2 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.



3 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

10 months ago

Hi. {My Etsy shop is O P E N.}

Hi.  Here’s the post I wrote last week that I never published because I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I’m over it, and it’s just what I do.


” Linking up with Kelly for a long overdue 7 Quick Takes (Hi Kelly!) <3

I’m here.

  1. I’m taking Enbrel. I’m functioning.
  2. Emmett is on week three of underwear, no accidents. (This actually deserves it’s own post but I’m le tired.)
  3. We start year two of homeschool next week.
  4. Lexington will be in first grade.
  5. Emmett will be in Kindergarten.
  6. Collin will be in preschool (though only because he sits with us anyway.)
  7. Jude will be wallowing/blundering/thundering/warbling here amongst us as well. He has all 4 top teeth coming in right now so that’s a jolly good time.
  8. I open Brass & Mint co. for business on Etsy September 9th.









…it is.


Here’s the link to my Etsy shop.  It’s alive, it’s aliiive!  >>> http://www.etsy.com/shop/BrassAndMintCo <<<

Hang me in your home!
Hang me in your home!

Here’s the part where I stand at the podium and do that droning about the people who helped me come all this way. But wait! Here’s why it’s important for everyone to read: because it’s about being kind.

When Craig started talking seriously with me about selling my work, I reached out to my blogging community for advice on how to run a business online, on how to blog better, on everything. I did not know how to get my tangible art work to a place where I could improve it, make it a digital entity, send it to print, and hold it in my hand, proud of the quality of it in every aspect.

It seems simple, but there’s a lot more to it than just scanning and clicking a Print button. There was a lot of nonsense about “digitization” and “vectorizing” which gave me bad headache for many, many a moon. And since I only ever took an intro to digital media class in college because I was all “fine” and “artsy” with my great many pencils and my lovely papers and enormous art boards I was hauling around all the time, this stuff was hard for my mind to bend around. It was like hammering hot iron, which I have done before, and… it’s a workout. And there they were, the whole time, those digital art kids, with a little laptop containing the keys to the kingdom of arts, just sashaying through campus just because they could. I’m not bitter in hindsight, not at all. I love that I always take the difficult road. I’m dumb like that.

People are busy, and there’s a lot to learn, overwhelmingly, a lot.  The people who took the moments out of their day to respond to my emails or text messages to say “here’s how I did it, here are links, are you connected with xyz group?”, or even “how is it going?” really just blew my mind. They gave freely the knowledge they likely had to stand and bang their heads against a wall (or a keyboard) to obtain. Their advice helped me to develop my own ideas more fully. Katrina, Heather, and, Erica: thank you for your encouragement and help.  You gals are A+ peeps.
Also: A very long time ago, I posted a “contribute” button on my blog to raise money so that I could host my own blog, with the eventual goal of opening a business.  At that time, we suffered financial struggles– we actually didn’t give our kids Christmas gifts that year (it was Lexington and Baby Emmett). There were people who contributed. I raised just enough to purchase what I needed to start this blog.  I know who you are- thank you for helping me make a dream into a reality.

That’s it for now.  Come to my Etsy shop. Share it with your people. I’ve got great plans and lots of work to do!
Hug your loved ones this 9/11 weekend.



12 months ago

Finally, some answers! (A diagnosis)

We came home from Florida and now I understand why people take multiple vacations a year.  I’m not a cryer.  I’m actually kind of emotionally dry, except I found myself CRYING to sleep, and drinking my coffee in between sobs as I looked out of the window the next morning at the not beach.  I’m kind of shocked about this “post-vacation-blues” phenomenon, but I hear it’s a completely normal and short-lived thing. So, laundry goes on.

What’s perhaps made it worse is I wake each morning, my mystery pains creeping back to their previous state of terrible, and I feel rushed to do everything I can- the dishes, wiping cabinets, organizing cabinet contents and drawers, anything that I was physically incapable of doing previous to taking the steroids.

The week we got back to Ohio, I finally, finally, finally met with my rheumatologist and was tested. I’d been waiting two months for this appointment.

 I have a debilitating autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis.

It’s genetic and there is no cure.  It’s a form of arthritis, but not the kind people get because they’re just getting old. In fact, I’ve been (unknowingly) having the symptoms of this since I was 15. It’s pronounced “ANK-yuh-low-sing  SPON-d’yuh-lite-us”

Pros: It isn’t affecting my hands, like Rheumatoid Arthritis can, though I do have  carpal tunnel that comes and goes. If I lost my hands… let’s just say it would be the quickest way to sainthood for me.

Cons: It affects my spine, my neck, my hips, my legs, my feet. My feet have been the guys who are showing the most outward signs. Other than that, I look perfectly normal and healthy, except that I limp a little, and my usual speedwalking is …not.

I’ve spent the week similar to how I spent the days after Emmett’s Autism diagnosis: grieving in a bizarre way; reading reading reading anything and everything I can about the Ankylosing Spondylitis, connecting the dots of my life that never made sense and now suddenly do, discovering mental turmoil that’s been stewing in my head for years.

“What’s wrong with you? Get up! Why can’t you just GET UP! It’s mind over matter. Choose to get up.”

“Don’t be lazy, just go. Why can everyone else do this and you can’t? You’re a very lazy person. “

“If you exercise, you’ll get better. Yes, you always feel worse afterward, but that means you need it, right?”

“Everyone has problems, everyone has pains. Stop worrying about your own littleness in the world and get things done. Just get it done!”

And then I note the times I’ve been exhausted by MERELY SHOWERING, and watching as I frustrate others because I move so slowly. “Just go, I’ll finish up and meet you there. Don’t wait for me.”

That’s what all of this has been. Im not sad, I’m relieved that it’s not just me.  I mean, it IS me, but now I understand why I’ve always been tired, slow Carolyn, and why it’s now worse than ever.

I have cried in anger, weeks ago when everything seemed to reach a summit of hurt and inability, after having to lift my own leg into my underwear; I shook my fists, demanding through tears WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME!?  I’ve asked that question multiple times over the years.

So now, it’s like, okay: this is wrong with me…
and this, and this, and this…. and this has been happening to me since I was 15 years old.

So I’ve spent 16 years in varying forms of chronic pain and exhaustion, believing I was just a very, very lazy person, believing I wasn’t doing it right. I was going to confession, confessing my sins of sloth, of laziness, of failing to do my duties as a wife, a mother, a member of society, thinking it’s merely a battle of the will– but in truth, I’VE. BEEN. SICK.

The whole time.

–Now, now, now, cool it.

I’m not a saintly sufferer, here.  Yes, I AM lazy. Yes, I have too often failed to be dutiful, to use my time wisely, to be more purposeful in life. I’m well aware of the times I’ve chosen not to do what I knew I had the energy for.

But I’m also sick.

I’m trying to sort out what’s real and whats really been my illness screaming at me all along.
But I’m trying to be more gentle on myself.

Searching Ankylosing Spondylitis on Pinterest brings up a myriad of memes playing to the sympathies of people who suffer chronic pain- and it’s enabling in the sense of allowing people to cling to their own miseries like a teddy bear. While Pinterest actually has a lot more info on ankylosing spondylitis than simply googling, the memes really send out a bitter message for people who suffer stuff like this.

Pinterest AS

I don’t care if other people don’t understand what my pain feels like, or that I have to recover the next day after grocery shopping, or that I’m confident I’ll never be a soccer mom because I can’t handle the energy it takes to prepare to leave the house except for the weekends (and that’s to grocery shop).

Laughing tears.


No one can really know how I feel on a day to day basis, and it’s not anyone’s job except a doctor’s. job. (Oh grammar.) —But I do care about forgiving myself for the ways I’ve previously thought I’d failed at being a human being. 

AND AND AND! I do care about my ever-renewing understanding about the human person, the increasing compassion I’m experiencing for others, and the increasing hesitation I feel to pass judgement about  other people, except concerning spiritual wellness and where the two intersect, of course.
I am of course keeping this mentality from a previous post at the forefront of my mind, offering it up. Trying to see the Heavenly picture in all of this.

I’m in a limbo area: Trying to figure out what is best for me, and still wanting a second opinion.   The side effects of the medication I’m “supposed” to take are really, really terrible. Like cancer terrible, or abortifacient terrible, or infection terrible.

I have altered my diet.  I’ve always avoided HFCS, and partially hydrogenated oils, and soy, and artificial sweeteners, and low-fat / sugar-free anythings because I know they’re filled with artificial wizardry.

Over the spring, motivated to help Emmett’s gut heal, I learned to make bone broths and ferment vegetables. I make my own kombucha. I don’t drink milk.

I limit my grains, but haven’t totally cut them out.
I limit gluten, but haven’t cut it out entirely.
I eat mostly whole fat goat milk yogurt & nuts, avocados, bone broth meals, some meat, seafood and steamed veggies.
I was taking a strong pro+prebiotic with complimentary supplements, plus a good whole food multivitamin.
I just started codliver oil.

Essential oils, while I love them, enjoy them, and have even been selling them for over a year, are a joke for anything pain/inflammation related.

I’ve been doing this for over a year, and cracked down hard on it months ago… And my symptoms are only escalating. There’s still a lot I could be doing, diet-wise, but frankly, standing in the kitchen cooking and chopping and straining has become yet another thing I hate doing. It hurts to stand, of course. I used to love baking and cooking.

So I feel like I have no options except to try this TNF inhibitor. Which is really risky, in my opinion, and apparently doesn’t last in effectiveness, so I’ve read.

Pray for me?