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!

Post Heart-Cath Update

For those who didn’t see the FB & blorg updates, procedure went fine.  Once the sedative-drip started working, it was fascinating, really.  I had a view of the physician’s display screen, and I totally want the video.  Wow. Also, re: sedatives, I begin to understand why prescription drug abuse is such a problem.  Nurse said I had a smile on my face the whole time.*

DX: Healthiest sick person you know.  Everything was all clear on the heart-cath, with is consistent with the, “I feel perfectly normal as long as I sit here blorging,” symptoms I’m having.  It’s a bit awkward trying to feed the cath through someone’s heart while they fold laundry or potter in the garden.

–> Clarification for all the kind people who’ve told me, upon hearing the results, “I’m glad you’re okay!”.  I know what you mean. I’m glad this test came back normal.  Lots of problems we didn’t find and that I’ve got no interest in having.  (I’m not interested in having the problem I do have, either.)  But I assure you, I am not okay.

Here’s a link with lots of curse words I don’t approve of, that explains the situation.  It’s hilarious and totally true, so we’ll make allowances.  You can thank Julie Davis at Happy Catholic for enlightening you, and I’ll take full credit for partially-corrupting you, since it’s not like she’s making me share the link.

Next step is probably a referral to someone who deals with bizarre cases.  So you just keep praying for that Dx, and/or that miracle, and/or CAWOG, whatever suits.

Meanwhile, thank you to Theresa for the flowers that came today.  I’m pretty sure I know which Theresa it was, but just in case I thank the wrong one in person, I thank you, the other Theresa who really sent the flowers, as well.

How’s it going, Jen?  I’m super tired.  Not taking most phone calls, a bit behind on e-mail, and trying to get through the this-n-that on the to do list.  If I owe you something, may I remind you that praying for patience is rarely a short-term winning strategy?  I’d say my fortitude’s running at about 5%.  But I’m so grateful for that blorging gig, because having something to do that is easy and pleasant and people seem to like is really nice.



*I’m generally a happy, sociable person, so this is not atypical.  But feeling happy and sociable when it’s noon, there’s a teeny tiny plumbing snake in my arteries, and I haven’t had coffee or breakfast . . . that’s not my usual.  The coffee is the clincher.

Well-Plumbed Hearts

A friend gave me a green scapular last week, about which I was stoked even before I googled and figured out exactly what it was.  It came pre-blessed, which thrilled me to no end, since I’m so shy about bugging priests for stuff.  (Certain priests would not believe this.  But it is true.)  I felt like the people in the pre-blessed foods commercial.

Tomorrow Wed 3/12 is heart cath day.  I find that thinking of it as a teeny tiny plumbing snake being fed through my blood vessels to be oddly comforting.  In a terrifying sort of way*.

I’ve been wicked tired today (Tuesday) and this is, if I guess rightly, a good thing.  But it’s also my excuse for not doing that thing you were hoping I would get to.  Sorry.  I’ll catch up or drop dead or something, and you’ll be happy in the end, it’ll be okay.

Blorging this week:

  1. Papal Economics Book Club: Democracy, Capitalism, and Morality. Julie Davis told me once that she wished I wrote more on economics topics. Now I am. She probably regrets saying that.
  2. Pope Francis on Same Sex Unions and the Case for Regulatory Reform. I didn’t mean to write on this again so soon, but it came up.  It’s my least favorite topic, but there it is.

No telling when I’ll be back at it, but you’ll see me then.  Have a good week!


*I am not really terrified. Being a writer, I’m capable of imagining all kinds of gruesome scenarios with cardiac procedures gone wrong. But being a *Catholic* writer, there’s always that happy ending.  Small things with great drama, isn’t that how the saying goes?

Liturgical Living

Went confession last night, and sneaked over to Mass this morning.  Happy happy.

Kids were off here, there, and everywhere, so SuperHusband sneaked me over to a very good (not expensive, just good) restaurant after confession, and I lasted 2/3rds of dinner before I was ready to go lay down or something.  The poor waitress was mortified, because, sure, the service was slow.  But it wasn’t that slow.

A little PSA . . .

Dear Jennifer,

Today at Mass, the lady in front of me just wouldn’t kneel.  She sat through the entire Mass! Leaning against the wall!  And she hardly said anything out loud, at all!  It’s like she was really tired or something.  There was a big open space in my pew, so I could have scooted over, I suppose, if I wanted to kneel. But it seemed like a much better idea to insist on kneeling right up against her — personal space is so, so, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, isn’t it?

Please tell me I did the right thing.


Pious but Clueless


Dear Pious,

Personal space is not contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel.  Consider scooting over one space in the pew if the person in front of you is not kneeling for some inexplicable reason.


Meanwhile, over at the blorg . . .

  1. More meat talk. Because even in America, you can do this abstinence from meat thing all year round.
  2. Giving up the Sunday Work Habit. Which is not as simple for Catholics as it is for everyone else, but still, it’s something you are supposed to do, if you can.
  3. Music for your Lenten listening pleasure.

Mardi Gras, Family Life, Meat Demon

1. CatholicMom.com is back up, and here’s my post: Homeschooling and the Art of Living Together.  In which you hear about how cool my son is, and also that there’s more to this parenting thing than where you send your kids to school.

Let me just say that writing a post while feeling favorably disposed towards your children is like begging for them to do all kinds of crazy stuff for the next 48 hours.  Or more.

(Nothing serious.  Just normal everyday reminders that they do need parents. Sigh.  Everyone needs parents.)

2.  At the blorg today: Thwarting the Meat Demon. We have polished off the bacon, and the chicken is next.  Because basically, yes, my spiritual disciplinary advice consists of “Eat a Cheeseburger on Thursday.” You have to start somewhere.

3.  A friend of mine gave me a bag of these:

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzels

Puts the gras in Mardi Gras.  We do it right around here.

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.

Knowing vs. Really Knowing

Sunday morning list of things we pretty much knew, but now we’re absolutely certain:

1. I was not made for wedding processions.  Barring strict orders otherwise, I’ve given it up.  Walk at a decent clip, cough cough cough, and sleep half the day.  Much better.  Moderation is overrated.

2.Properly-deployed Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist *rock*.  You who are prone to getting your socks in a wad over Speed Communion, in your Therese-like practice of self-control, resist the urge to make snarky comments to your pastor about how he’s doing it wrong.  The handy thing about parishes that unleash a fleet of EME’s at every Mass is that you know exactly whom to call when you’ve got a sick person at home.  So maybe your pastor’s doing it right after all.

3. Go to daily Mass when you can, and you’ll have it to draw upon when you can’t.  Nothing beats the silence of a good weekday Mass.  Grab one as often as you’re able, and that silence banks up in your soul.  It doesn’t go away.  Go when you can.  When you can, go.

(#3 I didn’t actually know.  It’s a pleasant surprise.)

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!

No-motion, slow-motion, and . . .

. . . I dunno. Fill in your own rhyme.

Rebecca Hamilton writes here about the importance, to your health, of not sitting around.  She mentions the research, and also her personal experience with RA that bears it out.  The clincher in the health news: It’s not about just the “exercise” component of your day, where you are doing something all active-like and you count it as physical fitness.  Think of that “30 Minutes 5 Days a Week”, or whatever the source of your choice has been telling you over the past couple decades.

What also matters is how you spend the many hours of the day when you aren’t “exercising”.  (Hint: Writing as a career is hazardous to your health. So is accounting.  Rearing children, in contrast, offers very many health benefits, and not just for keeping vocal chords warm.)

Now I never doubted this.  In fact I was rather depending on Putting Away Laundry as a health-preserving scheme.  But interestingly, the vexing illness has given me some powerful evidence on the biological difference between Sitting Around and Not Sitting around, but from the other side of the coin.

First let’s review Life as Normal People Know It.  Call it Jen’s Life in January 2014:

  1. Sitting around = feels like no effort.  Big surprise.
  2. Pottering about = feels like no effort.  As it should be.
  3. Going for a pleasant walk = um, pleasant.  No big deal.  Good for you.  As it should be.
  4. Going for a brisk walk = exercise.  Not that intense, but it counts, right?
  5. Throw in some big hills,  some running, or switch it out and do some strength training = Exercise exercise.
  6. Sprint, haul really heavy things around the yard fast, etc. = intense effort.  Enjoyable.

The thing is, if you’re a healthy person, #1-3 feel about the same.  You’d be bored if you *just* sat, but if your brain is engaged in something, you don’t particularly notice that your body is doing something radically different in #1 than it is in #2 or #3.

Ha!  Let me tell you, is it ever.

Here’s my new scale, call it the February 2014 Vexing Illness Scale:

  1. Sitting or laying reclined, body fully supported, such as in a Lazy Boy: No effort.  Can do that awake all day and half the night –> Insomnia inducing, it takes so little effort, even for the vexingly ill person.
  2. Sitting upright but in a pretty good chair: No problem if rested, palpable effort if tired.
  3. Sitting up, unsupported (bench, stool, etc.): No problem if really really rested, no-go if tired.
  4. Pottering about — walking at Wedding Procession Pace: No problem if rested; if tired, induces desperate desire to go lay down and shut eyes ASAP.
  5. Walking normally: Bad idea.  Feels great at first, but the coughing kicks in after a bit, and you pay for it later.  For hours.
  6. Walking briskly: Just no.  Just. No.

Note that #1-5 *all feel about the same* to a normal person.  You probably aren’t aware that your body is working noticeably more if it’s sitting on one of these instead of one one of these.  I am here to tell you: Yes! There is a big difference!

And pottering about the garden, or dusting the nick-knacks?  Adds another level.  Fetching the mail, feeding the cat, sweeping the kitchen, wandering down to the playground . . . your body is doing something radically, radically different than what it does while sitting on the couch watching TV.



Anyway, in happy news, I figured out that if I’m walking like a normal person, I have to just stop, pretend there’s a wedding director giving me the evil eye, and resume at processional-pace.  So far it works, anyway.


Note: Any inference on your part that I actually dust nick-knacks is your own fault. That was a purely hypothetical example.