7 Quick Takes about driving in DC, meeting fabulous people, and outing myself as an airplane stalker nerd

— 1 —



I’m back from the DC trip! I gave five talks, did two media appearances, four book signings, and hosted my radio show live from SiriusXM’s Washington studio, so it was quite the adventure. Honestly, it wasn’t as stressful as it sounds. I got to meet so many new people, connect with friends whom I’d never met in person, and even enjoy a few moments in quiet hotel rooms!

It’s good to be home, but I’m already looking forward to to get back to the that area one of these days, hopefully bringing the whole family next time.

— 2 —

I was just going through pictures on my phone, and here are some shots of just a few of the friends I met in person for the first time on this trip:


Brian Patrick, Kathryn Jean Lopez, William Newton, Leah Libresco, Gina Dalfonzo, Fr. Dwight Longenecker (and I met a bunch of other wonderful people not pictured!)

I guess it’s time to turn in my introvert card, right?

— 3 —

I had a rental car for my trip since I was running around to so many different areas, and that experience has left me with a new thankfulness mantra: At least I’m not driving in DC.

That is going to be my go-to gratitude statement for the rest of my life, no matter what my circumstances. Meteor hit my car? At least I’m not driving in DC! Right arm severed in a dishwasher accident? At least I’m not driving in DC! My cheap boxed hair color melted all my hair off? At least I’m not driving in DC!

I felt like I was in a macabre video game where there is no winning and you die every time you play. There were stoplights hidden on the side of the road behind bushes. There were streets with multiple names which intersected multiple other streets, some of them with no names at all. There were “wheel of torture” traffic circles with eight possible exits. There were pedestrians everywhere. And the locals who kept telling me that their city is laid out “in a grid” are going to need to have a long, sit-down talk with me about their definition of the word “grid.”

I love DC…but WOW do I not miss driving in DC.

— 4 —

The night I flew in, I went directly to a talk and book signing at the Daughters of St. Paul bookstore in Old Alexandria. I’d been kind of stressed about it since it sounded like a lot to handle after a long day of travel, but it ended up being an absolutely lovely evening! Not only was it great to see everyone who came out, but I got to meet fellow author Sister Maria Grace Dateno.


Sister Maria Grace has written a fabulous children’s book series about time-traveling kids who go back to Biblical times. After flipping through the books I realized that they’re exactly the kind of thing I’d been looking for for my kids, and I bought a whole stack of them. Sure enough, the kids are thrilled with them. Congratulations to Sister Maria Grace Dateno on creating a great series!

— 5 —



Our 11th anniversary this weekend! I can’t believe we’ve been married for eleven years. It feels like it’s been eleven thousand.

We’re hoping to get the traditional 11th Anniversary wedding gifts of gift certificates to liquor stores and free babysitting, and we’re planning to celebrate by taking turns taking naps on Saturday.

Since I don’t have time right now to pen ruminations on marriage like I have in other years, I’ll just say this: When we first got married, a wise former professor of mine said, “It just keeps getting better every year.” I have absolutely found that to be true.

— 6 —

I am mildly obsessed with this Plane Finder app I got for my iPhone. It brings out every OCD bone in my body to know that I can discover the origin and destination of any plane I see flying overhead.
photo (6).PNG

I have a feature suggestion for them that I am almost afraid to say out loud, because I fear what it would do to my productivity if they actually implemented it:

How cool would it be if they connected this app with Twitter, so that you could check in publicly if you’re on one of those flights? So, for example, I could tweet at someone on a plane up in the sky, and say, “Hey, you’re flying right over my house, on the Phoenix to Orlando flight! I see you!”

Really, my entire life would come to a standstill if I were able to do this. (And I have probably just established that I am both a stalker and a nerd by admitting that.)

— 7 —

For the record, it is actually not my intention to update my blog only with Quick Takes on Fridays. It might be a few weeks or even months until everything settles down enough for me to return to the usual routine, but I’m really looking forward to getting back to regular blogging!

Have a great weekend, everyone!


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  1. Kate in Virginia says

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for your talks at the Risk Jesus event – it was a great day and you were wonderful! Also, your pictures don’t do you justice. And yes, DC/Northern Virginia driving = time off Purgatory.

  2. says

    I was wondering how a little lady from Texas would handle the torture device known as DC traffic! DuPont circle is the worst with it’s inner and outer circles and yes the side stop lights. I drove through those torturous road for many years and called my brother and dad many times, begging for directions out so I didn’t make a wrong turn and end up in really bad part of town!! If you go back, give a girl more than a few days notice so I can pack the car and drive down this time!

  3. Rita @ Open Window says

    It was so wonderful to meet you! My mom and I had such a great evening. And she went home and read your book, so now she’s even more excited to have met you. 🙂 Driving in DC is torture. I avoid it at all costs. But for the chance to meet you, I made an exception. Hope you are able to bring your family back soon and just enjoy riding the Metro all over the city.

  4. Christine says

    The twitter idea is fantastic. But why stop there? People should be able to link up with their Instagram accounts, too. On those really long transcontinental flights it could turn into a sort of party game/puzzle as the travelers snap pictures of the plane and then try to get it pieced together correctly on the Plane Finder app.

  5. says

    Um you’re hilarious with the airplanes–THAT WOULD BE CREEPY!!!! And how awesome are those Bible books? Maybe I’ll have to snag a few. Glad you’re safely home, and hope those liquor store gift certs pour in.

  6. says

    My brother was married in DC. I had to drive 20 minutes to the airport to pick up my husband and then 20 minutes back. I got to the airport in 20 minutes and then about 3 hours later returned to the hotel with my husband! Saw parts of Baltimore in the dark we shouldn’t have been in during the day, had to stop for gas, it was a nightmare. All before cell phones and GPS.

  7. Lara says

    Just a note to say I love reading your posts. Thanks for being faith-filled and real.
    Blessings, Lara Huynh

  8. says

    The airplane app sounds super cool. I can see it as a geography and math lesson already. Thanks for the book recommendation. I didn’t know about them but will check them out for my kids.

  9. says

    “At least I’m not driving in DC!”

    PREACH IT, SISTER!! 🙂 But I’m so glad and thankful you braved the traffic! It was a delight to meet you!

  10. says

    In-person author events are lots of fun, even if a little stressful. I gave a talk at our local library last night on how to succeed at self-publishing. The librarian fro the Catholic high school was there and bought her own copy, plus one for the high school kids. I hope all your events are successful. I loved your book!

  11. Anna says

    Well, D.C. is actually on a grid, but the city planners apparently couldn’t make up their minds and overlaid a whole other system of radiating diagonal streets on top of the grid, so that frequently major intersections (where five or six streets meet of course) end up thirty feet apart… to make a long story short, you’re right and it’s horrible.

  12. says

    It was so nice to meet you in person!!

    I hear you on driving in DC. I try to avoid it by just avoiding going downtown. But even not-downtown is bad. DC *is* set up in a grid pattern 😉 but you might have been driving in the part where the grid gets wonky!

  13. elizabethe says

    Everyone who has a chance/opportunity go see Jen in person, just do it. She is so great!

    Re:driving in DC. I also want to say that the city was designed so that an invading army could not find the Capitol.

    There’s about a 3 year learning curve with DC driving and it eventually does become second nature. But I mean it’s asinine. There are multiple places where two streets a block apart have the same name and then one of them just disappears or turns into another street.

    It doesn’t help that there are several places between DC and Northern VA near the Mall where if you make a wrong turn you are stuck going 2 or 3 miles out of your way in the wrong state.

    Were you able to do any touristy things?

    • says

      It was such a treat to finally get to meet you, Elizabeth!

      And the thing about taking a wrong turn that could shoot you out into VA was possibly the most stressful part of the whole experience.

      I did get to go to the National Art Museum, but that was it for touristy stuff. I need to come back. Have a great weekend!

  14. says

    Loving the show so far, Jen. Great job on that!

    Those airplane apps are cool, though sadly there just aren’t that many planes flying over rural Saskatchewan. I will actually be flying into Texas for the first time on Sunday, for a 2.5 hour layover in Houston! I’ll be oh so close to Austin! (Google says 165 miles/266 km.)

  15. says

    It was great to meet you briefly and listen to your talk at the Catholic Information Center! I’m the introverted Aggie who whooped in my head when you mentioned A&M. 🙂 My blog has mainly been for family and for a record for my children with brief times of posting on more widely interesting topics like crafts and homescooling. Anyway, I have been thinking that my conversion story would make for a good post both for my family and for others that stumble upon it. You and your book have inspired me to really do it. Now if only I can find the time!

  16. Sarah says

    So excited to see you mention the Gospel Time Trekkers! I wanted to ask people to please order them from the Daughters of St. Paul website, rather than Amazon. It’s better for the sisters. Their website is http://store.pauline.org/.

  17. Lew says

    Thanks for visiting DC! I’m glad you liked it. I forget the driving is tricky for visitors. I agree with you, not quite as simple as a grid because of L’Enfant’s radiating streets and the circles. Too bad the local’s don’t understand that. But, the city street plan adds to our character. If you ever do a book tour in Canberra, you’ll recognize the city layout, with less traffic and pedestrians.

  18. Tracy says

    Hi Jenn! I was at the Risk Jesus conference last sat and so enjoyed your talks!! I’ve stalked your blog for years and even though I live 2 hours south of Woodbridge in Richmond VA, when I saw you were going to be speaking there I had to go! Totally worth it! :))

  19. says

    We moved from Maryland to Wisconsin a month ago, so I couldn’t be there but YES, oh my YES driving in D.C. is crazy and I always hated doing it. Doing it in a 12 passenger van with 5 kids only made it worse. I would do it for special field trips or to CUA to visit daddy but yes, driving in D.C. is a special kind of purgatory. I especially hate all the “No left turn” signs that force you into strange alternate random routes! Glad you survived!

  20. says

    I am downloading that plane app RIGHT NOW…whenever I fly or know someone flying and have to pick them up from the airport I always look for these apps that show the plane flying in the air so I know where they are.

  21. JoAnna says

    Wow. You deserve a medal or something for driving yourself all around DC on your own for multiple days to places you have never been before. When I first moved here a couple years ago, I think one of the most stressful parts of getting used to my ‘new’ city was getting into my car on a daily basis, even just to do things like find the nearest grocery store, Target, restaurants, or church. You are so right about the bad signage, crazy naming conventions (multiple names, no names), traffic circles, diagonals, etc. (I remember driving on the GW parkway for the first time and almost losing my mind…a fork like every 200 feet!). There are even one-way roads that change the direction of traffic based on the time of day (Rock Creek Parkway, anyone?). Fun stuff.

    There is some fun history to the crazy roads, though. Arlington County (where I live), used to be a mostly rural area, and then came the initial urban sprawl from DC of the late 19th & early 20th c. Most of the existing roads were good old country roads that were laid out like most country roads are – where they are needed, and not following any type of city plan. The suburbs initially grew like that too. Up until the 1930s, Arlington didn’t even have a postmaster, so you had an enormous amount of street name duplication in neighboring localities – so much so that it wreaked havoc on the mail, with identical addresses in different parts of the city. Finally a postmaster was named, and there was a huge overhaul to re-name most of the streets. I saw a cool register in my local public library from the time when they re-named the streets and everyone had to learn their new address-essentially a big index for what the old street names were, and what they would be called from that point forward. Somehow we still have a lot of name duplication today, but it’s much better than it originally was.

    It was great to meet you at the CIC!

  22. says

    You look so cool and confident in your radio pics!! I was wondering if you still feel like an introvert after all this! 😉

    And, Happy Anniversary!! Here’s to many more!

  23. the other Becky says

    Now you know why people who live here offered to pick you up and drive you around. Next time you come to D.C. take us up on the offer.

    I saw you at the Pauline Sisters bookstore, and at the Risk Jesus conference, but even though I rsvp’d for the Catholic Information Center event unfortunately I did not make it because I was in the hospital with my father who just had a heart attack. Please pray for our family.

  24. says

    Jen, I’m just still so completely bummed that I had to miss your visit in my area. I had a feeling that would happen…fall is so busy for us.

    About your driving in DC — I feel your pain! I avoid it as much as possible. I live in the suburbs because I choose not to drive in DC!

    Reminds me of the time I DID have to drive in DC. I had a blind (online) date, but the visitor didn’t have a driver’s license because he was from NYC. So he made me drive, and was asking me to drive to all these different places. It was making me so stressed. I had to pull over and then fussed about how I hate to drive in DC. Right then he offered me some Xanax he had in his backpack.

    Hmmph! Obviously he didn’t know what it felt to be in the driver’s seat…and that was our last date.

  25. GalaxyJane says

    I always describe my 10ish years living in and around the Beltway as my “penance”, I am so glad to have escaped the traffic with life and sanity relatively intact. I won’t go past Fredericksburg (the unofficial border between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state) by car if I can help it. The subway system is actually pretty darn good for getting around DC, and I just use the Amtrak to get to the city, no more expensive considering the obscene prices of DC parking and way easier on the nerves.