Product Review – Sunny D’s Beautiful and Unique Catholic Jewelry

If you’re looking for a beautiful and unique piece of Christian or Catholic jewelry for someone special this Christmas, I highly recommend checking out Sunny D’s Market.

img_6245I had the pleasure of meeting Sunny when I was at a trade show over the summer, and I instantly fell in love with the unique simplicity of her designs. From necklaces, to bracelets, to earrings, Sunny puts together creations that are fabulous yet functional – things that work for everyday or for dressing up in your Sunday best. Her designs range from the secular, to the Christian, to the Catholic, meaning that she makes something for just about everyone on your Christmas list – at least those of the female persuasion.

As a girl who loves to wear a Miraculous Medal at all times, but who get’s a little tired of the standard cheap ones that are generally available, I especially love the high-quality, antiqued medals that Sunny uses in her designs. She offered to custom design a necklace for me, and I chose one with laborodite crystals and a silver miraculous medal. It beautifully complements the grays and blacks that consume 97% of my closet, so I wear it nearly every day.

Having duly fallen in love, I purchased this gorgeous necklace with img_5485the Sacred Heart medal for the  young woman I sponsored for Confirmation, and perhaps this is turning into an addiction because I just ordered the earrings below for a gift exchange I’m taking part in next week.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-11-42-29-amShe’s quick to ship – I’ve gotten all of my orders within a few days – she’ll customize anything to your specifications, and the prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $14 to $54. Honestly, I think she’s undercharging, so I’d order soon, before she figures that out! (wink, wink!) For now, at least, there’s something for every budget, and you can feel great knowing that you’ve supported a small business.

Disclaimer – While Sunny D has been kind enough to provide a discount on one of the products I’ve purchased in exchange for a review, I would have bought it anyways, even at full price. :) I will not receive any compensation if you order from her, but please let her know where you heard about her shop, so she’ll know whether this is a good marketing tool!

 

One Year Later: Ray’s Brain Injury Recovery

As the posts regarding Ray’s recovery from brain injury, and our experience of the last year continue (a little slower than I’d hoped!), I know the burning question in the minds of many is, “But how is Ray doing, now?” The process of brain injury recovery is actually a three-year deal, so we’re only a third of the way in. Regardless, I find that I can only address his recovery in the context of how he was doing a year ago.

The family, on a long walk in Tuscaloosa last weekend.
The family, on a long walk in Tuscaloosa last weekend.

A few days after the heart attack, Ray’s neurologist predicted that  he might never walk or talk again, preparing us for a man who might very well spend the rest of his life in a semi-vegetative state. Thanksgiving weekend last year, I sat down with each of the older children individually, doing my best to answer the question that was most on their minds: “When is Daddy coming home?”

My answer, catered to the age and understanding of each child, was this: “Daddy may never come home. He may spend the rest of his life in a hospital bed, unable to care for himself.”

As the days went on, he began to speak and control his movements more. Most of the time, he was able to recognize me, and could tell us the names of our oldest two children, but he had no memory of having more than two kids, and – on more than one occasion – he mistook me for a doctor or some other hospital employee.

Taking a selfie with Boo
Taking a selfie with Boo

Much to the surprise of his doctors,  he was able to go to a full-blown rehab hospital on December 8th. I remember his first day there vividly, when his occupational therapist had to bodily lift him from his bed and into a wheelchair, which had supports on either side of his head and a strap that held him in the chair. She wheeled him into the bathroom, propped his arm on the counter, and placed a toothbrush in his hand. He gripped it with his fist and managed to stick it in his mouth, making a few vague motions back and forth in a sad mockery of brushing his teeth.

At the end of January, it was time for him to leave the rehab hospital, and, based on the recommendations of his team of doctors and therapists, we planned to send him to a secondary rehab facility (read: nursing home). This was due to the sheer reality of his remaining care needs, and the seemingly impossible task of a mother with five children, one of whom was still in diapers and not even walking yet, taking care of of a grown man with such immense needs.

Thankfully, those plans did not come to fruition. At the time, he needed 24/7 close supervision. Showers required my arms in a cage to prevent him from falling over. Nights called for caregiving chores I never expected to have to complete at the age of 41, and days weren’t much easier. He couldn’t walk more than a few steps without falling, but he didn’t know that. I’d get him seated on the couch, admonish him to stay there, and run to the bathroom. Moments later, the kids would yell, “Mommy, Daddy’s up!” He would either completely forget to use the walker at his side, or he would have hold of it, lifted completely off the floor, just carrying it along for the ride, while putting it to absolutely no use.

Now, just over one year into the recovery process, Ray’s balance is almost perfect. Falls remain a possibility, but only slightly more so than for you or me. He walks, showers, and shaves unaided. He makes the sandwiches for the kids’ lunches most days, and cleans up the kitchen after dinner every night. He helps with laundry and many other household tasks. In fact, he’s regained many of his former abilities. His math remains better than mine, and, while his day-to-day memory presents a challenge in many ways, he can actually remember many names, dates, and facts far better than I can. From blowing leaves, to chopping down trees, to replacing my car battery, I am consistently impressed with the many things he is able to do.

Brain injury is a tricky thing, though. I’ve heard it said that a brain-injured person might recover 90%, but it will be a very different 90%. Indeed, the Ray of December 2016 is very different from the Ray of November, 2015, and I’ve come to realize that, while I’ve neither divorced nor been widowed and remarried, the husband whom I

Getting lovin' from Little Man
Getting lovin’ from Little Man

kissed good morning today is not the same man I kissed goodnight on November 18th, 2015.

Both men were made to love and be loved, though. That’s what I will strive to continue to do, and we’re blessed with children and many family and friends who continue to offer their love and support as well. For all of you, we are very grateful.

 

One Year Later – The Spiritual Journey

Wow. It’s hard to believe, but tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of Ray’s heart attack and subsequent brain injury.

My goal is to publish a series of posts in the next few days, chronicling at least a little bit of our journey. First, though, I want to share a little bit of the spiritual journey, and brag on our awesome God Almighty.

A few weeks after the life-changing event, I looked back at my prayer journal, to the last entry I’d made before the heart attack. On that day, I meditated on 1 Kings 17:8-16, which is the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. I wrote,

Elijah asks the woman for water, something easy for her to give. She goes to get it, no big deal. Then he asks for bread, but she has only enough to serve herself and her son one last time. He assures her they’ll be provided for. She trusts him and gives him what he’s asked for. And God provides.

I then noted,

I’m giving God what’s easy.

What am I not giving God that’s not so easy?

To which I wrote down the questions to myself:

  • My fertility? [While we followed Church teachings, was God asking us to be more open to accepting another life?]
  • My time? [Was I being called to do more for God, but not doing it, because I didn’t trust God enough to provide the time to complete everything that needed to be done?]

Finally, I scrawled across the bottom:

What act of total trust is God asking of me?

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Little did I know at the time, but the act of trust that would soon be required was that of placing my husband, my children, and myself entirely  into God’s hands and trusting that he would provide for us all, just as he did for the widow.

As I’ve looked back on the past year, and especially those first few weeks, when Ray was so desperately ill, I have continued to be awed by the sense of peace and even joy that I experienced through the very worst of it, and I know that it’s because, like the widow of Zarephath, I trusted. I’ve done many things wrong in my life, but in the moment when I realized that my husband was not breathing, I trusted.

I trusted because of the many mornings I had spent reading and reflecting on God’s promise in scripture.

I trusted because of the countless hours I had spent meditating upon God’s promise revealed through the mysteries of the Rosary.

I trusted because of hours spent in Adoration, loving our Lord, asking him to make me his servant, and to help me to unite my crosses to his.

I trusted because of the graces received through the source and summit of our lives as Catholics, the Eucharist. And, just as we pray in the Anima Christi,

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from Christ’s side, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds hide me
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee
From the malicious enemy defend me
In the hour of my death call me
And bid me come unto Thee
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints
and with Thy angels
Forever and ever
Amen

They did, and He did.

He strengthened me, inebriated me, and hid me within his wounds. He gave me the peaceful reassurance that Ray was held within his loving hands, as well. He gave me the joy of knowing that, when we walk through the deepest of valleys, he is with us.

He gave me the joy of the Resurrection.

We’ve been through a lot this past year. But when I come back to this assurance, all I can think is,

My God, you are so good.

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To learn more about our family’s journey this past year, you might like to read:

My First Post After Ray’s Heart Attack

A Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

Ray’s Unexpected Homecoming

 

 

Stress, Neurotics, and a Plea for Help

(Please note: Any self-derision in this article is largely tongue-in-cheek. While I am critical of myself in an mostly almost entirely healthy way, I’m also well aware of God’s infinite love for me and the fact that he wants me to love me too. And I do! I’m only human, but also trying to do better.)

The Story I’m Hoping isn’t Prophetic

Ray’s neuropsychologist shared a true story today of a young caregiver husband who literally passed out from malnutrition, exhaustion, and stress, hitting his head and causing a concussion. I think I’m taking better care of myself than that, but sometimes I do wonder.

The Stressor

So, here’s one major cause of my current stress: keeping my house in “livable” status. Right now, as I write, I’ve finally achieved it. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to last beyond 7:05 tomorrow morning, at which point in time the breakfast-making and lunch-packing mess, plus a toddler pulling out every toy we own, will throw it back into make-me-want-to-puke-or-scream-or-cry-or-maybe-all-three status.

So, we’re in livable status for the moment, but here’s the problem. I’ve been going non-stop since I woke up early this morning, and I just finally got to sit down and “relax” (if writing a blog post counts for relaxation) at 10:30. Livable status was achieved at 10:29.

Further exacerbating said stress is the knowledge that we’re having company Friday night, and Friday day promises to be a crazy mess of two doctor’s appointments for Ray, early pickup for four kids, preschool pickup for the toddler, running two kids allover the city for outings, and – oh, yeah – parent teacher conferences.

The reality is that, by the time our company arrives around 6:30, I’ll be lucky to have that breakfast/lunch/toddler mess cleaned up, let alone have dinner ready to be served.

Yes, I know. I never should have scheduled all of this for the same day. But I like to think I’m SuperWoman… until it becomes so incredibly obvious that I’m not. In my defense, I invited our friends before I knew any of this other stuff was going to happen. I scheduled the doctor’s appointments because we’ve been trying to get in since March and this date opened up. And the kids’ activities were planned by the PTO only a few weeks ago, but since their whole class is going… how can I say no?

My Neurotic Move

So, anyways, I actually pulled the slightly totally neurotic move of cancelling the plans with our friends, largely due to the knowledge that I would be freaking out trying to get the house cleaned. There were other reasons, but when I stopped and was totally honest with myself, I realized that the desire for a “company ready” house was playing a rather large role in my decision.

I know. It’s terrible! I’m an idiot and a social moron. What was I thinking?

I’ve re-extended the invitation, but they may now think that I didn’t really want them to come, or that I’m completely psycho, or both. The former is definitely not the case. As for the latter, well… the jury’s out.

Help, Please!

Okay. So, here’s why I’m writing this post. There are some very wise women who read this blog, and, even if you don’t identify yourself as such, I’m sure you have words of wisdom to help me solve my dilemma. (The dilemma being how to stay on top of my house without working until 10:30 every night, not the dilemma of over-scheduling myself. We can deal with my SuperWoman complex another time.)

The kids are already helping, although I’m sure they could help more. They each have time allotted each night for helping around the house. One vacuums, another mops, one helps with laundry, and a fourth in the kitchen. However, they’re notoriously awful about picking up after themselves or the toddler… so I could use some help there. Seriously, this toddler stage nearly kills me every time.

Given all that, what magical tips do you have that will help an overworked momma stay on top of the never-ending household mess? I’m sure I’m not the only mom struggling with this, so you never know who will benefit from your wisdom. Organizational tips, time management strategies, positive self-talk, you name it.

Please, please, please share your thoughts in the comments below!

(I’d rather not pass out and suffer a concussion – or worse!)

Update with some good news – I think I have carpool arranged for the kids, so there’s one thing off my plate!

Awaken to the Best Talk Postponed

Hi, friends! I just wanted to dash off a quick post that today’s Awaken to the Best talk has been postponed due to a  large funeral at the church. I’ll be speaking on Dec. 14th, instead.

Please pray for the soul of the young man whose Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated today, as well as for his family and community. Thank you!

The Ted Bundy Rosary Miracle

Today, October 7, marks the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In its honor, I’d like to share a miracle of the Rosary which I recently read in the book, Champions of the Rosary, by Fr. Donald Calloway. I call it the “Ted Bundy Rosary Miracle.”

Huh?

Yep. There’s a Rosary miracle associated with Ted Bundy, the notorious serial rapist and murderer of the 1970’s.

rosary-1244875-1598x1062One night in January, 1978, Ted Bundy broke into a sorority house at Florida State University. After brutally raping and killing two sorority sisters, and seriously injuring two others, Bundy opened the door to another room. The young woman saw him open the door, and was sure he was going to kill her. Oddly, though, Bundy stopped, dropped his weapon, and fled.

When police arrived on the scene, they found this young woman in a near catatonic state. She refused to speak to anyone but a priest, so local priest Monsignor William Kerr was called to the scene. Upon his arrival, she recounted what had happened, and informed Monsignor Kerr that, when she went away to college, she had promised her mother that she would pray the Rosary every night before bed for protection. That night, she had fallen asleep while praying, and still held her rosary in her hand when Bundy opened the door to her room.

Years later, Bundy asked for spiritual guidance from the same priest who had met with that young woman, Monsignor Kerr. When asked about that incident in that Florida State sorority house, Bundy said that, when he’d opened the door to that young woman’s room, he had every intention of killing her. However, when he tried to step through the doorway, a mysterious force prevented him from doing so.  He dropped his weapon and ran away!

Through the intercession of Our Lady, the Rosary saved this young woman’s life. Imagine what it can do for our families, our country, and our world!

If you aren’t praying the Rosary regularly, what’s holding you back?

Are you afraid you’re not doing it right? Here’s a website to teach you how.

Is it hard to find the time? Here is a blog post I wrote, sharing how Iscreen-shot-2016-10-07-at-2-15-02-pm
find time.

Do you find it boring? Give it an honest chance. This is one devotion that I believe gets better the more you do it!

The Rosary is “the gospel on a string,” “the weapon that wins all battles” (St. Pio of Pietrelcina), and a prayer that “can bring families through all dangers and evils” (Servant of God Patrick Peyton).

May we as lovers of Christ and His Mother, Mary, pray this prayer
faithfully, with reverence and devotion, and may it bring peace to our families, our country, and our world.

 

 

 

Upcoming Speaking Engagements and Recent Media Appearances

Wow. Life’s been so busy, I’ve fallen behind on just about everything, it would seem – including updating my blog. But, there are some upcoming and past appearances that I wanted to make sure readers knew about.

October Speaking Engagement (for women)

I am thrilled to announce that I will be speaking next Wednesday, October 12, at the Awaken to the Best women’s spirituality group at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Carmel, IN. The meeting begins at 1:00 and is open to the public, though there is a registration page on their website. I will be sharing a new talk that I’m very excited about. I haven’t settled on a title yet, but it’s something along the lines of: “How trusting in God brought the peace that surpasses all understanding during the worst time of my life, and WOW, God wants everyone to have complete trust in him and here are the keys – in my humble opinion – to building that kind of trust.”

But that’s a little long, right? So, I’m working on pairing it down. :)

How I’m going to fit all of that into a 45 minute presentation is still up for grabs, too, but I’m confident it will be AWESOME, regardless, so come join us!

November Speaking Engagement (for couples)

I will also be speaking at Marriage on Tap on November 12th. This isscreen-shot-2016-10-05-at-10-06-12-pm a great date night with a little spirituality thrown into the mix! The event goes from 7:00 to 9:30 at the Willows near Broadripple in Indy. I’ve struggled with this topic A LOT, because I am so far from the perfect wife. BUT I’ve identified one thing that I do do well, and that is – once again – trusting God. This talk will be much different, though, since it’s geared toward married couples, and will revolve around trusting God with every aspect of your marriage, including finances, the very life and well-being of your spouse and children, and (eek!) your fertility.

Registration is required, just follow this link (and contact the parish office if you have trouble because I’m no help.)

Recent Media Appearances

Girlfriends Podcast

I got to speak with Danielle Bean (love her!) on her “Girlfriends” screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-10-39-44-pmpodcast this week. Her topic for the week is “Are you too busy?”. I was able to listen to the first fifteen minutes or so but I’ve been too BUSY to listen to the rest, including my own interview. What I did hear included great advice on that whole “busy-ness” thing, which clearly I need to take. Here’s the link if you’d like to listen.

EWTN On Location

ewtn bookmarkWhen I was in Chicago for the Catholic Marketing Network tradeshow and Writers Guild Conference, I was blessed to speak with Doug Keck of EWTN. The show aired a few weeks ago, and it turns out that mine wasn’t the only fantastic interview (LOL). Actually, the show is filled with interviews with many fascinating authors, and a great opportunity to learn about many amazing Catholic books that you might otherwise never even know existed. I’m somewhere around the half hour mark, but – seriously – you already know about A Single Bead, and hopefully you’ve already read it (if not, what are you waiting for?). So be sure to watch the whole show!

Prayers that you will be blessed abundantly today!

#WorthRevisit: The Fruit of an Upbraiding

Very recently, a Sister in Christ who was once a friend said some very hurtful things to me.  It’s been a long time since such a thing has happened, but goodness knows humility’s not my strong suit, so the occasional upbraiding is probably well deserved.

Since the purpose of this blog is to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am writing a post that I’d rather not write.  But perhaps it will help someone else who may have a similar experience – past, present, or future.

This person and I had developed a friendship over the past few years, but have drifted apart over the last several months.  I had my own reasons for allowing this to happen, as she – obviously – had hers.  I knew when we met recently that things were boiling under the surface, but didn’t see a point in bringing them to the light of day.  Perhaps that’s me being passive-aggressive.  Probably.

Well, my Sister in Christ is much more outspoken than I am, and I learned, through her eyes, how the distance that had grown between us has affected her and made her feel.  I learned her view of my inadequacies and shortcomings.

Its never easy to hear yourself criticized by another person. In fact, it really stinks.  It left me feeling pretty low for a while.  Knowing that my loving Father does not want me to feel this way, I searched my head for scriptures that might apply.

First, I remembered Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And, verse 46: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”  And so I dropped to my knees in the middle of fixing dinner and prayed for this Sister in Christ – that she would have healing in this difficult time, that she would know Christ’s love, peace, and comfort, and that she, too, would recognize the opportunity for introspection to become more conformed to the woman God made her to be.  In the midst of a lot of hurt and anger, that prayer was the singularly most healing prayer I could have prayed.

love-your-enemies-2

The second scripture verse that came to mind was Hebrews 12:11: “Now discipline [some versions say “chastisement”]  always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

Thus, this is an opportunity for reflection.  Am I, in all my relationships, letting Christ shine through me?  Am I building others up in all I do?  Am I maintaining my integrity?  Are all my actions directed by my mission in Christ?

Of course I can’t honestly answer “yes” to all of those questions!  I have work to do (a lot of work), and this has illuminated an area of opportunity for me.  For that, I am grateful.

So, I thank my Sister in Christ.  Good will come from her actions and her words.  I trust in Christ to help me identify those areas that need improvement, and her words to me have made me more conscious of an area in which I need to ask for the Spirit’s wisdom to look interiorly at my actions and my motivations.

Indeed, her upbraiding – I pray – will bear much fruit.

“…we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts.” Romans 5:3-5

#WorthRevisit is a linkup of FAVORITE PREVIOUSLY posted blogs …. Visit Reconciled to You to read more authors’ posts worth revisiting!

So Much for Good, Strong Bones

My family has good, strong bones. It’s one of the stupid things that I’ve always been just a wee bit prideful about. We may have our weaknesses, we Engelman’s, but we’ve got good, strong bones.

Through all the football games, rough housing, dirt bike riding, and general stupid stunts, my kids had yet to break a bone.

Until Tuesday.

Mind you, our oldest had just gotten a new scooter, and went to the skate park to try it out. This seems like an inherently dangerous thing, so I gave him a big hug before he left and sent up a few prayers while he was gone.

Our ten year old daughter, “Bonita” on the other hand, had a kickball game. I screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-06-04-amwas wracked with guilt over missing it  but I needed to be at Confirmation and had no choice. So, I did give her a big hug before she left, but it was an “I’m terribly sorry I’m not going to be there” hug, not a “please Lord protect her” hug.

During Mass, I thought of my son, maybe breaking his neck “dropping in” to some half pipe, and offered another prayer for him.

After the Confirmation Mass, I checked my phone and saw that I had several texts. Bonita had hurt her pinky finger trying to catch a ball. It was probably just badly jammed, according to a doctor who happened to be on site, but it could be broken.

Mehhh. We’ve got good strong bones. She’ll be fine.

Wednesday, the school nurse looked at it and forewarned me that it may need to be checked out.

Thursday, the nurse called and left a voicemail. Take this child to the doctor.

The irony is that, only a few weeks ago I joked with a friend, “Hey, I just found out that we’ve met our out of pocket max on the insurance! If the kids are going to break some bones, this is the year to do it!”

Whoops. I shouldn’t have said that.

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Lesson learned: unless you want to wrap your kids in bubble wrap, count on them being in danger at every turn. Even kickball is a dangerous sport, apparently!

Ultimately, trust them to the Lord, and he will take care of them in his own perfect way!

god-is-my-bubble-wrap

The Crucifix: Inspiration for Repentance and Love

Growing up, the crucifix always struck me as–well, gross, graphic, and unnecessary. It simply didn’t make any sense. Why did Catholics insist on displaying such gruesomeness? Wasn’t it better to look at the clean and less offensive empty cross, and remember that Christ rose from the dead?

estatua_de_la_crucifixion-_cristo_crucificado

However, upon my conversion, I quickly gained a deep appreciation for the crucifix. There is “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends,”  and Christ loved me so much that he died for me in this terrible and incredibly painful way. To see it so clearly depicted before me served as a constant reminder of just how great his love was for me, a sinner, and for all sinners.

When I read and understood Numbers 21:4-9 for the first time, my love for the crucifix grew as the beauty of scripture filled me with awe. Once again, we see how the New Testament is contained in the Old, and the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. The Israelites complained against God, even as they should have thanked him for  freeing them from slavery in Egypt. God sent serpents among them, and many Israelites perished. Moses prayed for the people, and, upon God’s instruction, made a bronze serpent and mounted it upon a pole.  Whoever was bitten by a snake had only to gaze upon that serpent atop that pole, to receive healing.

Likewise, we who experience the bite of sin can look upon the likeness of Christ, mounted upon the cross, to begin the process of healing. That image, which calls to mind his death and love for us, will drive us to true contrition and sorrow for our sins, and a desire to be worthy of such sacrifice. It will lead us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we are blessed to hear those most beautiful words of absolution.

words-of-absolution

Thus cleansed of our sin, we find ourselves gazing more lovingly upon our Lord, emptied and broken, longing to love him as he loves us. The desire to be close to him, to be concealed within his wounds, leads us to ever closer union with him as we seek to love him through loving our fellow man.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, may the crucifix and its reminder of Christ’s sacrifice serve as our strength, inspiration, and reassurance of Christ’s love for us.and-just-as-moses-lifted-up-the-serpent-in-the-desertso-must-the-son-of-man-be-lifted-up-so-that-everyone-who-believes-in-him-may-have-eternal-life-john-3_14-15

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

Answering God’s Call, Even When It Doesn’t “Make Sense”

The Unexpected Blessing of Being Open to Life

A Peace that Surpasses All Understanding

An Honest Look at the Life of One Catholic Mommy