3 weeks ago


There she goes with that click-bait title again.  

I have been dying to share a number of things that’ve been going on over here- and coming from an oversharer, you’ve got to know it’s taken a lot of self control.  

Guys, my family and I got to participate in a short film, created by some very gifted individuals, with a beautiful vision.

Here is the link to that film, at long last: http://thecatholicwoman.co/letterstowomen/2017/3/8/from-carolyn

(All images courtesy of The Catholic Woman)

Here’s a bit more about my story, if you’re interested:
Late last summer, Corynne Staresinic from The Catholic Woman contacted me about a project she was working on; which is to show the world the many diverse faces of the modern catholic woman.  From her website, she says, “Good or bad, right or wrong, many of us have a very vivid idea of who the Catholic woman is.”

If you’d had asked me when I was 20 years old what pops into my head when I hear someone say “the Catholic woman”, I would have probably described a scrupulous, lifeless Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe.

When I was 20, I was struggling with my faith and with what I felt called to do as my vocation.  I didn’t want to get married and absolutely swore never, ever to have even one child.   ….har, har, har, har.

From my experience, when you get married and have kids, you basically throw away your time and talents so that you can wipe bums and feed people all day.  At that time, I did not see how my own mother had turned her gifts into a tool to use to raise my sister, brother, and I. I did not see how she’d handed her skills and talents, time and treasures over to us; how she and my dad raised three more people up in the world with love and goodness, as best as they could, with the prayer that we would leave the world a better place.
  All I could see is that taking care of selfish little kids was a lot of work, a lot of worry, a lot of sacrifice, and no payoff. I didn’t fully understand the Catholic belief of being open to life, and the view of how far reaching a single human life resounds globally and eternally.  

I also struggled with art as my vocation. I knew it was something I’d always do, but as a college student, I didn’t like what I was seeing. 

First of all, I struggled with artistic vanity: the desire for praise and applause.  I saw that my peers had it too, in varying degrees.  Some of us were more skilled and arrogant, some of us were not as skilled, and jealous, others of us were very skilled and still jealous. I didn’t like that part because an unskilled artist is just as human as the skilled one. I’ve seen life like drawings completed out of a perverse ambition to disturb a viewer, and I’ve seen work that while given valiant effort, did not produce the artist’s original and beautiful intent.  I’ve seen how people react– and it always produced a strange worship of the artist.  I see that amplified in culture so deeply today.  Hollywood stars are basically the secular world’s gods and goddesses.  They create something, perform something, maybe shocking, maybe beautiful, and we are obsessed with them.  They’re artists, not gods.

In art school, there was a lot of separation of art from why an artist feels called to beauty– a lot of separation from beauty in general, and instead, a reverence for using art to shock viewers with the artist’s personal prejudices about certain subjects.  In short, I encountered a lot of prejudice against Catholicism.  I remember having a heated discussion during studio in which the person I was talking to only had his own perceptions of what Catholicism is, and from those perceptions, Catholicism seemed truly awful.  But they were so misguided, and misguided by the very people who were educating us that I felt totally defeated.  How can art school engrain perceptions of Catholicism into its students? Aren’t they teaching art? What does art have to do with religion? 

All good questions!  Institutions have thought of these questions and decided to teach us varying historically cherry-picked versions, or at least the worst parts, all skewed in the manner that while many of history’s masterpieces were created out of a “need for” religion, it’s time to shake those old, antiquated chains, now isn’t it?  Let’s dip that Crucifix into a jar of urine and sit back and watch how all the world gazes at the ethereal golden image in awe. 
Additionally, as a woman who was struggling to see her place in the world, I did not see how unless I was going to be painting grand masterpieces on church ceilings, I would ever be able to contribute my fractional talents to any ideal of beauty in the world.  I struggled with thinking that the desire for affirmation attached to creating might be a sinful thing, and therefore my artistic abilities might have to be one of those things where I was supposed to “go to my inner room and close the door, not to boast.” 

In that year a lot happened. 

 John Paul the Great died. I didn’t really know much about the guy, other than he was an old priest who must have been so far removed from real life, living in that shining Vatican City surrounded by those costumed guards that he could not possibly identify with a young female artist. 

WRONG. Ah! So wrong!

The day he died, my Dad called me.  I’d finished my wild freshman year of college, opted to live my second year in an all-girls dorm on the designated “quiet floor.”

“Did you know anything about Karol Wojtyla?” He asked me.  “Not really…” I mumbled, looking out my window at the stormy spring sky.  

My dad, who could have been a history teacher, proceeded to enlighten me about John Paul II’s life previous to becoming a Pope.  I was blown away. 

After the conversation, I sat down in front of my laptop.  The lights were off, and it was raining heavy outside. I found myself reading through various papal encyclicals written by John Paul II on the Vatican website.  My heart stopped as my eyes landed on something:



The opening of his letter broke my heart open. He knew that creative yearning only an artist experiences.  He knew it, and he was a Pope.  I read the entire thing in waves of tears as he took me through biblical and historical reasons for the significance of art in the world, and in the church.  The spiritual spark was lit in me that day.  I suddenly knew that the theories they were teaching me in school didn’t matter, and the teacher’s opinions didn’t matter, and the struggle with vanity and seeking affirmation might always be present, but with a constant offering of glory to God, the first artist, that will be quelled, and filled instead with love and humility. 

He also helped me to see that life itself is a work of art, which we are each called to craft a masterpiece.

I stepped away for a while, from art. I met that insufferable Craig Svellinger, and you know the story. 

After giving birth to Lexington, our first baby, I began a prayer that I will always say as long as I live. It goes like this: 

Lord, show me ways to use my gifts, to do what I love to do, to create art, according to Your will for the world, and for Your ultimate glory.

In many ways, I feel that having the opportunity to participate in The Catholic Woman has been an answer to that prayer I began saying nearly 8 years ago. An answer which I could not have possibly foreseen would have been given to me intertwined with being a wife to a wonderful man, and a mother of four darling boys.
I am so grateful to Corynne for this gift, and hope you will all follow along in her beautiful project

1 month ago

Oh, hey.

Hi. Still here! New year, man, it’s been a fun few months.

Guys, I kid you not, with the exception of about one week, I have been sick since I wrote my last post. I fully blame my medication which makes me (apparently) extremely susceptible to catching everything.  I actually had to stop taking my immune-suppressing arthritis meds for a full month so that I can get better. As of today, I’m dealing with a lingering cough, and it loves me and never wants to let me go. BUT, a cough and a little phlegm is much better than what it was.

I actually lost my voice for about a week, which is hilarious because I have a natural stage voice which has always cut through any illness that could potentially interfere with it’s being heard.  So, having only the power to whisper (I couldn’t even muster a scream-whisper!) for a week, was –well I’d like to have deep reflections about it in relation to peaceful parenting, but I don’t.  It was frustrating.

Jude’s super proud about pillaging the house at all hours and has perfected his technique of getting into something really bad that needs big cleanups, and then darting to something even worse.
At one point he got a hold of a secret stash of hyper pigmented MAGENTA water color and poured the entire bottle onto himself and the carpet (I HATE CARPET WHY DOES CARPET EXIST.)
To give you an idea of the damage one bottle will do: I only need one DROP from a dropper to use for an entire work.
So as I’m scrubbing the carpet with soap and water, it was like that terrible shampoo prank I’ve seen floating around, where a guy hangs out just above someone using a public beach shower, perpetually pouring shampoo unbeknownst to the showering guy, and the suds just get worse and worse until the guy is basically crying.
An hour of scrubbing and carpet shampooing later, I gave up— mostly because by then, Jude has also turned to emptying the fridge of all the yogurts and peeling the lids off of every one, and then tossing whole rolls of tp into each toilet. He also enjoys pouring cups of water into the trash can. And finding my old makeup and spreading what he can on all surfaces. And drowning my potted plants. And getting into my 20lb Costco bag of rice. And the eggs. And he shattered our TV screen.  GUYS, HAVE KIDS!

Living large, that Jude Benedict.

We also endured two losses- my beloved Aunt Suzie, and my childhood parish priest.
Emmett suffered a concussion.  It was terrifying.  He has an extremely high pain tolerance.  I’ve seen the kid run giddily through the house with splinters in the bottoms of each foot.
So when he slipped and fell in the kitchen a few weeks ago, he was instantly crying, and I knew it was a bad one. I held him for a while, and let him go, thinking he was okay, but within minutes he came to me saying, “Do you want to fix the Emmett?” and next thing I know, I’m holding him as he grows pale and lethargic– and begins vomiting nonstop.  To the hospital we went.

Lexington was instrumental in being helpful in that event.  He called Craig while I was holding Emmett over the sink vomiting to tell him what was happening.  Lexington also got Collin and Jude buckled into their carseats while I carried Emmett to the car, and he reassured everyone– Even Emmett while he continued to vomit during the car ride to the hospital, that the doctors will help “fix the Emmett.”
Emmett is fine.  He’s had lots of resting time, and seems to be back to himself.  Though, he does pay more mind when I remind him not to run through the house as he always does.

And lest you stop reading here (or maybe you stopped a many paragraphs back) thinking I love reciting my litanies of woe, I truly have felt that while there have been individual life frustrations and difficult times in the last few weeks, it still isn’t truly bad, and I actually feel more blessed and loved by our Creator. I’ve been blessed to spend a lot of time with family. My sister-in-law drove the 50 minutes from her job, all the way here, in the middle of the week, to relieve my Dad who was watching Lexington, Collin, and Jude, prepared to stay the night with the boys so that Craig and I could be with Emmett in the hospital.

My extended family from Cali flew to Cincinnati for my aunt’s funeral, and being with them is always such a life-breathing renewal.  Lexington being brave and knowing how to help in a stressful situation– my heart bursts with pride over him. Craig is a strong support, and a loving encourager of visiting with my family, taking time for myself, and of working to create more for my Etsy shop– these people showing their love and sacrifice during tough times is God speaking to me.. “you are loved.”
I endeavor to be that as well for my family.

Property of Carolyn Svellinger
Not related at all. My mom is on the far left. My sister and I are the ones with the darkest hair, then there’s Marcie, one of my many, beloved cousins, surrounded by my living four of six aunts. My Uncle Stephen had stepped out of the frame at this point, because I can’t imagine being the oldest and only boy of a family of eight.


Other little things, not so important:

– I completed my Thicket Green shawl (I’m wearing it as a scarf two pictures above), and BEGAN! the goddess shawl I droned on about a few posts back.
– I have announcements! To make! New prints for Etsy! Projects! Events! To come. later. This post is too long.

love to you, friend. Thanks for hanging around the svell blog.

3 months ago

Emmett Things

I still hesitate to write about Emmett. I don’t write as specifically about his brothers. But his brothers are neurotypically normal. Emmett is the mystery who we are just finally getting to know. I hesitate because while I have come to see that the world needs to know more about what Autism is, I also understand that Emmett remains a human person, with his own precious dignity.  I fear that writing about how he navigates the world with a disability in some way objectifies his personhood. I don’t think I do that, but I don’t know. Maybe my word choice somehow does. Maybe using the word “disability” is harmful. He can read what I’m writing, right now. He’s standing here, reading what I type out loud. He laughs when I type funny things. He laughed as he watched me write this story.

I have read numerous times from autistic bloggers that the day they realized there was a name for why they were the way they were was the most liberating day of their lives. In the many moments when Emmett and I are reading together, I have found gentle ways to talk about Autism with him. I don’t know how much he understands, but I hope that eventually he will get it and find peace in it. The same peace I felt when I was told I have AS: Ah, there’s a reason for all of this, I’m not just mad. I continue to write about him, to share to the eyes that will read, but also to Emmett.

You’re my heart, little Bear.

Property of C. Svellinger

Emmett turned 6 just before Christmas and in these short weeks since, his conversational development has noticeably picked up speed.
He still has trouble finding the words to express himself. For example, we were at my brother’s house, celebrating the Epiphany, and there were a number of families there which we did not know. A little boy sat down at the table next to Emmett and engaged him in conversation:

“What’s your name?” He asked.  Emmett covered his ears and said “NO.” So I explained to our new friend that Emmett likes to meet new people but has a hard time finding the right words to say, because, as a matter of fact, he loves words, and aren’t there so many to choose from? I asked the boy his name, and the boy, instead of saying his name, spelled it. “T A D!”  Emmett enjoyed that. He had been sitting with us, his hands hovering over his hears as he listened to us talk. He looked Tad in the face as I asked him to say hello.

“HI TAD!” Emmett exclaimed with a flourish of his hands.  He was excited to say this. The moment passed, and Emmett seemed very pleased with this very small social interaction.

Property of C. Svellinger
At home, we do a lot of practicing. Emmett takes lines from every movie he’s ever seen, and he appropriately inserts them into his daily obstacles. Below are a few of my favorite most recent ones. Comment below if you can pick out the movie Emmett uses to speak from. :)  (sometimes he uses multiple movie quotes to piece together a sentence)

Jude was crying, and it was time for his nap. I was trying to finish a school lesson with Lexington. Emmett was sitting in the room with us, seemingly ignoring the whole scene when he spoke up, “It’s alright, Judie, you’ll be okay.”

I stopped mid sentence to watch. Jude threw himself on the floor and wailed louder. Emmett sighed, “Welcome to the club, toots.” and left the room.


Emmett in frustration to Lexington while playing Nintendo: “Watch where you’re going, sir!”


Emmett in frustration to Collin and Lexington while playing with LEGOs:  “You insolents!”


Emmett refusing to eat a cooked carrot Craig was offering him during dinner: “It’s the trash bags, Dad.”


To me while I handed him his lunch: “Doctor, you’ve done it!”


And finally, my favorite:

This week, Emmett caught strep throat from me. A sick kid with autism is a completely different world than a regular sick kid. Instead of laying lethargically on the couch, complaining that his “neck hurts”, it’s literally the opposite. I knew something was wrong the morning Emmett slept an hour later, but came downstairs and immediately began running laps in the living room, bouncing off the couches and rebounding from the walls. He was asking for food more frequently than usual when I noticed the telltale swollen glands protruding from his neck. He allowed me a glimpse of his throat and yep, tonsils the size of golf balls.

From what I understand, this kind of behavior is generally typical for someone who has a different reception of pain and difficulty explaining it to others.

I got him to a doctor asap, got him started on some medication, and finished out our day in our pajamas. It’s been a few years since Emmett has been ill with more than a cold, but I remember well enough that bed time doesn’t come easy when he’s sick.  And sure enough, after we’d put the boys to bed, Craig and I listened as Emmett loudly jumped around the room bellowing the Toy Story song “Strange Things [Are Happening To Me].”

I can tell you right now without a doubt, that song choice was not an accident.
That’s all for now.

3 months ago

I SAW A SHAWL! {a digital short story, illustrated by C...

***I drove myself to the doctor this morning, with my kids, and got a positive for strep throat. The boys had no idea what was going on and kept asking me “Mom, who is sick?” So that’s fun. I wrote this post out over the weekend, enjoy.***

If you’re not the creative sort, it’s okay because in truth, I am not the creative sort. Ideas don’t come to me easy. I always fall back on using obnoxiously cliche things to practice drawing or lettering.

I bounce around to other projects during my times of creative stagnation. I do a lot of knitting or crocheting because it’s easy, it gives my hands something to do instead of sitting there going “What should I draw?”.  I’m supposed to say I give my hands work by folding laundry and washing dishes, or cleaning my husband’s beard trimmings from around the bathroom sink, but for some reason, I’m still immature and all that rot.

Creating relieves stress, cleaning piles it on.  Creating is a stolen sanctuary in a busy day, cleaning is the Barney song that never ends. The purple dinosaur, Barney. …I actually just drew a complete blank on what the Barney song sounds like because I’m delirious and have strep throat. Help. -No, wait. Don’t help, I don’t want to know, because tomorrow, now that I’ve written this, I’ll be going about, wincing as I swallow with my enormous, sick tonsils, scrubbing the dishes, and I’ll think of this paragraph and if you’ve helped me remember the song, then it’ll get going in my head and I’m already cleaning, and cleaning IS the never ending Barney song, and on top of that I’m sick, so it’s Hell thrice over! NO!

ANYWAY. I started knitting my first shawl in December.  Picking a variegated color palette always results in decorative war and tragedy, so I chose a safe, slightly heathered, Thicket Green.

It occurred to me sometime around Christmas that I’d never raked Instagram to find fellow knitters for inspiration.  Lo and behold, there is quite a posse there, and little did I know there exists some very cool yarn makers who sell the loveliest yarns, in the loveliest colors. And then, a small creative inkling hit me, and I went back to my drawing board. Literally. And digitally.

I now present my first digital illustration/story:



By C. Svellinger


As you know, I started my shawl. But here’s what you might not know so much about my personality. When I have something I want to do for the first time, I Pinterest, and Google, and YouTube, and Skillshare that thing to find out every way it can be made.  I go ahead and learn how to top-down knit a shawl just in case I decide that’s how I want to do it so that I’m already familiar with it when I actually begin. But I decide against it. I screenshot colors and toss them together in a random app to see how they look laying together and I confirm that still, no, I am not good at making colors friends, even though that group seemed like it should make total sense! And then, sometimes I get sidetracked and learn how to knit socks because after this I want to learn to knit socks and it helps if I’m already a little familiar with the process.

Yeah, she’s a funny bird.

So, there I am, after my extensive shawl recon,  beginning to knit with cozy thoughts of wrapping myself in this carefully planned masterpiece during these cold months. Basically, it was going to be my adult lovey. I chose what I thought was a lovely deep green, fingering weight, Pima cotton yarn. Like, boy, hi. This was gonna be the best little thing ever.
That’s when I got on Instagram to look for inspiration.

And I realized there’s this, like, wave of trendy knitters. Which is very cool. Truly it is! Like: you, also, like to sit and let your anxieties flush out of you in repetitive finger movements, to the small clicking of two needles, mostly in silence? YES. Come. Let us sit in the same room and not really talk much, and we can knit our lovies and we can be friends, and sit separately in our coziness.

So that’s a fun discovery. But then I saw it.  Down the cushy hole of the Instagram knitting thread, I SAW A SHAWL: the one I would have picked to make, had I seen it 200 rows ago. T’was a goddess of a shawl, and beams shot out from its stitches, and its asymmetrical elegance gave a lofty hair-tossing when it caught my eye.

It was VERY MUCH cooler than my poopy thicket green shawl I’d been garter-knitting my brains off. I looked at my work and now, it felt like I was making something a peasant would only begrudgingly choose from the basket’s bottom when all the other shawls were taken.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 10 years that I would go back and tell my ridiculous 22 year old self, it is this:

Follow through. Finish it. You’ll only regret the unfinished.

Don’t wait for it to be perfect before you start because it never will be, and then you never will, and then you’ll be standing there 10 years later wondering WHAT in the world you were actually fussing over that kept you from just finishing it. Stop over analyzing and trying to learn all the things before picking the most rational route, just start, and then, DO THE TASK AT HAND.

So in my case, in this instance, I MUST. FINISH. my Thicket Green shawl, and I will love it because I’ll actually have something to show for it.

Plus, I paid $40 for the yarn.


Goddess shawl, I see you, and one day, I’ll try my hand at you. But not this day, lass.

I don’t know where that turned Irish, but there it is. Bye.

**PS. If you’re interested, the goddess shawl is actually called the Find Your Fade Shawl by Andrea Mowry.  Here’s her pattern on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/find-your-fade It’s so lovely!