7 Quick Takes Friday, vol. 4

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Once again, I’m linking up with Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary for a  7 Quick Takes post.

1. Valentine’s Day is coming up.  I honestly don’t like this holiday.  Well…at least the secular version of it.  If it were really all about how we should love our fellow man and have deep concern for his soul and pray for him to know Christ, like St. Valentine, then I’d be okay with it.  But the reality is that it’s all about trying to get someone into bed.  And I’m not talking about tucking in Grandma…

2. This blog post, 3 Things I Want My Son to Know About Porn, is amazing.  If you have kids, you should read it.  If you don’t have your own children, but know people who do, you should read it.  Heck, if you’ve ever even seen a child, read the post.

3. I love this website.  On Facebook, their page is called Bring Sexy Back.  According to the ‘About’ section on their Facebook page, they are “a grassroots movement in opposition to the use of artificial contraception within marriage, dedicated to bringing great sex to the entire universe.”  Cool!  Their blog posts cover a wide range of topics such as the effects of hormonal contraception,  fertility awareness, male reproductive health and any number of related topics.  It’s a great resource.  Check it out.

4. I’m still working on my second novel.  The working title is Finding Rita.  This story will be grittier than Angela’s Song and tackle the topics of sexual abuse and sexual addiction.  Heavy topics, I know.  But, not to worry.  There will be some humor in it and lots of food.  Life, after all, is made up of happiness, sadness and food as well.

5. So, what are your ideas for Lent?  If you don’t yet have any, here are a few suggestions:  say an extra prayer each day…turn off the TV once a week…that person behind you on the checkout line who only has 5 things–let him go ahead of you…set up the coffee pot for your spouse so the next day they can have a nice hot cup at the push of a button…read The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (it’s free on Kindle)…go to confession more often…use foul language less…keep up with the laundry…stop eating junk food…eat more veggies…pay a compliment (make it genuine) to someone you don’t particularly like…spend more time with your spouse and kids…tithe 10% of your income…volunteer for a ministry at church…  The goal is to grow closer to the Lord.  Go for it!

6.  Speaking of Lent, it has actually started early this year, based on the incident that happened last Monday evening.  Our cute little Shihtzu-Poodle mix came in from the yard and wiped her little bottom all over the living room carpet.  Ewww.  So, I scrubbed the carpet and got it all clean.  A little while later I picked her up and was bowled over by the malodorous cloud that enveloped her.  After some investigation, I realized–much to my horror–that the…uh…product of digestion…was never actually completely eliminated.  So, I had to perform an…extraction…of sorts.  I got the deed done, with the help of my very brave 11 year old daughter.  However, there was quite a bit of dry heaving going on during this process.  I felt like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.  You know, the scene where they cut open the shark’s stomach and he has to examine the contents and he’s on the verge of vomiting the entire time?  That.  That’s how I felt.

7.  Still speaking of Lent, as one of our sacrifices, our family has decided to go wheat free this year.  Not gluten free (although I, personally, cannot eat grains at all), just wheat free.  So I bought a 25 pound bag of spelt flour.  We’re going to bake bread and make pizza dough using spelt.  My family’s sacrifice is that they’re giving up the wheat, but mine is that my workload increases because of the baking.  So, off I go to buy a couple more bread pans…


7 Quick Takes Friday, vol. 3

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1. What are you reading? I try to strike a balance between fiction and non-fiction. If I read too much non-fiction, my head starts to feel like it’s too heavy for my neck and then I get sleepy. Not a good way to live, especially for a busy mom of five. Right now, I’m in the middle of reading Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Women, by Teresa Tomeo and Cheryl Dickow. So far, so very good! I plan on posting a review when I’m done.  By way of fiction, I’m currently re-reading Sons of Cain by Val Bianco.  This is a book I never get tired of.  It’s got everything…action, spiritual warfare, politics and even a bit of romance.  If you haven’t picked this one up, I recommend you do.

2. Have you seen the Youtube clip of JPII autotuned to Dynomite?  It’s amazing!  I teared up a bit watching it, because I remember the emotion he stirred up in me and every other youth in the 80’s…and that was even before I experienced my personal conversion.  That man was a walking, talking bundle of charisms.

3. Some of the readers of my book have questioned the practice of praying before marital intimacy.  They say it’s ridiculous, no one ever does it, etc.  Do you pray before you’re intimate with your spouse?  If not, I challenge you to try it for a month.  Just one month.  Every time you have relations, pray together and offer your union to God.  I bet you’ll see a difference.  And I mean that in a good way.

4. I’ve shamefully come to the conclusion that my children are much more well-read than I am.  My teen daughter got an Amazon gift card for Christmas and she enthusiastically used it to buy several of Shakespeare’s works.  And the other day I had to reprimand my teen son for reading Chesterton instead of doing his Latin assignment.  I never read Shakespeare or Chesterton at their ages.  Heck, I still haven’t read any Chesterton (an appalling admission by a Catholic writer, isn’t it?).  So, I promised myself when the Amazon shipment arrives, I’m grabbing Twelfth Night and hunkering down with a cuppa tea.

5. Lent is coming.  Come on…you know it is.  And it’s early this year.  Ash Wednesday is on Febraury 13th…as in 12 days from now.  I’m trying to come up with something good to give up.  A big sacrifice.  I usually don’t do food items because I can barely eat anything to begin with and I’d like to stay healthy, thank-you-very-much.  So, what do I give up?  I need to pray about this one.  How about you?  Have you started to pray yet, about your Lenten sacrifice?

6. We have been sponsoring a young boy from Colombia for about 5 years now.  It’s been encouraging to see him grow and mature and to exchange letters.  Last week, a priest from the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging came to our parish and asked for more sponsors.  We volunteered to help out after Mass at the tables with the pictures of the people–both young and old– who were in need of monthly help.  I have to tell you, I wanted to gather up all the pictures and sponsor all of them.  My kids begged us to sponsor one more; this time, a girl.  So we chose an 8-year-old girl from Honduras who happens to be deaf.  Yesterday I got a call from the foundation telling me that 34 more people were sponsored this weekend at our small parish.  Thirty-four more lives improved!  In the scheme of things, it’s not all that expensive to sponsor someone, especially if you adhere to the biblical practice of tithing 10% of your income.  Think about it!

7. My two younger girls have turned into super duper baking machines.  They have been baking cookies, muffins and cupcakes like there’s no tomorrow.  Of course, I can’t eat any of these, having a medical condition that prevents me from eating grains; but it’s fun to know that they’re using their time to be creative.  Today they’ve made some chewy chocolate cookies that smell heavenly.  I don’t see this hobby waning, so I’ve just ordered another 25 lb. bag of spelt flour.  Come to think of it, I need to add butter to my shopping list…


7 Quick Takes Friday, Vol. 2

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1. Today is the 40th Annual March for Life in Washington DC. Over 40 years there have been 55 million abortions in the United States. 55 million souls not allowed to live, to carry out God’s plan for them here on earth, to make their mark on humanity.

2. My 16 year old son is at March for Life for the first time. He left Wednesday, which was his birthday, and spent the day on a bus traveling to DC. I’m really proud of him and I know that if he’s concerned about the lives of the unborn now, then, as he grows older, he will continue to be respectful of all life. In short, I think his wife (if he’s called to the vocation of marriage) and children will be blessed.

3. Last week we did a free promo for Angela’s Song and it made it into the top ten of ALL free Kindle books! Very exciting!  It continues to rank #1 in Religious and Liturgical Fiction.  It also hit #1 in that same category in Canada.

4. My editor, Ellen Gable, is working on the sequel to her best seller, In Name Only.  The title of the sequel is, A Subtle Grace, and I can’t wait to read it!

5.  We have the cutest little dog, Savannah.  She’s a Shihtzu-Poodle mix.  I love that little ball of fur and I’d never want anyone to harm her.  Of course, all my friends feel the same way about their pets.  However, I’ve noticed that many animal rights groups are supportive of abortion.  To me, this is a paradox.  The Catholic Sistas blog has an excellent perspective on this topic.   They are also covering March for Life.  To get live tweets, use the hashtag #SistasMFL13

6.  We had a great conversation about Martin Luther King on Monday.  I described to my kids what life was like during the time of segregation.  The older ones had heard it, but the littles were appalled. When I asked my littles why it’s wrong to think that we are superior to other people because they may be different from us, my daughter piped up, “Because we’re made in the image of God and He loves us all the same.”  Good answer, sweetie.

7.  Shh…while my son is at March for Life, we’re redecorating his room.  He’ll see it when he gets home tomorrow evening and we’ll have a belated birthday dinner and cake for him.  I hope we finish the room in time.  Anyone want to come help scrape a wallpaper border off a wall?


7 Quick Takes Friday Vol. 1

TARDIS cake  NYE 2012
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Happy New Year!  I’ve finally gotten on the ball and thrown in with the 7 Quick Takes crowd.  Here we go:

1. Christmas Eve was…interesting this (oops, last!) year.  The tree fell down, the shrimp fell into the garbage pail and I forgot to make the clams.  Oh, well.  We’ll laugh about it next Christmas when we’re reminiscing.  We washed the shrimp and cooked it anyway.  Don’t judge me…

2. The kids always plan our New Years Eve menu and this year, in Whovian tradition, they asked for fish fingers and custard, with a TARDIS cake for dessert.  I want to go down in history as a cool Mom (or maybe even a Time Lord), so I complied.   I’m no Cake Boss, but they were happy with the results.

3. For those of you who watch the Reality TV show, Minor Revisions, you may have heard that it’s star, Jennifer Fulwiler, who is pregnant, had been hospitalized with pulmonary embolisms.  Please say a prayer for her and her child for a quick and complete recovery.

4. I’ve been making playlists on Spotify that my whole family can listen to.  While compiling a list of favorite songs from the 1980s, I realized that most of the music I fed my brain for a whole decade was completely inappropriate.  Luckily, I was able to find about two hours worth of music that we can listen to together.  And, I got my kids to learn the Safety Dance.  Cool!

5. I received an e-mail from a gentleman, who wrote that Angela’s Song answered all his questions as to how he could improve his marriage.  Applause for the Holy Spirit!  It is my prayer that my novel will bring healing to its readers and their marriages.

6. My parish has a huge wreath hanging from the ceiling with large lengths of fabric hanging down from it.  All during Advent, I contemplated how this beautiful fragrant green wreath foreshadows the Crown of Thorns Christ wears during His Passion and the fabric predicts the shroud that wrapped His broken body.  The liturgical seasons flow, one into another, and we are always learning, meditating, contemplating and growing in our faith.

7. I’m about 11,000 words away from being done with my next novel.  It takes place at the same parish–Our Lady of the Angels– but with a different female protagonist.  Fr. Sean and a couple of the regulars do make an appearance.  I’m eager to get the manuscript to my edito.  Now…to find the time.  Too bad I don’t know the Doctor.  I’d ask him to take me away in the TARDIS to a quiet place where I could write; then when I returned, no time will have passed.  I wonder if he could make it so the laundry would be done, too?


Book Review: Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp

Frozen Footprints front cover
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This novel was so suspenseful and teetering on the edge of horror that I was both fascinated and repulsed by it…and I mean that in a good way!

I read Therese Heckenkamp’s previous novel, Past Suspicion, and really enjoyed it, so I knew I’d probably be pleased with Frozen Footprints as well.  Not only was I pleased, I was blown away.

I try to read mostly Christian fiction because I want to avoid the smut and/or graphic violence and language.  But many times, Christian novels wind up to be sappy and sophomoric, usually resulting in a completely unrealistic conversion-and-they-live-happily-ever-after experience.

Frozen Footprints front cover

Not so for Charlene and her twin, Maxwell.  They are Catholics, but not perfect Catholics, who come from a very dysfunctional family.  A tragic experience forces them to rely on their faith in order to survive, but things don’t come easy.  There are many snares along the way and the reader is kept on the edge of his seat wondering how things will sort themselves out.

Heckenkamp does a great job in creating a villain who is evil and loathsome.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I read several scenes in the book.  It was a treat to read a truly scary story that didn’t include gratuitous violence and gore.

I hope Heckenkamp will continue to write more horror stories.  We need more quality fiction, especially in this genre.   Ms. Heckenkamp, I’ll be waiting for another like this, but I’ll be sleeping with the lights on!

Angela’s Song: Book Excerpt #2

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I stand up to get down from the stand and suddenly I feel faint.  My hands are jittery and I realize it is probably my blood sugar plummeting.  All I’ve consumed in the past 24 hours is half a glass of orange juice and the toothpaste I accidentally swallowed when I brushed my teeth this morning.  Cold beads of sweat pop out on my forehead and I am fading fast.

The bailiff approaches and grabs the back of my forearm.  He steers me toward the door, but it is difficult, because there is a crowd pressing all around.  I hear someone shouting at me, asking if I want to make a statement.  Weakly, I shake my head.  I stumble a bit and fall into the bailiff.

“You okay, Ma’am?”  he asks.

“Need a second,” I manage to whisper.

Suddenly, I feel a hand on my lower back.  Startled, I look up and see Jack.

“I’m driving Mrs. Cooke home,” he says to the bailiff.

“I still need to escort her out the door,” the bailiff answers and he and Jack both manage to navigate through the crowd, which has begun to thin slightly.  Once we are out, Jack grabs my hand and sprints down the hall to get away from the commotion. I force myself to run with him.  He leads me out a doorway and down the stone steps to the sidewalk.  I feel my legs buckle and hear Jack yell, “Whoa! Are you okay?” as he wraps his arm around my waist to prevent me from falling.

“Too nervous to eat.  Feel sick now,” I manage.

“When was the last time you did eat, Angela?”  he asks, his grip tightening as he realizes I could possibly pass out.

“Yesterday…lunch.”  I whisper.

“Can you make it two blocks to the car?”

“Slow,” I croak, nodding.  Jack patiently guides me down the street, but gives up and carries me the last half a block.  He gets me into his car and reclines the seat so I can lie down.  Almost immediately, I start to sense that light, floating feeling that I get before settling into a deep sleep.  At first I fight it, but, believing that Jack will keep me safe, I succumb.

At one point, I become aware that Jack is talking to me, but I can’t make out what he is saying.  Something smells delicious, though, and I hear myself let out a moan in response to my hunger.  But the sleep grabs me again and I let it.

The next thing I know I am on my living room couch, swaddled in the throw that I keep draped over its arm.  My shoes are off and my bare feet feel luxurious wrapped in the chenille blanket.  I feel a strong arm behind my neck and a spoon being tipped into my mouth.

“Ummmm…” Warm, fragrant broth spills past my lips and down my throat.  The heat is invigorating.

“Ummm…” is all I can manage.  I feel awake, but my body doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

Jack murmurs, “Good job, Angela.  Keep eating the soup.”

After a few more spoonfuls I am able to lift my eyelids halfway.  I see Jack’s handsome face slightly above mine.

He smiles, “Your color is starting to come back.  Thank goodness.  You had me worried there for awhile.”

I struggle to sit up on my own and he helps me, propping the pillows behind me.  I can feel sleep creeping up on me again, though, and my eyes start to close.

“Oh, no you don’t.  Come on, let me feed you a little more of this and then you’ll be able to eat on your own.”

I can feel my eyes rolling up into my head.

Jack pats my cheek. “Angela, if you don’t stay awake the next stop is the ER.”

I don’t want to go to the hospital, so I fight to keep my eyes open and I eat every spoonful of soup Jack ladles into my mouth.  Finally, consciousness wins over fatigue and a little strength comes.

“So hungry,” I whisper.

“Can you eat on your own now?”

I nod.

“Good girl!” he says, happily, “I got Chinese.  Do you want rice first or chicken?”

“Everything.  I’m starving,” I can still only manage to whisper.

He laughs and says, “That’s what I want to hear,” as he fills one of my ceramic pasta bowls with roast pork fried rice and some kind of chicken with vegetables.   I attack the bowl as soon as he puts it in my hands, and then notice that he is saying grace.  I’m so embarrassed!

“I prayed for the both of us,” he grins. “Eat.”

Wordlessly, I comply. He refills my bowl twice more and I polish off every bit of its contents.

“More?“ he asks.

I shake my head.  I cannot believe the volume of food I have just consumed.  Compared to me, Jack ate like a bird.

“The only other time I’ve ever eaten like that was right after I gave birth to a child,” I say. “Thank you so much for lunch, for feeding me lunch…for everything,”  I sigh.  “I seem to be high maintenance when I’m around you, Jack.  I’m sorry.”

In his best weatherman voice he says, “Well, the incidence of high maintenance is 100% right now, but we’ve only really spent time with each other twice.  I’m confident the percentage will dip significantly with each date.”   He catches himself.  “That is, ah, well, if you want to see me…socially…that is.”

At this particular moment, the events of the day choose to come rushing at me like a freight train and suddenly I burst into tears. Poor Jack.  I can see the look of bewilderment on his face.  Reaching out, I pull him toward me, bury my head in his chest and sob.

“Did I say–” he starts.

“Emotion overload!” I wail, into what was a crisp white shirt before I splattered it with tears and makeup smudges.  “It’s not you.  It’s not you at all,” I sob.

I feel him relax and enfold me deeper into his embrace.  The tears spill out until they are gone and then I rest my head on his shoulder.

“It’s all done,” I sigh.  “Volume One of my life ended today.”

Good and pLENTy

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I have to admit, I’m one of those scary, freakish persons who loves Lent.

I don’t exactly possess a lot of willpower.  So, it’s hard for me to work on overcoming my faults.  But, I love to follow rules, so Lent is perfect for me!  We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat on Fridays.  We choose to either let bad habits go or to add new good ones (or both).  Yay!  LOVE Lent!

Lent is the perfect excuse for me to work on those qualities I possess which I am not exactly proud of…all those things that put a barrier between me and growing in holiness.

This Lent in particular will be very difficult.  I’m on a restrictive diet.  All I can eat is meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.  I need a lot of protein at every meal or I begin to feel ill.  So, giving up a food item is not on the short list of what to give up for Lent.  I can’t just say, “I’m not going to eat candy,” and be done with it.

No.  Not at all.

My kids keep asking me what I’m going to give up if not sweets (which I’ve already given up).  They are watching Mommy closely to see how she handles Lent.  Mommy needs to be a good example, especially in the area of humility. So, this Lent Mommy will work extra hard to be a servant to her family, to be even more conscious of what she can do to help her children grow in holiness, both by example and by direction. Mommy will take good care not to complain when things don’t go the way she planned. And maybe Mommy will make a small difference in how her children embrace suffering and sacrifice.

One Lent, a long time ago, I gave up taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Never went back to it.  I wouldn’t have had the gumption to do that if not for this penitential season.  I’m glad for it. I’m glad the Church challenges me to become a better Christian. And I’m glad my kids haven’t grown up with a Mommy who throws the Lord’s name around like it’s a swear word.  Yay, Lent!

So, challenge yourself this Lent.  Don’t just give up chocolate or soda.  Really stretch yourself.  Be uncomfortable.  Do the hard work.  It will pay off.


F is Still for February…

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On our last date night, my husband, Joe and I came up with the idea of doing/making/giving something each month that begins with the letter of that month.

Well, I wracked my brain and tore through my bookshelves and found the book, “For Better, Forever,” by Greg Popcak. This is a book about creating an exceptional marriage.  How fitting for this month!  So, I got my highlighter out and read through most of it.  Then, one night after the kiddos were in bed, I read Joe the parts I thought were relevant to us.

This activity sparked some good conversation.  We were able to discuss some of the areas we’d like to improve upon as well as where we thought we were doing things right. The whole process took about half an hour.  Not a large investment of time for a rewarding return.

Moments like these really help solidify a marriage.  Sometimes it’s difficult to discuss your life because it’s hard to be objective.  Reading and discussing a book can bring a couple closer together and help establish the emotional intimacy that is vital to an exceptional marriage.

The Love of St. Valentine

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day.  It’s HIS day, you know…not the card store or the sweet shop’s day; St. Valentine’s Day.

So, what did he do to merit his own day?  He loved God with all his heart, mind and strength, that’s what.  He laid down his life for his friends.  He recognized Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Valentine was a priest during the persecution under Claudius II.  When he was arrested and tortured in order to get him to renounce his faith, he didn’t cave.  So, they beat him and beheaded him.



Wow.  That’s love.

He loved God and his faith enough to give up his very life.  In Ephesians 5, St. Paul tells husbands that they must love their wives in this way.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her… (Eph 5:25-26)

Husbands should be ready to die for their wives, in order to help them get to heaven.  Does this mean that they should look for opportunities to throw themselves in front of a bus?  Absolutely not!  There are many forms of dying…dying to self being one of them…giving up certain comforts or inclinations as a sacrifice for your wife.  For example, taking on a certain household chore you know she hates, putting your clothes in the laundry instead of dropping them on the floor, making time each day to listen to her concerns and worries about her responsibilities.

In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul tells wives to be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.  I know, I know, this gets your hackles up, doesn’t it?  Well, let’s take a look at this.  First off, the word subordinate can mean dependent.  So, wives need to depend on their husbands to…what?  To die for us as Christ did for His Church.  We need to cooperate in that mission.  How do we do this?  By praying for our husbands that they will listen to God and cooperate with His will in their lives.

So, the scripture that seems extremely sexist and obnoxious, is actually not so at all, is it?

Don’t forget, though, that earlier in his letter, St. Paul instructs all of us to

…be imitators of God, as beloved children and live in love, as Christ handed Himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God… (Eph 5: 1-2)

Wives are on the hook, too.  All of us are.  We are all called to love others with a  sacrificial love.  So, the next time you’re at the grocery store and the person behind you just has a few things, let them go in front of you.  When you’re completely spent and want to get to bed, stay up for just 10 more minutes and set the breakfast table for your family or set up your spouse’s coffee for the next morning.  Make small sacrifices daily and you will build up the grace to make a big sacrifice, if you are called to, at some point in your life.

Live your life like St. Valentine, who knew that all he was and all he had was from God and he lived his life for God, for His glory.  Remember that all of us are here to serve one another.  Christ demonstrated this when He washed His disciples’ feet.

The best way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day is to be Christ to others.

Go for it.


F is for February

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On our date Friday night, my husband, Joe and I came up with a novel idea to help keep our marriage fresh.  Each month, we will either buy or make each other a small gift, do an activity or make a new recipe that starts with the beginning letter of the month.

So, for February, we’ll be checking out recipes for Flank Steak.  And I’m secretly hoping Joe brings home flowers some night.  I can’t tell you what I’m planning for two reasons:

1. He reads my blog.

2. I haven’t thought of it yet.

But I love this idea!  It will keep us talking to each other about…each other.  And sharing in this way creates emotional intimacy.  And emotional intimacy translates into deeper intimacy in the marriage overall.

John Paul II, in his writings on Theology of the Body expounded upon how emotional intimacy is a building block of marriage. If you are interested in learning about this topic, check out the following books:

Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla (JPII)

Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West

Men and Women Are From Eden by Mary Healy