Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Dear readers:


Many of you have received my book, Olivia and the Little Way, under the tree this morning for Christmas! I know this because I have signed lots of books these past few weeks that say "Merry Christmas"!


Welcome to my blog. I hope you visit often and add your comments to my posts. I am so excited for you to begin reading about Olivia's journey to God through St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. My hope is that you learn how very much God loves you and how you can love Him back through St. Therese's Little Way. Please let me know what you think of the book; I am eager to hear your thoughts.


Tonight is a good night to get in your jammies and cuddle up with the book, a mug of hot chocolate, and a Christmas cookie. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Present For A Little Baby Boy

"What God has given me has always pleased me, even the things which appear to me less good and less beautiful than those which others had." —St. Therese

Dear readers:
In these waning days of Advent, it is hard to be patient. My own two children told me the other evening that they just can't wait until Christmas comes. The excitement has been building since before Thanksgiving (which distresses me...too early!) and sometimes it seems like Christmas will never come.

But it will come, and it always does. In these last days of Advent, while we wait these final hours, let's continue to use this time to think about how we long for the arrival of Baby Jesus on Christmas Day, how we anticipate him entering our hearts then, and how grateful we will be when he does come.

Dear God: When Christmas Day comes, and we open our presents, let us remember what St. Therese said so long ago (above). Let us be pleased with and grateful for what You have given us in Your generosity. There will many who will receive more than us this Christmas, and so, so many more who will receive much less. Let us remember this as we think of the real reason for this day. It is Jesus' birthday, not ours. Please help us to remember that the very best present we can give this Little Baby Boy is peace to those around us, and our love and gratitude to You. Amen.

I wish you all a blessed Christmas, dear readers. Let us keep this Little Baby Boy in our hearts always!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An Appealing Idea

"We practice charity much better when we are helping a person who is less appealing to us." —St. Therese

Dear readers: This is my absolute favorite photo of St. Therese. I know, I already used this exact same image of her a couple of posts ago, but I couldn't help it; I just love the friendly little smile on her face! She looks very appealing in this photo because of that smile.

What does the adjective appealing mean? It means something that is attractive or interesting. Something you are drawn to because of how it looks.

What did this great saint mean when she wrote that charity (kindness in judging others, the voluntary giving of help) is better when we help those who aren't, say, very attractive to us? This could mean they aren't physically attractive, like if someone less fortunate than us is not bathed and is dirty.

Or it could mean they aren't spiritually attractive. When Therese was still living at home with her father and sisters, she was very sheltered. Her father did not let his daughters read the newspaper, for fear their minds would be corrupted. See? And you thought your parents were strict! But Therese, ever curious, would steal a glance at it every now and then if it was laid out on the table, with only her older sister Celine knowing her secret. And it was in one of those newspapers that young Therese read about a terrible man named Pranzini, who had committed three gruesome acts of murder. He was to be hung for his crime. Therese was fascinated with this news story because Pranzini did not act sorry at all for his crime. Therese was very saddened by this. She wanted him to be sorry for how he had offended God. So guess what she did? In secret, without anyone knowing, she began to pray for Pranzini, and that he would show some sign of remorse. She prayed very hard for this man.

The day finally came for Pranzini to face his punishment at the guillotine. Walking up to the gallows, he still showed no sign of remorse. Then, at the final moment, when the priest in attendance held out a crucifix, something happened. Pranzini leaned down and kissed the crucifix three times! When Therese read this news in the paper the next day, she was simply ecstatic, for this was her proof that her prayers had worked, that prayer could save sinners. She would later write in her autobiography that this was her first "conversion." She decided then and there to pray for the conversion of sinners.

Pranzini was hated throughout France for what he did. How could Therese have prayed for such a terrible human being, who could commit such a heinous act? I am sure that many people wonder this. He certainly wasn't a very appealing person to pray for, was he? But Therese felt charity enter her soul, and refused to believe that he could not be converted, even at the very last second before his death. Remember that Jesus teaches us to pray for our enemies. This does not mean that Therese felt sorry for Pranzini, approved of what he did, or even liked the man. She absolutely hated what he had done. But do you recall the saying, "God doesn't make junk"? If that saying had been around in Therese's day, I bet she would have ascribed to it. Since every person is created by God, she felt that every person deserved to be prayed for, even the most hated person in the country.

It's a little harder to pray for someone like Pranzini, isn't it, than someone we like? Some people might think, "Yuck, why would I want to pray for him? Look what he's done! I'd rather pray for the victims and their families!" That is all well and good, too, of course. But what Therese is trying to say is that it's harder, and thus takes more effort, to pray for someone as unappealing at Pranzini. And that maybe praying for the least-liked among us is very important, because they may have no one else to pray for them. After all, Jesus ate with sinners when no one else would.
Olivia didn't want to do it, but she knew praying for Hayley and Sabrina was the right thing to do, so she did it. She prayed that they would stop their mean ways. It was a lot harder for Olivia to pray for them, who had been very nasty to her and others, than for her to pray for someone she loved, such as her grandmother.

Praying for our enemies doesn't sound appealing at all, but we know it is the right thing to do. After all, a miracle happened when a young girl from Lisieux prayed for a criminal.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Grace At Christmas

"It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion...I felt charity enter into my soul, the need to forget myself and to please others; since then I've been happy!" —St. Therese, who is pictured at right at age thirteen

Dear readers:

When Therese was fourteen years old, something miraculous happened to her during the wee hours of Christmas morning. She had just returned from Midnight Mass with her father and her older sister Celine. In France on Christmas Eve, the tradition holds that children leave their shoes out and their parents put little gifts inside. At fourteen, Therese was a bit old for this, since most children had outgrown the custom by that age. But Therese was babied by her family, being the youngest.

As happy little Therese hurried upstairs to take off her hat in anticipation of searching her shoes, she overheard her tired father say quietly to himself, "Thank goodness that's the last time we shall have this kind of thing!" Therese stopped what she was doing and did not say anything, but Celine knew her little sister's feelings had been hurt and she was fully expecting Therese to burst into tears over what their father had said.

But surprisingly, the tears did not come. She later wrote in her autobiography that, in that moment, Jesus came into her heart and did for her what she could not have done on her own: He had made her think of her father's feelings over her own. So, forcing back tears, she went into the parlor and pretended she hadn't heard a thing, and acted excited over the gifts in her shoes. She would later write that this Christmas was her "conversion." The oversensitive Therese existed no more; she was given by Jesus the miraculous opportunity and grace to think of her father's feelings. She didn't want him to know she had overheard him, because he was such a loving father that he would never have hurt her feelings on purpose. God's grace at that moment gave her the maturity to swallow the hurt and try to please her father.

Remember when Olivia went with her friends to the apple orchard? Her father unintentionally embarrassed her by mentioning, in front of the friends she was trying so hard to impress, that they'd be doing a lot of baking together in the days to come with all of the apples they'd be picking. Olivia said nothing, and she didn't try to act like what her father said was untrue, even though she worried that her new friends wouldn't think it was "cool".

There were many times in the book when Olivia tried to think of others' feelings before her own. Can you think of a time in your life when you did as Therese did, and thought of others' feelings first?




Monday, December 8, 2008

Just An Ordinary Day?


"In my Little Way there are only very ordinary things."—St. Therese



Dear readers:

The Little Way.  

Much has been written about it over the century since Therese has gone to be with God.  Many books have been written, describing the spiritual childhood of this Way of living, of embracing suffering to grow closer to Jesus, of sacrificing one's desires, of praying for sinners. The little Carmelite nun who never really went anywhere, who prayed for missionaries in her cloistered cell, loved our Blessed Mother, and adored flowers and a fun, innocent prank or two was declared a Doctor of the Church for her teachings. And her parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, were recently beatified in Rome, which means they are on their way to sainthood.

All of this fanfare for a simple young woman who only wrote her life's story because her older sister Pauline (and prioress of the convent) asked her to.  Therese was such a good storyteller and Pauline knew the joys and sorrows of Therese's life should be recorded.  (Terribly ill with tuberculosis, Therese penned her story, and when it got too painful to use pen and ink, had to use a  pencil instead.)

Therese said that only ordinary things make up her Little Way. Praying for someone who has hurt us. Not always having the last word.  Holding the door open for someone even when we're in a hurry.  A smile for someone who could use it.  Ordinary things, but very pleasing to God.   We think Therese  is quite extraordinary, but she would never agree to that.  She once said, "I am too weak to climb the rough stairway of perfection."  She thought of Jesus as the elevator that would take her to Heaven.

Olivia tries to follow the "ordinary" Little Way by doing small things with great love.  What can you do in the grind of everyday life to follow it, too?  

What ordinary things can you do to please God? Make today an ordinary day! 

 


Friday, December 5, 2008

Questions And Answers


"Jesus, I want to tell all little souls of the wonder of your love."
—St. Therese of Lisieux

Dear readers:
Many of you have been asking me how I came up with the idea for Olivia and the Little Way. I thought I would answer some of your questions here.

How did you start to love St. Therese?
I strongly believe that, by the time I felt an attraction to St. Therese, she'd already been praying for me for a while. I felt drawn to see the movie "Therese" when it came out. I left the theater with a strong sense of her presence. I knew at that moment that I had found someone special to me, a spiritual sister. I've always wanted a sister!

How did she help you write this book?
The one thing I've noticed about the Little Flower is that when she wants something done, she makes it happen! She is very powerful. I've always been a writer, but never fiction, mostly newspaper writing. I very shocked when I began to feel nudges from Heaven encouraging me to write a fiction book for children about a girl who tries to make friends in her new school and ends up becoming best friends with a saint. But I knew, deep down, that this was what God wanted me to do, so one day I sat down at the computer and began to type. The next thing I knew, I had one chapter, then two, then three...and before I knew it, I had a book! It took some time and patience and hard work. It didn't happen overnight, but I had a lot of help from St. Therese!

She interceded for me in so many ways as I wrote this book. The whole time I was writing it, I felt her working through my fingers at the keyboard, giving me ideas and direction with the storyline. My illustrator, Sandy Casali LewAllen, felt the exact same way as she sketched. We felt Therese's and God's blessing on the project the entire time.

Why is the Little Flower such a good role model for kids?
Therese believed in being childlike. Her very littleness is something kids can relate to: a little flower at God's feet. St. Therese is very approachable, very sweet and small, yet very tough in many ways, too. Kids are so bombarded with unhealthy messages from the media, and I'm sure you've seen them all: be cool, be pretty, be sassy, disobey your parents, ignore God's laws. These are not healthy messages. Therese is such a good, moral example for kids to follow. She will listen to you and love you and take your concerns to God. My favorite quote of hers, is probably the most beautiful thing ever written, in my opinion: "...You will only have to tell me (them) in a whisper, and I shall hear you, and I shall carry your messages faithfully to the Lord...and I shall be near you, holding your hand." Therese will send you a shower of roses if you ask her.

What do you want preteens to take from Olivia and the Little Way?
I would love for preteens to be entertained by the story of a fifth-grade girl who tries to follow the Little Way, of course, but mostly I would love for them to feel God calling them to a greater love for Him. Therese taught us that God loves us all, even with our many imperfections. God wants kids to talk to Him, to take their worries and concerns, joys and sorrows to Him. And making little sacrifices like Therese did, to show her love of God through her Little Way, is something anybody can do, young or old: A smile for someone you don't want to smile at, a helping hand when you're just not in the mood. These little sacrifices please God very much. It's the effort that counts. Don't worry if you fail; God doesn't expect you to be perfect when you do them. But in my opinion, I think He would love giving an "A" for effort!

St. Therese said that she wants to tell all little souls of the wonder of God's love. Through this book, my prayer is that I do the very same thing! May the Little Way guide you always.








Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Therese And Her Blue Hat

Dear readers:
The painting above is called "Young Woman in a Blue Hat" by Pierre Bonnard. It was done in 1908. Doesn't the lady look pretty in her blue hat? Guess who else had a blue hat that she simply adored? Yes, our dear St. Therese, when she was a child. In fact, she thought it was quite ravishing!

Therese loved that hat so much that she was worried. As Patrick Ahern wrote in his book, Maurice and Therese, "She wondered how she could love God so deeply and at the same time love that hat so much."

Makes you giggle, doesn't it? It made me smile to read that St. Therese, who was so spiritual and holy even as a young child, had a weakness for material things, just like you or me. But after all, Therese was a normal little girl in many ways. She had a cocker spaniel named Tom who she loved to take on long walks. She played checkers and ate jam sandwiches.

She even had temper tantrums. One time, Therese wanted something on a high shelf and politely asked the maid Victoire to get it for her. When Victoire refused, Therese yelled, "Victoire, you are a brat!" and ran out of the room. Victoire was not pleased, and ran about the house crying that Mademoiselle Therese had just called her a brat!

Have you ever done anything like this? Hmmm....maybe we'd better not go there! But that's okay; I'm sure you were eventually very sorry for it, like Therese was. She used to cry very hard when she had acted badly, and then cried even harder because she was crying in the first place! She was very sensitive as a child.

Therese knew she had flaws. But she also knew that God loved her in spite of them. So even though she worried that she loved her pretty blue hat too much, I believe that deep down, she knew she couldn't possibly love that hat more than God! And I think she knew that God doesn't fault us for liking material things. It's natural and normal to enjoy the things we have, and to be grateful for them. I have things I treasure. Does that mean I treasure them more than I do God, or my family? Of course not. As long as we keep things in perspective, and don't love material things MORE than we do God, it's okay to love the things we have.

And I bet Therese looked quite lovely in her pretty blue hat, don't you?







Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nudges From Heaven



Me and Sandra-- we love to sign books!


Dear readers:
Writing a book takes a lot of time and a lot of people to make it work. The author isn't the only one creating the story; illustrators have a big job creating, too. They read the story before it is published and get to create the characters and setting and make it come to life on the page. Sandra Casali LewAllen sketched all of the pictures for Olivia and the Little Way. Everyone thinks she did a fantastic job! When she asked me what Olivia should look like, I told her my only request was that she be a normal-looking girl with long, brown hair. I didn't want her to be so beautiful that she looked like she belonged in a glossy magazine, like she wasn't real. I wanted her to look like a regular girl, someone everyone could relate to. Mrs. LewAllen decided to model Olivia after her daughter, Sarah. Lots of people say that the resemblance is incredible; sometimes kids at school think Olivia is walking down the hallway!

Sketching the illustrations and drawing the cover of the book took a lot of Mrs. LewAllen's time. She used her talent to help spread the message of St. Therese to kids like you, so you would be inspired by St. Therese's Little Way through her lovely pictures.

You know how authors can sometimes get writer's block? Illustrators can get it, too, and it isn't easy! When I was sharing some of my writer's block moments with Mrs. LewAllen, she told me that, once or twice, she had some of her own, too. I told her that St. Therese had helped me through mine by giving me ideas and inspiration when I needed it. Mrs. LewAllen laughed and said that the Little Flower had assisted her, too! I thought that was very special, and it further motivated us to do our very best work on this book. It was wonderful and such an honor that both of us felt her nudging us and directing us during the project. We are so happy you are enjoying Olivia and St. Therese through the writing and the illustrations of this book!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In Thanksgiving

Me with reader Elizabeth
at a recent book signing


Dear readers:
I am so thankful to all of you for reading Olivia and the Little Way and letting me know your reactions to the book. Thank you for telling me how much you are enjoying it; this means so much to me. I had to smile when Elizabeth, a cute and spunky fourth-grader, told me, "I loved reading about how Olivia tries to be cool like the other kids and how it doesn't feel right to her. St. Therese sort of guides her that it's wrong."

Thank you, Elizabeth! I am thrilled that you love Olivia as much as I do! Readers, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and grateful hearts for God's many blessings...one of them being our dear St. Therese!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My "Gal Pal" Therese And The Beauty Of Friendship


Dear readers: A good friend of mine once referred to the Little Flower as my "gal pal." I had to laugh when she said it. It sounded cute. But I think of that often, because I like to think we are, indeed, gal pals. Good friends. Good girlfriends.

Another friend of mine said almost the same thing recently: She mentioned that I am a friend to St. Therese. That really got me thinking: could I be a friend to her, just as she is to me? The thought had wonderful appeal. It is so nice to think that I can be a friend to her, too. That it's not just a one-way street, me asking for favors from Therese.

Think about your friends. What if the only basis to your friendships was that you asked them for favors and they gave them to you? And you did nothing for them in return? Would that be a true friendship?

I think a friendship, even with a saint, should work both ways. I got to thinking: what could I possibly do for a saint in Heaven? Little old me here on Earth, a mere human? Maybe my friend thought that, perhaps with the writing of Olivia and the Little Way, I am a friend to St. Therese. I am spreading the word about her and her Little Way of serving God to hundreds of children, hopefully thousands.

But you certainly don't have to write a book to be a friend to Therese. By simply trying your best to follow her Little Way each day, you are showing your love for her and for Jesus.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Just Never Know

Therese, center, in the convent laundry

Dear readers:
Has someone ever done something to you that you didn't like? Of course, it has happened to all of us. And many of us never miss a moment to correct that person of his or her wrongdoing, right? Like the time someone cuts in line ahead of us at the store. We let that person know we were the next in line. Or when someone hurts our feelings, we tell them, don't we?

There is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, especially if it is something big and hurtful. But for the small stuff in life, sometimes it is better to keep silent. Maybe we don't know the real reason the person cut in line, even if it seemed rude. It could very well be that she was late picking up her child from school, or someone at home urgently needed an item she was buying. And perhaps that person who hurt our feelings had no idea he was doing it and is normally kind, or we were feeling oversensitive that day. How many times have we found out some important information later that made us say, "Oh, so that's why he was crabby to me today. If only I had known, I wouldn't have been so hard on him."

Therese knew this, and she knew how much silence could be golden at times. This does not mean that she was a doormat. But maybe, just maybe, denying our self will can do beautiful things for the common good of everyone. Maybe it can make the world a more peaceful place.

Therese had many opportunities to practice denying self will in her short life. For example, while washing handkerchiefs in the laundry at her convent in Lisieux, Therese worked near a sister who would continuously splash her with warm, dirty water. She so badly wanted to draw back and wipe her face, just so this sister would realize how annoyed this made her. But she never did. Imagine how hard this must have been for her! But who knows what this sister had on her mind while this happened. Maybe she was having a really hard day and was upset about something and was not splashing Therese on purpose.

It's something to think about. Sometimes it's best to simply say to yourself, "Oh, just let it go."

You just never know what people are going through.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Little Flower With A Will Of Steel


Dear readers:
One of the things I love so much about St. Therese is that she was very sweet and gentle, but she had a will of steel. When the Carmelite convent refused Therese as a young teenager, she approached the bishop. When he said no, she went over his head as well...in Rome to the pope himself! Therese, who was once so shy, knew what she wanted and went after it with all of her might. And at the young age of fifteen, she entered Carmel, which would never have happened if not for her determination. I love the contrast between a little flower at God's feet and a strong, young woman who had the persistence to follow God's call.

Like Grandma Rosemary told Olivia, there is a resemblance between Olivia and St. Therese. Olivia is shy, too. (Remember her on the first day of school as she stood to face her new classmates?) But being gentle souls like Therese and Olivia does not mean you have to be taken advantage of or stepped on. Olivia eventually finds the courage to stand up for what she believes in and stand up for Chad and Jenna.

You know what else is gentle but powerful too? Prayer. Watch how powerful that can be!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your Own Little Way Miracles


"Yes, I can feel it, when I am charitable, it is Jesus working in me." —St. Therese

Dear readers:
You know what I love? When your moms and dads tell me how much you love not only Olivia, but St. Therese as well. The stories your parents tell me about how they are now seeing your "Little Way" miracles at home and at school are very touching. These little kind acts of love please St. Therese and God very much. Imagine the smile on St. Therese's face as she watches you from Heaven, following her Little Way of serving and loving God.

Keep up the good work!


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being Content


"The only happiness here below is to always be content with what Jesus gives us." —St. Therese

Dear readers:
This insightful quote of the Little Flower is shown leading off Chapter 23. In this chapter, Olivia is not happy with how her life is going. She is not content.

What does it mean to be truly content? The dictionary from my computer defines the word to mean a state of peaceful happiness. I like how that sounds. I think we all, adults and children alike, would love to be in a state of peaceful happiness.

What does the Little Flower mean when she writes that the only thing that should give us joy here on Earth is to be happy with our God-given blessings? Does she mean that we should never be sad or disappointed? Or that we should never wish for things we can't have?

I certainly don't speak for St. Therese or God. I would never aim to do that! But in my opinion, I think what St. Therese means above is that it's perfectly human to want things we don't have. It is perfectly natural to pine for a different house, a different school, a different way of life, a different teacher, or a different set of friends...even different parents from time to time! Wanting things can be a good thing. It can light a fire under someone who wants to learn something new, or be a better person. It's when wanting things that we don't have interferes with our daily lives that it becomes especially troublesome, like it did for Olivia.

Grownups want things they can't have all of the time, too. Some people I know wish they had better jobs or a nicer car. Some wish they had better relationships with their families and God.

When St. Therese said our only happiness is to be content with what Jesus gives us, I believe she means that we should look at our lives in a positive way, being grateful and thankful to God for all that we have. We may live in a smaller house, but at least it's a home. Many people do not have homes. We may not be good at spelling, but perhaps we excel in social studies or math. We may not have many friends, but at least we have one or two good, nice people who we can hang around with. We may not have the same teacher as our other friends do, but at least we can see them at recess and at lunch.

You see, St. Therese was very wise. She knew that it's all in how you look at things in life. If you wake up and are upset about something and tell yourself it's going to be a bad day, then you quite probably will make yourself have a bad day. Of course, there are serious problems in life that cause very real sadness: death and illness, to name a couple. St. Therese was not perfect, but she tried her best each day (even through death in her family and her own very painful illness) to be content. She tried her best to live in a state of peaceful happiness. That didn't mean that she wasn't deeply sad or in pain; on the contrary. But she tried, in spite of these things, to live out her life while looking at the positive side of things, by being grateful for what she did have.

Sometimes it's so very hard to do. I don't do that all of the time. It's so much easier to lapse into a "woe-is-me" attitude. But God has given us so many wonderful gifts. We couldn't possibly thank Him for them all! But following St. Therese's Little Way, which includes being grateful for the great things in our lives, is a big start.

It takes effort and willpower, but it's much nicer and more pleasant to be in a state of peaceful happiness. It makes God happy, and so I'll do what I can do to get there! Will you join me?

"There are some who take such a gloomy view of things they make them much worse. I always look on the bright side." —St. Therese



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Those Pesky Cinnamon Chips


Dear readers:
Some of you have asked me where to find the cinnamon chips that are called for in Jenna's Cinnamon Chip Scone recipe in the back of the book. I am sorry if the cinnamon chips are a bit tricky to find near you. I found some made by Hershey's at a local specialty grocery store. You can go to their website at www.hersheys.com/productlocator/index.asp to find out where they are sold near you. I also found them on internet websites like www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/detail.jsp?id=1604 and www.preparedpantry.com/gourmet-cinnamon-chips.aspx

If you like, you could even add chocolate chips instead, and omit the cinnamon called for in the recipe.

Happy baking, and don't forget to give one or two away!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Little Bit Different

Dear readers:
Did you know that St. Therese had something in common with Chad? She was teased in school, just like him. She went to an all-girls' school in Lisieux and was miserable there. A very smart student, Therese was teased by the girls, who were irritated and jealous that she knew the answers in school and excelled in her studies. But Therese wasn't trying to show off. She couldn't help that she knew the answers.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Therese was a bit of a loner, with few friends. While the other girls would play games during recess time, Therese preferred to be off by herself, exploring nature, and she felt calm and happy doing this. A very sensitive child, Therese would look for dead birds lying about so she could give them a Christian burial. Chad seemed happy enough reading his book alone at recess, but I bet he would have loved it if someone had sat down beside him and showed some interest in it, too. And I think Therese would have enjoyed having a friend to talk to at recess.

Eventually, Therese's father permitted her to continue her studies at home, with one of her older sisters as her tutor. She was much happier learning in this environment, where she felt she could be herself.

Sometimes it's hard to be different, and to have different interests than the rest of the crowd. Can you think of someone in your class like Therese or Chad? Someone who seems to be by him/herself most of the time? I like to think that, if the girls in school had given Therese a chance, they would have discovered that she was a fun-loving, nice person to be around. Maybe someone you know could use a friend. Don't always assume that he or she wants to be alone. This could be the case, but wouldn't it be better to offer that person your company, just in case? The next time you see someone by himself on the playground, walk up and say "Hi." You never know what might happen!


Monday, November 3, 2008

Thanks all around

I would like to express my gratitude for all of you, young and young at heart, who have been so supportive of Olivia and the Little Way. I so love meeting all of you and signing your books. I am especially humbled when you thank me for writing the book. I, in turn, thank you for supporting Catholic children's fiction. We all know that there isn't that much out there for our Catholic youth. Please continue to support quality Catholic fiction whenever you see it in bookstores.

In my mind, it's the difference between feeding children junk food and wholesome food, only for their minds and souls. I am honored that you are bringing Olivia into your homes so that, with the help of sweet Saint Therese, she can feed your children's minds and souls with God's love.

Dear readers: You'll notice many references to recipes and food in the book. I can't help it; I love to cook and I love to eat! I thought I'd share Olivia's recipe for raspberry white chocolate muffins, the ones she left on Sister Anne Marie's desk. These are especially delicious on chilly days when they are warm from the oven. Mmmm...

Recipe makes one dozen muffins. How about leaving one on your principal's desk?

Ingredients:

1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted in the microwave
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh raspberries (frozen may be used, but do not thaw)
1/3 to 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or more to taste!)

Ingredients for topping:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted in microwave
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix milk, butter, and egg in a large bowl. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. (Do not overmix or batter will be tough. Only mix until flour is just moistened). Gently stir in raspberries and white chocolate chips.

Spoon into foil- or paper-lined 12-cup muffin pan. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from pan.

Dip top of each muffin in melted butter, then in sugar.





Friday, May 30, 2008

Catholic fiction for children

Excerpt from Nancy Carabio Belanger's new book

Olivia and the Little Way

Available late October 2008

to learn more and read more excerpts!

Tune in to listen to Nancy talk about her book on "Catholic Connection" with Teresa Tomeo!  Live interview at 9:35 a.m. on Thursday October 23 on EWTN radio stations!



Excerpt:


Soon it was time to wrap up the math lesson and get ready for lunch. What a morning it had been. Olivia slipped her hand inside her uniform skirt pocket and fingered the dollar bill her mother had given her for lunch that day. Tacos, her favorite, were on the menu. That would definitely cheer her up. Her stomach growled and gurgled. She wished Mrs. Wells would finish the math lesson so they could go to lunch. She was eager to forget this morning's incident with the note and start over fresh this afternoon.

Finally, the fifth graders got in line to head to the cafeteria. Hayley and Sabrina headed to their usual spot to sit down while Olivia waited in the long lunch line, starving. She could smell the tacos coming out of the kitchen and her mouth started to water. She clutched her dollar bill and waited as patiently as she could. She glanced at all of the yummy-looking food on the lunch counter. Lunch ladies were handing out plates of crispy hot tacos, bags of chips, granola bars, and apple juice to the children who handed them their change.

She glanced at the wall next to the cash register where there were paper decorations of pumpkins and candy corn. A large posterboard hung beside them. She had never noticed it before, but then again, she didn't stand in the lunch line very often because her mother usually packed her a lunch. The poster listed names of kids who owed the lunch ladies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Olivia had never had a school PB & J before. It was mostly for kids who forgot their lunches at home. They were supposed to pay the lunch ladies when they could, and then their names would be crossed off the list. Most of the names she didn't recognize, except one that stood out: Chad O' Toole.

Suddenly, Olivia felt that familiar feeling she was beginning to know all too well:  the voice of St. Therese.

Pay for Chad's sandwich.  It is in giving that you shall receive.

Olivia bit her lip. The sign said that school sandwiches were 75 cents. If she paid for Chad's sandwich, that would mean she'd only have a quarter left for her own lunch today. And a quarter could only buy...She studied the items on the counter.

A bag of pretzels was a quarter. A krispy rice treat was a quarter. That wouldn't be very nutritious, though. Her mother certainly would not approve of that. A banana or an apple was a quarter. She could have a PB & J herself and pay tomorrow, but she was allergic to peanuts, so that wouldn't do. And a jelly sandwich didn't sound appetizing. What she really wanted were tacos. A girl in front of Olivia paid for her taco lunch and left the line. They smelled so good! Her stomach growled again. Surely there would be no reason to—

"Yes, Honey?" asked the lunch lady, somewhat impatiently. Olivia's turn was up.

"What can I get you?"

"I...uh..." Why was this so hard today, to follow the Little Way?

"Sweetie, we don't have much time and the line's long. What can I get you?" the lunch lady repeated.

"Um...This is for Chad O' Toole's peanut butter and jelly sandwich." She held out her dollar. "And for a quarter I'd like a banana, please."

"Sure, " the lunch lady said as she grabbed a banana out of the bowl for her and took her dollar. "Is that all you want?"

"Yes, ma'am," Olivia answered softly.

The lunch lady studied Olivia's face. "Is the rest of your lunch at the table?"

"Yes, ma'am," she said.  After all, she got a carton of milk every day and her mother had prepaid for that.  Milk and a banana was a nutritious lunch, even if it was small.

As Olivia walked away toward the milk bin, she saw the lunch lady take a big black marker and cross Chad's name off of the sandwich list.   A warm feeling grew inside of her.

"Is that all you're eating?" Hayley eyed her banana and shoved a handful of cheese curls into her mouth as Olivia sat down.

"Yeah, I'm not all that hungry today," Olivia said as she unpeeled her banana. And, strangely enough, she really wasn't anymore.

Copyright 2008 by Nancy Carabio Belanger
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