Small Success Thursday: The Spoilers/Praises of Pinterest Edition

It’s Thursday, when we celebrate the good things of all sizes over at  

Come join this week’s winners at life!Small-Success-dark-blue-outline-800x8001-400x400@2x


I’ve been acting inside my head writing!  Did you see how last week I talked about using Through Line from Method Acting as a writing tool? Here’s how it looks in my little world.  If you look SUPER CAREFULLY, like with a magnifying glass, you’ll get some spoilage for Never Let Me Down Again, the tentative title to the sequel to Don’t You Forget About Me.


Sorry.  Don’t know how I can make that bigger without blowing it out of proportion (literally).  Anyway, the way it works is the character’s name is in blue in the header.  The next cell down is the character’s motivation, WHICH MUST BE AN ACTION VERB.  Underneath that (and this part is a sunblock of my own invention) in brackets is the opposite of that motivation verb.  Why?  Because conflict is the engine of story, and every story must bring the characters up against the reality of having their motivations thwarted, complicated, and thrown into question.


Moffat may drink our tears, but he knows what he’s doing.

Then the third cell down is a brainstorm of actions, body language, and/or images springing from the character’s motivation.  Want me to chat with your writing group about Method Writing?  Give me a holler. Let’s talk.  In the meantime, I pin Method stuff to my Writing-Related Pinterest board, so check that out as well.


Top Secret: I’ve somehow kept up my habit of exercising a bit every morning. To keep it from getting monotonous and to address what it feels like my body needs most that morning, I’ve been keeping a stash of different quick circuit training workouts on a secret Pinterest board.  Why do I keep this one secret?  For dumb reasons. But it works, so I that’s how I do.


Wheat in the heck? I try to live as authentically as I possibly can.  A bit of pride comes with that, in that I’m not one to follow trends, because they usually don’t feel sincere in my life.  But, hello, pride?  You know, the sin that says you’re better than everyone?  The Holy Spirit is always on the hunt for ways to get that sin out of my life so that I can really live without boundaries.  So my pride has gotten knocked down a bit in the past week, because now it seems my body wants to follow a trend.

I’ve been somewhat hypoglycemic all my life, but it got markedly worse after the birth of Second Shift.  I talked to my doctor last year in desperation and tried to follow all the hints for hypoglycemics: lots of fiber, low sugar, lowered fat, small meals, whole grains.  Nothing seemed to work.  So I’d eat a lower-calorie meal only to have my body 20 minutes later send me the message that IF YOU DON’T EAT A LOT OF FOOD RIGHT NOW YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.  You can probably imagine how hard that makes it to lose any kind of weight.  So in a year of trying to live like a hypoglycemic, I’ve thrown on about an extra twenty pounds.  It’s unbelievable, not to mention counterintuitive.

Last Thursday was very busy, and I’d eaten nothing but junk, junk, junk.  But it wasn’t until dinnertime that I realized I hadn’t had a single episode of low blood sugar.  I brushed it off as coincidence, but the next day when trying to pick something to eat for breakfast, I thought back to the previous day’s food choices:

  • Fruity Krispie treats for breakfast (with added artificial dyes and sugars to boot)
  • Hot dog & pineapple kebabs
  • Popcorn
  • Cheese slices
  • Corn chips & salsa
  • Chicken & rice with kale

and not a single bite of wheat.  Dreading the result, I decided to give up wheat instead of flesh meat for my Friday sacrifice to see what would happen.  By Saturday morning I felt better than I had in years.  Years.

Happy face!  Sad face.

So I don’t know how it happens, but it seems that I like wheat but my pancreas doesn’t. I’ve avoided wheat all week and with the exception of the beer I had with hubs on Father’s Day (which, made me feel horribly shaky…and hungry, of course, for the next 24 hours), and the Eucharist on Sunday, I’ve been avoiding wheat.  And, well, I’ve been feeling much better.  My belly also has lost a lot of bloat, and I have enough energy that my morning workouts are no longer such a pain.

There seems to be some sort of threshold (the wheat in Eucharist didn’t bother me, and I’ve had soy sauce with no reaction), so that’s good.  Also, knowing my body, I don’t plan on going cold turkey; the last time I cut an allergen completely out of my life, my next reaction to it was anaphylactic.  Um, thanks but no thanks.  So we talked about scheduling times when I’ll have, say, a donut, or tomato pie.

She says, looking wistfully at her book cover.  Anyway, if you have any favorite wheatless recipes Pinned, send them my way and I’ll add them to my Wheat in the Heck board.

What has gone right for you this week?  Join the Small Success Thursday linkup at! 

The 7 Quickest of Takes

Over at Kelly’s place.  You know what to do.


We’ve had one open house with four visitors, one actual official-like realtor showing, and no offers yet.  Please keep praying.

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

Those booze boxes are empty. Now, anyway.


I’ve been exercising a bit every morning right after  I get out of bed.  Am I the only one who doesn’t feel better after exercising?  Wheezing, aching, point-tenderness?  Then again, I also want to not die any earlier than I can possibly manage. So I keep trying.  Intermittently.


I’m part of two panels at the Catholic Writers Guild Live next month.  Go, and do not miss this conference again.


I’m making some invisible headway on Never Let Me Down Again,  the working title for the sequel to Don’t You Forget About Me:

Don't You Forget About Me FTcasefrontcover

I got so stuck that I’ve had to resort to writing exercises.  One of them is a sunblock of my own invention: Through Line.  It’s based on the Through Line from Method Acting.  It’s great in that it provides action verbs that can translate very well into layered characterization and later into deeper imagery.  All that is my way of saying that I’m glad I majored in Theatre instead of English.


Speaking of theater majors, tomorrow I’m going to a mini-reunion for my college department.  I’ll be seeing the people I worked with over twenty years and eighty pounds ago.  I’m excited and truly looking forward to it.  I’m also a bit anxious.  These people have a lot of reasons to look down on me.  However, I have lots of reasons to love them.  So, I’m going.  All additional decades and pounds of me.


My only thought on people who’ve decided to go through colossal changes to their bodies and how people relate to them:  I am reminded of The Woman Who Wasn’t There. All my life I’ve seen people become what at some essence (fashion-wise, social-wise, DNA-wise, whatever-wise) they are not.  I have been one of those people.  Sometimes I wonder if I still am, though in my typically bass-ackwards way.  I am painfully uncomfortable maintaining any kind of facade, though that’s through no virtue of my own: I am just too scatterbrained to keep up any kind of a lie for very long, .

We’re all looking for acceptance.  I’ve seen people search for that acceptance by, either deliberately or subconsciously, seeking out groups who have a rule, unspoken or otherwise, to reject nobody.  I think that’s why it’s pretty important to teach our kids (and, ahem, ourselves) to accept who and what we are, because there’s always gonna be someone who wants you to be something you’re not.  If I’ve learned anything from the dubious virtue of being too scatterbrained to spin the plates of a public-vs-private-face, it’s that when we’re secure in who and what we are, we don’t even want to put up a fight or a front over how much acceptance others owe us.  They can’t give me what I don’t need because I already have it.


I wanted to end with Charleston.  The piece that’s taught the me the most on it is by Jen Fitz.  Jen Fitz is my spirit animal.  My southern, laid-back, quietly observant, subtly charming spirit animal.

In reading and praying over the list of victims, the one who resonates the most with me personally is Tywanza Sanders.  Yes, he was a young black man, and I’m a middle-aged white woman.  However, when I saw his age, I saw myself a few years ago, the only twentysomething at a Bible study, the youngest by thirty years.  So, as strange as it sounds to say, in some small way, I’ve been in his seat at the Bible study.  Would I have stood up to take someone else’s bullet?  I’d like to think so.  May he pray for me as I’ll pray for him, that I can be courageous like he was.

Another reason to be Catholic: in the communion of saints, we can become friends with people we never would have met, on this earth, either because of human constructs or simple physical distance.  God willing, when we ourselves reach heaven, those friends will be waiting for us, arms outstretched, shouting, “Finally!  You made it!”

“Why I Stay Catholic,” with the Aid of the Internet

Disclaimer:  I know none of this artwork is mine.  I’m not making any money off of it.  Try to sue me, and you won’t make money off of it, either.  

Elizabeth Scalia on Patheos has invited Catholic bloggers to respond to the question, “Why do you remain a Catholic?” I was thinking on this question and reading others’ responses, like Sarah Reinhard‘s and Barb S‘s.  Then I woke up this morning with the realization that I couldn’t possibly tell you why I stay without explaining why on earth I came back in the first place.

I’m a storyteller.  Let me tell you a story.

Once upon at time, many years ago, there was a little girl who loved nature and science and art all together.  Basically, she loved learning.  She was a nerd from the get-go.


Alas, she grew up in a world where adults weren’t to be trusted.  They lied to children.  They manipulated.  At best, they ignored them.  At worst, they used them for their own gratification and told the child it was her fault.  They put the “ME” in “The Me Generation.”  As for catechizing the little girl?  You mean, from the cafeteria line?  CatholicBabyBoomersMeme

Anyway, this girl, while not a Millenial, did get sent to Catholic schools for thirteen years (kindergarten included) during the late 1970s into the super-early 1990s.  High school saw her progress from suicidal thoughts, to aggressive atheism, to a nice, bland “I’m spiritual, not religious,” agnosticism.  Her gods were her ability to read palms and tarot cards in the lunch room and at cast parties for modest sums.  Strangely, the only Catholic school lessons that did stick were the ones on abortion and, perhaps less so, the one on artificial birth control being bad for you, on a scientific level, mind you.  She couldn’t see past the science of them both.  So.  Remember, she’s a nerd?


Oh, and the whole “save yourself for marriage” bit:  see, it was the age when the world was being introduced to HIV/AIDS.  This girl had an anxiety about getting sick and dying a horrible death, so the whole “waiting” thing seemed smart, but it was not taught in a very cohesive manner, so she only thought she had to wait for some things.

And then she, her palm readings and her tarot cards got to college.  All she knew upon arrival was that she was a weird person whom people generally don’t like.  She didn’t know why she had trouble trusting and connecting with people.  Then she got cast in a play where she played a character who had faced similar (not the same, just similar) betrayals as she herself had throughout her life up until that point.  She broke down.  During rehearsal.  In front of the whole cast.


She didn’t know why.  She just knew something was even more wrong with her than she initially suspected.

She went home from rehearsal, curled up under the quilt made by her (devout Catholic) Granny, and stared at a wall.  She shook a lot.  She tried not to sob too loudly.  She remembered things she’d experienced and thought to herself, “That’s not such a big deal.  Why would something so minimal make me this upset? After all, everyone always told me that whatever I thought was making a big deal out of nothing.” But that thought did nothing to console or heal.  Whatever was going on was much bigger than she herself was.


So she stared at the wall some more and thought, “Okay, God or whatever you are.  I just want The Truth.  I don’t care what it is.  I just want The Truth so I can get out of this bed and have things be better some day.”

Over the next days, weeks, and months, God (not the whatever, thankfully) answered her.  She did still own a Bible (for the intellectual exercise of reading it, like reading Thoreau), and she’d heard that the Psalms could be comforting, so she read those.  She also read about Wicca and Buddhism and Shinto and a whole alphabet soup of scavenging for Truth.  After about four months, she and her nerdy, metaphor-loving brain could find no more solid metaphor for God than the cross and resurrection.


Disappointed that she couldn’t find truth in nature worship or something cool like Eastern religion, she conceded.  “Okay, fine, God.  You want me to be Christian.  I’ll be Christian.  Just whatever You do, don’t make me Catholic.  The odds that I’d be born into The Truth are pretty darn slim to begin with, and besides that, nobody likes Catholics and their archaic, made-up beliefs that have no basis in reality.”

She joined the campus Christian fellowship, but in the interests of remaining open-minded, she still poked around the local Catholic community center. Except remember how she didn’t just like literature and plays and art?  She also liked science a whole lot and always felt kind of torn at having to choose a major?  Well, she loved nature.  A lot. Hence Wicca being mentioned first on the list above.   A girl who loves both nature and metaphor is a sucker for finding the logic in Natural Law, and a girl who doesn’t trust authority is going to mistrust what the culture says her.

Guess what?  Catholicism is all about Natural Law.  And even moreso, Catholicism is about Truth being solid, unchanging, utterly immune to manipulation.

“Oh, crap,” she said to God.  “Am I Catholic?”


She was talking to God pretty regularly at this point, and said, “Okay.  I can’t stand that this means that most of my friends are living in a way that is contrary to biological reality, but since I still get to love them, I can stomach it.  However, I still don’t get the Eucharist, Mary, or the Pope.  You’ve got some ‘splaining to do.”


Considering how much this girl got metaphor, the Eucharist barrier was the first to tumble: God loves us so much that it’s completely intimate.  He loves us so much that he won’t just die on a cross for us.  He literally will go through $h1t for us.  It’s a no-brainer.  The Eucharist is Jesus.  No other Christian faith teaches that with such clarity and reverence.

The Pope was next: every play needs a director, and her life was plays at the time.  Easy-peasy.  Not like this:


The Mary thing was tougher.  Human moms are unrealistically held up as the height of perfection.  Mary was just another human mom, so what’s the point?  Funny enough, this girl was reading one of the most anti-Catholic novels every to be written just as she was struggling with this idea of Mary being a sinless intercessor for us with Jesus.  Goddess worship abounded.  But Mary couldn’t be God.  There’s only one God.  But upon closing the book, this girl virtually heard God say, “What makes you think I would leave you without a mother?”


“Oh, crap,” she thought.  “I guess I really am Catholic.”

So by junior year, she poured the cultural Kool Aid down the drain, made several decent confessions, and accepted the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Peter’s great confession, “To whom else could we go, Lord?” sounded in her head more like, “If there were somewhere else to go, Lord, believe me:  I’d be there.  But you’re Truth, so I’m stuck.”

There was still one thing, though, that took a few more years to take, something she only learned while practicing True Catholicism.  It was the value of suffering.  She had suffered much in her life, and becoming Catholic did nothing to ease that.  It did, however, give it meaning.  Other faiths teach that suffering is to be avoided, ignored, or passed on to others (especially if you’re counting Western individualism as a religion).  Catholicism is the only faith that teaches that suffering has meaning and value and can be accepted with love for God and for others.


Suffering means that God loves us so much that he wants us to know the agony of his own heart.  It’s not about winning heaven, like some twisted martyr complex.  It’s about having faith and hope that we are loved in a relationship, that we get to give, not just receive.  We have the honor of loving God back.

So, yeah.  I’m that girl.  And, crap, I guess that girl’s Catholic.  Still.  So, however reluctantly most days, I run to God.


What’s more amazing is that he runs to me right back.

Why do you stay Catholic, when everybody else is leaving?  Blog it, and let Elizabeth Scalia know by tweeting at her @TheAnchoress.  

Small Success Thursday: The Befores and Afters Edition

Small-Success-dark-blue-outline-800x8001-400x400@2xIt’s Small Success Thursday over at, 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 =


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!  

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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

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.