Monthly Archives: November, 2014

Not Alone Series: My Prayer Wall

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How do you pray at home? Do you have a special place in your house? How do you make that area special? Comfy chair? Prayer cards? What suggestions do you have to make a home altar? If you don’t do this, in what ways can you begin?

I have thought about building a home altar, but I’ve never actually done it. It’s the “altar” part that throws me off. An altar has to be a table (or something table-like). When I got my glass-topped IKEA end tables, I thought about using the glass to cover a rotating set of holy cards, liturgical-color fabric swatches, or something similar. Then I realized I had the perfect place for them and the perfect batch of stuff to put on top of them. No go.

I haven’t given up, though. I tried putting an 8×10 of the Divine Mercy on one, but that made it a super awkward place for people to set their beer bottles during a party.

During my junior year of college, though, I moved into my own bedroom in a shared apartment. I had only recently even heard of prayer corners, having been a churchgoer for just over a year. I had giant white walls. I had holy cards and remnants of Catholic junk mail.1 I had colorful Post-Its. I built this:

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This was my typical view, from the side of the foot of my bed.

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This was to the left of my usual view, at the foot of my bed.

Sorry about the grainy images. They are from late 2007 and were taken with my Motorola RAZR (which I will remind you was the coolest phone until mere months before).

The top image shows the central part of my prayer corner. It features:

  • my three-inch crucifix,
  • a holy card of Our Lady of the Streets, crowned with a dried yellow rose from my initiation into the Catholic Daughters of the Americas,
  • a holy card of St. Maria Goretti (my favorite) crowned with a tiny blue rose that I don’t remember how I acquired,
  • and a bunch of Post-Its with Bible verses that were important to me.

I still have that yellow Post-It. It’s tucked into the front of my breviary.

The bottom image shows my auxiliary prayer corner, if you will. I had just as much white space over there near my tiny TV, so I put up a cross carved with the Prayer of St. Francis, the Memorare, and a dubiously theological depiction of the Resurrection.

That was where I prayed all that year. It was handy to have some holy images to face while I prayed the Angelus and the Liturgy of the Hours.

In a similar spirit, I currently have this prayer wall in my bedroom:

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This angle was the best I could get without a shadow. My room has weird lighting. The green paint came with the room. And yes, the cards are taped up there.

Those are the same holy cards of Our Lady and St. Maria Goretti, now accompanied by a crucifix holy card. The small crucifix is now over my bed. I figure that it’s small enough to not hurt me that much if it falls while I’m asleep. I also have a larger crucifix on the dining room wall. I’m usually on my computer (in the dining room) when noon rolls around on weekends, so when I hear my Angelus alarm, I stand and face it to pray.

My philosophy behind my prayer corner (and prayer wall) relates to my tendency to distraction. If my mind wanders, my eyes will often follow, and when I get to my holy images, I either re-focus on my original prayer or focus it anew on the subjects of those images. That’s part of the philosophy behind artwork in churches, so I feel as though I’m on the right track.

Then again, I’m still sitting on the foot of my bed, so perhaps not.


Thanks to Jen and Morgan for hosting! Check out other responses on their blogs.


  1. You know perfectly well that Catholic junk mail is a thing. Subscribe to one magazine or charity mailing list and get a dozen URGENT APPEALS and FREE GIFTS2 for your trouble. 
  2. All gifts are free! 

Booking Through Thursday: Better Endings

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Deb, the showrunner over at Booking Through Thursday, asked for some suggestions last week. I was feeling inspired, so I offered several, and she used one of mine this week!

If you could change the ending of any book you’ve read, which would it be and how would you change it?

When I was a teacher, I would always take my own tests extra slowly, then multiply that by 1.5. That gave me an idea of how long my students would need to complete it. It also forced me to answer my own questions. This moment reminds me of those days.

Part of me wants to change the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was completely satisfied with the ending, because I wanted Harry to live, and I wanted to see Ron and Hermione together. There was so much world left to build, though, that I wanted even more of the characters’ futures. J.K. Rowling has shown that she’s not opposed to continuing to reveal the rest of her world. Her writing on Pottermore and her screenplay for the Fantastic Beasts movies shows that she still has the story in her.

The other part of me has already moved on and is skeptical about the new movie trilogy. Is there really enough story in there for three more movies, without Harry? I’m not so sure.

I was definitely unsatisfied with the ending of Mockingjay. The first two Hunger Games books were amazing. I actually prefer the second book to the first! I didn’t like the third, though. Characters with PTSD are not compelling. Moreover, Katniss’s final family situation (spoiler-free!) goes against everything we know about her character. It definitely portrays a hopeful spirit and the finality of the changes she helps bring about, but it just doesn’t seem like something she would actually do.

I guess I’m pretty happy with most book endings after all!


For more short queries about books and the reading life, visit Booking Through Thursday.

Why I Love Young Adult Literature

I love to read. Anyone who meets me becomes rapidly aware of this. My mother claims that I taught myself how to read, and although I have not verified the legend, I choose to treat it like St. Christopher and accept it as true even if it is not factual.

I also love words and grammar. I have a master’s degree in English education. I used to use that to teach high school students; now I use it to amuse my coworkers in a construction company office. I enjoy words precisely because we use them to communicate stories. We study literature because it teaches us what it means to be human. That’s my motto. That and…

True_story


Read the rest in my guest post over at Super Swell Times! Many thanks to Elizabeth for inviting me to hang out at her place today.

The One Money Habit that Changed My Life, a.k.a. How I Fell in Love with YNAB

When I was in my first year of college, I found Jesus. Last Memorial Day, I found YNAB and my life will never be the same. That sounds dramatic and hyperbolic, but the effect both of those encounters have had on my life is astounding. How I met Jesus is a story for another day. This is the story of how I met YNAB.

I’ve always been thrifty, so despite taking on loans to help pay for college, I did reasonably well financially. I even made it through grad school on a pitifully low salary (technically a stipend) and with most of my savings intact.

Post-college work was a different story. Everyone knows that ministry doesn’t pay well. However, even in as cheap a state as Texas, I found myself struggling to make ends meet. In April of 2013, facing an unmanageable rent increase and a job that I could no longer keep working, I took a huge leap, not knowing how long I’d stay in the air or how far I could possibly fall.

I landed hard. I was unemployed from May to August. I found a new home with roommates and lower rent, gave up cable TV, and drove less. (Not having a job meant I didn’t have anywhere to go. How convenient.) I watched my savings account balance drop lower and lower and was genuinely scared about what would happen if I couldn’t find work.

In the middle of August, I got a call for a temporary job that finally gave me an income greater than the pennies of interest on my dwindling bank accounts. That temporary job turned into a full-time job, and that led to a raise in February and a promotion this past June.

By January, I knew that raise was coming, so I knew I needed to have a plan in place to keep it from slipping through my fingers. I also knew I would pay off my car loan before my birthday, and I definitely didn’t want that to disappear once it wasn’t promised to the bank anymore.

The first step of my plan was the dollar-a-day money challenge. There’s only one rule: Save a dollar a day. I literally set aside one dollar each day. Savings accounts can only have six transactions per month; otherwise I would have transferred that dollar every day to stay honest. In reality, I set up a $15 automatic transfer from checking to savings twice a month: one dollar for each day of the month. Despite my meager income, I didn’t miss a dollar a day, and I kept that up for 9 months! (I recently switched two dollars a day.)

The second step was YNAB: You Need a Budget.

I’d heard of YNAB before. The landing page was familiar when I followed the link from a FOCUS blog post. (Titles with numbers in them really work!) Amanda Teixeira’s ringing endorsement, a 10% discount code, and the promise of 34 free days to try it fully-featured (along with the free app) was enough to push me over the edge. You don’t give someone over a month to try something unless you know you can hook them in that time frame.

YNAB hooked me. It hooked me hard. I took two webinars over Memorial Day weekend and two more before the end of June. I accounted for every single dollar in my possession (by zero-sum budgeting) and gained a heightened awareness of my cash flow. I don’t balance my checkbook monthly anymore (or even read the statement) because I balance quickly and easily twice a week. I don’t need an email from my bank for every transaction because I record them all immediately and account for every purchase in my budget.

My day-to-day checking account balance is twice as high as it was in April, and I make no more money than I did before. It’s like I got a raise. All I did was make a commitment to budget and stick to it.

If you don’t have a budget, you need one: You Need a Budget.


On Friday, I’ll have more information about the details of my new budgeting life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to ask questions. I want to tell everyone about YNAB!

What I Wore Sunday: Good Plan, Bad Timing

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Today was this month’s session of Pure Fashion [auto-playing music at that link]. I enjoy the program and being a volunteer, but it happens at the worst possible time of day.

I know that I just wrote last night about how (relatively) productive I was. My Saturdays have been coming along nicely. Sunday is still a struggle, though. I get up, I read and eat breakfast, I realize how late it’s getting and that I need to shower if I’m going to be finished with my hair in time for church, and I go to Mass. I ought to be more mindful about that time between “Wake Up” and “Leave for Mass.” I’m always on time (which, for me, is fifteen minutes before Mass starts), so there hasn’t been much motivation to change.

Pure Fashion is a solid motivator, although it only comes along once a month. I spent a considerable chunk of time last night planning today’s schedule, and then I ruined it by getting a late start. Despite succumbing to the snooze button and several other distractions, I managed to leave only ten minutes late, dressed for our mall window-shopping session and with church-appropriate clothes in tow.

The session was pretty great, and I even managed to make it out only a little later than I would have liked. I hit the road, planning to change clothes at the church when I got there.

That plan failed. I got to the church parking lot at 4:52 for Mass at 5 p.m. Not good. I got turned around because I try not to use my GPS when it’s daylight and I’m in town, and then a traffic signal on the freeway was flashing red, so I fell behind. I decided that I would rather be on time than dressed to my usual standards, so this is what I wore today:

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Button-down: Target
Sweater: Old Navy
Skinny jeans: Old Navy
Ballet flats: Old Navy

I have not worn pants to Sunday Mass in years, retreats excepted. (I think I actually did pack a skirt for Sunday Mass on a retreat once, though.) I remember the last time I wore pants. It was my first year of graduate school, and I had been sick until a few hours before Mass, so being there at all was a victory. Even then, I did not wear jeans.

It was a very humbling experience to be put together but underdressed. I say this not to be “holier than thou” but to acknowledge my personal rules. I wear a dress or a skirt to Mass every single week. You can see that in all of my What I Wore Sunday posts… until now. But as I said, I am taking this as an opportunity to be humble. In the future, I will plan better.

Aside from my modest attire that did not fit the definition of “modest” I usually work with, I was also uncomfortable because I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. In addition to ending right before Mass, Pure Fashion sessions also require me to leave my house before lunch. The stress of trying be on time and properly dressed plus the frustration of having only managed one of those things added up to a distressed Lindsay. At first, I felt lightheaded. Then I got a brief headache. My stomach was growling. I was upset. It was a low blood sugar fiesta.

To add insult to injury, our pastor came to give the homily again, and it was a whopper. Mass started just after 5 p.m. and ended at 6:15-ish. It was a good homily, but this was a week when my body really needed a normal-length homily. I was with him, but I wished he would stop so I could go get some food!

He spoke about the gospel primarily. I can’t blame him for that. There were so many topics today that even I struggled to find a common thread in the readings. With two special solemnities on the last two Sudnays, we haven’t been getting the doomsday-themed readings we would usually hear at this time of year.

Focusing on the Parable of the Talents as a call for Christian stewardship, our pastor elaborated on last week’s excellent Scripture-based diocesan appeal by pointing out that our parish doesn’t provide very well financially for itself. It’s in a wealthy neighborhood with more than a few wealthy parishioners, but our collection is half that of parishes with similar size and income. I was a quasi-parish employee, so I understand exactly how much money it takes to run a Catholic church. I give 5% to my parish. I just don’t make a very big 100%. So I didn’t feel convicted. I just felt hungry.

Then I got Chipotle and ate half of my burrito bowl before I took those photos. The “fitted on one half, loose on the other” principle definitely worked in my favor.

How was your Sunday? I hope it was better than mine!

An Eighth Quick Take: My Dad’s Famous!

That title might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am pretty delighted. I realized late last night (after I posted my Quick Takes) that I’d forgotten to include this one, so I think it deserves its own post.

My father retired from the Air Force when I was in college. He was a dental technician. As is usually the case, since military retirements usually come well before standard retirement age, he sought out a second career. Due to his background looking at tiny objects in X-rays and diagnosing problems based on those weird pictures, he found a new home with the TSA at Reagan National Airport doing security screening.

Yep, my dad was one of those people holding you up in the security line. He doesn’t enjoy frustrating passengers, though, and he has some great stories about what passengers have done that frustrates his work.

These days, he has a higher-level job escorting VIPs. Most of the people he sees are Congressional representatives and senators. They tend to be running late for flights and insist that the plane wait. He met Ted Kennedy once, and he told him about me. I was underwhelmed. When he met Cardinal McCarrick, though, I was super excited. Priorities.

I didn’t know he did anything quite as special as the work he does escorting wounded veterans, though. My mom sent me a link to that article on Friday. I was stunned, and I am so proud. It’s just an online article, and it’s really more about the program than it is about him, but I couldn’t be happier. He was portrayed so well.

I shared the link with my colleagues, and my old supervisor was so delighted that she posted it on our company news bulletin board. He’s not pictured, though; I don’t know that guy in the photo at the top. This is him, at his retirement ceremony:

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My dad: a man of honor.

If I have ever made my parents as proud of me as I am of him, I’ve done well.

7 Quick Takes on Getting Stuff Done, Egg Freezing, and Zombie Science

— 1 —

I have been on a quest to make better use of my Saturdays, so this is the first time I have sat down at the computer for anything besides Hulu. So far, I managed to drop off my library books, go grocery shopping, cut my nails, and get most of my laundry done, so I’m going to call that a win.

— 2 —

I promise to stop talking about Pocket every week. Eventually. This week is a compliment, though, instead of a complaint. I use Feedly to keep track of the many, many blogs I follow (98 at the moment, although not all of them are actively publishing). Not all of them publish full-text feeds, though. Some might not be able to control whether they do or not (Super Swell Times, I’m looking at you), but I’m pretty sure others are trying to drive up page views (like the CatholicMatch Institute.

Pocket conquers both of those. When I add an item to Pocket, it pulls in the full text from the link. It’s not 100% accurate; it doesn’t always pick up footnotes, and it sometimes ends before the end of the post. It saves me from needing to go all the way to the main blog, though, which is ideal because I am sometimes doing my reading on my work computer. I know they could track everything and possibly already are, but I like to live in my bubble where I’m not that interesting anyway.

— 3 —

I’m sure you heard about Google and Facebook offering to freeze female employees’ eggs for free. Were you horrified, too, at the implications? Don’t let having a baby get in the way of working for us just as hard as ever! Freeze your eggs! We’ll pay for it! No guarantees that it will work, though. Ugh.

We’re unfortunately living in an age where what used to be a slippery slope argument is just news. The Onion took the egg-freezing offer to its extreme conclusion (possible objectionable content in other articles there). But how long will it be before that isn’t so ridiculous?

— 4 —

I had my last salsa lesson on Sunday, so it’s back to coming straight home from church. I’m hoping that this means I will get more items crossed off my to-do list, but I make no promises there. I’m going to miss it, though. I had so much fun! The group has plans to go out social dancing in the future, but nothing has been decided yet. It was nice to not feel awkward about being single for a little while, to be in a place where coming alone was actually a benefit and not mildly pathetic. That was a good feeling.

— 5 —

I bought my plane ticket home for Christmas. It was much less expensive than last year’s last-minute ticket. I had saved so aggressively, though, that I am sitting on top of a huge pile of cash (in the bank; please don’t try to show up at my house and rob me) even after making that purchase.

I can pay for Christmas in cash this year. The plane ticket, gifts, and cards. I skipped cards last year for the first time since middle school. My financial life has turned around so much, and it is all thanks to YNAB [referral link]. More on that on Monday.

— 6 —

Coming up this week, I have a mall shopping trip with Pure Fashion, an in-person meeting with the Austin CNM team, a Friday evening wedding, and my next hair appointment. It will be a much busier week but hopefully not a less productive one.

— 7 —

Here’s a TED educational video of the science behind zombies. Even if you’re sick of the zombie fad, this is pretty cool. Enjoy! Learn something!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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