Category Archives: 7 Quick Takes Friday

7 Quick Takes on Tacos, “Constructive Criticism,” and Life Alignment

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Mr. Man and I met some friends of his for dinner last week at Migo. It was tasty. I always struggle with eating tacos because the filling falls out so easily. It makes me want more tortilla. But I’m not eating the taco because I wanted a tortilla; I’m eating it for the stuff in the middle. It feels silly to have to eat some of the filling off the shell with a fork, but that feels less silly than just making a huge mess while the good stuff falls onto my plate. Maybe that’s why I enjoy quesadillas, enchiladas, and pico de gallo more than tacos, tostadas, or salsa: my favorites stay put.

And you thought there was nothing to say about tacos besides “yum.”

— 2 —

Against all odds, Mr. Man and I won trivia again last week! Two first place finishes in a row (adding on to the week before) is unreal. The same friends we went to Migo with came to round out our team. It helps a lot that the “name that tune”-style round is one of my specialties, and he fills in a lot of the science things I don’t know. We’re both humanities nerds, but our nerdery appears to be complementary instead of overlapping, so that’s good.

— 3 —

Kyle Benson at the Gottman Institute blog shared a post recently about how to fruitfully respond to criticism in relationships. The institute focuses on married couples, but this advice totally applies to work relationships, too:

Despite what some people say, there is no such thing as constructive criticism. Criticism triggers a person to become defensive and protect themselves from an attack, which blocks the resolution of a conflict.

Yes, yes, yes! Think about it: no one ever asks to receive “constructive criticism.” It is almost always the criticizer who asks-but-isn’t-really-asking to criticize someone. If Mr. Coworker says, “Can I give you some constructive criticism?” and I say “no,” suddenly I’m in the wrong. It shouldn’t be that way.

The Gottmans rightly call criticism one of the “four horsemen” of the relationship apocalypse. It destroys people’s confidence and makes them respond aggressively and negatively. The asker, in turn, was aggressive and negative. Criticism is never constructive; it’s always destructive.

— 4 —

I had the honor of attending a local wedding last weekend as Mr. Man’s guest. He doesn’t dress up as much as I do for church, but he will for weddings. It was among the smaller weddings I have attended, so there wasn’t quite as much dancing as I usually experience. I realized, though, that I have spent so many weddings of friends entirely on the dance floor mainly to assuage my sadness at being so very single for so very long. It’s hard to feel like you’re alone when you’re busting moves surrounded by your friends. It was a very different experience to be there with mostly people I didn’t know but also with a date.

— 5 —

I participated in the Asian Efficiency Focus Challenge this week. I’m not sure I was the ideal audience, but I appreciated the experience all the same. The key exercise was evaluating my life for alignment. The process is simple: Make a list of the five things that are most important to you. Then make a list of the top five things you spend your time on. Are those lists the same? If not, what can you do to make them match?

— 6 —

I happen to have known this bishop when he was Vicar General of Austin, but it’s solid episcopal advice regardless:

— 7 —

The Pentecost novena starts today! I like to pray the version hosted by EWTN. Your mileage may vary.


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Recommended Reads: 19/2017 (in 7 Quick Takes)

pile of books

I was going to publish a regular 7 Quick Takes tonight, but I don’t have enough material! Life has just been rolling along pretty quietly. I have, however, been plowing through articles in Pocket, so it’s time for another installment of Recommended Reads to clear out my backlog. There are 7, so that counts, right?

7 Quick Takes, hosted by This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

Title: Busyness Is Not a Virtue
Source: iDoneThis

I love the first part of this article for its descriptions of why we are so easily primed to say that we’re “busy.” As I like to say, of course you’re busy. Everyone feels busy. When is the last time you said, “Man, I just have nothing to do?” I love the second part for its quotation of Laura Vanderkam and her suggestion for a language shift. I’ve done this in my actual life. It has the effect of making me see my time differently and appreciate it more, but it also makes me extra annoyed when other people say they’re busy. It’s a tough game.

— 2 —

Title: An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media
Source: The Message

I’m never a big fan of the concept that non-white people have to express themselves in non-white ways (whatever that means); I’m too big a fan of code-switching for that. I did appreciate that this writer points out that there’s more to a culture than mere age. One millennial’s opinion is definitely useful, but one person can rarely speak for a group of millions.

— 3 —

Title: God of the Depressed
Source: First Things

More and more writers are offering angles on the tricky space between “God-help,” self-help, and professional help.

— 4 —

Title: I Thought There Was a Simple Solution to an Unwanted Pregnancy, But I Was Wrong
Source: Verily

I’ve never read anything quite like this woman’s personal account of her experience. Abortion, adoption, parenting: it’s one of the few I’ve seen where every option was truly before her. She found that her simple, easy solutions weren’t as easy as they seemed.

— 5 —

Title: How lack of reverence for the Eucharist puts people off Catholicism
Source: The Catholic Herald (UK)

The title says pretty much everything you need to know, but read it anyway. Then reconsider your demeanor in the presence of the Real Presence.

— 6 —

Title: How to Obey Like an Adult
Source: National Catholic Register

I know about what went down between Simcha and the Register, but her posts are still archived there, and they’re still good.

Any time the Church gives us clear guidelines for how we are to behave, it’s an act of mercy: She gives us a chance to put the responsibility on someone else, and just relax and be obedient children again. I don’t have to figure out if I’m personally being called to pray, fast, and give alms. Just do it, because your mother told you to!

— 7 —

Title: Envy—The Adversary of Mercy
Source: Catholic Education Resource Center

I struggle with properly defining mercy and with remembering the difference between envy and jealousy, so this feels like it was written just for me!


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7 Quick Takes Potpourri

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

I can’t remember if potpourri has actually been a category on Jeopardy! since I’ve been watching as of late, but it’s fun when it is, and it seems very appropriate for 7QT, so I’m going with it.

— 1 —

The Apostleship of Prayer publishes a daily two-minute reflection to YouTube (and I think to Catholic radio, but I don’t actually listen to Catholic radio, so I can’t confirm or deny). I don’t watch them every day, but I marathon all the videos in chunks. They’re great for watching on my phone when I’m standing in the kitchen waiting for something to cook.

I thought this recent one on why/how we are supposed to (or not supposed to) judge people was especially good:

— 2 —

As I mentioned the last time I did 7QT, I did revise my life plan. It did not have my grandmother in it, although it now has a reminder to call my grandfather (on the other side). It was useful to do a really big sweep through since so much has changed in my life. It also encouraged me to pick up two daily habits I’d tossed by the wayside: reading through the Bible and practicing my Spanish vocabulary with Duolingo. I feel productive.

— 3 —

There’s a Friday solemnity during the Easter octave every year. Simcha Fisher hilariously called it “Meatster Friday,” and I think I have to call it that from now on.

— 4 —

Before Currently, I did tl;dr. Jenna came up with the latter, short-lived link-up before she mostly stopped blogging. I swing by very occasionally to see if she’s posted anything, and on my most recent pass-through, I noticed a lovely post about short prayers to keep ready at a moment’s notice; she calls them “arrow prayers.”

Somehow, I found a similar set of very short prayers compiled by a priest. He has some great ideas in particular for how to pray for people you don’t like very much and how to seek forgiveness in awkward situations. Even tiny prayers are better than no prayer at all.

— 5 —

I ate kind of a lot of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream this past week. It was Peanut Butter Fudge Core, and I completely underestimated how decadent (and fast-melting) it was going to be. I also ate about half of the pint in one sitting. I should stick to the extra-cheap, simple flavors from now on, and I should eat just a little bit from the pint, like I like to. Feeling too full is never great; feeling too full of ice cream is… ugh.

— 6 —

jenfulwilerloveswunderlist

Whenever someone shows their computer desktop, I always peek at what’s on the periphery: how much phone battery do they have, what apps are running in the background, etc. I can’t help it! Jen Fulwiler did not mean to share that she uses the Wunderlist desktop app on her Mac, but I spotted that cute red star banner immediately. Now I’m sad again. I miss Wunderlist.

— 7 —

Mr. Man and I won trivia last week! There were only about a dozen teams, but we somehow had an amazing run and took first place with just the two of us. It was bewildering and awesome, and it is unlikely to ever happen again… but we’ll try.


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7 Quick Takes on Reading, Planning, and Dating

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

As evidenced by the “old news” in last week’s 7QT and my ridiculously overdue 2016 year in review post, I am still clearing out my backlog of things I wanted to share here. Will you humor me with just a few more oldies?

For the third year in a row, I was among Pocket’s top 5% of readers. Or maybe it was the opt 1%. I can’t remember! I neglected to clip the email properly to share a screenshot, so just trust me; I read a lot in Pocket.

If you like to read articles online (or watch videos), but find yourself wandering down the rabbit hole of links or worrying about wasting data loading ads on your phone, you’ll enjoy Pocket. It’s been revolutionary for my reading habits. Why scroll through Facebook aimlessly looking for something to read on the go when I can read articles I have already curated?

— 2 —

I don’t have the link to my Pocket Year in Review anymore, but I do have my Goodreads 2016 Year in Books. I was pleased with last year’s reading. I read plenty of nonfiction early in the year and slipped in some awesome fiction towards the end, and I met my overall book goal. Goodreads has been excellent for my book-reading in much the same way Pocket has for articles.

Read ALL the books!

— 3 —

I was much less pleased with my life planning. I still have the plan, but I haven’t reviewed it for at least six months. I’m pretty sure it still shows calling my grandmother once a month as an action item, and she died in August.

I am expecting to have some time in the near future for some extensive revisions, though, so I was glad to pick up a free life plan review tool from Building Champions back at the turn of the year. The video is no longer available, but the review tool (and the free tool for writing your first draft of a life plan) are still there.

We plan vacations, and we plan weddings, but have you ever planned your life?

— 4 —

I am still reading and loving Verily magazine. I especially like their “Gentlemen Speak” feature, which consists of articles written by real men or roundups from interviews with the same. Before I met Mr. Man, I often wondered why the nice, smart, charming, churchgoing men I met were never interested in me. We clicked so well! Wasn’t there something more than just “not feeling it” or the standard-but-infuriating “intimidation” factor? Andrew Mentock offers a few novel ideas why a great conversation doesn’t always lead to a date invitation.

Fun fact: I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Mentock (not to be confused with Mr. Man) in person. The Internet is maybe not such a huge place after all.

— 5 —

Related to the dating theme, I was fascinated by an essay posted in ZENIT about the effect that promoting chastity has had on slowing the spread of AIDS in Uganda. Americans in particular seem to think of Africa as one homogenous zone that needs saving, where AIDS spreads like wildfire. That’s not true any more than it’s true of the U.S. The A-B-C method really can work.

— 6 —

I manage my email really well, so I tend to stay subscribed to email lists for a long time and actually read what they send (or unsubscribe properly). I was not, however, expecting to hear from Small World of Words. I participated in their word association study online so long ago that I have absolutely no memory or record of it.

It was neat to see the results, of course, but getting that random email was also a reminder of just how long scientific research takes. We tend to just hear about results—especially when they are sensational—but I always forget that it might have taken years of data collection and analysis to get to those conclusions.

— 7 —

My life as a YNABer is still going well. I am currently casually mentoring a recent convert to budgeting. It took some encouraging to get past the idea of waiting for a “normal month” before committing to building that first budget. There’s just no such thing as a normal month!

There will always be something unexpected. Your car will need repairs. Your child will get sick. A bill will arrive. There’s a reason I built my first budget with a category called “Stuff I Forgot to Budget For.”

Budgeting is not about being able to predict the future or relying on historical spending data. It’s about using the money you have now to pay for the things you need now, some things you just want, and things that you’ll need later. Budgeting is about facing reality.


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7 Quick Takes because I am back in action!

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

Heeeeeeeey there, 7QT! It’s been a long time. I have kept up with Sunday Style and Currently, but this happy little link-up was tossed by the wayside. I have far more than seven things to share, but I will keep it to seven anyway. You’re welcome.

— 1 —

One of my life’s ambitions is to compete on Jeopardy! I auditioned last April and am still in the contestant pool. Here’s hoping!

My hopes aside, the show was recently in the news for a unique contestant story: Cindy Stowell, an Austin resident like me, died of colon cancer just a few days before she appeared on Jeopardy!

She won six games. If she were still alive, she would be a contender for the Tournament of Champions.

She took the test in the same round that I did, and if I had not gone back to DC to audition (because my parents live in the area, so I could stay with them for free), I would have auditioned in the same city that she did. She even played trivia at the same place I do; her boyfriend Jason has a regular team that always plays well.

Cindy’s Jeopardy! story shows the compassion that can still be found in what is ultimately the entertainment business. It also brings a new level of challenge to the armchair champion. If she could play like that while dying from cancer, what’s stopping you from fighting for your dreams?

— 2 —

This is kind of an intermediate tech tip. If you don’t know what two-factor authentication is, just go ahead and skip this take—but look into it! This Google landing page is a simple intro, and this TFA site will show you which popular sites you can enable it on.

If you are using TFA, and you use an Apple device of any kind, you might have been asked by your device if you wanted to turn on “two-factor authentication.” This is not the same thing as normal TFA. Owen Williams at The Next Web explains the situation in detail, but the short version is that you want to have “two-step verification” enabled for your Apple ID, not “two-factor authentication.”

I am smarter than your average bear when it comes to computers and technology (and specific terms, for that matter), but I was confused by that one. I managed to fix it, but it was a close call. I hope this tip helps someone the way my Sitemeter hijacking story does.

— 3 —

Those were some pretty intense takes. Here’s some tweets to lighten the mood. This one won the National Grammar Day haiku contest just a few weeks ago:

— 4 —

Also in Twitter news, a bishop is following me! This seems like a role reversal if there ever was one:

"Bishop Guy Sansaricq followed you."

He’s retired from the Diocese of Brooklyn. Can we take a moment to think about how awesome retirement must be if it means you just get to play on Twitter all day?

— 5 —

I recently finished the Bible study I started back in September, on salvation history. When we got to the period when David became king of Israel, I finally, finally understood why it’s so important that David is the son of Jesse.

Jesse was no one important. He wasn’t the previous king; he was just a shepherd.

In that time (and in some professions like teaching or law enforcement today), a son had the same job as his father. The king’s son became the next king; the shepherd’s son became a shepherd.

But the king before David was Saul. None of Saul’s sons became king. David was the son of Jesse. David became the king.

It’s important that David is the son of Jesse because David is not the son of Saul. God chose the king he wanted, not the king anyone was expecting. He chose David, and later he chose Jesus.

And that’s why we have Jesse trees, not David trees, and why it’s so important that Jesus is “the son of David.” My mind was blown.

— 6 —

Mr. Man teases me for declaring that more than one song is my jam. I like to jam! So I guess one of my jams is this super-catchy song (and awesome video) from a Target commercial: “Diggy,” by Spencer Ludwig.

— 7 —

Finally, to round out the randomness, one of my favorite Shakespearean webcomics posted a brilliant take on the “wherefore” problem. (And yes, I do have another favorite.)


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7QT on My Writing Life, Amazing Tech, Gratitude, and Being Spiritual

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

This makes two weeks of 7QT in a row! And I started catching up on Booking Through Thursday! It just occurred to me as I was drafting this that November 1 started National Blog Posting Month (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo). I haven’t been up for any blogging challenges this year, but I’ve been trying to find more margin in my life, so maybe that is a good thing. On the other hand, I have enjoyed posting more, too. Balance is an ongoing task.

So I’m not officially doing NaBloPoMo, and I’m not unofficially doing 30 posts in 30 days or even 7 in 7, but I posted a bit more than usual this week. Take that as you wish.

— 2 —

As I mentioned in this month’s Currently, I picked up a little side hustle writing for my diocesan Catholic newspaper, the Catholic Spirit. My post is now available online in plain text. I tried to include enough to make it interesting even if you have no kids to send to our Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference. It was a great opportunity to stretch my writing muscles (and gain some extra income; let’s be real).

— 3 —

I am a happy subscriber to Organized Audrey’s weekly Productivity Pointer e-newsletter. Prepare to have your mind blown by this little tip from a few weeks ago.

That made my mouth drop open! Like literally, physically, my mouth fell open. I had absolutely no idea you could change subject lines in Outlook emails so easily. I don’t think I’ll be doing that since I’ve got a good workflow right now, but think of the possibilities!

Furthermore, I think I knew you could copy a file’s address/location in Windows Explorer somehow, but I had forgotten how. Now I know. And you thought signing up for email newsletters was a waste of time. Nope! It drops some knowledge bombs on you.

— 4 —

When I last updated my Dropbox iOS app, I noticed that some of my recent photos had a button next to them that said “Save as Scan.”

In the process of gradually purging my physical files, I’d come across some old receipts that I still wanted to save: for my wireless router, a bookshelf, and my TV. It’s been years and years since I bought them, so they’re not under warranty, but if I had a break-in or fire and needed to prove their value, I could do that with the receipts. So I took some photos with my phone and tossed the fading originals. (PSA: Receipt ink doesn’t last forever. It fades over time. After enough years, all you have left is a blank piece of receipt paper!)

Curious, I tapped the button. Almost like magic, Dropbox converted my color photos into black-and-white PDFs! I had no idea the app could do that! I’m aware that there are dedicated scanner apps for this sort of thing, but I try to use as few apps as possible. This is almost as amazing as it was scanning all my books into Goodreads in minutes.

— 5 —

Another newsletter I love is Laura Vanderkam’s. She has two: the monthly “Just a Minute” and the weekly “A Week’s Worth.” I get both. In this month’s “Just a Minute,” she drew the interesting conclusion that gratitude can be forward-focused as well as reflecting backwards.

I’ve seen numerous rounds of “30 days of thankfulness” on Facebook (not this year, though), and I’m familiar with everyone’s take on gratitude journaling. None of them struck me as especially genuine or helpful until I read Vanderkam’s take.

When you know that you will need to dig up one or three things to be thankful for, you can use that to create an opportunity in your day. Do something that you know you can be thankful for later, “consciously injecting joy into an otherwise normal day.” Don’t feel bad for stopping in your busy night to gaze at a beautiful full moon. Just do it, so that you can express gratitude for it later. Revolutionary!

— 6 —

Fr. Mike Schmitz has a Q&A column over at Bulldog Catholic. He used one from the end of last school year to discuss being spiritual but not religious. He makes an excellent argument, of course, but his explanation also contains this money quote:

Can I find a true balance between justice (there is a right way to live and a wrong way to live) and mercy (being willing to forgive people when they live the wrong way)?

I’ve been working on my understanding of justice and mercy, and that helps a lot. Does it help you?

— 7 —

Thanks to Pinterest, I always think of this when I hear people discussing being spiritual:

Dudes be like, "I'm spiritual." I be like, "Demons are spirits, too. Be more specific."


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7 Quick Takes on #ThatCatholicGirl, Nonfiction, and Dissenting Teachers

7 Quick Takes, hosted at This Ain't the Lyceum

— 1 —

I am way late to the party on this one, but I still want to comment on #ThatCatholicGirl. I use Twitter, and I follow a number of Catholic Twitter accounts. Some people refer to the popular ones as “Catholic Twitter,” but they mean the same Twitter that Pope Francis and Taylor Swift are using. It’s not a separate alternative platform, like a Catholic newspaper is.

In September, the popular anonymous account @ThatCatholicGirl was suddenly deleted. I’m pretty sure I followed it. The account owner had never revealed her real name, and she used an image of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast animated movie as her avatar, so we didn’t even know what she really looked like. Twitter has a variety of anonymous accounts like that; I follow a few. They’re mostly vehicles for humor and outlandish social commentary—the kinds of things you’d only say anonymously.

After the account was deleted, a separate Catholic Twitter user revealed the backstory: he had been catfished by @ThatCatholicGirl. When she was discovered, she deleted her account. It became a hashtag, as Twitter controversies tend to do, and it sent a ripple through the community. We’d thought we were immune to such things because we love Jesus! Not so, Catholic Twitter; not so.

— 2 —

I had the sort-of privilege of seeing the documentary Catfish before the term “catfishing” entered popular culture. It was a disturbing film, but it was worth watching. Sadly, there are plenty of examples now, so you don’t need to watch the original film to get it.

The concept is based on the practice of catfish (the actual fish that swim in the sea) being used to keep sea-shipped cod fish active in their tanks during the live shipping process. With a suspicious presence in their midst, they keep swimming, and their muscles/meaty parts stay strong.

When a person “catfishes” another, he or she is the suspicious presence in the social media tank, forcing alertness on everyone else. The “catfish” pretends to be a different person, establishing a relationship (often romantic) with someone under a rich false identity. Sometimes the people who appear to be interacting with the catfish (liking posts, tagging the catfish, etc.) are false accounts also run by the catfish. The concept is now so common (and sad) that MTV created a whole TV show about real people who have been catfished, Glee did a storyline about transgender catfishing, and you probably remember Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s catfishing dead girlfriend.

— 3 —

In this case, @ThatCatholicGirl presented herself as a single, early twenty-something undergrad student. The other user (an actual college student) considered @ThatCatholicGirl his girlfriend, although they had never met in person. Every time they planned to meet, she had some sort of emergency: an illness, unexpected travel, her sister’s divorce, her own parents’ divorce. To the young man, he was in a long-distance relationship. But he really wasn’t. His “girlfriend” wasn’t real.

It's pretty bad when one anonymous account justifiably calls out another anonymous account.

It’s pretty bad when one anonymous account justifiably calls out another anonymous account.

The truth is that @ThatCatholicGirl is thirty years old, not a student, and married. I don’t know exactly how she was exposed, but the account is gone, and the shame spread. Catholic Twitter erupted into shock, anger, and confused prayers for @ThatCatholicGirl, her “boyfriend,” and her husband.

The Internet never forgets.

— 4 —

I set a goal to be reading four non-religious non-fiction books per year by 2025. I unintentionally met that goal for this year all the way back in September. Hooray for me!

The books were Living Forward, Making It All Work, 168 Hours, and The 12 Week Year. Seems appropriate that making time for those books helped me reach a goal!

— 5 —

That is a parent who has mastered GTD! I can’t even get my coworkers to use my inbox. I even physically labeled it “to do” and “inbox,” but I find documents in my chair or laying across my keyboard pretty regularly. You win some; you lose some.

— 6 —

The U.S. legal system regularly tries to force Catholic schools and churches to let people contradict Church teachings and also stay employed. It’s bewildering. When I taught Catholic school, I was required to sign a contract that specified that, because I identified as a Catholic (which I was not required to do or be for my role as an English teacher), I could be fired for publicly dissenting from Church teaching. That was not a secret.

So I was delighted to read that the European Court of Human Rights actually defended the Church in a recent appeal, ruling that a religion teacher who was divorced and civilly remarried was justifiably prevented from teaching religion. It should not be a surprise that a religion teacher who publicly fails to follow that religion will not be allowed to teach that religion anymore. Why was that such a surprise that it went all the way to an international court?

— 7 —

I love dancing West Coast Swing, and although it is tricky, I have never found it especially difficult. I actually have more trouble with turns in progressive dances like Two-Step. Something about simultaneously moving forward and along a curved line is hard for me to balance.

I have to admit that the reasons WCS is hard that Brian B. listed on his website are convincing, though. Those are all legitimate, and they’re much clearer than just “WCS is so hard!”


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