7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 204)

January 25, 2013 | 43 comments

— 1 —

You may notice that the Quick Takes participant list is smaller today than usual. That’s because some folks are participating in #GoDark4Life, a day of going offline for prayer and fasting in honor of the March for Life. Med student, tireless advocate, and blogger extraordinaire Katie explains it here.

— 2 —

I’m super excited about the March for Life, because it touches on an issue near and dear to my heart. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my journey on this topic, here are a couple of things I’ve written about it:

— 3 —

Wonderful friends and folks from our parish have been bringing us meals to help out as my recovery continues (thanks to Martina kindly setting up a CareCalendar). I feel self-conscious that I’ve been doing better, and have no visible symptoms of being ill. The meals are still a tremendous blessing, and are very much needed since I’m still not at 100% (or even that close to it). But 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.

— 4 —

While we’re on the subject of Downton Abbey (not that anyone was talking about it, but I assume that it’s an omnipresent subject in all of our minds), that show recently led me to a profound realization: I’m not an introvert, I just live in the wrong culture! One of the things I relish about each episode is all the wonderful RULES for social engagement you see there. Joe is always bewildered by these scenes where someone clearing his throat can mean something as complicated as, “I would like for the person seated to my left to leave the room and for the conversation to return to the subject we were speaking of earlier.” He says that he’d go crazy in a culture with so many unspoken intricacies, but it’s all right up my alley.

I absolutely love this idea of socializing frequently, but under the most carefully controlled of circumstances. Nobody in Downton just trots off to hang out with someone else at the spur of the moment! Perish the thought! Nay, you send hand-written notes over a period of weeks to arrange everything, and then you send your staff ahead of time to prepare everything at your host’s house to your comfort. At dinner, the host decides everyone’s place around the table, so there are no awkward exchanges about who sits next to whom. Then you retire to the parlor for more relaxed banter over drinks, and when the butler conspicuously remarks about the late hour, everyone immediately understands that the party is over and promptly leaves.

THIS is what I am missing in my life! I would socialize every day if I could just get about 50, 000 rules nailed down for the parameters of interaction. So, I guess what I’m saying is that the problem is not me, but the minor inconvenience of the fact that I am not rich and English and living in a manor in 1910.

— 5 —

I was surprised at how much fun I had writing up my #1 blogging tip yesterday. Lately I’ve been particularly inspired by this idea being wholly yourself. Perhaps because our family has been the recipient of so much kindness in recent weeks, I’ve been exposed to the wonderful variety of gifts and talents that exist within our group of friends, and I see how much the world very much needs each and every personality type.

If you need some inspiration on this idea of being boldly yourself, think of the Dowager Countess (because, yes, it all comes back to Downton Abbey):

Imagine if a real woman with a fabulous personality like hers had self-consciously decided that maybe she should tone it down, not be so formal about everything, throw on a pair of cut off jean shorts and just hang loose for a while. Would the world be a better place? Heck, no!

— 6 —

If you’re interested in this subject at all, you really need to read the book Steal Like an Artist. It’s inspiring on a lot of levels, but Austin Kleon makes some powerful points about how to effectively draw inspiration from others while maintaining your unique voice. In the quest to embrace our God-given personalities, it can be tempting to throw the baby out with the bath water and reject all outside influences. But Kleon makes the case that all great people are heavily influenced by others who came before them — the trick is learning the difference between aping someone else’s work and drawing inspiration from someone else’s work. Though he’s specifically talking about artists, I think the lessons apply to everyone.

(And it’s worth noting that this is a book that you really want to get on paper rather than as an ebook. Kleon clearly intended for the visuals on the page to work with the text, and I hear that it doesn’t work nearly as well in the ebook as in the hardcopy.)

— 7 —

My prayers are with all of you headed to the March for Life! For those of you who can’t make it, EWTN will have live coverage here (scroll down and click on the Watch Live link on the right).



  1. Meg

    I should like to go live in this not-introverted-just-rule-bound society with you!

  2. JUD

    Wow I love point 4 about the social rules. I actually learnt myself some rules, by reading books on etiquette and by watching others. It seems that people have let go of this kind of rules and substituted unspoken rules that I do not understand. In other posts you spoke about peer teaching, I think that’s what this is about. We have learnt to behave like the other children, the noisy big mouthed ones, or at least adjust to them.

    Anyway, when I watch that Abbey-video I can’t help but think about the time it takes to get dressed like that, and all the servants they need to clean the house, do the garden and prepare the food. I think I’d prefer the Little house on the prairy, they look fabulous too and they have a social system that I can kinda understand. And they don’t need servants. They do need each other though.

  3. TracyE

    Glad to hear you are being well provided for by your community, it’s incredibly humbling to receive help (I know), but just remember there WILL be a time you can pay it forward and God IS using this period of time to grow your faith…..these are things that became my mantra when I was on the receiving end…..so you’re welcome 😉

    I’m not going dark, but will be praying. My blogging is hit or miss lately, so no linky loo.

    Blessings…and enjoy your weekend (unlike the Dowager Countess, I KNOW what a weekend is), tonight Hubby and I will enjoy the second half of the 1st episode of DA…we like to draaaaaaw it out!

  4. Nikita Unverzagt

    I was watching that video and had to laugh almost at every clip. 😀 To Funny!

  5. Jessica

    I’m pretty sure this means I live under a rock or something, but what is this Downton Abbey? And where can I see it? My lack of knowledge of popular culture shame is showing.

    • Bonnie

      Oh Jessica. Downton Abbey is a British show graciously brought to us Yanks courtesy of Masterpiece Theatre on the PBS. The series begins with the sinking of the Titanic and it follows an Earl and his family and servants through the years – WWI, marriages, women’s rights, etc. Visually it’s stunning – the house, the clothes, the dinner table. It’s really well written and Maggie Smith is hilarious in it.

      Season 1 is streaming on Netflix. Not sure where you can find Season 2, but you could probably get both from your local video store. Season 3 is showing now and I think you can get caught up online at PBS.com but you’ll want to start at the beginning.

      • Jessica

        Thanks Bonnie! 🙂

  6. Deanna

    First, the blogging tip post was awesome. Thank you! Second, as an extrovert, I too love the Downton Abbey social rules since they helps prevent social messes and help those who do not know how to behave. But I think my husband would totally agree with yours on the whole “unspoken intricacies”; the spoken ones are hard enough!

  7. Sydney

    I have to say, one of my favorite things that they do in Downton Abbey is if someone is tired of socializing, they wander off and tell someone to “make my excuses”. I would love to be like “Ugh I hate talking to this person. I know, I’ll leave suddenly and tell my BUTLER to come up with an excuse!” Seriously… If that man doesn’t earn his pay, I don’t know who does.

  8. Laura

    Glad you’re feeling better! and a big AMEN to #4.

  9. Katrina

    I would feel self-conscious as well, and my husband would be like Joe! Practical husbands. Thank you so much for the blogging advice. I really respect what you have to say, and I’ll always try to remember that quote. And your comment about the Dowager Countess throwing on a pair of cut off jeans made me laugh out loud! I wonder if she would have participated in WIWOS?!

    Lastly, I loved your piece on why your pro-choice views were based on love. Sharing it with everyone I know!

  10. Jess G.

    We were going to head into D.C. for the March For Life today but I’ve had a kid with the flu this week and it is freezing, freezing cold outside (16 degrees right now!). I just can’t do it with my kids this year. I think our church has chartered 3 or 4 busses based on the amount of people we had sign up to attend. My prayers are with everyone today.

  11. Mary Kay

    My daughter and many of her school mates had to be at school at 5:30 this morning to board buses for DC, where they will attend the Youth Rally and Mass for Life before participating in the March for Life. These girls could have the day off from school but they choose to attend the Life events instead.

  12. Jane

    It looks to me like several of the people who are participating in the GoDark thing prescheduled their 7QTs posts so that they wouldn’t miss out on the traffic. Putting aside the fact that I think silencing their voices on a day when we’re supposed to be giving voice to the unborn is a terrible one (does this not give the pro-abortion movement exactly what it wants?), I think it’s interesting that they are willing to “go dark” only if it doesn’t negatively affect their blogs’ traffic.

    • elizabethe

      this was my thought, as well.

      I think a better thing would be for everyone to post a picture of past Marches for Life to show how many people are there.

      That is the real media blackout in this country. When I converted and became pro-life, I was shocked to learn that there is a YEARLY march in the FREEZING temperature of tens of thousands to several hundred thousand people and that there is NO media coverage of it.

      If half or even a quarter of that many people marched for any liberal cause every year at all we would have non-stop coverage for a week before hand.

  13. Kathleen Basi

    I never thought about the, shall we call them “rules of engagement.” 🙂 But you are so right. At parties I attach to one person or I disappear into a corner and am miserable. Unless I know my function. If I know what I’m supposed to be doing–i.e., I’m THE CHOIR DIRECTOR or THE NFP TEACHER, I know my job, and it’s all so much simpler!

  14. Blair

    So glad to hear that you’re doing better. I loved the post on blogging; it has given me some good food for thought as I hope to revamp my blog soon. Have a lovely weekend!

  15. Cate

    Between the societal rules and proper care and handling of the English language, I think I should be quite happy in a nice little corner of the Downton world. So glad that you are feeling better, and I hope that means that you are preparing to experience the most recent season (since I know that “one does not simply *watch* Downton”). It has my favorite Dowager Countess quote to date! Watch for an impeccably timed comment about being a waiter. Her delivery still has me giggling.

  16. Jane

    I feel torn that Netflix Canada doesn’t have Downton Abbey. On the one hand I could obsess and fill my life with it, on the other hand, I’m scared of such a big commitment like that. But it sounds so amazing. Maybe I could peek into the library’s reserves….

  17. Jessica

    Messed up your links! Sorry! I’d like to delete #88 if possible, cause I did it wrong. blarg.

  18. Renee

    I have been on an accidental blogging hiatus for 10 months. I am glad you are still hosting this so that I have a nice, structured format with which to get back into blogging.

  19. elizabethe

    Number 4. This. Actually, you just have to move to France.

    I felt the same when I read “Bringing Up Bebe” a book about French childrearing culture. The non-French mom was lamenting how hard it was that the French moms weren’t social at the playground, they just sat and read their magazines. She said the French didn’t fall into easy chatting, and that people just didn’t seem to make friends as quickly. I was like “Honey, we’re moving to France! A nation of introverts!”

    No wonder everyone else thinks they are rude.

  20. Barbara

    I love that you feel like you are being judged. If you read my quick takes I first complain about never having enough time, then turn around and worry that people are judging me for having time to blog.
    Neurosis – The best way to keep life interesting.

  21. Bonnie

    Jen, do you and Joe watch the BBC’s Sherlock with Benedict Cumbersomething and Martin “Just played Bilbo Baggins” Freeman? It is just as good as Downton Abbey – so smart and funny with great writing and acting. You can watch both seasons online with Netflix if you have that.

    • Morag

      YES! – you HAVE to watch Sherlock it is AMAZING.

      • Gina


        • Amelia

          Yes, yes, yes to SHERLOCK! My husband and I LOVE that show!!!

  22. Catherine

    Oh Jen,

    I am DELIGHTED to learn that you’ve decided that you are NOT an Introvert! I have been thinking for a very long time, as I read your blog entries, “There’s NO WAY Jennifer is an Introvert!!”

    I mean, an Introvert would NEVER be able to have 5 young children AND socialize so often AND speak publicly so frequently (Believe Me: to an Introvert, the sheer number of your speaking engagements is shocking & mind-boggling!!), AND fly around the USA to meet people & speak in fulfillment of their Catholic Writing Apostolate….!!”)

    I am so glad you are an Extrovert!! Your sharing is so valuable & I love reading about your spiritual insights in almost real-time! <3 😀

  23. Michelle

    I always seem to get self-conscious when accepting help from others, too. I don’t know why it is because I know it brings me such joy to help others. We have a group of women who provide meals to people going through crisis times or perhaps just added a baby to the family and it always brings me such joy to help out by providing a meal. I need to try and remember that it probably brings others joy to help us in need, too.

  24. Kelly

    Downton Abbey got me through my bout of flu. whew!

  25. Anabelle@Written By the Finger of God

    Didn’t get the memo on Go Dark 4 Life. Guess if it didn’t come from you, its not official to me 🙂 I do think its a good idea to abstain from intermedia/ social media for 2 days out of the week. Since yesterday was that kind of a day for me, I’m exempt from missing your 7QT, right? Thanks for the inspiring post on speaking as yourself — we are all on different levels of the spiritual journey and there’s a voice and a writer for each one of us. And now that you’ve recommended Downtown Abbey, I’m going to request my local library to get it.

  26. Jenna@CaIllHerHappy

    You know, you’re right about Downton. Although, how would I back out of plans at the last minute without modern conveniences? Perhaps send my lady in waiting to alert everyone that I had caught a chill?

  27. GeekLady

    I don’t know about this whole go dark for life business. It’s like we institute our own media blackout, and the pro abortion world just heaves a big sigh of relief for a day without nagging.

  28. Gina

    “One of the things I relish about each episode is all the wonderful RULES for social engagement you see there.”

    Oh my gosh, YES. Yes yes yes. This would especially be ideal for those of us still stuck in the dating scene. If all men (if all people, really) had grown up internalizing rules like “You don’t lick salad dressing off your fingers on a first date” and “You don’t say rude things to a lady on a first date” and “You always bathe and wear nice clothes for EVERY date” . . . my world would be such a different place!!

  29. elizabeth

    Jen, I share your love of all things Downton . . . but have you ever watched “Brideshead Revisited”? Not the more recent Emma Thompson version (horrid) but the Jeremy Irons miniseries? It is on Netflix and is–bar none–the BEST book adaption ever. If I am ever again on bed rest I will have it on a constant loop:)

    Glad you are feeling better–prayers will continue!

  30. Emily

    We were at The March for Life today! It was amazing! I hope that you are continuing to feel better, Jen!

  31. Tammy

    About the stressed bringing dinner…soon after my husband died, I was having an evening where my emotions were in check and my normally happy self was mostly in control of my labile emotions that could change on a dime. I found a really nice lady in my driveway bringing me dinner …she and I had never met before but we have many mutual friends. She was very kind and sacrificial in her gift of this dinner and she went way out of her way to get it to me. Just by chance I didnt shed a tear when she was there and I made jokes about something…I was left feeling odd that I was not what she expected and in horrid fear that she might think that I was way too happy for a new widow and if I could have reached for whatever my equivalent of store bought crutches were for my situation, I would have. Luckily she FB friended me soon after and she got an earful of what my bad moments and bad days really were, so no crutches needed.

    • Bonnie Engstrom

      That’s really interesting, Tammy. I had a similar experience when my son was in the NICU and everyone thought he would die. My husband and I saw a friend who greeted us as if James was already dead. We were consoling him, telling our friend it would all be okay, as we were smiling. We just couldn’t live “there” all the time – in a state of worry and mourning – but it was weird to everyone else.

  32. Katie @NFP and Me

    Thanks for the sweet comments and link!

    Also, I know this is blasphemy but I have yet to watch Downton Abbey. I feel like I’m letting Professor Mcgonagall, wait, Maggie Smith down.

    Oh and can you get an oxygen tank? That has to do with your lungs and will make you look sick. Maybe a wheelchair too?

  33. Eva

    oooh, I really need to start watching Downton Abbey, dont I? Society needs more rules. I would like at least 3 days notice of any social occasion. Any longer and I’d back out of it though- its a fine line.
    Also, I’m pro-choice. Loud and proud. Still like reading your blog, though 🙂

  34. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    The book ‘Steal Like an Artist’ looks really perfect- I have a friend who is a ‘representational’ portrait artist (basically he does old-fashioned looking portraits of people)- even though he doesn’t follow a modern style- he still is influenced by modernism because he lives in this world.

  35. Jamie

    The real scam going on here is keeping the people from our fav show – WHEN IS OUR NEXT MINOR REVISIONS!!! 🙂

  36. Lauren Green

    Hi Jennifer, I’m not sure how to contact you other than through a post on here, but I read your article about abortion and religion and I wanted to direct you to an article I read before I was married and it gave such insight into why you should wait until marriage to have sex. It has everything to do with children as well. It is a talk given to Brigham Young University to its students by its then president. I hope you enjoy it.

    Here is the link: http://www.familylifeeducation.org/gilliland/procgroup/Souls.htm

Connect With Me On Social Media or Explore My Site



The "THIS IS JEN" podcast is on Facebook & all podcast apps


- Subscribe on iTunes or Google Play (audio)

- Get weekly bonus episodes on Patreon

- Sign up for my email list to be the first
to know about new tour dates