7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 123)

April 15, 2011 | 62 comments

— 1 —

It’s been a strange Lent. I keep feeling tempted to say it’s been “bad” or an “EPIC FAIL” because I haven’t experienced the spiritual growth that I have in other years; I don’t feel like my relationship with God is a whole lot better than it was on Ash Wednesday (though, on the plus side, I don’t think it’s worse). I’ve been trying to remind myself that just because the Lord didn’t hand me any incredible insights or thunder-and-lightning experiences doesn’t mean anything’s wrong. The spiritual life has plenty of plateau periods that are, well, not all that exciting. And that’s okay. Maybe I’ve even grown a little bit spiritually that I can recognize and accept that.

— 2 —

I mentioned last week that I recently switched all my email to web-based Gmail. I was hesitant to make the move since I was pretty attached to Outlook, but so far I love it. The keyboard shortcuts save a surprising amount of time when going through a lot of emails, and it’s nice not to have to worry about backups. In fact, now that I’m using Google Docs and Evernote (which also has an automatic online sync), worrying about backing up data is becoming a thing of the past for me. Interesting to see how technology is evolving.

— 3 —

IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Do not take advice from Snoop Dogg. I know what you’re thinking: If we can’t trust the Doggfather, whom can we trust? I hate to break it to you, but he may not always lead you in the right direction. Case in point:

A couple weeks ago we were at a convenience store and my husband spotted something when we walked by the malt liquor section. [Please imagine some darkly ominous music playing as I tell you the following]: “Hey, this is the stuff from that Wall Street Journal article! Snoop Dogg says it’s great. I think I’ll try it, ” he said as he grabbed a brightly-colored can of a beverage called Tilt. When he cracked it open a few hours later, he was a bit startled by its neon fuchsia appearance, but took some tentative sips. He said it had the taste of berry-favored chemicals with notes of wheat germ and Everclear. Sure, his survival instinct may have been screaming PUT IT DOWN NOW BEFORE IT MELTS YOUR TEETH, but he kept an open mind and took a few more sips.

The can was only half way finished when the nausea started. He immediately poured the rest out, but it was too late. Epic queasiness was now joined by dizziness and jitters. We started Googling around — alas, something we should have done hours earlier — and found websites where people reported their Tilt horror stories, comparing the taste to that of three-day-old warm beer with a packet of Kool Aid dumped in it, and accusing it of causing everything from hallucinations to scabies. And then we got to the worst part: It is evidently an experimental new hybrid malt liquor and energy drink (because, you know, those two categories just really needed to be combined) so it’s full of caffeine. Long story short, all my husband could do for the rest of the evening was lie in bed and twitch. And occasionally burp. So if you were thinking about drinking some Tilt this weekend, don’t. I don’t care how much Snoop Dogg recommends it.

— 4 —

I have been informed that Snoop actually endorses Blast, not Tilt, which might be excellent for all I know. You can resume taking advice from Snoop Dogg until further notice.

Also, as part of my due diligence for this subject, I discovered that there is an entire genre of malt liquor review videos on Youtube. The videos, as well as the accompanying comments, lived up to all my expectations of what you would get if you combined Youtube with malt liquor.

— 5 —

When I was in Boston a couple weeks ago, I heard a priest give a wonderful talk about the importance of confession. One of the things that stood out to me was that he made a comment that priests don’t like to have time to read in the confessional, i.e. if nobody comes. He also made a couple of passing comments dispelling the idea that church attendance is mostly for women. It was very interesting to me because it revealed how different the religious climate is in Boston vs. Austin.

My parish has confession six days a week, and there’s always a long line. There are two daily Masses every weekday, and around a hundred people (sometimes more) attend each one. Our weekend Masses attract big crowds: the building capacity is 1, 200 people, and it’s usually hard to find a seat at a Sunday Mass. And there are two other Catholic churches within just a few miles of us! Also, I don’t see a disproportionate number of women attending services. Church attendance and religious devotion aren’t seen as “women’s stuff” around here.

A few people have suggested that I do a follow up to the “What is the religious climate in your country?” post that focuses on the U.S. This makes me think that might be quite interesting!

— 6 —

Allow me to put on my astronomy nerd hat again and say…Is this app the coolest thing ever or what?:

— 7 —

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Below is a linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own 7 Quick Takes post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here.


  1. Sleeping Beastly

    SkyMap is awesome! So does that mean you’ve abandoned thoughts of getting an iPad and decided to get a (decidedly more Google-friendly) Android? Because if so, I work in cell phone tech support and could offer some suggestions, depending on your carrier and needs.

  2. Kendra

    Ugh, confession has been one of my biggest stumbling blocks lately in my faith…..just pray for me please.

    I’m so excited you’ve embraced gmail! I got an account about 2 years ago and never looked back. It runs so smoothly, has a great look and feel, and so many features!

  3. Tracy

    Confession, I wish that we had more promotion of it! I live in a regional town in Australia, population 30,000. Attendance at 4 weekend Masses is probably around 400 and Christmas/Easter 600. We have three full time priests, serving some outlying towns. Confession is once a week and a really inconvenient time for 30 min. The new priests will be in the confessional before each Mass (although the past has told me their enthusiasm drops over time). We have maybe 5-10 people attend Confession in the allotted 30 mins.

    Two problems as I see it. Most of our parish is badly catechised and think that the reconciliation Mass during holy week covers them (?) and our priests do nothing to dispel this or promote confession during lent. Secondly by offering it once a week at a really inconvenient time, what are they saying about its importance?

    Lent has been a bit like that for me, I haven’t quite done all I wanted to so I am not all that surprised I don’t feel like I have gained much spiritually. But I like your positive spin on it! I also haven’t lost anything. Oh I have lost 3kg but not having chocolate!


  4. Lacey

    Our parish (in southern ca) has two days of confession per week, with lines at both and very full masses on Sundays. Sounds like we’re not quite as robust as Austin but very lively. I’d be interested to hear how things look around the rest of the country for sure!

  5. Erin

    Really trying to not be envious here, wow!!!

    Hey Tracy, we sound like we live in sister towns. I’m also in Australia, regional city on the North Coast of 20,000. One priest for three parishes (aging priest population in our diocese) and we have a half hour slot at 11.30am on a Friday. Very hard for working husband to get too, although Fr will happily hear Confession if asked. Our parish is full of the elderly, you are young if under 70. Wondering if you are near me?

  6. Magnificat

    Concerning the first …
    Don’t worry, be calm and accept it. Sometimes you grow the most when you don’t notice it at all.

  7. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    I’d really like to see an across the US roundup of church environments. Though I wonder if the major explanatory variable is urban/exurban/suburban/rural more than specific regions.

  8. anna

    In my NZ parish, we have confession for 30mins on Saturday. If the priest gets 2 people he thinks he’s done well. Often there’s no one. He’s a new priest and I think he’ll try and push confession when he’s more settlled in though. Hope so.

  9. Fidelio

    Finding seven things is so hard for me! I feel like I’m either making a list of complaints or else just telling my weekly to-do list. 🙂

  10. Liesl

    I think the religious climate in the US would be great! I know that when I moved to DC, it was a huge culture shock for me at how “different” everything is here than it is in Ohio.

    And I agree with you on the Lent. I feel like it’s been “bad” too… but it’s not over yet!

  11. Tina

    I feel like I was in a deeper relationship with Him at the beginning of Lent…and now I feel so very far and disconnected. I think I need a blog post about that. Hmmm.
    I live in Connecticut and I’d have to agree with the Boston priest. The situation you described in Austin sounds so luxurious…and gives me such hope. Its good to know that the Church isn’t dying everywhere…just in New England. It also makes me wonder what we are doing wrong…or not doing…to attract our members.
    Have a great weekend! 🙂

  12. Pam

    Ugh — I think the alcohol/caffeine drinks have been banned in my state. (I wrote about them here: http://mosaicsynapse.blogspot.com/2010/11/loko.html) I had no idea they even existed until just before I wrote that — evidently it’s a youth culture thing.

    But more importantly, I was struck by your first take. You’re not panicking that this discipline hasn’t “worked” like it has in the past — which demonstrates some real maturity, I think.

  13. Anne

    Laughing at Snoop Dog!
    Sky Map is awesome.

  14. Kathleen@so much to say

    I’m going to have to look at that sky map. Looks awesome!

    And I am using Evernote–though not to the extent you do, I think–and I like it.

  15. NCSue

    Hi Jen. I always appreciate the things you have to say, and the opportunity to visit 7 Quick Takes each week. Thank you again for hosting!

  16. Maria

    blast … tilt … i can see how the error occurred. i think, though, i won’t take snoop doggs advice on … well, anything:)))

  17. Kelly

    Got me thinking abut confession….thanks!

  18. Mary

    I think there’s a connection with the confession/attendance in the church. I used to go to a church in Manhattan where they had confessions 7 days a week and there were multiple masses weekdays. Their weekend masses were usually packed too.

    As an Android user, I can’t wait to download the App. Thanks for the tip!

    And thanks for another great quick takes.

  19. MrsDarwin

    Allow me to express my utter and unreserved admiration for your husband and his willingess to try a beverage based on the recommendation of Snoop Dogg. Some people may read you for the spiritual insights, but when I click through I always hope that this may be the day that you write again about rap or Joe or the banana suit. I say this in all seriousness.

    • Lacey

      I would like to register my love of scorpion and Yaya tales. I have snorfled over those many a time.

  20. Brent

    We moved from Texas to Florida and have experienced the same “drop-off”. I suppose it is because all those new england bostonians have to retire somewhere. No Really, it is sad when the faithful find it difficult to get to Confession. Our Holy Father goes once a week. How frequently should we go? I asked a priest once if he could hear my confession and he told me to come back the next day after the daily Mass. It’s like telling a basketball player, it’s okay we’ll fix your torn ACL after the season. But, I want to play! (receive our Lord in a worthy manner). Arg…

  21. Sarah

    Ewww, he was braver than I ~ anytime I see something colored unnaturally, my first instinct is to pour it down the drain.

  22. Kris, in New England

    This is my first Lenten Season and while I have tried to find the right somber-note of the season, I just can’t. I’m too joyous about my baptism the night of the Easter Vigil. I am finding ways to turn inward for self-examination and yet – I’m smiling the whole time.

    Given that I’ve never received the Sacrament of Reconciliation I am facing my first on April 23. I am a bit nervous (though that doesn’t sound right, it’s not quite that yet it’s so much more than that). Our Church is similar to others mentioned here – Confession is for 30 minutes on Saturdays.

    I am encouraged to think that the Church is not dying in New England (hi Tina, I’m from CT as well!). When we went to the Rite of Election Mass in mid-March, there were over 100 people joining or returning to the Catholic Faith just in our diocese alone. And the Church my in-laws go to in MA is bursting at the seams.

    • Kelly

      Congratulations, and welcome! From one convert to another. This Easter will be eight years for me. I’ll never forget that first Easter Vigil 🙂

  23. Maureen

    I almost forgot it’s Lent, perhaps it’s because I hardly ever think about what I gave up – facebook. Maybe that’s a good thing?
    Our CT parish has 2 daily and 5 weekend Masses (one each is TLM for those who prefer it) with confessions on Thur evening and Sat afternoon. One of the Masses is 7pm Sunday and it’s not unusual for the priest saying that one to remind folks of the gift of Confession and then say “sieze the moment as I’ll be staying as long as needed after Mass to hear confessions”.

  24. Michelle

    I would venture to say that your parish and priests and parishioners are the reason for your parish’s devotion to confession, mass attendance, etc. We are a parish that is about 1 mile from one other Catholic parish and only about 3 miles from a couple of others. We got a new assignment of a priest last summer. He added three more times for confession (used to only have it on Saturdays…now on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) and there is always a line for confession…our Mass attendance has grown considerably and as a result, our membership registration has grown leaps and bounds and even our school is boasting a boom in enrollment (while many others are declining). I’d be happy to see you do a post about it focusing in US, but I really doubt it has all that much to do with city…but very much to do with parish and which one people of like devotion choose to assemble. I know several homeschooling families who travel past several parishes to attend a parish where they feel confident they will get Catholicism in it’s entirety (by their calculations).

    As for us…we attend our parish because it’s the only CAtholic school I will allow my children to attend. I have complete confidence that they will receive true Catholic teachings at our parish school and will grow up with authentically Catholic education and upbringing by sharing their day there.

    Anyway…sorry for the long comment…but you may be surprised what you find with a “climate” post focused on US…

  25. Brandon Vogt

    Jen: Now that you’re on GMail and Evernote, you need to check out the third element of the Holy Trinity of Productivity: Dropbox.

    Dropbox is my second favorite online tool (besides Gmail.) I like it even more than Evernote, and I *really* like Evernote. Dropbox automatically, quietly syncs files from your computer both to the ‘cloud’ and to any other computer you want (for example, the “My Documents” folder on my home computer is exactly the same as on my work computer. If I update a document at home, I fire up my work computer and the document is already updated there.) Even better, Dropbox saves all files in Dropbox’s cloud, meaning you can access your documents from anywhere with an Internet connection. Finally, it saves old iterations of all of your documents, acting as a robust backup solution, as well.

    It beats out Google Docs in many ways, the least of which is that you still get the “syncing” benefits of Google Docs, but Dropbox enables you to continue using the more robust Office software (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) instead of Google’s scaled back offerings.

    Dropbox is totally free (you get 2GB initially, and more each time you refer someone.) So consider checking it out:

    http://db.tt/Ii6PtJJ (my referral link)

  26. Laura

    Confession is a very difficult thing to find around us – unless it happens to be 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon. And then, don’t think too long about going or it will be over by the time you get there. The daily Masses that we go to are rather sparsely attended and those who do attend mainly have gray hair and are female. Our family, with our 7 children, definitely stands out. It would be great to have the attendance and options that you guys have in TX! God Bless.

  27. Mrs K

    As someone whose hard drive just ate itself, losing ten+ years of painstakingly written work, and then, discovering the most important document sitting online, in almost most recent form, as an attachment to a random gmail email to myself (something I don’t remember doing and I’ve never done before)…. webmail is the ONLY way to go. Honestly. I’m so happy I write in run-on sentences :). You won’t regret switching!

  28. priest's wife

    I can’t believe that Lent is almost over!

  29. Kristina

    Lent: I’m sad to admit that I absolutely feel the same way, but am completely at fault. I got completely sidetracked by having surgery on Ash Wednesday that by time I felt better (3 weeks into Lent) I realized I hadn’t really given anything up. And each time I tried to think of something, it was in the midst of me doing it. It’s a strange journey for me this year and I hope to be much better next time seeing as how this is always my favorite time of year and this year I just feel absent from it.

    Women in Church: I definitely think that more women in Church may be an East Coast thing…I think there are many efforts to increase outreach and ministry to men and get them involved which is great, but yea, most devotional stuff seems to be mostly women.

  30. Trista

    I don’t try any energy drinks!

  31. Emily

    Oh my, that Tilt story doesn’t sound fun. And I still don’t plan on taking advice from Snoop Dogg anytime soon hah 🙂

  32. Little Dorrit

    I can’t believe it’s almost Holy Week! Where has Lent gone??
    In terms of Tilt, ugh! It makes me more than certain that I do not want to try any “energy” drinks!

  33. Julie @ The Corner With A View

    Oh, thank goodness I can trust the DoggFather again!!!

    I really like that stars app, thanks for sharing!

    And yes, I went to confession on Wednesday and took my three little siblings along. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

  34. Louise

    “If we can’t trust the Doggfather, whom can we trust?”
    Absolutely hilarious and grammatically sound to boot. I love you!
    I’d be very interested in hearing about the religious climate in various areas of the country. Your description of Austin’s climate is quite different from what I’m used to here in central PA…it sounds refreshingly wonderful!

  35. 'Becca

    Thanks for the beverage warning! I think it’s funny that the WSJ article refers to such concoctions as “progressive adult beverages.” I know a lot of people whose politics and/or musical tastes could be labeled “progressive,” and none of them go for alcoholic Koolaid…what’s it progressing toward??

  36. Katarina

    If i dont get – to my parish at least 30 minuttes before mass i will not be able to get confession and its offered three times daily during the weekdays

  37. Michael King

    (previously Pilgrims Diary)

    I love the astronomy one. I remember using this and also a program called Stellarium to look up positions of objects we had to observe for radio astronomy at Cal. Very handy

  38. Michael King

    (previously Pilgrims Diary)

    I love the astronomy one. I remember using this and also a program called Stellarium to look up positions of objects we had to observe for radio astronomy at Cal. Very handy!

  39. Amanda

    My deacon recently told me that spiritual droughts are comparable to when Jesus told Peter, James, and John that they could not stay on the mountain of the Transfiguration, but that they had to come back down. We will have high points and low points in our spiritual journey, and the high points are used as a reference point to get us through the low ones.

    During the seemingly mundane times when we feel as if we are separated from God because we haven’t recently experienced some amazing private revelation, God is using those times to mature us in our faith…to teach us not to rely on the highs because what goes up must come down. We must…Be still and know that He is God…even when we feel utterly alone.

  40. Cathy

    Eh, please *don’t* do the regional comparison thing — it’s no doubt true that culture varies in some ways geographically, as do the standards of religious practice, but this type of survey would seem to equate that way too easily to a metrics of piety, or even holiness. My sense is that this would predictably devolve into an inverse version of the self-congratulatory sophistry whereby East Coast metropolitans can justify feeling more intelligent or sophisticated than their Midwestern or Southern counterparts simply on the basis of stereotypes and crude demographics. That’s eye-rollingly stupid already, but I’d find Pharasaical laments about godless East Coast urbanites even harder to take.

  41. Elizabeth

    I could’ve written your first quick take. Like you, I guess sometimes the growth is obvious and other times it’s not.

  42. Kate

    I keep telling people that my personal motto is currently: Limping Through Lent!

    I’m going through RCIA right now and we were warned that life can get harder towards the end of this process. I guess coming under attack (spiritually speaking) makes sense, but WOW were they right.

    That said, I feel so grateful to just be able to limp along and get there. I feel incredibly blessed to have finally found my way (or at least my path, I’ve got a LONG way to go yet).

  43. JoAnna

    There’s always a long line at our parish for confessions, too, but they only do them twice a week.

    We took our family to a traditional Latin mass at the Mater Misericordiæ Mission a few weeks back, and they had Confession an hour before Mass — and even during Mass if necessary. It was nice to have the opportunity to go to Confession right before Mass.

  44. kris

    Well…. I saw you speak at the conference near Boston, and you said many things that have contributed to a good lent and spiritual growth for me. So that’s something, right? 🙂

  45. Rebecca @ The Road Home

    I love Gmail – and google calendar. I hated being tied to one computer using outlook or something similar. It’s so nice to be able to check in on what’s going on wherever I am.

    Have a great weekend!

  46. Nancy Piccione

    I’m a lifelong Catholic, and it’s so common for Lents to vary widely from year to year. One year, I had great ideas for Lent, deciding to do an Orthodox-style fast, and then my Dad was hospitalized just before Ash Wednesday. So instead, I was traveling, and staying with my Mom, with neighbors bringing all sorts of meals, and having to eat out, and all the great ideas went out the window. Yet that Lent was very spiritually productive. I think it’s more about accepting the Lent we are given, rather than the Lent that we choose. Having said that, I so look forward dark chocolate after Easter Vigil!!!!

  47. Jeanne G.

    I have always had web-based e-mail (at least since I have had e-mail). I also use (and love) gmail. My husband made a comment off-hand to me the other day about Outlook, and I didn’t know what he was talking about. That is the one basic Office program that I have never used.

  48. Elizabeth Esther

    Thank God someone took time out of their busy, meaningful life to inform you that Snoop promotes BLAST–not TILT. You know, because your husband’s near death experience is simply not as important as getting the name right. Yo.

  49. Elizabeth Esther

    Thank God someone took time out of their busy, meaningful life to inform you that Snoop promotes BLAST–not TILT. That really makes all the difference. Because your husband’s near death experience is simply not as important as getting the name right. Yo.

  50. Cassie

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog through out lent. A friend sent me here. I’m loving your posts. And I decided to do quick take friday this week. I love participating in stuff like this it gives me a chance to have an idea of something to write about! So thanks!

    LOL about the Tilt!

  51. Barbara

    This Lent is pretty much a wash at this point. I was doing really well until my birthday. (I hate late Easters when my birthday falls during Lent) and then decided to “treat” myself to pretty much everything I’d given up. That and I’ve been in a horrible mood the last two weeks.

  52. Susan

    I’d be interested in seeing posts about the religious climate in various parts of the country. My parish is at the northern end of Los Angeles County. We have daily masses twice a day with half-hour confessions twice a day before masses, then two sessions on Saturday at 4 pm and 8 pm. Many, many men and families attend mass. We have been told more than once that our parish is special. It seems that in many parishes in the city of Los Angeles people do not attend the daily masses and holy day masses, but these are well attended at my church.

  53. Gloria

    I’d love to hear readers’ comments about the religious climate in various parts of the US! Also, I’m sorry that you lent hasn’t been what you’d hoped. My family has been sick most of Lent, but thanks to your book suggestions, War of Art, Mother Angelica and Ten Prayers God Says Yes To, I have had a great lent in my suffering at home! Thank you, thank you, thank you. You may not know how you are reaching people with your blog!

  54. Josephene Kealey

    I’ll pray for you, Barbara!! I HATE being grumpy.

  55. Lisa V.

    In response to #1, you mirrored exactly how I’ve been feeling as we near the end of lent: epic fail. Ok,yes, I just had a baby almost 3 weeks ago … ok I WILL cut myself from slack, but just feeling like I “let God down” makes me kind of sad. I envisioned early mornings of quiet prayer time and a real revelation on all that extra time of prayer. Alas many more than not early mornings were spent just trying to grab a couple of hours of needed sleep. However this week my plan is to especially reflect on Jesus last week before crucifixtion and resurrection.

  56. Karen

    Skymap – That is so cool!! Makes me wish I had a smart phone!

  57. Olga Humphrey

    I guess coming under attack (spiritually speaking) makes sense, but WOW were they right. We will have high points and low points in our spiritual journey, and the high points are used as a reference point to get us through the low ones. I got completely sidetracked by having surgery on Ash Wednesday that by time I felt better (3 weeks into Lent) I realized I hadn’t really given anything up. Really trying to not be envious here, wow!!!

  58. Kara Solis

    Where has Lent gone?? I have complete confidence that they will receive true Catholic teachings at our parish school and will grow up with authentically Catholic education and upbringing by sharing their day there. Thank God someone took time out of their busy, meaningful life to inform you that Snoop promotes BLAST–not TILT. We have been told more than once that our parish is special.

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