Saturday, December 29, 2018

Book Reviews in the STAR

I hope everybody is having a lovely Christmas holiday and enjoying some new books. It's always such a pleasure for me to compile a list of the best books for our parish newsletter. I've recruited Michael for this cause because he listens to many audiobooks. So please feel free to bring great books to my attention. I keep a running list because books never go out of style. I was delighted that the editorial director dressed up my bio with some quotes!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Pictures

For seven years I've been admiring the decorations at the Sullivan Island's firehouse but we'd always be running a bit behind schedule for choir practice so never stopped to take pictures. Believe me, when you arrive at 10 pm for Midnight Mass, the children complain. But our kids are driving themselves Michael and I stopped to take a few pictures before practice. The moon has been so big and beautiful the past few nights and I can't help thinking how it's the same moon that Mary and Joseph looked at the night our Savior was born.

We have a tradition of eating out at Waffle House after Midnight Mass!

And to all a good night!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas!

We just have a couple of hours of Advent left. No matter how this year has gone, whether we did well or poorly, we can each begin anew as we prepare room for the Christ-Child to enter our hearts. Come, Lord Jesus! God bless us one and all this wonderful Christmas season!!!

Below, a Lowcountry Christmas tree in the parish hall where we practice our music: Missa de Angelis and Puer natus in Bethlehem (one day I hope we can be as good as these monks who sing seven times a day). It was smelling so wonderful with the ladies arranging flowers/herbs for Christmas!!! And at home, the cats are really having fun with the tree all decorated.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Gaudete Sunday

Rejoice in the Lord always! Choir practice was merry before Mass (one of the best things about choir is that even in the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent, we are singing Gloria and Alleluias during practice. I feel the absence of Gloria keenly during Mass). 

I have to share the wonderful homily our priest gave on making a distinction between joy and pleasure. Pleasure arises in the body and it can affect your mind and soul. Just think how a good meal can make you feel. Something else I've discovered many years ago is that it's impossible to feel blue if you skip. I love the mind-body-spirit connection. Now joy arises in the soul. It is the feeling or expectation of something good. So you can see clearly the connection between pursuing goodness and joy. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. When we think and believe what is true, we open ourselves to joy. 

Human nature does not change. We are fallen, yet redeemed. We are made for truth, goodness, and beauty. Christmas isn't about presents under the tree. After the last present is opened, there's a dissatisfaction. Is that all there is? NO! Christmas is about the birth of our Savior who suffered and died on the tree. O Come, O Come Immanuel! Our organist reminds us that beginning Dec. 17, we chant the O Antiphons with the Magnificat during Vespers. This hymn is a poetic paraphrase of those antiphons.

Our priest also made a distinction between thinking and feeling. In our culture, people are trying to change reality based on feelings. There was a story about a man who wants to change his legal age to be much younger because he *feels* young. It reminded me of a man who had multiple surgeries so that he could look like a cat. This is beyond fantasy and role playing. It's a mental problem. What astounds me is that a doctor would mutilate a person in this way. This applies to the transgender movement as well. I don't know why I'm surprised--abortionists have been mutilating babies in the womb for a hefty fee. It seems that many doctors have lost their moral compass.

I read A Case of Need, an early novel by Michael Crichton written in the 1960s when he was still a medical student. It's classic Crichton--suspenseful--but it doesn't compare to his later works like Jurassic Park or Micro. Loved all the medical tidbits in the pathology lab just like I did all the flying minutiae in Code Name Verity. But I also learned how doctors' minds works, how they justify doing something evil. The story revolves around a young girl who dies from a botched abortion. Dr. Arthur Lee, a known abortionist (to the medical community, that is) is arrested and this is where our hero, Dr. John Berry, comes in. He's friends with Art and believes him when he says he didn't do it and sets out to prove Art's innocence. I believe this is the first instance of a pathologist-turned-amateur sleuth. We learn the motivations of all the others who could've done it and their secrets. A fantastic whodunit! However, I didn't quite follow how Berry figured it out who did the abortion until after it was explained. I probably need to re-read the last few chapters. Still, it won the Edgar!!! Imagine!!! An early novel. Read what Crichton himself had to say about it. Although this a pro-abortion book, I highly recommend those of us who are in the pro-life camp to take a look. Know thine enemy! This is the first rule of the Art of War. 

Anyway, even all the terrible things in the world cannot take away my joy. I'm singing, reading good books, anticipating reading many more (isn't that cover of Name Unspoken lovely?), sending and receiving Christmas cards, decorating, playing with kitties, keeping them away from ribbons, and enjoying my kids, who are home for just a little while! I hope you all are having a very blessed Dec.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Catholics Come Home, Divine Mercy, and Yoda

Advent gets so busy but I love all the preparations for Christmas--the choir practice, the putting up of decorations bit by bit (with help from Benny Boo), lighting a new candle each week, and this week we also had the opportunity to listen to Tom Peterson (again). We heard him in Greenville a couple of years ago. Here are my notes for that--scroll down a bit to see). This time, we exchanged books! So fun! He's an advertising executive and told me that the best way to get the word out about Bound is by getting speaking gigs. So...if any of you want to invite me to speak to your group about my conversion story or Bound or writing, I'm all ears!!! I'm good at teaching--it's in my bones!!!

I'm reading Catholics Come Home now and really enjoying all the stories. The whole point of the new evangelization is to bring home the baptized given that the majority are unchurched. Tom suggests so many practical ways: Invite people to Mass. Pray for them. Pray to the Holy Ghost (the most underused Person of the Holy Trinity). He said that when he started going to daily Mass, life got easier. Skipping Mass meant he was working on his own.

And so, I invite you to take a look at this website: and check out the 1-min advertisement!!! It's good!!! 

Tom said that the most common thing he hears is: "I need to get right with God." So go to confession! It's the most underused Sacrament yet the most freeing. From personal experience I can tell you that it can be very embarrassing to confess the same stupid sins month after month (after all, the priest can recognize your voice) and sometimes I imagine it can be scary too, because you know you will have to change, and you don't want to, but the beauty is that you receive the graces to mend your ways. At the risk of being prideful, there are habitual sins I no longer commit. It is truly amazing how the Lord reforms you. I am so grateful when I hear the words, "I absolve you..." There is no question that I've been forgiven and it brings so much healing. This is the primary purpose of the Church--to lead people heavenward.  

O Magnum Mysterium (Victoria)
This quote by George Orwell stuck with me: When you live in a time of deceit, telling the truth becomes revolutionary. Right now, I see so much confusion amongst the young about who they are and why they are here, it is painful. I want so very much to enfold them and let them know they are a beloved child of God, but if they've never known real love, they settle for the counterfeit. And so I pray to have the right words to share and the right way to love.

I also made my consecration to Divine Mercy. Holy smokes!!! I can't tell you how powerful it's been. If the Monfort consecration to Jesus through Mary was about Mary leading us to Christ, then the Divine Mercy is about drinking from the font of that love and mercy that poured out when the Sacred Heart of our dear Lord Jesus was pierced. I have received so many graces during this preparation and have shed many tears as well because no quantum leap in spirituality is without cost. I thank all the wonderful students at Ave Maria who gave me this book--33 Days to Merciful Love--as a token of their appreciation for our hospitality. They chose the perfect gift. They had no idea how much more in love I am with the Little Flower and her Little Way and what a wonderful companion she's been this Advent. And lookie what I found in the thrift store! A little piece of slate to remind me what I must always do--Trust God, for He is good and His mercy endures forever!

Last but not least, I also won this Yoda with a little book of Yoda-isms! And one of Michael's colleague stole Bound from another colleague! I love seeing someone engrossed in a story of mine. Books really do break the time-space barrier...


Friday, December 7, 2018

BOUND sale in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe

In honor of Our Lady, I am offering BOUND at a discounted price: $10.99 for the paperback and $2.99 for the e-book starting from the Feast of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8th) through the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12th), Empress of the Americas!!!

Teachers, if you are local and want to buy multiple copies of Bound for your classroom, you can contact me for an even greater discount. This is as low as I can go for the paperback on Amazon.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: the graphic novel written by Natalie Muglia and illustrated by Sam Estrada is perfect for kids who are reading independently. The story begins with the Cristeros movement of the 1920s in Mexico. Most children do not know how the Catholic faith was suppressed by the government and how the faithful fought to practice their faith. Many were martyred. In this story, Jose's mother tells him the story of the humble Juan Diego and his meeting with the Virgin on Tepeyac Hill and how the Bishop finally believed Juan Diego when he returns with the sign--Castillian roses in his tilma, which still hangs in the Basilica today. Human sacrifice finally came to an end as the people converted to Catholicism. I really loved how easily the story goes back and forth between the 1920s and 1531, how the sacraments and sacramental life are woven into the story, and what a surprise it is at the end to discover who this Jose is! The illustrations are vibrant and the text easy to follow. The end notes are just right too, for the older child. Viva Cristo Rey!!! The publisher, Deo Gratias, also has a coupon code for a sale price.

Books make terrific gifts and you are guaranteed delivery before Christmas if you order now. Happy Feast Days!!!  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Keys and Hemingway's Cats

This Thanksgiving, Michael and the kids took a road trip down to the Keys. They loved it all--the beautiful drive down, petting Hemingway's cats, taking in art and auto shows in Miami, meeting friends. I wish I could be transported there, especially with a cold north wind blowing our way.






Sunday, December 2, 2018



Jules steals the toy from Benny!


Right after I clean the bathroom.

I was alone this Thanksgiving, but not lonely. These two, along with Sunny, were my constant companions. I think I will become one of those crazy cat ladies after Dagny flies the nest. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm already one.