Small Success Thursday: The Befores and Afters Edition

Small-Success-dark-blue-outline-800x8001-400x400@2xIt’s Small Success Thursday over at CatholicMom.com, where we celebrate the things that went right this week.

Like I said earlier, we’re in house moving mode, so this will be quick and picture-laden.  I had (and still have) a ton of deep-cleaning to do before we list (probably, hopefully on Saturday).  The beautiful ceramic and glass tile backslpash my husband put in our kitchen was covered in missed grout, not to mention accumulated grime.

Utility blade + Kaboom + polar fleece scraps + elbow grease =

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Our fiberglass tub gets cleaned regularly, but not even washing soda and a cloth could eradicate the stains on the bottom of the tub: dull their edges, yes, but not eliminate them.  BEHOLD!

Low-odor oven cleaner + Magic Eraser + elbow grease = IMG_5415

20140801-070421.jpgLast but not least, I lost my beloved Ray Bans a few weeks ago.  My old frames were so pretty and comfortable and edgy and quirky and conservative all at once.  I loved them.

The only spare pair I have featured in the picture you see on this blog post.  Those are the glasses I wore when I was pregnant.  THE FIRST TIME.  IN 2003.  The pair before pregnancy shifted my astigmatism.  The pair before this nearsighted beauty needed to start taking her glasses off to read.  Can you say, “Welcome to migraine territory?”  They were enough to keep me street legal, though, so I adjusted and endured the tiny turn-of-the-millennium frames on my giant Celtic head for several weeks.

So, first I finally made it to the eye doctor, which was a success in and of itself.  I’m not afraid of the eye doctor, per se.  It’s more like an annoyance with the process that is so deep it runs to anger.  First, I get migraines from the dilation drops (the overabundance of light and eye strain that follow, rather).  Second, I have very sensitive eyes with a blink reflex so fierce that, the one and only time I tried to be fitted for contact lenses, the optician’s assistant endured my attempts for an hour and a half before she finally said, “If you give up and leave now, I won’t charge you.” All this means that I’ve never been able to have a complete adult eye exam.  That ring of blue light they have to put right on your eye?  No eye doctor actually got the thing close enough before my eye would snap shut on it.

I knew I was due for dilation, and I didn’t want to deal with the Blue Ring of Failure.   And then, THIS GUY!  I don’t know how he did it, but he said my pupils were naturally big enough that he’d try getting away without the dilation–AND HE DID!  And then he was able to get both eyes with the blue ring!  I don’t know how.  I did offer to be hooked up to one of those Clockwork Orange things:

Not my image.  Duh.

Not my image. Duh.

Alas, he was fresh out, but it didn’t matter!  He succeeded where countless others have failed.  And then, to ice the optical cake, they had my exact same pair of Ray Bans but in a more lightweight material that, I think, works better with my skin tones.  IMG_5420

Maybe next week’s Small Success will be finding time to wax my eybrows and do roots and makeup.

God is good.  All the time.  Sometimes He even makes it obvious.  What went right for you this week?  Link it up or comment it over at CatholicMom.com!  

Interview with Annie Douglass Lima

Today I bring you an interview with author Annie Douglass Lima.  Her latest book is out, so let’s hear more about it.  CollarCavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

What is the Collar for, and what is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with “have a rack”), an unsharpened weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

 
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Tell us about your most recent work.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication? 

I’ve just published a young adult action adventure novel called The Collar and the Cavvarach.  It takes place in a world very much like our own, except that slavery is legal there.  The main character, Bensin, is a teenage slave who is trying to protect and free his younger sister Ellie.  He’s an athlete, and he competes in a martial art called cavvara shil, with all the prize money going to his owner, of course.

It’s hard to say exactly how the idea came to me.  It just grew gradually in my mind until Bensin and the others were as real to me as my family and friends.  I drafted the novel in November 2013 for National Novel Writing Month, and I’ve been working on editing and polishing it ever since.

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Annie Douglass LimaIdea, research, editing, design…What was your favorite part of working on this project? What was your least favorite? 

My favorite part was working on certain scenes in the first draft that just seemed to come to me on their own.  Though I had the story pretty well planned out before I began, there were some surprises along the way.  For example, a character named Kalgan Shigo, a City Watch Officer (the equivalent of a police officer) grew in a way that I did not anticipate.  I had planned two little scenes for him, one at the beginning and another near the end, and that was all.  His purpose in the story was to make it more difficult for Bensin to reach his goals.  But Officer Shigo decided he wanted more of a role than that, and he stepped forward and claimed it.  I don’t want to give anything away, but he appears a number of times now, and does much more than just make Bensin’s life harder.  The story is much better this way than it would have been, and it was exciting to watch that change.

My least favorite was the research I had to do before I could write certain parts.  Even though my book is fiction, I had to get my facts straight!  For example, since one of my characters is an athlete and another is his coach, I spent a lot of time researching training and workouts, healthy diets for athletes, types of martial arts, names of specific types of kicks, and so on.  Even though the martial art Bensin practices is made up, I wanted it – and his training regimen – to sound realistic.

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Tell us about how this work came to reach us:  did you go the self-publishing route or did you contract with a publisher?  What was that like? 

I chose to self publish.  I like having control over all aspects of my writing and publishing.

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What other things in your life do you juggle in order to keep at your writing?  How’s that working out for you?

I’m a fulltime teacher (5th grade), and while I love my day job, it leaves me with a lot less time to write than I’d like.  Most of my writing happens during school vacations and weekends, except on the rare occasions when I have enough brainpower left in the evenings.  This year I’ve started getting up early to put in an hour or so of writing before school, and that’s been working pretty well.

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Setting, characters, plot, mood, tone… What would you describe as your greatest strength as a writer?

I think my greatest strength is creating characters and their dialog.  Most of the time I find it easy to get into their heads and know what they’re thinking, what they would say to each other in any given situation.

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Conversely, if you could change one thing about your writing style, what would it be and why? 

I would love to do better at making my characters’ lives worse.  Sounds awful, doesn’t it?  ;-)  A good story involves lots of problems for the characters, and I think sometimes I tend to make things a little too easy for them at first.  I mean, they’re so close to my heart that I want everything to go well for them, you know?  But I keep finding myself having to go back and change things to make it harder for them to attain their goals. It makes for a stronger story, but they would probably hate me for it if they ever met me!

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Lastly, where can we find your work, a. k. a. give you our hard earned cash? 

Click on the links below to view or purchase The Collar and the Cavvarach for:

Additionally, here are some ways you can connect with me online:

It’s quiet. Too quiet.

Well, on my blog, anyway.  In my life?  Not so much.  We are getting ready to put our house on the market.

Those booze boxes are empty.  Now they are, anyway.

Those booze boxes are empty. Now they are, anyway.

Carpets and appliances and packing, oh my!  All of my creative energies have been invested in preparing the house.  And preparing the children:  that takes a LOT of creative juice, I tell you what.

Not my image.  Duh.

Not my image. Duh.

Anyway, precious little blogging is getting done around here, and even less novel writing, I’ll admit.  I’m one of those writers who is too busy to maintain a separate Pinterest identity for my real life, so if you want to see All The Pins, including stuff on how to stage a home on None The Money, by all means, visit my Pinterest page.  If you’d rather just see the writing stuff, just check out my writing board and ignore the rest.

If none of those interest you, but you’re just a nice person in general, please ask St. Joseph to intercede for us and for the family we hope will buy our home.  And before you ask, no we’re not burying a statue.

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What we are doing is, every time we go to church, we light two candles in front of the St. Joseph statue and offer one prayer for our family and one for the family who will buy our home.

If they buy it sooner rather than later, I’ll not complain!

Seven Quick Takes on Your Kids’ Spirituality

It’s Friday, and you know what that means! Kelly M’s hosting Seven Quick Takes Friday over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

7QTlogoToday it’s my pleasure to host Connie Rossini, author of several books, her latest being A Spiritual Growth Plan for your Choleric Child.

1) Connie, thanks for visiting us today.  Briefly, can youConnieRossiniHeadshot tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a lifelong Catholic, married with four young sons. I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and have homeschooled since our oldest was four. I also homeschooled my youngest brother through high school. Off and on for the last ten years, I’ve written a spirituality column for the diocesan newspaper. I blog on Carmelite spirituality and raising prayerful kids at Contemplative Homeschool. I’m also a columnist at SpiritualDirection.com.

2) Your latest book is called A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child.  Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean by a “choleric child”?

3d Choleric Cover CroppedThe idea of four temperaments comes from Hippocrates, most famous as the father of medicine. He saw that people tended to react to stimuli in one of four ways. He thought these reactions were related to body fluids, so he gave them the names choleric, sanguine, phlegmatic, and melancholic. The choleric reacts intensely and immediately to stimuli. He holds onto his impressions for a long time. His strengths include high energy, determination, noble ideals, and a strong work ethic. He is often good at nearly everything. He tends toward pride and anger and loves a good debate. Without proper direction he can become a tyrant, but many cholerics have been great saints.

3) I understand that our vocation as parents includes providing spiritual guidance as well as an education for our children.  However, I’ve never before heard of making an actual plan for a child’s spiritual growth.  Can you tell us where and/or how you discovered the idea of planning out a child’s spirituality?

I think the idea really started several years ago when I read A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She suggested something similar. I made a few notes for my oldest son, who was probably six or seven at the time, but I never really implemented them.

I’m a person who likes to look for underlying principles that tie things together. (That comes from my strong secondary melancholic temperament.) After studying a lot about the temperaments in the last few years, I began to realize that most of my kids’ misbehavior was related to their temperaments. I realized that the discipline that worked for one child wouldn’t necessarily work for another.

So I thought, I’ll make a plan for each child as part of our homeschool year, working proactively on issues related to his temperament. I knew my choleric son needed to learn humility and compassion, my melancholic son needed to learn to fight despair, and my phlegmatic-sanguine son needed to overcome sloth. [My youngest just turned four, so we are still discovering what makes him tick!] These are all spiritual issues. So temperament studies became a weekly part of our religion class.

4) I have to admit:  right now I find the idea of planning my child’s spiritual growth a bit troubling.  The idea of it feels.. intrusive somehow.  Can you maybe put to rest any qualms some of us might have with the idea of planning the growth of another soul? Specifically, I mean beyond the usual setting of a good example, providing instruction in the faith that is in line with the magisterium, etc.?

You’re not the first one who has told me the idea challenges him. The first thing I want to say is that this has been an extremely positive experience for my family. I feel like at last I am loving my kids for who they are and trying to help them be the best they can be, instead of expecting them all to act and react like I do.

The Church tells us that parents are their children’s first teachers in the faith. That doesn’t just mean first chronologically because we know them first, but we are their primary teachers of the faith throughout their childhoods. I look at myself and my husband as our children’s spiritual directors. We are to help them on their way towards God. A spiritual director cannot force his directee to change, but he can and should help the directee make a plan of attack for his spiritual life. My boys are very active in this process. I often begin their temperament studies (and we do this one on one) by asking, “How are things going with your temperament? Is there anything you think you need to work on?” Then we talk about it and try to come up with some ideas of how to approach the problem. My choleric son in particular (who is also the oldest) often has great ideas about what will work for him. But without this time set aside, he may never have been as reflective as he needs to be for genuine growth.

As I say in my book, we are to know, love, and serve God–that is our life’s purpose. Instruction in the faith touches on the knowing, although I don’t think it even covers that aspect completely. Ultimately, what we need to know is Jesus, not just the articles of faith. That’s why teaching my children prayer methods that go along with their temperaments is an important part of our studies. Setting a good example is imperative too. I have a whole section about the importance of modeling the behavior you want to see in your children. But I want to give my children the tools that will help them grow closer to Jesus. They don’t need to have the same exact relationship with God that I do. They don’t have all my struggles. They have different strengths. I want them to be aware of both those struggles and those strengths, so that they can already be practiced in fighting them or using them for God’s glory by the time they are adults.

5) What are some of the resources you used in writing this book?

For background on the temperaments, The Temperament God Gave You by Art and Laraine Bennett is the best source by Catholics. Protestant author Florence Littauer also has a temperament series that is excellent. John Paul II’s exhortation on the family, Familiaris Consortio, was my go-to source for the spiritual life of parents and their kids.

6)  What are some of the lessons you yourself learned while pursuing this project?

One valuable lesson I learned from other writers who critiqued my early drafts was that not only our kids are different–parents are too! I tend to think that every parent will have the same struggles with their kids that I do. I learned from these other parents that some of the things about the choleric temperament that nearly drive me crazy don’t bother them at all! I had to rewrite parts of my book to reflect those differences.

7)  Lastly, where can we pick up this book and any of your other work for ourselves?

A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child is currently available on Amazon as an ebook and a paperback. The paperback should be available at other online retailers soon. My earlier book Trusting God with St. Therese is available in several formats.If readers visit the Book Table tab on my blog, they will find links to many different retailers, as well as to the two free downloads I have written.

Thank you for stopping over, Connie!  I certainly learned a lot from this interview, and I hope Tomato Pie fans did as well.

A Late “Thank You!”

Please allow me to thank the following folks who helped out with the 99 cent Kindle promotion of Don’t You Forget About Me.

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This took place TWO WHOLE WEEKS AGO!  I am a negligent ditz, yes, but I am a grateful one!

Allison Gingras

Annie Douglass Lima

Barb Szyszkiewicz

Carolyn Astfalk

Christine at Domestic Vocation

Connie Rossini

Ellen Gable

Felicia Rogers

Jeannie Ewing

John McNichol

Kate Basi

Laura Nelson

Lisa Hendey

Margaret Rose Realy

Rebecca at Our Hearts are Restless

Rhonda Ortiz

Sarah Reinhard

Tiffany the Catholic Librarian

Thank you, all!  Now go give those folks some hugs from me!

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DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME ONLY 99c 4/27-5/1/15

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Yes, friends, it’s true!  Don’t You Forget About Me Kindle edition is only 99 cents all this week, April 27-May 1.  What’s DYFAM about?

Mary Catherine Whelihan made it out of Walkerville alive once before.  Can she pull it off this time?  Bullies, sexual harassment, finding a corpse in the local creek… Cate’s childhood in 1980s Walkerville was murder!  So what could possibly tempt her to return?  A cryptic email from Eugene Marcasian, MD, her grade school crush might do the trick.  Can Cate and Gene find the cause of the mysterious illness afflicting nearly all of the girls in their graduating class, including Cate herself?  Or will corporate bullies continue to take down anyone who gets in their way?  More importantly, can Cate stay alive long enough to get one more slice of tomato pie?

Excerpt from Don’t You Forget About Me:

“Doesn’t signing in at the Technology Annex check-in desk blow the whole cloak-and-dagger bit?”

Gene furrowed his brow for a moment. “I’m not looking for cloak-and-dagger. I just want to buy enough time to get some answers and put a stop to whatever is making people sick. But Mary Catherine—I don’t know what kind of wasp nest we might be kicking at here.”

“Nice image.” My stomach knotted.

Gene gently but firmly grasped me by my upper arms. “I’m not kidding. If what our coffee shop friend said is true…”

I picked up where he trailed off, “Then Walkerville wasps carry some pretty wicked stingers.”

Gene nodded. “I’m willing to give it all to find the truth. I’m not sure I want you to.”

He was right. This wasn’t picking up rocks in Quaker Creek and looking for water pennies. This was digging up what two potentially deadly forces—Big Pharma and The Mob—wanted kept buried.

I forced myself to look directly into his eyes. “Search softly,” I said, “and poke with a big stick.”

Praise for Don’t You Forget About Me

“This book has all the elements that make a book addictive: a compelling story told well with characters who are unforgettable. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stay up all night reading.”

Sarah Reinhard, author, SnoringScholar.com and A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy

This captivating murder mystery made me laugh, cry, and crave Italian food; ‘80s pop tunes are still stuck in my head. If you like mysteries that offer a good mix of suspense and science, don’t miss this book.”

Barb Szyszkiewicz, franciscanmom.com

“Don’t You Forget About Me…is a rollicking fun and exciting cozy murder mystery.  The author’s strong and clever command of the written language makes this book an entertaining page-turner. I recommend this highly-enjoyable, cozy, clean, lively mystery to all readers!”

Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author, Frozen Footprints

A quirky, fun, mystery-romance that will tickle your funny bone while making your hair stand on end.

AnnMarie Creedon, best-selling author, Angela’s Song

“It’s easy to identify and sympathize with protagonist Cate Whelihan as she returns to her hometown and faces not only the classmates who bullied her in school but also her junior high sweetheart and fellow nerd, Gene.  Readers will be chuckling one moment…and biting nails the next as she faces threats, corrupt police, and the business end of a gun.”

Daria Sockey, author, The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

Get your copy today!