Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day 2019

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Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day but the entire month of October is devoted to Infant Loss Remembrance. James and I feel very blessed and grateful to be the parents of five young adult sons (ages 20-32) and one beautiful grandson. We are also blessed to be the parents of seven precious babies we lost through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. This month, we remember in a special way these seven little souls (and intercessors) in heaven.

Here are a few of my reflections on pregnancy loss:

Among Women Podcast Episode 89 (Pat Gohn interviewed me about miscarriage and pregnancy loss)

Ecce Ancilla Domini, an article on openness to life.

Five Little Souls in Heaven (This article was written 25 years ago and published in the Nazareth Journal)

Difficult Anniversaries/Responsible Parenthood

One of the themes of my first novel, Emily’s Hope, is pregnancy loss.

This excerpt describes Emily’s loss of baby “Seth.”

“I need to push.” She wanted so desperately not to push, to allow her baby to stay inside of her, and for her to continue to nourish and nurture her child, but her body wouldn’t allow that. She pushed only twice and her small child was born. Emily heard a sound like a kitten crying, then realized that her baby had let out a small, soft, weak cry.

As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the nurse immediately carried the baby across the room as the pediatric staff attempted to work on their child. Emily and Jason sat quietly, their hearts heavy with emotion. A few minutes later, she felt another contraction and her placenta was delivered. She could hear a nurse referring to “him,” and realized that their child was another boy. After a few minutes, the doctor brought him back, his small form still hidden in the blue hospital blanket. He spoke in a hushed, almost apologetic voice, “There is nothing we can do for him.”

He handed the tiny one-pound baby boy to his mother. Jason held onto Emily’s shoulder and watched as she cradled the smallest baby they had ever seen. He was so perfect and looked identical to their oldest son, Jake. His small body was covered with minute white hairs. He was perfect as he struggled to breathe. He was perfect as he opened his mouth to cry. Emily held her new son as gently as she could. Jason reached over and poured a few drops of water on him and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Emily could feel the vibration of his tiny heart beating fast.

The nurse came in with a Polaroid camera and asked if they wanted her to take a photo of their child. Emily nodded as the nurse took a photo of her and Jason and their tiny son. She gazed in awe at this miniature human being and marveled at the fact that even though he was tiny, he was so perfect. His little hands looked like a doll’s hands. She removed the baby blanket and laid his small, warm body on her chest. She could feel his heart beating rapidly. After several minutes, she wrapped him again in the small blue blanket.

Then, in an instant, he was still. She could feel that his heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing, but he continued to feel warm and soft. He looked like a sleeping angel.

(End of excerpt.)

If you have lost a baby through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or infant death, please click on the link above “Baby Loss” for resources and helpful links.

Here is a list of other novels that include themes about infant/pregnancy loss:

In Name Only by Ellen Gable

A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable

Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable

A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Rose, Sola by Carmela Martino

The Rose and the Sword by Gina Marinello-Sweeney

Bane’s Eyes by Corinna Turner

Passport by Christopher Blunt

Ornamental Graces by Carolyn Astfalk

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Life-Changing Love by Theresa Linden

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body edited by Erin McCole Cupp and Ellen Gable

 

In memory of our seven little souls in heaven:

Baby Hrkach Twins (June 1986)

Baby Hrkach (February 1991)

Baby Hrkach (June 1991)

Mary Elizabeth Hrkach (June 1993)

Seth Hrkach (April 1998)

Lucy Hrkach (March 2006)

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All in Good Time by Carolyn Astfalk Cover Reveal

All in Good Time

Coming Soon! With three rambunctious, young children, Melanie Lombardi can’t see beyond the day-to-day struggle to maintain her home and her sanity since her husband’s sudden death. A second chance at romance isn’t on her radar.
Brian Perella is done with dating, resigned to being the fun uncle and never the dad. Until he meets Melanie and her brood of lively kids on the sidelines of a Little League game.
But when Brian uncovers a co-worker’s secret, it re-ignites a temptation that Melanie can’t know about. It’s his secret to keep until an unexpected diagnosis brings everything to the surface, jeopardizing his future with Melanie and her children, who, when threatened by an unknown stalker, may need him now more than ever.

An Open Book #openbook Sept 2019

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Today I am joining with Carolyn Astfalk and CatholicMom.com for An Open Book.  Here is what I’ve been reading and planning to read!

 

Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Amazon Synopsis: Anna Karenina ( is a novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877 in the periodical The Russian Messenger. Tolstoy clashed with editor Mikhail Katkov over political issues that arose in the final installment (Tolstoy’s negative views of Russian volunteers going to fight in Serbia); therefore, the novel’s first complete appearance was in book form in 1878. Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel, after he came to consider War and Peace to be more than a novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it “flawless as a work of art.” His opinion was shared by Vladimir Nabokov, who especially admired “the flawless magic of Tolstoy’s style,” and by William Faulkner, who described the novel as “the best ever written.” The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors in which Anna Karenina was voted the “greatest book ever written.”

My review: I just started reading this and I may be doing so for the next few months.  Review to come.

Forgiveness

The Power of Forgiveness by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Amazon Synopsis: “The only way to peace is forgiveness.” -Pope Saint John Paul II

As Catholics, we know that God s forgiveness plants peace in our hearts. We also know that there s grace that flows from the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Even so, we often struggle to forgive those who have hurt us, so we don t experience the peace that forgiveness can bring.

The Power of Forgiveness includes reflections on the topic of forgiveness, inspirational stories of saints, simple prayers, and questions to help you meditate and pray. By opening ourselves to forgiving others, we participate in God’s mercy and begin the process of healing.   Part of the Companion in Faith series.

My review: Forgiving those who hurt us is not easy.  But when Jesus taught us the words to the Lord’s prayer, He said, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Jesus didn’t include any exceptions.  Therefore, we are called to forgive others, no matter how much or how deeply they hurt us.

The Power of Forgiveness is a terrific booklet with reflections on forgiveness, inspirational stories of saints, prayers, and questions that help the reader to pray and meditate on forgiveness and opening our hearts to God’s mercy. It is only through opening our hearts to God’s mercy that we ourselves can begin to heal.

Highly recommend.  5/5 stars.

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The Father’s Son by Jim Sano (now available from FQP)

Amazon Synopsis: Despite a traumatic and difficult childhood, 39-year-old Boston sales executive, David Kelly, seems to have it all. While building a life of achievement, material success, and professional respect, an unexpected friendship with Tom Fitzpatrick starts him on an emotional and courageous journey that allows him to confront the truth of his past and the impact it has had on the relationships in his life. The Father’s Son is a highly engaging and masterfully written story that will make you think about faith, family, friendship, forgiveness, redemption, love, and truth, and may prove to profoundly impact how you look at life itself.

My review:  My review will be rather biased since I am publishing this book. But David Kelly’s story is a compelling one.  Highly recommend.

Eden's Sake

For Eden’s Sake by T.M. Gaouette

Goodreads Synopsis: Barely out of college, Isaac trades the quiet of his family ranch for the excitement of the big city with his dream job at an up-and-coming advertising agency. Until his perfect new world is shattered by bad choices, a pretty girl, a moment’s temptation—and a late night walk that quickly spirals out of control. Reeling with the horror of a mistake that can’t be undone, Isaac struggles to get his soul in order. Can he forgive himself? Can he make things right with God? What about Rebecca?

With both their lives desperately upended, and life-changing consequences no matter what they choose, Isaac must face his painful past, finding strength from God to do the right thing . . . and somehow convince Rebecca to do the same.

My review: What starts out as a careless night of drinking turns into a life-and-death situation. Isaac can’t undo his carelessness but he can do all in his power to prevent a young woman from making another mistake.  For Eden’s Sake is a well-written and compelling story about the consequences of sin and the grace of redemption. Thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend! 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

When Adult Children Fall Away From the Faith

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Copyright Josh Hrkach Used with Permission

My latest Catholic Mom column: We recently spoke with four older couples about the challenges of parenting adult children, especially those who have fallen away from the faith. One mother shared her sorrow that her son not only has left the Church, but is actively antagonistic towards the Catholic faith and to her. A father of four adult sons talked about the frustration of finding out that his older son (who spent years serving as an altar boy and who had once considered a vocation to the priesthood) has stopped attending Mass. One couple shared the sad situation of their daughter’s same-sex relationship. Another couple was heartbroken that their daughter now considers herself “transgender.” All four of these parents, faithfully practicing Catholics, asked “What do we do now?” and “Where did we go wrong?”

I’m not an expert, but I do have some experience with parenting adult children who have abandoned their faith. Regarding blame: Recognize that our world has gone astray. Our adult children are being bombarded with messages contrary to the faith. Unless we have kept our children in a box their entire lives, they will come to know many more people who are living a hedonistic lifestyle than living a virtuous one.

Here are some suggestions that my husband and I have come up in dealing with adult children who have abandoned their faith.

  1. Unconditional Love: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

This might seem like an obvious one, but I know some parents who’ve shunned adult children because they’ve stopped going to Mass or are engaging in immoral lifestyle choices.

My gut reaction to that is, “How are they ever going to learn to change if they don’t have your example to follow?” Also, how are they going to experience God’s unconditional love without a parent’s unconditional love? You can love without encouraging immoral lifestyles. If a son or daughter is cohabiting and they visit your home, separate sleeping arrangements should be in order. If you have younger children, this shows them that you don’t agree with their lifestyle choices, but still love them and welcome them into your home … a home that does not condone cohabitation.

  1. Pray for Your Children Every Day

This is also obvious, but a parent’s prayer for his or her child is a powerful one. Our Lady is a powerful intercessor. St. Monica (whose son, St. Augustine, made immoral choices) prayed for her son’s conversion (and it eventually happened!). My husband and I recite the Rosary for our adult sons every day (one decade for each son). Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive.” Storm heaven for them. It is God’s will that our children spend eternity in heaven. We may not live to see their conversion, but we’ll be able to rejoice in heaven with them.

  1. Fast and Sacrifice for Your Children

Fast and sacrifice for your children. When you’re going through a difficulty, offer it up for your adult children, especially those who have fallen away from the faith. Fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (I do the Ash Wednesday-Good Friday fast of eating two small meals, no meat, and the third meal not larger than the two smaller ones combined.) I’ve seen amazing results with fasting because it’s like lighting a fire underneath our prayers.

  1. Look for Opportunities to Dialogue (But Don’t Nag or Preach!)

This can often be awkward. Most adult children of faithful Catholics know what their parents are going to say, but sometimes it still needs to be said. Take the opportunity whenever you can to reiterate your unconditional love for them and your disagreement with their choices to live a life contrary to the Catholic faith. However, avoid engaging in conversation if you know they might be antagonistic, especially in front of other family members. And don’t nag or preach.

  1. Be a Virtuous Example 

You can teach your kids all about the faith, especially in the areas of marital sexuality, but if you are not living that faith, these truths may be lost or ignored. This also goes for even more basic virtues like patience, fortitude and hope.

  1. Find Supportive Parents Who Are Going Through The Same Thing

Find a support network. I’m a member of a Facebook group called “St. Monica’s Moms.” A support network can give us consolation, especially when we remember that we’re not alone in our struggles. We can also pray for other parents going through this and ask for advice or suggestions on how to handle a specific situation.

  1. Be Hopeful

 I know adult children who converted very late in life; I’ve witnessed imperceptibly slow conversion resulting from an adult child’s experience with steadfast parents. Be hopeful. Never underestimate the value of our prayers.

Parenting adult children who have fallen away from their faith is challenging.  Love them unconditionally, pray and fast for them, look for opportunities to dialogue, be a good example, have a support network and remain hopeful that they will return to the faith.

This video is also helpful for parenting young adults who have fallen away from the faith:

If My Child Has Fallen Away From the Faith…

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

The Father’s Son by Jim Sano #nowavailable

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The Father’s Son by Jim Sano is now available on Kindle and in Print.

Amazon Synopsis:  Despite a traumatic and difficult childhood, 39-year-old Boston sales executive, David Kelly, seems to have it all. While building a life of achievement, material success, and professional respect, an unexpected friendship with Tom Fitzpatrick starts him on an emotional and courageous journey that allows him to confront the truth of his past and the impact it has had on the relationships in his life. The Father’s Son is a highly engaging and masterfully written story that will make you think about faith, family, friendship, forgiveness, redemption, love, and truth, and may prove to profoundly impact how you look at life itself.

Reviews:

More and more baptized Catholics are walking away from the Church. Many have simply never been evangelized. Many have simply never been given a proper opportunity to encounter Jesus. Many have simply been hurt in their lives, some even by the Church. If we are serious about evangelizing them we will need to fully embrace Pope Saint John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization: “new in ardor, methods, and expressions.” The Father’s Son is a beautiful example of answering that call. For those of you who are striving to evangelize baptized Catholics – especially men – I would recommend getting this book into their hands. It is a story that will resonate with those who are dealing with wounds in their lives and might be what they need to set them on the path towards happiness, which ultimately will lead them into a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church.   Michael M. Lavigne -Assistant Cabinet Secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship, Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship, Archdiocese of Boston

 I admit that I am a bit of a sucker for an engaging conversion story, but Jim Sano provided not only a book that I had to exercise great discipline to put down, but into the story of this young executive’s journey of faith he weaved a clear, relevant and attractive description of the Catholic Faith and its power to transform.  Today it seems all too easy to drift away from the Faith that had perhaps once been ours, and then to suffer the consequences of that neglect.  Here is a book that leaves its reader not only longing for more of the story, but wondering if the same hope and healing might be possible for them too.  Read this book, and get it into the hands of somebody you know who might need to remember what it means to be a son or daughter of a good father.   Ron Bolster -Assistant Professor of Theology, Director of Catechetics at Franciscan University

 Jim Sano’s The Father’s Son weaves a wonderful story around childhood misconceptions that lead to misshaped adult values, and how providence can lead people into our lives to set things straight. In this case, God leads sales executive David Kelly to Tom Fitzpatrick, who becomes both a friend and spiritual mentor, which in turn takes David on a journey that unravels the truth of his past and restores the faith he had abandoned. Definitely a book you’ll want to share with anyone who needs gentle nudging toward putting faith in God.   Michelle Buckman, author of CALA winner Rachel’s Contrition

 Questions galore filled my head as I kept reading with anticipation each chapter of The Father’s Son. Because David seems so together in most areas of his life, it kept gnawing at me. Why can he not commit? Why is there a chill running through the family’s relationships? It did not seem to fit. Tom is the catalyst who brings out David’s best, and worst, too! This novel “makes you laugh, makes you cry, and keeps you waiting.” Now, that’s a good book.   Florence Henderson

To get your copy, click here.

An Open Book – August 2019

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Today I am joining with Carolyn Astfalk and CatholicMom.com for An Open Book.  Here is what I’ve been reading and planning to read!

AWSAHI 2016RGB

On sale for only .99 this week! A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer!

Amazon Synopsis:  WINNER in the 2016 Catholic Arts and Letter Award (Young Adult Category)!  Heaven Intended (Book One) Amara McKirnan and Nathan Simmons share a devotion to their Catholic faith but their loyalties lie on opposite sides of the Civil War. Dedicated to the Confederate cause, Amara offers to help out at her uncle’s makeshift hospital in Atlanta. Fate brought Nathan to their doorstep and into Amara’s life. Little does Amara know that the wounded soldier she cares for harbors a secret that will not only jeopardize his life but hers as well.

Follow Amara and Nathan’s story from the heart of war-torn Atlanta to the Northern Georgia battlefields to the plains of East Texas as their lives become intertwined in a way that shatters the separate worlds they once knew.

 

MidwifeThe Midwife by Gay Courter

Amazon Synopsis: In this blockbuster bestseller we meet Hannah Blau, the midwife, who fought savage religious prejudice to gain medical training in Moscow’s legendary Imperial College. She fought her own doubts and fears as she plunged into a forbidden love affair and an even more hazard-filled marriage. She fought the awesome odds facing a Jewish immigrant and the bitter hostility of male doctors in turn-of-the-century New York. She fought for her burning dreams and desires. She fought and she won. This sweeping novel follows the courageous and passionate Hannah from the corridors of the Imperial Palace to the Lower East Side, and finally to New York’s Fifth Avenue mansions — recreating a whole world of striving, of love, of lust, of life, death and birth.

My review:  I’ve read this book numerous times, but it’s one that I enjoy reading over and over again because I enjoy the time period (early 1900’s) and the topic (midwifery).

The author doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulties and challenges of being a midwife and a Jew at this time period in Europe.  There are underlying themes, but in the end, Hannah is a believable, well-developed person of the time period.  5 out of 5 starts.

 

Lance Veil

The Lance and the Veil by Kevin Rush

Amazon Synopsis:  “[A] richly imagined novel…A big, bold Biblical saga to fire the Christian imagination!”  Kirkus Reviews

On the fateful road to Calvary, his part was cruelty; hers was compassion. The Lance and the Veil tells the story of Veronica, a princess of Rome, and Longinus, a career soldier. Each, alone in a violent world, comes to a holy land during a time of miracles.

Veronica wiped the face of her Lord moments before His death. Longinus pierced his captive’s side, then declared, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

The Lance and the Veil imagines how these two witnesses to salvation came to their moment in  history. Kevin Rush weaves imperial history, Holy Scripture and forgotten Christian folklore into a fast-paced, romantic adventure that uplifts, educates, edifies and entertains.

Kevin Rush has mastered a seemingly forgotten art…the ability to write engaging, faith-infused historical fiction in the tradition of Taylor Caldwell.
– Cary Solomon & Chuck Konzelman, screenwriters for God’s Not Dead

My review:  on my To Read shelf.

Warrior

Warrior of the Kizan by Ann Margaret Lewis

Amazon Synopsis: To save a princess, he must first save himself.Star Wars meets Edgar Rice Burroughs in this techno-magic tale of war and redemption!

Dakhar Talin, a member of a cursed, telepathic people, who is the new head of security for the Royal House of Emun. When the princess, Tasia, is kidnapped, Dakhar’s investigation leads him to a sinister planet called Earth. But inner demons from his military service torment him, threatening his sanity, integrity, and the success of his mission. Can he bring the princess home before he loses his soul to ever-corrupting madness? Read Warrior of the Kizan, the new space opera adventure by former Star Wars author Ann Margaret Lewis!

My review: Warrior of the Kizan by Ann Margaret Lewis is a highly entertaining, well-written sci-fi tale that brings aliens and humans together in one story. The two main other-world characters, Dakhar and Tasia, are from a planet that uses soul speak (can talk without words). Tasia is the heir to the throne and is kidnapped. It is Dakhar’s job to find her and bring her safely back home. Dakhar has unresolved issues of his own. She ends up on earth, where she meets friends and enemies alike. Lewis builds both the alien world and the earth settings with excellent precision and her characters are well-developed and multi-dimensional. Even if you aren’t into sci-fi or space operas, you’ll enjoy this story. Highly recommend.

Three Married

Three to Get Married by Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Amazon Synopsis: One of the greatest and best-loved spokesmen for the Faith here sets out the Church’s beautiful understanding of marriage in his trademark clear and entertaining style. Frankly and charitably, Sheen presents the causes of and solutions to common marital crises, and tells touching real-life stories of people whose lives were transformed through marriage. He emphasizes that our Blessed Lord is at the center of every successful and loving marriage. This is a perfect gift for engaged couples, or for married people as a fruitful occasion for self-examination.

My review:  I recently watched a biography of Fulton Sheen and it renewed my interest in reading some of his books.  This has been on my To Read shelf for many years so I’m in the process of reading it.  Loving what I read so far!

 

Blind Justice

Blind Justice by James Scott Bell

Amazon Synopsis: Jake Denney has hit rock bottom. His wife has left him. He’s drinking again. And his five-year-old daughter is in the middle of it all. When a judge calls him “a disgrace to the legal profession,” Jake starts thinking things might be better for everyone if he wasn’t around anymore.

Then a childhood friend’s mother phones him. Her son, Howie, has been accused of murdering his wife. Jake takes the seemingly hopeless case in a last-ditch effort to save his client and his fading career.

Meanwhile, Howie’s little sister, Lindsay, has grown into a beautiful woman. Though Jake is drawn to her, there’s something about her he doesn’t understand, even though it may be the very thing he needs to reclaim his humanity.

With the evidence mounting against his client, and a web of corruption closing around them both, Jake Denney faces the fight of his life–not only in the courtroom, but in the depths of his own soul.

“Move over John Grisham. James Scott Bell has done it again with Blind Justice. A must read!” – Nancy Moser, author of The Invitation and The Quest

My review: Downloaded this for free on Kindle. On my To-Read shelf!