I’ve got a new book out! Me and thirty of my favorite co-authors, that is.

The general update on me is that I’m holding steady.  No particular news to report, and I’m still keeping up the torrent of punditry at Patheos.

But look .  . I accidentally went and got published again!  Here’s the scoop:

Now out from CatholicMom.com: As Morning Breaks, Daily Gospel Reflections.  It’s available as a Kindle book (very affordable – $2.99), but FYI if you want to get this as a gift for someone, it’s not necessary to own a dedicated device in order to read it. Any PC, tablet, whatever, can read Kindle books, just download the free software from Amazon.

 

What’s in the book?  A reflection on the daily Gospel reading for every day of 2015.  This is from the team at CatholicMom.com, so if you’ve been reading those Gospel reflections online, it’s that.  You can preview the first month, which lets you get a taste of each contributor’s style and the kinds of ideas that will be coming your way each day.  If you just want to see my name in print, scroll down to the 16th.

Why is this book better than a bake sale?  Because you can support a good cause without your kids whining over who got the bigger brownie.  All the proceeds from the sale of the book go to help underwrite the cost of keeping CatholicMom.com up and running.  FYI if you weren’t aware, CatholicMom.com is basically the largest womens’ mag in the faithfully Catholic world, brought to you free everyday thanks to the contributions of dozens upon dozens of volunteers who give their time and labor to make it happen.

It’s the place where aspiring Catholic writers are incubated, and it’s the place where established Catholic writers who get paid for everything else they publish still turn up to contribute their work pro bono.

It’s a good cause, and you get more than your money’s worth for what you buy.  Check it out.

Cat Photos & Other Reputable Pursuits

A kitten found us, which means we can finally use the internet properly.

I persist, of course, in my incorrigible habit of crowding perfectly good bandwidth with religion, public policy, and other punditry.  My hope is that by wielding the cat as a feline shield, the internet police will be stymied in their efforts to purify the web of non-cat bloggers.

Like the Internet Except in 3-D

1. My screen porch.  YouTube viewing has plummeted now that we have our hyperactive dancing cat.

2. Midlands Homeschool Convention.  Of interest to southeasterners.  Huge regional event, piles of top notch speakers, and also me.  Catholic writers guild will have a table, and there’ll be a rocking “Look at the Book” display of Catholic textbooks & materials from all the major players, hosted by Catholic homeschoolers in SC.  Also free stuff and some drawings for prizes. The teepee in the corner, dear parents, is for your children.  You sit on the chairs.  July 24-26.

3. Catholic Writers Conference. Following week up in Chicago, smart people will be turning out at the writers’ wonderland that is the combination Catholic Writers Conference & Catholic Marketing Network’s trade show.  This is the place where all the publishers and vendors of Catholic trinkets (games, art, music, etc) turn out so the Catholic book & gift shops can stock up for the season.  Most interesting bit is seeing what famous internet Catholics look like when rendered in 3-D.

(I will be rendered in 2D for that one.  Visit the Liguori booth if you go, and you can see my book.  The me-traveling-to-Chicago part is not quite back on the program.)

Since last I wrote, Patheos has been fixing things, which means you have to go here to get the July archives.

June still copies and pastes nicely:

 

Enjoy!

Update: What is wrong with people?

The answer to, “How’s it going, Jen?” remains, “Pretty well, thanks!”  I resurrected the Nine Annoying Things Novena over at the blorg last week, and the pray-ers did well.  Hence today’s story:

So I go see Dr. Maybe yesterday, and they did the dreaded Six Minute Walk.  And here is the very, very, What is wrong with people? situation: I did almost as well as predicted.

Seriously?  Is this really all they expect out of pleasantly-plump 40-somethings?  You’re kidding me.

You do the walk with a pulse oximeter, which means you can cheat and watch your heart rate.  This is handy if you are the kind of person who knows at about what heart rate the gasping kicks in (see archives below for the secret), and thus you can maximize your distance by walking right at that special speed where you’re coughing a bit and your head feels like you just tossed back two glasses of champagne on an empty stomach, but hey, you aren’t going to faint, and even though death feels like the perfect next step, you can do it for six minutes.  Or at least, you can do it that long if a stern nurse in pink scrubs gives you a face like she’ll spank you if you quit early.

It appears the pulmonologists aren’t big believers in pedestrian transportation.

***

Anyhow, I like the new guy, whose brain jumps around so much I finally pulled out a notebook and made a list of all the tests and appointments he was rattling off, because I had a feeling one or two might get lost in the shuffle if no one wrote them down, stat.

Ruled out again this morning — for good, this time? — pulmonary embolisms.  Sent away three vials of blood — I’m not sure he’s quite to the point of looking for tropical diseases (I’ve never been to the tropics), but he’s almost there.  More interesting tests coming along soon, looking for weird variants on regular asthma and exercise-induced asthma, and also he’s going to see if he can get my heart rate up high enough (on a treadmill, not with those evil chemicals) that the O2 levels drop, or something else interesting happens that gives us a clue.

We’re having real problems with finding clues.  The trouble we’re having is that I’m dreadfully healthy for someone who’s sucking wind and coughing while ambling at grocery-store pace, minus the cart.

***

Blorging over the past couple weeks, for those who don’t subscribe:

May 7, 2014 Religion is about Reality – and so is the Black Mass  In which someone in the combox accuses me of “shooting off my mouth”.  What exactly is a blog for, if not that?

May 6, 2014 It’s Not Friendship if it Can’t Withstand Disagreement Because I have the coolest friends.  Yes I do.

May 5, 2014 What I Write, Why I Write, How I Write . . . #mywritingprocess  This is the truth, but I’m going to reveal more details at CWG later this month.

May 5, 2014 Tell Me About Your Favorite Homeschooling Conference @CatholicMom.com  Listen, if you know about a good homeschooling conference, go over the link in this post and leave a comment.  I can’t believe no one did this, even after I bumped the CMom post to two different conference-hosts that I knew about.  Sheesh.

May 5, 2014 Inside the Glamorous World of Religion Blogging – Parody for the 5th Blorgiversary, featuring a video of me making everyone else seem as glamorous as Jen Fulwiler.

May 3, 2014 Guns in Church: The Divide Boils Down to Subsidiarity – I don’t much write about gun stuff.  But when the Archbishop of Gunlandia does something to tick off all his redneck parishioners, someone has to get out some catechism quotes, right?  FYI – post includes a link to my A/C article where I say there, concisely, what I’ve said here, verbosely: This is a topic on which Catholics of good will can disagree, and catechists need to leave their agendas at home.

May 2, 2014 Pomp without Vanity: A True Story from a Parish Photo Directory – My kid is as cool as Fr. Longenecker, and much, much prettier.

May 1, 2014 Fun Stuff: Beautification Claws From the Case Files of DragonEye, PI – Free short story. Catholic dragon.

May 1, 2014 Tried and True Ways to Eliminate People With Disabilities #BADD2014 – Review of what I blogged for BADD here last year.  Because it’s still true.  Quit trying to kill the people who bother you.

April 30, 2014 Something Fun: Armored Combat League World Championship May 1 – 3 – Because I have the coolest friends.  Have I mentioned that?

April 30, 2014 Just Say No to Needy Busybodies

April 29, 2014 Heart Rate Training for Fitness in Chronic Illness – This is actually a useful post.  It’s how I managed to nearly pass the 6-minute walk, despite being seriously seriously not well.  And if I’d taken the walk two days earlier, I would’ve aced it out of sheer racing-preparation common sense.

April 29, 2014 Mid-Easter Evangelization: Time for an Egg Hunt! – Link to my column at NE, which got picked up as a reprint by at least one parish bulletin.  I can die happy now.  I have succeeded as a Catholic writer.

April 28, 2014 Trusting God When Life Isn’t Easy – Link to Pauline Media’s brand new, free, digital magazine.  I wrote one of the articles in it.

April 28, 2014 Midlands Homeschool Convention – Last Day for Discounted Registration – Your one and only chance to see me speak in 2014.  Turn out.  It’s going to be cool.

April 28, 2014 Classroom Management for Catechists – Spanish Edition for Fall 2014 – I do a happy dance.

April 26, 2014 Why is Obedience a Virtue?

April 25, 2014 Real Life Prayer Gardening  A picture of the dog who keeps my prayer life going.  And my garden.

April 24, 2014 A Deadly Faith – Gospel Reflection @CatholicMom.com – I had forgotten all about writing this, but then I read it, and it was really good.  Surprisingly good.  Follow this to get the link to the CMom piece, and yes pastors, you may run it as a reprint in your bulletin next time Holy Week comes around.  Or whenever.

April 23, 2014 Divine Mercy Sunday – What’s it all about??  – Relevant every day at 3pm.  Or other times you have 7 minutes to spare and your prayer life needs a little something.

Click to read my blog at Patheos

Up-ish Again. Yay!

Spent about a week feeling way, way worse.  As in: Light-headed verging on headache-y if a sat upright.  At all.  So I watched movies, because writing flat on your back is not so fun.  Interestingly (disturbingly?) the one thing I didn’t do was pray any better.  But SuperHusband & I did do some contingency pre-planning, and discuss funeral music, because, well, we’re picky about music.  Last night I pointed him to the Dies Irae, and he was alarmed no one had ever played it in church before. Makes you feel cheated.  I’ve never heard it myself, I just look at in the hymnal and know that I love it.

So whichever one of us dies first, the other one gets to hear good funeral music live, and the early-departer gets the remote version.  (Or, if we’re bad . . . let’s not think about that.  I know there’s suffering in purgatory, but our Lord wouldn’t stoop so low as to open The Gather and . . . we’re not talking about that now.  I’m going with those lines about pleading for mercy.)

So my kids have this weird notion that the way one faces serious illness is to give your spouse dating advice and watch movies all day.

And then I started feeling better again.  I won’t say I feel *normal* sitting upright, but at least I feel normal enough that I keep doing it, because: More interesting.

And definitely not feeling all funeral-planny this week, so that’s good.

Follow-up appt with cardiologist next week, in which we figure out where I should go next.

***

I started back writing stuff, and if you don’t subscribe to the blorg, you can periodically check the archives and click on the interesting stuff.  I’m trying to use titles that more or less tell you what the post is about.  Here you go, I think this is all the interesting bits since last I posted here:

  • March 28, 2014 Students Angry at Catholic School for Teaching Catholic Faith – UPDATED  News item out of Charlotte, NC, w/ prayer request for you to pray for Bishop Jugis, and also I rant a little.
  • March 28, 2014 Do the Ends Justify the Means? Blog catechism class, because some of my readers were unclear on how double-effect and don’t-do-evil-that-good-may-come-of-it work.  Also, now my all time favorite intro to theology book can be purchased on Amazon — that is, there were six copies, used, when earlier I wrote.  They might all be sold now.
  • March 27, 2014 How Can the Spirtually Flabby Be Helped? Link to my New Evangelizers column.  I was irritated by the people who say, “Lent is So Easy! Quit Whining!”, so I wrote about how they could quite whining about the whiners (me), and make themselves useful around their parish.
  • March 27, 2014 How’s that Religious Freedom Thing Working Out These Days? The Constitution.  I’m partial to it.  Blame my upbringing.  Interesting weird arguments going on in the combox.  Someone brought Rastafarians into it, as people will.
  • March 26, 2014 What Makes a Catholic Book Catholic?  Link to my column at the CWG.  Because the day before I said I really really liked Funeral Kings (movie), and I do like it, and you should be briefly scandalized by that that assertion, but I have reasons.  But no, it’s not Catholic  — at least, not the kind of Catholic that gets a CWG Seal of Approval.
  • March 25, 2014 St. Dismas Day, and a Movie to go with: Funeral Kings  More f-bombs in that movie than I think I have ever heard anywhere anytime, and that’s saying something.  And yet weirdly, it’s a good movie, in it’s way.
  • March 23, 2014 On Evangelization: Even People Like You are Missionary Material  Reprint from a few years ago, column from Amazing Catechists that coincided with the day’s Gospel, which was the Samaritan woman at the well.  You may remember it’s the one where we see how she evangelized despite herself.
  • March 21, 2014 Radio Silence = Please Pray  See.  I was sick.  Sick-Er.  Proof.

***

That’s all I know.  Some real life friends and I were thinking we ought to pick a reputable Servant of God (a “venerable”) who’s angling for a promotion to be our next invoked-saint.  Any suggestions?  Favorites?

psst . . . Jen . . . quit mixin’ up your holy-people terms.  “Servant of God” is the step before “Venerable.”  See more here, Thank You, Wikipedia!

Now Street Legal: Jennifer Fitz @ Patheos is Fully Furnished.

For your penance today . . . visit me on the blorg.  Okay, it’s not penitential.  FYI since Patheos is ad-funded, if you see an advertisement that is contrary to the Catholic faith, take a screenshot and let me know.  The Patheos folk are actually quite responsive on that point, but they need to see what the problem is in order to fix it.

And tell all your friends!  Thanks.

 

PS: Yes, I’ll continue to post updates here as well.  But go ahead and subscribe to patheos.com/blogs/jenniferfitz, because the machine is faster than me, and more thorough. Do you see how I love you and made your life easier by requesting a simple URL?  You’re welcome.

News & Links: Four Variations on the Parent Problem.

1. Now up at New Evangelizers, my latest contribution to the RE Conflagration:

The answer to the parent-problem is simple: Evangelize them.  Mom or Dad (or Grandma or Grandpa) has darkened the doors of Church, and so what if they’re just there for the poinsettias or the white dress, run with it!  Welcome them, share the Gospel with them, and bend over backward to make it possible for them to take another step forward in their faith.  They might or might not choose to accept that invitation, but we can at least eliminate as many excuses as possible.

Also you learn something about the state of my garden.  Which is no better than the state of my housekeeping, as it happens. Despite the fact that I love the one and could happily dispense with the other. Go figure.

2. Update from yesterday’s round of vexation, condensed and paraphrased version:

Dr. W: I dunno what’s wrong.  How about we do a heart cath?

Us: Really?

Dr. W: Really.

Us: Really?!

Dr. W: Really.

We did that about twenty different ways, then set a date for March 12th.  He said I was probably quite safe checking the mail in the meantime.  And anything else I feel like doing.

(He didn’t mean “anything I feel like doing” as in: Break into the box of Easter chocolate.  He meant like physical exercise and stuff.)

UPDATE TO CLARIFY per a question from a friend: By “twenty different ways”, what I mean is that we talked about all the medical issues and agreed on a plan.  Didn’t mean that to sound like we just shook the 8 Ball or something.

3. If you want do something double-good this Lent, consider reading one of Ann Frailey’s books.

4. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Larry D’s father.  Who popped into my mind for entirely other reasons, which I’ll chat more about a different day.

Effort & Illness: The Confusing Habits of Sick People

Since I surround myself with people who know better, no one’s yet given me the dreaded words You don’t look sick. Even people who do look sick often don’t look as bad as they feel*.  As Jen Fulwiler explained it last year:

I feel self-conscious that I’ve been doing better, and have no visible symptoms of being ill. . . . I worry that the folks dropping off the food are starting to suspect this is some kind of scam. The other day a super sweet lady from the parish came by with a steaming gourmet dinner for our entire family, complete with appetizers and dessert. I had just gotten back from a doctor’s appointment so I was dressed up and wearing makeup; I’d been resting most of the day so I was unusually energetic. She seemed tired from having worked so hard to cook for our entire family in addition to her own, and I used my Neurotic ESP to determine that she was wondering why I wasn’t cooking for her.

I told Joe that I should get some crutches for when I answer the door for people delivering meals, as a symbolic gesture to assure them that their efforts were not wasted. He looked at me like I was insane, and pointed out the obvious fact that my problem is with my lungs and that I would have no use for crutches under any circumstances. I said that I know, but they sell them at the grocery store, and I didn’t know where to get my hands on a ventilator — and, again, it’s all for symbolism anyway. He backed away from me slowly and went to pour himself a large glass of wine.

Yes.  This. I put a short section in my catechist book on invisible disabilities, because it’s something that comes up in religious ed more often than you’d think.  Mostly among catechists, but among students as well.  That one chapter is the one I get the most thank you letters about.

You can be seriously ill without being 100% incapacitated.

It’s pretty rare for someone to be completely felled in a single blow.  This causes confusion, because you see people wandering WalMart who look like they’re going to collapse any second now.  So if your sick person still has good balance and coordination, and manages to answer the phone in a cheerful manner, you think, “Must not be that sick.  There are people at WalMart who look much, much worse.”

The people at WalMart might be worse.  But that doesn’t cause the sick person to be less sick.

Some people are good at putting on.

I knew a lady once who would answer the phone cheerfully even if you woke her up at 4AM.  It wasn’t that she wanted you to call then.  She just had excessively good phone manners.  And thus the Perceived Illness Paradox: Some people complain a lot, other people don’t.  Some people are good at masking their symptoms, other people aren’t.  Some people are good at coming up with clever work-arounds that keep them high-functioning, other people aren’t.  You really can’t judge how someone feels inside by how they’re acting outside.

Rest makes a difference.

Anyone who races knows you manage your training schedule so that you peak when it counts.  There are days when you can ride hard and fast, no problem, and days when you can’t.  Depends on how much sleep you got.  What you did the day before.  What you did the week before.

Illness doesn’t change that, it just changes the scale.

Figuring out an unpredictable body is exhausting.

Normal people spend most of their time operating well within the margins of their abilities.  If you knew you had to ride 100 miles on your bike sometime soon, you’d have to plan ahead to make sure you could do it.  You’d strategize how to make it happen with as little trouble as possible.  But you wouldn’t feel the least bit of guilt if you misjudged: “Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be, why did I make such a big deal out of it?”  Or conversely, “I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t realize how hard!”

Sick people have to figure out the 100-mile ride about everything they do . . . and then get in trouble if they misjudge.  “Why’d you spend half an hour answering e-mails? You should have rested up so you could talk to your mother on the phone!”  Or “Why’d you put off that phone call, look, you talked for twenty minutes, no problem!”

It’ll make you bonkers.  You hear the mail truck go by, and you think to yourself, “Should I walk to the mailbox?  Or get a kid to do it for me?  What’s the best thing here? How will this decision impact my family life?”

What you like is easier than what you don’t like.

Sick people are confusing because their gifts don’t go away.  Okay, if your gift is watching football on TV, everyone will think, “Look he spends all day watching football games, he must be sick.”  But what is hard for you is effortless for someone else. What is easy — even fun — for you is difficult for someone else.  It’s not about the sheer physical energy required.  It’s the mental energy.

So my son might say to my daughter, “I see you have plenty of time for scrapbooking.  Why don’t you research computer components?  What’s wrong with you?  Just lazy, I see.”  And she’d point out to him that he received a photo album for Christmas, and he’s supposed to put his photos in it.  He had time to build a computer, and even more time for playing computer games . . . why so lazy with the photo album?

Everything costs.

There’s service to your fellow man, and then there’s letting your fellow man turn you into his servant. We live in a hyper-critical age.  What you wear, what you eat, what your hobbies are, how you spend your money — all of it is subject to the approval of seven billion self-appointed guardians.  That doesn’t change when you’re sick, it just becomes harder to please the seven billion, because you’ve got less to please them with.

Normal people might say, for example, “Is it worth it for me to give up an hour of my time to visit my crotchety uncle who invited me for dinner tonight?”  When you’re sick the question becomes, “Is it worth it for me to set aside an entire afternoon to rest, and give up getting any chores done, at all, the entire day, so that I can physically pull off the feat of visiting my uncle for an hour?”

In normal life, a dysfunctional friend is the one who makes inordinate demands on your time and energy.  In sick life, everything is an inordinate demand.  But some of those demands are very gratifying, so you organize your life to make them possible. The chief sin of sick people, I suspect, is in gratifying too many whims.

Order in all things.

Sick people are confusing because of the scale change.  With so little room for covering-over, it becomes obvious what the sick person values most.  It becomes obvious where the conflicts lie, because there’s no margin where you can quick slip in a nod towards other people’s priorities.  As in academia, the rivalries can be so bitter because the stakes are so small.  “Just a few minutes of your time” is now also, “all your time”.  How are you going to spend all that time? The way you want?  The way I want? Something in between?

The Darwins have a novena started on just this question.

*Sometimes things look so bad that you assume the other way, “It’s not as bad as it looks, I hope?”  To which I’ll observe: A badly scraped knee looks horrible.  But it feels even worse.

Rant-o-Rama – Catechesis Edition + Proof I Can’t Proofread But You Should Write Your Story Anyway

1. If you haven’t seen Dorian Speed’s posts on Catechesis, look now. #2 is up.  Don’t neglect the combox.  But here’s what: If your parish has to wring hands over whether to give the 2nd Graders a pre-sacramental quiz, the question isn’t, “Should we give a quiz?” The question is, “How have we gotten into this bind, and what do we need to do radically differently from now on?”

The answer is not in the quiz.  It’s not about the quiz.  Soul at a time.  Soul. at. a. time.

2.  You should never, ever, write something like this:

There’s a fine line between humility and stupidity, and I try my best to stay on the better-edited side of that line.

Yes, I used the word “try”. I was trying.  I was. trying.  I proofread that post.  I did.  Proofread. Solemn assurances of truth-telling.  And yet we’ve found three egregious typos in it so far today.  Read it yourself and see what else you find.

[Hint: I tell you that if you like to write, you should write the stuff you like to write.  Not complicated, and yet weirdly people get all confused about this.  Also I plug the CWG, because trust me your favorite best-selling mega-busy author is not your critique service.  But the CWG?  We do this.  Amateurs welcome.]

3. Back to catechesis: Allow me to tell you a terrible story. I once had a DRE tell me how much she loved her current job, because it was so different from her previous parish.  “Here, all the catechists go to Mass on Sundays!”

I was happy for her. I was.

But seriously.   Problems in catechesis run deep.  It’s not about the quiz.  The quiz conundrum is the nasty festering ulcer everyone’s tempted to chop off, and maybe it does need to be chopped off, or filled with leeches or maggots or I dunno what.  But until you figure out what’s causing that festering wound, new ones are going to keep popping up.  There are bigger problems.  Deeper problems.  Fix those.

4.  Prayer and fasting.  That’s how.

A Feast Day Gift for You & Your Friends

If you are looking for some Petrine thoughts out of me today, take a look at the workbook I put together for today’s CCW retreat.  It’s conveniently stored on this page here on the blog, and this is the direct link to the PDF. It is not for sale, but you may use it and reuse it and pass it around.

Please keep the retreat folks in prayer.  Might I observe that the Joyful Mysteries are perfect for this sort of occasion?  Those of you who won’t see this request until after the retreat is over, consider yourself part of the post-retreat-letdown-prevention wing of the prayer group. Thanks!

Plague Journal, Conference Edition

Got home last week, made it through Co-op Friday with the help of Starbucks Via (I know, I know, let’s not talk about that), and got halfway through writing a post about singing the Divine Office when I came down with Plague #348, Do Not Try Singing Version. So that article’s sitting half-written. It’s hard to write about singing when you can’t.

Three girls are down with the evil thing today, so they’re doing the Steve Ray homeschool curriculum while I catch up on e-mail and other things that can done while sitting very, very still.  The Healthy One has been promised my piece of coffee cake from yesterday if he does all his homework and cleans the house.

Meanwhile, if you like to write, there’s this conference you need to quick go register for. It’s free, it’s online, it’s Catholic, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come.  You can take one class, all the classes, whatever you like, but registration closes Feb 7th.  Why do I think you should go? Because of this.  In which I answer the question: How did a housewife who surfs the internet too much end up getting published? With a real publisher? Because of the Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference.  That’s how. 

***

Other interesting things around the Castle:

Kitten Watch 2014 We got home from the March for Life, and our cat was still pregnant.  SuperHusband had given up on her, and decided she must just be really fat.  #2 theorized it was a nasty case of parasites.  But the resident I’ve-been-pregnant person (me) was able to persuade them that those wiggly minature-spinal column things you can feel if you palpate Cat’s abdomen very gently?  Yeah.  Kittens. 

And I keep catching that &(*^%&* cat in my closet.  Just no.  NO!

Music.  SuperHusband’s been recording some.  If you go in for high-high-Church, here’s his site.  I could get used to this.  And yes, you can download the MP3’s for free.  That’s the whole point.