Peggy’s Car

This is me with my Aunt Peggy circa 1960, copyright Ellen Hrkach all rights reserved

This is me with my Aunt Peggy circa 1960, copyright Ellen Hrkach all rights reserved

The following story was written by Michelle Kreidler, a good friend of my Aunt Peggy’s.  Aunt Peggy (my father’s sister) has been gone since 2003, but her memories and her sharp sense of humor remain.

Peggy’s Car by Michelle Kreidler

The first time Peggy ever bought a car was 11 years ago. She had owned cars before, but she never had to actually buy one. Peggy was an independent woman with a job and her own money and she wanted to make a statement with her first car.  Red!  It was going to be red!  Make? Model? Engine? Who cares? As long as it was red.  So with her son, Chris, in tow, she made her way to the car dealerships.

She started at a Honda dealership.  She had only one question, “Does this car come in red?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, it does not,” said the salesman.

Peggy moved on.

At the next dealership, she asked the same question.  She got the same answer and quickly moved on.

Peggy went from far lot to car lot looking for a red car. Each time she moved on, disappointed, yet determined.

Peggy finally arrived at a Nissan dealership. Sure enough, they had a car in red. In fact, she could have the car right there on the lot. Peggy signed the paperwork, took the car keys and moved on down the road.

Peggy drove that car with pride for years.

The last time she was able to drive the car was about four months ago. Peggy drove to get her hair and nails done. Then she moved on. She went to a restaurant and had a small meal. And then she moved on.  She got back in that shiny red car and drove it to St. Hilary Church.

It had been about thirty years since Peggy last went to church, and she was very nervous about coming back. She lit a candle and sat in the back. This time she did not move on. She sat there quietly and prayed. She went to confession with Father Yahner. She reconnected with the church that she had grown up in, that had shaped her life and that she had drifted away from.

Then Peggy moved on.

copyright 2003 Michelle Kreidler

Building a Long-Term, Successful Joy-Filled Marriage

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

Photo courtesy B & K Hrkach, Photography by Tim Baklinski

My recent article at Catholic Mom:

Recently, when we were at a restaurant celebrating Valentine’s Day, we asked our waitress to guess how long we’ve been married. She guessed 20 years. I responded, “35 years.”

“Wow! How is that possible in this day and age? And you guys look so happy. Well, good for you.”

 She didn’t wait to hear our answer for how it was possible, but as I reflected on the reasons, it became clear that the most of the long-term successful and happy marriages we know about have the following practices in common:
  1. Pray Together and Attend Mass Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to keep a couple emotionally, spiritually and physically close. We also try to say a daily Rosary together for our children (one decade for each son.)

The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer. With their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows. Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

  1. Use NFP (and throw away the contraception)

No, I’m not saying that couples should have as many children as possible. But what I am saying is that for the marital embrace to be honest and life-giving and joy-filled, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful. Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.

For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

  1. Treat Each Other With Respect and Kindness, Communication

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life. Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that. What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace . . . or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her? Communicate deeply with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

  1. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.” Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. St. John Paul II said: “. . . the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And . . . pornography can be highly addictive. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today. . . . pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.”

  1. Date Night and Romantic Dinners (And Have Fun Together!)

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband. Getting out and enjoying each other’s presence is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy time together. We’ve always tried to have a date night even (and especially) when the kids were small. When we were younger and had limited finances, sometimes our date night would occur in our own kitchen or at a park for a picnic. We often played board games together. And I have always enjoyed my husband’s strange sense of humor (he still makes me laugh!)

Why candlelit dinners? Candlelight represents sacrificial love (a light burns brightly while destroying the candle). Some Renaissance painters used to put a single candlelight into paintings to symbolize Christ’s presence.

  1. Focus on Your Spouse/Sacrificial Love

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.” It’s about “us.” Marriage is all about sacrificial love. What are your spouse’s needs? Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. One thought I try to have when I wake up every morning is “What can I do to make my husband’s life easier today?” If he’s thinking the same thing, one can only imagine how much easier life will be for both spouses. Also, notes in your husband’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her. The important thing is to focus on the other in all things.

  1.  The Importance of Marital Intimacy

Marital intimacy can seem impossible when a couple’s children are small. A couple must be willing to “think outside the box.” Attachment parenting and the family bed can usually be challenging. Consider another location for marital intimacy. Mom too tired? Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed? Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home. Even when the couple gets older and children are teens are adults, it can still be a challenge to find time for marital intimacy. The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.

  1. Always Try to Give 100%

A joy-filled marriage is not 50-50. As Christian spouses, both should try to be reaching for 100%. When we were dating, my husband asked me, “Ellie, how hard do you try to be perfect? In other words, what percentage are you aiming for?”

I thought about it for a moment and said, “Oh, I guess I’m shooting for 80%. After all, no one’s perfect.”

His response surprised me: “Ellie, if you’re only trying for 80%, do you think you’ll ever get there? You may only reach 60%. But if you try for 100%, you may get to 80%.” After a while, it made sense to me. Neither of us are perfect, but we are trying our best.

Do you want to have a long-term, successful and joy-filled marriage? While there are no guarantees, couples who pray and attend Mass together, use NFP, treat each other with respect and kindness, avoid pornography, have frequent romantic dinners/date nights, have fun together, are self-sacrificial and try their best will have the greatest chance of having a joy-filled marriage.

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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An Old-Fashioned Love Story: My Grandparents

My maternal grandparents, John and Bessie May, met as teenagers. In this photo from 1916 — they were married in November of that year — they look very happy and very much in love. They went on to build a wonderful life together, welcoming and raising five children. My grandfather was half American Indian and half German. Like most couples, they also had their share of heartbreaks and challenges. My mother was their fourth living child, and the first to proudly graduate high school.  Their descendants include 22 grandchildren (14 still living) and more than 30 great-grandchildren.

According to my mother, and from what I observed as a young child, they continued to grow in love and remained happily married. Over the years, my grandmother had gained a lot of weight, but my grandfather told her that it didn’t matter to him, because there was “a lot more of her to love.”

We have an old home 8 mm home movie of their 50th wedding anniversary celebration from 1966, and there is one scene where they are hugging.  It’s endearing, but also a bit humorous because my grandmother had had a bit too much to drink.

In July of 1967, my grandmother died of a stroke.  My grandfather was never quite the same.

Mom Mom and Pop Pop

Bessie and John May, January 1955

The last time I saw him was on Christmas Day, 1968.  My mother and I went to visit him in his house on Carlisle Street in South Philly.  When we came in, he was sitting in his chair by the front door, his head low, a cigarette between two fingers.  He looked up at us and I think his mouth almost lifted in a smile when he saw us, but his eyes seemed so sad. Before my grandmother died, he was very animated and he used to pull me into a big hug and kiss me.  That day we gave him a few gifts — I remember thinking that it might make him happy.  But he opened them and again, tried to smile, then nodded and said, “Merry Christmas.”  Mom tried to talk with him, but he didn’t appear to be in a talkative mood.

My grandfather passed away six weeks later (on February 7th, 1969, 48 years ago today). When I asked Mom how he died, she said, “He died of a broken heart.”

Their story is also included in my first novel, Emily’s Hope.

Remembering both of my grandparents today in a special way.

“May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Text and photos copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Marriage: One Man, One Woman: A Noble Purpose

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach, please do not use without permission

“Blessed are you,
O God of our fathers;
praised be your name
forever and ever.
Let the heavens and
all your creation
praise you forever.
“You made Adam and
you gave him his wife Eve
to be his help and support;
and from these two
the human race descended.
You said,
“It is not good for the man to be alone;
Let us make him a partner like himself”
Now, Lord, you know that I take this
wife of mine, not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together to a happy old age.”
Tobit 8:7

This beautiful prayer was the second reading of our Nuptial Mass in 1982 when my husband and I were married. When I first read these words many years ago, they affected me deeply, especially when I learned the history of why Tobias said this prayer. After losing seven husbands before she could consummate her union with them, Sarah entered into marriage with Tobias. Tobias knew the history and understood that he could die if he married her. But he trusted God, recited the above prayer fervently and went on to a happy marriage with Sarah.

Nowadays, many Catholic couples live together or are sexually active before marriage. Same sex marriage is now legal in the United States (as it has been for ten years here in Canada). As much as cohabiting and same sex couples may desire to love one another – and most, I’m certain, really do feel love and affection towards the other – they cannot love each other in the way they are called to: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully, truly loving as God loves. Sexual relations are meant to be the renewal of a couple’s marriage vows. If there is no marriage, there are no vows and there can be no renewal.

Essentially, pre-marital sex, contracepted sex and sex between two people of the same gender are all lies.

“God help us to love each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Help us to love and not to lust.”

For more information about the Theology of the Body:
http://thetheologyofthebody.com

For more information on NFP:
www.ccli.org
www.woomb.org
www.creightonmodel.com

 

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Christmas Cards Through the Years

I’d like to share just a few of the 28 original Christmas cards we’ve created over the past 30 years. As I’ve mentioned before, our “Family Life” cartoons began as Christmas cards 27 years ago. To learn more about this, you can read my previous guest post entitled “Life in a Cartoon World.”

Those on our Christmas card list really enjoy and appreciate our cards; the caricatures of the members of our family are drawn by my husband. With some of these, I scanned only one part of the card, since I just wanted to share the caricatures of the family.   Merry Christmas!!

1. Let the Spirit In – 1989

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1989

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1989

2. She Brought Forth Her First Born Son – 1992

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1992

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1992

3. Glorious Strains – 1996

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 1996

4. Cookies are Like Baby Jesus – 2002

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2002

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2002

5. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2007

6. Hrkach Boys Assembly Line – 2008

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2008

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2008

Image and text copyright 2008 James and Ellen Hrkach

Image and text copyright 2008 James and Ellen Hrkach

7. Vertical Enhancements – 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

Image and text copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2009

 

8. 2013

Image copyright James Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

 

9. Sleeping In – 2014

Copyright 2014 James and Ellen Hrkach, Please do not use without permission

Copyright 2014 James and Ellen Hrkach, Please do not use without permission

 

10. A Many Splendored Christmas (2015)

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission

 

11. This year’s Christmas Card!! “Low Key” 2016

copyright 2016 James and Ellen Hrkach

image copyright 2016 James and Ellen Hrkach

card-2-cropped

All text and images copyright James and Ellen Hrkach 2016