In 20 Months, They Paid Off $82,000 in Debt

Interesting post posted several years ago at The Minimalist Mom.  If you’re up to your neck in debt, this might provide inspiration.

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Trying to Conceive Soon After Pregnancy Loss May Increase Chances of Live Birth

Couples who attempt to conceive within three months after losing an early pregnancy, defined as less than 20 weeks gestation, have the same chances, if not greater, of achieving a live birth than those who wait for three months or more, according to a National Institutes of Health study.

This finding, published today in Obstetrics & Gynecology, questions traditional advice that couples should wait at least three months after a loss before attempting a new pregnancy. The World Health Organization, for example, recommends waiting a minimum of six months between a pregnancy loss and a subsequent attempt.

“Couples often seek counseling on how long they should wait until attempting to conceive again,” said Enrique Schisterman, Ph.D., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) and senior author of the study. “Our data suggest that women who try for a new pregnancy within three months can conceive as quickly, if not quicker, than women who wait for three months or more.”

Previous studies of pregnancy spacing have focused on when women should become pregnant after experiencing a loss, but few have addressed the question of when couples should start trying to conceive.

In the current study, researchers analyzed data from the Effects of Aspirin in Gestation and Reproduction (EAGeR) trial, a multisite block-randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial  that took place from 2007 to 2011. The trial, which evaluated the effect of daily low-dose aspirin on reproductive outcomes in women with a history of pregnancy loss, enrolled 1,228 women aged 18 to 40 years. NICHD investigators concentrated on 1,083 of these women, more than 99% of whom had lost a pregnancy at less than 20 weeks gestation. None of the women had either of two potential complications of pregnancy: a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy or a molar pregnancy (growth of abnormal fetal tissue in the uterus).  The participants were followed for up to six menstrual cycles and, if they became pregnant, until the outcome of their pregnancy was known.

The researchers found that more than 76% of the women attempted to conceive within three months after losing a pregnancy. Compared to those who waited longer, this group was more likely to become pregnant (69% vs. 51%) and to have a pregnancy leading to a live birth (53% vs. 36%). The investigators did not observe any increase in the risk of pregnancy complications in this group.

“While we found no physiological reason for delaying attempts at conception following a pregnancy loss, couples may need time to heal emotionally before they try again,” said Karen Schliep, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the NICHD Epidemiology Branch at the time of the study and primary author of the study. “For those who are ready, our findings suggest that conventional recommendations for waiting at least three months after a loss may be unwarranted.”

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You’d Think Lent Was Here . . .

It’s not, of course.  But for many people, January 1 is the time for “new beginnings” and thus there’s a lot of media attention to new habits to make you healthier, wealthier and happier.

Two that I want to bring to your attention:

1.  The Minimalist Mom blog is promoting a clutter cleanse, beginning with the closet.

Here’s the introductory post, which promises “You can do this even if you’re reading this under a pile of laundry, old mail and wrapping paper.”

And, if you’re inclined to use the start of the New Year to clean out your closet, well, that’s the project for Clutter Cleanse Week 1.  As much as anything, I think this is about mental attitude.  She asks, “Are you wearing everything in your closet regularly? If you aren’t wearing everything in your closet frequently why is that? Are things too big, too small, out dated, need mending, don’t go with anything you wore or you don’t have an occasion to wear them? Start asking yourself these questions as you look through those hangars.”  Read more here.

Somewhat the same concept is discussed by best-selling author Jennifer Scott (Lessons from Madame Chic) in this YouTube video.  It’s actually an enjoyable, funny TED talk.

And what to do with the stuff left over once you’ve decluttered?  Marie Kondo has a solution, detailed in the Washington Post.

2.  The other Lent-like item in the media was in Sunday’s Washington Post.  Michelle Singletary, a personal finance columnist, urges readers to take a “financial fast” for 21 days.  It’s sufficiently rigorous that it meets my idea of a penitential practice for Lent.  Read more here.

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Knights Call for Action to Protect Syrian, Iraq Christians, Others

Carl Anderson, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Knights of Columbus urged the U.S. to address the on-going crisis of Christian and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization, Anderson urged:

  1. Congress adopt House Concurrent Resolution 75, which names and decries the ongoing “genocide” against Christians and other vulnerable minorities in Iraq and Syria.
  2. The U.S. State Department publicly acknowledge that genocide is taking place against the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria, including them in its reportedly impending statement on genocide that, according to reports, refers only to Nineveh’s Yazidi community.
  3. The U.S. insist on proper security inside the camps and identify ways to ensure that Christians and other vulnerable minorities from Iraq and Syria are not subject to violence inside UNHCR facilities, including the possibility of providing separate facilities for minorities and hiring professional staff that would include members of the minority communities.
  4. The U.S. government take immediate action to implement its stated policy of “prioritizing” the resettlement of vulnerable minorities, including Christians. In addition, Anderson recommend that the U.S. government end its sole reliance on the UNHCR for refugee referrals and engage private contractors to identify, document and refer Christian, Yazidi and other vulnerable minority refugees from Syria and Iraq who are in need of resettlement.

The Knights of Columbus has donated more than $5 million to assist Christian and other religious minority refugees in the Middle East.  Last week, Anderson and other prominent signatories urged the State Department to classify persecution of Christians as genocide.  Anderson’s testimony and letter can be read here.

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A Storied Newspaper Empire Makes the Case for No Debt

When St. Paul wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,” he wasn’t just talking about personal relations.  The injunction to “owe nothing to anyone” turns out to be sound business advice, too.

Latest case in point:  Hearst Corp.  The owner of such storied newspapers as the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Chronicle remains debt free, Frank Bennack, retired ceo, told a media conference.  “I’ve always been a little risk-averse about having too much debt,” he said.

That’s enabled Hearst to ride through some difficult times in the media business.

“Despite the choppy seas, the company’s newspaper group, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Chronicle, will record its fourth consecutive year of profit growth in 2015. The magazine group will notch its second consecutive year of profit growth,” Steve Swartz, ceo, told the conference.

And to make a series of acquisitions that have propelled the company over the last 35 years from a newspaper and magazine publishing company with three TV stations valued at a total of $700 million to a $10 billion company today.

The fastest growing part of the business today?  Business information and business services.

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Christians Fear Genocide in Refugee Camps, Knights of Columbus Warns

Despite the promise of safe harbor, fleeing Middle Eastern Christians continue to fear the ongoing genocide — even in refugee camps — according to international observers whose voices are being amplified by a new advertising campaign sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

Ad, which ran this week in Roll Call, Politico, and The Hill, highlights Christian fear of genocide in Middle Eastern refugee camps.

The ad, which ran this week in Roll Call, Politico and The Hill, quotes Lord David Alton and MP Fiona Bruce, who recently spoke out about the problem in refugee camps, citing press reports.

The British newspaper The Express reported in late October that “the fanatical jihadis are sending teams of trained killers into camps disguised as refugees to kidnap and kill vulnerable Christians. But refugees are terrified to report many of the killings in case they are targeted next, according to aid workers.”

The story added that when one terrorist got “cold feet” about his assignment, he “then revealed that he had been sent with an Islamist hit squad to eliminate Christians as part of the hate group’s ideological drive to wipe the religion off the map.”

In addition, it noted, “An aid worker at a United Nations (UN) run camp in Jordan, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, revealed that the jihadis are also kidnapping young refugee girls to sell on as sex slaves.”

“It is increasingly clear that because Christians fear that the persecution and genocide will continue in these refugee camps, they often don’t enter them, and as a result find it nearly impossible to qualify for resettlement as refugees,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “This country and others should protect those who are experiencing this genocide. We must ensure that Christians and other religious minorities, who are the most vulnerable people in the region, receive the chance for asylum and don’t simply fall through the bureaucratic cracks.”

This is the second ad the Knights of Columbus has placed on this topic in these publications. The first was released last month and highlighted a quote by Pope Francis: “Genocide is taking place and it must end.” That ad called for passage of a House of Representatives resolution to protect religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus has donated more than $4.4 million to assist Christians and other religious minorities now facing extinction in the Middle East.

Most recently, the program donated $500,000 to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) earlier this month to support the Jordanian Catholic Church’s schooling of Syrian and Iraqi refugees at 18 Jordanian Catholic schools. Earlier in the fall, the Knights spent more than $800,000 to provide food assistance for more than 13,500 displaced families and brought an Iraqi child to the United States for specialized medical care.

Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization with nearly 1.9 million members worldwide. It is also one of the most active charitable organizations in the United States. The Knights also set a new record for charitable giving in 2014 with donations of more than $173.5 million and 71.5 million hours of service to charitable causes, much of it raised and donated by its more than 15,000 councils.

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Time for Fasting

Today is not just Veterans Day, but also the Feast of St. Martin.  It’s a day many members of the Confraternity of Penitents (CFP) dread — at least those who has passed a certain point in their formation —  because tomorrow begins a Great Fast, that will run every day (except Sundays and solemnities) until Christmas.

CFP members are in a sort of perpetual fasting state: two meals a day, no snacks year round.  So when they officially fast, they reduce further the amount of food they take in.

The U.S. Catholic bishops require Catholics to fast just two days a year — Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  As anyone who has done that will tell you, a one-day fast is nothing.  Fast for 30 or 40 days and you will definitely experience hunger.  “It’s real suffering,” one member says.  Another observes that the No. 1 reason people don’t pledge to live the life of a penitent is fasting.  Done well, it’s really difficult.

So why fast?  To begin with, Jesus expects us to.  He didn’t say, “if you fast . . .”.  He said “When you fast.”  (Matthew 6:16).  He also said there are many demons that “can be driven out only by prayer and fasting.”  (Matthew 17:21).

Second, fasting not only makes us hungry, it makes us humble.  It’s likely that someone doing a sustained fast will sneak a bit of food at some point, an action that shows our human weakness.  Good likes humble people.

Third, it give us the opportunity to pray.  As hunger pangs wash over us, we can “offer it up” to God, praying that those who lack sufficient food — especially refugees from Islamic State and others in the Mideast — might have food.

Fasting during advent using to be standard for Catholic.  In times such as these — with Christians under attack in the Mideast, and our own government seeking to require us to do things we shouldn’t, in good conscience, to, more of us ought to be fasting.

But most of us won’t.  So as you enjoy the chocolate in your advent calendar, pray for those who are fasting, and for their intentions.

And if you’d like to try sustained fasting, here are two helpful suggestions:

  1.  Simply cut back the amount you eat.  Suppose you regularly have dessert at dinner — or a cocktail.  Eliminate the desert or cocktail.  It isn’t much, but . . .
  2. Or, using a program like, determine your recommended caloric intake — and don’t exceed it.  Or, if you routinely eat less than your recommended calorie count, cut your normal intake by 100 or 2oo calories a day.

For another view, see “Whatever became of Advent Fasting and Penance,” by Msgr. Charles Pope, here.  For a fuller description of St. Martin’s Fast, from CFP, see here.


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Book Review: Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Witness to Joy

My wife likes murder.  Whether it’s a fictional account or a real-life story presented on TV, she loves to read and watch murders.  My youngest daughter likes horror flicks.  The bloodier the better.

Me?  Mary Poppins is more my style.  As is No, No Nanette, a 1928 musical which I saw a number of times in the early 1970s.  My approach to life is summed up in a song from No, No Nanette — “I want to be happy.”

As a professional journalist, I’ve covered my share of grisly stories.  When it’s part of the job, I can do that.  When it’s on my time, in my easy chair, I don’t like them.

Our family has had it’s share of sorrow:  We lost our second daughter, Susan, in utero to consackie B virus.  Our older daughter had a severe case of depression at age 16.

So it should be no surprise to readers that I put down the just-released Chiara Corbella Petrillo:  A Witness to Joy by Simone Troisi and Cristiana Paccini (Sophia Institute Press).

The outline of the story is well known:  A young Italian couple gives birth to a child who dies within an hour.  A second child dies even quicker.  Then they have a successful pregnancy, but learn Chiara has cancer.  They have to make a choice:  the baby or Chiara, and they chose to not treat Chiara’s cancer until after the baby is born.  That decision costs Chiara her life.

The title accurate reflects the book’s message.  Each saint has a particular charisma, and Chiara’s was to be a witness to joy in the face of great tragedy and adversity, much as the Blessed Mother was a witness as she stood at the foot of the cross.

It’s an important book, well-written and well edited.  There are many people who will benefit from reading it.

As for me, I’m more like St. Peter who ran from the Lord’s suffering, but rejoiced at His resurrection.

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How Confessing ‘Little’ Sins Can Change Your Life

I think we miss the whole value of Confession if we focus just on major sins — because we probably don’t have that many of them.  But the “little” sins — the venial sins — well, I have plenty of them, whether its eating far too much (my doctor put me on a 1400-calorie-a-day diet, so overeating is the sin of gluttony) or being really angry at some of our local drivers, or . . .  And I suspect that if you think about it, you have one or two venial sins you’d like to work on.

Confession is just perfect for that.  You have an accountability partner who should be able to give you really good advice that will make you, in Matthew Kelley’s great phrase, the “best version of yourself.”  Confessing the “little” sins has changed my life, and I’ll bet it can change yours, too.

Here’s a reflection from Msgr. Charles Pope that delves into this a bit more.

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What Europe Can Learn from St. Stephen of Hungary

Night after night, our TV screens are inundated by heart-wrenching images of Syrian and Libyan refugees fleeing the violence wreaked by the Islamic State upon their native land, of the bodies of refugee children washed up on the shore.

Surging into Europe, they are causing European politicians great angst:  Will the Muslim hordes over-tax their social services?  Will they change their culture?  We’re told there hasn’t been such a refugee flow since World War II.

The Europeans are getting exactly what they deserve.  They chose, willingly, to ignore Jeremiah 22:3:  “Do what is right and just.  Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor.”

Whether they welcome refugees or not isn’t the point.  The moral imperative is to “rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor” — not merely to provide sanctuary for those who manage to escape the war zone.

Rescue is an active verb.  It doesn’t imply sitting around, waiting for desperate people to turn up on your doorstep and then welcoming them.  It implies going to the place where they are in danger, and ending the danger.  When it’s just one or a few suffering at the hands of an oppressor, simply getting the victim out may do the job.  When the victims are hundreds of thousands, rescuing the victim may involve eliminating the oppressor.

But wait, many will say.  Didn’t Jesus tell us that when someone slaps us, we should turn the other check?  He did.  But that begs the question:  Europe is not the one being slapped, it’s the refugees.  The refugees are doing exactly what people always do in such circumstances — try to get away from danger.  That’s why they are flooding into Europe.

Jesus also made clear that he didn’t come to repeal or repudiate the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.  And, as noted, the Prophet Jeremiah makes it clear that the “right and just” action is to “rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor.”

There is no way around  military action to rescue these victims from the hand of the oppressor.  Europe’s leaders — and President Obama — know it.

So why haven’t they done anything?  The short answer is cowardice.  Europe was pretty much decimated by World Wars I and II.  There’s no stomach to run the risk of repeating those disasters.

A somewhat longer answer is the same reason that you haven’t seen Arab or Muslim nations step up:  They know they don’t have the experience to be competent from the get-go.  Their troops haven’t engaged in sustained combat, and their generals and other leaders don’t have experience directing major military actions.

Only the U.S. has that sort of experience, and President Obama has made clear he hasn’t the stomach to engage and defeat ISIS on the ground, which is what is required to “rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor.”

Which brings us to St. Stephen of Hungary. King of that nation around 1,000 A.D., he fought only defensive wars — wars needed to defend his people and their lands from others.

Catholic doctrine speaks of a “just war.”  All war is hell, as all soldiers know.    Some suggest that because Jesus said, “Blessed be the peacemakers,” war is simply prohibited.  But they conveniently ignores Jesus’s teaching, which is fully in line with that of Jeremiah:  “Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

And if one believes, as Catholics profess, that all Scripture is divinely inspired, how can one ignore Ecclesiastes 3:3, which tells us frankly, “There is a time to kill”?  Or Luke 3:14, which tells us that when asked by soldiers what they should do, John the Baptist didn’t tell them to lay down their arms.  Instead, he counseled: “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.” Why didn’t he tell them to lay down their arms?  Because their job was to maintain the “Peace of Rome;” they were the peacemakers.

In Romans 13:4, St. Paul tells us that “rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

What has happened in Syria and Libya is a crime of the highest order.  It is long past time for the nations of the world — and especially for Europe and the Muslim nations of Arabia and North Africa — to intervene to re-establish peace and to enable the refugees to return to their homelands.

It would help immensely, of course, for much of the fighting to be done by the refugees themselves.  They need training on an immense and urgent scale.  They need leaders who have been in battle, who can provide the example.  People learn quickly in combat, but casualties can be greatly reduced if inexperienced troops are accompanied by experienced soldiers.  That means, unfortunately for Europe and the U.S., there will need to be “boots on the ground.”

Finally, it is not adequate to war war to simply quickly destroy ISIS and similar elements.  There must be a concrete plan and a commitment to return the refugees to their homeland and to rebuild the society ISIS has destroyed.

We had that plan in World War II, which is why within five years of the end of the war Germany and Japan both were functioning reasonably normally.

By destroying ISIS, other Muslim countries, Europe and the U.S. can “rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor.”  By having a massive plan to quickly rebuild Syria and Libya, the U.S., Europe and Muslim allies can be the peacemakers of whom Jesus spoke in the Beatitudes.

St. Stephen of Hungary would have understood that.  One can only hope that the hardened hearts of today’s political leaders in Europe, and, yes, the U.S. can also come to understand.


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