How I Passionately Feared A Book and Accidentally Loved It

I was afraid to read Jennifer Fulwiler’s recently-released memoir, Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.  More specifically, I was afraid to review it.

You see, there’s been a lot of hubbub about this book in the little section of the internet where I hang out.  A bandwagon, of sorts.  And I’m a bandwagon-avoider.  When I hear the band music playing, I prefer to hang back rather than jump on the wagon.  Sometimes I might roll my eyes just a bit.

It’s not because I’m so terribly original or that I’m so terribly secure in my own opinions.  Not at all.  I just tend to hang back a bit and not to hop on, at least not right away. Usually, anyway.

So when Jennifer’s book came out, I got paranoid: “What if I don’t like it?”

Another blogger got some flak for giving it four stars instead of five on Amazon.  Seriously??

Also, other (apparent) Catholics have jumped all over those who critiqued the book.

What if I gave it an outright negative review?  I’d be tarred and feathered and banished from Catholic blog world.  At the very least, it would be awkward to do a Seven Quick Takes link up again.

Would I have the guts to write what I really thought?

That Thing You Do Jimmy

But then I needed reading material for a flight one recent weekend, and I couldn’t resist loading the book onto my [Pat’s] Kindle.

Plus, a scathingly brilliant idea occurred to me: if I didn’t like the book, I didn’t have to blog about it.  I could keep my critique to my self.  The internet would live to see another day without my thoughts on this particular book.  The world would keep on turning.

 But I needn’t have worried,

 because I really like the book.  Seriously, seriously like it a lot.

You can read all about the book in plenty of other places.  I don’t have much to add about the content.  In a nutshell:

What struck me is that the writing is tight.  Jennifer is a talented writer, and apparently her editor is very talented too.  Also, I’d venture a guess that Jennifer’s computer-programming background might help her, because the book is so cohesive.   Every anecdote, every bit of dialogue plays a part and develops the story as a whole.

I really appreciate writers who stick with what they know.  I also appreciate books that are succinct.   Jennifer’s book satisfies on both counts.   I’m sure Jennifer had dozens of experiences and thoughts that she wanted to include but didn’t, just as a good computer programmer doesn’t leave stray lines of code in a program that the software doesn’t need (so my husband tells me).   Instead, she leaves in just those that move the story along.

I’ve seen a critique or two asking why Something Other Than God doesn’t address this or that objection to Catholicism.  I can see how a lesser writer would have tried to address more of those objections.  But Jennifer didn’t write a book called, “Everything You Could Possibly Want To Know About Catholicism.”  She wrote a memoir.  She keeps the focus on her thought processes, her conversion experience, her story.

And it’s a great story.


I’m linking up with Housewife Spice for What We’re Reading Wednesday.

Housewifespice had more important things going on.  Congratulations!

7 Quick Takes: Blood, Sweat, Tears, and A Milkshake

— 1 —

I’m sure lots of other Catholics went around yesterday, as I did, in a melancholy mood.  I really lost it and started weeping around 2 pm.  I’ve never spent so much time on Twitter before.  I felt so alone, just the girls and me at home . . . and the pope gone.  Reading all the tweets and blog posts from other Catholics helped me feel a little less adrift.

— 2 —

I remember when Benedict XVI was elected.  I was at law school and a t.v. was placed in the building’s central atrium.  A big crowd was watching, and several people sighed in disgust and stomped away when the selection was announced.  My friend and I smiled to each other and cheered.  I thought of my sister Lizzie and her friends who were right there in St. Peter’s Square at the time.

— 3 —

Did you know you can spiritually adopt a cardinal and pray for him as he elects a new pope?  The site is here.  Their server is overloaded as I write this but hopefully it will be back up soon.  I first read about it on Katie’s blog.  I thought about whom I would “adopt” and Cardinal Timothy Dolan  of New York automatically came to mind.  Then I thought, “Nah, I’m sure lots of people already have picked him.”  Turns out, the site selects “your” cardinal for you at random and I got . . . Dolan!

— 4 —

On to lighter matters: Did anyone not watch Oscars, like me?  Anyone else go online the next morning to check, not the award-winners, but the gowns?

Trena yawned, but I was impressed by all the 1940s and 50s glam.  So much classiness.  Modesty, even.  Just tack some one-inch ribbon on those strapless numbers and you’d swear you were at a Christendom College formal!

Okay, so maybe you’d need some pasties too.

Anne Hathaway

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Aniston. Love her, even if she’s never read a insipid script she didn’t love.


Reese Witherspoon


The only nominated movie I saw, anyway, was Les Mis.  Anne Hathaway won for her role in it, so there must be some sanity left in Hollywood . . . some.  I’m happy Jennifer Lawrence won an award, too.  At least I think I am.  I haven’t actually seen the film she won the award for, but she was so great in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games.

— 5 —

We have major teeth issues in this household.  Pat got a tooth removed on Monday, finally, after two failed root canals.  Turns out it was all infected and he had a friggin’ cyst up there, which was smooshing his sinus.  That explains the little *ahem* halitosis issues we were experiencing, not to mention the mouth breathing.  (Not that I”m peevish or anything.  Oh no.)

Pat saved his tooth (now cracked into three pieces).  I’m going to put it in a jar and keep it in the bathroom as a reminder to the girls that they need to take care of their teeth.  Anyone know what kind of solution to use to preserve teeth??

To make up for the tooth Pat lost, Girl 2 is generously working on popping out a molar.  She woke up screaming every two hours last night.  The screaming really gets to me.

— 6 —

Silly Girl 2: she already has more teeth than she can handle.  She lunged forward in her booster seat this morning, tipping her chair over and falling flat on her face.  She split open her inner top lip and got a little nose bleed.  Blood was gushing everywhere.  Poor baby.  As I comforted Girl 2 and got her cleaned up, Girl 1 would come by to see what was going on.  As soon as she saw blood, though, she would run away explaining, “The blood makes me sad.”

Once Girl 2 was finally feeling better, she toddled out of my sight for 2.5 seconds and I found her taking a nice, relaxing, recuperative fishing trip . . . in the toilet!

Fortunately, McDonald’s Fish Bites and Shamrock shakes make a delicious, nutritious Lenten lunch for overwhelmed moms.

— 7 —

I’m trying to add some exercise to my life.  Sometimes I make it to the gym in the morning.  Some days I go for a walk/job around the neighborhood.  When that doesn’t work, I set the girls to work in the sandbox and take a jaunt around . .. the back yard . ..  all 0.1 acres of it.  Around and around and around.  I used the Map My Walk app for iPhone, and this is what my route looks like:

Backyard route

NYC marathon, here I come!

Happy weekend!

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!

7 Quick Takes: 7 Books

I’m linking up once again with Jen at Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday.  I’m trying actually to keep this quick, so here are 7 books I’m either reading now or hoping to read soon:

— 1 —

The Bridge to San Luis Rey:

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.

By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper then embarks on a quest to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His search leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.

This is the current selection for my book club that meets in, oh, less than a week’s time.  Soooo, I’d better hop to it.  Hopefully it’s available at the library!

I don’t think I’ve read anything by Thornton Wilder before, but I’ve seen Our Town.  Also, his Matchmaker was made into the musical, Hello Dolly.   I watched the movie version of that, starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, over and over again as a kid.  From the description, Bridge to San Luis Rey sounds completely different, but it will be interesting to look for similarities.

— 2 —

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp:

In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted–a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

I’ve heard great things about this book but I’m having trouble getting into it.  I will persevere though!

— 3 —

Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet:

Suffering from chronic illness and unable to get satisfactory results from doctors, husband and wife scientists Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet took an intensely personal interest in health and nutrition. They embarked on five years of rigorous research. What they found changed their lives— and the lives of thousands of their readers.  In Perfect Health Diet, the Jaminets explain in layman’s terms how anyone can regain health and lose weight by optimizing nutrition, detoxifying the diet, and supporting healthy immune function. They show how toxic, nutrient-poor diets sabotage health, and how on a healthy diet, diseases often spontaneously resolve.  Perfect Health Diet tells you exactly how to optimize health and make weight loss effortless with a clear, balanced, and scientifically proven plan to change the way you eat—and feel—forever!

I’ve read the first edition of this book, but I skipped around a bit.  The second edition comes out on Dec. 11.  It will be an expanded version of the first, with some more information and some corrections made.  It also will have an index, which is something I repeatedly wished the first version had when I was reading it.

— 4 —

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.

I got this from Paperback swap a while ago but haven’t read it yet.  I’m intrigued at the idea  When I was 15 I took, along with the PSAT, a career  aptitude test.  I can’t remember what it said my ideal career would be and I gave it almost no credence.  It would be interesting to go back and find it.  Anyway, maybe this book could give me similar information.

— 5 —

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith:

I Capture the Castle 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.

I watched the movie version on a whim when I saw it on Netflix.  I thought it was beautifully sad and that Romola Garai was so charming in it.  I’m afraid I might find the book juvenile and sickly sentimental.  I’m going to give it a try, though, the next time I need a novel.

— 6 —

The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh.  Actually this is something I want to re-read.  This description sums it up pretty well:

This trilogy of novels about World War II, largely based on his own experiences as an army officer, is the crowning achievement of Evelyn Waugh’s career. Its central character is Guy Crouchback, head of an ancient but decayed Catholic family, who at first discovers new purpose in the challenge to defend Christian values against Nazi barbarism, but then gradually finds the complexities and cruelties of war too much for him. Yet, though often somber, the Sword of Honour trilogy is also a brilliant comedy, peopled by the fantastic figures so familiar from Waugh’s early satires. The deepest pleasures these novels afford come from observing a great satiric writer employ his gifts with extraordinary subtlety, delicacy, and human feeling, for purposes that are ultimately anything but satiric.

So these are three books but they read like one.  A funny, unexpectedly pro-life story.  I read this toward the end of my Evelyn Waugh binge of a few years ago, and it’s possibly my favorite of his (though it’s hard to beat Brideshead Revisited).  I love the way this trilogy combines the biting satire of Waugh’s earlier works with the flawed but sympathetic characters you find in Brideshead.

I got to thinking about this trilogy when I read Jen’s blog post here.  There’s a line in the last book of this trilogy that sums it up so well: “Quantitative judgments don’t apply.”  Indeed.

— 7 —

Finally, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne:

Is it too early to read this to Girl 1?  She’s 3 and 11 months.  She loves listening to this wonderful recording of House at Pooh Corner that my mom got for us.  I don’t want to rush things, but I think Winnie the Pooh would be a great first chapter book to read to her.


Have a great weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


7 Quick Takes, Better Late and Boring Than Never?

I’m linking up again with Jen at Conversion Diary.  Thank you Jen!

— 1 —

I’m watching two of my friend’s kids this afternoon.  I’m getting a glimpse of what it would be like to have a 6yo girl, boy and girl 3 yo twins, and a 10 month baby, and it’s . . . not so bad.  The girls played princesses together–so cute!  My Girl 1 always wants to dress up in her Aurora dress, but she’s never seen all of Sleeping Beauty.  She didn’t get it when the 6yo told her to get in bed and pretend to sleep.  Finally the 6yo (dressed as Belle) agreed to do the sleeping.  Nice when they can work it out among themselves.

— 2 —

Speaking of letting them work it out, the 6yo started tattling on her little brother.  I decided to nip it in the bud.

“Is he hurting anyone?” “No.”  “Is he breaking anything?”  “No.”  “Well, you don’t have to tell me about it unless he’s hurting someone or breaking something.”  “Okay . . . ”

Clearly, this was not the response she was looking for, but it’s worked so far.  I’m hoping this approach will work with my own kids in the years to come.  But . . . .

— 3 —

My tattling-prevention plans, in all likelihood, will go the way of all the hubristic ideas about parenthood I had before having kids (or before my kids got to a particular stage).  For instance, I worked hard to buy clothes for Girl 1 that all matched or at least didn’t clash with each other.  But then we got some gifts and hand-me-downs that she got attached to before I had the chance to hide them, and now we’ve reached this point:

— 4 —

I swore I never would let this happen.

I swore I never would let this happen.

But at least, she hasn’t gone out like this, because . . .

— 5 —

We haven’t gone out much the past two weeks.  The baby was sick the week of Thanksgiving and we stayed in most of this following week to make sure she was over it.  Surprisingly, our long days at home have gone really, really well.

It’s like Girl 1 gets into the groove of amusing herself.  This is the girl who used to exclaim, “No go home! No go home!” when we were in the car and approaching a stop light she recognized as being close to our house.  She was less than 2 at the time.  When we’re out part of the day, she doesn’t know what to do with herself for the other half.  When we start off the day on a quiet, not-going-anywhere note, though, she does okay.

I’m not going to give up her three-morning preschool or significantly reduce playdates.  I am, though, more inclined to just hold off on ballet lessons, violin lessons, tumbling classes, etc., that other 3 and 4 year olds already are getting involved in.

— 6 —

My printer arrived, and it is a beauty. I press a button, and it prints and scans.  No drama.  (Haven’t tried the fax yet.)  I’m especially pleased because I set it up all by myself.  Being married to an IT guy, I instinctively make let him do anything remotely technical around the house.  But I feel really good having done it myself . . . plus if it stops working I have only myself to blame turn to for an explanation.

— 7 —

Finally, if anyone is wondering, the second part of Pat’s masterpiece, Romance at Age 3, will be posted tomorrow.  He’s a clever guy, isn’t he?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People

A few weeks ago, I wrote about starting to implement one of the principles set out in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Things have kind of gone downhill since then, so for today’s quick takes, I thought I would list

The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective People.

— 1 —

Sleep in and let your saintly husband get up with the girls. Sleep until he comes in apologetically at 8:45, plopping the baby on the bed and mumbling something about needing to go to work (whatever). Loll in bed while the baby claws at your face and tries to launch herself off the bed, until you notice that she needs a diaper change, and quickly. Roll out of bed and change said diaper while the baby protests and tries to launch herself off the changing table. Cringe as the racket alerts the three-year old (watching t.v. in the basement) to the fact that you are up and at her service. Grit teeth as she climbs upstairs and rattles the bars of ,her cage the baby gate, until you finish with the diaper and let her up.

— 2 —

Groggily try to prioritize among (a) your coffee, (b) the baby’s bottle, and (c) 3 year-old’s demands for a second breakfast (the cereal Daddy made for her over an hour ago is now a gluey paste, mostly untouched). Sense that something is not quite right and gradually realize that you’ve really got to pee. Go to bathroom with the girls at your heels. Wonder where to put them—3 year-old can come join in the fun but where to put the baby? You can’t stick her in the tub because it’s still wet from baths last night (not from showers this morning because nobody’s done that). Push both girls out to whine and scratch at the bathroom door while you take care of things.

— 3 —

Once you’ve finally got everyone fed and momentarily pacified (though not dressed), sit down with your first sip of coffee and take a brief glance at Pinterest.

— 4 —

Look up from Pinterest and realize it’s time for lunch.

— 5 —

Watch this video over and over again because it makes you feel guuuuuhd.

— 6 —

Around 8pm, after girls are in bed and kitchen is done, disregard Fly Lady’s advice to put on PJs and brush teeth first. Instead plop on the couch with laptop to check a few blogs.

— 7 —

Look up a few minutes later and find that it’s 11pm!

Don’t shut down that laptop yet, though. There are lots more Quick Takes to read over at Conversion Diary!

Seven Quick Takes

— 1 —

So, as a new blogger, one of the things I’ve been looking forward to the most has been linking to Jen for 7 Quick Takes.  Kind of means you’ve arrived, you know?  I even jot little notes to myself about ideas for the 7 takes.  So imagine my shock this morning when I check my sister’s blog this morning and discover that — it’s Friday already!  I was not ready for this to happen so soon!

— 2 —

Sometimes I read in the news about Ecoli outbreaks here or there.  Takes me a while to remember that ecoli = poop.  Then I wonder, “How in the world did so much poop get there?”   Then the doctor prescribed my 9 month old Zpack.  Now I know the answer: very very easily.

— 3 —

I got up before the girls this morning (this almost never happens), and sure enough: they’re both up early now too!  At my ankles as we speak.

— 4 —

I’ve been reading My Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis.  Started it right around the time I started blogging, in fact.  He says to “avoid superfluity of words” and that “a bad custom, and the neglect of our spiritual advancement, are a great cause of our keeping so little guard upon our mouth.”  Gulp.  But perhaps 7 Quick Takes are “devout conferences concerning spiritual things” that “help very much to spiritual progress, especially where persons of the same mind and spirit are associated together in God”?  I’m sure y’all were edified by my ecoli musings.

— 5 —

My dad is color blind, and we always used to pester him with questions about how things look to him.  Now I know.

— 6 —

Speaking of Wall Street Journal, they are fired (at least until I come across one of those $100/ year deals).  Check this out:

Blah, blah, blah, ble-ble blah blah, put-you-to-sleep-with-paragraphs-of-nothingness-so-you-don’t-read-the-part-about-reaching-into-your-pocket-and-bilking-you-for-twice-as-much-as-we-used-to.  The nerve.

— 7 —

Gotta go change a diaper.  And Girl 1 wants her tight pants.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!