Category Archives: General

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.)

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Sunday Style: Summer in February

It felt like summer last weekend! I don’t care how many fellow Austinites try to tell me that the weather always has dramatic swings; it has never been this warm at this time of year in the seven years I’ve lived here. It is obviously the end of the world.

Sunday Style for February 12

Dress: Marshall’s
Top: Target
Shoes: Old Navy
Earrings: gift
Necklace: holy medals

I’m delighted that this dress is a little bit roomy since I started losing weight through dance. I never stopped wearing it in the interim, but it got rather tight. It’s one of my favorites.

Oh, and for weather reference, yesterday morning never rose above 50. The heat kicked back on last night, and it was in the mid-40s this morning. On Saturday, it was so warm that I wore shorts to do my chores and errands. Shorts! In February! I used to live on a tropical island practically on the equator; this is not that island.

Deacon G started his homily with a brief summary of Gospel’s main points: Jesus came to fulfill the law, marriage is permanent, and even anger violates the law of love.

He told a story about a time when his actual brother (not just Scripture’s figurative “brother”) tried to embarrass him and his family but had to abandon the trick at the last moment. When Deacon G found out, he didn’t speak to his brother for several years. The anger felt justified, but really it just hurt him instead of his brother.

Jesus tells us to seek forgiveness before we approach the altar, he concluded, because we can’t ask rightly God to forgive us when we refuse to forgive others.

Fr. Associate Pastor has a good enough command of English pronunciation to celebrate Mass, but he doesn’t usually stray far from the pre-written prayers. I was, therefore, very encouraged by the special scolding he gave us before the final blessing. It took effort to say!

The topic? Being on time for Mass. There is a clock at the back of the church, so he easily sees when people arrive up to 20 minutes late. In the congregation’s defense, Mass always starts 5 minutes late due to all the announcements, and the people who most needed the scolding had also left early. I took it as a good reminder to continue to be on time for church things even when other people generally turn up late. I’m in charge of me, and I’m only in charge of me.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Sunday Style: Pin-ture Perfect

Congratulations to Rosie on the birth of her new baby! (That has nothing to do with what I wore to church, but it’s still nice.)

Sunday Style for November 27

Had to use my app again. I usually adjust the exposure on the full-length in post-process.

Dress (worn as a skirt): Kohl’s
Blouse: Target
Shoes: Payless
Earrings: old, old gift

Oh, hey there, Advent. Thank you for the twice-a-year challenge to wear every purple item I own to Mass.

This outfit is a recreation of this pin. As soon as I saw the pin, I knew I should try to recreate it with this dress, but it took a while to acquire the right shirt. I love this dress. I purchased it so long ago that the couple whose wedding I originally wore it to now has a two-year-old. This might be the last time I can find a new way to wear it, but it was worth a try. And yes, it’s rather more fuchsia than purple, but that totally counts.

“Thanks be to God for giving us another Advent,” said Fr. Pastor. That’s not something I’ve ever thought about before. I think about Lent as another chance to get right with God, but never about Advent as another chance to prepare for what is coming at the end of the world. I didn’t think he would mention the second/end-times meaning of Advent, which is my favorite, but he did. Hooray!

He also sang several lines from Handel’s “Messiah,” but he didn’t point out that it’s an Easter oratorio. Most people don’t realize that, but think about it: What time of year do we sing “hallelujah” so exuberantly? Not Christmas. In the end, anything that gets people singing (or at least enjoying singing) about the King of Kings and Lord of Lords can’t be all bad, right?

Finally, Fr. Pastor said that going to Mass on Sundays is a chance to stop and pray, so even if that’s the only thing you do to prepare for Christmas, it’s better than nothing. I have never even thought about being so busy that I would skip church. (I’m not saying I’ve never missed Mass, but not on purpose; not since I came back.) I would imagine that people who are so gift- and party-focused that they would skip church aren’t going to church in the first place; however, encouraging Sunday Mass as a bare minimum can only be a benefit.

Since my new parish sings the seasonal Marian antiphon after Communion every week, I got to try out the Alma Redemptoris Mater, which I learned for Night Prayer last December. It was very comforting. It felt like peace.

For more Mass fashion and commentary, visit Rosie at A Blog for My Mom for My Sunday Best.

My Sunday Best, hosted at A Blog for My Mom

Recommended Reads: 46/2016

pile of books

Here’s another long-overdue installment of a regular feature at Lindsay Loves. Enjoy!

— 1 —

Title: Listening to Your Commitments
Source: Next Action Associates

None of us GTD practitioners trust our memories, or anyone else’s—because we have a far more effective and less stressful methodology for keeping track of what matters (versus trying to keep it all in our head).

I used to say I had a terrible memory. Since taking up GTD, I don’t say that anymore. It’s still true, but committing to GTD helped me stop forgetting things. The UK GTD organization Next Action Associates published a post recently about how GTD helps you identify, record, and track your commitments.

My new catchphrase is: “Paper doesn’t forget.” When you agree to do something, or someone agrees to do something for you, write it down! People forget. Paper doesn’t.

— 2 —

Title: How To Learn Something New Every Day (And Actually Do Something With It)
Source: Guest Post at Productivityist

This is a long read, but it goes step-by-step. I highly recommend his method for two points: daily action and sharing. Something you do daily (or even weekly) is something that really matters to you. Teaching is the best way to learn. Just do it. (I write this blog for myself, too!)

— 3 —

Title: How Do I Discern My Vocation?
Source: FOCUS Blog

I can never get enough about discernment. I’ve covered this in a post for ATX Catholic, but this is the text version. If you’d rather read than watch, this is your best bet.

— 4 —

Title: 32 (Or the Long Overdue Life Update)
Source: Choosing Raw

More should be written about “failure,” if that’s what we want to call it. We read so much about triumph over adversity, persistence in the face of great odds, and unlikely successes. We don’t always read about what it’s like to do something and find out that you’re not very good at it, or to work hard and not improve, or to desperately want something that you’re nevertheless incapable of pursuing any further.

And that, dear readers, is the story I’m about to tell.

Long yet amazing reflection on failure. I don’t condone the part about cohabitation at the end, of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a better, more honest account of the reality that you really can’t always get what you want.

— 5 —

Title: 7 Things to Say When a Conversation Turns Negative
Source: Harvard Business Review

Great advice. I hope I have some of these in my back pocket the next time I’m having a difficult conversation!

— 6 —

Title: Marriage Rx: Can Divorced & Remarried Receive Communion Now?
Source: Can We Cana?

You’ve been wondering about this, too, right? Pro tip: ignore the troll in the comments section. Karee Santos is an excellent writer, focusing on marriage and the family. She and her husband recently published a book about marriage. I am not-so-patiently waiting for it to be relevant to my life.

— 7 —

Title: Composing a Family Rule of Life
Source: Guest Post at Waltzing in Beauty

This is a guest post from Christina’s series about home. I wrote about organizing, but this was my favorite post that wasn’t by me. I have a rule of life for myself, but I haven’t thought much about what I want for my potential future family. Maybe that’s for the best; there will be at least one other person in it, after all.

For up-to-the minute recommendations from what I read, follow me on Pocket.

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."

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7 Quick Takes on Jeopardy!, Co-Signer Release, Mary, and Martha

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

— 1 —

Well, heeeeeey, 7QT! Haven’t seen you around these parts in a while. I have been building up material for ages but never posting, so let’s see if I can sneak a few in here this week.

— 2 —

Jeopardy! has been surprising, delightful, and surprisingly delightful. For the first time since I started taking the online contestant test in 2009, they offered the test more than once this year. I took it in January, which is how I got my audition. I was stunned to receive an announcement email for another test this fall.

Nothing to lose

This Could Be Your Year!

Yes, that’s two different emails. I got the invitation twice, which shows that (a) the system had a bit of a problem, and (b) they do not remove you from test invitation emails even while you’re ineligible to take the test. I auditioned, so I’m not currently eligible.

In other news, recent J!6 questions (the “online version” of Jeopardy!) have been amazing, and I have been getting a lot of perfect scores. Here are some of my favorites:

It's a religious observance that occurs over a 3-day period. What is a triduum?

 This mother of St. Augustine and patron saint of wives has a city named for her in southern California. Who is St. Monica?

The majority of U.S. military personnel are stationed in this souther prefecture. What is Okinawa?

 In 2015, Silento urged, "Now watch me whip, now watch me" do this dance move. What is nae nae?

— 3 —

I read a blog post a couple of weeks ago (which I will not be linking to because one of the suggestions is scandalous) about ways to treat yourself without spending money or eating anything. That’s always been a struggle for me. Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is a treat. A new hair clip is a treat. Staying up late is a treat. All of those things thwart my goals, though. They’re tricks and treats rolled into one. I needed real treats.

So I tried one of the tips: I took a nap. You guys, it was the best idea. I don’t get enough sleep anyway, so it was useful, and it felt like a treat because I needed it (see: lack of sleep) and didn’t need it (see: treat).

— 4 —

Read chronologically bottom to top.

Read chronologically bottom to top.

Hey, I’m almost Twitter famous! I seriously had no idea that the David Allen Co. saw Wunderlist as a legitimate tool for GTD. It’s quite an exciting revelation. The guide is available now, but I haven’t bought it yet. Part of me wants to see if I can swing a review copy. Another part of me is proud of my homegrown implementation and doesn’t want to be influenced by the official suggestions. Stay tuned.

— 5 —

I’ve been struggling with my Eucharistic adoration group for a while. It doesn’t help that we were attempting to have discussion via email that are always faster, easier, and better in person. Then my Spanish daily Gospel email brought the story of Mary & Martha right in front of my face.

It started to seem like a Mary & Martha situation to me. I felt like Martha, so burdened with serving that she wasn’t sitting at the feet of the Lord like Mary, even though that was better. According to Scripture, asking Mary to help with the serving wasn’t the right response. So I guess the right response is for me to stop working so hard and just sit. If no one gets to eat dinner because I’m not making it, I guess that’s how it has to be.

— 6 —

There is a special kind of joy in completing a long-delayed project. I love to play Nertz, a Solitaire-based multiplayer game that requires one deck of cards per player. Thus, I own something like eight decks of cards. Most of my decks don’t have boxes, so I used to slap a rubber band on and shove them into the box for Catchphrase. But that looked messy, and the rubber bands kept drying out.

After a little Googling, I discovered that travel soap dishes are great for storing playing cards. I grabbed a few at Target for just under a dollar each, found an appropriately-sized larger plastic box to store all the little boxes, and created this:

playing card storage

I forgot to take a “before” photo, but maybe that’s for the best. Between that and my tickler file, my sloppy piles are now more effective and more grown-up looking. Win and win.

— 7 —

I have student loans. They have a co-signer: my mom. I have been paying diligently for over five years, but I had never even heard of co-signer release until about three weeks ago. A run-of-the-mill post to the YNAB blog clued me in that, if you have a co-signer on your loans, and the co-signer dies, your loan becomes payable in full immediately or goes into default. Your on-time and consistent payment history means nothing. It is based on the co-signer’s credit, not yours, so if that person dies, it’s based on nothing. My mom is in good health, but what if my grandma had been my co-signer? What if my mom died suddenly? Half a decade of work would go out the window.

I panicked slightly when I realized that (a) that’s a huge risk, and (b) I had literally never heard about this possibility. I did a little Googling (all the way to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), consulted my actual lenders, and had the applications for co-signer release in my hands in a matter of days.

I’m trying to dodge a bullet. Yes, gathering and sending paperwork takes time and money. But it’s worth the privilege of not being handed bills for thousands of dollars when I’m already going through a tough time.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Literature Teaches Us What It Means to Be Human (Review of Laura M. Berquist)

Forgive me for geeking out a little bit here. I studied English and education in college, and I used to be an English teacher, so it’s safe to say that I like reading. In particular, I like stories.

For my writing at ATX Catholic and for much of my pleasure reading, I cover a lot of religion, personal finance, and productivity. My heart still lies in the pages of a good story, though. I firmly believe that literature teaches us what it means to be human; thus, when we read stories, we turn into better people.

You can imagine my delight to come across the speech “Reading Literature to Reveal Reality,” by Laura M. Berquist, in which she combines some of my favorite things: Jesus, stories, and learning. It’s a long one, so allow me to share some of how her paradigm fits so well with the one I’ve developed over years of education, reading, and life.

books on stairs

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

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