4 months ago

Edel 2017 Recap

I’m back home, from a whirlwind weekend in Texas at Jen & Hallie’s Catholic women’s Edel Gathering, eating at my usual v v late mom-breakfast-hour of 10:30 and it is totally fine. 

Every spoon in the house is dirty, Jude presented me with a nice full diaper asap, Emmett has already had a meltdown about a missing T-Rex toy magnet, I discovered someone found my old mascara and painted the upstairs bathroom with it, Collin and Lexington have given me the dl about who came to visit while I was gone and how much blue colored ice cream + donuts they ate for lunch, and I’m in full-fledged panic mode about ordering their school books for the year. 

It’s so good to be home, back in the trenches of motherhood.

I left them on Friday morning at 3:30am burned out, stress tight in my neck, and preoccupied with every possible variable that could make things go wrong: whether or not I would end up sitting on the airplane in between two large men bathed in aftershave 🤢; if my much-struggled-over box of prints and table display set-up actually made it in one piece to the hotel; if people would even want to buy my artwork at all; all the possible ways things could end in death for myself or Craig and the boys while at home, was this entire trip too self-indulgent? Why do I deserve this? This is selfish… etc. etc…. This was to be my first time traveling completely alone, leaving my husband and four children all at home.

Miraculously –and I mean MIRACULOUSLY– for both flights on my way to Austin, even though both planes were completely full, I ended up with the only empty seat on the plane next to me, made it to the beautiful hotel and was greeted by my roomate, Katrina (she’s here + here too, but I have no doubt you already knew that!).

Best advice: eat dinner, breakfast and lunch with people who are also pregnant and give a platter of nachos the same look you give. 😯

Let me tell you something about meeting friends you’ve made online and come to know over the years IN REAL LIFE: it’s wonderful. And those people are much more beautiful inside and out than they let on via their Instagrams, blogs, and Facebook pages.  Profoundly more beautiful. 

With the inside-and-out beautiful Sharon of Baby My Love. Seriously talented and skilled: she sews, knits, and makes baby moccs!

Every single woman I met over the weekend was a balm to my soul.  They all shared their own worries about coming to Edel, their stories at a depth you just can’t pick up from reading a blog, and oh my goodness INTROVERTS UNITE! SEPARATELY!  The blend of sisterhood was amazing to experience: The joy radiating from each woman was truly a feeling I don’t know how to describe here, but I felt it. 


The tag line for the Edel Gathering this year was “You can sit with us” and yes. I got to sit with them. I had the Big Fat Greek Wedding moment where Tula sits for lunch and has her Wonderbread Sandwich with the girls, because I have absolutely been the Katy Heron sitting in the bathroom eating lunch alone, which even for an introvert, stings a bit. I hope I was for these women what they were for me.  I got so caught up in conversation that I missed taking photos with so many ladies, and ended each evening with my cheeks aching from laughter and smiling so much.

And everyone was enormously generous. As a vendor, I was taken aback by every woman’s readiness to support their Catholic sisters’ businesses.  I love that they cried with me as I shared the story behind my “The most beautiful word I’ve ever heard” print. I love that they lingered at my table just to chat and share and enjoy eachother. 

I LOVED getting to actually shop and touch the products I’ve been admiring online for a long time. I loved learning the stories behind each woman there with her hand-made items: women who’ve lost children, women struggling through health issues, women whose shops are supporting her family while her husband goes through career changes… Providential Co. stood at her table, wearing her 7 WEEK OLD, with her husband at her side.  This lady makes beautiful, intoxicating scented soy prayer candles, AND does the art work covering them.  I am grateful I had the chance to be among them. 

The caliber of vendors at Edel was astonishing (I wish I’d thought to take some photos!). The quality of goods these wives and mothers brought with them was so impressive, worth being able to see in person, and way beyond the cheesy stuff you’ll find in your typical local Catholic shop.  I met a few attendees who were just starting out with their own business and I have to shout from the rooftops: DO IT! START IT! Don’t hesitate! Because what I saw at Edel –the work of mothers who somehow produce these beautiful things in the cracks of their day, between diaper changes, dinner, baths, and clean ups– is remarkable and inspiring and so valuable and so needed in our culture. We need you.

I had the privilege, as a vendor and volunteer helper, to have a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work put into making Edel the kind of event that it was. What Jen, Hallie, and their team of family and helpers did was 1) SO MUCH WORK. 2) Generous in every way. The energy it took from them to put this event on was overwhelming and unfathomable to me.

Each table was prayed over before dinner began on Saturday night. EACH TABLE for 300 women. 

The dinner was delicious. Wedding level delicious, or honestly, better than that. The Texas food was a pregnant woman’s dream. 

The speakers were earth shattering. Mary Lenaburg’s talk touched my heart so profoundly that I’m still soaking in her words and sitting with them on my heart. 

And let me tell you this: for as much “babbling and wagging of tongues” and “recited rote, ritualistic prayers” that Catholics are exhaustingly accused of, the power of hearing 300 women pray the exact same words in unison, together, in prayer is so so so far away from “babbling” or “ritual” than I can imagine. Knowing that you can gather a body of people from all over the country who don’t know each other (we even had a few Canadians in attendance!) and on the spot, each one of us can pray the same prayer together, know its meaning, knowing precisely Who we are praying to is just… what’s that word??? CATHOLIC. UNIVERSAL —there’s nothing else like it. Going to Mass, which is the same no matter where you are in the entire world, seeing these women there, worshipping Christ in the way He instructed us to do… it’s heaven on earth. It’s home. It’s the body of Christ’s earthly and Heavenly Church. 

And getting a chance to share that joy, that catholic sisterhood, motherhood joy with them, sharing that joy knowing so many of them are in their own battles, struggles, grief and brokenness: Priceless.  As Jennifer Fulwiler wrote: it’s a party of women who know that despite everything, ultimately, life has a happy ending in Christ.  

Bro tats & Katrina’s baby bump 💙💙💙💛

I am glad I had a few very full days away to give me a chance to miss my boys, to desire to be back wiping butts and breaking apart bickerings over crayons and who gets the top half of the bagel.  I’m grateful for the privilege of attending Edel after the previous three years knowing it was impossible to ever dream of going. I am grateful to each woman who introduced herself to me. I am grateful for the encouragement from the ladies who could not come, but really wanted to, and I truly felt their absence.  

I am grateful for the internet and the bloggy world.  I started blogging in 2004. Eventually, I discovered there was a whole network of Catholic women bloggers out there, and ultimately, through their kindness, friendship, and God’s will, I found myself in Austin this weekend. 

^^^IG story from Hallie ❤️


6 months ago

OBX 2017 (Svell Vacay #2) 

Just a few pics, a few too many words.

  Vacation this year was a funny trade off. First, we went to OBX.  Last year was PCB. We found a rental that had not yet been built and was literally finished the week before we arrived- so $ wise it was good. 

But man, if I had to be a privileged white girl and complain about my vacation right off the bat and send my readers to the X tab while rolling their eyes,  I’d whine about the unfriendly and chilly Atlantic waters.  We hardly spent any time on the beach because it just wasn’t enjoyable.  Windy, chilly, unsafe for small kids. The whole family concurs that Gulf of Mexico is where the party at. BUT! I won’t complain. It was vacation, and we spent an entire week with people we love, in a really nice house, eating DONUTS and ACAI BOWLS.

Only Carolyn-when-pregnant would ever consider the Maple Bacon donut, and consider it she did, the entire thing.

This year was much better as far as Emmett and Collin being older.  There were no pee-in-the-car-in-a-cup events. Emmett was officially potty efficient by September of last year, AND he’s warmed up to using public restrooms, AND he thinks doing a “standing pee” is super convenient when you’re in an unfamiliar and loud restroom (I. DO. TOO.) You win, there, males. 

BUT. Emmett is even more aware than ever about where exactly we are driving, which road we are traveling on, if we are supposed to turn left or right, and which state we are in.  He loves states, maps, directions, signs– all that stuff.  And he was extremely delighted to read the WELCOME TO VIRGINIA, then WEST VIRGINIA, and finally NORTH CAROLINA as we passed them. And he remembered exactly how we were supposed to drive back home.  So, when we had to detour, or stop for a break… there was screaming and outrage. Which, all things considered, was fine. And his end-goal was the same as ours:

We decided to minimize Emmett’s stress and frustration (and that of the whole house) by not allowing any iPad/iPhone device playing by any of the boys. Not during the 11 hour drive, not in a restaurant, not when it rained for two days.  The problem when Emmett plays is not that he doesn’t choose an educational app– he does. He really uses an iPad or iPhone way better as far as educational purposes goes than any child I’ve ever seen. But when it’s time to turn it off, say to eat, go potty, or sleep, he absolutely WILL NOT. He literally won’t stop to eat or pee.  So when we have to physically take it away, the meltdown is enormous and earsplitting.  And it’s not over quickly, and it then becomes an obsession which he repeatedly asks for, cries over, and hunts for– for the next 3-5 days ALL DAY until it fizzles out. 

It worked out so, so, so well. Except for once when he snuck and found my phone charging in our room, and took what is probably the best photographical representation of our vacation out of all the Instagrammy pics I took:

Willy-Nilly Soggy Laundry : A vacation story.

Anyway. Nice week, a little more exhausting than I’d hoped. And boy, a pregnant Carolyn can’t tolerate too much sunshine– sitting out for longer than 20 minutes made me feel sick and headachy.  I’ve read there’s a bio-med reason for this to do with adrenals, thyroid, and low sodium levels… but it was just an internet whisper so I …am not, in fact, a tan pregnant goddess this summer, and ye olde melasma will probably be forthcoming as the summer wears on. Proof in the fam pics. 

BUT! The trade off is that opposite from exactly a year ago, I had full, painless, mobility –like a normal Carolyn, only a little pregnant! And the boys had a blast. AND my sister in law, “sis” as the boys lovingly call her, was able to join us this year. She is simply a wonderful woman, she delights in the boys, and is one of the literal 5 (or less) people Craig and I can fully trust with our boys. A Carolyn at her age wanted nothing to do with children, so, she’s a wonder to me. When she’s there, everything is just better.

Craig and Christy (or Sis, as the boys call her)

My fave pic of the trip, taken by Sis.
I taught Lexington everything he knows. 😬
Until next time, you guys!  I hope you’re having a beautiful summer so far. :)

7 months ago

Is it just me or

…is anyone else mildly annoyed when bloggers say they have “HUGE NEWS”… but then all it turns out to be is they painted their bathroom one shade lighter than the original?  So I’m not going to say that.  But I am going to share the good things happening for the Svells which I’ve wanted to get down in a blog post forever but I just haven’t been able to because… well, you’ll see*.

Nice and easy for you, let’s do a bullet list. Least “HUGE NEWS”, to most “HUGE NEWS”. So that means if you want to know the biggie, one must make the Herculean effort of scrolling to the bottom. (Or silent troll me on Instagram, like a good little lurker, because I’m sure to photographically spill beans there too, eventually.)

+ New prints are available at Brass & Mint co.’s Etsy shop. Can I just say how bad the carpal tunnel was after digitizing this print? I can. It was sufficient.

Do it again chesterton


+ I’m going to be on The Jennifer Fulwiler show!  Totally not a big deal, I mean, yes, I’m freaking out. But it’s just for a few minutes, this Wednesday, May 10th, to talk a little bit about my shop for Mother’s day for her Vendor Hour segment.  If you listen to her, I’m scheduled to be there around 3:50pm Eastern.

+ I am going to Edel this summer. Catholic Mother’s Hooha. Catholic bloggers meet in real life. Internet nerd dreams come true. I’ve always wanted to go to Texas.

+ I am going to Edel BY MY SELF. That’s a Friday, Saturday, and a Sunday of flying, eating, bathing, sleeping in a nice hotel, not having to talk if I don’t want to, and having my thoughts to myself in general FOR. THE. FIRST. TIME.   SOLOooo, I’M FlYiNg sOLo.   …well, almost.*

+ I am going to Edel –AS A VENDOR. Like, yeah. Selling my Etsy shop prints! I’m kind of sick to my stomach in anxiety about taking my little prints and standing at a table with them hoping someone will notice them and me and maybe they’ll stop and buy one? Maybe they’ll just kind of do a slow walk-by with their hands clasped together behind their backs and go “mm-hm.” and pass on to something more neat? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing, but Craig was like “DUDE, GO.” so, dude, I’m going.

+ We have a family vacation planned this June, similar to last year, with Craig’s mother’s family. It’s our second ever vacation, and I’m grateful and excited, and will overgram it just like last year, no diggity.



+ CRAIG AND I ARE GOING TO SEE COLDPLAY.   My tears are real. Every teardrop. Is A Waterfall.

And the hugest of newses:

+ *Baby Svell Number Five is a’swimming and a’kicking. 

Pardon the Easter photo recycling, but that's all the creativity I've got for now.
Pardon the Easter photo recycling, but that’s all the creativity I’ve got for now.

FIVE. I’m alive. Feeling better from fatigue and morning sickness with each passing day. The boys are over the moon. I actually have a video of them jumping and screaming in delight, but I’m too lazy to put it here. I might later throw together another 6 hour long youtube vid like I did for Jude. 

Guys, let’s just halt all speculation right here and now– it’s a boy. I just know it. I mean, I don’t ACTUALLY know. But I do. I could make your eyes glaze over about a study I read about how girls in utero activate the mother’s immune system and it affects her state of inflammation, and since I have an autoimmune disease which has now, with the exception of some mild foot pain, actually gone dormant and I am totally off of my immunosuppressive medication,  I strongly suspect it is being kept in dormancy because, according to that study, a boy would not stir up aforementioned inflammation like a girl would.  I might be interpreting it wrong. But I think not. I do art.

I don’t know. I just read this one and it says the exact opposite. But it’s not a science-based site.



8 months 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