7 Quick Takes that involve book nerdery, visions of nightmarish travel, conference jitters, and the video that made me sob for an hour

July 18, 2014 | 41 comments

— 1 —

The Edel Gathering begins one week from today!

For those of you who don’t know the backstory, this conference came into being suddenly and unexpectedly. In November of last year, I wrote a post telling the story of how Hallie Lord and I took a risk and committed ourselves to this idea somewhat spontaneously. On paper, pretty much nothing about the two of us hosting a conference in this particular season of our lives made sense. Yet we couldn’t escape the sense that we were called to do it, and our husbands even agreed, so we took the first step and trusted that God would work out all the details as we went along.

A big part of me thought that this thing would never materialize. It seemed too crazy, too out of the blue. So it’s surreal when I re-read that post from last year, and consider that that event that seemed so impossible and so distant at the time is actually happening next week.

— 2 —

Here’s a tip for not feeling stressed when you’re trying to pull together a two-day conference that has people flying in from all over the country: Plan something 1, 000 times more difficult for the week after your conference. It should be something that has the potential to ruin your life on a level previously unimaginable, so that your conference will seem simple in comparison.

I managed to hook myself up with such a situation: I’m flying with my 15-month-old and two of the other kids less than a week after Edel.

The trip itself will be nice. We’re going to North Carolina because I have two cousins getting married two weekends in a row in Raleigh (coincidentally, at the same venue). For the days in between the weddings, we’ll be staying with my aunt and uncle in Black Mountain, NC, which I hear is lovely.

The problem is getting there. When I tell you that this will be the worst experience of my life, I am being an optimist. If I were a pessimist (or even a realist), I would predict that I would not survive at all.

If you have plans to fly between Austin and Raleigh during the first part of August, cancel them. It’s not enough for me to give you my flight numbers so you can make sure you’re not on them — you should avoid any travel between those two cities during that time just in case our flights get changed. Trust me.

— 3 —

My 15-month-old is not terribly high maintenance in general. That is, of course, a relative statement. His three-year-old sister permanently changed my perspective of what we mean when we use the words “handful” and “strong willed” and “if this child kicks me on the forehead while giggling one more time I am going to lock myself in a closet and scream, ” so maybe he’s a difficult baby and I just don’t see it.

There are, however, two types of occasions that lead him to have long, thrashing meltdowns that involve screaming that can only be analogized to a tornado siren:

  • If he’s not allowed to crawl around and explore his surroundings at will.
  • If he misses his nap or bed time because we’re out of the house.

Yes, I did say “crawl.” He’s not walking yet — our kids always walk late — yet hates to be confined to a stroller or be held for too long. This is kind of a problem when you’re in public places with filthy floors, and your baby wants nothing more than to get his hands all over them.

So yes, I am taking this child and two of his siblings from Austin to Raleigh to Black Mountain to Raleigh and back to Austin. There will be layovers at busy airports, elegant rehearsal dinners, weddings, and receptions.

Don’t even try to encourage me. This is going to be a hellish nightmare of unfathomable proportions, and we all know it.

— 4 —

As bad as the travel is going to be, I’m really looking forward to seeing my family, and of course to seeing my cousins get married. (Wait. That sounded weird. Please note that I previously established that we’re talking about two different weddings.)

I’m actually going to see some of those same family members at Edel! My aunt Lisa, aunt Claudia, uncle Kevin, and my mom are all coming as volunteers to help put on the event! They offered to pay their own way to come out here and work hard all weekend just to help us make sure it’s an awesome weekend. How sweet is that? Those of you attending, be sure to find them and say hello — you’ll love meeting them!

— 5 —

(Warning: Extreme book-nerdery in this take. If you are not a book nerd of the highest order, you will want to skip this one.)

I finally finished Shogun, which I began reading in January. In a wonderfully fortuitous turn of events, I just so happened to read The Remains of the Day recently as well.

These two books make a fascinating combination, since one is an Englishman writing about Japan, and the other is a Japanese man writing about England. The books could hardly be more different in terms of content (though I hear there was a cut scene in The Remains of the Day where Stevens orders the scullery maid to commit seppuku), yet they meditate on the same themes. Both stories ponder questions about the meaning of honor, the price of duty, and whether living in a society that asks great sacrifices of its members is ultimately good for the individual.

If I were part of a book club that was up for meeting once a week for the approximately nine years it would take us to get through both books, I would love to get together with folks and nerd out about all the overlapping thematic elements.

— 6 —

I’m putting together a playlist for our Friday night cocktail party at Edel. What are the must-have party songs that need to be on there? (The Humpty Dance, obviously, but what else?)

— 7 —

(Grab a Kleenex. Actually, just get the whole box.)

You know that amazing young man, Zach Sobiech, who found out that he was dying of cancer, and wrote that truly beautiful song,  Clouds?

His mother, Laura Sobiech, has written a memoir called Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way. I was looking it up to give it a plug because I hear it’s great, and I stumbled across this video in the process. It’s 5, 000 people gathering to remember Zach and sing his song.

I’ve posted a lot of videos on my blog over the years. But this one just might be my favorite.



  1. Rita @ Open Window

    Have an amazing time at Edel! Praying for a great conference for everyone going and easier travel experiences than it sounds like you’ll have on your trip after the conference. Loved the video! Thank you.

  2. Laura

    A book titled “Living with the Active Alert Child” might help you with understanding and living with your daughter. My son was very similar from the moment he was born. Most people describe their newborn babies as sweet or cute, the only word I had to describe him was intense. He’s almost 4 now and will always be intense. This is a review of the book: http://www.network54.com/Realm/Spirited_Kids/Budd.htm

  3. Sarah

    I’m not going to pretend that sort of flight won’t be hellish. There are few things I enjoy less than flying with our nap-less toddler twins. Actually, by few I mean I can’t think of any. They always top off the fun of the flight by getting sick (presumably from licking the floor on the plane) for the next week so I never travel without a stock of baby meds anymore. An endless supply of cheerios in one of those little snack cups with the flexible tops a kid can stick their hand through (or painstakingly handed out one at a time) is our only solution that works – it keeps the mess down and provides a fairly long-lasting distraction. Also, everyone says to have your small child drink a bottle or nurse during takeoff but ours suck all the liquids down in one minute while we continue to gain altitude for 20 minutes. The cheerios keep them swallowing and clearing their ears for longer. I don’t like snacks for pacification until I’m trapped with my children in a 9 inch seat for two or three hours.

    On the upside, we’re NCers and we love Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill – it’s the closest big city to our relatively remote Army post. I hear the Raleigh Children’s Museum is great if you have downtime. Black Mountain is wonderful. The scenery in Black Mountain is beautiful, the town is cute, the hiking is fantastic (or if you don’t feel like hiking with small people, there are plenty of pretty overlooks from the Blue Ridge Parkway), breakfast at Louise’s Kitchen is delicious (avoid the weekend brunch though – the lines are long), and it’s close enough to weird Asheville that you should feel right at home if you start to miss weird Austin :). Also, no scorpions. Enjoy!

  4. Kate

    Let me know if you need a Raleigh babysitter…even if it is just for the ceremonies or something. I took my kids to the park in Black Mountain near Montreat…it was so, so beautiful! I highly recommend it. Have fun at the conference, the mountains, and the weddings. I met you in March in Raleigh at IBT. Welcome back to NC!

  5. Tracy Bua Smith

    Yay! You are heading back to my neck of the woods! I met you in Raleigh in March at IBT also! 🙂 I also met your personal photographer, Uncle Kevin, and your Aunt! I’m assuming these are the same relatives who will be helping you at your upcoming, fun conference! A friend of mine, Shannon, is attending the Edel Gathering and she lives near Raleigh. Shannon told me last weekend she is looking forward to it and hanging out with a bunch of great, Catholic bloggers, though she doesn’t blog herself. I would LOVE to make it to the gatherings of gatherings, but maybe one day….

    Enjoy the weddings and and your trips! May they be blessed with many unexpected blessings!

  6. Ana

    You are the bravest of the brave for all your travels with chillins, you’re my hero.

    I am doing all I can to not cry buckets in a corner over not seeing you at Edel. I’m doing ok so far, but it seems likely that 37 week pregnant Ana + no Edel will equal mucho waterworks. So sad I am missing!!

  7. Liz

    Just had to jump in and say enjoy your time in Black Mountain. I’m from Asheville, and we had our wedding reception at the Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain. It was very charming. Be sure to go to mass at the beautiful, historic Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, where we got married. Have a great trip!

  8. Kristen N

    My friends and I are really looking forward to Edel! No song suggestions for the cocktail party, but anything Abba might be fun. Now to shop for some crazy shoes, or maybe create some myself… Looking forward to meeting you!

    • Cathy Z

      When I was single and actually hosted cocktail parties I always liked a CD called “Wild, Cool, Swingin” by Ultra Lounge. Gypsy Kings always puts me in a party mood, too. But it all depends on personal taste! I will be there with Kristen N and Beth K. Looking forward to all that God has planned in making it possible for us to be there! Sure to be fun! I feel bad that you and Hallie are working so hard. No matter what it will be great.

  9. Amy

    The Humpty Dance!! Oh my gosh, yes! Also perhaps “Baby Got Back?”

  10. Ann-Marie

    I felt the same way when I took a Japanese History class in college taught by a Chinese professor. He had us read The Rape of Nanking.

  11. Mary WIlkerson

    The flight. with the littles. I can’t even. Ugh. Prayers and more prayers.

  12. Connie Rossini

    I love Remains of the Day. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, and one of those very rare books that even reading it for the first time after I’d seen and loved the movie, I found the book was even better. It is so thoroughly English in its main character. Perhaps being born in another culture allowed Ishiguro to poke fun at his adopted homeland in a way Brits couldn’t themselves. I was at a signing of one of his later books, but it wasn’t nearly as good.

    God bless your travels and all your events. What a year you’re having!

  13. Ashley Anderson

    That video! Gah. My 4 year old came to me and said, “Will you make me my breakfast so you can stop crying?” I’ve never poured a bowl of Cheerios while ugly crying before today.

  14. Maggie

    Have ur guardian angel talk to ur kids g. Angels to help u all have a peaceful flight!

  15. Amanda

    Ooohh, Zach. I am from MN and followed his story from the begining. I can’t help but tear up just thinking about his beautiful soul. I need to get that book.

    Also, I am having issues getting InLinkz to link me up. I am 100% it’s me, or rather my computer, so I will just plug myself here:

    Moms out there, advice requested!!

  16. Mary Keane

    I have no encouragement for travel, but only to tell you that I have been there. My kids were also still crawling at 15 months and all our family is far away, so yes the wanting to crawl on the disgusting floors and trying to prevent it for hours and hours is the worst. I think I gave up and just would wipe them down with baby wipes and hand sanitizer after a while. But we survived and still had a great vacation.

  17. Bonnie

    Well, I’m crying from the video. People are so full of love.

    I’ll pray for your travels, Jen. The travel will be hard but at least there will be family once you arrive.

    Music requests, do they have to fit with the Humpty Dance? In case they do I like Jump Around and Ice Ice Baby and Dance with Somebody. In case they don’t I like Jackson (Cash), Weird Al’s Word Crimes, anything by The Head and the Heart, Pharrell’s Happy, Next to Me (Sandi), Shake It Out (Florence & Machine), Drunk on a Plane (Dierks Bently), and Dan Lord’s band. 🙂

  18. JoAnna

    I’m flying to Edel with my 9-month-old in tow and am apprehensive about it. He’s awfully squirmy.

    Playlist suggestions –

    “Celebrate” – Kool and the Gang

    “Jump in the Line” – Harry Belafonte (or the cover by Da Vinci’s Notebook, which is smashing)

    “Love Shack” – the B52s

    “Dancing Queen” – Abba

    “The Way You Look Tonight” – cover by Maroon 5

    “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” – the Beatles

    “Don’t Stop Believin'” – Journey

    “Someone to Watch Over Me” – Ella Fitzgerald

    Anything by Kitty Cleveland, especially if it’s from her new jazz album

  19. Lisa Schmidt

    I want a song I can CAN-CAN to because I bought a petticoat to wear. A flippin’ PETTICOAT, Jen! I didn’t even know what those things were called, but thanks to Edel, now I do! That opening dance song from Moulin Rouge will do for me. 🙂

  20. Becky

    I won’t be able to come to the Edel conference (though I wish I could!) But I do have a song request–“Clouds”! It will just make everybody happier.

    From a Minnesotan girl proud of Zach…

  21. Tacy

    This was such a great post. I was laughing and crying! Thanks for your storytelling skills and your courage.

  22. Mary Beth

    That video was amazing!!! Am still shaking. Oh my, what people can do when they come together to celebrate life!!

  23. PatJ61

    Here in North Carolina, we don’t have to explain the phrase “cousins getting married.” 😉

  24. Sarah

    Nothing’s gonna stop us now – from mannequin

    Hold on – Wilson Philips

    Free Fallin – tom petty

    I’m gonna walk 500 miles

    U2 – she moves in mysterious ways

    Cher – believe

  25. Kristin S.

    The Humpty Dance…oh I laughed hard at that! So bummed I’m missing next week, but have an awesome time. Praying for safe travels for everyone!

  26. Jennifer

    When I have had to board an airplane with any of my littlest (especially so little a screen does not distract them), I have stocked up on bags and bags of the randomly bundled little toys from our local thrift store. (I run them though the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle pre-kid handling.) That way if they lose toys I don’t kick myself for bringing them on the plane and there’s lots of variety. Usually I break out a new couple of toys every fifteen minutes or so. Also I have brought blank paper and crayons and tape. I tape the paper to the seat tray – that way they can’t rip it, lose it, or throw it at someone (not that any of my darling angels would ever misbehave in such a way). GOOD LUCK!

  27. Elise

    So excited for you all with Edel coming up. Prayers for a beautiful weekend for all of you! My fingers are crossed for Edel 2015 or sometime in the future! And prayers for your travel with your little ones, too. Have a great weekend!

  28. Sarah

    Human league – don’t you want me

  29. Emily @ Em's Estuary

    You make me laugh….
    I know your conference will go well.

  30. Claire Rebecca

    Black Mountain is gorgeous and if you’re there for the Sourwood Festival you should definitely go!

  31. Ally

    Ooh!!! Black Mountain!!! (Though ugh that’s a trek to and from from Raleigh but…) I went to undergrad at Montreat College which is right on the edge of Black Mountain (there’s really nothing in the town of Montreat but the college (Presbyerian), the Presbyterian conference center, Billy Graham’s house, and a bunch of other houses you supposedly have to inherit lol – so we were in Black Mountain a lot) if you should decide to go wander the Montreat campus any (it’s very pretty) check out the fresco by Ben Long in the Chapel of the Prodigal…it’s gorgeous! (And tells the entire story in one scene from the pigs in the corner to the older brother ticked off in the background)

  32. Laurie. N.

    Hear you on the flying with young kids! My kids aren’t THAT bad in planes, but I always seem to be seated behind someone who hates kids (.or at least that’s my impression with all the sighing and glares I get!). Very anxiety provoking for all involved!! I love the iPad for flights now, oh and I’m not against Benadryl for a couple hours sleep in the plane too (pediatrician ok’d)! Good luck! Have fun!

  33. Michelle

    How about twins the same age! Unfortunately they were extremely sick the entire week in FL. I still say it was the plane and if I could do it again, I would have lots of hand sanitizer. Lots and lots and lots. I may have also given them Airborne or something of that nature.

    The good that came out of wasting over $8,000. we really didn’t have? Their immune systems have been ultra strong ever since.

    I will definitely keep you in prayer.

  34. Heather Woyak

    Oh, goodness! Ok, from experience on a 19.5 hour road trip with 3 boys under the age of 4… I have now learned to just keep expectations low…to the flo. Because then you become either pleasantly surprised with your amazing travelers OR not be as stressed out due to not-so-awesome travelers. Good luck, dear! I’m sure things with turn out wonderfully! Have a great Edel Weekend!!

  35. The other Becky

    I am sure that your trip to the weddings with your kids will not be the worst experience of your life because you have already HAD the worst experience of your life. The whole “can’t breathe because of a blood clot, ok, we will fix that by poking a hole in your neck without anesthetic, oops that didn’t fix it” was the worst experience of your life, right? So when you are sitting on the airplane with two screaming children, just lie back and meditate on the fact that you are not in a hospital.

    I bet that one thing you are worried about is the idea that other people who hear your kids screaming will have their own opinions about how the kids should be silenced (beginning with they should not have been born). Really, and this is a good spiritual exercise, don’t worry about them. If you are sure you are doing the right thing leave the rest up God, including the spiritual response of other people to the blessings which God has given you (screaming children ARE a gift from God, right?)

    And I will assure that that being on a plane with screaming children is not the worst thing that can happen to your fellow passengers, either. I took a long plane trip with a friend. On the outbound flight we were not able to sit together. She told me afterward that the kid in the seat behind her kicked her seat continually. On the way back we were able to sit together. Fortunately (we thought) we had adults behind us. The quite audible conversation behind us led us to say to each other that we would both have preferred to have children behind us.

    So have fun!

  36. gilmartin

    I do agree with all of the concepts you’ve offered for your post. They’re really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for beginners. Could you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  37. Sigrun

    May be showing my age here, but what about YMCA, Shout, Mony Mony, and the Chicken Dance? Does anyone still know the Electric Slide or the Macarena?

  38. Lew

    Thank you for sharing the “Clouds” video. I had not heard of Zach Sobiech until this post. I just read “Fly a Little Higher,” what a beautiful story.

  39. Michelle

    dunno where to start from.

    i came on your blog last march or there about.

    got too many things to read.


    so happy to be back.

    i lost track then but finally back now

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