t look sick. Even people who do look sick often don’t look as bad as they feel*.  As Jen Fulwiler explained it last year:

I feel self-conscious that I’ve been doing better, and have no visible symptoms of being ill. . . . I worry that the folks dropping off the food are starting to suspect this is some kind of scam. The other day a super sweet lady from the parish came by with a steaming gourmet dinner for our entire family, complete with appetizers and dessert. I had just gotten back from a doctor’s appointment so I was dressed up and wearing makeup; I’d been resting most of the day so I was unusually energetic. She seemed tired from having worked so hard to cook for our entire family in addition to her own, and I used my Neurotic ESP to determine that she was wondering why I wasn’t cooking for her.

I told Joe that I should get some crutches for when I answer the door for people delivering meals, as a symbolic gesture to assure them that their efforts were not wasted. He looked at me like I was insane, and pointed out the obvious fact that my problem is with my lungs and that I would have no use for crutches under any circumstances. I said that I know, but they sell them at the grocery store, and I didn’t know where to get my hands on a ventilator — and, again, it’s all for symbolism anyway. He backed away from me slowly and went to pour himself a large glass of wine.

Yes.  This. I put a short section in my catechist book on invisible disabilities, because it’s something that comes up in religious ed more often than you’d think.  Mostly among catechists, but among students as well.  That one chapter is the one I get the most thank you letters about.

You can be seriously ill without being 100% incapacitated.

It’s pretty rare for someone to be completely felled in a single blow.  This causes confusion, because you see people wandering WalMart who look like they’re going to collapse any second now.  So if your sick person still has good balance and coordination, and manages to answer the phone in a cheerful manner, you think, “Must not be that sick.  There are people at WalMart who look much, much worse.”

The people at WalMart might be worse.  But that doesn’t cause the sick person to be less sick.

Some people are good at putting on.

I knew a lady once who would answer the phone cheerfully even if you woke her up at 4AM.  It wasn’t that she wanted you to call then.  She just had excessively good phone manners.  And thus the Perceived Illness Paradox: Some people complain a lot, other people don’t.  Some people are good at masking their symptoms, other people aren’t.  Some people are good at coming up with clever work-arounds that keep them high-functioning, other people aren’t.  You really can’t judge how someone feels inside by how they’re acting outside.

Rest makes a difference.

Anyone who races knows you manage your training schedule so that you peak when it counts.  There are days when you can ride hard and fast, no problem, and days when you can’t.  Depends on how much sleep you got.  What you did the day before.  What you did the week before.

Illness doesn’t change that, it just changes the scale.

Figuring out an unpredictable body is exhausting.

Normal people spend most of their time operating well within the margins of their abilities.  If you knew you had to ride 100 miles on your bike sometime soon, you’d have to plan ahead to make sure you could do it.  You’d strategize how to make it happen with as little trouble as possible.  But you wouldn’t feel the least bit of guilt if you misjudged: “Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be, why did I make such a big deal out of it?”  Or conversely, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard!”

Sick people have to figure out the 100-mile ride about everything they do . . . and then get in trouble if they misjudge.  “Why’d you spend half an hour answering e-mails? You should have rested up so you could talk to your mother on the phone!”  Or “Why’d you put off that phone call, look, you talked for twenty minutes, no problem!”

It’ll make you bonkers.  You hear the mail truck go by, and you think to yourself, “Should I walk to the mailbox?  Or get a kid to do it for me?  What’s the best thing here? How will this decision impact my family life?”

What you like is easier than what you don’t like.

Sick people are confusing because their gifts don’t go away.  Okay, if your gift is watching football on TV, everyone will think, “Look he spends all day watching football games, he must be sick.”  But what is hard for you is effortless for someone else. What is easy — even fun — for you is difficult for someone else.  It’s not about the sheer physical energy required.  It’s the mental energy.

So my son might say to my daughter, “I see you have plenty of time for scrapbooking.  Why don’t you research computer components?  What’s wrong with you?  Just lazy, I see.”  And she’d point out to him that he received a photo album for Christmas, and he’s supposed to put his photos in it.  He had time to build a computer, and even more time for playing computer games . . . why so lazy with the photo album?

Everything costs.

There’s service to your fellow man, and then there’s letting your fellow man turn you into his servant. We live in a hyper-critical age.  What you wear, what you eat, what your hobbies are, how you spend your money — all of it is subject to the approval of seven billion self-appointed guardians.  That doesn’t change when you’re sick, it just becomes harder to please the seven billion, because you’ve got less to please them with.

Normal people might say, for example, “Is it worth it for me to give up an hour of my time to visit my crotchety uncle who invited me for dinner tonight?”  When you’re sick the question becomes, “Is it worth it for me to set aside an entire afternoon to rest, and give up getting any chores done, at all, the entire day, so that I can physically pull off the feat of visiting my uncle for an hour?”

In normal life, a dysfunctional friend is the one who makes inordinate demands on your time and energy.  In sick life, everything is an inordinate demand.  But some of those demands are very gratifying, so you organize your life to make them possible. The chief sin of sick people, I suspect, is in gratifying too many whims.

Order in all things.

Sick people are confusing because of the scale change.  With so little room for covering-over, it becomes obvious what the sick person values most.  It becomes obvious where the conflicts lie, because there’s no margin where you can quick slip in a nod towards other people’s priorities.  As in academia, the rivalries can be so bitter because the stakes are so small.  “Just a few minutes of your time” is now also, “all your time”.  How are you going to spend all that time? The way you want?  The way I want? Something in between?

The Darwins have a novena started on just this question.

*Sometimes things look so bad that you assume the other way, “It’s not as bad as it looks, I hope?”  To which I’ll observe: A badly scraped knee looks horrible.  But it feels even worse.

Rant-o-Rama – Catechesis Edition + Proof I Can’t Proofread But You Should Write Your Story Anyway

1. If you haven’t seen Dorian Speed’s posts on Catechesis, look now. #2 is up.  Don’t neglect the combox.  But here’s what: If your parish has to wring hands over whether to give the 2nd Graders a pre-sacramental quiz, the question isn’t, “Should we give a quiz?” The question is, “How have we gotten into this bind, and what do we need to do radically differently from now on?”

The answer is not in the quiz.  It’s not about the quiz.  Soul at a time.  Soul. at. a. time.

2.  You should never, ever, write something like this:

There’s a fine line between humility and stupidity, and I try my best to stay on the better-edited side of that line.

Yes, I used the word “try”. I was trying.  I was. trying.  I proofread that post.  I did.  Proofread. Solemn assurances of truth-telling.  And yet we’ve found three egregious typos in it so far today.  Read it yourself and see what else you find.

[Hint: I tell you that if you like to write, you should write the stuff you like to write.  Not complicated, and yet weirdly people get all confused about this.  Also I plug the CWG, because trust me your favorite best-selling mega-busy author is not your critique service.  But the CWG?  We do this.  Amateurs welcome.]

3. Back to catechesis: Allow me to tell you a terrible story. I once had a DRE tell me how much she loved her current job, because it was so different from her previous parish.  “Here, all the catechists go to Mass on Sundays!”

I was happy for her. I was.

But seriously.   Problems in catechesis run deep.  It’s not about the quiz.  The quiz conundrum is the nasty festering ulcer everyone’s tempted to chop off, and maybe it does need to be chopped off, or filled with leeches or maggots or I dunno what.  But until you figure out what’s causing that festering wound, new ones are going to keep popping up.  There are bigger problems.  Deeper problems.  Fix those.

4.  Prayer and fasting.  That’s how.

Knowing vs. Really Knowing

Sunday morning list of things we pretty much knew, but now we’re absolutely certain:

1. I was not made for wedding processions.  Barring strict orders otherwise, I’ve given it up.  Walk at a decent clip, cough cough cough, and sleep half the day.  Much better.  Moderation is overrated.

2.Properly-deployed Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist *rock*.  You who are prone to getting your socks in a wad over Speed Communion, in your Therese-like practice of self-control, resist the urge to make snarky comments to your pastor about how he’s doing it wrong.  The handy thing about parishes that unleash a fleet of EME’s at every Mass is that you know exactly whom to call when you’ve got a sick person at home.  So maybe your pastor’s doing it right after all.

3. Go to daily Mass when you can, and you’ll have it to draw upon when you can’t.  Nothing beats the silence of a good weekday Mass.  Grab one as often as you’re able, and that silence banks up in your soul.  It doesn’t go away.  Go when you can.  When you can, go.

(#3 I didn’t actually know.  It’s a pleasant surprise.)

A Feast Day Gift for You & Your Friends

If you are looking for some Petrine thoughts out of me today, take a look at the workbook I put together for today’s CCW retreat.  It’s conveniently stored on this page here on the blog, and this is the direct link to the PDF. It is not for sale, but you may use it and reuse it and pass it around.

Please keep the retreat folks in prayer.  Might I observe that the Joyful Mysteries are perfect for this sort of occasion?  Those of you who won’t see this request until after the retreat is over, consider yourself part of the post-retreat-letdown-prevention wing of the prayer group. Thanks!

Hey, and Pray for the Pee Dee Council of Catholic Women’s Retreat!

You praying types (that’s all of you, right?), mission for today and tomorrow:

Today: Please pray for Deacon F., who’s going to be giving the retreat in my stead.  Pray that God will give him wisdom and courage as he prepares, and that he will put together the retreat these ladies need, regardless of how that matches up with the notes and stuff I sent him.

Tomorrow: Please pray for those attending the retreat, that God will use this retreat to draw them closer to Him, and to help them to live more and more the way God is calling them.  Please pray specifically that those who need to come will be able to come, and that our Lord will use this as a stepping stone in the evangelization of the SC coast.