Book Review: The Perfect Blindside

If you’re sad to see the end of the summer Olympics, The Perfect Blindside, a young adult novel by Leslea Wahl, is a great way to recapture some of the excitement, while also preparing for the winter Olympics, coming in just two short years.

This sweet fictional romance features Olympic silver medalist Jake, who has recently moved to the town of Silver Springs, Colorado, and is firmly confident that he is way too good for the little town or anyone in it. In other words, fame has gone to this kid’s head, and he’s become the cocky athlete we see all too often when watching sports coverage of, say, idiotic stunts pulled in gas stations by swimmers in Rio.

Jake is a jerk, but I liked him because he is, indeed, very real. We have all known a kid like this: too big for his britches and pushing people away at every turn, all the while feeling secretly lonely and isolated.

Seemingly the polar opposite of Jake, Sophie is a high school junior who loves her little home town. She’s pretty much a goody-two-shoes, and, while  the rest of the teenagers in town are fawning allover the new arrived Olympian, she takes an instant dislike to Jake and his cocky attitude.

Jake’s world begins to fall apart when he’s framed for drug possession, and Sophie realizes that perhaps she’s been a wee bit judgmental. Ultimately, she is able to use her knowledge and love of Silver Springs to help Jake uncover the mystery behind the old abandoned mine, thereby clearing his name, all while romance blossoms between the two teenagers.

I would recommend The Perfect Blindside for tweens and teens. Both my ten-year-old daughter, and my twelve-year-old son read and enjoyed it, and since my son isn’t a big reader, that’s quite a complement to author Leslea Wahl!

The Perfect Blindside is offered by my very favorite publisher, Pauline Books and Media, under their Pauline Teen imprint.  While the characters are Catholic, the message is universal and will appeal to all Christian teens. The Christian message is understated enough that teens who don’t identify strongly as Christians will enjoy the book as well. I highly recommend adding it to your family library!

I was provided a copy of The Perfect Blindside by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The links in this post are affiliate links. If you click on a link, and add anything to your cart, I’ll receive a tiny percentage, but you’ll pay the same amount! It’s a great way to show your support for your favorite bloggers. :) 

 

#SmallSuccess Thursday

I confess. With the kids starting school this week, I feel like I’ve been struggling just to keep my head above water. But, that’s why I need to find these small successes, anyways.

Small Success #1 – A Magazine Mention

A Single Bead CoverAuthor Barb Grady Szyszkiewicz listed me on her list of “Top ten authors you should introduce your students to” in September’s issue of Catholic Teacher Magazine. Me! Unfortunately, I don’t take this particular magazine – for obvious reasons, since I’m not a teacher. However, I think we can safely assume I was mentioned as a result of  A Single Bead. The mention makes me feel even more urgency to writing the next one, so here’s to ten thousand words this week!

Small Success #2 – Reading Great Non-Fiction

I know there are a TON of women out there who devour non-fiction books like they’re going out of style. I’m not one of them. For me, finishing them is frequently an act of perseverance. Not because I don’t enjoy them while I’m reading, more because there’s no story to draw me in and keep me turning pages. Inevitably, another book draws my attention, and the ADHD part of my brain moves on to the new one without a thought for the old.

However, I am pleased to report that I am persevering in reading Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.37.50 AM
TWO non-fiction books right now. One of them, From Grief to Grace, was written by author Jeannie Ewing. It’s well written, with Jeannie’s personal stories of grief interwoven throughout the book, and I’ve found it to be a page turner, even when I’m not reading the “story” part of the book. I especially loved a passage where she reflected on how we could experience joy even in the midst of grief, which so closely reflected my own journey. It’s a beautiful experience – that particular joy – and one which I believe Jeannie’s book will help others to experience as well.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 10.52.15 AMThe second book, Champions of the Rosary by Fr. Don Calloway, is exactly the book I’ve been waiting for for years – filled with the history of the Rosary, and the miracles associated with it. I heard about this book while I was driving to Chicago several weeks ago. It hadn’t been released yet, so I asked Amazon to notify me when it was. Fortuitously, Fr. Calloway was at the conference, and giving away free copies of the book! My progress is slow, but I’m loving every page.

Small Success #3 – The Crazy Nutrition Plan

One of my favorite meals on this plan, steamed brocolli with spaghetti sauce and goat cheese.
One of my favorite meals on this plan, steamed brocolli with spaghetti sauce and goat cheese.

A few weeks ago I went back on my “crazy nutrition plan” because my energy was low and I had been sick for months. This basically means I’m avoiding wheat, sugar, meat, and dairy. While for sanity’s sake I’m giving myself some leeway, especially on weekends, I’m pleased to report that the energy and illness resolved themselves immediately once I stuck to the plan for a full day. AND I’ve lost three pounds, which, considering that I’ve been hovering at my undesired weight since Little Man was born 18 months ago, is definitely cause to celebrate!

For more #SmallSuccesses,  check out CatholicMom.com!

 

 

 

Sex is NOT the Nourishing Food of Marriage (but it is the apple pie a la mode)

On Friday my Facebook feed lit up with reposts of an article from Aleteia.org, written by Mr. Ryan Williams, entitled “Sex is the nourishing food of marriage,” with the subtitle, “It doesn’t come as the result of other acts of charity in a marriage; it is the cause of them.” (**Please see the editor’s note at the end of this post for an update)

WHAT???!!!

First let me say that I LOVE Aleteia. They cover awesome topics like Simone Biles regularly attending Mass, and Eucharistic Miracles in Krakow. But I must say I am questioning their judgement with this particular article.

The angry, snipey part of me wants to say: “Go figure, a man wrote this article.” Yep. An article that’s all about the “fact” that everything good in a marriage is an outgrowth of sex.

The guy doesn’t even use flowery terms like “marital intimacy,” Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.10.43 PM“intimate union,” or “the marital embrace.”

No. He just baldly refers to it as “sex,” the most banal, mundane term that exists for this awesome act of unity between a man and a woman.

That’s right. It is an awesome union. I REALLY LIKE the act of which we speak. A lot. But is sex the food that nourishes a marriage? Are the acts of charity in a marriage caused by sexual intimacy?

Dear Lord, I hope not.

Men and Women Aren’t the Same

If Mr. Williams hasn’t figured this out, he probably needs to, in order to keep his marriage happy. For men, he may be 99% right. Goodness knows it seems as though a man can think very little of his wife one minute, and want to jump between the sheets the next.

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.06.12 PMFor women, however, it’s a very different story. If a husband has mistreated, ignored, or maligned his wife, she most likely will want nothing to do with the marital act. If they haven’t spent “quality time” together recently, she will very often want nothing to do with sex. We women are generally sexually attracted to the person who makes us feel loved, important, and cherished. If these needs aren’t being fulfilled, intimacy will often be toward the bottom of the list of things we’d like to do in our spare time.

Good to Better, Better to Great

If things are relatively okay, sex can make them good. If things are good, sex can make them great. And if things are great, sex can bring husband and wife to a physical and a spiritual intimacy that can be known in no other way on God’s green earth.

However…

Sometimes Sex Isn’t on the Menu

If sex were the “nourishing food of marriage,” from which all acts of charity arise, how would a man ever care for his elderly wife suffering from Alzheimers, who no longer recognizes him as her husband? How could he possibly change her diapers, spoon-feed her, and help her in the shower?

If sex were the “nourishing food of marriage,” how can a woman caring for her brain-injured husband help him to “re-learn his history,” oversee his therapy,  and sort out all of his medications? How could she remain patient (albeit imperfectly) when his reactions are inappropriate and disinhibited?

Are these couples less married because they can’t partake in the marital act?

From where do these caregivers’ many acts of charity arise? Mr. Williams would have us believe that such acts cannot, in fact, exist because these couples aren’t uniting fully in their marital bed!

Let’s look at this from a different angle

A priest is married to the church. If acts of charity in marriage arise only out of sexual union, as this article would have us believe, how on earth can a priest carry out his duties of endless self-donative love for his parishioners and Christ’s people?

Likewise, a nun is married to Christ, united with Him in a holy union unlike any that we married folk will ever understand. She performs countless charitable acts for her students, strangers, the poor, the disabled. How can she possibly perform these acts when she can not make love to her Beloved?

Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 3.57.41 PMHow?

And just consider for a moment the Holy Family, the most perfect family ever to exist on this earth, upon which we are meant to model our own families. If charitable acts flow only from sexual intimacy, how was Mary able to serve Joseph, and Joseph able to serve Mary?

Sex: The Apple Pie a la Mode of Marriage

I’d like to counter Mr. Williams’s with the argument that sex is not the nourishing food of marriage. To try to stick with the “food” analogy, I’d argue that, for us dessert lovers, sex is the apple pie a la mode of marriage – the pièce de résistance which more fully unites us, which makes us feel more wholly one.

But there are many other wonderful delicacies on our menu, even if Screen Shot 2016-08-13 at 4.42.59 PMwe’re not enjoying dessert. There’s the meat and potatoes of long hugs and extended kisses. There’s the delicious mozzarella sticks of holding hands. There’s the  delectable fresh bread of laying in bed spooned into one another, even though you know this cuddle is going absolutely nowhere.

We can still have a perfectly wonderful meal, even if apple pie isn’t on the menu. In fact, skipping dessert while more fully exploring other menu options can lead us to a better understanding of what we both enjoy, while also leaving us feeling more satisfied and maybe even a little healthier.

Likewise, a marriage can be strengthened through abstinence, whether it’s forced or voluntary. The acknowledgement that our union transcends beyond the physical and can survive the lack of the physical can increase trust and improve our ability to give selflessly. Moreover, it can help us to recognize that our ultimate goal and responsibility is to aid our spouse on their journey toward the ecstasies of the heavenly kingdom, rather than toward the ecstasies of the world.

With all this in mind, I would ask Mr. Williams, and all married people, to consider the roll sex plays in their lives and marriages. Can your marriage survive – and thrive – without it?

If it can’t, I suggest that you consider broadening your menu.

**Editor’s note: The article referenced on Aleteia has been changed since I originally wrote this post, for which I am extremely grateful.*** The article no longer states that “Sex is the nourishing food of marriage,” but that “Sex is kind of like the nourishing food of marriage.” (emphasis mine) The subheading has also been changed, from indicating that sex is “the cause” of charitable acts, but that sex is “a cause” of charitable acts. This is a huge distinction, drastically changing the meaning of the article, in my opinion. Thank you to Aleteia and Mr. Williams for clarifying the author’s intent. I do not know whether the body of the post has been substantially changed. In the interest of editorial integrity, I will leave my post unchanged.

***another Editor’s note: I initially indicated that I “was extremely grateful” that the article’s title and subtitle had been changed. Upon reflection, I realized that’s not true. I’m actually extremely ticked that the article would be so substantially changed. In this “blogosphere,” changing articles substantially is not okay. I’m grateful that the clarification was made, but wish that it had been done in a way that was more honest and respectful of the original content and context.

Small Success Thursday – My First!

Trying out another new linkup today and I must say that I LOVE the idea of this particular linkup! All of us have small successes to celebrate, if we will only open our eyes to look beyond the failures. Here are three of mine from this week.

Small Success #1 – I’ve Been Praying More

I’ll admit. It’s been a little hit or miss lately. Regular readers will understand why. But, the fact of the matter is that prayer saved my life (figuratively) and, I believe, my husband’s (literally). Therefore, the importance of returning to that solid prayer foundation, even while we’re still in a  little bit of crisis-mode, has been weighing heavily on my mind.

Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of war.-3The conference I went to at the end of July convicted me on one thing. We must pray the Rosary. Every day. By ourselves, in community, with our families. However, whenever. We must do it. And yet we don’t do it. Even this “Rosary girl” had fallen into a bad habit of going to bed at night even if I hadn’t prayed my daily Rosary. My greatest small success of the last two weeks, therefore, is that I’ve prayed at least five decades every day, sometimes with Ray, sometimes with the kids, sometimes by myself at midnight because I refuse to go to bed if I haven’t done it. It’s amazing how that practice helps to bring peace into my home and my life.

Probably as an outgrowth of my renewed Rosary habit, I made it to Adoration last week, I went to Reconciliation, and I’ve gotten up early every day to read the daily Mass readings, pray, journal, and otherwise spend quality time with my Beloved. The hardest part is tearing myself away.

While I’m still woefully imperfect, these practices make me a much better wife and mama.

Small Success #2 – Of the Professional Sort

It’s been a good week professionally, too. I learned that my proposalScreen Shot 2016-08-11 at 5.36.12 PM
to speak at the National Catholic Educational Association’s (NCEA) annual conference next April was accepted. They apparently receive a lot of proposals, so I’m pretty geeked that mine made the cut. My topic will be “The Power of Fiction to Change Hearts and Minds.” Please let me know in the comments if there’s a fiction I should read as I prepare, especially (but not limited to) any Catholic fiction.

I also spent three glorious hours Wednesday night, staying up until 1:30 in the morning, working on character development and the plot outline for my next book. I think I’m on to something, and that feeling is pretty amazing.

Small Success #3 – I’m Finally Getting Organized

Having Ray home has given organization a new urgency, since brain injury survivors thrive with routine and a schedule. For the last few weeks, I’ve been relatively successful at providing a daily schedule, and sticking to it. This week, I’ve used my old-fashioned Franklin Planner to keep track of important tasks and appointments. Far fewer things are falling through the cracks, and I feel much less overwhelmed. Last weekend, this extended to my pantry, when I finally broke down and organized it (and found tiny bugs eating the dog food. Lovely).

It feels SO GOOD to open that door and be able to see the floor. It feels even better to know that I’ve killed all those slimy nasty little insects.

These are just a few of my #smallsuccesses of the past week. Please share yours in the comments! And, for more small successes from other great bloggers, visit CatholicMom.com!

#WorthRevisit – Rollerskating with my Father

Looking back a few years to a post that’s “worth revisiting.”

A couple of weeks ago, I took my six year old son to his school’s roller skating party.   Being six months pregnant, I had no intention of skating.  However, my heart broke as I watched the poor guy trying to stay up on his skates, falling every couple of yards.  I couldn’t possibly leave him to do this on his own, and I decided to take the risk, figuring that I could protect my belly and the worst that was likely to happen was a broken wrist.

IMG_1734
Me and that “little boy,” now twelve years old!

So I joined Zachary on the skating floor and held his hand as we went around in circles, skating to the music.  Before long, he was able to make it several laps without hitting the floor.   Of course, there were times when I decided that the safest and best thing to do was to let him fall. There were other times when he began to fall, but I was able to hold onto him and keep him upright.  Several times, he got a little irritated with me, saying that I was hurting his wrist by holding him up.  Nonetheless, after a few songs, Zach shouted up to me, “Mommy, it’s easier when I’m holding your hand.”

Of course, that warmed my heart.  It also made the embarrassment of feeling like a whale in roller skates well worth it.

But a thought struck me and I considered it as we skated, drawing many parallels to our situation.  Life is easier when I’m holding onto my Father’s hand.  This is especially true in new or difficult situations, but even when I am coasting through life and everything seems to be going well, it’s great to have His companionship, someone with whom I can skate along, talking and enjoying the music of life.

As long as I continue to skate side by side with Him, following His path, I will be less likely to fall.  At times, he will hold me up, preventing my fall.  Sometimes, that might not feel so good to me, just like my vice grip on Zach’s hand didn’t feel good to him.  Those times are unanswered prayers, or answers that I don’t care for, or times when following God’s will is not the easy thing to do.  Jesus going to the cross in accordance with the Father’s will is the prime example.

Other times, He will let me fall, to learn a lesson that must be learned in order for me to grow closer to Him and more like Jesus.  When I fall, I have two choices – I can sit on the ground, wallow in my misery, and let all of the other skaters (a.k.a. the cares of this world) run over me.  Or I can look up, seek God’s hand once again, and with His help rise above the painful tumble.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?” (Matt 7:9-10)  Just as I saw my son having a rough time and went to help him,  our Father is always there to help us.  Only He helps us perfectly – every time we need it, to the degree we need it, in the manner in which we need it.

Are you skating hand in hand with your Father?  Or, have you gotten caught up in the music and you’re rushing ahead of him?  Perhaps you’re reluctant to follow a path He is trying to guide you down, and so you are lagging behind.  Have the cares of this world plowed you over?  Look up.  He’s holding out His hand.

For most #worthrevisit posts, check out the link up on Allison Gingras’s Reconciled to You Blog.

An Amazing Week

I had an amazing week last week. Filled with networking, inspiration, and a little media attention, it was quite the departure from my normal life of cleaning dishes, shuttling kids, and changing diapers.

Tuesday, I headed to Schaumburg, IL for the Catholic Marketing Network’s annual trade show, and Catholic Writers’ Conference Live. This was the first such conference I’ve attended and, while some of my expectations were not fulfilled (like the ridiculous notion that I would have time in the evenings to write), other expectations were far exceeded.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 5.19.55 PM
From L-R, Me, Jeannie Ewing, and Amy Cattapan

One of the best parts was meeting lots of other authors whom I’ve previously known only through social media, most notably Jeannie Ewing (author of From Grief to Grace) and A.J. Cattapan (author of the YA novel, Angelhood.)

Then there was the fact that I

I gave Fr. Calloway (and many other influential figures) a copy of A Single Bead, and got this picture. He was so nice. Prayers that the many books given away bear fruit!
I gave Fr. Calloway (and many other influential figures) a copy of A Single Bead, and got this picture. He was so nice. Prayers that the many books given away bear fruit!

got several  advance reading copies of upcoming books. How cool is that??!! Not available in stores yet, y’all, but I’ve got it sitting in my pile of “Books to Read ASAP.” The two I’m most excited about are Kelly Wahlquist’s Walk in Her Sandles – Experiencing Christ’s Passion Through the Eyes of Womenand Fr. Don Calloway’s, Champions of the RosaryI’ll do my best to post reviews once I finish each book!

One of the many beautiful mosaics at the Shrine.
One of the many beautiful mosaics at the Shrine.

Daily Mass four days in a row was lovely, and there was an adoration chapel right there at the trade show. We also did a pilgrimage to  Marytown, and the shrine of St. Maximillian Kolbe.

with bonnie rodgers
With Bonnie Rodgers of Catholic TV

As far as that media attention goes, first, I spoke with Bonnie Rodgers of Catholic TV, America’s largest online Catholic television network. Bonnie is one of those people that has the gift of making you feel like you are one of her dearest friends from the moment you meet her. As you would expect under such circumstances, I think the interview went well.

ewtn bookmark
With Doug Keck, on EWTN Bookmark

Next came an interview with Doug Keck of EWTN’s Bookmark. This was an interview that almost didn’t happen, since EWTN rarely covers fiction. Fortunately, the producer gave me a window of opportunity to present A Single Bead to Mr. Keck. I had a long while to wait before I got to speak to him, all the while sitting perched on a chair in the booth and feeling rather awkward. I spent the time praying that if God wanted me to be on, Mr. Keck would be open to it. And, Voila! I got on.

Finally, on Thursday, I was interviewed on a local Chicago Catholic radio station, WFSI fm.  I confess that by the end of three shows, I started to feel a wee bit repetitive, but in this show I had a chance to share the story of God’s providence through our recent family events. I feel so blessed to be able to look back and see His hand so clearly, and love sharing!

All three interviews will air sometime in the next month. I’ll keep you posted!

IMG_4622
Posing with my favorite book, wearing a fabulous consignment store find.

Wednesday evening, there was a “Meet the Author” book signing event, during which I signed about 150 copies of A Single Bead. Believe it or not, my hand barely got tired, although my handwriting did get rather sloppy. It was actually a lot of fun – if exhausting – to get to talk to so many people about my book, share my  “elevator pitch,” and hear a little bit about their lives and the people who they thought might enjoy reading about Kate and her grandma’s rosary bead.

daughters of st paul
With Sr. Martha and Sr. Susan, at the Pauline Books and Media booth

I had a wonderful dinner with two sisters from the Daughters of St. Paul, and was blessed to hear the stories of their callings into religious life. I shared several meals with likeminded Catholic authors, from whom I was able to learn and be inspired.

It was an insanely busy week. I didn’t think it was possible, but I came home feeling even more exhausted than before I left. However, I was also rejuvenated and exhilarated, determined to develop a family schedule that will support family peace and my writing, with lots of new ideas for promotion and marketing of A Single Bead and future projects, and ready to face writer’s block (or “writer’s dam,” as author Karina Fabian prefers to call it)!

May it all be done for the Glory of God!

 

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Homecoming!

Ray’s Home!

After eight weeks in Grand Rapids in neurological rehab, Ray has finally come home. Here’s a how it went down…

welcome home dad
Yes, one of these kids is not my own. ;)
We Had a Week that Could Have Been from that Fiery Place Below

First off, I’ve been suffering from a terrible cold that has only affected me (worn down as I am), and has made most of my nights sleepless due to uncontrollable coughing. I tried everything, but for two weeks straight I was lucky to get four hours of sleep each night.

I drove my sleepless self to Grand Rapids Sunday, so that I could
learn Ray’s routine and get the recommendations for his ongoing therapy. I returned home  Tuesday evening, and woke up Wednesday morning to two sick kids. Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease didn’t strike Boo too badly but it left Little Man beside himself.  My sweet little baby wouldn’t stop screeching, and wanted to be held constantly. He didn’t want to eat or drink. Nothing made him happy.

Wednesday night, a tree fell on the power line running to the house, and we had a partial electrical outage. No A/C. No oven. No big deal.

No well pump. Ergo, no running water.

No toilets.

No way.

Electrical Outages Can Actually Be A Blessing

kids in hottubWhen you are a single mom with five kids, two of whom are sick, a lack of electricity running you out of your house and into the arms of your loving mom and dad who happen to have a pool is actually a blessing.

Mom and I took turns attempting to keep Little Man happy, while the other kids swam and played. It made for a far better day Thursday than the one I had planned, which was filled with work and cleaning.

The Big Day

Friday, still sleep-deprived, I left early to make the four hour drive upray at going away party to Grand Rapids. Again. There was a farewell party for Ray, a few last minute details to cover, and his room to pack up. Then, I turned around and drove the four hours home, arriving in time for the steak dinner Ray’s mom had waiting for us.

Of course, Little Man wouldn’t stop screeching. I had to remove him from the house so Ray could enjoy his welcome home dinner. Brain injury and screeching babies do not agree with one another. But, my trip to Walgreens to get Epsom salts was rewarded with a half hour long happy bath time (overseen by Bonita while I ate my dinner), and a happy baby at the end of it all.

Praise God.

God is Good

If you recall, just before Ray went to Michigan, I was about to lose it. I have a few things on my plate these days, and helping Ray with his at-home therapy had fallen off the plate and landed – SPLAT! – on the floor. His time in Michigan was a much needed opportunity for him to get the services he needed, while giving me a break from the stress of my inadequacies. (I say that with total healthy self-love. None of us are perfect.) It was also a time for me to prepare mentally and spiritually for his homecoming, and to get used to the idea of living by a schedule… something I’ve always known the value of, and which is vital to the well-being of a brain injury survivor, but that I – quite frankly – totally suck at.

I prayed a novena of total surrender to Jesus, finishing on the day Ray came home. Undoubtedly the best thing I could have done, and I’m grateful that it appeared when it did, an answer to a prayer.

Two Days of Life on a Schedule

I can’t say we’re sticking to it 100%, but we’ve done pretty well. The most important part is keeping Ray active, and we’ve definitely done that. He would love to take a three to four hour nap every day, but the schedule “simply doesn’t allow it.”

Proof that Big Families are a Blessing

ray and z on bike rideHaving five kids and a brain injured husband can be difficult to navigate. Very. To begin with, brain injury does not get along well with noise, chaos, and craziness. Add to that the myriad of kids’ activities, competing wants and needs, and trying to meet them all as a “single parent,” and a big family could quickly be seen as a curse.

But, thanks be to God, this weekend we have seen the blessing of theray and ike doing legos big family. The kids have – unbeknownst to them – become Ray’s therapists. Dude took a bike ride with me and Daddy Saturday morning. Bear did Legos with him in the afternoon. Ray played Battleship with Bonita, and played games of pool with Dude and Bear at my parents later in the day. All excellent forms of physical, occupational,ray playing pool or cognitive therapy for Ray, and a great way to keep the kids busy, thinking, and off their devices.

Here’s praying that we can continue this into the week!

{SQT} Seven Questions You Were Maybe Thinking of Asking

seven-quick-takes-friday-2

(I wrote this post Friday morning but my blogging software wasn’t letting me upload any photos, and I know everyone loves photos, especially of my (dare I say it) ADORABLE kids. Hence the fact that I’m posting this “Seven Quick Takes Friday” post on a Tuesday!)

Here’s what I wrote on Friday…

Once again, it’s been too long since I’ve posted, and once again, I’m going to cheat and do the quickest and easiest post possible… a 7QT post! This time, I’m just going to answer a few of the questions that I think you might be thinking of asking!

Question #1: What have you guys been up to?

I am pleased to report that I am writing this post from the basement of my bestie Stephanie… in Pennsylvania! Stephanie and her family moved out here five years ago, and this is our first trip to visit them, so I’m pretty stoked. We’ve climbed a mountain, hiked [a very small portion of] the Appalachian Trail, played in a fjord, walked through a huge field of boulders, done hibachi, and drank a few glasses of fermented grape juice. It’s pretty much been my ideal vacation, minus one thing…

The whole PA gang, outside the scenic railway station in Jim Thorpe, PA
The whole PA gang, outside the scenic railway station in Jim Thorpe, PA

Question #2: Did Ray come?

I know your next question: Did Ray come???!!! Well, no, unfortunately, he couldn’t, since he’s still in neurological rehab in Michigan. I’ve struggled with this, I’m not going to lie. And I know he’s struggled with it too. I keep telling myself that I’ve been hoping to do this for years, and I always figured that I’d visit my friend Stephanie as a “girls trip plus kids” anyways. But it would have been much easier if Ray had been back home, working, hanging out with friends, playing golf, etc.

The reality is that Ray would not have enjoyed this trip. Climbing mountains, jumping around on boulders, and wading through fjords are not really in the cards for him right now. But that doesn’t take away the tinge of guilt I feel constantly, or any of the emotions I’m sure he’s experiencing, either.

Question #3: Are you crazy?

Yes, probably. I drove from visiting Ray in Grand Rapids all the way to eastern PA with five kids. The map app said it would take ten hours. It took twelve.

Question #4: Did you kill any of the kids?

Um, no. Actually, I hardly even came close. Well, there was the time when I was letting Little Man stretch his legs by “driving” the car while the older two boys helped me clean the windshield. Not realizing the consequences, one of the boys opened the driver side door while Little Man was leaning against it. Gravity took over. Mommy freaked. Little Man cried. Boy-who-opened-door cried. But once the initial scare wore off, everyone was fine.

The other time that I “hardly even came close” to killing one of the kids was when the boys were fighting over the space in the backseat. No one died, and I didn’t even end up pulling the car over, as I had threatened. Ultimately, I resorted to bribery – a remarkably effective tool. I now owe two kids five dollars, one kid four, and the least well-behaved (for this particular drive, anyways) gets to walk away keeping three of the five dollars that were originally on offer.

Question #5: So, how’s Ray doing?

A selfie of the two of us from several weeks ago, when we visited beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.
A selfie of the two of us from several weeks ago, when we visited beautiful Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids.

He’s doing very well, thank you for asking. I know that being away from home is tough on him, but the reality is that the noise level and general craziness at our house when all five kids are home over the summer would have been a lot for him to handle. He’s accomplished both of the goals which he set for himself in early February – to be able to run and to swing a golf club. I’m pretty sure the “running” has been very limited and not something he should do without his physical therapist present, and he says that his golf swing needs a lot of improvement, but considering how lofty both of those goals seemed four months ago, their achievement is definitely something to be celebrated.

 Question #6: And, how are you and the kids?

We’re good. Ray’s being in Grand Rapids is a little bit like the good ol’ days,

Kids walking the Appalachian Trail in PA
Kids walking the Appalachian Trail in PA

when Daddy was on a business trip – he’s just gone a “bit” longer, and we’re traveling nearly every weekend in order to see him. The kids have enjoyed the travel, even if I’ve nearly lost my mind over it at times.

During the weeks, I’m working a lot, either promoting my book or building up my little freelance writing business in order to fill the gap left by long term disability insurance. We’re blessed to have a friend who loves the kids and watches them pro-bono, who also has kids that mine love to play with… and access to a pool. I’m also blessed to have something I’m good at and love to do (writing) that can help provide for our family.

Question #7: Isn’t God amazing?!!

Well, yes, yes, he is! It never ceases to amaze me how God provides for our needs. Just when the summer was looming ahead of us, and I knew having the kids and Ray home at the same time would be a challenge, God provided an awesome opportunity for Ray to go receive intensive therapy, in a quiet, peaceful, and scheduled environment. When long term disability threatened to cut our income significantly, God provided new clients and book revenue to fill the void. He provided a friend to watch the kids, and he’s even provided new friends in Grand Rapids to help us feel welcome and comfortable in Ray’s home-away-from-home.

What’s especially remarkable is this: If we didn’t have a cross to bear, we would be much less aware of these abundant blessings.

 

Here are some more photos. Unfortunately my crazy blogging platform is turning some of the photos around and then won’t let me fix them. Having spent WAY too much time on this, I’m posting them anyways. You’ll just have to tilt your head to the left. Ha.

Ray with Matt, our new God-given Grand Rapids friend.
Ray with Matt, our new God-given Grand Rapids friend.

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Me with my beautiful bestie. What a blessing she is!

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Mary on boulder field mailed

Mary Lise and Isaac hopping around the magnificent 13 acre boulder field
Boo and Bear hopping around the magnificent 13 acre boulder field

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Rehab, Radio Shows, and Book Signings… Oh My!

While I’d love to fill you in on all of the blessings of the past month, the kids will be awake and needing attention far too soon for me to do it all justice. Instead, I have a few urgent (but happy) things of which I ought to make everyone aware!

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t let everyone know that we have been incredibly blessed to be able to send Ray to a neurological treatment program in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This is something we’d been working on since January, and the approval from the insurance company finally came the very day after I wrote my “This is Not a Hot Mess Pity Party” post. Yes, God showed me that I needed to cling to Him, but – once again – he also showed me that He provides. Ray needed more attention, and I couldn’t give it to him. The battery of therapists and doctors at Hope Network can!

I would be even more remiss if I didn’t include this photo of the cuteness that just woke up
to bless me with his presence:

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And people say we shouldn’t have had five kids. Geesh. What would the world be without this sunny little guy?

One exciting bit of news is that I’ll be appearing on not one, but two, radio shows tomorrow (Thursday, June 9th). The first is at 10 a.m., with Allison Gingras of “A Seeking Heart” on Breadbox Media. I was on Allison’s show in February (you can listen to it here), and I guess you could say that I’ll be “back by popular demand!” Allison and I will be discussing the latest happenings in the Engelman family, faith-filled summer activities for kids, and God’s awesome Providence. I’ve been wanting to write a blog post on that topic – how God has provided for us so beautifully through these last six months – and, since I haven’t found the time to finish that post, I feel blessed to get to share it on radio instead! You can listen live from your computer, or via the Breadbox Media app, which is by far the most convenient way to listen to radio ever! You can also listen to the podcast at any time after the show.

The second radio show is “Faith in Action” with M.J. Krauter, a local Indianapolis show on Catholic Radio Indy. M.J. and I will be discussing A Single Bead, the story of how I came to write it, and how the foundational principle of prayer helped me through our family’s recent difficulties. You can listen to it live at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon on FM 89.1 or 90.1, depending on where you are in the Indianapolis area. Or, you can listen live via your computer here, listen to the podcast here, or via a radio app on your phone like TuneIn Radio.

Finally, I’m very excited that I’ll be a part of the author panel at the Teen Book Fest at the Barnes and Noble at Jefferson Pointe in Fort Wayne this Sun Saturday! I don’t know the times yet, but will update this post as soon as I do. I do know that I’ll be there chatting with readers and signing copies of A Single Bead, and I hope that many of my Fort Wayne friends will stop by to say “hello”!

As you can see, I’m keeping busy! All in God’s Providence… but you’ll have to listen to “A Seeking Heart” to get the full story! :)

UPDATE: The event at Barnes and Noble will actually take place on SATURDAY, not Sunday! I’ll be there at 3:00, giving a short talk and then answering questions and signing books. It’s a part of their Teen Book Fest, which is going on all weekend!

 

This is Not a Hot Mess Pity Party

So this was supposed to be the post that I had half-written last week, when I was writing the update on Ray’s recovery. But it’s funny how, in the blink of an eye, everything can change and the “I’m doing okay but dang this is a lonely business” post changes to an “I’m a hot mess and I can’t stop crying and there’s no way I can possibly do everything I’m supposed to do and I am having a hard time seeing the good things in life right now” pity party.

Let me start by saying that I think I’m past the hot mess pity party, or else I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. I hate whiners and, while I might whine to close friends and family, I do try to keep it off the internet for the world to read. So, while this might start out negative, I do promise to end on a positive.

IMG_9986.JPGSo here’s how it goes. Last Thursday, I’m coasting along, having had a remarkably good day on Wednesday. In fact, Wednesday night I posted on Facebook, reflecting that I had actually achieved all of my critical “to-do’s” for the day. Of course, when I realized that I had only slept 3.5 hours the night before, and I’d hired help for four hours, I joked that I could stay on top of my work load if I never slept and each day was a half hour longer. Anyways, it was Thursday and life seemed pretty good. Until Ray and I met with the neuropsychologist who coordinates his rehabilitative therapy.

And she told me I wasn’t doing enough.

Okay, okay, she didn’t use those words, exactly. She was very nice, really. But the bottom line is this: Even as I thought Ray was making such remarkable progress (and had just posted a blog post about it, for the love of all that’s good!), the therapists felt that he wasn’t making enough progress, and that it was because we haven’t been doing enough therapy at home.

Exit happy, “I’ve got this” Stephanie. Enter “You’ve got to be kidding me, how can I possibly do one more thing” hot mess disaster Stephanie.

I made it through the meeting. But for the next several hours the words kept playing through my head. I’m not doing enough.

I lost it when I was telling my sister about it. At Dude’s rugby game. For all the world (or at least all those rugby parents) to see.

I lost it again the next day when I called my mom and told her what had happened.

And I lost it again as I watched what seemed to be a pint of blood go down the drain because Ray had sliced his fingers while cutting steak (blood thinners really work).

Reality struck. I had everything under control in the way that a cartoon character carrying a giant stack of dishes has control of those plates. Add one tiny tea cup, a spoon, or – heck! – even just a napkin, and the illusion of control is destroyed.

I’ve told friends that my life right now isn’t much different from that of a single mother with five young children with lots of doctor’s appointments and mountain of long-term-disability/social-security paperwork and medical bills to wade through.

But, seriously? What woman can handle all of that?

Well. Here’s the answer. Not a one. At least, certainly not this one. The reality is that things are going to remain undone and priorities have to be set, and that when that mom is trying to do everything, she’s going to make herself – and most likely everyone around her – miserable.

But here’s where the hot mess pity party ends, and light streams through the clouds.

On Sunday morning, my daily devotional was all about the foundational importance of IMG_9989.JPGhumility. Without humility, we can not continue to grow in the faith. We will always hit a stopping point.

I’ve written before about my need for this virtue, and the opportunity for growth remains. Humility is the knowledge that, without God I can do nothing. When I try to do too much and fail, I come back to the knowledge that I’m trying to do these things on my own. Yes, I can do all things. But I must not forget the last part of the verse. Through Christ, who strengthens me.

And so my hot mess pity party of last weekend was a blessing in disguise. It got me back down on my knees in prayer where I belong. It helped me to refocus and reignite.

I can’t say that I won’t fall apart again, but, with God’s Grace, I will find the courage and strength to acknowledge my weakness, cling to Him, and allow Him to put me back together again.

An Honest Look at the Life of One Catholic Mommy