Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Discussion Questions For Olivia and the Little Way

For teachers, book club leaders, Girl Scout leaders, Little Flowers Girls Club leaders, and parents: Did you know that there is a Discussion Guide for Olivia and the Little Way?

It consists of quotes from St. Therese and thought-provoking questions from the book, perfect for one-on-one discussion, small groups, or even large groups.

One will be e-mailed to you free of charge simply by contacting
Guide@littleflowerbook.com. Also, be sure to check out the new Harvey House Publishing Insider for activities for your class/group, FAQs, and more!  

Olivia's Gift now has a discussion guide available as well!

Photo: Elizabeth Rackover, The Oakland Press

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Very Special Places To Purchase Olivia and the Little Way

Don't get me wrong: I love all of the bookstores across the United States, Canada, and Europe who carry Olivia and the Little Way, but there are some that hold a special place in my heart because they have special devotions to the Little Flower.

One is a church near and dear to my heart, The National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, MI, of which I was a member some years back. I was so happy to go there for Mass one day and see my book at its bookstore, nestled in the glass showcase among such wonderful works!

The other is a place I was privileged to visit with my family last summer: The National Shrine of St. Therese in Darien, IL. I blogged about seeing the chair St. Therese sat in while writing The Story of a Soul. They have a very large bookstore, which includes Olivia and the Little Way in its children's section.

So, the next time you find yourself in a place that is devoted to St. Therese, check out its bookstore: You just might find Olivia waiting there for you on the bookshelf! And if they don't have it yet, please ask. I am sure they will order it for you!

If you happen to know of a store with Olivia and the Little Way devoted to St. Therese that I did not list above, please let me know and I will add it to the list! (The Canadian Shrine at Niagara Falls, Ontario perhaps?)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Love/Hate Relationship With Flip-Flops

Today, I get to blog about something completely different. I love to write about all sorts of things, and when you have your own blog, you have the opportunity!

It's flip-flop season.

But isn't it always?

I mean, do flip-flops ever hibernate for the winter? Not really; not even here in Michigan. I see them all year 'round. I think people just pine for warm weather and flip-flops make them feel better mentally. As long as they're in their toasty family rooms, they can pretend they're on a tropical island in the middle of a winter storm warning.

Flip-flops, with their ugly rubber toe-thingy and flat foamy sole, have been around for a long time, but for the past few years, they've been a fashion staple, it seems. Before, you used to see them only at the beach or the pool. No one would be caught dead wearing them anywhere else. That would just be...ew.

Now, they're flapping up and down at the mall, school, nice restaurants, Target, airplanes, church...even the White House. There's nowhere, it seems, where the mighty flip-flop isn't welcome. Getting married? Get a white pair and dress 'em up. Time for Sunday Mass? Slip 'em on and you're good to go.

I have a love/hate relationship with the flimsy flip-flop.

As a copy editor, I'm against them for the hyphen.

As a mom, I'm against them because when little children play in them outside instead of sturdy tennis shoes, accidents are bound to happen. I am sure the folks who make Band-Aids have seen a rise in sales ever since parents started to allow their children to wear them to the playgrounds, parks and backyards of America. Bike riding in flip-flops? Running on the cement in flip-flops? Bad ideas. Someone's going to crash and burn. Hello, scraped-up toes, elbows, knees, and faces.

After all, Jimmy Buffett blew out his flip-flop...and we all know what happened after that. After stepping on a pop top, he cut his heel and he had to cruise on back home. I am sure his day was ruined. Accidents happen to the best of us.

But there is no doubt that they come in handy when you're heading out to the mailbox, to check on your flowers and pick a tomato, or to hang out on the patio.

Here's the thing: In my opinion, flip-flops are the bottom of the barrel, if you will, of the shoe industry. If you put on a pair of flip-flops to head out somewhere other than the beach, the pool, or the mailbox, you're telling the world, "I give up. I just don't have the energy to care what's on my feet. This is the best I can offer you."

And can I just say that the slap-slap-slap of a flip-flop is really annoying, especially on your way up to the altar to receive the Eucharist in church? There's a lack of respect there, when you don a pair of flip-flops to go to Holy Mass. Surely we can do better than to wear flip-flops to the house of God.

Ah, but the temptation of the flip-flop! At Old Navy, a rainbow of flip-flops awaits you on the back wall. Shoes in every hue of the rainbow, it seems, beckoning you, 2 for $5!

You inch closer, mesmerized by the array of colors. You start rationalizing a large purchase and do the calculating in your head: At this price, you could have shoes to match every outfit in your closet! Neon orange, bright yellow, purple...Then you realize that these are colors that have no business being on your feet, no matter what the shoe is. And that the last time you wore anything bright orange was in the 1980s. (In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I had a bright orange pair of overalls during that dicey decade. Ahem. Now stop laughing; it was the style, remember?)

Ah, but is the flip-flop really a shoe? Or is it just one step above going around barefoot? I do think our feet deserve better. Ask any podiatrist: There is no arch support in a flat flip-flop. (Say that five times fast).

A few weeks ago, I started experiencing heel pain. My podiatrist told me that walking barefoot around the house was now out of the question. I would have worn my slippers, but they don't have any support, nor can I find any in the stores that do. Or if they do, they are made for the dead of winter in an unheated mountain cabin in Alberta.

One day, I ran across a pair of nicely cushioned flip-flops in a department store. I picked one up and was surprised to find that the heel was very cushy. These would make perfect "slippers" to wear around the house until my heels got better.

I was devastated, but foot pain makes you desparate.

"I have to buy these ugly things," I said dejectedly to my friend Michele. She smiled.

"You don't like them?"

"Do you?" I asked.

She was too polite to answer.

I looked down at their athletic style, black color, and athletic-shoe logo on the top.

"No, they're hideous. I'll never wear them in public," I vowed.

Oh, but they are comfortable. For around the house, mind you. And the pool. And to water the roses and geraniums.


Oh flip-flop, I love and hate you at the same time!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On Father's Day—The Father Of St. Therese

Therese, about age 15, with her father, Bl. Louis Martin

Therese was very close to her father, Louis. They went fishing together, on long walks and picnics, and played games. He used to push her in her swing, and she'd yell, "Higher! Higher!" After her mother died, he took such good care of her and her older sisters. Louis used to call Therese his "Little Queen." Now, both of Therese's parents, Zelie and Louis Martin, are declared Blessed.

For the Privilege of Fatherhood

Men undertake many projects—some very
temporary, others long-lived. All projects will end
sometime, from the smallest home repair to the
largest business enterprise. But not a child.
A child is forever. Helping create and develop a
new human life is the most—to use an overworked word—
truly awesome thing I will ever do.
The roles of "husband" and "father" are the most
important roles I will ever be called to fill.
God, help me understand—with humility and gratitude—
the significance and importance of these roles.
Help me remember this when my children are
making me proud or saying, "I love you, Dad,"
and also when being their father is challenging
and difficult.
Above all, thank You for allowing me the privilege
of being a father.

Celebrate Fathers, Prayers and Reflections on Fatherhood, Ligouri

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Little Therese At Processions

"I especially liked processions of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy to strew flowers in front of the good God. But before letting them fall to the ground, I threw them as high as I could, and I was never so happy as when I saw one of my rose petals touch the sacred monstrance."
—St. Therese

Sunday, June 6, 2010

On The Feast Of Corpus Christi

Today, on the glorious feast of Corpus Christi, my family and I were privileged to attend Holy Mass at a church that, a few years ago, started an annual tradition of a Corpus Christi processional: St. Mary of the Annunciation in Rockwood, Michigan. The day started out rainy and cool. Would the procession have to be cancelled? I sent up a quick prayer to St. Therese, who used to love walking in the annual procession as a young girl. I knew she'd understand.

Lo and behold, as we began the processional, the clouds cleared a bit and a ray of sunshine came through!

People watched from their homes as the Eucharist passed by in their streets. The procession stopped at three temporary altars erected in the blocks surrounding the church.

The beautiful statue of Our Lady was reverently carried through the neighborhood. What struck me was how utterly quiet it was. No one was mowing the lawn, edging the driveway, or making any noise. The only sound was the people singing "Immaculate Mary" and reciting "Hail Holy Queen" and other prayers. It was a peaceful and lovely display of our Catholic faith in the Real Presence of the Eucharist.

Afterwards, Benediction was held in the church. Father Jim Rafferty is an exemplary priest whose reverence for the Eucharist is an inspiration for all of us in the Detroit area.

I snapped this shot of an altar boy extinguishing the candles after Benediction.

I am sure Our Lady was pleased today!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thank You, God, For Spring!

For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come, and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.

—Song of Songs, 2:11-13

Andrea Bocelli Tells A True Story

I was so moved by this video...let us always remember that life is the only choice. We are all valued and loved by God.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review From Catholicfiction.net

Olivia and the Little Way by Nancy Carabio Belanger

May 13, 2010 by Ellen Gable Hrkach
Filed under Children, New Fiction

published by Harvey House Publishing

reviewed by Ellen Gable Hrkach

Olivia and the Little Way is a delightful children’s novel about Olivia Thomas, a ten year old who moves with her family from Texas to Michigan. She is nervous about going to a new school so her grandmother (with whom she has a close relationship) gives her a St. Thérèse chaplet and tells her about ‘The Little Way,’ that St. Thérèse believed that “you can show your love for God by doing little things for Him with great love.”

Olivia loses the chaplet almost as soon as she receives it, however, and is frustrated when she is unable to bring it with her on the first day of her new school. She meets many new acquaintances at St. Michael’s School: Mrs. Wells, her new teacher, Sr. Anne Marie, the principal, and two unique sets of friends, the popular girls, Sabrina and Hayley; and the unpopular kids, Jenna and Chad. In an effort to be accepted and well-liked at her new school, Olivia makes some poor choices, then regrets her actions. She prays that she finds her chaplet, then she makes a renewed effort to “do little things for God.”

As each day goes by, Olivia learns how to love others through the Little Way: by not telling on a classmate when a note is passed to her and she is caught reading it; by using the only dollar she has to pay for another classmate’s lunch and, therefore, sacrificing her own favorite lunch of tacos; by doing chores without being asked and many other examples. Later in the story, however, she finds herself being encouraged to do something she knows is wrong. She gives in to temptation, and then she must deal with the consequences. Olivia is frustrated and admits that the Little Way is not always easy. Her grandmother tells her, “You cannot expect to follow the Little Way without some hardship along the way. It is a work in progress. Do not get discouraged…God does not expect perfection; He only wants you to try your best every day.” This is wonderful advice, not only for Olivia, but for all of us.

St. Thérèse has been one of my favorite saints since I visited Lisieux as a teenager many years ago, so I especially enjoyed this novel and the St. Thérèse quotes at the beginning of each chapter. In this well-written and engaging novel, author Nancy Carabio Belanger illustrates St. Thérèse’s Little Way in a delightful and unique approach without being preachy or dogmatic. I highly recommend this wonderful book not only for children, but for anyone interested in following the Little Way.

—Ellen Gable Hrkach

Idylis Press

"As part of its mission to promote Catholic fiction in all its forms and introduce it to as wide a readership as possible, Idylls Press has set up this website to post news and reviews of Catholic fiction—novels, short story collections, and literary biography and criticism. We look at fiction in every genre, both classic and contemporary. We also occasionally review (from a Catholic’s point of view) novels which can in no way be considered Catholic, yet which deal with themes of interest to Catholics."


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Broken Coffee Pot And A Reminder

I broke the glass carafe on my coffee pot this morning; it's the second time this year that I've broken one.

Sigh. I really liked that coffee maker.

It reminds me of the time St. Therese, while she was in the convent, had a favorite water pitcher in her room. The cloistered Carmelite nuns didn't have much: a simple bed, crucifix, Bible, and a rosary. Each sister also had her own pitcher as well. She really liked the one she had. It was a simple, little luxury to her. One day, she came back to her room and found another water pitcher there. This one was older and cracked. She was disappointed, but, true to her Little Way, said nothing and tried to get over it.

Angrily, I looked down at my cracked glass carafe. No way of saving it, obviously, so it went into the trash. Buying a replacement carafe is just about as expensive as buying a brand-new coffee maker, which I never understood.

Well, there is no use getting attached to things, is there? As St. Therese wrote, "Oh, how well I know that happiness is not found in the things around us. It is found in the secrecy of the soul." This, of course, is where God resides.

I remember the time one of my boys was a toddler and accidentally broke a little knick-knack at my husband's grandma's house. I was embarrassed and felt terrible. I wanted to replace the item, but his grandma immediately said to me: "Nancy, it's okay, really. People are more important than things." She was following the Little Way, caring more about others' feelings than her own. I have never forgotten that.

I stood there inspecting the broken glass. The boys looked a little concerned at MY concerned face; after all, what's a writer to do without her coffee? But I looked at my sons and said, "Well, here's today's blog!" They know I am always looking for ideas for my blog...and for new coffee pots.

God has such a sense of humor!
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