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Image and Likeness Launch Day

At last, today is the day I’ve had in mind for nearly three years, when Ellen Gable first asked me if I had anything that might work for an anthology of Theology of the Body short stories.

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body available from FQP. See St. John Paul II's teachings on the meaning of human love in a whole new way. #shortreads #poetry #fiction #TOB

As I’d warned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Image and Likeness page.  Here, however, is where I get to speak not as an editor representing the whole work and all the authors whose pieces appear within the collection.  Here’s my author page, where I get to speak as just another author who has stories to tell, two of which got caught up in this anthology.

I’ve been working pretty hard.  I’m wondering if, in the world’s eyes, I’m working “smart.”  Am I working in a way that will give me some sort of return on investment?  I’ve poured a lot of time into this anthology, maybe even a bit of my health.  Will it be worth it? Will I break even in some fashion?

I don’t know.  I’ve done as many of the supposedtas as I possibly can, just as I have for all my other books.  Only this time I also have a troupe of other authors reminding me of all the supposedtas, giving me more, and correcting me when I fall short.  (BTW, that was not a type of pressure I anticipated coming into this project.  It’s been humbling, which is never a bad thing.)

Am I just selling stuff very few people want to hear? Nobody wants to hear that birth control might actually kill you.  Nobody wants to hear that we shouldn’t farm people.  And people aren’t exactly lining up to read that Mary, the Mother of God, was so much like us that it gives us very few excuses to pity ourselves.  Why should they hand over their cold, hard cash to find out that abortion just might be destroying people, that our definition of “love” might be pretty badly tweaked, that marriage is so bloody difficult even when your bodies do have corresponding shapes?

I mean, seriously, why? Who’s gonna fork over the Washingtons and the Lincolns to have someone point out that… they just might be wrong?  And hurting other people?  And hurting themselves?

Who?

Man, life is hard.  Writing is even harder.  Writing warning signs, “HEY, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DRIVE OFF A CLIFF INTO THE VERY MAW OF HELL, SO STOP DRIVING THAT DIRECTION, OKAY?” is hard: making the signs good, and true, and beautiful, knowing they’re so very likely to be ignored.  Every day as a Catholic writer is a bit of the Agony in the Garden.  I’ve heard it said that Jesus wasn’t sweating blood because he was afraid of the pain of the crucifixion.  No, he was sweating blood in Gethsemane because he knew, he knew and loved every single soul who would know of His sacrifice… and who wouldn’t give a crap about it and prefer to just die anyway.

It’s so easy to get sucked into that maelstrom, to stay in that garden and keep sweating blood.  It’s a heck of a lot harder to look for the consoling angels and listen to them and focus on those who will listen and care and let their own hearts break, too.

But broken hearts let in so much light.

If you have let your heart be broken along with mine, if you have been one of my consoling angels, I thank you.  From the bottom of my broken, tired heart, I thank you.  Let’s keep writing the good fight.

If Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, lifted His head and carried His cross, then I have no excuse not to do likewise.  Thank you for walking with me.  Thank you for reading my signs.  Thank you for standing behind me in the garden, helping me to go on.

That return on investment isn’t on this side of the cross, anyway.


Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body is officially available today.

You are invited to attend the IAL Launch Party on Facebook on October 27, 2016 from 8-10pm Eastern Time.

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Endometriosis Awareness: Meet Silver Pyanov

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.

SilverPyanovToday, I’d like you to meet Silver Pyanov.  Not only is Silver a fellow endomazing lady, her first name is so awesome that Echo & the Bunnymen wrote one of my favorite songs about her.  Not really, but that’s still a beautiful name.  She’s also an editor and contributor at BellyBelly and a doula and childbirth educator.

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!


 

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

I’m a wife and mother with four rambunctious boys.  I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for almost ten years. Our faith and ministry have always been important to us.

After having my oldest I fell into the birth world, and just supporting women in general. I started as a volunteer at a local crisis pregnancy center and over the years turned my love of supporting women into a career. I’ve been able to continue ministering to women as a volunteer in several ways while also supporting my family as a postpartum doula and writer.

When and how did you first discover that endometriosis is a part of your life?

I began having symptoms in Jr high and with each cycle my symptoms became worse. By 9th grade I began missing school monthly due to vomiting from pain every 10-20 minutes for 12-24 hours each cycle.

Unfortunately an ill informed doctor did an ultrasound and said all was normal so I assumed I didn’t have endometriosis. After having my oldest son I developed chronic pelvic pain. We assumed it was due to pregnancy and birth (despite having a completely unmedicated, problem-free vaginal birth). After a couple years of physical therapy, steroid injections, another baby and then a miscarriage, my pelvic specialist said I had to have endometriosis. She said they treated me for every other possible cause of pelvic pain, added in my miscarriage and difficulty conceiving following that loss and she was certain.

I was referred to a reproductive endocrinologist and had a diagnostic laparoscopy. He removed unidentifiable scar tissue from my intestines and burned a few endometriosis adhesions.

Tell us about some of the ways endometriosis has impacted your life, health and relationships.   

I definitely entered womanhood hating my body and not understanding the pain. I thought I was a whimp. Vicodin and antinausea medication and I was still too sick to function during my period. I worried I’d never be able to handle childbirth. Just to give an idea of how bad endometriosis cramps can be, I’ve had four unmedicated, out of hospital births that were less painful than my menstrual cramps. I was pleasantly surprised in my first labor though there was pain, when I had myt first real contraction I thought, “I can TOTALLY do this! I’ve done this for years.”

My overall health has suffered mostly due to fatigue. Breastfeeding suppressed my cycles and no one could understand how I had TONS of energy as a sleep deprived mother of a three month. Then months later cycles returned and I had days I could barely function due to the fatigue. My constant use of NSAIDs in high school also caused an esophageal ulcer. If I get heartburn I can still feel the exact spot, though it’s been pretty much healed. I can’t know for sure, but I do believe it’s played a role in my two miscarriages.

It has without a doubt impacted my marriage. I’m incredibly fortunate to be married to a very patient, loving and genuinely Christ-like man, but he’s still human. We’ve had months in our marriage where I was unable to keep up with the home, errands, cooking, etc and so it’s fallen on him. We’ve also had stretches where intercourse just wasn’t physically possible. No matter how solid your marriage, it’s a definite struggle.

Even socializing in general, there are times I’m just too tired to hang out.

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

The first thing I was told was to try NSAIDs. It provided little relief and after a couple years I had severe GERD and would vomit blood. Then it was vicodin and anti nausea meds. They didn’t offer relief where I could function. They essentially knocked me out. I ended up sleeping 20 hours straight one cycle.

By 17, the same doctors that told me it was normal pain, also said they could no longer offer pain medication and my only option was the pill. I was hesitant, but took it. It helped a lot, but it doesn’t actually treat endometriosis. By its very function it’s an endocrine disruptor. So while it temporarily relieves symptoms it doesn’t solve the issue and can potentially cause more hormonal or fertility issues in the future.

After the birth of my oldest I developed chronic pelvic pain. After all of my births I had incredibly heavy postpartum bleeding and horrific cramping. My last, the cramps were worse than labor itself and lasted days. I was treated with steroid injections and pelvic physical therapy. Both worked extremely well, but were more maintenance solutions helping you to cope rather than healing.

I had a traditional laparoscopy and that helped a lot. My chronic pelvic pain is now intermittent and bearable. But, I’ve also been pregnant or breastfeeding since the procedure and both suppress endometriosis symptoms. To be honest, breastfeeding has been my absolute best “treatment.” Interestingly, I’ve only had fertility issues upon weaning while I conceived easily and without miscarriage while nursing frequently.

I’m set to start more NaPro treatment, hcg or progesterone first and then if needed another laparoscopy. I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to seeing how it helps.

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

Has your faith impacted what treatments you would accept?  In what ways?

Definitely. I have a lot of hesitation using hormonal contraception, especially progesterone only as it can act as an abortifacient. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about it, I just know it makes me uncomfortable so I haven’t used it since I’ve been married.

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

Well I’m not Catholic, I’m nondenominational Christian, but I can align with Catholicism when it comes to certain areas of contraception. I don’t feel right using the Pill, though I wish I did because the temporary relief is appealing.

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

Find a doctor that actually understands endometriosis. There’s SO much misinformation surrounding it, even among medical professionals. It’s also probably a safe bet to stick with a NaPro provider, as the basis of NaPro seems to have a better understanding of endo than most other schools of thought.

Also, understand that endometriosis can be treated, and quite well, but for many women it is something you’ll have to chronically treat and be aware of. Be kind to yourself and know that NONE of your symptoms, physical or emotional, are in your head. You have a real medical condition and you deserve treatment.


Thank you, Silver, for sharing your experience, courage and honesty with us.  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!

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Interview with Working Mother Melanie Weiler

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother.” Today is the Feast of a working I didn’t meet until I went searching for Dominican working moms:  Blessed Villana di’Botti.  Bl. Villana balanced her duties to husband and family along with a great love of and devotion to the poor and disadvantaged in her neighborhood.  I see the same balance in an old friend of mine, Melanie Weiler.

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Melanie Weiler

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

My husband and I have been married for 23 years with two children. Our son is 15 and daughter is 13.

 

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

I tell people that I manage a small nonprofit in Kennett Square, [PA], which consists of a food pantry and emergency assistance program. We focus on providing quality nutrition and securing resources for our clients to increase their self-sustainability.

 

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

I will always feel compelled to strive to be the person He made me to be. Through my experiences, I have been shown compassion and kindness that I know is His love. Every day I am given the opportunity to pay that forward to our brothers and sisters that are struggling. I have found the voice that we all have to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves.

When I took on this ministry, I didn’t realize how many in the community want to help, but feel powerless to do so. Through helping others, we find our humanity. I feel honored to be able to deliver that opportunity to many people and wish I could do more.

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

The kids are at an age when our society sweeps them into a consumption-based system of values. At a time that friends and peers can easily influence their values, my children have grasped an understanding and appreciation for their blessings. They are well grounded.

I will never forget the surprise on my daughter’s face the first time she helped a person select groceries in the cupboard.  At first, she thought the person was another volunteer. She quickly learned that not only were they a client, but they were also experiencing homelessness.  Homelessness has a unfair stereotype that must be broken and at the age of 13, she understands and shares that with her peers.

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

After multiple attempts at being a stay-at-home parent, I realize that is just not in God’s plan for me. But I always felt that if I needed to be away from my family, the work needed to be meaningful. At this point in my career, I don’t feel particularly guilty. My husband and I have always managed a balance of housework and family time. Of course I couldn’t do my work without him.

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

Just to respect that I am compelled to do this work and to make allowances for that. And understand that my house may be a little dirty and know I don’t care as long as my family is happy.

 

Love it.  Thank you, Melanie!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Interview with Working Mother Lisa Delay

Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother.” Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate all the different directions from which Christians approach Jesus and gather together in His name.  What better day to interview one of my favorite Christian speakers and working mothers, Lisa DeLay?

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Lisa DeLay

Tell us a little bit about your family. 

The DeLays (of Cressona) are typically an odd but tight bunch. Our family is marked by creative pursuits, family suppers together each night, the priority of a Christian walk of faith, mini vacations, cycling on rails-to-trails, a bit of sibling bickering, a love of quirky movies, and cleaning up after our dog, Luna.

 

Imagine you’re at a dinner party.  Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?”  What’s your answer?

First, I might quip, “The best I can.” This is likely to followed by an awkward silence and the suspicion that I’m a hapless jerk. From there, I may proceed with a list (graphic designer, writer, artist, digital marketer, manager at a vineyard, volunteer at a federal prison, plus I’m a wife and mom to a special needs child and a gifted child) that either bores the listener or causes them to assume that I over-schedule my life–which is actually inaccurate…but whatever. Incidentally, I was asked this question at my son’s school one time. I was exhausted from my day, so I replied, “Oh, not much”–to which the man said (instructively) to his son, “Mrs DeLay is a ‘housewife’, Michael. That means she takes care of her home and that’s okay, too.” I didn’t bother trying to clear that up.

[Erin here.   Besides being a, and note the that’s-okay-too-quotation-marks, “housewife,” Lisa has authored and co-authored several books, including my favorite, Dog in the Gap, which I highly recommend.]  

 

How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be? 

Whatever it is that I’m working on I think that God gives me chances to share the gifts me gave me with others. In doing that I am found and I sense that I belong to a plan and a hope bigger than myself. Ideally, the struggles, whether at home or at work, can create Christ-likeness if I bear in mind a bigger picture.

 

What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home? 

My children have to develop greater maturity, take on more responsibly, and contribute in useful ways to the family in meaningful ways–from doing chores and caring for the dog, to behaving themselves or getting snacks on their own when I’m not home from work yet. My husband shares in more household tasks too. If it weren’t by necessity, this may not happen as much. 

 

How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace? 

If those feelings ever arise I remind myself that I spent 7 years away from work outside the home to stay with them full-time and they are at an age to be challenged by the kind of independence my part-time work outside the home offers them.

What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more? 

My friends and my spouse do a lot to support me (practically and emotionally).  To my children I’d say, “Ditch the complaining…you have it pretty darn good.”

 

Thank you, Lisa!  

Are you a working mother?  So was (and is) the Blessed Mother!  If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”  

Review: Dog in the Gap by Lisa Colon Delay and Doug Jackson

It’s a quick, lovely read of meditations on how our relationships with dogs can be a reflection on how we form and grow our relationships with God.  This was an especially poignant read for me, as we just put down our loyal, sad-faced lab a few months ago (a topic similarly addressed by Jackson in this book).  I especially related to Colon Delay’s piece on “Responding to the Lead,” as well as to Jackson’s piece, “Adoption, Depression, and My Dog Spurgeon,” on the different types of dogs vs. our different styles of worship (says I with what seems to be my mastiff-in-a-mantilla worship style).

In case it weren’t obvious from the one author having dubbed his dog “Spurgeon,” this is a Christian rather than a particularly Catholic book; as most of my blog readers are my fellow papists, I felt that was a caveat worth mentioning.  However, I personally found nothing anti-Catholic in any of the reflections herein and feel comfortable recommending it to anyone of any religious persuasion–or none at all.  Yes, the spirituality is present, but it’s done with a light and soothing hand.  If you’re a cage-aggressive atheist/agnostic, give Dog in the Gap a try.  You might even like it.

Dog in the Gap is scheduled for an August 19 release.