Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Renewal, and Books {Lent Book Series}

I had the great good fortune last weekend to go to the University of Notre Dame for a Catholic women’s blogging conference.

I have been scheduled and registered to attend at least three other blogging conferences in past years, but one thing or and another and another forced me to cancel plans.

So I was super grateful when local friend Bonnie of A Knotted Life invited me to attend, and even more grateful that I got a chance to ride along with Bonnie and Katie of Look to Him and Be Radiant.

I wish I could say this Lent has been all about renewal, but instead it’s more like the Lent you are given. Those are often the most fruitful Lents, but at the time it can feel like hard, hard work.

The opportunity to be with other Catholic women for an entire day, pray with them, learn from them, and just enjoy fellowship and great food, was a gift and a grace.

I must confess I enjoyed being the oldest at the conference, often by several decades.  But best is that I was the learner, and I’m still soaking up super helpful and encouraging presentations by Nell of Whole Parenting Family and Rhonda Ortiz of Real Housekeeping. I also loved the general conversations and input by the other bloggers, and getting to visit the Grotto, however briefly, and eat dinner with the group at this delicious restaurant.

As shared here before, I’ve been in blogging burnout, off and on, for several years.  I hoped the conference would help inspire and encourage.  It’s done that and more–here’s hoping that will be reflected here a Reading Catholic in coming months.  Baby steps.

No one will be surprised to learn that I spent much of my time in conversations with the other women suggesting … books.    And so, as part of the Mid-Lent Reset, I’m going to share books chosen specifically for the Catholic Women’s Blogging Conference.FullSizeRender

Some books are ones I individually recommended to women last weekend, and others struck me (on a scan of several bookshelves)  as apropos of last weekend’s the group.  I wanted to pick a range of non-obvious books perhaps off the radar of younger women, but are worthwhile reads.

Ralph McInerny’s memoir is a good fit since the conference was at the University of Notre Dame, and he was a longtime professor there. I wrote about it briefly here (and talk about what he thought about my chocolate cake).

This one just jumped out at me. So good.  Here’s my review. 

I’m only about halfway through this one–one of my sisters suggested it, and I am in tears about every other page. I want to be a Jesuit when I grow up.  Very good Lenten reading.

It turns out this book was updated several years ago as G-Dog and the Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle and the Gangs of East Los Angeles.  Adding that to the TBR list.

I mentioned this book as several “background reading” ideas to one of the bloggers who’s working on  a book. I’m not sure if her book plans are public, so I won’t name her or the topic, but I am very excited to read and review it when it does come out. Here’s my review of Gawande’s book.

Mary Eberstadt wrote what is one of the best, if not the best, retellings of C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I re-read  The Loser Letters a few months back when my older teen was reading it, and I still loved it.   I reviewed the book here and interviewed Mary Eberstadt here.
I read this book in late 2013 or early 2014, and my younger teen and I did a modified version of her “seven” during last year’s Lent (seven foods, seven articles of clothing, etc.).  I was reminded that I still have not written about this terrific book and its impact on us yet when our family recently discovered re-runs of her home renovation show on HGTV.  Someday…

Best Books of Last Year and 2015 Reading Resolutions (Better Late Than Never Edition)

At long last, I’m finally getting to my “Reading Catholic”-favorite books of 2014, and my bookish resolutions post for 2015. I found it a helpful exercise last year, and the year before that, so here goes again..

“Short but sweet” and “finished is better than perfect,” is my mantra for this.   Thus, no images of books, but the links will take you to more detailed information about each book.

Best book I reviewed in 2014:

Gay and Catholic:

In my review, I called Eve Tushnet’s spiritual memoir a “must-read,” and several months later, I believe that even more.  Well worth reading and pondering.

It seems like every year, the best or most important book absolutely jumps out at me (like Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples in 2013,).  I wonder if that will be true every year.

Other extra-worthwhile books of 2014:

The three memoirs I reviewed in June 2014: Catholic by Choice by Richard Cole, Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther, and Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler.

I also thoroughly enjoyed The American Catholic Almanac by Emily Stimpson, because I love history, and I love Emily Stimpson, a veteran author with local roots.  Did you know she has a new food blog called The Catholic Table? It’s lovely, just like her.

Now for some reading resolutions:

1.  continue to “get more opinions”

I hope to continue the {Lent Book Series} (check out here to see last year’s great writing and book ideas).

I’d also love to see other times of having guest posts by author and especially local readers/writers.

2. better organize Reading Catholic reviews.

adding this on from last year’s resolutions since this didn’t happen very often.

3. write monthly posts on the “backlist”

ditto #2 here.

I’m going to stick with those three this year, and work at progress in all three areas.

I have enjoyed reading others’ posts on favorite books of 2014, and reading/writing goals for 2015.  (Here is just one, from a local Catholic). Many of these were motivating to me in getting this done.

Finally, let me just share some random thoughts since it’s been so long since I’ve posted here.  I have noticed this up on various places and devices:

Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies, The New Yorker.  Please be sure you’re not drinking or eating anything while you read this.   I don’t subscribe to The New Yorker, even though I grew up in a house that did, because I just have too much to read, but it’s convenient to have a sister who does, and who will share good articles.

The Real Roots of Mid-Life Crisis, The Atlantic Monthly.  I do subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly in print, but I’m usually way behind on this, thus, sharing this months later. According to this article (and many others on similar research), I should be in my unhappiest decade.  I wouldn’t agree with that–for instance, wild horses couldn’t drag me back to my teens or 20s–but I agree 50s are “not my favorite,” and let’s leave it at that.

My take-away from this article? If I can just hang on to my 60s, things will get better, and continue to get better.  So that’s good.

How Many Times a Day Do You Check Your Phone?  Perpetual Adoration blog.  Harry Williams is a local Catholic, and several times in the last few months I’ve found an article of his that is a must-share. I can’t recall if I ever shared this one on Father John Hardon called “Writing and the Spiritual Life,” .  If you’ve not seen this one, please,  take a minute to read and/or bookmark this one, too.

Did you do a best of 2014 post? Do you have reading or writing resolutions for 2015?



Venerable Solanus Casey, pray for us.

Today’s Feast–maybe it’s not a feast yet, since he’s only Venerable.  But anyway, it is that of Venerable Father Solanus Casey, a Detroit Franciscan,  doorkeeper, and holy man of God.

When I visited family in Michigan back in 2008 or 2009 (my husband had to stay at home for work), I took my then very-young kids the see the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit.  I can’t find any photos of our time there at the moment, but it was quite moving.  There is a church there, as well as a small museum about his life as a Capuchin Franciscan.  You can read this small biography of this humble, simple soul.  He died in 1957.

I have several books about him that I purchased at the Center’s gift shop, but none can be located.  What could be found? A coloring book about his life–no kidding!  Somehow there’s something appropriate about that since he was such a simple man.

Fortunately, the coloring book includes a page full of “sayings of Father Solanus Casey.”  Because I’m home today with a sick child, I had the chance to make several “edits” with quotes from the page:


Solanus Casey

This one turned out a little fuzzy.  I think I need to take a class in how to design and produce edits quickly and well. Does anyone know of a place to do that? I just don’t have the time to play around with it too much.  But this works.

Solanus Casey greatness

Here’s another version of that one:

Solanus Casey greatness2Do you have a preference?

I’ve just added to my calendar the private Novena beginning November 30. recommended by the Solanus Casey Center this year. November 30 is also the beginning of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. The more, the merrier, novena-wise, since it’s Advent.

I also see that EWTN will air a Mass from the Solanus Casey Center on Sunday, November 23–the 144th anniversary of Fr. Casey’s birth.

Are you at all familiar with Father Solanus Casey? If you’re not, I hope you’ll explore some of the links and ask him for something special this year.

Just a Little Bit Fitbit Obsessive {Christmas is Coming}

How do I love my Fitbit One? Let me count the ways:

*I’m a numbers gal, and love having the feedback of knowing what I’ve accomplished step-wise.

*the Fitbit One tracks your floors as well as your steps. Our laundry is in the basement, so I get a lot of floors.

*Some of my stats in my year and nearly five months of Fitbit use:

*More than 6,000,000 steps.

*More than 10,000 floors (that’s a lot of laundry!)

*It’s just plain fun and geeky for me to know all these things about my activity.

If you’re obsessive about your Fitbit or other tracking device (like the UP by Jawbone), you know why I love mine so much. If you’re not, you can make fun of us, until you get one for a gift and become one of us. Christmas is coming, after all!

The Fitbit one tracks the quality of you sleep as well, but you need to remember to turn in on sleep mode during sleep, and then wake it up again in the morning.  I forgot a few times, and my morning run didn’t get counted, so of course I learned never to do that again.  But I wish it would recognize it automatically, since I do like how it recognizes how often you stir or get up in the night.

What about the new Fitbit Surge? Is it worth waiting for?  I’m not interested in it, since I feel like I have a good thing going with the One. What are your thoughts?

My husband’s first Fitbit was a Zip (pictured below), but it was a little too simple, and also a little glitchy in synchronizing with your phone. So when he lost it, I got him a Fitbit One and he’s been very happy with it.
We are huge fans of the comic strip Zits at our house, and I loved how earlier this month that the comic strip had a weeklong series about the Fitbit. Here’s the first in the series:

So,  you may be wondering what Fitbit has to do with all things Catholic and books.   You know I gave up my Fitbit for Lent?  I didn’t get much sympathy among normal folk, but fellow Fitbit obsessives were really impressed with my sacrifice.  It made for an interesting Lent (it wasn’t the only thing I gave up, but, all joking aside, it was really difficult.).

Several weeks back, I was at a Friday evening soccer game for my 11-year-old, which involved walking a fair amount  to and from the parking lot.  I realized only part way through the game that I had left my Fitbit home to charge up, and the following text exchange ensued: (just before this, my husband Joseph had asked if he should bring me the Fitbit):


Now, in case anyone is thinking we were being serious, we weren’t.  It was all in good fun, and shows we can laugh at ourselves.  Or mostly, laugh at me.

But I don’t mind, because I have many, many steps to go before I sleep.

(Note: I’m not sponsored in any way by Fitbit–how I wish I were!–but the links in this post click through to my affiliate link at Amazon.  That means if you order your Fitbit or Jawbone or three or five for your loved ones, your price is the same, but I receive a small amount back. Christmas is coming, after all!)

De-Clutter-ish September {random thoughts}

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for her 7 Quick Takes.  Seven is a nice way to organize!

Loyal readers will recall how I started a Facebook group to help give up sugar during August (thus, the creative name Sugar-Free August).  I really, really loved the accountability and the support the small group of people gave each other in health goals.  So for September, I started a FB group called “De-Clutter September” for support in trying to complete some house projects, as well as just generally de-clutter.

While the De-Clutter group has been great and good fun, I have not been very good about de-cluttering.  And it’s the last day of September today.

Perhaps it was a bad idea to want to tackle home projects in a month when I’ve driven thousands of miles for … so many things. Not a lot of time at home.

Perhaps I need to re-frame, and really consider all I have accomplished, even with a busy school schedule, tons of appointments, sick kids, and other life complications.

I’m also looking forward to October.  My birthday is this month, and I love my birthday.  My monthly goal is going to make an effort to see people in real life, especially grown-ups (husband, mom friends, etc.).    Maybe I can call it IRL (in real life) Social October? Maybe I should have done that for September, as Social September sounds better.

Anyway, here are seven links for de-cluttering, in case you need a little boost.  I’ll be continuing my de-cluttering projects through October, as my page-long list of to-dos only has two out of 18 things crossed out.  Not much commentary, so I can get back to de-cluttering.

1.  Flylady

The de-cluttering godmother of us all. I said I wanted her “crisis cleaning” this month, but that never happened.

2. 15 Clutter Busting Routines for Any Family

I find Becoming Minimalist very encouraging in trying to live with less.   But I had to laugh at #13, “always leave room in your coat closet.” I wish I had a coat closet. If I had a coat closet, I would try to leave room in it, I promise.

3. The Benefits of a Messy House at Momastery

“But as I lay down to sleep, I remembered this passage from Thoreau’s Walden: “I say beware of all enterprises that require new clothes and not a new wearer of the clothes.” Walden reminds me that when I feel lacking- I don’t need new things, I need new eyes with which to see the things I already have. So when I woke up this morning, I walked into my kitchen wearing fresh perspectacles. Here’s what I saw.”

Of all these articles, a must-read for anyone, de-cluttering or not.

4. Throw Everything Out 

The friend who shared this on Facebook said she was conflicted because of the colorful language in here. But it is funny, even if most of the advice is completely unrealistic for family life.

On De-Clutter September, this article inspired many of us to clean off the surfaces of our fridge and post (lovely!) bare fridges.  So it had a good effect.

5. Habit Change Is Easiest When People Move House or Undergo Some Life Transition

It wouldn’t be a random thoughts post from me without something from Gretchen Rubin, I’m starting to think.  But this is really good.  Shaking things up can really help.  I think this is why I like re-arranging rooms.

6. Habits: the Secret for Smooth and Easy Days? at Simply Convivial

This is so worth reading as well.

“Good habits do not make life smooth & easy.”

” And just because (creating good habits) is hard and never-ending does not mean we are doing something wrong or are failing in our efforts.”


7. 52 Week To an Organized Home

One of my sisters shared this with me, and I’m bookmarking here so I can refer back to it.  Maybe I need a year-long challenge rather than a month-long one?  Some good ideas here.

What are you reading or encountering online these days?

More importantly, do you have any de-cluttering tips for me? 😉


{Twitterature} The Harvey Girls Edition

Joining with Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s monthly Twitterature link-up of short reviews of current reads.

I’m not sure what piqued our interest in the Harvey Girls at our house.  Let’s just call it the joys of homeschooling, that we can explore interests in-depth when something strikes our fancy.  I have to say it’s mostly the younger teen and me who are interested in the subject.  The 11-year-old son does not have the same obsession.

The “Harvey Girls” were waitresses (but much more than that) in Fred Harvey’s 19th and early 20th century empire of railroad-stop restaurant/hotels.  Businessman Fred Harvey made a fortune serving fresh and wholesome food efficiently with well-trained staff, to railroad travelers, at a time when none of that was  common.

So we’ve been reading an assortment of books about the Harvey Girls.

The Harvey Girls: Women Who Civilized the West by Juddi Morris s ideal for middle-grade on up readers.  It’s a wonderful mix of oral history, short chapters and charming photographs and vignettes.

When Molly Was a Harvey Girl by Frances M. Wood. This middle-grade novel is based on the experiences of Wood’s great-grandmother as a Harvey girl, and tells the story of two sisters who work as Harvey girls in New Mexico.    I kind of sped-read it, but both my teens enjoyed it.

Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Build a Railroad Hospitality Empire that Civilized the Wild West by Stephen Fried.  This is adult non-fiction, and it’s really well-done.  Much more extensive than the juvenile books.

I took notes on this book, and even made an edit of “Fundamentals” that was posted in Fred Harvey restaurants and shops for staff to follow.


I’m not a great creator of edits yet, but I’m honing my skills, and I enjoy it. Next time I’ll work on making the text bigger–I had a lot of trouble with that in this because there is so much text.  I’m sure there’s a way to do it.  Practice makes, if not perfect, then better.

We also DVRd the 1946 movie The Harvey Girls, with Judy Garland.

The Harvey Girls seemed to me a lot like Seven Brides for Seven Brothersin both music and choreography.  Turns out the lyricist was a  the same for both films.  It was a fun Saturday evening watch.

What are you reading?

10 Books, 10 Quotes, and an Island or Two

Several people tagged me on a meme going around Facebook to list “10 books that have had a lasting impact.”  I keep meaning to do it, but I really have been doing a lot of IRL (in real life) things.  The younger kids and I are trying to get into a homeschooling routine, and I’ve been trying to accomplish a lot of house projects.

After the (for me!) success of Sugar-Free August, I started a Facebook group called De-Clutter September, and again, I’m loving the support and accountability.  I haven’t done very much de-cluttering, but I’ve been doing a lot of house organizing/painting projects that have been on back-burners.  Yesterday I put together an IKEA island, and that was really satisfying.  I even had the kids help me, in my quest to have them comfortable with power tools at a young age.


Yay me!

But I digress.  Here are the 10 books that have had an impact on me.    They are in no particular order, and I can’t even say if these are my life-long ones–just ones that have had a recent (in the last 20 years or so) impact.  I’m also including a quote from each one that I just love.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

“The answer to that question is that she didn’t do it because Cousin Ann was Cousin Ann. And there’s more in that than you think! In fact, there is a mystery in it that nobody has ever solved, not even the greatest scientists and philosophers, although, like all scientists and philosophers, they think they have gone a long way toward explaining something they don’t understand by calling it a long name. The long name is “personality,” and what it means nobody knows, but it is perhaps the very most important thing in the world for all that. And yet we know only one or two things about it. We know that anybody’s personality is made up of the sum total of all the actions and thoughts and desires of his life. And we know that though there aren’t any words or any figures in any language to set down that sum total accurately, still it is one of the first things that everybody knows about anybody else. And that is really all we know! 
 So I can’t tell you why Elizabeth Ann did not go back and cry and sob and say she couldn’t and she wouldn’t and she couldn’t, as she would certainly have done at Aunt Harriet’s. You remember that I could not even tell you why it was that, as the little fatherless and motherless girl lay in bed looking at Aunt Abigail’s old face, she should feel so comforted and protected that she must needs break out crying. No, all I can say is that it was because Aunt Abigail was Aunt Abigail. But perhaps it may occur to you that it’s rather a good idea to keep a sharp eye on your “personality,” whatever that is! It might be very handy, you know, to have a personality like Cousin Ann’s which sent Elizabeth Ann’s feet down the path; or perhaps you would prefer one like Aunt Abigail’s. Well, take your choice.”

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. (I love all the Betsy-Tacy books, but I’d have to say this is my absolute favorite book of Lovelace).

“Depression settled down upon her, and although she tried to brush it away it thickened like a fog. “Why, the kids will be home for Thanksgiving! That will be here in no time. I mustn’t get this way,” she thought. But she felt lonely and deserted and futile. “A mood like this has to be fought. It’s like an enemy with a gun,” she told herself. But she couldn’t seem to find a gun with which to fight.
“Muster your wits: stand in your own defense.” She had no idea in what sense he had used it, but it seemed to be a message aimed directly at her. “Muster your wits: stand in your own defense,” she kept repeating to herself on the long walk home. After dinner she sat down in her rocker, looked out at the snow and proceeded to muster her wits. “I’m going to fill my winter and I’m going to fill it with something worth while,” she resolved.”

The Last Battle (Book 7 in the Chronicles of Narnia), by C.S. Lewis.  The Last Battle is not necessarily my favorite of the Narnia books–The Horse & His Boy is my definite favorite, though I love them all.  But last month the younger kids and I were reading it for the eleventeenth time, and I find it tremendously powerful.  Every time I read this one, I also grow more and more devoted to Emeth, the virtuous Calormene who serves Tash all his days, but was really serving Alsan.

“It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child ? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

The Duke’s Children by Anthony Trollope.  This is the last of the Pallister novels.  I love the entire series, and I’ve just begun re-reading it.  I’m only in Can You Forgive Her? but I knew my favorite quote would be in The Duke’s Children, describing the Duke of Omnium after his wife, the wonderful and my most favorite Trollope character ever, Lady Glencora, dies.

“It was not only that his heart was torn to pieces, but that he did not know how to look out into the world. It was as though a man should be suddenly called upon to live without hands or even arms. He was helpless, and knew himself to be helpless. Hitherto he had never specially acknowledged to himself that his wife was necessary to him as a component part of his life. Though he had loved her dearly, and had in all things consulted her welfare and happiness, he had at times been inclined to think that in the exuberance of her spirits she had been a trouble rather than a support to him. But now it was as though all outside appliances were taken away from him. There was no one of whom he could ask a question. “

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, because how could I not?

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”
“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

“‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them . I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind  you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’”


Hard Times by Charles Dickens. I’m re-reading Tale of Two Cities but Hard Times is one of my favorite Dickens.

“How could you give me life, and take from me all the inappreciable things that raise it from the state of conscious death? Where are the graces of my soul? Where are the sentiments of my heart? What have you done, oh, Father, What have you done with the garden that should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here?’ said Louisa as she touched her heart.”

“Now we won’t be sober any more. We’ll look beyond the years—to the time when the war will be over and Jem and Jerry and I will come marching home and we’ll all be happy again.”

“We won’t be—happy—in the same way,” said Rilla.

“No, not in the same way. Nobody whom this war has touched will ever be happy again in quite the same way. But it will be a better happiness, I think, little sister—a happiness we’ve earned. We were very happy before the war, weren’t we? With a home like Ingleside, and a father and mother like ours we couldn’t help being happy. But that happiness was a gift from life and love; it wasn’t really ours—life could take it back at any time. It can never take away the happiness we win for ourselves in the way of duty.”

Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink.  I feel like I’ve had a lot of downer quotes and even books, but this is such a great, funny book, and it’s had a great impact on me when I need a really good laugh.

“Once Mr. Peterkin’s hard heart had started to soften, it was just like ice cream in the sun.” 

The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown.  So many of her books are my favorite picture books, but this is my absolute favorite.

“The important thing about you is that you are you.”

So that sums up my book list (for this week). Consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this– I’d love to see your list.

{Random Thoughts} The Sugar-Free August/Good Habits Edition

(Linking up with Jen’s 7 Quick Takes since I have 7 here).

As I’ve mentioned before here, August has been almost entirely sugar-free.  I’m feeling really proud!

I decided to do “Sugar-Free August” because our July vacation had so many desserts in it (ice cream, chocolate mousse), a re-set was in order to get back to normal eating.  I started a “Sugar-Free August” Facebook group for friends to help with accountability and support, and I’m so glad I did.

Some people in the Facebook group were really trying hard to go without soda, or processed foods, or sweets (all those, for me), and even one of us, bravely, was doing the August Whole30 Challenge  (note that I’m linking to NomNomPaleo, a blog I enjoy, and not the Whole30, because something about W30 language/voice/ tone really annoys me).

It’s been fun to share our frustrations, joys, successes and failures, and I have really felt support from everyone. I’ve also appreciated the accountability and honesty of checking in.

Many, many links were shared over the course of the month, and I wanted to share some of them, as well as some others I didn’t get the chance to share there.  It’s a wrap-up of what I’ve learned this month.  Nutrition and health is a big interest of mine, and so I find this field fascinating.


This book, The Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, inspired a lot of discussion. At least of us got it from the library and read it during the month.

As I wrote in my GoodReads review, I didn’t love the author’s voice, but I did like how she moderated it with a family, and how they made it work. Eye-opening to realize how difficult it is in the US to eat anything processed without sugar.

2.  “Finding It Hard to Change a Habit? Maybe this Explains Why” — Gretchen Rubin.

“Often, habits can’t change until identity changes. For instance, a person identifies as the fun one, the one who says “yes” to everything — but also wants to cut back on drinking. A person identifies as a workaholic, but then wants to work reasonable hours. The identity is incompatible with the change in habits.”

This really spoke to me. On the good side, I thought, I’m glad I have a “Catholic” identity, because it had helped me do the right thing even when I didn’t want to, and it’s turns out those “right things” were really best for me.

But like the person at the end of Gretchen’s post, I have an identity as a “baker.” I love baking (and eating the yummy things), and that has been the hardest part about the . I don’t want to give up that identity. Maybe I’ll just be a “Sunday baker” starting in September?

3. “An Intuitive Eating Experiment”— Katie at Runs for Cookies.

This was kind of the opposite of eating no sugar, but it was a great concept written up by one of my favorite running bloggers.

4. “Can the Bacteria in Your Gut Send Messages to Your Brain?” –SciFri podcast.

Good interview with two scientists who are studying the on the frontiers of learning about our gut bacteria and how they might influence our moods and behaviors.  I liked best how the Irish researcher made the point at the end that while a lot of this science is speculative, eating a diverse diet of whole foods is a good practice for keeping your gut bacteria healthy.

5. “Our Microbiome May be Looking Out for Itself” –The New York Times

 “Take chocolate: Many people crave it fiercely, but it isn’t an essential nutrient. And chocolate doesn’t drive people to increase their dose to get the same high. ‘You don’t need more chocolate at every sitting to enjoy it,’ Dr. Maley said.

Perhaps, he suggests, the certain kinds of bacteria that thrive on chocolate are coaxing us to feed them.”

6. “Learning to Cut the Sugar” — The New York Times.

An article about Dr. Robert Lustig, whose anti-sugar video is hugely popular. (The video inspired “Year of No Sugar” author Eve Schaub to do a no-sugar year with her family.).

“But there’s one thing that doesn’t work for any country: processed food. And any country that adopts processed food, which is now everywhere, is getting sick. This is why I want to be known as the anti-processed food guy, not the anti-sugar guy.”

I am putting his cookbook The Fat Chance Cookbook: More Than 100 Recipes Ready in Under 30 Minutes to Help You Lose the Sugar and the Weight
on hold at the library–I wish I had known about the book it at the beginning of this month.

7. The Case for Sugar–The Detox Diva

Well, now I’m confused. (actually, not really) This was a little too science-y, t it did argue that no sugar can be as bad for our metabolism as too much sugar. She makes the case for fruit and small amounts of sugar. A good ending to the month.

As one of my friends put it on the Facebook group, “So bottom line seems to be; Too much sugar is not good. Not enough sugar is not good. Moderate sugar? Good.”

[Reading that quote made me realize it’s why a W30 has not worked for me in the past.  I did something similar several years back, and it wreaked havoc on my body, sleep, and just general good health. I think it was too little carbs/natural sugar, even eating lots of veggies.]

So what am I going to do September 1, after a month of no sugar or processed foods?

Well, I’m running a half-marathon.  The weather actually looks threatening , and I wonder if the organizers might cancel it if the projected severe storms materialize.  But I hope it’s just rain, or great weather, and I can finish in a reasonably decent time for me.

But being real and honest here?  After the half-marathon, I plan to  eat most of this treat that I just purchased at Trader Joe’s:


Sometime this week, I’ll go home and make frosted brownies.  I won’t eat the whole pan, but I will have a few and enjoy them.  I have missed baking treats most of all this month, almost more than eating those yummy treats.  I while  I will try to cut back and eat some of the healthier recipes I’ve tried, and I’m going to try to keep treats for special occasions as long as possible.

Have you tried a detox recently? Any successes to share? 

Random Thoughts, Volume 7: St. Maximilian Kolbe Edition

Today is the feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe.  He is a favorite of mine.

St. Maximilian KolbeWhen I used to have a family blog (that I discontinued when I started writing this one), bloggers commonly had pseudonyms for their children, and my youngest was Max, partially because of Max from Where the Wild Things Are, and partially because of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

I loved that he wanted to use the latest technology to spread the Good News.  He would undoubtedly be online if he were alive today.

The National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Libertyville, Illinois– Marytown  has a retreat center and beautiful chapel, and in the lower level, a small but very moving museum/experience of St. Max’s life.  Not to be missed. Strange random fact about me: the second time I visited it was just after I completed my first marathon (it finished near Marytown).  I went back to my hotel, cleaned up, and headed over to Marytown for a mini-pilgrimage.

Can I be honest here? It has been very difficult to write for me lately.  For a long time, very difficult.  This has been a hard year for many reasons.  But especially lately,  there has been so much bad news in the world and our country, it seems impossible to write well about anything.

I have found it somewhat restorative to make photo/quotes like the one above.  I took the quote from tomorrow’s second reading in The Office of Readings–it’s a letter of St. Max.

The teens tell me that when they are not meant to be humorous, they are not called memes, but edits.  So I have been making a lot of edits lately.  It’s very soothing arranging the words of others, play around with photo editing, and make it look reasonably good.

Some random links:

*”Ann Coulter to Jesus: Fix Bethlehem First!”  Simcha Fisher on Patheos. I was having a discussion with my older teen about who actually agrees or believes with ridiculous “commentators” like her.  I do not know a single soul in real life who agrees with the vitriol and drama of her writing (and I know a lot of sincere people who are very conservative)!.  I don’t even pay attention to famous people like this, but appreciate Simcha’s take on this.

*“Before They Go to School, Have this Conversation” — Lysa TerKeurst.   Love this exploration of the concept of “pre-deciding” how to act.  I’ve been doing a sugar-free (mostly) August along with a group of Facebook friends, and love the support.  After a July of more ice cream and desserts than I dare admit  (including a wonderful, but nearly softball-sized, portion of chocolate mousse in NYC), I’m ready for the re-set.

“Pre-deciding” is great in a lot of areas, but I’ve found it really helpful this month with food.  The notion of deciding  mostly what I’m going to cook and eat, and do, before the day begins, takes a lot of the willpower out of it. (But oh, chocolate, I miss you so).

*”Finding it Hard to Change a Habit? Maybe This Explains Why”–Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

“Often, habits can’t change until identity changes. For instance, a person identifies as the fun one, the one who says “yes” to everything — but also wants to cut back on drinking. A person identifies as a workaholic, but then wants to work reasonable hours. The identity is incompatible with the change in habits.

I don’t really want to give up my identity as a dark chocolate lover, so I know I will go back to this  after August, but a month off will help me moderate my consumption, at least for a while.

Finally, I finally purchased this song and have been listening to it very often in recent days.

I love the lead singer’s voice, the melody, and the message.

If there’s a road I should walk
Help me find it
And if I need to be still
Give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will
Whatever Your will
Can You help me find it?

What have you found compelling or inspiring online recently?

Random Thoughts, Volume 6: Animal Spirits Edition

I wonder how I can get any more random, but I do want to capture various links of online reading/listening/etc. as I come across them.

Also linking with Jen’s  7 Quick Takes since I have 7 of these.

1.  “How to Live a Happy Life: Louis CK Explains the Science” TIME magazine

“Taking an inventory about where you’re spending your time is revealing. And then once you identify the activities and people with whom you want to spend more time, calendaring your time thoughtfully becomes critical. When you put something on a calendar, you’re more likely to actually do that activity – partly because you’re less likely to have to make an active decision whether you should do it – because it’s already on your calendar.”

2.  “Keeping a Time Diary Can Identify Patterns That Affect Your Productivity” — LifeHacker

Also in the time management field.  I am (again) trying to keep track of my time and figure out what makes me more or less productive in different areas.  I do notice some of these things, but I found it fascinating that the person who kept this time diary found how a bad night sleep affected him several days later, and other quirks. I need to be better about doing this.

3,  “The Bride Didn’t Always Wear White” –The New York Times

This looks like an amazing exhibit on wedding wear through recent history.  In 2010, our family took a wonderful trip to England & Ireland.  The apartment we rented was a short walk from the V&A Museum, so we used to call it our “neighborhood museum” (the same way Brompton Oratory was our neighborhood church).  When I saw this article, I immediately thought, “time for a trip to our neighborhood museum.” I wish.

4. I just love my Fitbit.

Can I get an Amen from anyone else who enjoys the Fitbit?  After I gave it up for Lent (and oh, that was hard! I did two half-marathons during Lent, and, as we true believers like to half-jokingly say, it’s like they didn’t even count).

I’ve just entered the world of friends on Fitbit.  So far I’m Fitbit friends with several people, one of them a world-famous (if she’s not, she should be) author, Colleen Swaim.  I do really enjoy getting to compare stats and swap messages.  I’m also part of a private group that Katie at Runs for Cookies started several months back.  I enjoy getting to see my stats versus others.  My goal for July is to hit 12,000 every day.  I’ve only missed one day so far, and we have some upcoming car travel days, so I may miss a few more, but I’m sure my average will be well above the 12,000 mark.

Do you make Fitbit (or even just general fitness) goals?

5.  “Why Kids Fidget and What to Do About It” The Washington Post

“Ironically, many children are walking around with an underdeveloped vestibular (balance) system today–due to restricted movement. In order to develop a strong balance system, children need to move their body in all directions, for hours at a time. ”

So worth reading, and now I feel justified in how much I make my kids be active.  Also, now I feel reassured that my very active 11-year-old is just working his vestibular system.

6. Amazon, A Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed— The New York Times

I’m somewhat conflicted about Amazon.  I order from it all the time, I love Amazon Prime for watching movies and TV shows, as well as the free two-day shipping for most items.  It’s just super convenient for so many things, books included.

But I’ve read with interest articles like this one, and I must say I still like Amazon after reading this.  In many ways, Amazon has democratized the publishing process.  What do you think?

7. “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt” — NPR’s Planet Money

I  supported this Kickstarter campaign, because (as I’ve written about before) I’m a big fan of Planet Money and listen to the  podcast often.  The series of podcasts reporting how a t-shirt gets made (based on this book: The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy:
, which I’ve not read, but looks really interesting),


Because I supported the Kickstarter, I recently received this t-shirt in the mail.  It fits really well, it is comfortable and a really flattering color.  I decided that because the graphic is so strange (a squirrel holding up a martini!), I wouldn’t start wearing it until I could comfortably explain the economics term “animal spirits.” (The t-shirt is a visual pun of that concept).  I actually hadn’t remembered what that was all about, since it’s been a long time since I listened to the series.

So I went back to the Planet Money site and just briefly went through the great multi-media site they put together.  Do take a look if you get a chance–here’s that link.

What are “animal spirits?”  Basically, it’s the concept that economic decisions are made by people, not just markets.  Sometimes that means emotions or spontaneous ideas take place, but ultimately shows economics is about humans, not just things or money.

This might be kind of mischievous, but my thought is to wear it often, and especially during the 40 Days for Life in October, to freak out and befuddle (in a good way) my fellow NPR listeners.

What are you reading or listening to online lately?