7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 209)

March 1, 2013 | 57 comments

— 1 —

This Lent has a very clear theme for me: WAITING. After five long years of setbacks and hard work, my agent has begun to shop the book to publishers, and I’m waiting to see what happens. I’m waiting for this baby to be born so that I can stop feeling terrible all the time. I’m waiting for tax season to be over so that Joe can return to something resembling a normal life. We, as a Church, are waiting to see who the next Pope will be. There’s nothing I can do to speed up any of these processes or control their outcomes. All I can do is…wait.

Did I mention that I’m terrible at waiting? I’m exploring the option of being put into a medically induced coma until early April.

— 2 —

I was delighted to be introduced to the term “Suckuary” in one of Lee’s recent posts. Though she used the term to refer to February, what’s beautiful about it is that it could refer to January or February. In fact, I’ve come to think of Suckuary as one interminable 59-day month at the beginning of the year that consists of nothing but endless toil and suffering. All that is to say: HAPPY MARCH!

— 3 —

“‘Endless toil and suffering, ‘ Jen? You’re being a bit dramatic, don’t you think?” someone just thought. To which I respond with two words: carpet beetles.

Last Saturday Joe was up at the office, and I was sitting on the couch doing this important — okay, no need to lie, I was just sitting on the couch. Anyway, I looked over to see a tiny beetle about the size of the head of a pin on the couch. Then another one. Then another one. I counted five in all. I emailed Joe a picture of the bugs, and he thought they were just brown lady bugs. Who knows why so many would be in our house? Kind of cute, really.

Upon Googling it further I discovered that they were not, in fact, lady bugs. They were carpet beetles. More concerningly, all of the websites I found said, “If you’re not a big huge slob who lives in squalor, it should be fine” (paraphrasing). Basically, as long as you don’t have bits of fetid food rotting in fabric throughout your house, you won’t have an infestation.

It’s hard to describe the impact that this revelation had on my husband’s psyche. He has a bit of a neat freak streak in him, and the thought of beetle larvae feeding happily on decaying months-old Pop Tart crumbs ground into the fibers of our carpet just about did him in. Minutes after he got home he had the couch and the living room chair turned upside down, and eventually discovered bucketfuls of crumbs that had accumulated in the hidden area underneath the seat bases over years and years. When he recalled that he too had seen a few of the beetles crawling around him when he was on the couch the other day, and realized that he’d been sitting on a piece of furniture so filled with rotting food that it had become infested with scavenging insects, I was pretty sure he was going to pass out. (I, however, was able to take it in stride, as I am a veteran of the rat couch.)

Anyway, I don’t think he’s stopped cleaning since then. I’ve started to worry that he’s going to pawn our minivan, hand all the money over to the new housekeepers and say, “Just keep coming every day until this runs out! And then let me know, because we have one more car.”

— 4 —

One notable bright spot of the past few weeks is that I discovered a great new book: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre. I’d been having a hard time finding a good spiritual book to read during Lent: it felt like there was some specific topic I needed to delve into, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. When I came across this book, I knew this was it. I know little about the beliefs and history of the Jewish culture in which Jesus lived, and that has always been a barrier to my having a full understanding of him as a person. Similarly, it’s hard to properly appreciate the Last Supper and the sacrament it instituted if you don’t understand the thousands of years of history that led up to that moment. I’ve been devouring this book; almost every page is like a paint brush stroke that adds color and vividness to my mental image of Christ. I think I’m going to read Dr. Taylor Marshall’s The Crucified Rabbi next, since I can’t seem to get enough of this topic.

— 5 —

Here’s an interesting question for fellow parents: How often do you smile at your kids? I mean really smile: a broad, genuine, eye-crinkling expression of happiness.

I’m sure that’s a bad rhetorical question, because your answer is probably, “Umm, all the time. I smiled at my children through the whole hour of morning prayer, all during the craft where we re-created the Colossus of Rhodes with gumdrops and toothpicks, and while I was putting the last sprig of parsley on the organic souffle I made for lunch. Heck, I’m smiling at my kids right now!” So I guess I should cut to the point and say that I recently asked myself how often I smile at my kids, and I realized that the answer is: not very often.

It’s not that I walk around scowling all the time; I guess it’s just that when I’m relaxed and comfortable, I don’t go out of my way to move my facial muscles. I think I do okay about having a pleasant enough expression and using a kind tone of voice (except when I’m shrieking “OH MY GOSH WHY CAN WE NOT HAVE NICE THINGS IN THIS HOUSE?!?!?!” like I did this morning when yet another necklace was discovered and destroyed), but I realized that it’s startlingly seldom that a true, genuine smile crosses my face when I’m interacting with the kids. Working on that had made a nice little Lenten project for me.

— 6 —

My sweet dad (whom you met in the first episode of Minor Revisions) has been kind enough to play chauffeur to many of the kids activities over the past few weeks. What’s funny is that it means that he often spends more time up at our church than I do. He took this sunset shot the other day, which is one of the most beautiful pictures of our church that I’ve seen:

— 7 —

Sede vacante. The Chair of Peter sits empty. I can’t even begin to put my feelings in writing because I’m still overwhelmed by it all, but suffice it to say that I am so proud of the (former) Pope for following what had to be a difficult call. Here are some beautiful pictures from the big day (via Marc Cardaronella), and can you believe this astounding shot that Jenny got? Yesterday marked the end of an era, and it’s an era I’ll always remember fondly.

And now, back to waiting.



  1. Mandi @ Messy Wife, Blessed Life

    Oh goodness, on first glance, I assumed “sucktuary” was referring to some kind of awful sanctuary (maybe an ugly one? one in which you can’t find comfort and peace? I don’t know). Glad it was referring to months instead!

  2. Megan

    There’s always the option of taking on a motivational theme song re: #1 and playing it on loop until Easter…I’m thinking Tom Petty’s “Waiting is the Hardest Part” 😉

  3. Fernando

    May i add thatt, in addition to being a period of waiting, this is also a period of prayerful anticipation, in union with the universal Church, of receiving soon the next Successor of St. Peter. The cardinal-electors in Rome certainly need, at this time more than ever, the support of our prayers.

  4. Joy

    Waiting is hard, no doubt about it. I always think of “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss where he talks about “The Waiting Place.” Yup. There right now.

    With regards to #5: I was thinking about this today. I actually laugh a lot with my kids. And I was thinking about it today because I was thinking specifically about how my eyes were crinkling (and wondering if I’d get wrinkles and then deciding those wrinkles would be just fine). 🙂 They are really funny people, and my husband has taught me so much about seeing the humor in situations. I get frustrated with them too, but they make me honest-to-goodness-ly laugh.

  5. nancyo

    oh, ugh, carpet beetles are no fun. They will flat out eat holes in anything you have that’s wool. We had them at one point and I had to dry clean all the woolens and then store them in plastic bags to protect them prospectively. A deep cleaning will help, as will light and activity which disturbs their evil plans.

  6. Kelly

    Ahh, congrats on going on submission with the book!!! I was there this fall, and it’s one heck of a place to be. (Thought you were obsessive about checking email before? Ha!) Keep us posted on all the waiting!

  7. Patty

    I agree Jen, waiting is hard. what an amazingly beautiful picture of your parish, looks like a postcard!
    I LOVED that book on the Jewish roots of the Mass; was in a book club for that book and learned so much!

  8. Jill

    Jen, regarding smiling at your kids. I had a revelation last fall that I never did either. I started seriously walking down the hall with a smile plastered to my face so that my kids would see me happy. I can’t tell you how it has helped. Me. them. It’s been nothing short of a miracle. It has helped me react less explosively and more cheerfully when things go wrong. I have begun thinking “my kids are fun to be around” They have senses of humor I hadn’t taken the time to notice! The old adage (is there one?) about putting a smile on your face lightens everyone’s day or something. It is true. I bet I’m a lot like you, focused, serious, thinking…

    Anyway. My experience. Praying for you and your family!

  9. LeAnna

    I empathize with Joe. My husband & I had a beetle infestation while we were living on the prairies, and we only discovered it when the larvae came pouring out of the couch late one night and began crawling up David’s arm. That was when I realised that I should’ve taken the appearence of the cute, ladybug-like insects a little more seriously when I saw a couple of them crawling on the couch. Fortunately it was second-hand and had been stored in my cousin’s garage before we got it, so I didn’t see any reason to blame myself or our cleaning habits for the bugs. But it didn’t stop me from acting like a clean freak for the rest of our time in Edmonton and doing random spot checks, in which I would creep up on piles of linen or David’s easy chair (we got rid of the couch) before exposing the items to bright light and checking frantically for bugs.

  10. Renee Aste

    I can’t believe you admitted to #3.

    As for waiting, pretty much everything you are waiting for are wonderful things. It’s not like you’re trial and you’re waiting for the verdict.

  11. Cassi

    #4–Yes! Is that book not amazing! Couldn’t believe how many times I just stopped and said, “Wow!”–right out loud, too. Loved it!

  12. Claire

    Wow that photograph of your Church is stunning!! It deserves to be in a frame!

  13. Nikita

    Beautiful picture! And I hope you do not mind, but I coined your phase of “Suckuary” best way to describe February for me!

  14. Julia at LotsaLaundry

    I read that even fake smiling triggers an endorphin rush. And after I found out that you can improve your mood by holding a pencil in your mouth (sideways, not point-toward-the-throat) I’ve been walking around with one clenched in my teeth. Not sure if it works as advertised or not, but it certainly decreases the amount of complaining I can do!

  15. Mary Virginia at CouchofRed

    Jen, in regards to number three, I just had to mention one of those quotes going around facebook these days, “I’m starting group meetings at my house for people with OCD. Not because I have it, but surely one of them will be bothered enough to clean it.” 🙂 Happy Friday!

  16. Ana Hahn

    I suck at smiling. So much that it was one of my Lenten resolutions– I say “was” because I am failing so miserably that I think it may be time to throw in the towel. Why is it so flippin hard!?!

    • Erica

      I think it’s hard for me because sometimes I worry that I’m inaccurately communicating my not-happy feelings, and thus I’m being dishonest. What I’ve come to learn as I teach and parent and possibly mature, is that a smile is not just an expression of an inner emotional state. It is also a non-verbal communication of safety, welcome, and approval. This year, my fourth graders were evaluating me and commented that they knew I liked them because I smiled at them. I was jubilant, since this has been a huge area where I’ve needed to improve for years. Force yourself to do it, even if you feel stupid or untruthful. You’ll get used to it with time. At least, that’s what is hopefully happening to me.

  17. Jenny

    Oh my goodness, I need to smile at my boys more often. Thanks for the shout out, Jen!

  18. Amelia

    Now, why in the world did you have to go and post about the rat couch? I read that originally post years ago when it happened and it gave me nightmares for weeks. Now, I have the heebie-jeebies all over gain. lol

  19. Cristina

    I loved both Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist and The Crucified Rabbi–although I made the mistake of buying the later on my Kindle because I wanted it that day instead of just waiting the two days for an actual book to arrive. I want to reference it all the time and it’s just not the same flipping through pages and highlights in an e-book 🙂

  20. Jennifer

    I didn’t have the smiling revelation like you, but the “I don’t play with my kids” revelation. I don’t have fun with my little ones like I did with my older ones when they were that age. And I think having fun and playing with them would induce a lot more smiling, which I am sure I don’t do a lot of either. Thanks for being brave enough to admit it, giving us the courage to also admit it, and then hopefully we will all be able to change it.

  21. Amelia

    Oh..and I have to add..that I didn’t know who the friend was that slept on the rat couch until know. I remember reading Hallie’s post..but I hadn’t started following your blog yet…so I didn’t know it was you. I just gained a whole new level of admiration for you. I think I would need YEARS of therapy to recover from sleeping on a rat couch.

  22. Laura

    I loved the book “Jesus and the Jewish Roots” My girls had to read it for a class and then I picked it up. It is so amazing to learn the history, isn’t it? Have fun waiting; I’m no good at it either. OH, and thanks for passing on the word Suckuary…it definitely sums up how I feel about this time of year.

  23. Marie

    Ooh, great book suggestion! That is the kind of stuff I need to be reading. And thanks for the reminder to smile – really smile – at my kids more often. You can just see their eyes light up when you are genuinely smiling at them, laughing with them, really finding joy in being their parent. I hope your March is better than your January-February!

  24. Carol@simple_catholic

    Congratulations on finishing your book. Will pray that your agent finds a publisher for the book soon.

  25. Katie @NFP and Me

    1. Girl I’m a pretty crapper waiter too. I’ll be offering up some of my waiting pains for you.
    2. Agreed. Happy March! Bring on St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break, Easter, flowers blooming, you know all the good things about spring. 🙂
    6. Gorgeous!!
    7. I’m ver klempt. It’s the best way to describe right now. Well that or as the eloquent Ron Burgundy said: “I’m in a glass cage of emotion!”

  26. elizabethe

    Jen, AWESOME book. Prepare to have your world seriously rocked re: the Lord’s Prayer.

  27. GeekLady

    Ugh, finish at 7:10am and I still can’t break under 80…

  28. Jeanne G.

    I was thinking the same as GeekLady…

    Also, that picture of your church is bea-u-tiful!

  29. Teri

    6 – Interesting to think of the goodness that could come from your illness! In the words of my non-Catholic husband: “You’ll do anything to get me to church!” =D

  30. regina

    Wow I love that your Dad is spending time at your Church! I watched your Minor Revisions and I like him. He’s too smart to not convert one day! I also loved the smiling at your kids one. This so reminded me of my mom. She had eleven children (we’re all obviously grown now, the youngest just turned 40). And every, I mean EVERY time one of us walks into the room or through her door or give her a call, her tone of voice and whole face and demeanor lights up like we are the most special creation she’s ever encountered. Add to that, “Can I get you something to eat?” My Mom is truly special.

  31. TheresaEH

    Dear Jens Dad….come on in and explore RCIA!! 😀

  32. Micaela @ California to Korea

    Jen, you are too too funny. I’m so sorry about these trials you are enduring, At least God gave you a great sense of humor, and an audience to share it with, right?

    Going to try and smile more at my kids, I’ve found that the more I do it, the easier it is for me to be kind to them. In other words, the more I love them, the more loving I feel toward them. Works with my hubby, too. 😉

    Hope this month flies by! Oh, and the photo by your Dad is ah-may-zing!

  33. sara mcd

    I prayed for patience but God told me to wait. 🙂

  34. Stefanie @ A Dreamer's Wife

    So excited for you and your book! All of your hard work is definitely going to pay off soon and I know it will touch so many others’ lives! Thanks for sharing the Jewish roots of the Eucharist book. I’ll have to check that one out!

  35. Connie Rossini

    Ooh, Jennifer, please don’t think me judgmental, but using the su– word so cavalierly really, really bothers me. And it’s becoming common even among good Catholics. In my day (ha, ha, I’m only a Gen X-er) it was considered obscene. In fact, my mom would have washed our mouths out with soap for using it. Can we find a more creative/less offensive way to express our dislike for things? Just a friendly comment. 🙂

    • Gretchen

      Just want to add my very tiny two cents to say thanks for this comment, Connie. Ditto!

  36. Kara

    We’ve battled those beetles for years. 🙁 Good luck.

  37. Sarah

    I feel like a lot of being Catholic is waiting (and preparing), waiting for Christmas, waiting for Easter, waiting for a new pope……just look at the liturgical calender. I have mixed feelings about Benedict XVI ending his papacy. I had mixed feeling about his becoming pope as well, for different reasons. I was in college when John Paul II died so I spend a lot of my free time back then researching and talking about potential popes. This time is different. I feel like I feel like I should be doing more to prepare for the next pope, but in reality all any of us can do is wait (and it sucks).

  38. Colleen Martin

    That picture of your church is gorgeous! It’s like God is trying to draw your Dad in with the beauty! (Praying!)

  39. Brandon W

    I converted to Catholicism and entered the Church just last year. However, before converting I had worked for a Catholic institution for several years. At one point in 2006 I was holding a letter hand-signed by Joseph Ratzinger, written by him shortly before his election to the papacy. It was really wild to think that I was holding a letter that had been written and signed by the now-Pope. Now that he has left, that memory is even more striking.

  40. Christine Dalessio

    “I am so proud of the (former) Pope for following what had to be a difficult call”. So am I. What a gift to us all, to have a model of receptivity, of humility, and of courage.

  41. Jane Hartman

    They that wait upon The Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with with wings as an eagle. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Teach me Lord, teach me Lord to wait. So goes the primary song that I sang at Baptist church growing up. Think of waiting like a waiter – always taking orders and refilling glasses and being pleasant. I enjoy your posts so much!

  42. Ashley

    The picture of your church is beautiful! I love a good sunset.

  43. Stephanie

    I am reading Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist right now! LOVE it!

  44. Becky

    I absolutely love that picture of the church! And yes, I saw that beautiful picture of Mama needs Coffee (I hear ya!) on her blog! So cool!!

  45. Becky

    This is a different Becky.

    I realized a while ago that part of the difficulty of waiting is that it feels like doing nothing. It is especially painful for those of us who always have too much to do, and so to spend any of our valuable time and mental and emotional energy doing nothing feels terrible. It is a waste. What I finally realized that is that waiting IS doing something. If God has put us in a waiting situation, then by waiting we are doing God’s will. And if we are suffering from waiting, then we can offer up the suffering, just as we can offer up any other suffering.

  46. Laura Kelso

    My daughter, who lives in Austin shared your blog with me and I have been enjoying your posts this Lent. I am a K-12 principal and raised four children, and grandchildren nine and ten are in the “works”. I laughed my a–off tonight(I wish, since I became a principal cortisol is my best friend and I am 40 pounds over weight). It is so fun to read your posts because they are REAL. I was raised Catholic and I have never pretended that everything is perfect. When you are Catholic you don’t have to. Your posts remind me of the painful joy of raising a family. As a cradle Catholic, I sometimes need a convert (like my once agnostic husband who reads everything he can get his hands on and is a better Catholic than me in many ways these days) to help me look at the faith I take for granted with new eyes. I am praying for you and your family. I will blog about St. Tony sometime(he is a part of the family, because we are always losing something, so we forgo the formality of St. Anthony). But for tonight, God bless you and I hope you can find the St. of icky beetles to help you out with those pop tart crumbs.

  47. Lisa

    So, uh… Jennifer… If you can, will you please delete my first attempt at a link? It’s under Lisa (Are We There Yet?) with a black “Keep Calm and Carry On” button. I go back and forth between laughing and covering my face in embarassment (and scandal) thinking of the link I accidentally (I still don’t know how!) connected instead of the proper URL to my blog. The parasites have apparently really, truly eaten my brain. Thanks for covering my tracks! (Please?)

    And, btw — smiling at the children. Be cautious. It comes across occasionally as a grimace. ;0) Took me about fifteen years to figure out the “have fun” part of raising a big Catholic family. You’re ahead of my curve for sure — and in a position to teach so many others. God bless you. For that and other things!

  48. John G.

    For a Gal running on half a lung and a prayer you are awfully funny.

  49. Eva

    I smile at my boys all. the. time, and I’m so glad that you made me realise that. sh*t just got real here on the old discipline front and I’m just questioning my parenting ability. You reminded me that there’s actually a lot of love here after all 🙂

  50. Stephanie

    I read on Aha Parenting (by Dr. Laura Markham) that we all need 12 smiles a day. So that’s what I’ve been working on. I don’t usually get to 12, but that’s my goal 🙂

  51. Kathleen Basi

    You are making me feel sooo much better about myself as a mother. I’ve been feeling so bad for the gritted-teeth way I’ve been approaching life lately. I firmly believe it’s the little stuff piled on each other that is hardest to bear. The big stuff? We handle that with grace all the time…

  52. Marie

    I love Brant Pitre! I heard his talk on Lighthouse CD, I had to share it with other friends as well. Very fascinating topic.

    Thanks for the link to Jenny’s photo. I was crying!!! I could not bring myself to watch TV because I was so sad about him leaving. I’m really going to miss his humility and wisdom.

  53. Kara

    Ah, carpet beetles. I’ve been battling them for years. They’re in our flooring (we have no carpets) and they eat dust as well as anything protein-based (like wool, silk, and leather). The larvae migrate too, so I have to empty and shake out all of our wardrobes, drawers, and cupboards monthly. The upside is that I’ve seriously trimmed down the amount of stuff we own. They seem to dislike the smell of Dettol, though it doesn’t kill them. You have to keep cleaning (sorry). Is there are saint for carpet beetles? There should be…

  54. Sarah

    The photograph of your church is stunning, simply beautiful.

    I cleaned out our car yesterday, trying to locate a rather fetid smell. Pulling up the back seats I found a mountain of crumbs and other child related debris. Amazingly we don’t have our own mobile infestation. Horray for vacuum cleaners and Febreze. 🙂

  55. Jenna@CaIllHerHappy

    I smile like that at my gal every time my parents are watching her and I’m off the parenting hook. She’s so much cuter when I’m not the one wrestling her into a diaper.

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