7 Quick Takes with Chasing Liberty Author Theresa Linden

7QTlogoIt’s time for Seven Quick Takes Friday, a Friday linkup over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Today I’m delighted to bring you an interview with author Theresa Linden.  TLindenHeadshot

Theresa resides with her husband and three boys in northeast Ohio. She was born in San Francisco, California. Her father was in the Coast Guard, so the family moved every three years. This probably accounts for her love of traveling and desire to see the world. Living by the ocean and under the palm trees in Guam and Hawaii spurred her imagination. She began writing illustrated short stories with her sister in grade school, borrowing characters from favorite movies and shows. Now, writing is her passion. Her favorite genres include Fantasy, Western, Contemporary, Supernatural and Futuristic. Other interests: acrylic painting, drawing with ink, hiking, traveling and American History. Theresa is a member of the Catholic Writer’s Guild  and the Elyria Library Writers’ Group. She has an Associate’s Degree in Electrical/Mechanical Drafting and a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University. She is currently working on the last book in the Chasing Liberty trilogy.

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Tell us about Chasing Liberty.  How did the idea come to you?  How long did it take you from start to publication?

CHASING LIBERTYcoverChasing Liberty is the story of a young woman who seeks freedom in a society where the government controls every aspect of life. Nature is elevated above man. Developments in science and technology are not balanced with developments in morals and ethics. Faith, family and freedom have been lost.

The idea for this story came directly from the news. We used to watch Glenn Beck when he was on TV, and my jaw would drop at some of the stories on that show . . . disturbing things about the government watching you, about deep-green movements that think of humans as little more than parasites, about scientific advancements that cross ethical boundaries. Beck encouraged viewers not to take his word for it but to do their own research. So I did. The more I discovered, I kept thinking, “Wow, this can’t be real. It seems like fiction.” I wondered what our world, our country would be like if all this came to pass. As a writer, I don’t just wonder . . . I write!

From start to publication, Chasing Liberty took 2-1/2 years.

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

Favorite – I love developing characters and their relationships, thinking of ways to make them unique and bring them to life, giving them strengths and weakness, habits and quirks. I wanted Liberty to come across as strong and courageous, a person who doesn’t blindly go along with the culture but who is willing to stand against it. Even if she stands alone. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, even knowing the government is always listening and has programs that tag phrases considered “hate speech.”

Least favorite – While I enjoy all the different stages of writing, my least favorite part was the research, only because it opened my eyes to many evil ideologies in our world. I discovered how influential special-interest groups have been in our government and in world governments. Scary stuff.

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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?

If an author wants to have a publisher, I have learned, there is a lot of waiting involved. It took me one year to write the story, beginning in the summer of 2012. Then I spent several months looking for a publisher, several months waiting. Wanting to get my story out there, I decided to self-publish, and that was when World Castle Publishing offered me a contract. There was more waiting after that. Almost a year later, November of 2014, Chasing Liberty was released. My first published book! I am excited that the second book in this trilogy, Testing Liberty, will come out this fall.

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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 am a homeschooling mother of three teenage, adopted boys, one of which has autism. During the school year, homeschooling takes up the bulk of my day. And of course there are all the daily chores which I am learning to share with my boys. At the end of the day, I try to do something related to writing whether re-reading a section I’ve written, or critiquing a friend’s work, but it’s often hard to focus on actual writing. So I look forward to the weekends for that. Most of my writing takes place over summer. This summer, I am working on the third book in the Liberty trilogy, Fight for Liberty. I have set myself some unrealistic goals in order to finish the first draft before school begins. Amazingly, have been keeping them!Testing Liberty Brown Red

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

I enjoy developing characters, so I hope that is my greatest strength. I want my characters to feel real. Sometimes I do character interviews toward the beginning of developing a story, so that I can really get to know them. I even write scenes that will never make it to the final story, just so I can experience their past or moments in their lives that made them who they are.

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

This is a hard question to answer because I feel like my writing style changes with each book I write. I write constantly, and I often read articles and books on how to improve. By the time I finish writing a story, I can always go back and find things that I could strengthen or do differently. I hope my writing style gets stronger and stronger over the years, but I know there will always be room for improvement.

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

Chasing Liberty is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your preferred online bookseller.

If you like book trailers, check out the trailers for Chasing Liberty and for Testing Liberty.

I have a summer blog, Virtual Tour of America, for anyone who enjoys reflecting on the early history of our country.

And I can be found on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

WWRW: Catching Up

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

Let’s link up with What We’re Reading Wednesday over at Jessica’s Housewifespice Place.

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It’s been months since I read these.  Now I’ll finally get around to reviewing them!

Shadow in the Dark (The Chronicles of Xan Book 1) by Anthony Barone Kolenc

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Here’s what it’s about:

The Shadow passed through the midnight chill, dark and silent. Two small boys peered down at it in terror. “It’s back,” one of them cried in a faint whisper.

Bandits attack a medieval village. A young boy is injured and loses his memory. He wakes up at a Benedictine monastery and is given the name Xan—short for Alexander. But when the monastery is raided and a monk is accused of a violent crime, Xan must uncover the truth. Could the raid be related to the one that destroyed his village? And what about the shadowy figure Xan has seen lurking on the abbey grounds at night?

Mystery. Danger. Adventure. It’s all here. And true forgiveness and courage too.

“A well-done mediaeval mystery, laced with plenty of action and a bit of downright spookiness.”-Colleen Drippe, Hereditas literary magazine.

“A brisk-moving and suspenseful tale. Kolenc has penned a masterpiece.”-Dan Flaherty, The Scholar.

“This could be the future standard for sound adolescent literature!”- Leo Madigan, The Weka-Feather Cloak.

I had fun reading this, and so did First Shift, a pair of eleven year-old girls who “aren’t girly,” for those of you who don’t know.  This little gem offers and more than delivers mystery, adventure, a richly imagined other world (after all, isn’t the past another world?), and characters who live and breathe in all their dimensions.  The red herrings even threw me off, which is a high compliment for a YA mystery novel.  The faith-related piece is handled organically and breathes along with the characters, feeling more like a part of the setting than of the plot.  I can’t recommend Shadow in the Dark enough!

Next up, confession time: these days I just wait around for authors to send me review copies.  It’s a very economical way of keeping one’s reading list affordable.  Specter, however, by John Desjarlais, I was not willing to wait.

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I preordered the darn thing.  WITH REAL LIVE ACTUAL MONEY. You’re welcome, Professor Desjarlais.  Your question, though, Reader, surely is, “Was it worth it?”  HECK YES!!!!

Selena De La Cruz would like to leave the past behind as she plans her wedding … but the past no longer sleeps. In 1993, a Cardinal was murdered in Mexico at the Guadalajara Airport. Nearly twenty years later, the Vatican revisits the case … and finds that Selena’s family might have played a key role. Selena is forced to confront her family’s ghosts … in more ways than one…

This story deals with ghosts of all things–ghosts!–in a totally credible manner. One of the ways Desjarlais makes this leap believable is through the eyes of Selena’s skeptic fiance, Reed Stubblefield, whom we also first met in Bleeder (which you should also go read).  Selena’s family (both living and otherwise), personal history, and culture are depicted so naturally that I felt like I was sitting at the table in her godmother’s house, watching it all, remembering it all with them and wanting to protect my own heart, not only from the danger I could see coming but from the surprises lurking around the corner of every page.  The red herrings in this one got me, too, which I don’t mind one bit.  The pace was lightning-fast, the conflicts heart-racing and heart-rending, and the ending… well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.  If Amazon offered a sixth star, I’d give it to Specter.

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!  It’s not too late to post those pics

Seven Quick Takes from the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show

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Lights! Camera! Seven Quick Takes with Kelly over at This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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Don’t you forget to post your selfies on all over the darned place: #CMNSelfie2015.  Take a special look at all the contests involved.  The easiest perhaps is the Paper Pope Selfie Contest sponsored by Franciscan Media!


Here are my pics from the CMN Selfie Scavenger Hunt! Yes, there will be more than 7.  You’ll be okay with that, right?

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Buying a book:
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Here I am buying by trading with Stephanie Landsem: her The Well for my Don’t You Forget About Me.  The Well comes HIGHLY recommended, so go do the thing.

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Getting breakfast: 

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This was taken in the parking lot right before lipstick heading to Jersey.  Wawa Coffee > Sheetz ANYTHING.

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With Someone Wearing a Hat:

IMG_5656They say you never forget your first Doctor, so imagine my absolute delight when I discovered that my first Doctor was at the CMN Trade Show!  He’s not going by John Smith, though.  His current alias is Peter Ingemi, aka Da Tech Guy. He does all sorts of radio and media stuff.  He interviewed a number of folks at the show, including Ellen Gable, already up.  More are coming, including Carolyn Astfalk and myself.  Anyway, John Smith, Da Tech Guy is a good egg, all around nice guy.

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With Someone Wearing a Religious Habit:

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This nice, friendly Cistercian and his mom were kind enough to pose with me.  Is it just me, or does he look old enough to still need training wheels?  Seriously, though, love the hope borne through all these young vocations to the religious life… and the faithful moms and dads who point the way.

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With an Artisan at His/Her Booth:

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Here I am with Coleen Rossi, the owner of Trinity Cross Collection jewelry.  The design of these charms, earrings and more are to honor to Trinity as well as the suffering Christ endured on the Cross.  Whenever you move, the necklace gives a gentle ring, reminding you of all the Trinity is and does and ever will be.

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At the Catholic Writers Guild Booth:

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Here I am with Rebecca, the CWG conference volunteer coordinator.  You can’t tell by this picture, but she’s also taller than I am.  This makes me very happy.  It also makes me happy that she’ll be hanging out a shingle for editing services, so look for her info showing up here at Tomato Pie in short order.

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With Someone in a Catholic T-Shirt:

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Yeah, ignore my expression here.  In fact, ignore my expression in most of these.  Anyway, this fine gentleman is Mark Nelson of Nelson Fine Arts & Gifts out of Steubenville.  I believe they distribute Catholic To The Max shirts and all other manner of goodness.

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With Someone Who Has Been On EWTN

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Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life let me catch him in the middle of eating an ice cream bar!  Now that’s generosity.

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At the Booth Giving Out Your Favorite Freebie:

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Eternal Lite Flameless Candles was giving out Krackel bars.

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And, Finally, Paper Pope:

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AKA Flat Francis.  Thumbs up, Papa.  Thumbs Up.

PS: Don’t you forget to post your selfies on all over the darned place: #CMNSelfie2015.  Take a special look at all the contests involved.  The easiest perhaps is the Paper Pope Selfie Contest sponsored by Franciscan Media!

NFP Week: Meet Barb S., Franciscan Mom and Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Barb S, aka Franciscan Mom.

Barb aka Franciscan Mom talks about being Catholic and subfertile as part of NFP Awareness Week.

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

I’m Barb from Franciscanmom.com and Cook and Count. I’m editorial consultant at Catholicmom.com, a musician at my parish, a Secular Franciscan and a school-library volunteer.

My husband and I took NFP classes through our diocese during our engagement. We’ve been married 24+ years. We learned, used and taught the sympto-thermal method of NFP. We have 3 children, ages 23, 19 and 13.

The wide gaps in our children’s ages are part of the reason Erin asked me to share our story. We always wanted several children and did use NFP to space pregnancies—but despite careful charting, our pregnancies were spaced much farther apart than we’d expected they would be.

I had some complications following the birth of our oldest child, and I can honestly say that fear of more (and possibly worse) complications made me a little hesitant to sign on for rounds 2 and 3 of pregnancy, but ultimately I got past that and then discovered that it wasn’t as easy to conceive a child the next time around.

I guess subfertility is different from infertility because we knew that we had the ability to conceive (and carry a child to term). It’s frustrating. We knew we had been able to conceive once—why couldn’t it happen again? I worried, before we conceived our second child, that those birth complications with our oldest had somehow impaired my fertility. I was also experiencing some uncomfortable menstrual symptoms, which my GYN offered to “treat” with hormones; I refused that treatment (for the first time) in 1994 and subsequently spent more than 15 years trying to convince doctors that something was definitely wrong.

It’s actually NFP (and all those years of carefully-recorded information about my own body’s patterns and in-depth knowledge of what was “normal for me”) that came to my rescue in getting the fourth GYN in as many years to finally listen to me and send me to yet another doctor for treatment, which wound up being a DaVinci (robotic) hysterectomy and the discovery during surgery that I had endometriosis. Suddenly everything made sense, and I felt vindicated in my decision to walk away from Doctor #3, who told me that what was happening to me was “normal, even if it is the sucky end of normal” (how’s that for a lovely exam-room manner?) Apparently the endometriosis invasion was extensive; one of my Fallopian tubes was attached to my intestines by scar tissue.

For some stupid reason, though, that first surgeon left me both ovaries and one tube, which meant I had a fully-functioning estrogen supply to reboot all that endometriosis. I might not have even noticed a problem—except I was still using NFP.

Why would I do that? I wanted to be able to let my daughter know when I’d gone through menopause. I know that’s on all the medical-history questionnaires, and it became important to me to be able to do that for her. I figure she’s genetically predisposed to wind up with endometriosis as well, so the more knowledge, the better. So I kept using the sympto-thermal method, taking my temperature and charting daily, and following my ovulation pattern. Within 4 months of surgery, I began having episodes of spotting that were timed just right to be menstrual periods.

My doctor listened, because I had data to present to her. We did a little bit of “wait-and-see” along with regular pelvic ultrasounds (which can find cysts and “fluid collections” but not endometriosis), and over the next year I had one very painful burst ovarian cyst and another very large cyst that was surgically drained. Finally, a little over 2 years after my first surgery, I had my ovaries removed, along with as much remaining endometriosis as a surgeon at a cancer center could find. I didn’t have cancer but I was sent there because of the surgeon’s expertise in removing all of what we didn’t want left behind.

That’s the long story of how NFP helped me with my health. I think ultimately, the knowledge I had—of what was and was not normal for me—gave me the courage I needed to see yet more doctors, undergo yet more examinations and ultrasounds and a D&C and 2 endometrial biopsies, and stand up for myself as I refused offer after offer of yet more hormones that would, at best, mask the problem and—since the problem was undiagnosed endometriosis—possibly even make it work.

How has NFP made life less-than-easy? Well, the easy way out of my situation would have been to accept hormonal birth control, and just put off dealing with the problem until later. I’d have saved myself a lot of physical pain and a lot of money spent on Advil (I was taking 4 every 6 hours, setting alarms in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t go a minute longer than that without replenishing the Advil supply).

NFP was less than easy when we were able to achieve pregnancy; people (yes, Catholic people and yes, family members) just assumed that we were “done” after the first child and definitely after the second, especially given that extra-large age gap there. So we got a lot of rude and unwelcome comments about NFP “not working” when we finally were able to announce that welcomed, wanted, and (in our minds) overdue pregnancy. If people only knew!

Although we’re faithfully Catholic and strong proponents of NFP, we’ve never run into the “you’re sinning if you don’t have a huge family” crowd. Our challenge was the opposite. We always felt alone in using NFP. No one we knew practiced it. No one in our families or circle of friends supported us in it. We only had each other for support. So our challenge as a subfertile Catholic couple was less of an issue as our challenge as an NFP-using Catholic couple. We lived with the hurts of countless snide and snarky remarks about how NFP “doesn’t work” on top of our own private burdens of subfertility. I’ve had people ask me if all 3 of my children (all of whom share the same last name, all of whom look alike, none of whom look like me) are from the same marriage. I guess no matter what your level of fertility is, people will find a way to say inappropriate and rude things (in front of your kids).

I hope that sharing our story will help someone else feel not so alone. I encourage you: if you have data about what’s normal for you, and something is happening that is not normal for you, see a doctor. If all you get are pat, easy answers about hormones, find another doctor. Don’t waste all the time I did. Don’t feel all the pain I had. Find a doctor who will listen and who will respect your knowledge and your data.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Barb.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share? Do you feel like you’re the only Captive Panda out there?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

NFP Week: Meet Carolyn Astfalk, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Carolyn Astfalk.

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Let’s hear from Carolyn about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

My name is Carolyn Astfalk, and I’m a wife, mother, and writer. My husband and I have used natural family planning (NFP) for more than eighteen years. Since January, I’ve been blogging at My Scribbler’s Heart, and my debut novel, Stay With Me, will be published by Full Quiver Publishing on October 1, 2015.

Most pregnant women look forward to their first sonogram with eager anticipation. I was giddy with excitement, a full heart, (and a full bladder) at my first sonogram, eager to leave with an image of my unborn baby that I could share with family and friends.

But on the sixth week of my sixth pregnancy, as I drove to the technician’s office, I felt as if I were headed to my execution. Already suffering through near-constant nausea, the dread had worked me into an anxiety attack by the time I arrived at my midday appointment.

Between my first and sixth pregnancies, they joy and excitement of a sonogram had been replaced by gloom and dread. After that first awe-inspiring sonogram, three of my four subsequent pregnancies were marked by black and white monitors with tiny, motionless babies—if you could see the baby at all. Each of those pregnancies ended with my husband and I sobbing in each other’s arms at the outpatient surgical center.

While I clung to an irrational fear of infertility before we’d even tried to conceive, it turned out we had no trouble conceiving. Sustaining pregnancies, however, was fraught with numerous difficulties.

When I had one or two children in tow, sometimes even well-meaning people unintentionally diminished pregnancy loss by saying, “Well, at least you already have one (or two) children.” Yes, we were blessed by those children. But each child is unique, and whether his or her life lasted five weeks, eight weeks, or longer, that child had already claimed (and still claims) an irreplaceable spot in my heart.

The dreaded sonogram of my sixth pregnancy revealed a healthy baby. Sixth months after that little girl was born, we conceived her little brother. I attribute those full-term pregnancies, in part, to our use of NFP, both as a method of avoiding and achieving pregnancy and as a diagnostic tool.

We practiced the symptom-thermal method of NFP from the beginning of our marriage, before and after our first son was born. After the first miscarriage, my doctor recommended learning the Creighton Method. Initially, its use was helpful in determining abnormal hormonal fluctuations during my cycle and a subclinical level of under-active thyroid. Later, we used NFP to delay pregnancies when further medical testing was needed to find additional causes for my miscarriages.

We’ve chosen to use NFP because we want to be obedient to the Church and agree with Her teaching regarding human sexuality. That NFP has vastly increased my knowledge and understanding of my health and fertility was a bonus. Between that knowledge and the outstanding care of NFP-only doctors, midwives, and health practitioners, our family has grown beyond the doubt and fears that came in the wake of those still and silent sonograms.

Like anything else, NFP has its joys and its crosses. My husband and I have discovered many ways to be at odds with each other, so I’m grateful that NFP has given us one less reason to butt heads. We’re united in our commitment to its use and share the responsibility for its effectiveness. Yes, I do all the observing and charting, but both trusting God with our fertility and practicing abstinence when necessary require mutual assent. We can’t put off those conversations and decisions indefinitely, nor can we resent each other as we might were one of us the gatekeeper of pleasure or fertility.

Charting has been a minor inconvenience at worst. The most difficult part of NFP’s use has been the necessary abstinence when trying to avoid a pregnancy. There’s no way around the fact that it’s frustrating that the time my husband and I are most inclined to be intimate is when we cannot be. As we’ve grown weaker (or more needy) over the years, our resolve has weakened, forcing us to be more generous with God and each other—and that’s not a bad thing.

As in so many other aspects of our lives, we’re often quick to jump to conclusions based on only what we see. In the case of sub-fertile Catholic families, you may see what passes for a large family these days. What you don’t see is who is missing—the children longed for and the babies lost.

My paternal grandmother died very young, leaving my grandfather with two boys. They only family photo of them is one of my grandfather, father, and uncle with a picture of my grandmother awkwardly superimposed above them. I’ve heard it was common practice at one time to add the deceased love one into the photo, but to the modern eye, it borders on creepy. Yet having the entire family pictured together, those here and those who have moved on, points to a larger reality—our eternal kinship. That’s what I wish people could see: our whole family, together forever.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Carolyn.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

CMN 2015 Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt

ETA So many amazing prizes have been added that you will just have to scroll down to the bottom to see them all.  Thanks to Franciscan Media, Maria Morera Johnson, Lisa Hendey, Karina Fabian  and Melanie Rigney for joining in the fun.  


 IF YOU CAN’T MAKE THE TRADE SHOW, GET CREATIVE AND PLAY FROM HOME!
Who’s going to the Catholic Marketing Network Trade ShowI AM!

Last year we had a great time playing the CMN Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt.  Who’s up for a repeat?

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Here’s how you play:

  1. Take a selfie at/with/doing any of the things in the list below.
  2. Post it to your Instagram, TwitterFacebook, Pinterest, blog, whathaveyou, including #CMNselfie2015 wherever you post it.
  3. Search the places listed above for #CMNselfie2015.
  4. Find like minds and hearts!
  5. Follow them on the places listed above.
  6. Get to know each other! Support each other! Share the love!

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And here’s this year’s list!

  1. Buying a book
  2. Getting breakfast
  3. With someone wearing a hat
  4. With someone in a religious habit
  5. With an artisan at his/her booth
  6. At the Catholic Writers Guild booth
  7. With someone wearing a Catholic t-shirt 
  8. With someone who has been on EWTN
  9. At the booth that is giving out your favorite freebie: this is not at all so I might find out more quickly who has the little glass bowl of Lindt truffles.
  10. Of course, with Paper Pope.  BTW, that doesn’t count double for #4.  Paper Pope is in a class by himself.

PRIZES AVAILABLE:

  1. Lisa Hendey has offered 1 signed copy each of Chime Travelers Book 1 and Book 2 to the first person at CMN to post a selfie taken at the Franciscan Media booth and tagged #ChimeTravelers and #CMNSelfie2015. Post in a comment below or tag and Tweet at moi (@erinmcop on Twitter and @erinmccolecupp on Instagram) and I’ll make sure she sees it.
  2. Maria Morera Johnson is offering a copy of her forthcoming My Awesome Beautiful Badass Book of Saints to the first person to post a selfie at the Ave Maria Press Booth at CMN! Post it in a comment below or tag it with #CMNSelfie2015 and tag/Tweet at moi (@erinmcop on Twitter and @erinmccolecupp on Instagram) and I’ll make sure she sees it.
  3. Karina Fabian has offered 1 signed copy each of Infinite Space, Infinite God I & II to the first person to post a selfie taken at the Catholic Writers Guild Booth with an officer!  Tag and Tweet at moi (@erinmcop on Twitter and @erinmccolecupp on Instagram) and I’ll make sure she sees it.
  4. Paper Pope Contest from Franciscan Media: Post a selfie with Paper Pope (a Pope Francis cutout) by11:59pm EDT on Friday, July 24, tagged with #CMNSelfie2015  and tweet/tag me  (@erinmcop on Twitter and @erinmccolecupp on Instagram) and you could win an amazing Franciscan Media Prize Pack, thanks to our friends at Franciscan Media.  [A winner’s name will be drawn from all the paper pope selfies thusly tagged.]  
  5. The first USA resident to comment below with a link to a blog post that includes ALL TEN of the selfies above will WIN a signed copy of my Don’t You Forget About Me and a copy of Melanie Rigney’s Sisterhood of Saints and the hot off the presses Blessed Are You: Finding Inspiration from Our Sisters in Faith.
  6. The first winner to comment below with a link to a blog post that includes ALL TEN of the selfies above who does NOT reside in the USA will WIN a copy of my ebook Working Mother.  

Help spread the word!  Pin! FB share! Tweet! Instagram! Etc!

NFP Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz, Captive Panda

Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!

Not only is this week the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show and Catholic Writers Conference Live, but it’s also National Natural Family Planning Awareness Week.  I’ll be away at the show/conference, but I’m hosting postings from a few fellow members of the Captive Panda Club: those of us follow Church teaching on fertility but who nevertheless bust that super-fertile Catholic stereotype and get and stay pregnant as often as your average captive panda. The Captive Panda Club: Subfertile Catholics talk Natural Family Planning During NFP Week

Today’s guest blogger is Rhonda Ortiz.

RhondaOrtiz

Let’s hear from her about her journey as a Catholic living with subfertility.

Hey there! I’m Rhonda Ortiz. I’m a 34-year-old Catholic convert, wife, and mother of three. Other than chasing after kids, I spend my days writing and working as a freelance graphic designer. I’m also the founding editor of Real Housekeeping, an online magazine with over twenty contributors (and counting!).

Life in the Captive Panda Club…

When Jared and I were first married, we assumed we’d be Good Catholics and beget enough kids to field a football team. I had just graduated college and had no firm career plans—I was just waiting for the blessed arrival of a bundle of joy to keep me busy and happy.

That didn’t happen. At first, we assumed it was just a matter of time. After a year, Jared suggested that I see a doctor. That was a last thing I wanted to do. Like the proverbial ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand. If I didn’t learn what was wrong, nothing would be wrong. Right?

I spent five frustrated years wondering, if I wasn’t destined to be a mom, what the heck was I going to do with my life. My thoughts ran wild through the rat nest that was my head, making this and that set of plans, seeking…something. Anything!

Compounding my quest for daily purpose was the fact that my job at the time—teaching math at a Catholic school—wasn’t the best fit for me. And yet I couldn’t see myself doing anything except teach.

I finally agreed to see a doctor and learned that I had endometriosis. I had my first laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrium in June 2007.

We assumed I would be pregnant right away, but that also didn’t happen.

Fast forward to December 2009. My husband was studying for his doctoral comprehensive exams. I was in the middle of (a yet-undiagnosed) major bipolar mood swing which not only impeded my work but made me unbearable to live with. Yet somewhere in there was time and impetus for intimacy.

And then the miracle happened. On Christmas Eve, I discovered I was pregnant.

We learned after the fact that four different people, in four different states and with no communication between them, had felt inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray for us at Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Those of you who are good with NFP can do the math yourselves: this was my peak day.

Our first son, Benedict, was born the following September. Our second, Miriam, was conceived a few months after my second surgery and was born in October 2013. And in May we welcomed our third, Joseph, who is our first “Surprise!” baby. Given our previous subfertility, we were shocked, to say the least.

Regarding how the experience of subfertility is different from infertility…

They are both difficult to deal with and accept. I suppose one difference I see between the two is that, with subfertility, we have to discern how much medical intervention we’re going to allow in order to conceive again. We know now that I can have children; the question of,  “Am I going to have yet another surgery?” is compounded with our prudential discernment about having more kids.

On NFP and health, marriage, and life…

NFP has taught me the truth of the phrase, “Knowledge is Power.” Facing my fears and going to the doctor has taught me that it’s better to know, because in knowing I can do something about it. Now I have options. Now I can make decisions.

This lesson has impacted all areas of my health. After a major cross-country move I started experiencing more crippling mood swings and anxiety attacks. Thanks to the knowledge of a family member’s recent bipolar diagnosis, I was able to put a word on what I was experiencing and seek professional help.

Having proper medical care has made a world of difference to my daily life and especially my marriage. Knowledge really is power.

I haven’t experienced the “tough” side of NFP yet, but given that we now know we can have “unplanned” children, I think we’re about to experience it!

On being subfertile and Catholic…

Before Benedict was born, I felt like I had to explain our childless state to everyone. It wasn’t as if others were prying into our intimate concerns, but living in a vibrant Catholic community as we did at the time, we were surrounded by large families. I was afraid of being seen by others as unfaithful.

Those fears were unfounded. No one thought ill of us. In fact, those who knew had sympathy. They prayed for us.  They befriended us and welcomed us into their families.  We happily conversed about their kids, of course, but they also understood that we didn’t have kids to talk about and therefore talked about other things as well.

This is the best thing others can do for subfertile Catholics. We needed friends who could meet us where we were. Thank the Lord, we were blessed to have them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Rhonda.  Reader, do you have an experience with subfertility to share with your fellow Captive Pandas?  Did you go from infertile to subfertile, experience secondary infertility, or experience a different path all together? What’s the hardest part of being a Captive Panda Club member?  What keeps you going in faith?  How has God sustained you through it all?  What have been some unexpected blessings you’ve found as a result of trusting in Church teaching on fertility?  Talk to us in the comments below!

PS: Don’t forget the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show Selfie Scavenger Hunt!