Small Success: A Dental Breakdown

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

In a nutshell, this week’s success is surviving yesterday’s Dental Visit from Hell.

I noticed at the beginning of June that the crown that was replaced in the summer of 2012 was beginning to come loose. I did not wait. I called for an appointment right away. They wouldn’t deal with my crown when I went in the day before graduation, saying I had to see the hygienist first and maybe it would fall out during cleaning, which would be better than having them force it out. I waited 2 more weeks for that appointment, only to be told to hang in there until it fell out on its own. They did make an appointment for me for August 24, however.

At that point in June I was 4 weeks away from a professional conference, where the last thing you want is to look like a hockey player for photo opportunities with your boss. The office staff at the dentist’s office was unswayed. Fortunately, the tooth stayed put. Wiggly, but still in my mouth.

Authors of the CatholicMom's Prayer Companion at the Catholic Writers Guild, July 2016. @franciscanmom
Authors of the CatholicMom’s Prayer Companion at the Catholic Writers Guild, July 2016

I have been babying that stupid tooth all summer long. No corn on the cob for me this year. I would worry that it would fall out during the night and I’d swallow it. Finally, last Wednesday night, I sneezed, and that was it for the tooth. (“No, it didn’t shoot across the room,” I had to tell my kids, who were gleefully imagining that dramatic scenario. It would have at least made for a better story.)

The dentist’s office couldn’t or wouldn’t find a way to move my appointment up.

So yesterday I went in there, having looked like a hockey player (it’s a canine tooth) all week, with my tooth in a sandwich bag.

Then the torture began.

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!


I had my rosary in my pocket. I didn’t take it out, but my hand was right there by my pocket and I just counted off the Hail Marys. 7 decades’ worth. After that, I lost track. I couldn’t even concentrate on the words of the prayers. They worked on me for quite a while before deciding that Novocaine might be a good idea.

I was just sitting there with my eyes closed to keep out the giant light that was right in my face. Enduring. Opening my mouth and biting down, on command.

And then, while my eyes were shut, I was asked to “open” and in went an impression tray thick with goo. There was no warning. (I’m practically having a post-traumatic panic attack just typing this.)

I was still shaking, hours later. It took 3 Advil after I got home to dull the pain. I felt like I had to keep my hand over my mouth for over an hour, because it hurt so much, and for some reason my brain told me I needed to do that. And for what? A temporary crown for the next 15 days–so still, no corn on the cob. Nothing that requires me to bite. If I eat pizza, it’ll be with a knife and fork.

Some offering-up happened, and I hope that helped the people for whom I was suffering.

I’m still kind of sore, so if you can use a little suffering on your behalf, say the word. I’ll share a prayer and maybe hope that this pain can mean something to someone.

And when this is all over, when the new crown is in and the 2 cavities are filled, when TheKid’s molars have been sealed and I’ve paid the bills that were not in the budget, I’ll be going on the hunt for a new dentist. I’ve broken up with dentists over less than this.

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#WorthRevisit: What I Like about His School

I wish this were still the school's slogan.

Yesterday I vented on Facebook because I had to print (again) and sign (again) the technology-use agreement and tablet PC contract for TheKid’s school. I say “again” because I know I printed and signed those and hand-delivered them to school on registration day.

9 years ago the school went “paperless,” so the irony here does not escape me.

But as the conversation turned toward how long it takes me to write my last name on all these forms, I remembered an episode during Big Brother’s senior year that exemplifies the best about this school and the people who study and work there.

I wish this were still the school's slogan.
I wish this were still the school’s slogan.

Big Brother traveled to Mississippi with a cold and came back with airplane ear. So today I made a doctor appointment for him; this way he won’t have to suffer through the weekend. The plan was, I’d pick him up at school to sign him out at 11:30. He wouldn’t miss much class time that way.

The phone rang at 10:45; it was one of Big Brother’s former teachers. She wanted to let me know that Big Brother had fainted during Mass, and that an ambulance had been called.


We only live 5 minutes away from the school, and I explained that I was taking Big Brother to the doctor today anyway. Did he have to go to the ER? The teacher passed the phone to the principal, who promised to hold the ambulance until I got there.

Let me tell you, it’s pretty freaky to run out your front door and hear sirens that you know are responding to your child’s medical emergency–and that will get there before you do. Naturally, I hit both red lights on the way to the school, but once I was in the school’s long, narrow, winding back driveway, I set a new land-speed record (42 MPH in a 15-MPH zone, in the van. Usually my top speed is 37 in TheDad’s zippy little sedan.) Let’s just say it was a good thing that the police officers were already inside the school and not following me up that back driveway.

Running into the building, I was met by the principal, vice principal, several teachers and other staff members, some police officers and a paramedic–and a very pale Big Brother in a wheelchair. His worried-looking girlfriend was also in the hallway. I explained to the paramedic that Big Brother had a medical appointment in an hour, and signed the release form. Big Brother’s girlfriend headed to his locker to get the books he needed for the weekend. His English teacher teased him about going to great lengths to avoid the vocabulary test scheduled in her class later that morning. The priest exited the auditorium and spoke with Big Brother, making sure that he hadn’t scared him when he anointed him after his fainting spell.

I’m thankful that the doctor thinks Big Brother will be just fine; he was a bit dehydrated and has bronchitis. A Z-pack and plenty of fluids will get him past that. I’m thankful for the priest who took the time to anoint Big Brother and to stop by and see him after Mass. I’m thankful for the vice-principal who walked us to the van, just to make sure Big Brother was steady on his feet. I’m thankful for the teacher who called the house just after we got home, because students in her homeroom were worried, and for the teacher who told me to send her a text message after the doctor visit, because she was worried. I’m thankful for all the kids who texted Big Brother throughout the afternoon, checking up on him.

What I didn’t mention in that post was that when the ambulance crew got to school, they asked my son his name as part of their routine evaluation. A teacher told me after I arrived that my son’s response had the EMTs thinking they had a concussion victim on their hands; she had to assure them that this really is how our last name is spelled.

TheKid had his first soccer scrimmage yesterday, as a freshman at the same school. His coach was trying to get his attention while he was on the field and mispronouncing his last name badly; TheKid wasn’t ignoring the coach–he just didn’t think he was the one the coach was yelling at.

TheKid and his crazy-long last name are just beginning to make their way in this school. Mispronunciations and lost paperwork aside, I know it’s a good place. I know, even though they don’t use this slogan anymore, that he belongs there.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Never Say Never: My Bullet Journal

Trying out the bullet journal: Never say never @franciscanmom

The Bullet Journal is THE THING in the planning & productivity world these days.

“It’s a fad,” I said. “A bullet journal is not going to work for me.”

And then last week I went on vacation. I didn’t take my computer and I didn’t take my planner.

So I started a bullet journal in the small notebook I’d brought with me, in case I needed to write anything down.

It just seemed to make sense. And that whole index-at-the-beginning thing? A lifesaver!

My Michele Quigley Catholic planner. @franciscanmom

I’m a confirmed fan of the paper planner, and a loyal customer of Michele Quigley, whose planners I love because they are beautiful, well-made in a family business, functional and contain all kinds of useful Catholic data like the daily readings, saint of the day, quotes from saints, papal prayer intentions and more.

My Michele Quigley Catholic planner. @franciscanmom

I purchased the notebook addition for the back of the planner and use that as my “bullet journal” for work. I also have a section there for organizing book reviews, because I don’t want those to fall through the cracks (that’s not the way to stay on the good side of authors and publishers!)

I wasn’t using a bullet journal for anything else, but did have a brain-dump notebook that I used on and off through the winter and spring. That sort of fell off when summer came along.

Since I double-dog-dared Deanna Bartalini to try (and report on) using the bullet journal and have actually begun using one myself, I figure that the least I can do is play along and link up at her post.

Like Deanna, I’m not out to create a work of art here. I might use a ruler to make a vertical line–that’s it (my notebook is ruled, not graph paper). And look: I don’t even use the same color pen for everything. It’s random–and that’s OK.

My bullet journal @franciscanmom

Unlike Deanna, I’m not using this as my planner. It’s a notebook with indexed pages for whatever I need to write down at a particular time. During my vacation, I used it to track:

  • micro-reviews of books I read on the trip (7 total) for input into Goodreads after my return
  • some brainstorming for the regular feature I’ll be writing for Today’s Catholic Teacher
  • a list of dinner ideas
  • items to discuss with TheKid’s guidance counselor regarding what his classroom teachers will need to know about diabetes
  • “random airport sightings” — things that popped into my head while we sat in the San Juan airport for 6 hours. (Times like that, I wish I were a fiction writer. There was lots of story fodder going on, and I don’t mean that in an uncharitable way. Airports are fascinating places for people-watching.)

Once I let go of the idea that it had to LOOK good, I found that the bullet journal really can work for me!

Have you tried using a bullet journal? Join the linkup at and share what works (and doesn’t work) for you!

Trying out the bullet journal: Never say never @franciscanmom

Small Success: Sleep-Deprived Edition

Today's Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’ll say one thing right up front: it’s going to be a BIG success today if I manage to stay awake during my Adoration hour at noon. I’ve been up since about 3:30 AM, on diabetes duty. (Thank you, soccer tryouts that run from 5 to 7:30 and mess with blood sugars hours later. Hubs had 2 sleepless nights in a row, so last night was my turn. TheKid was in the safe zone by 4:15, but by then I was good and awake.) Sitting in a quiet place for an hour is going to be dangerous. I hope my guardian angel can keep me from snoozing in the chapel!

There’s been a lot of post-vacation catching up going on at work and at home. All the suitcases except one (containing miscellaneous snorkel gear, rain jackets and souvenirs) have been unpacked. I’m slowly getting my pile of books to review in order, and the clean laundry (8 loads on Monday!) is working its way back toward the drawers and closets.

I didn’t lose any weight on vacation, despite the fact that I basically doubled my daily walking mileage. But I didn’t gain any weight on vacation either, so that’s a victory right there.

Yesterday I took TheKid for his uniforms for high school. Because I hoarded saved hand-me-downs from the Big Kids, he’s all set for dress shirts (those things will never die!), golf shirts and sweaters. All I had to buy was pants and shorts, which were still way too expensive. He’d better not outgrow these anytime soon. Gym uniforms have to be purchased at school, so that’ll be tomorrow’s fun.

Today's Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover
Today’s Catholic Teacher fall 2016 cover

The Fall 2016 issue of Today’s Catholic Teacher is out, containing my first-ever magazine article! For future issues, I’m working on the Bulletin Board feature, and I have another full-length article coming in the summer 2017 issue. I’m excited about that!

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Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

#WorthRevisit: Unplugged Vacation

Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.

Last week we were on vacation. I didn’t tell you we were going.

There’s a reason for that, as I explained last year after our family vacation, in a Tech Talk article at CatholicMom:

We just didn’t want to let the whole world know that nobody was home at our house. It’s a safety thing.

You might think that if you mark your Facebook posts “friends” instead of “public” that you’re safer. And you are. But you never know who’s looking over your friends’ shoulders. As for Twitter and Instagram, everything you tweet and ‘gram is broadcast for the whole world to see.

And it’s not like we have a common last name. So we chose the “better to be safe than sorry” route this vacation. My photos never did make it to Instagram. That’s OK.

Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.
Caribbean Sunrise, August 2016.

I just pulled the vacation photos from my camera’s memory card this morning. It’ll take a while to go through them, but I do hope to share more of the beauty we experienced.

As for the tweets, I’ll bet you didn’t even miss them.

I actually stayed unplugged (no cell phone except for the camera function, no Internet, no text messages, no email) for over 7 days. No, I didn’t get the shakes! I read 7 books, played board games, ate too much fancy food, admired scenery, napped, and stayed out of the sun.

Good times. Even without Instagram.

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Small Success: It’s a Thursday


Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

So usually I’m all perky and say, “celebrating the ways in which things have gone right!” But today, the little things haven’t. I’m really reaching for the Small Success today.

“It’s a Thursday,” I observed in the middle of this afternoon, as my daughter and I commiserated on all the little things that had gone wrong for both of us all day.

Thursdays were always my daughter’s tough day. Mondays had nothing on Thursdays for her. Thursdays were Murphy’s Law and Monday all rolled into one. My daughter’s trials and tribulations are not mine to share, but today I was having a Thursday too.

I didn’t get to Mass because my tire pressure light went on in the car after I dropped TheKid off at theatre camp. I drove around searching for a gas station with a working air pump. User error meant that I figured out which tire was low but couldn’t manage to fill it. Hubs was late for work because he had to deal with my panic and my tire (with the air compressor he has at home).

It snowballed from there. And then I picked up TheKid at 3, found out that he had to be back at camp at 5:30 for the show tonight, and then read through the new recipe I’d chosen for dinner.

Note to self: never choose a new recipe for dinner when it’s a show night.

This dish simmers for 2 hours after about 25 minutes of prep. It wasn’t looking good for the new recipe.

I jumped back into the car and zipped over to ShopRite for some chicken drumsticks so I could make Miss Jill’s Chicken, which is extra-appropriate since it’s a theatre recipe.

The chicken is in the oven and on track to be done at 4:45 so we can eat and get back to the theatre in time for him to put on his costume and me to help set up concessions for pre-show sales.

The meat for the Swiss steak will go into the freezer for another day, when I have 2 1/2 hours to be home to simmer it.

There are 2 real successes here. OK, 3.

  1. I didn’t completely lose my mind when the dinner plan fell apart.
  2. I hadn’t started cooking that Swiss steak before I noticed that it takes as long as it does to cook.
  3. I didn’t buy, let alone consume, a Milky Way at ShopRite when I ran over there for chicken legs. (All bets are off on this one if there’s good candy at the concession table tonight.)

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Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

#OpenBook: July 2016 Reads

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The first Wednesday of each month, Carolyn Astfalk hosts #OpenBook, where bloggers link posts about books they’ve read recently. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been reading:


pickup notesPickup Notes by Jane Lebak. This story will rid you of any idea that string quartets are boring. The novel centers on the violist in a NYC-based quartet; Joey struggles against toxic family circumstances, a night job collecting tolls at a Brooklyn tunnel, and her own doubts about everything from her music to her ability to be a friend. Mix in an intriguing romantic situation, some well-placed snark and three more musicians and you have a recipe for a winner of a story. I had a hard time putting this novel down–and I didn’t want it to end.

they almost always come homeThey Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti. This was a harrowing tale about a woman in a difficult marriage whose husband leaves for a 2-week fishing trip in northern Canada and does not return. Overcoming her anger at him for getting out before she could is her true concern for his safety. She organizes a search party with her best friend and her father-in-law. While only her father-in-law has wilderness experience, the three journey to retrace her husband’s steps in the hope of finding answers.

seven riddles to nowhereSeven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan. Perfect for middle-schoolers, this novel centers on a cyber-scavenger hunt reminiscent of “The Westing Game” but with higher stakes–the survival of a beloved school. Kam and his friends are challenged by bullies as they make their way through unfamiliar neighborhoods, seeking clues in churches and racing against time to win an inheritance. This was an advance reader copy–the book will be released by the end of August and I can’t recommend it enough. Make a note to check Amazon for this one later in the month, and visit author A.J. Cattapan’s Facebook page to sign up for the release party!

in this house of bredeIn This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this, but I needed a retreat in the form of a novel that would draw me in with its overwhelming peace–and this was just the thing. This book is a masterpiece.


pope francis takes the busPope Francis Takes the Bus by Rosario Carello. What’s Pope Francis really like? You’ve heard bits and pieces in news stories about him paying his own hotel bill, riding the bus around Buenos Aires and forgoing a plush Papal apartment in favor of a life in community. Italian journalist Rosario Carello has put together eighty vignettes from the life of Pope Francis in a book that will help readers get to know the Pope.
My full review is here.


Links to books in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchases made through these links support Thank you!

Follow my Goodreads reviews for the full list of what I’ve read recently (even the duds!)

Visit today’s #OpenBook post to join the linkup or just get some great ideas about what to read! You’ll find it at Carolyn Astfalk’s A Scribbler’s Heart and at!

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#WorthRevisit: A Podcast About Worry that I Need to Hear Again

from fear to faith

I chose this fairly-recent post for Worth Revisit Wednesday because right now I’m feeling pretty anxious and overwhelmed, and I need to revisit Jeff and Gary’s podcast!

I figured I’d catch up on an episode of The Catholic Foodie Show. Yesterday’s program featured Gary Zimak, a Catholic author and speaker who lives in a neighboring town and who specializes in the subject of fear, worry and faith.

As Gary and Jeff shared about worry and how it tends to short-circuit prayer (except for the “God, help me!” kind), they encouraged listeners to remember to always praise God.

That reminded me of a line from St. Francis of Assisi’s Letter to the Faithful. Copy this down and put it where you’ll see it every day:

Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, and serve him with great humility.

This is going to be my focus, going forward. Let’s see where it takes me.

from fear to faithRight now I’m reading Gary’s book From Fear to Faith: A Worrier’s Guide to Discovering Peace. It’s an excellent book to bring to Adoration. Chapters are short and there’s a lot of room for thought, prayer and reflection.

You can listen to this podcast here. When you’re done listening, bookmark the Breadbox Media website or download their app (free for iOS and Android) so you can find your favorite Catholic radio shows online or listen to archived episodes!

The fine print: the link to Gary Zimak’s book is an Amazon affiliate link, which puts a little extra in my pocket at no cost to you when you purchase this book through my link. Thanks!

worth revisit

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Monday Recap: August 1, 2016

Monday recap 2016 edition

Less cooking, more reading–that’s been July’s theme.


Pineapple salsa goes great with shrimp tacos, chicken and more!Meatless Friday: Cilantro-Lime Shrimp with Pineapple Salsa. Don’t worry about heating up the house when you cook this easy summer meal. Here’s my recipe for cilantro-lime shrimp with sweet pineapple salsa.


The novel "Alligator Creek" features scenes from the Battle of Gettysburg.Book Notes: Alligator Creek. If you’ve ever visited a Civil War battlefield, I recommend Alligator Creek for your next summer read.


pictures of meBook Notes: Cultivating Empathy in a Selfie World. Summer vacation may be the best time to school ourselves and our children on ways to demonstrate kindness and compassion. I review “Unselfie” and “Pictures of Me,” two books centered on the development of empathy.


pope francis takes the busBook Notes: Pope Francis Takes the Bus. Rosario Carello’s new book, Pope Francis Takes the Bus, centers on the Pope’s humility as his distinguishing trait. I review the book and explain how children and adults alike can benefit from the stories inside.


meatless-friday-redesignMeatless Friday: Father’s Favorites. Need some quick inspiration for a simple, delicious meatless meal? Try one of these recipes, brought to you by three parish priests.

At Cook and Count

Tortellini salad: quick, easy meatless meal.Simple Tortellini Salad. A cool pasta dish for hot summer evenings.


Chicken with Zucchini and MushroomsChicken with Zucchini and Mushrooms. It’s zucchini time! If your neighbor is leaving squash in your mailbox, this recipe is for you.

At Carolyn Astfalk’s “My Scribbler’s Heart” Blog

Deliciously gooey Chocolate Marshmallow Peanut Brownies!A Taste of Summer (with recipes!). In this guest blog post I share 3 favorite summer recipes, including Chocolate Marshmallow Peanut Brownies, pictured here.

Monday recap 2016 edition

Small Success: Live and In Person

Authors of the CatholicMom's Prayer Companion at the Catholic Writers Guild, July 2016. @franciscanmom

Thursdays at begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

I’m pretty sure I know what book Sherry is reading, based on what she says in her post. I’m actually reading the same book: Little Sins Mean a Lot by Elizabeth Scalia. Really good stuff.

little sins mean a lot

Last weekend I was so fed up with all the politics on social media that when I saw the second or third reference to one of my Favorite Novels Ever in Scalia’s book, I bailed on all the rest and took refuge in that novel. It was practically a retreat. Highly recommended. And that was a huge success for me.


Another huge success: getting to meet (live and in person) about 1/5 of the contributors to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion (coming in August! Preorder yours now!)

CM Prayer Companion cover art

Here we all are! I’m in the back, with the Tall People™ for once!

CM prayer companion authors photo
Photo taken by contributor Rakhi McCormick on Lisa Hendey’s cell phone.Shared by Lisa Hendey on Facebook.

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Share your Small Successes at by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

Book links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase through these links supports this website. Thank you!