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Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Rhonda Ortiz

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old! The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen. As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Rhonda Ortiz.  Rhonda also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Rhonda’s NFP Week Interview:
RhondaOrtizHey 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 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!…

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…

 

For the rest of Rhonda’s courageous story, please visit the original interview at this link.

Thank you, Rhonda, for sharing your story with us not once but twice. Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest! Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week. Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Barb S.

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like to revisit an interview from NFP Week 2015 with Barb S., aka Franciscan Mom.  Barb also has lived with endometriosis and has a powerful story to share.

Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.

Here’s an excerpt from Barb’s NFP Week Interview:

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

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 the rest of Barb’s story, please visit the original interview at this link.  

Thank you, Barb, for sharing your story with us not once but twice.  Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Endometriosis WeekBanner2016Welcome, readers, new and old!  The subject of endometriosis is near and dear (as in, costly and painful) to my heart… not to mention most of my abdomen.  As March 3-9 is Worldwide Endometriosis Awareness Week, I’m doing my part to shed light on the cause by featuring some women who also have faced this diagnosis.

Today, I’d like you to meet Brittany Schmidt, who also blogs over at Sapphire Blue Soul.  Besides featuring my interview with her, I’m also offering Tomato Pie readers my novel Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  But more on that in a bit.  First, let’s meet today’s guest!

Endometriosis Awareness Week: Meet Brittany Schmidt

Brittany Schmidt

EMC: Hi there, fellow endo-girl, and welcome to Will Write for Tomato Pie!  How about you take a moment to introduce yourself?   

Brittany: Hello, my name is Brittany Schmidt and I am a 23-year-old living in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. I am a devout Catholic dedicated to seeking holiness and learning about my incredible Catholic faith that astounds me every moment of every day. My husband and I have been married for almost two years and I feel so blessed to have such a supportive best friend and companion by my side. I am currently working towards my Doctorate in Chiropractic, I have two years left of school and I cannot wait to graduate and be a physician that is dedicated to optimal health and natural wellness.

EMC: Sounds like a good thing! When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

Brittany: Shortly after starting my doctorate in the Fall of 2014 I began to have a persistent pain in my lower right side, I also noticed my monthly cycles became heavier and more painful. I sought help and advice from an OB-GYN who did nothing, I am still very angry about this. The pain continued and got increasingly worse until one day in May (2015) while I was at school I experienced an intense and sudden pain. I went to the ER where they told me I had an ovarian cyst rupture and that I had another one growing and should follow up with my OB-GYN. I decided to go see a different OB-GYN who was wonderful and finally listened to me. She suspected endometriosis. We set a date for laparoscopic surgery at the end of July 2015; on that date she removed an ovarian cyst the size of a tennis ball and confirmed it was an endometrioma and that I did in fact have endometriosis.

EMC: A tennis ball! Yikes! Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

Brittany: Endometriosis has impacted my life in many ways. I’ve always considered myself strong and able to overcome any sort of pain or illness and I never expected to experience such a debilitating condition. Endometriosis has interrupted my hobbies such as running and exercising, endometriosis has brought on many painful periods that have caused me to miss days at school or social outings, endometriosis has sent me to the ER several times because the pain hasn’t been manageable, endometriosis has caused me to have two surgeries in the past 6 months, endometriosis has made sex with my husband almost unbearable, and endometriosis has had a major impact on my emotional capacity.

I don’t look sick and I feel like I am battling something terrible. When I realize I will have this disease forever and that I will have a future of recurring surgeries, endless pain, and possible infertility I feel my heart shatter. I’ve never been so devastated over something in my entire life and it has affected my relationships because I don’t think anyone can truly understand what I am going through. No one feels my pain, no one knows my fear of not being able to conceive, and no one knows how much it hurts both physically and emotionally to be intimate with my husband. I don’t like talking to others much about it because not only are they incapable of understanding my feelings but I am afraid they will tire of having the same conversation over and over again and lose sympathy for me. Because that’s what endometriosis is, it’s the same conversation over and over again, a conversation consisting of abnormal cell growth, pain, recurrence after surgery, infertility, and the emotional heartbreak that comes with having an invisible illness.

On the positive side, it has taught me to be more aware of my body and my needs and limitations, I do take better care of myself both emotionally and physically since my diagnosis. Endometriosis has shown me how fragile my human flesh is and that there is a need for a healing and compassionate God, endometriosis has strengthened my faith so much and shown me the power of redemptive suffering. I am a better Christian because of my endometriosis and that is a huge gift and blessing. I also believe that all of these experiences will make me a better doctor and more compassionate to those who have chronic pain.

A murder mystery about… endometriosis? For real? For real!  And it’s only 99 cents through March 9, 2016!

EMC: What have been some of the treatments you’ve used, and how effective were they?  

Brittany: It is hard to say what was effective and what was not, I may think that because I had recurrence of endometriosis after surgery all of the treatments I tried were not effective, however, what if the recurrence would have been faster or more extensive if I hadn’t been using the therapies I was? I don’t know, there is no way of knowing, but I think it’s important to keep in mind when discussing what is a valuable or effective treatment and what is not. After my first surgery in July I changed my diet by cutting out dairy, limiting gluten, switching to all organic meat, and only consuming 30 g of sugar (that included sugar from fruit). The diet was harder than I expected but I will say that I felt better while doing it, mostly because it was something I could control and I felt like I was actively contributing to preventing my illness. I also had weekly acupuncture sessions which I LOVED, it was so relaxing and the quiet time that it brought was emotionally healing. I also felt the acupuncture helped the healing of my scars and reduced my pain that continued after surgery. Again, attending weekly acupuncture sessions made me feel like there was a component of control in the midst of an uncontrollable disease. A few months after surgery my pain unfortunately returned and I had the presence of more cysts confirmed by ultrasound, I decided to yet again switch OB-GYNs and see an endometriosis specialist. The specialist explained that removal of endometrial adhesions by surgical ablation (burning or cauterizing) was not very effective and that there was a high recurrence rate. I was angry when I heard this, why did I have an ineffective surgery? Or why didn’t the OB-GYN who did my first surgery fail to tell me that there was a better surgery out there? Is it possible that she didn’t know? This is unacceptable to me. The specialist told me that he uses excision to fully resect all endometrial adhesions and that there is much less of a chance of recurrence with this type of laparoscopic surgery. I am now two weeks post-op from having excision by laser to remove more endometriosis. I am hoping that my outcome this time is much better and longer lasting than my last surgery.

EMC: I hope so, too!  Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Brittany: My faith has most definitely impacted what treatments I would accept. Since getting my diagnosis every doctor I’ve seen has recommended the birth control pill. This was really hard for me because the pill is something I have been so publicly against for so long for both ethical and medical reasons. I could not imagine taking the pill; the very idea of it nauseates me. I decided to seek guidance from our parish priest who was also apprehensive about granting permission to use the pill. He told us that the pill works in different ways and one of those ways is as an abortifacient in case there is breakthrough ovulation, of course as a devout Catholic I was not okay with this. Our priest granted us permission to use the pill only if we could detect if there was breakthrough ovulation and then abstain during that time, if we were not able to detect ovulation then we had to abstain during the course of taking the pill. What a burden, huh? Hubby and I finally decided to reject the pill, it was a decision that came with much prayer and many long conversations, but at the end of the day we were dedicated to our faith and to protecting life.

EMC: Have you found your faith to be a help or a hindrance in your relationship with your endometriosis treatment team?  How so?  

Brittany: My endometriosis treatment teams have been very considerate and open to the fact that our faith comes first and that we reject birth control of any kind, however, I don’t think that they truly understand where we are coming from. I’ve never felt pressured or judged by my health care team because of my faith and subsequent choices but I do think that it has created a bit of a hindrance because they don’t know how else to treat me. The only other option I’ve been given is to conceive a child. Ironic, my options are either the birth control pill or to conceive a child, neither of these options are ideal right now so it kind of leaves me in a place where no one can really help me or offer me any sort of advice.

EMC: Imagine that a friend of yours has just been diagnosed with endometriosis and asks for your advice.  What would you tell her?  

Brittany: I would say first of all, if they are going to have surgery to make sure the surgeon is going to remove all endometrial adhesions by excision and NOT ablation. I feel like my first surgery with ablation was a waste and was very upset when it all grew back right away. Women need to know that there is a more advanced and successful surgical method of removing endometriosis and shouldn’t have to have undergo the effects and dangers of anesthesia and surgery just for it to be ineffective. I would also tell her that she is more than a diagnosis, that although endometriosis is devastating, that positive things can always come from terrible situations if they are open to it. Embrace suffering, keep moving forward, find support by joining an online support group (there are many on Facebook), and remember that we are never alone in Christ who is bigger than all things—even endometriosis.

Excellent point, that last one, and one that is really easy to forget on those days when we’re just underwater with the pain, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual.  Brittany, thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  

Readers, please comment to thank today’s guest!  Better yet, go visit Brittany at her blog.  Meanwhile, don’t you forget to get your copy of Don’t You Forget About Me at the low, low price of 99 cents for the duration of Endo Week.  Spread the word!

DYFAMmar16IG

The Weirdest Lenten Sacrifice

I’ve never done a weirder thing for Lent before.  Even before my current medical-dietary troubles, I’d decided that I didn’t want this Lent to be about food any more than already dictated by canon law.  I’ve made everything in my life about food, and past Lents were certainly no exception.  I wanted this year to be different. So I thought back to the preparatory penance I’d joked about making during this past Advent.

“What if I stopped talking in Sigma’s voice?”

My husband laughed–not because he didn’t know what I was talking about (as you likely don’t), but because it was a weird idea.

“Why would you give that up? It doesn’t hurt anybody.”

“I know,” I said.  “It’s not like there’s anything illicit in channeling your dog’s voice.  I don’t know, though.  Maybe it would be a good way to school my thoughts.”

I didn’t think of it again until the aforementioned gallbladder attack peaked one week to the day before Ash Wednesday.  Giving up Siggie’s voice it is.

What does that mean, even?  It means we’re crazy, that’s what it means.  Lots of people have pets.  Lots of those people talk to their pets.  We, however, make them answer back.  I’ve done this for all of my pets since my first cat at age 9 (his name was Hobie, and his voice sounded a bit like a fat, lazy C-3PO).  This guy…

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… is Sigma.  Isn’t he handome?

“Of course I am, Mommy, and you’re awesome, too!”

Aw, thanks, Siggie.  Siggie sounds and acts a little bit like Emmett from The Lego Movie, only more enthusiastic.

“Tennis ball? Awesome!  You’re taking me for a walk? Awesome! You dropped a french fry? AWESOME!!!!”

We have whole conversations, too.

“Doggies, did the girls feed you?”

Siggie replies, “No, they didn’t, Mommy.  I’m so hungry! Any food is dog food!”

From the bathroom down the hall, “Don’t listen to him, Mommy! I fed him!”

“No, she didn’t.  Don’t be ridiculous.”

Thunderstorm? He’s marching in front of me everywhere I go.  “Don’t worry, Mommy.  I’ll protect you from the scary thunder.”

“Actually, Siggie, I’m not really afraid of thunderstorms.”

“Of course you are.  Don’t be ridiculous.”

It’s a lot of fun having conversations with the dog.  It’s certainly not hurting anybody.  What kind of penance is giving up conversations with the fictional dog voice for 40 days? I didn’t even know… until today.  Today’s first reading is from Jonah, towards the end, where the king of Nineveh declares a fast and penance that extends even to the animals.  Why?  It’s not like animals need to work out their salvation in fear and trembling.  So what’s the point?

“Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth…”

How can covering an animal with sackcloth help humans get closer to God?  Because it gives us a break from using God’s creation for so much pleasure.  Imagine this fluffy sock- and pencil-destroying angel covered in burlap:

PunzieFace

That’s Rapunzel.  Punzie doesn’t talk much, but she is soooo soft and fluffy and cuddly and… soothing.  It’s soothing to have these routines with our pets.

Lent isn’t necessarily about giving up sin.  Life is supposed to be giving up sin.  Lent is about becoming more like Christ in that we accept the cross rather than denying it for the sake of comfort, whether that comfort is malignant or benign. 

So that’s my weird Lenten sacrifice.  What’s yours?  Food? Money? Adding prayer? Adding charitable acts? Don’t toot your horn so much as offer options to anybody reading who might be looking for options of their own.  

AT THE CROSS ROAD: New from Amy M. Bennett

I am so excited to read the latest installment in the Black Horse Campground Mysteries, a series of cozies from Oak Tree Press author and fellow Catholic Writers Guild member Amy M. Bennett.  This series has characters that really come alive, the kind who make you cheer and cry and laugh and laugh and laugh.  I can’t wait to read this latest tale, At the Cross Road, which is an intriguing title given how the last book in the series, No Vacancy, ended: the mystery was wrapped up, but the relationships were only getting messier!

Without further nattering from me, here’s what you can look forward to from Amy and At the Cross Road!

At the Cross Road: Book 4 in the Black Horse Campground Mystery Series by Amy M. Bennett (Oak Tree Press)Trouble often comes in threes. It’s no different at the Black Horse Campground.

On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously… or even properly investigated them.

Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he’s about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn’t be worse, since he’s finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up… someone who’s hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him… business that has to do with digging up a painful past.

When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.’s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women… and is prepared to kill again?

When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

And now for an excerpt, this one from Chapter 14 of At the Cross Road.

J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato’s words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn’t get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn’t going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.

He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie’s apartment light was on but the store’s lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.

He started out, following the path he’d taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that… he’d have to wait and see.

He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he’d be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he’d probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.

Unlike most small cemeteries he’d encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.

The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.

Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.

J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he’d left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.

He’d been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.

He hated it when he was right.

Don’t know Amy? Get to know her!

IMG_6271Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel End of the Road started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by No Lifeguard on Duty and No Vacancy, both of which have been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. At the Cross Road is the fourth book in the series.

When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com

Be Heroes: Modern Love vs. Year of Mercy

BeHeroesJan16

Image courtesy of “The Thin White Duke 76” by Jean-Luc Ourlin . Uploaded here by Auréola. – originally posted to Flickr as David Bowie. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – 

This post has been percolating for quite a while.  If you’ve read Don’t You Forget About Me (or even just the reviews), you won’t need much thinking to figure out that music is an important part of my life–and not pure, holy music by Matt Maher or Audrey Asaad, either.

When I first returned to the faith of my baptism, I’d come from months of trying really, really hard to be a fan of CCM: Contemporary Christian Music.  And while a lot of the words were nice to hear, the music didn’t necessarily speak to me.  With the exception of Rich Mullins, it’s nothing I still listen to now.

“Don’t let the Devil have all the good music!” I  heard.  So I tried, but given the choice between Echo & the Bunnymen and Phillips, Craig & Dean… sorry.  Jesus may have saved me, but if I said I’d lost my way, would you sympathize? Could you sympathize?

I asked God to change my tastes, knowing full well He has the power to do so.  But He didn’t.  So here I am, downright afflicted with an ear that loves anything from blurred lines to the center of the hollow moon. I’m careful with what I let linger in my mind (the former gets the station changed; the latter… well, if it’s on the radio, it gets bleeped, so I let it play).  But I still worry about the state of my soul.

The state of my soul.

The state of my soul.

The state of my selfish soul.

So while it did occur to me a few years ago to offer prayers for the soul of Ian Curtis, I didn’t really extend those prayers to anyone else.  Then a few months ago, someone in a Catholic blogger FB group asked if it was weird to offer prayers for the soul of Kurt Cobain. Of course it isn’t, not if I’m praying for Ian and his family.  After all, dollars to donuts, neither of those people ran in circles where folks are including them in their rosary intentions.

So when Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots died this fall, I was pretty comfortable praying for his soul.  I was even contemplating having a Mass said for him (announced? maybe…) when I found this letter from the mother of his children.

Our once sweet Catholic boy refused to watch the kids participate in Christmas Eve plays because he was now an atheist.

“Once sweet Catholic boy.”  So… he might have people saying Masses for him?  People not making the Entertainment section, but still, people.

But why didn’t I think to pray for him before he died?  I’m a child of the grunge era.  I liked STP well enough.  Maybe if I had focused less on being a Good Contemporary Christian Music Fan and more on the people making the music I liked… I could have fasted and prayed and Noah and Lucy would still have a father here on earth.

I don’t know.  We’ll never know, I guess.  And now, David Bowie is gone, too.  Without a single Rosary from me.

The Catholic definition of “love” (courtesy of Aristotle first, then Aquinas) is to will the good of another.  God has been waving this musical flags in front of my ears, begging me to love people who very likely have turned from Him and written Him off.  And I’ve been sitting here, tentatively pulling my fingers out of my ears, saying to myself, “Oh, just one more song isn’t gonna hurt me.”

Dumbass.  It hasn’t been about me.

It’s the Year of Mercy.  We are asked to focus on how much God loves everyone, everyone, no matter how much they look like they don’t need Him.  So here’s the dumb thing I’m gonna do to celebrate the Year of Mercy.  I’m gonna have Masses said for David Bowie and Scott Weiland and Ian Curtis.  I’m also gong to have Masses said for the conversion of other souls still walking among us–souls that, frankly, look irrevocably hardened to my eyes, but as Simcha Fisher said,  generosity to one’s audience can be an act of charity, of virtue open to grace; and as all faithful Catholics know, we cannot know another’s soul.

So, Henry Rollins, you’re getting a Mass said for you before 2016 is out.  You too, Ian McCulloch.  Aaron Bruno? Dave Grohl? Heck, if you’ve ever played the Doctor, you might get a Mass, too.  (I’d keep naming names, but I just had steroids injected into my elbow, and while I’m offering it up for all these folks, I’m also a flesh & blood woman for whom Tylenol and ice only go so far.)

So that’s my Modern Love: getting celebrities who don’t know me from Adam into heaven.  If it doesn’t work (free can be a b1tch sometimes), then I’ll at least have some guardian angels joining me at my individual judgment who can hopefully say, “See how she loved them?”

Loved them.  Not their music.  Them.

Any other names you want to throw onto my list?  Pray for them.  Ask me to pray for them.  And we could be heroes.  

“And may God’s love be with you.”  

Let me know, below, on FB, shoot me an email, whatever works for you (but a reply might take a while, see above re: big needles in my elbow.)

 

The Sisters and I! A Guest Post from Karen Kelly Boyce

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Karen Kelly Boyce.


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The Sisters and I!

Last week I found myself sitting with a group of fallen Catholics. We were instructed to go around the table and talk about our faith in God. The first woman announced that she was an atheist – an intellectual. She claimed her education did not allow her to believe in a fairy tale-like God. Then she went into a tirade about how the nuns in her grammar school abused her and were responsible for her loss of faith. Her cover of intellectualism quickly turned to a revelation of anger as the true source of her lack of faith.

As we went around the table, the theme continued as an attack on the nuns. The poor Sisters were blamed as a cause or excuse for not attending church or believing in a Supreme Being. Years ago, I might have been hesitant to reveal my deep faith in God and my devotion to the Catholic Church. Luckily, that is no longer the case. I silently prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance, and found myself announcing that I was sure there was a God because He has worked so many miracles in my life. Looking around at the shocked faces around me, I told them that I read my Bible and meditate on His word for an hour each morning and that I can hear Him talk to me in my heart. I told them that I have a great peace and sense of love since I have the tenets of the Catholic Church to guide me in all my decisions. I thought the people there would fall off their chairs when I announced that I credit the kindness and loving teaching of the Sisters of Mercy who taught me the deep foundations of the Catholic faith for the joy in my life. After a few minutes of stunned silence, the last man spoke. Apparently a fundamentalist, he reddened with anger and shouted something about man-made laws and eating fish on Friday. Spitting his hatred of the Catholic Church across the table, he attacked me personally and my faith especially. I think my smile made him even angrier. I had to smile. My faith gives me peace and trust in the Holy Spirit to reach those who lack faith. His faith made him angry and more intolerant of Catholics than the atheists around him.

On the trip home I thought about the Sisters who taught me, the Sisters who wore heavy veils and clothing without air conditioning. The Sisters of Mercy packed sixty rowdy children into a small classroom and taught us the wonders of God and His Mother.  They taught us about the saints and the teachings of Jesus. They taught us that we were blessed to be Catholics and in the meantime threw in advanced teachings in English, math, and history. Was I grateful then? No, but I am now.  I was one of those rowdy kids who took every opportunity to be a class clown. I even wrote songs about each nun, singing them to my classmates delight during recess. One day, as I was singing about the flaws of the roughest nun, Sister Mary Jean (the kindest nun) was standing behind me. She quickly corrected me and that was the last song I ever wrote about my teachers. However, God has a sense of humor and knew that I would be writing about the Sisters again!

With hindsight, I now realize the wonderful education and faith that the Sisters of Mercy gifted me. Most of the Sisters were kind, hard-working, and faithful. I remember them with great delight and I am grateful for them. I realize now the sacrifices they made. Yes, they were human and got weary, uncomfortable, and sick. As an adult, I understand that nuns are human beings with virtues and flaws. Perhaps that is why God inspired me to create characters who work hard to overcome their human failings. In my children’s series, Sisters of the Last Straw, Sister Krumbles loves animals and all of God’s creatures but is disorganized and clumsy. Mother Mercy is protective and a born leader but struggles to control her temper. Sister Lovely struggles with addiction but is kind and generous. Sister Lacey is rough and tumble a hard-worker who fights an impulse to ‘cuss’ with silly rhymes and exclamations. Sister Shiny is vain and fussy but keeps the house spotless. Sister Wanda is always getting lost but never loses her gentle personality. All of them are good, all of them human.

I hope the books teach children to be forgiving. I know the series make children laugh. It makes me laugh to think about God’s sense of humor. I’m a senior citizen now, but I haven’t changed much. I am still writing about nuns. However, with an adult faith and trust, I can be much kinder than I was as a child. I can present the Sisters and the faith with truth, humor, and gratitude. It goes to show that what they taught me must be rubbing off.

KBBheadshotKaren Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in New Jersey with her retired husband. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. When she retired as a registered nurse, she rekindled her love of reading and writing. She has written for Canticle and Soul magazines. She has four published novels– According to Thy Word, Into the Way of Peace, Down Right Good and In the Midst of Wolves. The first three have received the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writer’s Guild. Down Right Good received the 2012 Eric Hoffer award for commercial fiction and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal. In the Midst of Wolves has just been published.
When her grandchildren were born, Karen started a children’s series. The Sisters of the Last Straw is a series of humorous mysteries that are solved by a group of misfit nuns. There have been three volumes published by Chesterton PressThe Case of the Haunted Chapel, The Case of the Vanishing Novice, and The Case of the Stolen Rosaries.
Karen is a columnist for the CWG Blog and her column “Writing Tips” appears every Monday. Her personal blog can be found at www.karenkellyboyce.com.

She is currently working on future books while enjoying farming, camping, and road trips with her husband.

The Desires of Your Heart: A Guest Post from Allison Gingras

Welcome, Tomato Pie Fans! I’m taking a hiatus from blogging to finish the sequel to DON’T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME. Meanwhile, I have a series of guest bloggers taking care of the place. Let’s hear from today’s guest, Allison Gingras.

“Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

SeekingHeartLogoWhat a promise – I am not sure which intrigued me more when I first read it?  How one delights themselves in the Lord or what desire I would want fulfilled.

The first part was easier than I thought to accomplish because the Catholic faith is so rich in ways to encounter Christ in our everyday life.  I could not imagine my life not filled with prayer, the Scriptures and the Sacraments.  St. Paul exhorted us to pray without ceasing, so whether folding laundry, driving the car or reading a book, I do everything with a prayerful heart.  I will say a Hail Mary for each member of my family as I put their dishes into the dishwasher, say the rosary on my way to an event, or give thanks for the author’s talent as I read their book.

My introduction to scripture, only 10 years ago, has transformed my faith life, providing me this amazing gift of learning how Jesus spoke, and therefore having a better sense of His voice in my life.  Scripture good for all teaching and reproof has become the center of my faith and my hope, not a day goes by I don’t take a moment to ponder a verse or two.  It was also important for me to memorize a few special verses to embrace on tough days when I need encouragement, particularly helpful when writer’s block strikes or my teenage son is teetering on that last nerve!

Lastly, the Sacraments are where I go to dip into God’s well-spring of grace.  Grace is that undeserved yet freely given gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us (that is the simplified “Allison abridged” version of grace – by the way).  When I am feeling distant or discouraged, the remedy is always found in participation in the sacraments – particularly for me daily Mass, time spent in Adoration or making a really good confession.  Gifts are best when they are used, and I try my best not to waste the grace present, promised and abundant, in the Sacraments!

So, what about the desires of our heart?  How do we discover those?  That is where God is the most generous – since He has given us our brains (and even our heart’s desires), He is well aware of them.  He knows them long before we, so focusing on delighting in the Lord is truly all we need to concern ourselves with.

Last September, I received a phone call inviting me to host my own radio show.  Reluctant but curious, I asked for a few days to pray about my answer.  Off to Eucharistic Adoration I went with a notebook and pen.   I sat before Jesus and asked for inspiration – if I said yes, what on earth would the show be about?  As I sat pondering, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had a degree in English, a passion for books (especially Catholic books), and had lead book/Bible study for nearly 10 years – that was to be the foundation of my show.   From that time in prayer, A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras on Real Life Radio was born.  Each week, I focus on just one book.  Monday-Thursday we discuss the themes, contents and inspirations gleaned from the book and then on Friday, I am blessed to spend an hour with the author.  It is not a review show but an on-air book club – it is interactive, interesting, and truly fulfills one of my heart’s desires.  I love connecting people and books, especially when I know it will change lives and grow faith.

So how do you delight yourself in the Lord, and what desire of your heart can He fulfill?

AGingrasPicAllison Gingras is founder of  Reconciled To You and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison blogs, writes and speaks about living an every life of faith.  She created the “Words with” daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus.  and offers presentations on Forgiveness; Trust; and the Blessed Mother.