Sabbath Rest Book Talk/Open Book [Apr 2018]

Carolyn Astfalk has a first Wednesday of the month book review linkup!


The aforementioned Carolyn also joins me and Rebecca Willen every month for Sabbath Rest Book Talk.

Sabbath Rest Book Talk: a monthly live interactive event where we talk about the value of fiction in developing compassion, empathy, and healthy relationships


We’ll be pre-recording this month’s episode.  Look for it here starting at 7pmEDT on Sunday, April 8, 2018.


Joseph Pearce, author of RACE WITH THE DEVIL, host of EWTN's TOLKIEN'S THE LORD OF THE RINGS - FACES OF FANTASYFeaturing Special Guest Joseph Pearce. A native of England, Joseph Pearce is senior editor at the Augustine Institute; the editor of the St. Austin Review, an international review of Catholic culture; series editor of the Ignatius Critical Edition; and executive director of Catholic Courses.

Joseph has hosted two 13-part television series about Shakespeare on EWTN, and has also written and presented documentaries on EWTN on the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. He has participated and lectured at a wide variety of international and literary events at major colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa and South America. He is also a regular guest on national television and radio programs, and has served as consultant for film documentaries on J.R.R. Tolkien, Francis Thompson and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.



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Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel narrates the story of a rich English baronet who rescues French aristocrats facing the guillotine. He also taunted his enemies after each rescue by leaving behind a card that has a small flower on it – the scarlet pimpernel. It is a brilliant adventure story set at the time of the French Revolution. The plot is fantastic and rarely lets the readers pause for breath as it oscillates between London society and the dark night in Coastal France.


Discuss FORGIVENESS in THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare on Sabbath Rest Book Talk #live #video #bookclubThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

This bewitching play, Shakespeare’s final work, articulates a wealth of the playwright’s mature reflections on life and contains some of his most familiar and oft-quoted lines. The story concerns Miranda, a lovely young maiden, and Prospero, her philosophical old magician father, who dwell on an enchanted island, alone except for their servants — Ariel, an invisible sprite, and Caliban, a monstrous witch’s son. Into their idyllic but isolated lives comes a shipwrecked party that includes the enemies who usurped Prospero’s dukedom years before, and set him and his daughter adrift on the ocean. Also among the castaways is a handsome prince, the first young man Miranda has ever seen. Comedy, romance, and reconciliation ensue, in a masterly drama that begins with a storm at sea and concludes in joyous harmony.


Discuss FORGIVENESS in KING OF THE SHATTERED GLASS by Susan Joy Bellavance #live #video #bookclubKing of the Shattered Glass by Susan J. Bellavance

Beautifully illustrated in color for young elementary school readers, King of the Shattered Glass is a gentle parable about asking for forgiveness and receiving God’s mercy!

GIVEAWAY! Comment on the video by April 30 and be entered to win your own copy of King of the Shattered Glass! 


Check out the reading list for all of 2018.

For notifications that each month’s SRBT is available for viewing/listening, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Plus, click here to check out our NEW GOODREADS FEATURE!  It’s a list! On Goodreads! Vote for books we’ve already featured and add any books you think we should discuss in the future!

Fiction is Good for you! Watch Sabbath Rest Book Talk, and never feel guilty for reading fiction again!

Stand up for the unborn? I can’t even stand up for myself! {7QT}

Seven Quick Takes Linkup

It’s that time again: Seven Quick Takes Friday over at This Ain’t the Lyceum


It’s the 43rd anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Decision.


Within the past 12 hours I’ve found myself in a situation where I either need to stand up for myself or lose a significant amount of money (money we paid to support a family member in an artistic endeavor when we could’ve spent it on, you know, replacing a couple of bald tires) in order to avoid having to rub elbows with my primary abuser for four-ish hours.


One of the reasons I think abortion is still a thing is because we women keep being told, “You can’t do that.  It’s too hard.”


Stand up to my abuser and tell her to leave me alone? Again? Because the first several times and some help from the police didn’t take?

I don’t understand why I have to.

In other words… I can’t do that.  It’s too hard.


If you’re inclined to say, “I could never _____” [have an abortion, steal a car, go bungee jumping, eat sushi, whathaveyou], then there’s some part of your heart that is hardened against mercy towards those who could.

Seeing someone through the eyes of mercy is not the same as condoning sin, however great that sin might be.

Seeing someone through the eyes of mercy is how God sees each one of us.


 I did nothing to put myself in my current conundrum other than maintain contact with someone who doesn’t really care about keeping me safe.

I feel alone, trapped, and helpless.  Again.


Alone, trapped, and helpless is how women facing unplanned pregnancies feel.

It’s an old Method Acting trick, but I think it’s one we could all use as we walk the boards of real life:

  1. See another character experiencing something you’ve never experienced, never understood.
  2. Identify the underlying feelings that character is experiencing.
  3. Identify a time in your own life when you experienced those same emotions.

And walk forth with mercy.

I wish someone would stand up for me, say they’ll fight my demons for me.

I’m sure women considering abortion wish someone would stand up for them.


Why don’t people see that that’s what happens at the March for Life? Any time someone posts a pro-life meme on social media? Any time someone offers abortion workers a way out? Women a way out? Any time someone stands outside a clinic and prays for her to be braver than she ever thought she could?  Any time someone says, “Hey, you know all those chemicals and all that debris you’re putting into your body to make it malfunction? Maybe there’s a less self-destructive way to handle that.

I never very rarely put stuff like this on my blog.  Or anywhere.  You know why? Because I’ve been taught through experience that nobody listens to me.  That nobody cares if I’ve been hurt, because that’ll make the people who hurt me feel uncomfortable.  You know what I grew up with?

“Ouch! That hurts!”

“No, it doesn’t.”


Satan has put a lot of energy and destroyed a lot of lives to convince me that I’m not credible enough to stand up for anyone–especially myself.

Then again… Jesus didn’t stand up for himself.


He asks others to stand up for Him by standing up for the least of these.  

He asks us to stand up for each other.  

Please pray that I can receive the courage to stand up for those who need me.

Please pray that those who need it would receive the courage to stand up for me.

And I will pray for you to have the courage to stand up where you are called and for you to walk in the mercy you need to stand up with compassion as well.

My Racist Halloween

MyRacistHalloween (2)

Yes, I know.  I should’ve written this in October, early November at worst.  Forgive me.  I was kind of busy trying to write something else. Real life, however, did not go on hold, and so there was a Halloween.

One of the things I didn’t like about Don’t You Forget About Me was that the cast of characters was, by needs of the conflict, not exactly diverse.  In fact, one of the things I (subconsciously) wanted to show in that story was that a lack of diversity leads  to unnecessary conflict.  No, I don’t have anything but anectdotal evidence for that, but that evidence is pretty strong.  Whenever I’ve been in a group that was too homogenous, that group found stupid things to fight about at best.  At worst, that group targeted the one person who fit in with the group the least and, in the words of DYFAM’s Sister Thomas Marie, set to “Lopping off the tall poppy.”


In my experience, if I’m different from you, you’re going to exclude me at best, bully me at worst, and there’s really no reason to hope for anything different.DYFAMCoverFrontForFlyer

So with that kind of conflict coloring the whole background of DYFAM, I knew I wanted at least one main character in the sequel to be not of European descent.  I started out wanting that because, well, that’s just the way the world is, and art is supposed to be a reflection of reality.  I hope you’ll all get to meet her soon, but this is how I met Emanuelle Claire “Mel” Valcour, Cate Whelihan’s estranged best friend from high school.  They’re reunited in NLMDA, and part of this book’s adventure is shared with Mel’s “baby” brother, Father Jean-Christophe Valcour.

Every writing project has its own unique lessons to teach me.  Mel has been a very good teacher.  I want to portray her honestly, so I’ve read a lot of articles on what it’s like to be a black woman, because, duh, I’m not.  Still… writing her is risky, because I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  Not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings has kept me from developing better friendships with a wide variety of people–real and imagined, ahem.

Ahem.  Back to Halloween.

We live in the first country town right outside a more urbanized area.  Our block happens to have the area volunteer haunted house, for lack of a better term.  You know, that one family that goes all out for Halloween, fills the yard with zombies and graves and puts giant fuzzy spiders–I’m talking a 12 foot leg span here–on their roof.


And then, and then they have all the young adult kids’ friends come over and dress as zombies who jump out and scare the trick-or-treaters on Halloween! Yeah, they mean business across the street.  And it’s awesome.  Halloween is my third favorite holiday, but it’s a close third.  I love costumes and candy and being silly.  I love our neighbors for offering this to our community…ZombiesWantSugar

And the surrounding communities as well.  I was flabbergasted our first Halloween out here, coming from an apartment in Philly where we were lucky to get two trick-or-treaters to this neighborhood, where we go through at least seven giant value bags of candy each year.  People drive to our block from all over to trick-or-treat at The Scary House, and they’re not above stopping at our boring house, with the orange lights on the trees and the five jack o’lanterns.

But the manners.  The manners.  Or lack thereof. No “Trick-or-treat!” No, “Thank you!” Grabby hands in my two foot-tall stock pot filled with Dum Dums!  And then, the teenagers, teenagers, who had the gall to arrive in my driveway with… wait for it…


And the aforementioned lack of manners.  And… well, given the neighborhoods from which these ambassadors came, a lot of them had darker skin than mine.

I’m starting to realize there’s an inherent danger in growing up white after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.  We’re kinda sorta raised to think that if we just act like the Dream has come true, then POOF! It has.  So, when these presumptuous teens showed up at my house with no costumes and no manners, I would…

Oh, Lord have mercy, this is shameful…

I would give them less candy.  Didn’t matter what color their skin was, mind you, but you got a full scoop of candy if you had a costume and made eye contact and said, “Trick or Treat!”  If you didn’t do any of those things, you got one piece of candy and an irritated smirk from me.

I thought I was doing the right thing.  The right colorblind thing.  Doesn’t matter what skin color you have! It doesn’t cost anybody a thing to have good manners!

Does it?

I have this weird… it’s not a belief, but it’s a wondering. I know fictional characters don’t have souls, but I wonder if they have guardian angels.  God made all the angels He wanted, so who’s to say He didn’t give the creatures of our imaginings their own guardian angels to watch over us, their parents?  Maybe it’s Mel’s guardian angel, or maybe it’s just mine, but someone did some guiding here that affected my heart in ways it so sorely needed.

First I ran across the article “What You Need to Know About 6-Foot Trick-or-Treaters.”  I immediately thought–not yet about race–just about the ages of the evasive, costumeless kids roaming our block and felt ashamed of myself for judging.

Meanwhile, researching, I read about the pressure a woman like Mel might likely feel to be a strong black woman, about what it is to be an angry black woman, heck, about what it’s like to have black hair.  Then while passing through the library, I saw an actual available copy of The Help (book, not movie) sitting on a shelf.  I read it in two days.  I saw how a culture could be built where to show what one color demands as “justice” and “manners” can come across as a weakness and vulnerability that the other color simply can’t afford to keep paying.


Reading is a safe place to learn the things I’m afraid to ask real, live humans. Reading answers questions I didn’t even know I needed to ask.  Reading the personal and private rather than the newsworthy and violent was exactly the way to break my particular heart in just the way it needed to be broken–broken out of a sense of justice that hasn’t actually been gained yet, broken out of a make-believe world where we all have the same privilege.

We haven’t earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  To act like we have would be a lie.

So Halloween 2015 came.  Costumeless kids showed up with bad manners and plunged grabby hands, many darker than mine, into my stock pot.

This time, I picked up an extra scoop of candy to add to theirs.

I see now that too many others in our neighborhood would be holding back the sweetness on those kids who didn’t perform to our privileged expectations. They likely wouldn’t have mercy on the non-white trick-or-treaters, because we’re all supposed to be the same, right? Nobody needs any extra mercy, we don’t care how much you’ve already been kicked around before you showed up in our driveways! So in went the extra scoops.

“Have a little extra.  Happy Halloween.”

And I’ll say it, the thing that made my Halloween so racist: Yes, I gave the surly black teens more candy than I gave the surly white teens.

At first.

Because once you start thinking that people who don’t look like you might need wounds salved that you can’t see, you start realizing that everyone  has wounds… that everyone needs a little extra candy sometimes.

I think I got more “thank yous” this year.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  I know I ran out of candy a bit earlier than usual, but I deserved to.  Part of being Catholic is believing in the efficacy of reparation, that when we sin, if we truly repent, we naturally want to make things better than they’ve been–than what our sins and self-righteousness made them.

I know our whole world needs to do better when it comes to having compassion on people whose lives have been tougher than ours and, as a result, encourage them to be tougher than suits our precious preferences, thankyouverymuch.  I feel like that extra candy in the shopping bags and held-out shirttails wasn’t very effective, though.  I’m also stark scared that someone is going to point out to me that my well-intentioned act of mercy was just another ignorant thing I did from a place of clueless privilege.

(Note–this post is teaching me how to spell privilege off the top of my head, without relying on spellcheck.)

I know I still have a lot to learn about being kind to everyone, that fair isn’t always merciful, and that if I’m striving to be the face of Christ in a faceless world, I’m going to hurt and I’ll need to give more and I’m going to make mistakes.  But I have to have faith that the desire to please Him does in fact please Him–because if I don’t, I’ll just hide again and shut my mouth and never click “Schedule” to have this post show up in your feed on the morning of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday (Observed).

We have not earned your dream yet, Dr. King.  We have more work to do.  We paler people have more trust to earn.  We have wounds to heal.  We have repairs to make.

And I still have more to learn from Mel.

And I guess I have more candy to buy in 2016.

Small Success Thursday: Reentry

It’s time for Small Success Thursday over at


  1. This was a powerful experience for me but a weird one, so if you’re weird enough to read my blog, you might get something out of reading the following.  My brother-in-law lost his life to lung cancer last Tuesday, the Feast of St. Jude.  This is one of those cases where, since my husband is a Tiber-crosser, his family isn’t Catholic, so the comfort of the sacraments wasn’t something on their minds.  It was on mine, though.  Family is tricky, especially in-laws, especially when they live far away and we’re not all that close to begin with.  As my BIL was suffering his own lung problems, coincidentally I was in the depth of my annual viral-triggered asthma cold.  For those of you unfamiliar, this means sleepless, wheeze-filled nights and wheeze-filled, cough-filled days.  So, given the constraints of earthly relationships and distance, I told God I’d take the wheezing and coughing and offer it up to help my BIL in his suffering. I didn’t do a formal novena, but I asked St.Jude to plead God’s mercy for my BIL as well, and I asked that if BIL passed on St. Jude’s feast, it would be a sign of that mercy.  So that happened.  That’s not all.  The service for BIL was on the evening of All Saints.  That night, I was fighting the wheezing and coughing so I could get to sleep.  In that twilight between too tired to be fully awake and too wheezy to actually be asleep, I had a sort of waking dream (not a vision or hallucination, mind-you).  In it, BIL sat on the side of the bed and palpably touched me on my left bicep.  Within moments my wheezing stopped and I fell asleep.  Now, I’m no theologian, nor can I say with any certainty what God judges for either of us.  Still, the possibility that my offerings for my BIL meant something to  him and he knows that I cared enough to offer him my suffering… as Small Successes go, it’s not like it’s a success I can claim, but it is a success for our relationships with each other in Christ.  We may be bound by the sacraments, but I’m grateful that God is not.  
  2. The laundry is being done and there were a few days in the past two weeks where we didn’t spend a red cent on takeout of any kind.
  3. Driving up and down the state from the height of fall color into its decline inspired a poem.  I don’t do poems often, but I do like them.

Imagine the Cry

Imagine the cry you would hear

If I took to the trunk of a maple

An axe or a saw

As its leaves



“Look how it suffers!

It soon will be naked,



And we’ll have a mess on the ground.”

Imagine the cry,

“No! It still has seasons

beyond this death!”

“But I cannot see them.”

So I wield the axe.

This is my tree.

This is my right.

The tree suffers no more.