7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 217)

May 17, 2013 | 50 comments

— 1 —

There’s been a lot of talk about struggling and gratitude lately. (Here is where I was going to list the many, many blog posts that would bolster my claim of “a lot of talk, ” but I can’t think of a single one other than Grace‘s because I am currently using 80% of my mental energy toward coming up with increasingly colorful commentary about why I still feel like I have a dagger lodged into my cheek when I have been on antibiotics for this sinus infection for two days.)

Anyway. One thing that always surprises me about these posts is when people throw in caveats along the lines of “I know I shouldn’t be complaining, since other people have it so much harder.” Maybe it’s because I find everything in life to be difficult, but I never think those caveats are necessary. I can’t remember a time when I had the reaction of thinking that someone has no right to vent about whatever is troubling them. I mean, I read a post where a mom says that her life is ruined because she has a fussy toddler and can’t get Talking Tom to work on her iPhone, and I think, “You’re right. That’s insufferable. How can you live such a torturous life?!”

— 2 —

Sometimes I think it would be cathartic to just blow it out and have a Complaining Olympics where we all write posts venting about what we’re struggling with right now, and no caveats allowed. Valuable prizes would be awarded to the person who showed the most skill at wallowing in misery. I can hear the hushed tones of the commentators now: “Patton had the gold medal in the bag with her residency nightmare until she had points deducted for saying she didn’t think her problems were the worst in the world. Alexander was disqualified for overcoming her pain with a saint-like attitude. Fulwiler has now pulled into the lead with her seven-day series about her sinus infection in which each post was made up entirely of expletives.”

Okay, okay, maybe it’s not the best idea ever. But those posts would be fun to write.

— 3 —

Speaking of things we (“we” meaning “I”) complain about, here’s what happened to the scorpion I think I may have mentioned earlier this week:

I want to issue a threatening memo to all local scorpions that says: Here’s what happens when poisonous arachnids terrorize homeschooling households!

— 4 —

My aunt and uncle are in town, and they went to see some of Austin’s famous bats this evening. They didn’t even need to go to the spot downtown under the Congress Avenue bridge; there’s a bridge up here in the ‘burbs that has just as many, if not more, bats that fly out from under it every night.

Every time I drive by that bridge I think of our friend Irma. She’s the quintessential old-school Mexican Catholic woman, who immigrated to the United States to give her daughter and her grandchildren a better life, and has that fabulous combination of being warm and loving yet having no tolerance for nonsense. One day I was giving her a ride home, and we happened to stop at a light in front of the bridge just as the bats were coming out. I watched the animals pour out by the thousands, flocking into the air in such numbers that it looked like plumes of black smoke were emanating from the bridge. I saw the delighted looks of the tourists in their khaki shorts and polo shirts who nodded at one another in awe as they snapped picture after picture.

I turned to Irma to make a comment about the majesty of the moment, but when I looked over I saw that she was crossing herself as she whispered, “Que feo!” [“How ugly/vile/disgusting!”]

That moment gave me a new perspective, sort of like I had with Austin’s other claim to fame, live music. I still think the bats are kind of cool…but I can also see how someone would behold all these possibly-rabid animals filling the sky and say, “Que feo!”

(I wonder where Kelly would stand on this? Oh, wait, I think I know.)

— 5 —

Let me just tell you: When a family checks out of their carpet, things get grim.

You see, the previous owner of this house chose to replace the carpets just before he put it up for sale. I imagine him standing at the carpet store six years ago, trying to decide between the colors “First Winter’s Snow” or “Gleaming Ivory, ” but ultimately deciding on “Stain-Sucking, Extra-Colorless Super-White.” (I probably don’t need to tell you that he did not have young children.) As you can imagine, it has been a tough row to hoe to try to raise six children with this carpet underfoot.

Joe and I have made a valiant effort over the years, but an ocean of Resolve could not save this thing now. At some point in the past couple of months we realized that we simply have to tear out this carpet and get hardwood floors; if we don’t make the decision ourselves, at some point the health department will demand it.

Ever since we had that realization, we’ve mentally checked out of the upkeep of the carpet. Sure, we’ll spray some cleaner on the stains and swipe it with a rag a few times, but it doesn’t take much effort before we call it quits since “we’re going to replace this thing anyway.” By now I don’t think there’s any way to check back in to caring about the carpet…which is unfortunate since it will be quite a while before we’re in a financial position to re-floor the entire downstairs.

It reached a new low this week, when we experienced the horrible combination of events in which the kids were drinking red Kool-Aid at Yaya’s house just hours before the stomach flu hit. At this point our best strategy might be to just post a sign for visitors that says: “Welcome! Don’t be afraid to walk on the carpet. All of the stains are dry (probably).”

— 6 —

I have this idea that I’m so excited about: I want to write a memoir about the diet/fitness stuff I did after baby #5 was born when I lost 35 pounds and felt so good. I don’t want to write it because I think I have Important Things to Say on this subject, but simply because I think everyone should write memoirs about experiences that are interesting to them (seriously! go write a memoir — I’ll read it). This idea clicked for me after ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek’s memoir had such an impact on me: I’ve read a million dry how-to books that talk about how to have better endurance when you exercise, but having those same insights packaged in the context of one man’s personal story made it all so much more palatable and pleasurable to read.

I’m thinking I would just offer it here on the website as an ebook: no five-year, sanity stealing writing journeys, no shopping to publishers, just me having fun telling a story. Now if I could just get to feeling good again, I could get started (I see a possible epilogue there).

— 7 —

For years I have held strong on my stance that I don’t understand organized exercise. I have tried, always unsuccessfully, to understand why a person would run five kilometers on some race organizer’s time table rather than just running the same distance around their neighborhood whenever they feel like it (read: it’s all about getting up early for me). Then, the other day I came across Sole Searching Mama’s post about her participation in the Oklahoma City Marathon. It’s the first thing I’ve ever read on the subject that made me kind of “get” what’s special about these races. I still maintain that it is extremely unlikely that you’ll ever see me running with a number on my back…but it definitely got me thinking.



  1. Caitie Rose

    Moon shoes might be the answer to all your problems! 🙂

  2. Beth Anne

    Can you delete #5 that is last weeks post. #8 is my link for this week 🙂

  3. Hannah

    My fitness memoir woul be entitled “A Study in Fad Fitness and Momentary Resolution”

  4. Kara

    I could totally get on board for a wallowing post. 🙂

  5. Mike

    On #3: GAAAAAAAHHH! That reminds me of the scene in Aliens when Bishop is dissecting one of the Facehuggers. I’m seriously glad that the only arachnids we have here in Virginia are small to moderate sized spiders.

  6. Colleen Martin

    Re: #3 One time I left a smushed bug on my car window just to scare the other bugs away.

    I love me some diet and exercise talk, so I’m always excited to hear your story!!

  7. Mary

    We lived with our carpet like that for two years for the same reason. It was oddly freeing to a neat freak like me. But yeah, it was disgusting. We refinished the floors underneath over the winter! Have you ever thought about painting the subfloor underneath? Depending on what they used, it can actually look cool and be at least a temporary solution…

  8. Amelia

    I don’t get organized exercise either, but that’s mostly because I can only run first thing in the morning or in the evening when it’s cooler. I have no idea how people can run in the middle of the day in the hot sun.

  9. KAthleen

    #4 is hilarious… We had an area carpet that probably made Jesus cry every day. For a while now, I considered it some sort of toxic substance doused biohazard, but I had big “plans” to soak it in oxyclean in the tub. It recently fell victim to several intestinal flu accidents and my husband said enough was enough. Carpets are the worst for anyone with small kids…

    • Kelly M.

      “Made Jesus cry every day.” HA!Reading that just made my morning. I hope you don’t mind if I adopt that phrase as my own.

  10. Kelly M.

    My back yard isn’t Austin, and we don’t have quite as many bats, but every evening around dusk they all come out from the crevices on my house (there’s at least half a dozen!!!) and swoop around. Tourists are welcome, as are potential home buyers.

  11. Rakhi @ The Pitter Patter Diaries

    Whoa…yeah, I definitely try to remind myself that I don’t have it that bad when I start complaining. It’s mostly so I don’t become an insufferable mess, though that’s not really working for me this week. What is even more interesting (ok, perhaps not interesting) is that I’m quick to tell everyone else that suffering is relative to our situation so we shouldn’t compare,but then I feel guilty when I complain. I think a no holds barred Whine-a-Palooza would be hilarious! It could even have potential as a bathroom best seller…Who Moved My Cheese: the Whine and Cheese Edition. 🙂

  12. christine

    I am not afraid of spiders. I can dispose of big dead animals without batting and eye. The look of that monstrous scorpion is horrifying to me. I could not live in a place that has those wandering around.
    As for carpet, it is a stupid invention. We only have carpet in 4 rooms, and they are filthy. Some day, they will be taken out and the beautiful wood underneath will be revealed. Someday. Really, what is the point of cleaning and taking care of something when its days are numbered?
    Hope you feel better really soon. Like today.

  13. Kathryn @ Team Whitaker

    I wholeheartedly agree about Susan’s marathon post. It was awesome!

  14. Katrina

    #4 made me laugh only because I understand. Our old carpet was not a wonderful sight. But, as a caveat, I’m sure there are plenty of people with carpets in much worse condition.

  15. ceciliamaria

    I love road races!! They are so inspirational, especially when you know someone who is running (my mom completed her first marathon last year)!

    Of course, I have refused for years to run in any sort of organized race. I go to cheer since I usually know a handful of runners, but have stood my ground stubbornly against personal running participation. Guess what? I’m running a 5k in July. My fiance needed a goal and a running partner. This should be interesting… 🙂

  16. kelly h

    I just love you Jen! I always look forward to your posts. It brings me back to the days
    of the hustle and bustle of having little ones.

    But my life is different now with older kids.Do you know of anyone who blogs about having older kids and the Catholic faith? My kids are 17, 20 and 23 and yes ALL still at home.

    I would appreciate any direction at all.

  17. Leanne {Life Happens When}

    I would definitely read your memoir! I love reading memoirs!

    I think it’s easy to feel like our “suffering” isn’t enough compared to what others are going through, but it is important to acknowledge our own suffering! I love the idea of a complainer’s olympics! I’d be there with a laundry list of complaints!

  18. Meredith

    I predict that if you write an e-book about after-baby weight loss, you’ll pay for that hardwood floor in less than six months. That line about the health department demanding it? Had me laughing all morning. Thanks!

  19. Rosie

    Ugh I HATED having carpet – we just have a few area rugs now and that works a lot better, but they still get pooped/puked on… Now, I specifically bought colors that spit-up would blend with, but I wasn’t gonna get poop-colored rugs. That Folex carpet cleaner that Hallie recommended really works well, and doesn’t smell like all the chemicals and doesn’t irritate skin, so maybe give that a try? At the very least, if your kids are like mine they will LOVE spraying it all over the carpet and trying to scrub stains out 🙂

  20. Sara

    I’d love to read your diet memoir, too, since I just finished The Perfect Health Diet, and I’m wondering how I can eat A POUND OF RICE and lose this dratted, stubborn baby weight—now with NEW, ADDED, Premenopausal weight!

    Oh, and if you’re still looking for memoirs of people who like to challenge themselves and survive—-have you read the books that came out of the disastrous 1996 Mt. Everest climb? Start with Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air, and go from there. I think all the survivors wrote one.

  21. Chantal

    Bats eat lots of mosquitoes thus they are on my list of forever friends. I even don’t mind spiders…they eat mosquitoes too. Mosquitoes tend to ruin our short summers and I think hell is full of them. I mean what could be worse then a place full of blood-sucking mosquitoes swarming you and not be able to kill them.

  22. Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    Oh my. That scorpion is absolutely freaking unbelievable.

    I was just in Austin for the first time, and I’m bummed I didn’t get to see the bats. But it’s fine by me I didn’t see any scorpions!

    Please write that memoir. I’ll read it. 🙂

  23. Renee

    I dislike tourists. I hate being a tourist. Which is why, we never ‘go anywhere’.

    But then again, when you come from a diverse town. Why bother?

  24. Renee

    Do kids bother making ‘bat boxes’, as nature projects in Austin?

  25. Steph

    I love take #1. Good point, Jen.

    Take #3 is epic.

  26. Micaela

    Oh, NO! Number 3 is NOT okay! I read your post the other day and laughed about it, but I did NOT picture it being that big. I’ve been stung by scorpions twice, but they were puny California scorpions, roughly the size of a half dollar. That looks like a BEAST. Sorry for all the caps, but JEEZ!

    I fully support number 6. Bring it on.

  27. Melissa H-K

    2. I have no blog, but I would make one just to compete in a whine-a-thon. Because oh boy can I complain! I’m really, really good at it!

    3. You need to make a poster of this picture and put it up wherever scorpions live. Then maybe they’ll take notice. Especially if it has a snappy caption. This could be like one of those “loose lips sink ships” WWII posters, and I’m really excited about the idea. You could even turn it into an art project for your kids! Yes!!!!

    7. Yeah, me neither. If you want to exercise, just do it. Why compete? Of course, maybe that’s because I would always lose and then start fussing. (See #2.)

  28. Morag

    That scorpion is enormous – my husband keeps talking about moving to Texas and I keep telling him I can’t because Jenn says there are scorpions, and now I know how flipping HUGE they are – AAAH!!

    Oh, and thank you for your complaining without caveats, and finding everything in life difficult. You and Glennon (Momastery) have helped me give myself permission to accept that life is hard, and maybe that’s just a fact, so a little complaining every now and then would be a natural consequence and not a sign that I’m a lazy, ungrateful, horrible person.

  29. Gina

    “I can’t remember a time when I had the reaction of thinking that someone has no right to vent about whatever is troubling them.”

    You are a rare and wonderful person, Jen. I mean that.

  30. T'onna

    I hate creepy critters! My neighbors found a scorpion in their bed, so for the longest time, I was paranoid about finding scorpions in my bed. Ugh!!!!!!

  31. Ani

    My take on #7:
    I think road races are to runners what blogging is to writers (or maybe what blogging conferences are to bloggers? Never been to one so I don’t know). Writing is sort of a lonely thing. Blogging allows you to connect with others who share some of your interests on a regular basis. Running tends to be a lonely thing as well. Races provide an opportunity to connect with other runners, nerd out about everything running-related, and get encouragement and inspiration in the process. If running is just something you do for exercise, then I guess there’s no real reason to run a road race. But if you run because you love it and want to try get better and faster, then definitely try a race sometime 🙂

  32. Dawn

    Oh, amen on the carpet thing. Never again. Blegh!

    And, its not a Complaint Olympics, but there are such things as Complaint Choirs, which I think are brilliant! http://www.complaintschoir.org/ I want to be in one. Or write songs, at least.

  33. Susanna

    I love how you empathize with everyone’s suffering, and you make a good point that while others do suffer more than we might, any human suffering is bad…

    Also, I think I will keep my six month Minnesota winters if that means there are no scorpions in my house…

  34. Susan

    Oh, my, I had no idea that you were featuring my marathon post on your list today!! What a terrific honor! I have been reading your blog for nearly a year now, it is one of my favorites, as I always come away feeling inspired to face life with a strengthened heart and mind, so it truly is amazing to know that you have even visited my own blog!! I truly mean, with all sincerity, Thank You!!

  35. The Reluctant Widow

    I sometimes think about writing a memoir about this past (almost a) year of being a widow trying to raise four kids who happen to be adopted and have all kinds of abandonment/trauma issues. It’s been such a wild ride I haven’t had the emotional energy to post on my blog for MONTHS. Finally coming up for air though and hoping to begin writing again. You may be the only person to read my memoir but that would be cool!

  36. Patty

    When my parents were moving into a new house with three small boys (before my sister and I were born) my mom requested carpet the color of peanut butter. My suggestion is inexpensive area rugs and save every penny you can for hardwood. We LOVE our hardwood which we just put in two months ago. So worth it.

  37. Trisha Niermeyer Potter @ Prints of Grace

    Jen, I have to agree with you on #1 and #2. It would be so easy to descend into a full-out whining and complaining fit, but that wouldn’t be a very good example for the kids we’re trying to break of that very habit. I can empathize, though. We (me included) often tend to either exaggerate our problems or belittle them rather than take them at face value considering our current circumstances. I think it’s better to be honest with ourselves and others if we’re overwhelmed.

    Making light of someone else’s plight or shrugging off our own doesn’t usually make things easier on anyone. We all have crosses to carry, and when it comes right down to it, no one other than Christ Himself knows the weight of the crosses each of us must bear. I have no problem with people saying they’ve had a bad day or are having a rough time of it, especially if they don’t actually think that there aren’t other people out there who have it a whole lot worse, because there’s always someone who has it worse (let’s say: the mother with twelve kids and three times as many scorpions who was an amazing marathon runner before she tripped over someone’s Lego creation in the middle of the night on her way to the kitchen and fell down two flights of stairs breaking her femur in four places). We all need to stick together, especially when hit with multiple bogies or boogies as the case may be. Thanks for sharing your plights with honesty and humor!

  38. Becky

    I think I have to agree with your friend Irma on the bats. We had a bat problem years ago. I was watching TV in the living room and this bat came flying in the room. I screamed and locked myself in the bathroom with my 9 month old son. My husband heard me scream so he came to see what was going on and I told him about the bat so he went in the living room to check it out. I heard some racket and then a loud thud and I figured my husband got the bat when he came rushing in the bathroom and shut the door. I asked him if he got the bat and he said no, and I asked well, what was that loud thud then? And he said, “That was me hitting the floor.” (As in ducking for cover as the bat swooped over his head.) So I asked him what he was doing in the bathroom and he said, “Hiding in here with you.” So that was my knight in shining armor! From this moment on, we know that we can’t defeat the bat, the bat defeats us. And that’s why I hate the bats.

  39. Lisa

    A wallowing post? Let me thi- DONE.

    And the memoir is an awesome idea. Please write it!

  40. Tammy

    can i join in the complaining with no caveats?

    im typing one handed cause i broke my arm in 2 places trying to start a pressure washer which i might not have been trying to start if my husband werent dead. the day after my accident when i was still all drugged up and wallowing in self pity my 17 yr old daughter woke up with a paralyzed face…bells palsy they say…most 17 year olds arent happy with their fully functioning faces, so she is pretty mad at life.

    my sons are no help due to chronic depression they blew $100,000 on college tuition before they both failed out

    we signed mom into rehab on thursday in end stage alcoholism…she’s been drinking like a fish for 40 years and finally degraded to hiding big plastic jugs of vodka in trashcans. last i heard they want her out of the rehab because she is a danger…so crackwhores don’t want to live with my mom…now if that isnt telling, i dont know what is (yea, i had a great childhood)

    oddly enough this is all true

    (were i allowed a caveat, i would tell you that i have a great life – one with great joy. God has gotten me through everything..but thats not allowed, so don’t tell that part)

    • Tammy

      oh have to add this cause its funny… at work, i made small talk with a grandma at the handwashing sinks outside the nicu…i made some comment about being a single armed single parent and she said “you must like the single thing then” and I said “like it? why would i like it?”…just because something is part of my reality and i can even make wisecracks about it sure doesnt mean i LIKE it!!!!

    • Melissa

      Wow! Praying for you for sure! I’m glad that you have God and great joy to see you through this—but yeah, you’re allowed to whine!

  41. Ellen

    Re: #6 – yes, please, yes, write that diet/fitness story. I struggle in that area, and I know a lot of women do, and the success stories are so inspiring.

  42. carrien - she laughs at the days

    I just wanted to let you know, because I care about these things, that you can probably just tear up all that carpet and paint the sub floor while you wait to be able to afford hardwood flooring. Just get a good quality high endurance porch paint, and get it in dark grey or something that doesn’t show much dirt. Even if your sub-floor is particle board, rather than concrete, you will probably be much happier with this option than that carpet of yours. And it will look nicer too.

    Next time I do interior flooring I’m actually planning to just go for textured, tinted concrete. It’s can look really pretty and it’s super easy for maintenance and cleaning.

  43. Elena @My Domestic Church

    Jenn, I got new carpets three months before my first son was born. They were removed in the blurry year he turned 12, and we finished the hard word underneath. Haven’t looked back!! Five more kids, three different cats and two dogs later, it was the best decision I ever made and would never EVER go back to carpet! You will not regret getting rid of your carpet!

  44. Joanna

    Just a thought on carpet replacement – I have 3 little ones with a 4th on the way, so I completely get the stained carpet struggle. When I bought my house, it was tiled throughout the main living areas, but not the bedrooms, so I had all of the bedrooms tiled too. While it’s not as upscale as hardwood, it’s a great alternative with an attractive price point. Our house is fairly small (1300 sq ft) and it probably cost no more than $5K to do the whole thing, based on what I paid for the bedrooms (including closets) and 1 small bathroom. (Not that that’s cheap, per se, but my MIL just had hardwood installed and it was 3X that for just the main areas of their house.) We really love how easy it is to clean up spills. I also really like how “unified” the house looks. A few area rugs give the kids some soft places to play and help keep the sound reverb down to a manageable level. Another option might be, depending on your subflooring, to get a stained concrete finish. (My dad does this for a living, so I know it’s another affordable option. It’s what we’d do if we moved to a larger house that had carpet-over-concrete instead of a hard flooring.)

  45. Melissa Caulk

    Found your blog on LifeSite this AM, will be a regular now.

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