Thursday, September 10, 2015

First article on catholic365

Just copying and pasting. I wrote it a couple of weeks ago.

Musings on Bike-Riding While Listening to Jennifer Fulwiler

9/10/2015 9:00:10 AM

Photo Credit: Flickr/Heather Pugh

So I was ready for a new book doing my evening bike rides, as I hold on to these late summer nights with a passion. South Dakota being the kind of state where frosts are common when the calendar has not yet turned to autumn.

Mind you, mine is the bike we bought for our then tween daughter some three years ago, a cruiser from a discount store, rusted handlebars, not a single gear, and a rattling mudguard. My middle-aged-mother-of-seven-body must look wonderful on the baby-blue two-wheeler, what with my colorful Birkenstocks and college-son helmet that does not quite fit. Let’s say I could leave that bike anywhere around the beautiful campus grounds where I ride nightly and no student in their right mind would be tempted to take it.

Who cares, I'm having a blast going on my bike rides listening to good books these days! I had finished a beautiful, intense and serious book entitled Trusting God with Saint Therese, a collection of spiritual reflections on the life of the renowned saint, and I was ready for something different and funny. I could count on Jennifer's humor, and clicked on my Kindle copy of her latest book, Like Living Among Scorpions: One Woman's Quest to Survive Her Suburban Life.

Jennifer Fulwiler is able to deliver the humor on audio to get me smiling, and believe me, at this point in life I have become quite picky with what type of humor is actually going to entertain me. Most of it always sounds cheesy or worse, I am sad to say. Like Living Among Scorpions opens up with the funniest foreword I have ever read. The very first line states that nobody reads forewords, which is of course true. The foreword’s author goes on to say that she had to learn to even spell the word!

After an opening like that, though, how could I stop? Besides, when you are listening to something from your iPhone that is in your pocket through an ancient Blackberrry-age earbud that barely works because all the good ones your kids have taken away from you, it is not as if you have the choice to skip a foreword. Not only that, but this is not an audio-book app like Audible. I listen to Kindle books via my personal assistant Siri, who in my phone has the Irish accent. So this is Jennifer Fulwiler the Irish lass.

The book’s first pages were as good as good funny things are: the foreword’s author manages to both make fun of Jennifer and praise her! Her generosity. Her kindness and service, despite her hectic work schedule that is already on top of her raising six young kids. My eyes teared up. Me, the woman who does not cry in movies unless it is Christmas andIt’s a Wonderful Life is showing. Indeed, I felt like the author of the foreword revealed another dimension of the fascinating person Jennifer is. She peels another layer and let us see even the more real Jenifer than she allows herself to be seen, be it through her own writing or live lectures.

By this time, I was approaching the campus quad area where I ride these late summer evenings, and the opening chapter flooded me with Jennifer’s account of scorpions of gigantic proportions attempting to devour every one of hers and Joe's children in their home in Austin, Texas. You have to read it to appreciate it. It is scary! The international students on campus, already divided into noisy soccer teams and making use of every grassy area on the first day of classes, glanced and me and thought American women amusing. We ride our bikes near their animated games laughing at we listen to our iPhones through our mismatching contraptions.

Not only menacing scorpions, but centipedes of phenomenal proportions and other fascinating fauna specimens, along with a hilarious mother-in-law, come to play interesting roles in this book of chronicles of the Fulwiler daily life. It goes on reminding me of my own days with a whole bunch of little kids at home. Of course, I did not have the other side of life that Jennifer has, the one with the make-up, the radio shows, the gorgeous appearance and the many Catholic conferences she speaks at, but I am happy I did not. Truthfully, you almost feel sorry for her when you see her at a conference, because you remember how you missed your kids when you were far away from them, and they were still little. She takes it all in stride because she knows it is her mission in life, and she responds to the calling in amazing style.

Perhaps what I most enjoyed doing this 5-mile bike ride was when she made the decision to be an at-home mom when she was pregnant with the first one. She studied everything about being pregnancy and child raising, and became judgmental about all of the young parents she came across: she just knew how they were doing everything the wrong way! They did not know anything about the benefits of breast-feeding, about child discipline, about the necessary healthy habits children must grow up with. Fast forward to a scene in her life when her kids are eating junk food, watching TV, and throwing things from cabinets onto the floor… She has now realized the arrogance of her pre-baby parental self!

Aha! Have we not been there? How many times my fellow friend-mothers and I sit down with coffee and state the very same things! How motherhood brings us to humility, wisdom, and practical sense. How with each child we grow and become closer and closer to God because we learn about sacrifice, total giving, and humility. And of course, bliss, in one of these of God’s many paradoxes. How we wish so many other people would be open to life and have the courage and generosity to have more children because that has brought us so much reward and happiness. Plus a plethora of funny stories to laugh about later!

Like an evening riding a bike that is old and rusty and rattles… Even if you really will never be able to afford a nice bike from the local cool bike shop, you enjoy the free time that the older kids now provide… and you feel like you are the happiest person on this earth. You are listening to a wonderfully funny book, written by a like-minded author, and enjoying each moment outside, a beautiful South Dakotan prairie horizon sunset just ahead.

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About the Author

Ana Braga-Henebry

Writing has been a passion since primary school in her native Rio de Janeiro, where Ana grew up the seventh of a noisy, large, and happy Catholic family. She graduated with an Art degree from a small Catholic college and came to the USA to pursue graduate work, when she met her husband Geoff, now a university professor and international scientist. Their seven children range from 14 to 28 years old and as they grow into adulthood they enjoy activities like sending their parents postcards from all the continents of the world, including a recent sent from the single Post Office in Antarctica! As a mother at home, embracing Catholic family life centered on both faith and academics, Ana have been active in myriad ways as she watched her children grow in virtue and in excellence. They have grown to be Geography experts, piano and voice virtuosi, young successful professionals, dedicated teachers, classical language scholars and budding artists.

During her homeschooling career of over twenty years, she has always been very involved in local homeschool groups, teaching Art, Geography, History, and Latin to small groups among other things. She taught NFP and has written Catholic plays for children, as well as articles and features for Catholic periodicals. Ana is the author of the Catholic Textbook Project workbooks, and wrote the chapter on Geography in the the book "Why Should I Learn This?" (edited by Maureen Wittman, 2015) She has been a book reviewer for 20+ years for various sites including Love2Learn and In just about every place they have lived (and there were many of them!), Ana has led book clubs for women. An occasional poet, Ana was recently awarded a national poetry prize from the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.

With the two youngest now quite self-propelled as part-time homeschoolers, Ana is beginning to look into ways to become more involved in her parish and community. She has a few writing projects in the back burner... and a supportive husband who wants to read her stuff. She thanks God for a life filled with adventure and fulfillment, and continues asking everyday for His guidance and His blessing.

Ana can be reached at

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