Good Fences [Would] Make Good Neighbors, and Other Sources of Anxiety

— 1 —

Yesterday afternoon I achieved the Holy Grail of parenthood: two siblings playing outside, together, for a good stretch of time, while I watched from inside:

Don't eat yellow snow, girls!

Don’t eat yellow snow, girls!

— 2 —

Later that evening, I paid a price for my half hour of peace.  At midnight I got an anxiety attack imagining the neighbors’ German Shepherd-ish puppy (the one with looooong legs) jumping our fence and mauling the girls, or at the very least traumatizing them for life.  I came *this* close to waking up Pat and demanding he come up with a plan.   I talked myself down, but I’m still concerned.  Nothing’s happened yet, but I can just tell that dog is gonna jump the fence any day.  Can we demand the neighbors do something before anything’s actually happened?  Or should we preemptively put up a tall privacy fence?  *Sigh*

English: German Shepherd puppy sitting.

The neighbors’ dog looks like this, but bigger and with longer legs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

— 3 —

My baby suddenly is becoming a toddler.  She’s been toddling a while but now she’s getting attitude, drama, charm.  She knows to say “hot” when her food is too hot.  She throws herself on the floor dramatically when she wants something.  She gives kisses and says “mwah.”  And she screams when she doesn’t get her way.  Oh man, does she scream.

— 4 —

The honeymoon is over with blogging.  I still have lots of ideas to write about but have trouble motivating myself to write.  I’m going to stick with it though.  I don’t like to give up on something until I’ve given it a year.

— 5 —

I do want to write a series on my attempt to revamp my wardrobe and, at age 30, for the first time in my life, be a well-dressed person.  I’m going to title it “Style and the Stay at Home Mom.”  Get it???  But I just need to start writing.

— 6 —

On that note: my new jeans from Boden arrived yesterday.  I showed them to Pat and he said, “Nice . . . Comfy? . . . Keep ’em.”


Trouble is, I think they’re too comfy.  I think they’re going to stretch out and fall off after the first few hours (as I discussed here).  I wonder if I’m just deluding myself that I need a smaller size?  There’s nothing imaginary, though, about the plumber’s crack I get with my current pair of similarly-comfy-fitting jeans.  *Sigh* The search continues.

— 7 —

Pat made himself a dentist appointment and is there now.  I’m very proud of him.

Happy weekend, folks!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


Grace in a Little White Pill

Grace in a Little White Pill ~

I’m sharing some of my experience with postpartum anxiety and depression as part of a Blog Hop sponsored by my friend Katherine at Half-Kindled.  I’ve written a little bit about it before (here and here).  It’s a topic that is still hard for many people to talk about, and I’m convinced the more we remove the shame and the taboo of talking about postpartum (and other forms of) depression and anxiety, the more we can help each other.

After I had my first baby, I didn’t experience the typical symptoms you see in literature about postpartum depression.  I wasn’t sad so much as angry and irritable and frustrated all the time.  I was angry at everyone, and then I felt a lot of self-loathing for being such a (seemingly) terrible person.  Thank God, I never came close to harming my child, but my marriage suffered, as did various items around that house that I kicked during angry outbursts.

It took me eight months to talk to my doctor about it.  He actually recognized warning signs of postpartum depression right after I gave birth: I was sobbing–apparently that’s not normal!  “No, no,” I insisted, “I’m just tired.”

And so it went for months of denial.  Two things in particular kept me from seeking treatment:

1. My symptoms weren’t typical of postpartum depression.  In fact, they were symptoms I had dealt with all my life, on and off, to some degree: anger, frustration, and irritability interspersed with self-loathing.  Before having children, I was always able to push through somehow. The hormonal havoc and sleep deprivation that came having a baby just made the symptoms worse.  I wasn’t able to push through and function normally anymore.

2. The second and biggest roadblock to wellness for me was that I felt I didn’t deserve help.  I was never psychotic.  I never lost my reason.  I always had some degree of control of my actions.  Therefore, I thought, I just needed to try harder. Taking medication was the easy route that I didn’t deserve because I hadn’t tried hard enough on my own.

I attribute this to the Act of Contrition I learned growing up.  There really is such a thing as too much Catholic guilt! The line goes, “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more . . . .”  My understanding was, as long as there was some possibility that I could improve in the future, my failing was my fault, and I needed to just try harder.  “With the help of Thy grace,” is in there too of course, but I didn’t think much about how God’s grace could help me.  It just served as a reminder that I needed to pray harder.

The game changer was that now I had a family who suffered every time that (surprise!) my white-knuckling failed.  Thank God it became clear to me that I had to take the “easy route,” even if I didn’t deserve it, because they deserved it.

One form of the “help of God’s grace,” for me, is a little white pill.

Eight months after having my first baby, I started taking an anti-depressant, and it helped almost immediately.  At first I worried it would alter my personality, but now I truly feel that the medication helps me be my true self, the person God made me to be but that I couldn’t be under the weight of anxiety.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried going off antidepressants, but it’s never worked.  Unfortunately, whatever condition I have is not solely a postpartum one.  It just took the strain of having a baby to reveal a problem that hovered below the surface.

I don’t like the idea of taking a pill every day.  It has made me gain weight.  It’s made me sluggish.  I’m not the type-A super achiever I used to be.  I’m sure there’s some underlying hormonal imbalance or other health problem that is affecting my mental state, and I’d like eventually to figure that out.  But for now, medication is the only way I can be the loving, patient, happy wife and mother I need to be.

And that’s been the grace of the little white pill for me: it has forced me to focus on what God really wants me to do and the humility to realize that I can’t do it on my own power.

He isn’t calling me to be a super achiever.  He isn’t asking me to keep a squeaky clean house or volunteer on a dozen committees or work full time or even cook delicious meals.  All he asks me to do is love–love my husband, love my children.

To paraphrase a popular slogan, “I have one job.”

Before taking an antidepressant, I had enough nervous energy to do more things, but I was angry, bitter, and irritable most of the time with my husband and children.

Now, I don’t have as much energy and drive, but I have the underlying peace and calm I need to love my family better. It’s humbling to accept that I need medicine to fulfill the most basic requirements of my life.  That humility, too, is a grace.

Antidepressants are not right for everyone, but if you’re really suffering I’d beg you to consider it.

For all of us though, there’s truth in the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I  want to challenge everyone reading this to be open-minded about the ways you can “let God.”

God probably will not supernaturally transfuse you with peace and patience.

He might offer it to you in a pill.  (I think of Lexapro as my “patience in a pill!”)

He might offer you grace in the form of therapy with a psychologist of other professional counselor.

He might offer you grace through your helpful husband, if you would only overlook the way he loads the dishwasher incorrectly and doesn’t separate darks and whites.

He might offer you grace in the form of a friend’s offer to watch your kids, an offer you normally brush aside.

He might offer you grace when you let go of self-imposed standards for how you keep house or how many hours you work or how busy you keep your schedule.

Our calling is not to try hard and do hard things; our calling is to love.  And often we can’t love the way we ought until we stop trying so hard to do it ourselves.

Hope for the Future 2

For more on this topic, hop over to

Katherine at Half Kindled,

Bonnie at A Knotted Life

Jenna at Call Her Happy

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee, and

Rosie at Check Out That Sunset.

Grace in a Little White Pill ~

Do Your Kids Dress Themselves? {What We Wore Sunday}

Mine do.  I never thought I’d let them, but now I do.

It occurred to me that what they wear these days is much more interesting than anything I wear.

So this is what I wore yesterday to church–nothing worth blogging about really.  (Girl 1 pleaded, “Mommy, you have to wear a dress!  If you wear those pants–the priest is going to be mad at you!”  (He wasn’t.)).


My Estiva ballet flats from Crocs are still holding strong (n.b. they run large).

Fact of the week you don’t need to know: I haven’t plucked my eyebrows, seriously, in months.  They’re not so tidy looking close-up but they’re not exactly out of control.  I may never go back.

This is what Girl 1 wore (Girl 2 already had changed by the time I took pictures):

IMG_8668 IMG_8667 IMG_8666

Girl 2 wore this Friday morning while we ran errands–look carefully and you can see a floral sundress she wore under her Frozen dress:

IMG_8643She insisted on changing into her “picnic clothes” and “picnic shoes” later that afternoon before we went to an end-of-the-year school picnic at the playground.


I probably shouldn’t let her wear these shoes to the playground anymore.  But my sister went through a stage, at around the same age, of wearing dress-up high heel everyday, everywhere.  So there’s some nostalgia there for me.  My parents even let her wear them to church.  At our current parish, children aren’t the novelty they were at my parish growing up.  So letting your kid wear loud, clackety-clack shoes to church is like–ten demerits!  So we draw the line at wearing them church.

I hope you all are enjoying a lovely Memorial Day.  Click on over to Fine Linen and Purple for more What I Wore Sunday posts.

In more somber news, I’m participating this Wednesday in a blog-hop on maternal anxiety and depression, hosted by Katherine at Half-Kindled.  A bevy of talented bloggers are participating and writing on this important topic, including Bonnie at A Knotted Life, Jenna of Call Her Happy, Jenny of Mama Needs Coffee, and Rosie of Check Out That Sunset, so you should definitely check it out!

What Worked in 2014

Better late than never, I’ve been thinking about what worked and what didn’t work for me in 2014.

What worked

Lexapro: I don’t know why I need to take an anti-depressant.  I’m not depressed.  It’s anxiety, I guess although for me it manifests as irritability.

Anyway, 2014 was the most peaceful year I can remember, and I’m thinking it was a chemically-induced peace.  During the homily on New Year’s day, the priest talked about how all peace comes from God.  Sometimes God even works through big, bad pharma.

Floradix: I’m mildly anemic and notice a big drop in energy when I don’t take this liquid iron supplement regularly.

What didn’t work:

Cow brain supplements (i.e., bovine pituitary gland pills): “prescribed” for me by my witch doctor by way of pressing down on my arm, these made me feel crazily irritable.  It didn’t help that I tried to wean off Lexapro at the same time (another thing that didn’t work), but even once I got back on Lexapro, these continued to make me feel irritable.  Maybe I didn’t give them a fair chance, but I’m not going back.

bitch mode

What worked:

Magnificat magazine.  I resisted subscribing to this for years because of the expense and because I already own a breviary.  Silly Laura.

Audiobooks: for the girls, mostly rented for free through a library consortium.  We are loving the Ramona series.  And Frog and Toad, read by the author, is a delight.

Chiropractic/massage: My back is the best it’s been in a long time.  It starts getting out of whack again when I don’t exercise for a while though, which brings up–

BodyFlow: I love this exercise class.  I only make it once a week and that’s only if we aren’t sick.  But it’s the perfect combination of stretching, relaxation, and strengthening.

Fabulous Forever: It’s a stretching DVD for old people, and I love it.  It feels great.

What didn’t work:

Pilates at Gold’s Gym: Hurt my back no matter how carefully I modified.

T-Tapp: A little more on that here

What worked:

Paper plates: I meant to add this to my goals post–I hereby resolve to eat more often off of paper plates!  Better to eat healthy food off of paper plates than convenience food off of fine china!

What didn’t work:

Red food dye: Girl 1 had three rough weeks at school in November, after doing really well for the first two months.  The only thing I could think of that had changed in her routine was that I had given her over the counter cough medicines regularly, and those medicines all have red dye in them.  We cut out the dye and, upon her return to school after Thanksgiving break, her behavior greatly improved.  We’re avoiding artificial food dyes now.

Every diet I “tried”:

The Christian ideal diet has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried [for more than two weeks].”

G.K. Chesterton, ed. by me

  • The No-S Diet: Ha!  Yeah, no.
  •  Calorie counting using My Fitness Pal–There was a time when I could lose weight just by keeping my daily calories under 2,000.  Not anymore.

  • Weight Watchers–I started off on their “Simply Filling” program and found myself pigging out on low-fat microwave popcorn, sugar-free jello, Weight Watchers brand shakes, and fat-free everything.  A low point was when I tried fat-free ricotta cheese.  It’s an abomination.  The alternative to the Healthy Start is the traditional point-counting method, but I didn’t feel like paying for what is basically counting calories plus weekly meetings I didn’t enjoy.
  • Thin Within–a prayer/ positive thinking method of eating only when you are hungry.  It makes sense, it really does.  And it’s still my goal.  But food has too much of a hold on me for this method to work on its own.  A dilemma I run into is trying to eating slowly and mindfully when sharing a meal with the two resident barbarians of the house.  Eating with them is stressful in itself, but it doesn’t work to eat separately from them for each meal.  So.

We’re back to Perfect Health Diet, which I went on initially because food has such a hold on me.  It’s not a panacea but it worked better than anything else I’ve tried.  Also, Pat wants to go back on it.  So here we go again.

And the barbarians are waking so I need to end this abruptly.

What worked and didn’t work for you in 2014?

What I’m Reading, Twitterature Style

Oh the pain–the pain!!–of being a grammar snob and then realizing you titled a past post, “Book reports in 140 characters or less.”  Fewer, Laura, fewer.  “140 characters or fewer.”  **So embarrassed**

Soldiering on, here are a few more very brief thoughts–with letter grades–on books I’ve read in the past few months.


  • Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
    • Outlaws, a mystic, wild West, workings of Grace, power of a (The?) Father’s Love.  Not my usual type but WOW.  Starts slow finishes strong.   A+
  • The Story of a Soul, Therese of Lisieux
    • Is St. Therese INFP?  I have trouble relating.  Still glad I reread it after many yrs.  Better not grade a Dr of the Church?
  • Cherries and Cherry Pits, by Vera Williams
    • Luscious illustrations and a sweet story.  I remember this from my childhood and now enjoy reading it with my kids.  A
  • The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    • O Ernest how I admire your prose.  O Ernest how this story bores me.  2 dull, didn’t finish.

Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Twitterature  (on Monday) and (next week) with Jessica at Housewifespice for What We’re Reading Wednesday.  Happy reading!


I didn’t choose the slug life; the slug life chose me.

A Hormone Story, Part 1: Cortisol Highs and Lows

This has been me lately.


This is an improvement on my past self, which generally was this:

PMS gif

and sometimes this:

Steel Magnolias funeral scene

I chalked it up to postpartum depression, but by 18 months “postpartum,” that didn’t make much sense anymore.

Then I realized that a lot of my symptoms were worse around the last half of my cycle, so calling it PMS made some sense.   But didn’t explain it all.

I went to the doctor’s recently for a med check and the nurse was like, “So, are you taking this for anxiety or depression.”  And I’m like, umm, neither . . . both? . . .  Just . . .

I hate everyone gif

A light began to dawn when I read The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried.  What I experienced lined up almost exactly with the symptoms she listed for high cortisol.  It “fit” like nothing else.  So, I followed her “protocol” for high cortisol, which includes:

I started this at the beginning of March.  Amazing!  I’m more relaxed and patient and calm than I have ever been in my entire life.

I also feel like this:


A slug doesn’t yell at her kids.  A slug isn’t prickly toward her husband.  A slug doesn’t get uptight and stressed out.

Also, a slug doesn’t clean her house.  A slug isn’t too concerned about personal hygiene.  A slug doesn’t cook.  A slug doesn’t exercise.   A slug doesn’t even type blog posts.  A slug mostly sits on the couch and reads.  And eats.  And gains weight.

I’ve always been Type A, so this is a whole new experience for me.  I’m enjoying it for now.  But I’d like to get my arse off the couch eventually.  Also I’d like not to get fat.

I’m wondering if I’ve been running on cortisol and caffeine for so long that my body doesn’t know what else to use for energy anymore?  It certainly isn’t burning all the calories I put into it.

I suspect low thyroid, but I’m also taking supplements that The Hormone Cure recommends for low thyroid, with no noticeable result.  And my TSH was normal last time I had blood work done just 6 months ago.  So what to do next?

Cue the witch doctor.

Witchdoctor gif

She’s actually not a witch doctor.  But Pat and I enjoy calling her that.



She’s a chiropractor/ alternative health practitioner person.  I went to her for a consult and now I’m getting more blood work and some hormone testing.

So we’ll see . . . .

In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be on the couch.

A Month In the Life of a Book Glutton

The past few weeks have been great for reading, not so great for blogging.

Have you ever gotten that feeling of anxiety that comes with not knowing what to read next?  That sneaking fear that maybe there aren’t any good books left?  You know it’s an irrational fear, but you can’t quite dismiss it?

I’ve had the opposite problem lately.  So many fun books, most of them good, all of them enjoyable (not terribly deep, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that).  Its been like pigging out at an all-you-can-eat buffet minus the indigestion and bloat.

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

1. Oxygen by Carol Cassella.  Sort of a John Grisham medical malpractice/mystery story told from the doctor’s perspective rather than the lawyer’s.  A bit too Jodi Picoult-ish in its metaphor after metaphor after cheesy metaphor (Hallie and I will have to agree to disagree about Ms. Picoult).  Still, a real page-turner.  Recommended.

2. Following Polly by Karen Bergreen.  I picked this out on the recommendation of Jenny McCarthy via Jim Gaffigan.  I’m glad I did.  It’s chick-lit but ten times funnier and wittier than most.  Also not as dirty.  A really really really fun read.

3. Perfect Is Overrated, the author’s follow-up novel, was also entertaining but not as funny.

4. Speaking of Jim Gaffigan, I read Dad Is Fat.  It’s laugh out loud funny in parts.  In other parts the jokes are not so fresh.  But my takeaway is that I love the Gaffigans.

People treat having a kid as somehow retiring from success. Quitting. Have you seen a baby? They’re pretty cute. Loving them is pretty easy. Smiling babies should actually be categorized by the pharmaceutical industry as a powerful antidepressant. Being happy is really the definition of success, isn’t it?

This by the supposed author who explained, “My wife and I, we write everything together.”  So yeah, I’m pretty sure Jeanne wrote that.

5. Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo.  I tried to read this with an open mind.  It’s an interesting story, short and easy to read.  Well, easy to read except the heart-wrenching account of what the little boy and his parents went through when he was deathly ill and repeatedly misdiagnosed.  (They had to sit in the doctor’s waiting room, with their dying child on their lap while the doctor finished his lunch.  My stomach clenches up just thinking about it.)  As for the rest . . . did the little boy really see Heaven?  Are his parents telling the truth?  Does it matter?  I don’t know, but I rather hope it’s true.  Regardless, it’s interesting and told in a simple, narrative, non-preachy way.

6. Kate: The Future Queen, by Kate Nicholl.  This book led me on a journey of self discovery.  I discovered I’m not as big a fan as I thought I was.  At least, not a fan as needs all this information.  Too much who vacationed on which secluded island when with whom.  Blah.  I skimmed a lot of it.  Just tell me what she wore.  Also, I like William less and respect Kate less for the way he led her on forever and ever and ever.  Still, I wish them well and hope they stay fabulous.  Also, Kate’s mother, Carole Middleton is a self-made millionaire who started out putting together children’s party favor bags in her garage.  You rock, Carole.

7. Cheap: The Shockingly High Price of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppel Shell.  An interesting title, no?  It’s written like a dissertation, though.  Way way too much information.  I skimmed.

8. When You Eat At the Refrigerator Pull Up A Chair by Geneen Roth.  Sort of a lite version of Women Food and God.  Just okay.

And most recently, I’m working on How Children Succeed by Paul Tough and When Hell Was In Session by the recently-deceased, Vietnam War hero Col. Jeremiah Denton.  It’s taking some effort to get motivated to read the latter, since I’ve been attached too more . . . bubbly . . . subject matter.  But I shall persevere.  (Or not, and crack open The Rosie Project, which I just picked up at the library.)

I’m linking up with Jessica the Spicy Housewife for What We’re Reading Wednesday and Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Twitterature.  And, I’d like to link up with Hallie for Five Favorites Wednesday.  I’ll make books #1, 2, and 4 my favorites.  Plus Rules of Civility, that I wrote about last week, is my fourth favorite.  And having lots of books to read is my fifth favorite for the week!  There, five!

How about you?  What have you been reading?


Reclaiming Surrendered Ground: Protecting Your Family From Spiritual Attacks, A Review

Jen Fulwiler’s recent post about spiritual attack sparked a lot of discussion, both in the comments and in other blogs. This seems like a good time then, to review a book on the subject I read recently. In fact, Jen’s 2011 post on spiritual attack is what first drew my attention to the topic.



Reclaiming Surrendered Ground: Protecting Your Family From Spiritual Attacks is written by Jim Logan, a counselor at Biblical Restoration MInistries. He addresses, mainly, two issues (1) the fact that spiritual attack-active demonic activity in our lives–really occurs, even to Christians in modern society, and (2) the way to combat it. I found his treatment of the first topic enlightening. His discussion of how to counter-attack, however, I find unsatisfying.

Mr. Logan addresses one of the primary questions I had about spiritual attack: how is it different from plain old temptation and sin? In short, Mr. Logan says, it isn’t:

I have seen visible manifestations of demons in my counseling experience, but these are far from the norm. . . . For the vast majority of Christians . . . spiritual warfare is another name for the battle we wage against ‘all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).

The book addresses the particular areas of weakness where he, in his ministry, has seen Satan exploit people. He addresses separately the issues that men and women face. While reading his book on how spiritual attack can occur for women I thought, “Wow, is he talking to me, personally?” He has some insightful points on how Satan destroys families, not just through more obvious sins like occultism or adultery, but also through less shocking weaknesses like bitterness, anger, and anxiety:

Women struggle with a fearful spirit. That’s why they get angry . . . . A woman sees so much more than a man sees. She walks into the house, sees a crack in the wall, and knows something out to be done. Her husband, however, waits until the roof is blown off and the water is pouring in. Then he says wisely, ‘You know, honey, we ought to do something about this.’


I was particularly intrigued by the connection Mr. Logan draws between authority and vulnerability to spiritual attack. He posits that God places a “hedge of protection” between us and Satan through the authority structures He designed: a parent’s authority over a child, a father’s authority over the family, the church’s authority over families.

When the flaming missiles of Satan pass through God’s hedge of protection, they cease to be Satan’s destructive missiles and become instead the refining fire of God. . . . . When we are out of God’s will, Satan doesn’t need permission to attack us. But when we are walking in obedience and victory, we know that God has power and is protecting and refining us during tough times. Satan can’t lay a finger on us unless God allows us.

I can’t help thinking how much more protected we must be who submit to the authority, not just of a church, but of the Church.

And here is where the book left me, as a Catholic, with a lot of questions. Mr. Logan is (as far as I can discern) an Evangelical Protestant. Mr. Logan describes prayer and the quoting of Scripture as the primary tools to resist spiritual attack and to “reclaim” the areas in our life that we have surrendered to Satan through past sin. Obviously, from his experience, this can work. But surely, prayer alone is not was powerful as when combined with the Sacraments, the intercession of the Saints, and the other tools the Church gives us?

I would like to find a book written on this topic from a Catholic perspective. The Spiritual Combat Revisited, by Fr Jonathan Robinson, looks promising. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s read it or other books on this topic.

I’m joining the “What I’m Reading Wednesday” link-up today, for the first time, hosted by Jessica at Housewifespice. Thanks Jessica!!

7 Quick Takes: More Books

For my quick takes this week, here are some short reviews on books I’ve read lately.  Please forgive the uneven font size.  ‘Can’t figure out how to fix it.

— 1 —

The Spear by Louis DeWohl:

This panoramic novel of the last days of Christ ranges from the palaces of imperial Rome to the strife-torn hills of Judea-where the conflict of love and betrayal, revenge and redemption, reaches a mighty climax in the drama of the Crucifixion. For this is the full story of the world’s most dramatic execution, as it affected one of its least-known participants-the man who hurled his spear into Christ on the Cross.

This book gives a lot of insight into the political and sectarian circumstances surrounding Jesus’ life.  Fictionalized but (I think) historically plausible.  A real page turner.

— 2 —

Biting the Dust: The Joys of Housework by Margaret Horsfield:

 Horsfield, a reporter for BBC, CBC, the Guardian and the Independent, uses her journalistic skills to investigate not only how, but why, we clean. Using historical, literary, psychological and personal sources, she traces the long and tangled evolution. . . . In the late 19th century, the germ theory of disease scared women onto a new plane of anxiety about the cleanliness of their households. With the introduction of soap around the same time, the media turned method to madness by establishing standards of cleanliness that were suffocating, imprisoning and impossible to live up to. Bringing her subject up to the present, Horsfield blames people like Martha Stewart for perpetuating a kind of “domestic pornography” that encourages women to fight a losing battle by creating yet another impossible, media-fueled ideal. Horsfield couldn’t take a more ordinary subject and make it more interesting.

This book came to mind when I attended recentsales parties for Arbonne cosmetics and Norwex house-cleaning products.  I’m sure these products are fine in themselves.  I do question their marketing messages, which rely on vague but alarming statements about the dangers of “chemicals.”

In centuries past, people believed that sickness was caused by bad air, hence the old warning against letting in the night air.  Those notions went by the wayside as germ theory developed.  Later on, triclosan was added to anything and everything.  Now we realize that killing any and all germs and bacteria isn’t such a good idea.

I wonder, then: are “chemicals” just the current boogeymen that we’ll laugh at decades later.  Surely, some are bad for you.  Dousing the earth in DDT in the mid-20th century turned out to be not such a hot idea.  But some chemicals are naturally occurring.  Some are harmless.  Many are harmful only in small quantities.  I’m certainly no expert.  But do we think about these nuances before paying a pretty penny for products claiming to be “green” or “chemical-free?”

— 3 —

Splendors of the Rosary: A Celebration of the Mysteries of The Rosary through Art and Meditation, from Magnificat Press.  A really beautiful collection of artwork and meditations for each mystery of the Rosary.  I imagine this would be great for older children; it certainly is for adults.  (Gift from my mom–thanks Mom!)

— 4 —

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith:

. . . tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle’s walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle”–and the heart of the reader–in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

Beautifully written.  Sad, but ends on a hopeful note.  Hard to believe it was out of print for many years.

What is it about these coming-of-age, first-love stories that leave me a mushy, sentimental mess? It’s like this:

True ‘dat.

— 5 —

Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculée Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin:

Immaculée shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 when she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days! In this captivating and inspiring book, Immaculée shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding—through our darkest hours.

It took me a while to get to this.  It’s rare that I wake up in the morning thinking, “What I really want to do today is read about genocide.”  But this book isn’t really about genocide, although of course that’s the central event.  The book is about hope, forgiveness, and God’s miraculous sparing of the author’s life.

It’s interesting to read how specific the author’s hope is, as opposed to a cautious, “I’m sure God will work everything out somehow.”  It’s inspiring and yet, is this bordering a bit on the “name it and claim it” prosperity Gospel line of thought?  Also interesting is this book’s description of the powerful role of the media in furthering the Rwandan genocide.

— 6 —

Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath:

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?  Chances are, you don’t. All too often, our natural talents go untapped. From the cradle to the cubicle, we devote more time to fixing our shortcomings than to developing our strengths.

Okay, I actually haven’t read all of this.  I got a used copy from Paperback swap.  Turns out the book is mainly a discussion of various “strengths” but you have to take an online test to see what your individual strengths are.  Each copy of the book has a unique code that only can be used once.  Because I got my copy used, the code doesn’t work any more.  Bummer.  The introduction does have some interesting ideas about the benefits of building on our individual strengths rather than focusing on our weaknesses.

Just reading the introduction, though, got me thinking: what about strength-based parenting?  How can I help my children develop their unique strengths and avoid fixating on overcoming their weaknesses?  Does anyone know any good books on this subject?

— 7 —

Speaking of children, my four-year old girl has been loving these ballet books lately:

Happy reading!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Seven Quick Takes: My Brain, My Husband’s Teeth, Etc.

— 1 —

I’d like to get one thing out in the open before we go any further, just so we know where things stand between us:

My dust bunnies eat your dust bunnies for breakfast.


Moving on.

— 2 —

Girl 1 has been in preschool about 6 months now.  She goes in happy, comes out happy.  I know and trust the teachers.    I have almost no idea what goes on.  A few days ago, for instance:

Girl 1 (angrily, to herself): “You’re not allowed to do that!”

Me: “Who said that?”

Girl 1 (grinning):  “Michael said that to me at school a long time ago . . . and then I started to cry.”

Me: “What happened?  Was a teacher there? Did a teacher see that you were crying?”

Girl 1: “Mmm . . . Mrs. P is a teacher.”

Me: “Was Mrs. P there?  What did Mrs. P say?”

Girl 1: “Mmm . . . Mrs. P’s hair is different from my hair.”

Uh huh.

— 3 —

I was looking back at the “About” section of my blog, and I have something about “thinking big thoughts.”  Yeah, I need to change that.  I mean, occasionally a big thought still floats in one ear and gets lodged for a while before finding its way out the other ear.  But you’d never know it from this blog.  But I’m kind of okay with that.  I like keeping things “light and fluf-fah!” like Prince Omelette’s eggs.  (Any Veggie Tales fans reading this?)

Anyway, some people aspire to be “brains in a jar.”  If you dissected my brain and put it in a jar it would look something like this:

— 4 —

I’ve gone a little crazy with subscribe and save on Amazon lately.  We ran out of toilet paper a few weeks ago, and I snapped.  “This is 21st  century America!  I should not be running out of toilet paper!”  So I now have subscriptions to TP, diapers, paper towels, tissues, paper napkins, and feminine hygiene products.  I keep ruminating on what to add to the list.

I hesitated a bit because Amazon’s prices are a little more than what I pay at Wal Mart.  But I figure I’ll make up the money by making fewer trips to the store.

I’d love to do all my grocery shopping this way, but it wouldn’t work so well for perishables.  Wouldn’t it be great to have someone deliver milk and eggs to your door .. . every day?  But maybe that’s too futuristic.

— 5 —

Turns out Pat went to the dentist last week because he was in pain.  He has a tooth that has been bothering him off and on for years.  I tend to forget about it because he never complains.  He’s getting it removed Monday and a implant put in.  Then hopefully I can forget about it for good.

— 6 —

Smart phone use in church?  Totally taboo?  What if it’s to use your Magnificat app?  What if it’s to text your husband to see whether he’s already pledged for the annual bishops’ fundraising drive when he went to the earlier mass?

— 7 —

Six quick takes is the new Seven Quick Takes.  Have a good weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!