My latest at CatholicMom.com:
“Pregnancy, an advent eternally renewed in every woman expecting a child, is a book written by the hand of God, with each page, each day, each hour, reminding us of the first Advent. Think of the first Advent now, when worlds were hushed and angels still…waiting, waiting for the answer of a young girl! Her fiat, spoken so softly as to be almost a whisper, shook heaven and earth, and began the ineffable, incomprehensible, most beautiful mystery of the Incarnation! Each pregnancy sings of the first Advent. Each time is a time of waiting, of joy so immense that it can only be encompassed by the eyes and soul of a woman in love and filled with the fruit of that love.” Catherine Doherty, Dear Parents
There are so many things to be thankful for during Advent this year. Yes, it’s 2020, and many would prefer to rush to the end of this eventful, stressful year.
I don’t agree. During this challenging time, we can use these beautiful weeks to prepare for and to be thankful for Our Savior’s birth and for Mother Mary’s “yes” to carrying Jesus.
I was blessed to be pregnant during five Advents, and during each one, it was easier to understand this truth that “every pregnancy sings of the first Advent.” However, the Advent before my January baby (number-four son) was probably the most impactful, given that I was exceptionally large, and I had suffered more during this pregnancy than in the previous three healthy ones combined. I had debilitating migraines every two days until four months along. I’m four feet nine inches tall and, before pregnancy, my weight was typically 95 pounds. I had already gained 65 pounds with that pregnancy, and the baby measured at seven pounds during December. (He would be born a month later at nearly ten pounds). While I didn’t love the difficulties and challenges of childbearing, I was filled with joy when I was pregnant because it was a time when the fruit of our love was growing and kicking inside of me.
And growing and kicking this baby did. A lot of it! Because of the excess weight, I could barely walk, let alone move. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting on a stinky donkey and traveling in warm weather, far away from home, then giving birth in a damp, smelly stable.
Needless to say, that was the first time I understood with greater clarity what Mother Mary endured that first Advent. I continue to be in awe of Our Lady’s yes to carrying Our Savior. Mary was – and continues to be –a beautiful example of patience and virtue during pregnancy, having to sit on a donkey for miles and miles, then having to give birth in a stable, with the accompanying sounds, odors, and discomforts.
Mary also acted as my consoler when I lost seven babies through miscarriage. There is no other woman who could so completely understand the heartbreak of losing a precious child better than Our Lady herself, who stood under the cross, her heart pierced by the sword of watching her own flesh and blood, the very Savior of the world, die in agony.
Let us embrace this Advent with Our Lady’s open welcoming of the Savior, the one she bore for mankind. And let us pause, remember, and pray for all those who carry a precious child in their wombs, that they will understand with great clarity the unique and everlasting gift of carrying an eternal, human soul.
Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!
Amazon Synopsis: 2nd Edition – Carol Award Finalist, Selah Award Winner !! (Best Historical Fiction) It’s October, 1962. Life is simple. The world makes sense, and all families are happy. When they aren’t, everyone knows you’re supposed to pretend. With their family about to collapse, Colt Harrison and his little brother, Timmy, hatch a plan. They’ll run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt’s house in Savannah and refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But things go terribly, terribly wrong. Colt’s parents must come to grips with years of mistrust and fight for their son’s return…and to mend their broken marriage. In this emotional story, Dan Walsh takes readers on a suspense-filled journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life.
My review: I liked this book because it had some twists and turns and an interesting plot. The part of the story that takes place in 1962 was very well done and mentioned songs, TV shows and movies from that time. Recommend. 4/5.
Amazon Synopsis: 2,000 years ago, the Son of God prayed to His Father, “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” This prayer, the greatest ever uttered by the lips of man, will not go unanswered. Jesus has revealed to an Italian mystic named Luisa that the time has now at last arrived for its fulfillment; that is, for the restoration of what was destroyed by Adam 6,000 years ago in the Fall of Man. In brief: the entire world is about to be radically transformed like never before in its history. This is probably something you should know about. This book has been written to inform you about the transformation and to enable you to take part in it and hasten it.
But this transformation will not be achieved through human effort. It will be given directly from Heaven by way of God’s greatest Gift: the Gift of Living in the Divine Will, which is the Crown of Sanctity, and which even now we must all strive to receive. In this sanctity is found The Culmination of Deification, the Fruitfulness of Mystical Marriage, the Aspiration of the Unification of Wills, and the Essence of Marian Consecration. This is none other than the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima. It is the coming of the Kingdom of God.
This is a long book, but its length should turn away no one, as a thorough and detailed table of contents is given so that each reader can easily select only those sections in which he is interested for his perusal.
And any reader is sure to find much that interests him. Within these pages is a treasury of resources; not only concerning Luisa’s revelations directly, but also on new arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity, extensive Catechesis on Private Revelation in general and on the spiritual life in general (including overviews of the greatest teachings on spirituality in the history of the Church), and details on the Era of Peace as revealed to Luisa and many other mystics, visionaries, and seers (Fatima, Medjugorje, Venerable Conchita, Fr. Gobbi, and dozens more). You will not regret reading this book.
“This is our great hope and our petition: “Your Kingdom come” – a kingdom of peace, justice, and serenity, that will re-establish the original harmony of creation.” St. JP II
My review: Amazing, compelling book about the times we’re living in and approved revelations of Jesus to Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta back in the late 1800’s and 1900’s. She was bedridden for most of her life and neither ate, drank or slept, only being nourished by the Holy Eucharist. She was called the “Little Daughter of the Divine Will.” Highly recommend. It’s permanently free on Kindle. 5/5.
Amazon Synopsis: Erika Welby had a secret she thought no one would ever discover. But someone knew …
“Dear Mrs. Welby, I know you were only seventeen when I was born. I’ve got many questions. I wonder if you have questions to ask me, too.”
Erika’s worst fear is realized when her well-kept secret shows up on her doorstep. As she reaches out to the daughter she gave up for adoption 21 years ago, her husband pulls away, leaving Erika with an impossible choice.
My review: The synopsis hooked me in, so I downloaded this when it was either free or .99. However, for me, the story didn’t deliver. We find out that before she was married, Erika had a one-night stand, got pregnant and wound up giving up the baby for adoption. She never told her husband or the man she had the one-night-stand with. When Erika hears from the daughter she gave up, she panics because her well-kept secret is about to be revealed. I found both the husband and wife standoffish and not that likeable. 3/5.
Amazon Synopsis: The 40th anniversary edition of the “shocking” #1 New York Times bestseller with an exclusive new introduction by the author (Los Angeles Times).
When Christina Crawford’s harrowing chronicle of child abuse was first published in 1978, it brought global attention to the previously closeted subject. It also shed light on the guarded world of Hollywood and stripped away the façade of Christina’s relentless, alcoholic abuser: her adoptive mother, movie star Joan Crawford.
Christina was a young girl shown off to the world as a fortunate little princess. But at home, her lonely, controlling, even ruthless mother made her life a nightmare. A fierce battle of wills, their relationship could be characterized as an ultimately successful, for Christina, struggle for independence. She endured and survived, becoming the voice of so many other victims who suffered in silence, and giving them the courage to forge a productive life out of chaos.
This ebook edition features an exclusive new introduction by the author, plus rare photographs from her personal collection and one hundred pages of revealing material not found in the original manuscript.
My review: I downloaded this when it was on sale for 1.99 on Kindle. Like many people, I’ve seen the disturbing movie. I was prepared for any disturbing incidents, but it was hard to stomach most of this book. Recommend only for those with a strong stomach. 3/5.
Amazon Synopsis: When a spunky mouse invites a passing bird to see what’s inside a People House, chaos ensues while beginning readers learn the names of 65 common household items—and that people are generally not pleased to find mice and birds in their houses! A super simple, delightfully silly introduction to objects around the home—from none other than Dr. Seuss!
My review: This is another favorite of my sons as they were growing up and I’m sure will be a favorite of my grandson’s. It’s got catchy rhyming (as usual for Dr. Seuss) and when reading it to a toddler, you can almost read it as a rap. I was surprised that I knew this book almost by heart! Highly recommend! 5/5.
Amazon Synopsis: What’s the best part of bedtime? Stories with Mama! Before cuddling, Llama Llama must splish and splash in the tub, then put his red pajamas on.
Dewdney’s catchy rhymes, effortless rhythm, and adorable artwork can now be enjoyed by even younger audiences. Toddlers will love this perfect read-aloud.
My review: This is a clever little book for toddlers with adorable pictures and great rhyming. One of my grandson’s favorites. Just short enough for bedtime. Highly recommend. 5/5.
Synopsis: Winner of the 2012 Tuscany Prize for Novella. Jotham is a mentally challenged man-child who, like the other apostles, follows Jesus as Christ carries out his ministry and experiences death by crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Yet the other apostles the dedicated Mary, Peter, Thomas, and the rest while they care for Jotham and look out for him, don t understand why Jesus loves him so. Thomas even says, after Jesus offers a parable, I don t see why all the pots can t be strong and beautiful. Jotham may be different, but through him, we come to see Jesus and Jotham not just with our eyes, but also with our hearts.
“The Book of Jotham chronicles the spiritual journey of the fictional protagonist, from his initial fears due to his personal limitations to his discovery of his self worth in Christ. Written from the perspective of the title character, the author gives the reader a unique insight into the mind and the heart of one who is mentally challenged. And by placing the narrative in the familiar setting of Jesus’ public ministry and using Biblical characters like Mary, Peter and the Apostles, the reader is able to experience the Gospel story anew, through the eyes and gradual progression of faith of Jotham. The universal theme of the grace of adoption helps us to discover that, as children of Light, our conversion and progression of faith may not be so different from those who experience life like Jotham.” + Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
“This… is called “The Book of Jotham” because it’s a sort of Gospel according to the eponymous character. The ways in which St. Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot relate with their disabled brother are particularly powerful. The Book of Jotham is a work that never preaches but which will evoke a powerful pro-life response from the reader.” Joseph Pearce, author
“The book is a gem for anyone serious about a genuine, loving relationship with God.” Kaye Park Hinckley, award-winning author
“Reading The Book of Jotham is a powerful and life changing event. I really felt drawn into the story and actually believed that I could see out of Jotham’s eyes. This is a masterpiece of writing and deserves to become a classic. ” A.K. Frailey, author
“This novella won first place in the Tuscany Press competition for Best Novella for a reason. Try to imagine experiencing discipleship with Christ unencumbered by the burden of rationalism. Powers’ depiction of a mentally challenged young man who follows Christ is more than moving–it’s revealing. Then, because language itself is a product of rationalism, try to imagine how that discipleship might be expressed non-verbally, internally. Powers accomplishes something amazing here.” Dena Hunt, award-winning author
“Wonderful book. It’s hard to write a compelling narrative when the reader knows the historical events, but Powers does a masterful job. He bravely uses a second person point of view to pull the reader into the story, to become the mentally challenged young protagonist sitting on the side of the road when a charismatic rabbi comes along. You’ll fly through the pages, but then read a second time to enjoy the poetry of the words.” Ronald B. O’Gorman, MD, author
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom on An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month.
Synopsis: This amazing narrative will stir your heart and soul while it chronicles the experience of a simple Polish nun.
My review: These past few weeks, I’ve been helping a fellow Catholic author edit a book about Divine Mercy and St. Faustina. After editing this book, I felt compelled to read the Diary again. I’ve read this book before, but out of order. I’m reading it again, this time, in order. It’s beautiful and inspiring.
Synopsis: Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.
With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.
My review: With everything that’s going on since George Floyd’s death, and the racism that some have to endure, this was a compelling story, but a frustrating one. You know how the story will end, but it’s still frustrating getting to that point. There’s a surprise plot twist during the climax of the story, as there is in most of Picoult’s books. All in all, a good read. Four out of five.
Synopsis: Tess Morgan loves being a pediatric nurse and helping the children under her care. She’d always wanted a large family, but that dream was shattered when her fiancé was murdered while volunteering in South America.
Peter “Mac” MacPherson, a former football superstar, had dealt with his own tragedies—the deaths of his father followed by his wife while she was giving birth to their daughter. His faith sustained him through his grief, but can he help Tess believe again in God and finally find a family—with him?
My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.
Synopsis: About to give the closing argument on the most important case of her career, District Attorney Candice Boulanger is struck down by a heart attack. When she comes to, however, she discovers she is not in a hospital but in an odd courtroom with no windows and no doors.
A judge explains she has been momentarily taken out of her life to prosecute a different case: the relationship she had with her former “best friend forever” Milly Winters. He promises Candice that, although she is allowed to return to her life at any time, if she sees the trial all the way through, she will receive supernatural aid to help her attain her greatest desire.
Candice and Milly had been best friends since kindergarten and had vowed their friendship would last “no matter what.” Even in their teens, when Candice started drifting from her Christian faith, they managed to set aside their differences—until one day an incident blew their friendship apart.
During the trial, the two women are allowed to call as witnesses scenes from their past. Milly, as defense counsel, presents reasons the two of them should once again become friends, while Candice, still angry at Milly, argues why they shouldn’t.
Can their friendship survive . . . even if one of them has already died?
My review: Interesting idea for a book. A.J. Avila can write well and the story overall is a good one. The only thing detracting from this book is the cover, which is too simplistic and screams “self-published.”
Synopsis: Arthur Davenport has it all: looks, money, and a successful future planned by his parents. He knows that something is missing, but when he and Josie, his mother’s maid, develop a friendship that can only be based on Christian values, he realizes that his love for her is the key to his happiness. Can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury for a life of service with her?
Newport, Rhode Island in the last decades of the nineteenth century was a stunningly beautiful and glamorous playground for the rich during the summer months, and a perfect setting for a romance between a rich young man from New York City and a local girl who works for his family. The two couldn’t possibly expect to have anything in common, as he is expected to follow his father in a financial career and she is merely a maid with a mother who takes care of local children while their parents work. Arthur Davenport, spoiled and bored, unsure of his place in his family and in the eyes of God, truly meets his match in Josie Warren, who is often just a bit hard on herself for not being the perfect Christian in thought as well as deed. The two meet on the famous Cliff Walk, and neither of them can imagine where or how their instant attraction will take them as he struggles to make his parents understand that his calling is the same as hers, to help those less fortunate. He has no money of his own, and if they disinherit him out of disapproval, how can he help Josie, who has spent her life working hard to help support herself and her mother? More importantly, how can he convince her that he would gladly give up his life of luxury just to be with her?
My review: On my “To Read” Shelf.
Synopsis: Thirteen years before the bloody 1994 genocide that swept across Rwanda and left more than a million people dead, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appeared to eight young people in the remote village of Kibeho. Through these visionaries, Mary and Jesus warned of the looming holocaust, which (they assured) could be averted if Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced His love. Mary also sent messages to government and church leaders to instruct them how to end the ethnic hatred simmering in their country. She warned them that Rwanda would become “a river of blood”—a land of unspeakable carnage—if the hatred of the people was not quickly quelled by love. Some leaders listened, but very few believed. The prophetic and apocalyptic warnings tragically came true during 100 horrifying days of savage bloodletting and mass murder. Much like what happened at similar sites such as Fátima and Lourdes, the messengers of Kibeho were at first mocked and disbelieved. But as miracle after miracle occurred in the tiny village, tens of thousands of Rwandans journeyed to Kibeho to behold the apparitions. After the genocide, and two decades of rigorous investigation, Our Lady of Kibeho became the first and only Vatican-approved Marian (related to the Virgin Mary) site in all of Africa. But the story still remained largely unknown. Now, however, Immaculée Ilibagiza has changed all that. She has made many pilgrimages to Kibeho, both before and after the holocaust, has personally witnessed true miracles, and has spoken with a number of the visionaries themselves. What she has discovered will deeply touch your heart!
My review: Beautiful, compelling book about the Apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho. Highly recommend!
Motherhood Matters by Dorothy Pilarski is a beautiful book that contains reflections of a mother for mothers. 21st century mothering has become one where mothers are expected to work a double, sometimes triple shift: in the workplace, still carrying most of the load of housework while often caring for their own parents or in laws. In a culture that has run amuck, Motherhood Matters is a healthy reminder that motherhood is a vocation, a call from God. It is a sacred gift – one that unfortunately many women have been forced into treating it like just a role or a series of tasks. For some unfortunately it’s treated like an afterthought. Pilarski illustrates through these writings that truly ‘Motherhood Matters.’
Hot off the presses is the new Motherhood Matters Study Guide. I helped to edit this book as well as writing some of the reflections. Each study includes a story from Motherhood Matters, questions for discussion, a saint, a recommended book and activities. It’s extremely well done, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to do a year-long study of motherhood.
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading these past four weeks:
Amazon Synopsis: In her celebrated 700-page spiritual Diary, St. Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) tells of her many visions of Jesus and her conversations with Him. For years now, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone has lived in the thrall of that spiritual classic, recently drawing forth from its rich mystical depths 365 meditations.
Each meditation features Jesus’ words to Faustina, to which Tassone has added a short original reflection and a prayer to help you hear and live by Jesus’ words as if they had been spoken directly to you. From these pages, you’ll discover the mercy, love, and compassion of the Lord that’s available for you – day by day, each day of the year.
My review: Another beautiful book by Susan Tassone that is ideal for someone who likes daily reflections. Highly recommend!
My new book!
Amazon Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.
Amazon Synopsis: In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.
Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.
With his unparalleled narrative skills, Erik Larson guides us through a relentlessly suspenseful chase over the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate.
My review: The two true stories here are compelling enough (Marconi’s development of the wireless and Dr. Hawley Crippen’s life leading up to him being accused, found guilty and hung for murder.) I enjoyed how both stories converged at the end. However, the Marconi sections were quite technical and hard to follow so I scanned those. Still a compelling story, but so far, my least favorite of Larson’s books. Three stars out of five.
Amazon Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.
When Violet’s neurodiverse brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.
My review: New teen Violet Windsor secretly visits a dangerous part of New York City to pursue her passion for skateboarding. Her wealthy parents wouldn’t approve so she and her best friend, Sloane, keep her skateboarding adventures secret. Meanwhile, Violet’s autistic brother, Oliver, shows her drawings that indicate not only that he knows her secrets but that he has been gifted with artistic ability that might be supernatural in origin.
I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel that includes all kinds of relevant, present-day issues. The writing quality is excellent. The characters are well-developed and believable, and the setting made me feel I was in the midst of New York City. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a great story and characters!
Amazon Synopsis: The #1 New York Times bestselling memoir by Clint Hill that Kirkus Reviews called “clear and honest prose free from salaciousness and gossip,” Jackie Kennedy’s personal Secret Service agent details his very close relationship with the First Lady during the four years leading up to and following President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination.
In those four years, Hill was by Mrs. Kennedy’s side for some of the happiest moments as well as the darkest. He was there for the birth of John, Jr. on November 25, 1960, as well as for the birth and sudden death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy on August 8, 1963. Three and a half months later, the unthinkable happened.
Forty-seven years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the one vivid image that never leaves Clint Hill’s mind is that of President Kennedy’s head lying on Mrs. Kennedy’s lap in the back seat of the limousine, his eyes fixed, blood splattered all over the back of the car, Mrs. Kennedy, and Hill as well. Sprawled on the trunk of the car as it sped away from Dealey Plaza, Hill clung to the sides of the car, his feet wedged in so his body was as high as possible.
Clint Hill jumped on the car too late to save the president, but all he knew after that first shot was that if more shots were coming, the bullets had to hit him instead of the First Lady.
Mrs. Kennedy’s strength, class, and dignity over those tragic four days in November 1963 held the country together.
My review: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It really laid a firm foundation for what happened on November 22, 1963. It showed me a side of Jackie Kennedy that I had never seen before. I learned that Patrick Kennedy (the baby she lost while in the White House and just a few months before the assassination) was born at the same gestation (five weeks early) that I had been born and weighed the same as me (four pounds 11 ounces). It’s hard to understand why I survived and he didn’t. Recommend.
“Nothing great is ever achieved without enduring much.” St. Catherine of Siena
If the struggles my mother endured are any indication of her achievements in life, then what she achieved here on earth can be considered great, indeed.
My mother (Betti) was born in 1934 and died in 2007, but her influence in my life and in the lives of my children, nieces, nephews, and siblings has continued.
On the one hand, she was generous to a fault, often going into debt when we were young so that my siblings and I could have plentiful presents under the Christmas tree. She loved coming up to Canada and especially enjoyed surprising my boys with unexpected trips (and she never missed a Baptism or a First Communion or musical performance until she became terminally ill). She had a unique, wry sense of humor and was laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. Even today, she still makes me laugh when I think of one of her funny sayings.
On the other hand, she chain-smoked most of her life (she quit when she was 61), could swear like a sailor, and wasn’t always faithful with church attendance.
But as a young mother with three small children and nine months pregnant with another, my mother watched her husband (my father) spiral into a full-blown psychotic breakdown and watch as he was committed to a psychiatric hospital. That same day, she went into labor with my youngest brother. With the help of extended family, she endured, and Dad finally came home.
Mom survived a critical illness when she was 33 years old and was not expected to live. I was only seven at the time, but I remember how thin she was. She weighed eighty pounds and at five feet, six inches tall, she was a walking skeleton. She beat the odds, though, and lived a fairly healthy life until her sixties when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caught up with her.
She became a widow at age 44 when my father died suddenly.
Mom later married remarried, got pregnant at the age of 47 and was thrilled. When her doctor suggested she have an abortion (because it was too risky and the baby might be deformed), she refused. When he demanded she have an abortion, Mom swore at him. Then he then told her to find another doctor because he wouldn’t be delivering the baby. I’m thankful that she and my stepfather were open to life. Again, Mom beat the odds, had an uneventful pregnancy, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (my youngest sister, now 38).
A lifetime of smoking caught up with her in early 2004, when she contracted a particular virulent strain of pneumonia, was on a ventilator and in a coma (and supposedly “brain dead.”) Once more, she beat the odds and eventually woke up and endured eight months in rehab and lived an additional three years (which she never took for granted).
I had never known Mom to be anything but determined and tenacious. And she always tried to find the humor in everything. Just before she died, she called me up to tell me that she had just watched a TV program on the Little People of America. “Did you know you could join them, if you wanted?”
“Yes, the maximum height is four feet, ten inches. You’re four-nine.”
“Why would I want to join them?”
“So you could go to conventions and feel like the tallest person in the room!” Then she burst out laughing.
People were always surprised when they met Mom because she was tall (five feet, six inches) and I’m so short (four feet, nine inches). If we were doing dishes together, she would look down at me and say, “El, are you standing in a hole?”
In the months before she died, we had many wonderful conversations. We talked about her life, her memories, her faith. We talked about Jesus and heaven and how exciting it would be to meet Jesus.
When she was within hours of death, my youngest sister called me, and I made the trip to New Jersey from Canada. After a two-hour wait at the border, we arrived in Cortland, New York, so I called to let her know I was halfway there. My sister answered the phone and told Mom that I was in Cortland. I could hear her say, “She’s only in Cortland? Tell her I love her and to be careful.”
Shortly after that, she went into a coma. I arrived that evening. She was still alive but unconscious. She had asked my sister and I to recite the Litany of the Saints and the Divine Mercy Chaplet when her time was close, so we did that and then I went to bed. The next morning when I checked on her, her breathing had slowed and she was cool, but she still had a weak pulse. I whispered in her ear, “It’s okay if you need to go, Mom. We’ll be all right. I love you.”
An hour or so later, my other siblings had assembled around her bedside. I was sitting next to my brother and all of a sudden, I felt as if Mom were on the ceiling looking down at us. I was about to nudge my brother on the shoulder and tell him when he said, “Hey, El, I feel like Mom is on the ceiling looking down at us.”
Mom entered into eternal life on the Feast of St. Dominic, August 8, 2007 and was buried on the Feast of St. Maximilian Kolbe, August 14th. It’s been thirteen years since she died, and her influence and humor is still being felt by our family. If Mom’s endurance and tenacity are any indication, great things were definitely achieved with her life.
I just finished writing a book about Mom, entitled, Remembering Mom. It’s available on Kindle and in print.
Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach
It’s taken me thirteen years and a pandemic to write, but this book about my mother is finally available!
Synopsis: In Remembering Mom, author Ellen Gable shares memories of her beloved mother, an unconventional woman who was often thrust into situations by necessity. She endured having to watch her first husband spiral into psychosis and schizophrenia, then have him be committed to a psychiatric hospital on the same day she was in labor with their fourth child. She worked from home typing back in the day when women didn’t have jobs other than homemaking. Her humor was quirky, and she had some strange sayings. She could swear like a sailor, but loved her Catholic faith. She wasn’t a perfect Catholic, nor was she a perfect mother, but she was devoted to her five children. After the death of her first husband, she remained strong for her young adult children, then eventually found love again and another opportunity for motherhood.
Kindle edition is available for pre-order and will be published on May 22, 2020. Print edition is available now!
I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading these past four weeks:
by Erik Larson
Amazon Synopsis: Published February 25, 2020. In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
My review: Outstanding book. As usual with Larson’s books, I not only learned a great deal of the story behind the scenes of that historic first year Churchill was Prime Minister, I also enjoyed a compelling piece of history. It makes me grateful to Churchill for not giving in to Hitler’s demands for “peace.” It might’ve been a different world if not for the tenacity of Churchill and the British people. Highly recommend.
Moonchild Rising: (Shadows of the Sun #1) by Mina Ambrose
Synopsis: Mara the Huntress resides in the sunny little town of Archangel, California, the location of the Gate of the Underworld—a fact unknown to the general populace. Most people don’t even know that vampires exist. As Huntress, Mara does know, and it is her job to kill those that dare venture forth to the Upperworld to prey on the humans living there. She is well-suited to this purpose, gifted with skills and talents far surpassing those of ordinary mortals. Though some vampires manage to evade her, she has so far managed to prevent the unleashing of a full-scale infestation. She has been at this job for a good portion of her not-quite twenty years, and it seems she has everything in hand. Then one day she gets a chill of foreboding, a feeling that things are about to change…
For she stands in the way of the master vampire’s plan for world domination, and, he fears, may be a key player in the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy foretelling his destruction. One dark night he sends the mighty Prince (his second in command) to put an end to this Huntress, this bane of vampires, once and for all. Mara confidently goes out to face him, but finds she has met her match at last. Just as all hope seems lost, this powerful vampire turns from the “dark side” to become Mara’s ally in the battle against his own kind.
Catholicism And Fundamentalismby Karl Keating
Amazon Synopsis: Karl Keating defends Catholicism from fundamentalist attacks and explains why fundamentalism has been so successful in converting “Romanists”. After showing the origins of fundamentalism, he examines representative anti-Catholic groups and presents their arguments in their own words. His rebuttals are clear, detailed, and charitable. Special emphasis is given to the scriptural basis for Catholic doctrines and beliefs.
My review: This is about my tenth time reading this book and it’s as good as it was the first time. If you have relatives who have fallen away from the fullness of the Catholic faith, this is a great book to help you “defend” the fullness of the Catholic faith. Topics include: Marian Beliefs, The Eucharist, Confession, Purgatory etc. Highly recommend.
by Linda Etchison
and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator
Amazon Synopsis: Join Sister Aloysius, an energetic, joyful young sister, as she steps off the bus and begins her walk to Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Mercyville on a hot July afternoon. In Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville, learn how Sister Aloysius happily makes use of her suffering in the heat of the summer day by uniting her discomfort to the agony of Christ on the cross. Along the way she meets a young boy Pio who will be in her second-grade class. Pio helps her with her bag and the two have a very interesting talk about St. Aloysius and patron saints as well as about St. Peter, the first pope. Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville is the first of the Sister Aloysius books. This series offers a large child-friendly 8.5 x 11 format and is illustrated in full color to capture the interest of young readers and pre-readers.
My review: This is the first in a wonderful children’s book series that introduces an enthusiastic religious sister, Sister Aloysius, who moves to a new town, ready to begin teaching. In this story, we are also introduced to little Pio, one of the students at the local school. We learn about St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Peter, our first pope — who denied Jesus three times and was crucified upside down — and St. Paul. The story is engaging for both parents and children and offers teachings about the Catholic faith within the story. Highly recommend!
by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock, illustrator
Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Arrives at Our Lady of Sorrows is the second book in the new Catholic children’s Sister Aloysius series about a joyful, young sister who is beginning her first teaching assignment. This second book in the series focuses on a discussion about the Seven Sorrows of Mary between Sister Aloysius and Pio, a young boy who will be in sister’s second grade class. Sister and Pio discuss how sorrowful Mary must have been as she shared the sufferings of Jesus throughout his life. This book is a great choice for parents and educators who want to instill in their children and students a love for and closeness to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The 8.5 x 11 inch format is perfect for engaging pre-school and primary grade children. T
My review: In the second book of this series, Sister Aloysius and her new little friend, Pio, arrive at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. Readers learn about the Seven Sorrows of Mary and how to pray this special devotion. Beautifully illustrated. Highly recommend.
by Linda Etchison and Denise Plumlee-Tadlock
Amazon Synopsis: Sister Aloysius Gets Ready for the First Day of School follows the continuing story of Sister Aloysius as she prepares for her first teaching assignment. This book, the third in the Sister Aloysius series, has Sister Aloysius making an early morning visit to the Blessed Sacrament before preparing her classroom for the beginning of school. Sister Aloysius has help from Pio, a second-grade student whom Sister Aloysius met upon arriving in Mercyville, and his sister Catherine. Sister, Pio, and Catherine discuss the 3:00 Hour of Mercy and the importance of appealing to Our Lord’s mercy during this time. Also, in this series, the reader will see Sister Aloysius pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the quiet of the church and use Holy Water to bless herself as she leaves.
My review: This book continues the story of Sister Aloysius. In this book, we are introduced to Pio’s sister, Catherine, who help Sister prepare her classroom for the start of the new school year. Readers also learn about the Hour of Mercy (3:00) and Saint Faustina. Jesus appeared to Saint Faustina and talked to her about His Divine Mercy and the “Hour of Mercy.” Highly recommend.
Amazon Synopsis: She spent her life in the movies. Her childhood is still there to see in Miracle on 34th Street. Her adolescence in Rebel Without a Cause. Her coming of age? Still playing in Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story and countless other hit movies. From the moment Natalie Wood made her debut in 1946, playing Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles’s ward in Tomorrow Is Forever at the age of seven, to her shocking, untimely death in 1981, the decades of her life are marked by movies that–for their moments–summed up America’s dreams.
Now the acclaimed novelist, biographer, critic and screenwriter Gavin Lambert, whose twenty-year friendship with Natalie Wood began when she wanted to star in the movie adaptation of his novel Inside Daisy Clover, tells her extraordinary story. He writes about her parents, uncovering secrets that Natalie either didn’t know or kept hidden from those closest to her. Here is the young Natalie, from her years as a child actress at the mercy of a driven, controlling stage mother (“Make Mr. Pichel love you,” she whispered to the five-year-old Natalie before depositing her unexpectedly on the director’s lap), to her awkward adolescence when, suddenly too old for kiddie roles, she was shunted aside, just another freshman at Van Nuys High. Lambert shows us the glamorous movie star in her twenties—All the Fine Young Cannibals, Gypsy and Love with the Proper Stranger. He writes about her marriages, her divorces, her love affairs, her suicide attempt at twenty-six, the birth of her children, her friendships, her struggles as an actress and her tragic death by drowning (she was always terrified of water) at forty-three.
Review: I enjoyed this book very much, although enjoy might be the wrong word. Natalie Wood was an incredibly beautiful actress who died far too soon. Reading about her life behind the scenes was moving and sad and disturbing at times. Her mother was the epitome of a stage mother and could be quite cruel. Recommend.
To Be or Not To Be: Murdered by Basia Kent Belroy
Amazon Synopsis: WHY IS FULTON HIGH SCHOOL HAVING A RASH OF COPYCAT SUICIDES?
While covering the stories for her school paper, 17-year-old Peyton Simons begins to doubt they are suicides. Along with crushing on Justin, her Hamlet co-star in the school play, and trying to break up with her current boyfriend, Tyler, Peyton is intent on figuring out the mystery with the help of her great aunt’s new boyfriend, a retired detective. She’s awfully close to the truth! Will she survive the answer?
My review: Fun, young adult mystery told from the point of view of a teenage girl, Peyton. There are a rash of suicides at Fulton High School. Peyton, however, doesn’t believe the most recent death was, in fact, a suicide. Her investigation turns up information about a similar suicide that took place at Fulton twenty years previous. When she gets too close to the truth, she finds herself in danger. Fun, clean read with well-developed characters. Recommend for young teens and up.