100 Years – The Miracle of the Sun at Fatima

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima. It is a wonderful occasion for celebration.  But it is also an occasion to examine our lives and examine whether we are following the many messages of Our Lady throughout the 20th century and continuing into this century. Our Lady of Fatima predicted many of the horrible events of the 20th century and her message is even more important today.  In many of the Church-approved apparitions, Our Lady has always encouraged — and begged — us to pray the Rosary and to fast.

You can read about Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions as well as the Miracle of the Sun here at this link.

There are many eyewitness accounts of this miracle recorded here.

In Scripture, we see many examples of fasting. Jesus fasted. Fasting was encouraged in times of great temptation or severe trials. Certain demons, “can be cast out in no other way except by prayer and fasting,” said Jesus. (Mark 9:29)

Our world needs us to fast. Our world needs us to pray the daily Rosary.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

 

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Joy and Example in Parenting

Sadly, some parents see child-rearing as dull and boring.  Others maintain that their children are “their best friends.”  Still others say that they can’t see any joy in parenting.

Parenting is hard work.  No one will challenge that statement.  From my experience of over 30 years of parenting, there were some days I wanted to crawl back into bed and sleep for the rest of the day.  But we can’t do that because our children are our responsibility and they need us.

Another basic in Robert P. Newberry’s book, Green Beans and Legacies is:  A primary task for a parent is taking the mystery out of how to build a successful life.

Parents can help take the mystery out of how to build a successful life. The author of Green Beans and Legacies, Robert P. Newberry, discusses the difference between fun, pleasure and joy.  On the surface, he says, “it is easy for a child to think of these as being the same.” However, fun and pleasure are usually derived from single experiences and can be momentary and fleeting.  By contrast, “joy is the outcome of long-term commitments to worthwhile goals.”

Delayed gratification, perseverance and faith all lead to joy.

If you have ever fasted for an entire day, then you know how good food tastes when you stop fasting.  There is so much joy in giving up, but there is also much joy in eating when you finally break your fast.

When my boys were small, I would bake cookies.  While they were cooling on the table, they all wanted one NOW, especially the littlest of my children.  However, I would tell them they would need to wait for two minutes to make sure they didn’t burn their mouths.  Even the smallest ones were able to learn about patience. When the two minutes was over, they were able to eat and enjoy the cookies without burning themselves.

Another example was when our #4 son (then a pre-teen) wanted to buy an iPod.  He didn’t have the money and wanted us to lend it to him so that he could have the iPod immediately.  However, we wanted him to work for the item first and then buy it himself.  So he stacked 1200 pieces of wood over a month (hard work for a 12-year-old).  At the end of the two weeks, he had made enough to buy the iPod.

Our example in this regard is important.  How we live and the kind of life we lead speaks louder volumes than what we say.  If I tell my children not to eat a cookie hot out of the oven, but I do so, I am completely negating what I said by my example.

All of us want our children to be happy and have fun.  More importantly, we want our children to grow up and lead successful lives.  Successful adults don’t happen automatically.  We must be there for them and take the mystery out of how to build a successful life.

Check out Robert P. Newberry’s book, Green Beans and Legacies, available on Kindle and in paperback.

Also check out the author’s website:  robertpnewberry.com

 

An Open Book – October 2017 #openbook

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

 

Standing Strong by Theresa Linden

 

Amazon Synopsis: (Contemporary Teen Fiction) Having just confessed his sins to his priest–more sins than a kid his age should have–Jarret jumps in his Chrysler 300 and races to the outskirts of town. Emotion overwhelming him, he pulls off the road and flings himself face down behind an outcropping of rocks. Ever since that life-changing night in the canyon, Jarret has felt the presence of the Lord in his soul. Now that presence is fading. Is it his fault? How will he remain faithful without it when he still struggles against the same temptations?

Meanwhile his twin brother, Keefe, questions whether he has a calling to religious life. He’s gone along with Jarret’s bad schemes for years. Is he worthy of such a calling? What would he have to give up to pursue a vocation? Keefe reads everything he can about St. Francis and the Franciscans, but he’s afraid to talk to his father about the Franciscans’ upcoming discernment retreat because his father seems closed to faith. Is he ready to go all in?

Follow the West brothers in this contemporary teen fiction as they struggle through temptations and trials down paths they can barely see, toward goals they desire in the depths of their hearts.

My Review:  I thoroughly enjoyed this teen novel!  Well-written with rich, well-developed characters and a great story.  I’ve read two of the other West Brothers novels, but you need not read the others to enjoy this one. Highly recommend!  5 out of 5.

Motherless by Brian Gail

Amazon Synopsis:  Brian J. Gail has written another heart pounding, page turner of a novel for Catholics who are straining to hear their Church’s voice in what Pope John Paul II called the final confrontation between the Church and the anti Church, the Gospel and the anti Gospel. Motherless takes the reader on a riveting behind-the-scenes journey around the globe to the boardrooms and laboratories where the architects of The Life Sciences Revolution are preparing Mankind’s Final Solution … and into the confessionals and chanceries where the Church’s response is being challenged. Father John Sweeney, pastor of a small catholic parish on Philadelphia’s storied Main Line, is drawn into an apocalyptic vortex through the lives of parishioners Maggie Kealey, Michael Burns and Joe Delgado. Without warning they are ushered through the back door of the Revolution where they discover human embryos being created in laboratories and frozen in cryogenic freezers for a global black market. It is, however, when the Revolution’s ultimate destination is revealed to one of the three that Fr. Sweeney is faced with his greatest test as a pastor guiding a soul to the Christian accountability to truth even in the face of potentially deadly consequences.

My Review:  This has been on my “to read” pile for four years, and I finally had a chance to read it the other day when our power went off. Overall, I liked the story and found it hard to put down (although I didn’t find it “heart pounding” like the synopsis says) but it is basically told in order to evangelize without a huge emphasis on the writing.  I enjoy books that evangelize as long as the writing is polished. And Gail’s writing was certainly good but I was distracted by the novel’s editing issues. Motherless would’ve been a less distracting read if it had gone through another edit or two.  Overall, 3.5 out of 5 and would recommend it if you don’t mind a story that is preachy.

Last of Her Kind by A.K. Frailey

 

Synopsis:  In Last of Her Kind, Cerulean, a guardian alien from the planet Lux discovers humanity’s greatest wealth in the person of Anne Smith—the last woman to conceive a baby during Oldearth’s final years.  It takes the remnant’s most innovative traits to survive relocation, alien exploitation, and save themselves—as well as Luxonians—from extinction. A new order is born as a hungry universe observes humanity’s most enduring trait; its willingness to die in order that others might live. 

My Review:  (In process) I’m reading an advanced review copy of this sci-fi novel that is set in the near future when the human race is nearing extinction.  Anne happens to be the last pregnant woman in the world.  Cerulean is an extraterrestrial who watches Anne and grows a special attachment for her.  Compelling story that is hard to put down.  Looking forward to reading the rest!

Green Beans and Legacies by Robert P. Newberry

Amazon Synopsis: Green Beans and Legacies is comprised of a variety of reflections on raising successful children. They are derived from numerous columns that he wrote during a ten year period when he did seminar work and consulting with many schools and organizations across the country. The columns were written in response to many requests the author received to share his ideas with parents about successfully raise their children. Most of the reflections in Green Beans are “the best of” these columns. The author observes that raising children, like any important task, needs to be done with the end in mind. For the author, that end is a child who becomes a successful adult who is independent, moral and purposeful.

My Review: I’ve been helping the author promote his book.  I really enjoyed this book and found comfort in knowing that I’ve been following the “basics” of what he calls successful parenting (even without knowing the basics!)  It’s a wonderful little handbook on parenting that not only new parents will enjoy,  but even experienced parents will probably find it helpful.  Highly recommend.

When You Fast by Andrew LaVallee

 

I’ve been helping my boss edit his new book, which will hopefully be released on the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima on October 13th.  In this book, Andy shares his conversion experience and how fasting and prayer can change hearts, souls and the world. It will be available on the Live the Fast website only.  Highly recommend if you are new to fasting.

 

Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable (Book 1 of the Great War Great Love series)

I’m still working on edits of my new novel, coming November 2017.  I need to hear from two more proofreaders and hopefully it will be finished and ready to publish!

Synopsis: As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Will the realities of war dishearten her? Will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?”  From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

 

Quality Time in Parenting

In his book, Green Beans and Legacies, Robert P. Newberry offers a list of nine basics for parenting.  One of them is: A lot of quality time is required to raise a successful child.

The author uses his career as educator, counselor, therapist, lecturer and consultant to share advice and tips on raising successful children. However, Newberry especially uses his experience as the parent of three grown children.  In the chapter on the above Basic, Newberry shares examples of how he and his wife spent quality time with their children, but also how others — like a naval officer who spent six months a year away from his family — spent quality time by reading into cassettes while he was away.  Nowadays, with FaceTime and Skype, absent parents can spend quality time with their children even if they are far away.

When I became pregnant with our first child, my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our children. I enjoyed playing games, reading and playing with Lego with them. Just because a mother stays at home doesn’t necessarily mean she is giving her children quality time, however.  Newberry states in his book: “I know of other parents who are physically with their children often, but are present to them rarely in terms of attention, care and concern.”

I’ve also known mothers who have worked full-time but were able to spend wonderful quality time with their children in the evening and on weekends.

So how do you get quality time if you’re working long hours? Newberry offers an example of writing a Christmas letter to each of his children every year. “Each letter included our own personal reflection of how he or she had grown and matured through the previous year. The letter provided an opportunity to offer encouragement for upcoming challenges and to convey our strong support and concern for his or her well-being.”

When our children were small, my husband worked 60 hours weeks. However, when he was home, he spent time reading to our boys before bed and as they became older, they shared their love of music by playing together in our own family band. In fact, most of our children began playing musical instruments (not because we insisted, but because they wanted to) taking the example of their father’s musical talents, and spent much of their free time learning songs on the guitar, piano and drums.

Quality time with your children is possible whether or not you are a full-time homemaker or work a full-time job.

I highly recommend Robert P. Newberry’s book, Green Beans and Legacies as an invaluable resource for helping parents raise successful children.  Click on this link to download the Kindle edition or this link to purchase the paperback book.

For more information on this Basics and on Newberry’s book, Green Beans and Legacies, click on this link: http://www.robertpnewberry.com

It Takes a Parent to Raise a Child

We’ve all heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Although there is some truth to that adage, author Robert P. Newberry challenges parents with, “it takes a parent to raise a child.”

In his book, Green Beans and Legacies, Newberry outlines his “Basics for Raising Successful Children” and makes it clear that there is no substitute for a parent in raising a child.  His first Basic is: The responsibility of raising a child lies squarely on the parent’s shoulders. While getting assistance from relatives, the community and friends can certainly make parenting easier, such help is optional and limited in what it can do. The village or community cannot give your child that “special-ness” that only parents can give.

Mr. Newberry does more than challenge parents, however.  He provides guidance and encouragement, showing parents how to build credibility with their children in order to influence and teach them about how to build a successful life. As one reviewer notes, “Your style of writing is so inviting and inspires the reader to want to become engaged.  The anecdotes are wonderful and make the trials of parenting realistic.”

Mr. Newberry illustrates the importance of parents – not just parents, but parents who are present – in his book.  The author includes eight “Basics” that can easily be used as a self-assessment by any reader in evaluating the effectiveness of how they are utilizing their parental authority.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or one who works outside the home. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the natural parent or the adoptive parent.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re a single parent or whether you’re parenting with your spouse.  What does matter is that parenting takes consistent effort and a great deal of quality time.  But, Newberry argues, it can be done very successfully and there is nothing that offers such great rewards!

Green Beans and Legacies is the first of three books in the Raising Successful Children Series. I highly recommend this terrific resource for parents. It is available on Kindle and in paperback here at this link.

For more information on the author and his books, check out his website at: http://www.robertpnewberry.com

 

The Death of Me; The Life of Us #catholicfiction

copyright Ellen Hrkach

I wrote “The Death of Me; The Life of Us,” short fiction, for Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body, available on Amazon.  Special thanks to Erin McCole Cupp and Dena Hunt for editing assistance.  Below is an excerpt:

“Sarah, you’re too young to read the death notices,” my mother always said.  But here I sat at the college library, eyes focused on the obituary section of the newspaper — yes, I still preferred to read an actual newspaper rather than digital.

I also attended funerals of people I barely knew. In the years following my sister’s death, I found strange comfort in learning how other people faced the death of a loved one.

What does death look like?  It’s a polished maple casket lowered into the ground, people in black clothes with somber faces, a granite headstone with a name etched on it.

What does death sound like? It’s a priest speaking in monotone. People sobbing. Moaning. Sometimes it sounds like the silence of this quiet library.

What is grief?  It’s a space in your heart reserved for those you love who have died and can no longer return that love.   It’s an emptiness, a hollow at the base of your throat that rises up and catches when you think of the person you love who is now gone.

What is guilt? It’s the realization that it is my fault that the person I love most is now dead. It’s the dark, rigid rock that holds a conscience captive and continues to torture my soul nine years later.

The blur of the van slamming into her unexpecting body is an image that is burned into my memory.  So is the screeching of the brakes and the thud of the van striking her. I was only nine years old that hot and muggy August day. But it was the end of my childhood.

***

“Let’s play tag,” I said to my six-year-old sister, Rosie.

“No!  Wanna go back inside. It’s too hot out.”  Her blond hair hung in wet strips, and her clothes were damp from running back and forth through the sprinkler.

“Come on.  We’ll play tag, then we can run through the sprinkler again.”  I touched her shoulder. “You’re it,” then I ran across our neighbor’s lawn.  I wasn’t paying attention. I just didn’t want her to catch me, so I ran as fast as I could and ran into the street. I had made it to the other side when I heard screeching. I turned just in time to see the van slam into her small body. The man behind the wheel, bigger than Dad, got out and stood over my sister’s body, his mouth open. Then he covered his face with his hands and began to weep.

I couldn’t move, nor could I take my eyes from her.  Rosie lay on the road, her white Danskin shirt now streaked in bright red-orange.  Blood covered her head like a cap, her body twisted like a rag doll. I stared, wide-eyed, unable to move as hope welled up within me when I saw her body twitch.  All of a sudden, she was still.

It was quiet, the humming of the neighborhood air conditioners and the man’s deep crying played like the background noise of a TV show. I heard a scream. I looked up to see my mother racing across the lawn and into the street.  Bellowed sobs consumed her as she scooped up Rosie’s little body.  Drops of liquid trickled from my sister’s bottom, creating a dotted trail on the black road as she carried my sister onto our lawn.

Mom collapsed, Rosie’s blood smearing her shirt, hands and face.  She screamed over and over again, “No!”

I’m not sure how much time passed, but I stayed in the same spot in the street.  I wasn’t able to move, so I stared at the wetness on the black street, one tiny sandal in the midst of it all.

Only moments before, Rosie was a happy girl who loved everything about life.  Now she was gone. And it was my fault.

The squeal of sirens echoed in the distance and became louder until I couldn’t hear anymore — it was too much for me to think, to hear.  My eyes continued to stare, but everything became a cloud of colors moving in front of me.  Flashing lights. Badged, uniformed shirts in shades of blue. A black and yellow stretcher. The shadows inside the back of an ambulance.

I felt someone’s arms around me and the mumble of words. I blinked and glanced upward. It was Mrs. Grayson, our next door neighbor.  “Sarah, did you see what happened?” My mouth was open, but nothing would come out.

Finally I was able to speak, but all that came out was: “It’s my fault.”

***

In the ensuing weeks and months after Rosie’s death, I couldn’t talk about her or her death.  I couldn’t even say the words “Rosie’s death.” At the viewing and funeral, I kept my head down as relatives and friends passed by. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything. I could hear mournful sounds coming from my parents’ bedroom every night for weeks.

School and life became a fog as one month blended into the next.  I stayed away from Mom as much as I could. She wouldn’t want the person responsible for Rosie’s death to talk to her.

Mom never once blamed me, not with words, anyway. She tried to get me to talk to a grief counselor, but I refused.  All I did was wake up, go through the motions of each day, and sleep. Every night I wished that I would have a dream about Rosie. The only dream I ever had was a nightmare replaying the moment the van hit her. She was on the road, her eyes open, her small voice saying, “I don’t want to play tag.”  I wished I could tell her one more time I loved her. I wished I could tell her that I was sorry.

If I hadn’t asked her to play tag, if we hadn’t been outside, if I hadn’t run across the street…if, if, if.  I should have protected her.  I shouldn’t have led her into the street. It should’ve been me who was struck by that van.

I didn’t — wouldn’t — cry, either.  Every time a sob crept up the back of my throat, I shoved it back down again.  I had no right to cry.  I had no right to talk.  I had no right to live.  It was my fault.

We weren’t much of a praying family, but I did believe in God. I tried to pray many times.  How could God let her die?  Why didn’t He save her?  Why didn’t He stop me from playing tag with her?  Why didn’t He stop me from running across the street? I was angry at the birds for continuing to sing, and mad at the whole world that moved along as if Rosie had never been a part of it.  Eventually, I saw that life was continuing for my parents and brothers. How could the world just continue when my world had ended?

 ***

“Is anybody sitting here?”

I didn’t even look up at the guy asking.

I was having lunch at the library. My preference would’ve been for him to leave me alone, but I shrugged. I soon would learn that Jack was persistent to the point of being annoying.

“I’m Jack.” He held out his hand to me.

“Sarah,” I whispered. “Be quiet. We’re in a library.”  I shook his hand and he sat down beside me. That’s when I finally looked at him.  He was a pleasant enough looking boy: blond, wavy California hair, blue eyes, broad shoulders.

“Whatcha reading?” he asked, keeping his voice soft.

I answered but kept reading. “The Funeral Practices of the Ancient Egyptians.”

I looked up just in time to see his eyebrows lift.

Every Wednesday after that, he was there at that same table at the college library. Sometimes he would offer to share a muffin or other snack. Most of the time I sat there, quiet, reading. He kept the topic of conversation superficial: the weather, current events, sports.

“Our baseball team is going to the semi-finals.”

“Oh?”

He nodded.  “I play second base.”

“That’s nice.”

“There’s a game at the college baseball field next Wednesday, so I won’t be able to meet you here.”

“Okay.”

His eyes widened. “Hey, why don’t you come and watch?”

I was never a big fan of sports, but the way he looked at me, so expectant, I surprised even myself, saying, “Sure, okay.”

I went to the semi-finals and watched the game. Jack actually hit a home run, and I found myself cheering with the rest of the spectators. But his team lost.  I waited for him after the game.

“A home run.  Wow.”

“Well, we lost, but we did our best.”  He hesitated.  “Want to go grab a bite to eat?”

I scowled.  “I thought we were just friends.”

“Can’t two friends grab a pizza?”

“I suppose.”

There was still a part of me that wanted him to leave me alone; I hadn’t really had any friends since Rosie died.  The way I saw it, I didn’t deserve friends.

Jack and I continued seeing each other on Wednesdays. He always did most of the talking, though. I learned that he had three older sisters and that he was attending college (majoring in microbiology) on a baseball scholarship. He liked pizza and hiking. He was an amateur photographer.   We eventually began texting.

My mother pestered me about my “new friend, Jack.”

“He’s just a friend, Mom.”

“Oh,” she responded, her eyes lowering in disappointment.

To read the rest of the story, click here to purchase Image and Likeness on Amazon.

A Wonderful Find!

I recently connected with a second cousin on Ancestry and discovered that he had uploaded a photograph from Christmas of 1903 which included our great-grandmother, far left (Mary Regina Smith Hamilton 1866-1909) and our great-grandfather, far right (Thomas Scott Hamilton 1865-1945) and their children (one son is missing and one toddler daughter had passed away a few years earlier).  Both lived in Philadelphia their entire lives.

I have been researching my family tree for over 35 years and this was the first time I had ever seen a photo of either of my Hamilton great-grandparents. So I was so thrilled to find this!  And very happy to be able to put faces to names I had known almost my entire life.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  My great-grandmother looks less-than-excited (she was probably tired!) My great-grandfather looks a bit creepy and perhaps mad.  My grandmother told me about how strict he was, but I’ve also heard stories about what a kind and good man he was.  The house (if indeed it was theirs) looks more upper class than I had previously believed.  The toys were certainly those of at least an upper middle-class family.  My great-grandfather was a clothing cutter so I don’t imagine they were rich. Looking at the house and beautifully-decorated tree, it appears as though they were quite comfortable.

This is such a beautiful snapshot in time.  My great-grandparents would go on to have three more children (including one set of twins — my grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of those twins).  Just six years after this photo was taken, my great-grandmother dropped dead suddenly when her twins were only 18 months old, leaving her husband and oldest daughter (Kate, the smiling one on the right) to raise the children.

This photo illustrates such a different time in history than we are living, a simpler time.  Yes, mothers and fathers still die suddenly and widowers and widows are still left to raise children. But many Catholic families are limiting the number of children they have.  I can’t begin to judge any other couple, but I know in our own case, we remained open, despite the doctors’ orders that we stop having children.

We can learn so much from our ancestors. Back then, contraception wasn’t even a thought in most Catholic couples’ minds and really wasn’t readily available anyway.  Most welcomed children as they came.  I’m thankful to my Hamilton great-grandparents for welcoming children as they did, even when it was so obviously difficult and challenging.  My grandmother, Margaret Hamilton Gable, was one of twins in Mary Hamilton’s last pregnancy. If they had stopped having children, if they had discovered contraception, I wouldn’t be here today.

My grandmother (Margaret) went on to elope with my grandfather (Fritz) and eventually they had four children (my father was the second oldest).

This was indeed a wonderful find!

 

Hamilton Family 1903, with thanks to Rich Boyle