Fiction Friday – Stealing Jenny Chapter 2

Excerpt from Chapter Two:

In her living room, Denise Kramer peered out the window at the bus stop across the street. She took the last drag of her cigarette, then crushed it in the ashtray while slowly exhaling. Jenny Callahan would soon be traipsing up the street to pick up her daughters at the bus stop.

She first noticed Jenny four months ago at the veterinary clinic where Denise worked as a vet tech. Denise couldn’t stand the way Jenny paraded her big stomach in front of her, lording it over her that she was pregnant and Denise was not. Later that week, Denise was alone for a few hours working at the office doing treatments for the post-op animals. She took out Bootsie Callahan’s file and discovered that Jenny lived only two blocks away. Better yet, Jenny’s kids caught the school bus right across the street from her.

During the ensuing weeks, Denise occasionally parked across the street and watched them through the front bay window in their living room which was rarely curtained off. She couldn’t stand their quaint happy family with their quaint little house and their quaint laughing children.

Over the past four months, she spent time searching online to find out more about the Callahans. The more she studied them, the more she hated them: the kind of couple who just looked at each other and became pregnant.

Denise, on the other hand, had tried for years to get pregnant with her husband, Lou. Fertility drugs, three failed in vitro attempts and still no baby. The last straw was when the adoption agency turned them down, saying that Denise’s smoking, and her ‘questionable’ psychological assessment precluded them from placing any babies in their care. Lou finally left, telling her that she was “obsessed” with having a baby.

Denise soon began to share the “news” with her co-workers, neighbors and cousin that she was pregnant. When asked, she told them that she had decided to attempt in vitro again without Lou and this time, it worked. Many celebrities and Octomom had proven that women can have babies without a significant other. Who needed fathers anyway?

Except she wouldn’t be trying in-vitro again; she had a better plan.

Stealing Jenny will be available in print or in Kindle on September 15th.

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

God’s Natural and Beautiful Design

One more post from the archives to celebrate NFP Awareness Week:

“The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse.” Paul VI, Humanae Vitae

God’s natural and beautiful design is that women are only fertile for a short time each month. Taking into account ovum life (48 hours at most) and sperm life (up to five days depending on the type of mucus in the woman’s body), there are approximately seven days in each cycle that a woman is fertile. Other factors include each woman’s particular level of fertility: the type of mucus, their age (the younger they are, the more fertile) and the man’s level of fertility (sperm count and quality of sperm).

As Pope Paul VI writes in his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life),”…new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse.” And contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church does not teach that a couple must actively seek pregnancy each time they engage in marital relations. But she does teach that intercourse must at least implicitly retain its procreative meaning. Contraceptives destroy the conjugal act’s procreative aspect. Therefore, if the couple has serious need, and spacing or avoidance of pregnancy is desired, they may use Natural Family Planning, that is, relations during the infertile time.

Natural Family Planning is safe, healthy and effective and works as good, if not better, than most of the popular birth control devices and without the unhealthy side effects of contraceptives.

Let us pray each time we approach the marital bed: “I promise to be faithful to you. I come here freely, I love you totally and I am open to creating children with you.”

James and I are certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League. We currently offer online NFP classes so you don’t need to leave the comfort of your home to learn NFP.

For more information on NFP or the online classes we offer, please comment below or email me privately at info (at)

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Review of Targeted by John M. Wills

My latest review for Catholic is of a crime novel named “Targeted,” by John M. Wills.

In “Targeted,” the latest novel from John M. Wills, a cop killer is on the loose in Chicago. In a secondary plot, a well-liked priest, Fr. Ed Matthews, is accused of sexual abuse. Police officers Pete Shannon and Marilyn Benson believe the priest to be innocent. Soon, however, Pete and Marilyn are taken off the sexual abuse case to assist the task force in finding the sniper before he strikes again. They are asked to work with Harry, a shifty, toothpick using, abrasive cop who has his own agenda and isn’t at all interested in working with the two officers.

Eventually, the FBI is brought in to help solve the case, but not before the killer targets those close to Pete.

The story is compelling and believable, the characters are well-defined and interesting and Wills’ villain, Hardcore, is chillingly real. Some of the other characters include Pete’s friend, Joe, (Marilyn’s fiancé), Beth (Pete’s pregnant wife), Lt. Darcy and others.

I enjoyed the secondary plot with Fr. Ed (who spends much of the novel “on the run”) and found myself wondering how the author would resolve that part of the story.

The climax was exciting and I was reading quickly to see what would happen next.

I thoroughly enjoyed this fast-paced novel. Wills uses his background as a police officer to construct a believable, yet entertaining, story for readers. I liked that the main characters are not perfect, but I also liked that they are not afraid to show their faith.

There were a few glaring typos, which I found distracting, but overall Targeted is a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys an exciting and compelling story and great characters!

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP: No Holding Back

To continue the celebration of NFP Awareness Week, I’d like to share another article from the archives:

“The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.” John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World

After waiting for three years to be married (and to have sex), I greatly anticipated our marital consummation. In my mind, we would, of course, use birth control. I never really considered that James would be against that. The way I saw it, that was a totally different issue from the pre-marital sex issue. At the time, even though I was Catholic, I didn’t know anyone who believed that birth control was wrong (except perhaps the Pope).

Since we were living 500 miles apart (with me in New Jersey and James in Canada), I brought the topic up for discussion about six weeks before our wedding, during one of our biweekly phone calls. I shared with my then fiancé that I wanted to be fitted for a diaphragm. He was silent for a moment, so I asked, “Is there anything wrong?”

“Well, yes,” he answered. “I had always hoped that we wouldn’t use birth control.”

He gently tried to explain his reasons, but I wouldn’t listen. I felt like he was making a big deal out of nothing. After all, I thought, doesn’t everybody use some form of birth control?

This actually started our first fight in over three years of dating. We were teenagers when we first met and James was only 18 when we were engaged. “Well, if we aren’t going to use birth control,” I said, “and we’ve already decided that we need to wait a few years before having kids, what are we going to use?”

He answered, “I know someone who uses Natural Family Planning.”

“Natural Family Planning? Isn’t that rhythm?” I knew a lot of people who had used the rhythm method, with little success. “I don’t think so,” I replied.

At the time, it seemed like James was splitting hairs. After we ended the phone call, we continued writing back and forth. What worried me was when James wrote, “I’d rather have sex once a month with no birth control than every day with birth control.” I remember thinking, What planet is he from?

Later, I received a letter in which he wrote the following: “When I think of me using a condom, it means that I’m actually holding back a part of myself. And if you were using a diaphragm or the pill or something, you would be keeping a part of yourself from me. When we give ourselves to each other, it should be a total gift, not a partial one.” As we exchanged letters, I began to see that this whole issue was connected to the pre-marital sex issue. In the end, I decided to trust my future husband.

We took an NFP class, but I still wasn’t convinced. In fact, it took me (a rather stubborn person) six months to see that NFP had an extremely positive impact on our relationship. I saw that it helped to preserve the romance and unity in our marriage. I became more aware of my body. I didn’t feel used (on the contrary: I felt loved.) I found that NFP was as effective in avoiding pregnancy as most other methods of birth control with no physical side effects. And…that it works effectively to plan a pregnancy as well. After 29 years (and five children), passion and romance are still very much a part of our marriage. (My first novel, Emily’s Hope, is the fictionalized true story of our courtship and my conversion story.)

James and I have now been certified NFP teachers for the Couple to Couple League for 27 years. If you’re interested in NFP, email me at info (at) for more information or leave a comment below.

Text copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Photo copyright 2011 Josh Hrkach

Welcome Baby Jesus by Sarah Reinhard

My latest review at Catholic Mom is for Sarah Reinhard’s newly released booklet, Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families.

Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families, takes a refreshing, unique approach to Advent.

There are many children’s Advent/Christmas books out there, but this delightful book includes activities and reflections for the entire family.

From the author: “Advent is a season that’s almost forgotten by the secular world. You’ll find Advent calendars, to be sure, but they are really an adornment for the “Christmas season,” which begins sometime after Halloween and ends on Christmas Day.”

Each section encompasses three different activities: Think, Pray and Act. Each Sunday has its own theme. The First Sunday of Advent and the week following is “Get Ready.” The Second Sunday and following week is “Repent.” The Third Sunday’s theme is “Love,” and the fourth Sunday, “Anticipate.” The Christmas season has its own theme:” Rejoice.” There are also stories and activities for the Feast of the Epiphany.

What sets this apart from other Advent preparation books is that it has reflections and activities for the entire family (parents included) so that both parent and child can prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

It may be months away, but Sarah Reinhard’s beautifully designed book is an ideal gift for those families who wish to embrace the true meaning of Christmas and to grow closer to Christ. I highly recommend this wonderful book to everyone!

Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach

NFP’s Many Benefits

In this day and age of healthful living, Natural Family Planning provides many benefits which not only ensure healthy living, this remarkable method of birth regulation is also environmentally friendly and promotes authentic marital love. Here are just a few of the many benefits of NFP:

NFP is safe.
There are no harmful side effects for either the husband or wife. It is completely safe, 100 percent natural and it involves no potentially harmful devices or drugs.

NFP is healthy.
There are no pills, invasive procedures, long-term drugs. Women who use NFP know more about their bodies and can discover health problems sooner.

NFP is effective.
NFP can be 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy when there is serious need to do so. The beauty of NFP is that it can also assist some couples in achieving much-wanted pregnancies without chemicals and operations.

NFP costs very little to use.
This is especially helpful in this economy. Other than the cost of the course, materials and the replacement of thermometers, NFP costs very little to use over a couple’s 20 or 30 years of fertility, compared to purchasing condoms, diaphragms, Pills and other chemicals or operations.

NFP is environmentally friendly.
NFP does no harm to the environment. Charts can be recycled and there are no chemicals or other devices used.

NFP is marriage insurance.
In a study done by the Couple to Couple League, couples who used NFP had a less than two percent risk of divorce compared to the national secular average of 50 percent.

NFP fosters authentic marital love and allows a couple to love as Christ loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

NFP is morally acceptable to all faiths.

NFP works with irregular cycles.
NFP is not like the old rhythm method, which depended on regular cycles. NFP’s charting system works with a woman’s present signs of fertility.

My husband and I currently teach NFP online. For more information, contact us at info (at) or leave a comment below.

For more information on NFP:

Text and cartoon copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach/FQP