7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 166)

March 16, 2012 | 47 comments

— 1 —

If anyone has seen my brain, would you please send it to me? You can find my mailing address here.

I don’t know what’s been going on this week. It’s probably some combination of DST-itis, travel fatigue, and an adrenaline hangover from the final push on the book. Whatever it is, I just cannot deal with anything. For example, my kids asked me this afternoon if they could have PBJ for lunch. I gazed from the peanut butter jar, to the jelly, to the bag of bread, and just about collapsed in tears and the thought of trying to put all that together into some kind of meal. I think if I could just have one or two days to do nothing but lie in bed and stare at the ceiling, I should be fine.

— 2 —

Speaking of the book, I haven’t mentioned it much lately because there’s not much to report. I want my husband to edit it before I send it to my agent, but he’s been so busy at work that he’s hardly had a chance to look at it. I assure you that you will know when I send it to my agent, because all my online activity will cease: I will stop blogging and tweeting (as well as eating and sleeping) and do nothing but sit in front of my computer, hitting refresh on my email inbox as I wait for his response. If I need a break, I might fixate on his Twitter feed for a while, reading his updates like tea leaves to see if I can decipher his thoughts on the book. (He says he’s having a bad day. That must mean he hates the book. Or wait. It could mean that he’s so amazed by it that he fears he’ll never represent something so astounding again!!!! — Actual thoughts from the last time I sent him a draft.) Anyway, if I seem to be taking this latest delay in stride, it’s only because I’ve come to believe that God’s main goal with this project is simply to teach me how to wait.

— 3 —

Back in business school, my husband once heard that the way to find your perfect career is to look at what kinds of things people are already asking you to do. (E.g. One of the reasons he decided to back into law after a detour in the business world was when he realized that friends frequently asked him to help them with legal work.)

I think this advice could also be applied to finding your charism. Others are often better at seeing our gifts than we are, and naturally think of us when they need help in the areas in which we’re gifted. I know that one of my friends is the go-to person around here for cooking advice, since we all know that God has really showered her with gifts in that department; there are a couple of ladies in the area who have taken on quasi-official roles as homeschooling mentors, simply because there was so much demand for their advice; another became a part-time doula after so many friends asked her to assist them in childbirth. I’d be interested to know: In what areas do people tend to ask you for help or advice?

— 4 —

We finally got our Lent lights up! For those of you who aren’t Catholic, “Lent lights” are a tradition where you hang Christmas lights around your house but don’t light them, as a symbolic gesture for the penitential season.

(This is not to be confused with people who are too incompetent to take down their Christmas lights before April and try to pass it off as a liturgical tradition.)

— 5 —

I now know two local families who are moving to the neighborhood around our church, for the sole reason of being able to walk to Mass and all the other activities that take place there. I love, love, love this idea. Obviously it’s not something everyone can do, but I would love to see more folks make it a goal. As I’ve said before, I believe that if even 20% of parishioners lived within walking distance of their parish church, we would be surprised by just what a dramatic impact that would have on Christian culture.

— 6 —

My husband often refers to being “behind the curve, ” and his desire to stay “ahead of the curve.” Basically, to be “behind the curve” means that you’re just reacting to whatever chaos is thrown at you, barely keeping your head above water. Here’s an example, using lunchtime at our house:

  • Behind the curve: The kids tumble into the kitchen. They’re exhibiting symptoms of some kind of discomfort. Now they’re scaling the refrigerator. Someone got out a crowbar to get into the child-proofed snack cabinet. After analyzing these clues, it occurs to me that they might be hungry. I look at the clock to see that — uh-oh — it’s an hour after we normally eat lunch. Then the baby starts fussing, and I look at the clock again to see that it’s time for her to eat too. Now I face the task of fixing food and filling drinks and finding clean plates and napkins with four hungry kids underfoot and a discontent baby on my hip. Long story short, there tends to be a lot of yelling from all parties involved.
  • Ahead of the curve: I see that lunchtime is coming up, and I think about what I should serve. I’ve already fed the baby since I knew the mealtime crunch was approaching, so she’s playing happily in her bouncer. I get my two oldest to help me get the table set, which is possible since a) they’re not crazy hungry and b) I’m not trying to talk over whining toddlers and babies. By the time everyone gets hungry, I have all the drinks filled and the sandwiches mostly made. I tell everyone to sit down, and have food for them to start eating within a few minutes. If any chaos breaks out, I can give it my full attention since I’m already done making the meal.

One thing that has been a huge help in this department is doing a big weekly planning session on the weekends. No matter how crazy our weekend is, I do not let the week begin until I’ve planned our dinners, made a grocery store list, written up my calendar for the week, and made my to-do list. When I do that, I can usually stay ahead of the curve.

— 7 —

Whew! I didn’t know if I was going to be able to stay conscious long enough to write all seven takes today; the fact that I made it this far is a great victory. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stare at a wall.



  1. Kendra @ The Nerdy Wife

    I honestly have never heard of Lent lights…..so I’m wondering if maybe you’re just being funny, or if they are real? I’m so confused! 😛

    Good job on making through all 7 quick takes as well as your other obligations this week….sometimes I can’t believe how much you get done. It makes me feel like so much of a slacker!

  2. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    Aside from statistical advice, the thing I always get asked to help with is emotionally-tricky problem solving. I’m really good at putting emotions aside and being practical, but what’s useful to others in moderation isn’t so good for me by itself. Can your charism also be your weakness?

  3. Dianna

    Daylight Savings Time — when I’m queen of the universe, it will be forever banished. What torture — especially if you have small children.

  4. Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer Blog

    I am with Kendra I have NEVER heard of Lent Lights either. I remember one year in college they couldn’t find the tall ladder and the christmas wreaths were on the church buildings during LENT…they finally took them down by week 2..or 3…

    People are always asking me to look certain things up (online). Like whenever we start planning vacations me and my cousin are put in charge of “research” figuring out where to go, where to stay, prices, etc.

    A lot of ppl also ask me to make things on the computer (spreadsheets, flyers, proposals, schedules, etc.) I know that is kind of nerdy but that is what people ask me to do.

  5. cinhosa

    I agree totally on meal planning and grocery shopping list. We are on month 5 of this experiment and it saves us time, money and crazy for the week because we just look at the plan and follow it.

    I recommend the SparkPeople cookbook. It is in a word: awesome!

    Not only do the recipes taste great but they are healthy and Chef Meg offers plenty of suggestions to save money.



  6. Valerie @ Momma in Progress

    I try to stay ahead of the curve, but wow that curve is, curvy.
    Never heard of the lights thing either. Interesting.
    DST hasn’t affected us yet in Europe. We will actually be on vacation (in a different time zone) when it does, so probably that will mean we’ll already be so messed up it will not even matter.
    I’ve been working on the meal planning thing for a while now, and just when I think I have a handle on it, I don’t. Sigh.

  7. Angie @ Many Little Blessings

    I totally agree with you about living within walking distance of the parish. I would love to do that, and we would also be very, very close to my husband’s work. But, unfortunately, our parish just isn’t in the nicest neighborhood. Although, on the up side, we’d be able to get a cheaper house. But, I also wouldn’t feel comfortable being out at night either. That makes me sad though, because I know that back in the day, it was probably a lovely neighborhood.

  8. Barbara B

    Love the Lent lights – I’d have them, if I weren’t too lazy to get them up to begin with. When I was growing up, I always wished that I lived right across the street from my church.

  9. Erin

    Our husbands sound so alike at times, must be how their brains are wired.

  10. Jeanne G.

    I like #5, too. We are seeing the silver lining of a possible foreclosure (hopefully a short sale) as getting to live closer to church.

  11. Michael

    Regarding the gifts, in college I majored in Physics, but ended up in college ministry because I loved my work with on campus groups so much. Now I am still doing non-profit management for trade associations because of things I learned doing college ministry. I’m still teaching Sunday School on the side. It’s always a little dangerous balancing vocation and avocation, because it can lead to big changes. When they come together it’s great, but you have to be careful not to have too much fun or you burn out. 🙂

  12. Diapeepees

    Behind the curve…the exact words to capture feeding time. Absolutely one of the most spazzed out times in a big family’s life…enough to make most people totally not get the open to life thing!

  13. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    Jen, if you don’t ever get around to putting up Christmas lights it solves the Lenten lights problem. We handle all those kinds of decorative issues here by admiring other people’s handiwork. It saves effort and mess (and money, too!)
    I stopped thinking about charisms because I found it messed with my head. I have a tendency to think things like, “Oh THIS is the charism God gave me so THIS must be what he wants me to do!” instead of humbly acknowledging whatever gifts I have and then letting go and turning my attention to listening to God and opening myself up daily to his use in whatever way he wants. I don’t listen as well once I’ve labelled things. Or maybe it’s that the word MY worms its way into my soul too easily.

    That said, I’ve been thinking off and on about what direction my life needs to head in, since we can’t afford to homeschool any longer. It is a real battle to rein in the thoughts that gallop along the ‘this is what I want/need/ought to do’ career path, and to reiterate the prayer ‘Lord, more than anything I want to serve you’. I do agree that often God gives us nudges through others toward the path he wants us to walk. That doesn’t seem to be happening at the moment here, though!

  14. Sarah

    We moved near our church last year; we are a 5 minute walk away and it is BLISS. I highly recommend it!

  15. Melanie Gillespie

    I feel like I stay behind the curve which is why holiday lights of any kind are never a problem because they don’t make it up the first time.

    We live close to everything but not walking distance to anything if that makes sense. The thought of walking my children to school and church is magical. It was my reality as a child and definitely formed special memories for me.

    Jen, I would love if you wrote a post on charisms. It has been something my sister and I have bounced off each other for years. Maybe even point us in the right direction for discerning your charism? You know, if you are looking for topics. 😉 Mine has something to do with meaningful gift-giving because I definitely have people ask me for help with that all the time (and I LOVE it!).

  16. Sarah B.

    I meant to tell you last weekend, then I forgot. Nice earrings. 😉

    I think you’re right on with meal planning. Once I started doing meal planning in advance I felt like dinner was manageable. Lunch is more of a challenge.

    People seem to ask me for help with listening when they’re stressed or upset. And lately (as in the last few years), I’ve seemed to take on a leadership role with my friends in planning our get togethers and parties. It’s so strange because I’m def. an introvert, but I love to plan parties and social gatherings. As long as I already know everyone who will be there, haha.

    Have a great weekend!

  17. elizabeth

    Jen, I have to tell you that you are very blessed to have a husband who will read your manuscript. My husband has steadfastly refused to read my first novel (that took 7 years to write, by the by) saying that it is no-win proposition–either he will say he likes it and I won’t believe him, or he’ll have “criticisms” and I will get my feelings hurt. He did, however, read a couple of pages of my second book and his comment was that it made him “recoil.” Wow. Still licking my wounds from that one . . .

    Anyway, best of luck and Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

  18. Ashley

    I have DST-itis too and it is brutal!

  19. Rosita

    I hadn’t given much thought to charisms and schooling, although now that I do, I seem to be getting the right degree. Family and friends always call me for health and nutrition advice and I am completing a Master’s in Public Health. That being said, I too would enjoy if you wrote a post more in depth on the subject.

  20. Gail

    Regarding living within walking distance of church, that’s one of the things that I admire about Orthodox Jews. I used to live in Pittsburgh where there is a substantial Orthodox population, and I loved seeing them walking to temple every Shabbat. I don’t see that in CT. But, I did drive by the mall parking lot a few years back and I saw a very nicely dressed woman with her son and could tell by what the son was wearing that they were Jewish. My thought was that they had something that I wanted… that you could just look at them and know their faith. That’s around when I started covering my hair for Mass (then with a scarf, now with a hat), and dressing more modestly, specifically full time skirts. I know that doesn’t make me stand out as a Catholic, but at least when people see me every day in a skirt they know that there is probably a religious conviction behind it and I’m not one of the majority of Americans who completely discounts religion. This isn’t meant in any way a skirts vs. pants argument – that was just the way I felt personally led. I guess that sounds like a random tangent from living within walking distance of church, but that’s where my mind led me. I did try to buy a house close a church a few years back, but there was asbestos in the basement so my husband vetoed it. Would have been lovely though.

  21. Judy Dudich

    LENT LIGHTS! Oh my gosh, Jennifer, that will keep me laughing ALL day. Can’t wait to call my “Erma Bombeck-esque” daughter and share that one! THANK YOU!
    As for charisms and what people are always asking/telling…I have received three phone calls this week with people telling me that my gift/charism is “encouragement”…that this is what I offer to others. Wow! Seriously? That’s AWESOME! It was a great surprise to me; albeit a very nice one:) I suppose that’s why we are doing a LIVE online radio show that offers mothers at home encouragement! It airs today at 12:30 EST time and while you are staring at the wall or ceiling…you might find inspiration and blessing if you tune in!
    I do not wish to spam your comment box…so if you’d like to listen email me and I’ll give you the link…or just visit my FB…the link is all over my wall there 😉

    OH! And, (I’m sure you know this already since you are super-tight with Vatican astronomers, and all) but Venus and Jupiter are perfectly aligned in the night sky this week…and Saturn and the RED planet of Mars are also visible…TOTALLY COOL…you could lie down in the yard and stare at the sky to make things more interesting than the ceiling! In fact, you could invite Ya Ya over and have the whole “extended-family-staring-into-space (pun intended; yuk, yuk, yuk)-experience”!

  22. Bethany G

    I’ve had my Lenten wreath up since December 2010. I like to prepare for my penitence in advance. Way in advance.

    Love the idea of preparing for an entire week at once. I’m hoping to get there soon. Right now I’ve moved up, from being so behind the curve I’m almost ahead of the next curve, to actually writing a to-do list a couple days out of the week. Soon I’ll even be getting dressed before noon!

    Do you put all your lists on your weekly calendar, all in one spot? Or do you have lists that float around the house vaguely, trying to get your attention when you’re not expecting it?

  23. Steph @ Moving to MD

    Our church is around the block (a 2 minute walk) and we love it! Our whole community is walking friendly and it’s one of the reasons we’re so happy here.

  24. Michelle

    I get asked about NFP a lot and how it works and using it even though I work outside the home. I also get asked a lot about some financial things because I work in the financial industry.

    I sure wish I could do more work with NFP/Marriage/pre-marriage or stuff like that, but I don’t see an opportunity anywhere on the horizon.

  25. Anne McD

    Ah, the Lent lights. Is that like my Lent wreath, that’s been hanging over our front door for three months, complete with purple (burgandy) bow? Its green, so we should be in great shape for ordinary time, too, right?? 😉

  26. Lisa

    I could have written number one, right down to the PBJ being too hard. Really? you want to eat, again??

    I joined today, for the first time.

  27. 'Becca

    I live slightly less than 1 mile from my church, and we do walk most of the time. I am certain that we are more involved in the parish than we would be if it were farther away.

    I thought it was strange that one of the commenters on your Register article bashed the idea of living near church because he assumed it would mean an all-Catholic neighborhood and all-the-same-social-class parish! I live on the same block as a Modern Orthodox synagogue and 4 blocks from a Hasidic synagogue; all the members of both congregations need to live within walking distance as they are not allowed to drive on the Sabbath. But the Census figures show that only 20-some % of our neighborhood is Jewish (which includes all Jews, not just Orthodox), and the several Orthodox families on our street are mixed in with various Christians, pagans, and several households from China and India whose religions I don’t know. Our street ranges from cheap efficiency apartments to 4BR middle-class houses. Between our home and our church are some streets of very large, expensive houses. It’s possible to have variety within walking distance!

  28. Ashley

    I am not able to drive due to a visual impairment, and it is one of our family goals to be able to move closer to our parish. It would be amazing to be able to get more involved.

  29. Jen Raiche

    Charisms – I am often asked to design things in Photoshop and to write. I enjoy doing both, but find with 5 kids it is difficult to find the time. I agree to a project and take a very long time to finish it. I think it is important that I view this as coming from God and MAKE time for it. That means dying to self and getting up earlier in the morning. Definitely difficult.

    LOVE your thoughts on being ahead of the curve. I TOTALLY agree. When I plan, our week flows well. When I don’t, watch out!

    Peace to you!

  30. Meghan

    Thoughts on #3:
    Uhaul here I come!

  31. Karianna@Caffeinated Catholic Mama

    never heard of Lent Lights either so I have to agree with Kendra… are you just being funny? What do people ask me to do? I end up doing a lot of writing type stuff… I have been a newsletter editor for the last 3 years for one group or another. I also am asked to talk to groups, which is funny since I don’t consider myself to be that verbal!

  32. priest's wife

    I much prefer ‘Lent Lights’ to the rock, cactus and bare branch Lenten displays in many churches here- Easter can’t come soon enough!

  33. Jenny @ mamanash.com

    I had to laugh at the one about the Christmas lights. Our neighbor still has her Christmas lights up and TURNS THEM ON. Every night while my husband and I are brushing our teeth before bed we stare out the window into her backyard and say, “Oh, there’s Mary with her Lenten lights twinkling!”

    So funny!

  34. Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    #3-People are asking me child development questions about their kids. “Is it normal if….?” But that’s probably because I already have a degree in speech therapy. Kind of a chicken or the egg thing. But I do remember being asked to babysit kids with special needs in high school. Very interesting idea! I need to reflect on how this could apply to a charism.


    #5-Yes. I’m totally with you on this. That would be just wonderful.

  35. Bill Colbert

    Sitting down in the presence of God and letting your mind go blank is known as ‘Contemplative Prayer.” Perhaps God is trying to tell you something.

  36. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    I’m grateful for your 7 Quick Takes tradition, and the brother in Christ who suggested I join in, because it’s gotten me to sit down and write a post even the night before my husband has foot surgery. It’s become a commitment, and that’s a beautiful thing. I hope this weekend provides you with some time that you are before the curve and able to enjoy some family time because of it. God bless!

  37. Maria Johnson

    I love the idea of walking to church. Several years ago the whole family spent Holy Week in Germany, in the town my husband and I first lived when we were married. My kids were delighted to experience a real procession on Palm Sunday. The bells started ringing early on Sunday morning, and our hosts, dear friends of ours from the “old days” told us to wait for the third cycle of bells. The kids were intrigued. We, of course, knew that they had timed how many bells had to ring for them to leave walking and arrive at church on time. We all walked to Mass that morning, and the really cool thing was how others would join us along the way as “their” bells started to call them to the street. It was quite beautiful!

  38. JoAnna

    We live right behind our church, and we love it!

  39. Amy F

    Bah, I wrote a long post and the internet ate it.

    Summing up, we live a 10 minute walk from our parish and I love having parish neighbors. But we send our kids to my husband’s school 8 miles away and I feel doubly torn because we don’t live by the other students and we aren’t as connected to our parish since our kids aren’t in the school.

  40. Jamie @ A Rough Diamond

    #3 – Computer advice, although just because I work in IT (data warehouseing) doesn’t mean I can fix printer and networking problems! Actually, I get a lot of housekeeping and food questions – I manage to keep my house up nicely and I make a lot of homemade meals and can bake up a storm.

    #6 – Why is it that even though we know we need to stay ahead of the curve, it always slips and we fall behind. For me, the key is keeping the morning routine. But I inevitably slip and hit snooze, get my work done late, kids awake late and then I yell at them like it is their fault that they can dress, freshen up, pack up, and eat in under 5 minutes. 🙂

  41. Cheryl

    I did a class through Catherine of Siena Institute http://www.siena.org/ where we discerned our charisms. I found it fascinating. My charism is encouragement. One of the things they say is that there are a number of ways you will know your charism–one is that it will feel like prayer to you, one is that people will come to you for it. This is something you usually don’t piece together until you are in the discerning process.

    For me, I knew I was on the right track (discerning) because every time I thought of a way God had been showing my my charism throughout my life, it made me cry. It was so incredible to think that God gave me this gift, this charism, because He had/has a special job that only I can do for Him.

    I strongly recommend people discren their charim(s)–it’s how we will/can all do our best work for God.

  42. Jessa @ Shalom Sweet Home

    I really enjoyed your two comments about walking to church and thinking ahead of the curve– actually, I wrote a post just about that at YoungCatholicWomen.com this week! I live in Jerusalem and I’m inspired by how faithfully our Jewish neighbors observe the Sabbath and I think we Catholics could learn a lot from them.
    Read my thoughts here:

  43. Joy

    Just to let you know, your Quick Take #3 this week lent to a very interesting discussion with my husband yesterday! Thanks! 🙂
    And as for being “behind the curve” — I only have four kids but I’m trying really hard most days not to be “behind the curve.” You example was so spot-on, you’d think you put a camera in my kitchen! We’re trying some new things around here, but yes, planning a menu is a HUGE help.
    My weekly random brain dump is Taking Five (because I can’t commit to 7. Ridiculous, I know 🙂 ).

  44. Kris, in New England

    After the death of a dear friend on March 6 in a jet fighter training accident (google Captain Carroll “Lex” LeFon to learn of a truly exceptional human being), I have started to re-evaluate my working life. I know I’m not doing what challenges or fulfills me anymore so I am on a path to find something that will help me harness the gifts that God has given me and that pays the bills. I like the idea of paying attention to what people ask me to do – that’s going to be a huge help as I discern what the next phase of my life will look like. Thank you so much for that!

  45. Tim H

    We bought a house right across the street from the parish that my wife grew up in… and we also got married there! They they closed the parish. 🙁 We now have to drive all the way across town for Mass and other ministry work. Blah!

  46. Jennifer

    You can find this info on the site abe.com, depending on the condition of the books the highest price i found was $325 and from there it goes down. Different sellers list on the site selling books and price varries….It all depends on who wants it, who will buy it.

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