Monday, December 24, 2012

A Blessed Christmas To You And Yours!

“That seemingly trivial incident which was so commonplace that the innkeeper refused a room to His Blessed Mother was the revolution that upset the world and the solution which gave it peace. Driven even off the face of the earth He came to save, His Mother sought refuge in a shepherd’s cave, and there under the floor of the world was born Him who like Samson shook the pillars of the world to its very foundations, pulled down the already crumbling edifice, and built a new Living Temple in its place, where men might once more sing because they had found their God.”
—Archbishop Fulton Sheen (The Prodigal World)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Catholic Book Publisher Spotlight: Bezalel Books

Dear readers:
Did you know that some of the Catholic publishers, authors, and bloggers making the biggest difference and providing the most valuable reading material are the ones you don't hear about very often? It's true. They're the ones who forge ahead day by day, working for God in humility, behind the scenes, and away from the spotlight.  Imagine that! Nothing showy or attention- grabbing about these Catholics, to be sure.  So very refreshing! 

I am privileged to know many people like this in the Catholic publishing world, and I would like to spotlight these publishers here on my blog throughout the coming months so you can get to know these deeply religious people who are true to their faith and their calling to do the Lord's work...all content to be quietly working in the shadow of God.

Today we meet Cheryl Dickow, author and president at Bezalel Books, a Catholic publisher with a passion for filling Catholic bookshelves, including Catholic classrooms, with quality books. Known for the popular All Things Girl series, as well as The Green Coat (a favorite of mine, blogged about here) a classroom favorite by Rosemary McDunn, Bezalel Books is led by a humble woman who does her work for the glory of God.

Dickow feels blessed to work with fine authors at Bezalel Books, a Catholic publisher and bookstore, which also offers author services (click here for more information) and provides opportunities for authors to publish works for which they feel passionate about—works that provide illumination to others, whether fiction or non-fiction. Books that carry the Bezalel name reflect the teachings and values of Christ and are inspirational in nature.Dickow says that since her authors have not pursued their publications out of vanity, she believes that their success is measured on a different scale.  

"They humbly ask themselves if they were obedient, if they used the gifts God has given them in the way He has asked them," she says.

Among the many offerings of Bezalel Books is the popular The Rosary Workout  by fitness expert Peggy Bowes (I reviewed the book here), which  gained popularity when Bowes appeared on EWTN's The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. Bowes, who has a devotion to Blessed Mother, captivates readers with her honest and helpful approach to fitness for Catholic women by combining a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and the Rosary.

Dickow, herself an accomplished teacher and author, has written, among other books, Our Jewish Roots and  Mary: A Study of Papal Encyclicals on Mary. Her fiction book, Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, is a fascinating novel about a woman's midlife flight to the Holy Land as she questions her marriage and her life, learning about the matriarchs of our faith like Sarah and Rachel, as well as the true nature of agape love on her pilgrimage of a lifetime.

Dickow says the authors at Bezalel Books are men and women who have taken the 'new springtime of evangelization' to heart and have responded. They aren’t in positions of power where their names can open doors; rather, they are the simplest and most humble of people who have prayed and discerned to know God’s call upon their lives. 

"Each and every one of them is a truly gifted writer and has brought to me work that I am proud to publish; work that I have enjoyed reading and can recommend to others with full confidence. Without exception each is a work that entertains, edifies and enlightens and I am honored to give them a platform," she notes.

Dickow feels blessed that her authors are not those whose vanity propels them forward, wanting to see their name in print and their words bound together for profit or for gain. Rather, for them, it is always about serving God and uplifting brothers and sisters in Christ in compelling prose.

"They rightfully believe that this time in our Church isn’t about just a few being called but about all of us being called to step up and serve with our God-given gifts and talents. It is a time for each of us to open a door for another, through whatever means or situation in which God has put us," says Dickow.

Works this year have included incredible titles like He Shall Be Peace by Jennifer Franks and Finding Grace by Laura Pearl. Finding Grace most recently received the prestigious Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. 

Dickow invites everyone to peruse the Bezalel Books bookstore to see many of their other fine titles for adults and children.

When people ask Dickow where she came up with the name "Bezalel" (pronounced Bez-a-lel), she reflects that she wanted the name to have meaning for her company, something that would relay who she was and what she hoped to accomplish as a Catholic publisher. 

"Bezalel is Hebrew and means 'in the shadow of God.' It perfectly reflects my own faith walk and my goals for the company," she says. Dickow's humility is evident to those who know her:  a quiet and deeply spiritual person who is content to do her own work for God in the shadow of God. 

"I hope these authors encourage you to wonder and then respond to the question, 'What is God asking of me right now in this exciting time in our Church?'” she says.

For more information, visit  You and your family may just find your next inspiring Catholic read there!

God Is So In Love With You!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Advent Heart: With Love From Me To You, Jesus

I think we should all have Advent candle hearts from now on.

I have a confession to make.

How very Catholic of me! LOL

But what I am about to say may shock you.  Then again, for those who know me, maybe it won't.

I'm not crafty.

There, I've said it.

Oh, the desire is there. I've got the sequins, the special scissors, the scrapbooking supplies, the card stock. I've got a drawer full of sparkly ribbon, pinking shears, buttons, oodles of thread, miles and miles of yarn, rulers, fake fall foliage, silk roses, and little plastic thingies.

But I can't do it. I'm all thumbs.

"But you're so creative," a friend said. "I don't get it."

Ah yes, in the written word, perhaps. I'll craft a story for you any old time and have a good time doing it.  But put me at a craft table with a glue gun and I get itchy. Give me a keyboard any day of the week.

"It doesn't relax you?"

No. Outside of a fresh box of Crayolas and a coloring book, there is absolutely no relaxation for me in crafting. Why?

Because I stink at crafting.

It took me a long time to realize that it's okay not be crafty. I'm a mom. A conservative mom. A churchy mom. It seems so un-American to not like crafting.  I like crafting stores, however, and I really can't figure out why that is. Maybe it's a glimpse into what I could be...if I had the talent.

Which I clearly don't.

The above attempt at an Advent wreath clearly shows that I can't even stay within the confines of a circle when applying Christmas-themed picks with a hot glue gun.

"Mom, is it a circle?" asked my son. "Because it sort of looks like a heart, you know?"

I peeled the dried glue from my fingers and inspected my creation. An Advent heart. Yes, that is exactly what I had made.

"Well," I said, unplugging the glue gun, "a heart is a perfect shape for an advent candle wreath. What did Baby Jesus bring to the world?"

"Love," answered my son dutifully and with a little smile. He knew what I was up to.

"Well then, a heart symbolizes love, does it not? So we have an Advent heart. It's a new Belanger tradition."

It makes sense, though, doesn't it? I placed it on the kitchen table and we put the candles in.  "This is how it's gonna be," I said, exasperated. "Your mom is just not crafty."

I admitted this very thing to my child.  What kind of a mother am I? Through the years, I had made the homemade Play Dough on the stove, bought the little craft kits at Michael's, created amateurish First Holy Communion scrapbooks for the boys, made a disaster of the kitchen making royal icing for cookies last Christmas (I recently found a drop of dried icing on the wall from when the squeeze bottle exploded.  My boys and I exploded in laughter when that happened. Needless to say, it was pizza for dinner that night. Mom needed a break.)

So don't I get an A for effort here?

But I don't learn; I just keep trying. And that's my downfall. So I tried my hand at sewing.

I know. But hear me out.

I wasn't aiming to be a master seamstress or anything, I just wanted to learn something more than replacing buttons (which, by the way, I do rather well if I do say so myself!). What better way than to take a little easy-going class for beginners at the local sewing machine repair shop?  I signed up as eager as could be. I bought the notions the instructor suggested. I went to the fabric store and picked out a lovely wine-colored piece of fabric. Sewing was going to be my new thing! Our first project was going to be a vest.

A vest! Yes, I needed a nice vest. A tailor-made vest! Except I was no tailor. No matter;  I could pair it with jeans and a turtleneck. Add cute buttons. It would be darling!

Well, it didn't quite turn out that way. The instructor tried to be patient and helpful, but God did not make me a seamstress by any stretch of the imagination. The teacher, finally spent from trying to be so kind with me, took the unfinished vest from me and said quietly, "Here, let me just finish this for you, Nancy."

Whatever happened to teaching a man to fish?  Well, why waste the time, really. I was hopeless.

But I forgot all of that when I found a pair of my son's school pants that were way too long and needed hemming. My husband suggested I take them to a tailor. But I would have none of it. I was certainly capable of hemming pants. I had my son try them on, measured them, and cut the fabric according to the specifications.  I dragged out my little sewing box and the navy blue thread.  It was time for some hemming, baby! I sewed as I watched "The Journey Home" on EWTN.  It was a delightful time. I sipped tea, watched the banter between Marcus Grodi and his guest.  I was hemming. I was crafting. I was doing a great job.

I was quite proud of the pants. The stitches, well, they were a little crooked. But who would be able to tell, all the way down there? Nobody looks at your ankles.  What I forgot to do was have him try on the finished product, though. Well, it was late and I still had to pack lunches.

So this morning when my poor son came downstairs with floods on four inches too short, I wanted to cry. They will make a  good pair of shorts, though.

Lord, why did You make me this way? I wailed.  I can't do anything right! Why can't I do a simple thing like hem a pair of pants or glue flowers onto a circle? Why can't I make pretty sugar cookies at Christmastime, create a beautiful scrapbook of the kids,  or make a cake that isn't lopsided? Why did You make me this way?!

I made you the way I always wanted you to be. You are exactly as I planned you from all eternity and I love you. No, you will never be a Martha Stewart. I already have one of those. Now go finish the book I planted on your heart. Bring me young souls who will embrace the Faith into adulthood. Go and be you.

Thank You, Lord, for the many gifts you have given me, especially the gift of the written word. I promise to use it to honor You, to glorify You, to bring children to You, to the best of my ability. I thank You for making me who I am. This Advent heart is for You, because I love You, too.

Can I just say one more thing, though? I sew a mean button. Strong and sturdy, one that will stay put and work hard for you.

It's the little things.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I've Lost My Taste For Gum

Dear readers:
I'm cheating a little bit today. I'm labeling this blog under Sadly Seen In Stores, but technically...well...this was something I actually saw in the parking lot at Target.  Outside the store, not in the store. Does that count? Oh, you'll humor me, I hope!

And this is an aside:  Have you noticed that now that Thanksgiving is over, people in public look stressed? They grip their steering wheels, wide-eyed, panicked.  How many shopping days 'til Christmas? And God bless 'em, Advent hasn't even started yet! It starts THIS SUNDAY!  Some of the clerks are stressed, shoppers are stressed, drivers are stressed.

Which finally brings me to the Target parking lot. As I was driving away after my visit, I was following a young couple who was headed toward the store, presumably to do a little Christmas shopping. The next thing I knew, the woman turned her head and, without warning, spit out a huge wad of chewing gum in front of my van. I saw the white glob fly and I thought to myself, "That was so incredibly nasty; did she really just do that?" And the white glob had lift; it sailed onto the pavement: her own personal trash can. It was very unladylike, and very disgusting.

I thought of all of the people who would walk onto that piece of gum that she so brazenly spit out, not caring who stepped on it and would drag it onto their car mats and into their homes, only to have to get an ice cube to remove her waste later in the day. I thought of my new boots. Oh, if I had stepped onto her nasty gum with my new boots, there would be trouble! Big trouble!

It was time for the hairy eyeball. I had to do it. At that moment, her very muscular boyfriend happened to turn in my direction. I exhibited the hairy eyeball from the safety of my vehicle, windows up.  This is, of course, the only way I would consider teaching him a lesson, since he was quite a large fellow. And even though he didn't even notice or care about my reaction, I hightailed it out of there, just in case he was stronger than my van, which he just might have been.

And this, after having visited Jesus in the tabernacle at church an hour earlier! What is to be done with me? I am beyond help. Oh St. Therese, I try to be like you, to follow your Little Way, but it's so DIFFICULT!

Now, just because I am no longer a gum chewer does not mean that I don't have sympathy for those of you who do indulge and are in need of a trashcan. I sure wish I could indulge, but alas, the dental work I have in my mouth really doesn't allow for much gum chewing. I suppose I could if I wanted to, but I am really not a good gum chewer anyway. My brother has told me since childhood that I really don't chew gum very well. I snap, I crack, I make all kinds of chomping noises. Other people have told me that I seem to really enjoy my gum. After that, I became pretty self conscious about how I chewed gum. Suddenly it just wasn't fun anymore. And then there is the problem of getting rid of the gum once all of the flavor is gone. Of course, my method of choice has always been the Kleenex/trashcan combo. The woman in the parking lot was steps away from the red Target trashcan, however, she decided that twenty more seconds of chewing that  tasteless gum just could not be borne. The gum had to exit—anywhere—NOW. After witnessing that incident, I have to say I've lost my taste for gum. It was that gross to watch.

This is how some people in our society today view the world around them. Their surroundings are their own personal garbage can. I went to pump gas afterward and couldn't help but notice, as my credit card grew deeper and deeper into the red with each passing gallon, the trash along the cement by my feet. There were wads of dried-up gum, paper, and even a floss pick. Who flosses their teeth while pumping gas? All of the trash was INCHES away from a very large garbage bin.

Are we that lazy that we can't move one inch toward a garbage receptacle? I started to think about the grungy things I'd seen lying around lately: used, balled-up Kleenexes in my pew at church, fast-food cups and wrappers along the road, and other debris.

It's a problem in our society, that's for sure. It's disgusting, inconsiderate, and careless.

And pretty sad, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Children at Eucharistic Adoration

Parents, take your children to Eucharistic Adoration. They will receive many graces from adoring Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It doesn't have to be an entire holy hour; even fifteen minutes to spend with Him in this way teaches children about devotion to the Eucharist, sacrifice, and eternal love. Find out where there is Adoration in your area, and ask your pastor to bring it back to your parish if, sadly and all too often, the devotion is not offered. Helpful websites are and

I promise you that you will not regret introducing your children to Eucharistic Adoration—time spent simply loving God.

"How pleasing to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is the short quarter of an hour that we steal from our occupations, from something of no use, to come and pray to Him, to visit Him, to console Him."

—St. John Vianney

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Do not let your heart become troubled by the sad spectacle of human injustice. Even this has its value in the face of all else. And it is from this that one day you will see the justice of God rising with unfailing triumph."

 -Saint Padre Pio 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My 6:00 a.m. Wakeup Call From St. Therese

Please join me in thinking of the victims of Hurricane Sandy...our thoughts and prayers are with you!

Frequently on this blog I like to mention my little "helloes" from our friend St. Therese. Well, her sense of humor came out in full force this morning. I can just picture her little smile in Heaven as she watched this all unfold.

I went to daily Mass yesterday morning, all the while feeling unsettled and a bit sad...for many reasons. I decided it was time to ask the Little Flower for some help from God. "And this time," I pleaded with her, "can you send something big? A big shower of roses is what I need, Little Therese, if you don't mind. Something very obvious, out of the blue. You know what I mean."

After Mass I had to do some errands and found myself in front of store doors with signs that read, "Open at 9:30." I checked my watch. It was 9:15. Frustrated, I went back to my car in the howling wind and rain and sat there watching the rain hit my windshield. I decided to wait it out in my cold car, rather than come back later in the day. As I sat alone in the silence of my car, I happened to notice that the front of my car was surrounded by pink rosebushes.

Wow, she works quickly, I thought. I was touched. It hadn't even been a half hour since my request.  I thanked St. Therese, but I still felt a little sad. I had asked Therese for something big. A long row of rosebushes certainly qualified as a shower of roses, especially in late October, but at that moment, it wasn't enough.

I told Therese that I was grateful, and I didn't want her to think I was greedy, but I needed something more. Something that would really grab my attention. I apologized for my greed, but I held firm. I need something that will really cause me to take notice, I told her.  A shower of roses that will really hit me over the head!

I went about my day and nothing more happened that would qualify, so I decided to put it out of my mind, knowing that Therese works in her own good time, as commissioned by God and what He wants.

So this morning when I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen at 6:00 a.m., looking forward to a hot pot of coffee to start my day, I wasn't thinking about Therese and her shower of roses. I opened the cupboard where I keep mugs and glasses, and out of the blue, a mug came tumbling down from the shelf. I grabbed it in the nick of time, with a yelp at the shock at something that had almost whacked me in the head. What on earth? This has never happened before. I'm always so careful about putting these things away...

I looked down at the mug I had managed to catch before it had crashed to the floor. In my hands was my St. Therese mug, and the words on it read:

"You okay, Mom?" my son asked.

"Yeah," I said slowly. "I'm just fine."

It appears our little friend St. Therese has a sense of humor, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Olivia's Prayer To St. Therese

One of Olivia's nighttime prayers:

"St. Therese, it's me again. I want to make you happy. I want to make God happy. Your Little Way makes God happy. Maybe it can work for me, too. Please help me follow your Little Way each day. Starting first thing tomorrow, that is what I am going to do. Please guide me so I can do little things with great love. Amen."

—From Olivia and the Little Way

Olivia following the Little Way by leaving an anonymous treat on her principal's desk. Illustration by Sandra Casali LewAllen.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Funny Little Helloes From St. Therese

I would like to thank Anabelle Hazard over at Written By The Finger Of God blog for allowing me to guest post on St. Therese's Feast Day. She has a lovely blog written from a Catholic mother's perspective. Be sure to check it out!

My guest post, "Funny Little Helloes From St. Therese," can be read here:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feast of the Guardian Angels

Oh I know I'm a day late, but I just couldn't resist sharing this insightful quote from the wonderful St. John Bosco in honor of the feast!

"Take courage and pray; your guardian angel will also pray for you, and your prayers will be answered. Pray to your guardian angel. Invoke his aid if you should find yourself in any serious danger of body or soul, and I assure you that he will help and protect you." —St. John Bosco ♥

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Feast of St. Therese!

“My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words, I know it by experience.”  —St. Therese

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Are Your Plans For October 1?

A statue of St. Therese in the pretty rose garden of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, Royal Oak MI. I took this photo on a clear blue October 1, 2010. The entire church and hallways were filled with roses!

October 1, the feast of St. Therese, is always a special day around my house. I always try to do something to show my love for the Little Flower on that day each year.  Usually I pick up a box of chocolate eclairs (her favorite treat) for the family! It's too bad my favorite bakery is closed on Mondays. Maybe this year I'll try my hand at making my own. I have a recipe for them and it looks simple...I hope!

I'm looking forward to chatting with Brian Patrick on the The Son Rise Morning Show with Brian Patrick this Monday morning, the feast of St. Therese! Tune in at 7:15 a.m. E.S.T. We'll be talking about—who else?—our lovely friend in Heaven, St. Therese! After that will be Holy Mass at the beautiful National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, MI to have another chat, this time with the Little Flower herself. I just love October 1! ♥♥♥

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Olivia and the Little Way book giveaway!

St. Therese's feast day is this Monday, October 1! What are your plans? To help celebrate this special day honoring the Little Flower, Harvey House Publishing is having a book giveaway so you can introduce your children to this very special saint!

All you have to do is "like" Harvey House Publishing on Facebook AND share a brief special story about your love for St. Therese in the comments! One winner will be drawn at random and the contest closes at 12:00 a.m. EST on October 1.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Michigan Author Book Signing

Upcoming Events

Faith@Work Book Signing

Join us Saturday, October 20 from 11 am - 2 pm with Michigan authors
 Nancy Carabio Belanger, Michele Bondi Bottesi,and Deb Doherty!

About Our Featured Authors: 
Michele Bondi Bottesi is a mother, publisher and author at Joseph Karl Publishing, psychologist, parishioner of Ss. Cyril & Methodius Church, and producer at Apostolate Films.
She is joyfully pro-life and a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, Catholic Press Association, Catholic Writers Guild, American Author’s Association, and Couple to Couple League.
Her works include: God Moments: Stories That Inspire, Moments to Remember Your Preteen Apostolate, Your Teen Apostolate, Your Personal Apostolate, Our Treasure
Nancy Carabio Belanger founded Harvey House Publishing to celebrate the Catholic faith, the gift of life, and a wholesome childhood. Her books are part of Catholic-school and CCD curricula across the U.S. She is a member of the Catholic Press Association, the Independent Book Publishers Association and the Catholic Writers Guild.
Her works include: Olivia and the Little Way, Olivia’s Gift
Deb Doherty has spent her life helping patients achieve their highest level of function and is also an educator in Physical Therapy.
Being raised Catholic she developed a deep faith in God with the example and encouragement of her parents. She is thrilled with the opportunity to begin sharing her beliefs with others.
Her works include: The Little Angels Take A Big Journey Series: The Story of Josie #1, The Story of Derek #2

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

On the Feast of St. Padre Pio

I created this poster back in 2009 and wanted to share it with you today, on the Feast of the great St. Padre Pio. Be sure to ask for his intercession today!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When A Pet Dies: A Tribute To Sprinkles

We love you, Sprinkie.

My family and I lost a beloved family friend yesterday, our little cat Sprinkles. We miss her dearly and can't believe she had to leave us so suddenly. She was only five years old but developed kidney failure very quickly.

I fell in love with this little kitten the first moment I laid eyes on her at the shelter. She was tiny and fit contentedly in the palm of my husband's hand, feeling safe and warm.  A lady passing by in her car had seen her playing in the road near an alley of a local hotel with two other kittens from her litter. She came back with a cage and some food. Sprinkles was the first kitten to take the bait. My little Sprinkles—always hungry.

She quickly became a loved friend and member of our family, forgetting her simple roots in the alley and developing quite the spoiled, prissy attitude of a pampered cat. She had lots of love to give and gave of it freely. She was not a lap cat, but loved being near us, wherever we were, just sitting and enjoying our family from a cozy position on the floor or in a patch of sunlight.  She made us laugh with her little chirpy "hellos." She let me put my ice-cold feet under her on freezing winter days. She was polite and happy.  She was a comfort and a true friend. She was probably the only cat to have ever made an appearance on Catholic radio: One day I was having a phone interview with a Catholic radio station, and she walked into the room and let out a soft "meow?" I almost started laughing in the middle of the interview but managed to keep my composure.

I prayed for roses from St. Therese, knowing how hard this was going to be. I was with Sprinkles at the end. Her sad yet peaceful eyes looked into mine and we said goodbye.  "Thank you for adopting me. I loved you so," she seemed to say.  I made the Sign of the Cross on her brown forehead and kissed her goodbye. As my youngest son Paul said last night through his sadness, "I hope she found a nice, sunny spot in Heaven."

My heart aches because I miss her. I hope to give her a big hug again someday, the kind she pretended to hate but deep down, because of her contented purrs, I know she truly loved.

When I came home after it was over, I stepped out onto my back patio to think and be by myself. I looked down and at my feet was a single yellow rose petal. It was a lovely note of sympathy from another true friend: St. Therese.

Losing a pet is never easy. God gave her to us for such a short time, but we thank Him for the happiness she brought us. God is so good to have given us such a nice friend.

Hug your pets tight tonight.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"Courage," said Don Bosco. "Let us work wholeheartedly for youth. Let us do all we can for God's glory and the welfare of times we may feel tired, exhausted, or overwhelmed by ailments, but we must take heart, because up there we shall rest forever."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"I'm Like a Little Girl at Christmas!"

So yesterday I was talking on the phone to the incredibly talented artist Sandra Casali LewAllen and I could not contain my excitement about the gorgeous new cover she is creating for my third book.

She had been texting me pictures of her incredible design and with each text, I was growing more and more excited...and impatient. I told her I had to see it in person...pronto!

She laughed and told me, "You're terrible! You're just going to have to wait!"

"I can't!" exclaimed. "It looks so beautiful and I have to see the rest. I'm like a little girl at Christmas!"

Sandy giggled but stood her ground.  "Not yet!"

So I must wait patiently and continue to ogle the pictures she did share with me of her amazing cover.

And continue to write my third book. This is not an Olivia book (next one!) but a story with a completely different new character, a boy who is yet unnamed! He has one of those "place-holder" names writers sometimes give characters until they are ready to commit to the actual one. Funny how I never had to do that with Olivia, though!

I'd appreciate your prayers as I jump into this new endeavor!   A.M.D.G.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Can I Call You A Modesty Writer?"

While I enjoy the waning days of summer and rest up for another school year for my children (!), I am revisiting a blog from July 2010—an interview I had with the Catholic Writers Guild.


Maria: Nancy, How did you come to CWG?

Nancy: Hi! I heard about the CWG through Michelle Baier, a member who I had been chatting with via e-mail about Catholic children’s books. She suggested I join the CWG, and I am very grateful to her. I have met so many faith-filled people.

Maria: How did your book, Olivia and the Little Way, come to be? Was it a sudden inspiration or was it in your heart for a long time? Or, maybe both?

Nancy:I wouldn’t say it was sudden inspiration. I’ve always been a writer, but in the field of journalism, never fiction. I started to feel like I wanted to be more creative, and so I originally thought I would try my hand at a Catholic chick-lit style, since I like to be funny. Then one day a few years back, I was in a big bookstore looking for some summer reading for my sons. I was not happy with the majority of what I saw. I felt unsettled as I glanced at a stack of children’s novels I didn’t like as I made my way out the door. It was at that moment, I kid you not, that I heard a very strong voice say, “You could do that.” The emphasis was on the word “you.” I looked around, a little on edge. It was that loud—gentle but insistent. Confused, I brushed it aside. I thought I knew best (can you imagine?), so I continued writing adult fiction. After all, I would never be a children’s writer—or so I thought. But I never forgot hearing that voice. After that, St. Therese came into my life in a very powerful way, and it was out of my love and devotion to her and to God that I wrote this novel. I never would have dreamed that I would write a story about a young girl who becomes best friends with a saint! It just goes to show you that God, in His wisdom, knows what is best for us. Now, I adore writing for kids and feel it is my calling.

Maria: Tell us something about Olivia, is she based on someone in real life?

Nancy: Olivia is sort of a mixture of me as a pre-teen, my friends, and some kids I know, so there’s a lot of realism with this character. She’s a completely normal ten-year-old girl, with faults and all. With the help of her grandmother, she learns about St. Therese of Lisieux and her Little Way of Serving God as she is trying to fit in with the kids in her new Catholic school. There are some bumps along the way, but Olivia keeps persisting.

Maria: Based on your description of the book this is a ‘pre-teen’ book. That’s a tough age to write for, how do you make sure your book is neither too childish, nor too grown up?

Nancy: You have to keep the dialogue fresh, as well as the problems they go through now. But St. Therese keeps praying for me to find ways to make it real. I talk to my kids, who are in that age group, and their friends. My sons read through it and give tips like, “Mom, we would say it this way instead.” I’m always observing kids wherever I go, and I make mental notes of the things they are concerned about and the types of things they say. I’ve been blessed with being able to remember how I felt at that age; it stands out so vividly in my mind how I felt talking to the “cool group” and the things they said to me. I always wondered why that was, and now I know that God did that for a reason.

Maria: The sequel: Olivia’s Gift celebrates “modesty, the gift of life and a wholesome childhood”, and is due out this year. Did you know your first book would have a sequel, or did you feel ‘unfinished’?

Nancy: I had no idea what God had in store for me! I just trusted Him. When I started to write Olivia and the Little Way, I told God it was all up to Him, that I would do whatever He wanted me to do with my writing. And I still feel that way. I just told Him that again the other day, in fact! And He told me that our children are suffering immensely in this culture we live in, and that I should keep writing. I’ve had so many requests from readers and their parents to write more, and I’m happy to do it. In fact, I love to do it. As a writer, it is so fulfilling to try my best to make a difference, so their bookshelves have something genuinely Catholic, fun, and fulfilling on them. When the book won a second-place award from the Catholic Press Association last year, I was thrilled because I knew that meant many more children would now learn how to follow the Little Way of serving God.

Maria: As a ‘modesty’ writer, can I call you that?

Nancy: I’m honored to be called that; thank you!

Maria: How do you keep hopeful? I mean, this world is increasingly unchaste and immodest, how do you stay on task and remain confident that your approach will sell and will be a product publishers will want to support?

Nancy: How do I stay hopeful? I’m doing it for God. I place all my hope and trust in Him. I have saint friends praying for me constantly; St. Therese is a tenacious soul who never gives up on me. I have other Catholic writer friends who encourage me when I’m down. I am blessed to be a part of this CWG community and have access to this group and its prayers and resources.

Maria: Winning the second place from the Catholic Press Association, must have been a confirmation to your call. You also say you get encouragement from parents to keep writing, did you ever expect this kind of reaction?

Nancy: The response to Olivia and the Little Way has been overwhelming. Some days I just shake my head because I am so amazed and touched by the little notes I get from readers. These young kids, writing me to tell me that they are starting to pray to St. Therese, are now mindful of what they do and say, and how they treat others, and learning from Olivia’s experiences.

Maria: How inspiring and exciting! I imagine that drives you to keep going.

Nancy: Yes, how can I not go on? It’s so badly needed now. There is no respect for human life, our Church, and letting children live pure, innocent childhoods in this secular, sexual society. Our kids are bombarded with tempting ways to forget the Truth, and it bothers me immensely. I know how good parents are starving for wholesome reading material for their kids that kids will actually enjoy. I strolled the big bookstores recently, and I was appalled at what I found available to our children: the occult, sex, violence, nasty language, death, disrespect. We can do so much better than this for our kids! My apostolate is to bring back what we have lost. We owe it to them.

Maria: Maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but all writers have their down-days when we doubt what we do. Do you have days like that?

Nancy: Well, it is a huge job; there are some days I am discouraged with what an uphill battle it is as a writer to go up against vampire, mean clique, and sex stories. They sell— and they sell big. Then a news story comes along about parents who think it’s okay for their daughters to dress up like strippers in a dance recital, or let their pre-teen sons wear t-shirts with the Playboy bunny on it, and I’m recharged. A teacher friend of mine told me that a first-grader was on the playground at her school imitating a stripper with a pole. It’s the evil one coming at the most vulnerable in our society, with the help of their misguided parents, who let their young kids have internet access in their bedrooms, drop them off at unchaperoned parties, and take them to inappropriate movies. When I hear things like this, instead of being dejected, the Holy Spirit moves me to write—and fight. It’s at times like that when I can’t wait to get at my keyboard. I’m in full battle mode!

Maria: How was it working with Harvey House Publishing?

Nancy: I work with great people on this team, from start to finish. My illustrator, Sandra Casali LewAllen, has such a knack for capturing exactly what the story requires, in a beautiful and sweet way. My editor, Erin Sims Howarth, is a pleasure to work with. My graphic designer, Roseann Nieman, knows just what my work needs. They are all gifts.

Maria: You also write for How is writing the Olivia series different from writing a column? (Nancy’s column can be found at:

Nancy: They are two different audiences, adult and child, so it’s a bit different. But I have so many adults reading my book, which I love! As a mom, I love to address the parents too, and I’m fortunate I can do that through the column.

Maria: Well, I ask all our writers, so I have to ask you too, what do you do in your free time?

Nancy: I planted two rosebushes in honor of Our Lady and St. Therese, as well as basil, peppers, and tomatoes. I love to tend to them. I also enjoy cooking, volunteering, reading, crossword puzzles, and fun family time with my great husband and two wonderful sons, traveling and exploring new places and churches when we travel, and just being silly together. Talking to fellow Guild member and author Michele Bondi Bottesi on a regular basis over lunch or coffee is a treat, because we build each other up and encourage each other that we are doing this all for God’s kingdom. And then there’s the laundry…

Maria: What are your future writing plans? And what is your advice for those wishing to jump into the pre-teen writing world?

Nancy: I’m going to keep writing for this age group as long as God wants me to. For other authors who feel called to write for this age group, my advice would be that if you are sure God told you to do it, then do it!

Are you a Catholic writer loyal to the Magisterium and looking for a group of like-minded writers determined to assist each other in our publishing goals?

Are you an editor, publisher, or illustrator interested in furthering the development of quality faith-filled writings?

If so, the Catholic Writers Guild may be for you.

The Catholic Writers'Guild (CWG) is a non-profit organization comprised of writers, artists, editors, illustrators, and allies dedicated to building a vibrant Catholic literary and artistic culture. We do this by encouraging Catholic writers to create, publish, perform, and share their work; by reflecting upon core Catholic values (i.e., those in accordance with the teaching of the Magisterium) in art; and by networking within the faith and literary communities. Our organization is loyal to the teaching authority of the Church. Our regular and alumni members are practicing Catholic writers, while institutional members are persons or companies supportive of Catholic writing; institutional members need not to be Catholic, but sympathetic to Catholic practices and morals.

For more information on the Catholic Writers Guild, please visit

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wisdom From A Park Bench

I took an early-morning walk along the gorgeous coastline of Lake Michigan last month. It was sunny, warm, and peaceful. The hordes of beachgoers were still back in their hotel rooms, asleep or eating breakfast. I was in Heaven on that white sand, enjoying the still blue water and some well-deserved "me time."  Praying is easy when you are staring at endless blue water, lighthouses, and have white, powdery sand in between your toes. You manage to see God's beauty everywhere.

But even in the midst of that peaceful time, a few sad and lonely thoughts managed to creep in, threatening to spoil my serenity and make me feel blue.  It was then that God had me happen upon a bench.  Sure, there were many benches along the beach, benches with memorials on them, funny messages about Uncle Bill who loved boating, or Marge, who so loved being "up at the lake" every summer. But this one caught my eye, because it said exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.  And I do believe that God does this for us: He gives us just what we need at any given moment. All we have to do is look around. And have a seat. Thank You, God, for Your many gifts.

Monday, August 6, 2012

This Dad Wishes He Could Do It All Over

I saw the following letter in a Catholic church bulletin here in the Archdiocese of Detroit. I thought I would share it with you because it really speaks to the way so many parents are raising their children today, in homes devoid of God and the Church, where constant recreational activities replace what is really important in life and what is so valuable for our children's souls. As good as these enjoyable activities can be for mind and body (in moderation), I do feel that there are some children who have no time to dream, spend time with family, and think of things outside of themselves and their own wants and desires. This poignant and heartbreaking letter should really make us stop and think about what we parents today are indeed filling our children's days with—and what we aren't.

For the last few years I (Fr. Bugarin) have published an anonymous letter I received from a parishioner during Lent in 2005. Usually I toss anonymous letters right away but this one escaped that fatal ending.

Dear Fr. Bugarin:

I was very moved by your homily on Sunday, February 13, 2005, regarding Hell, Satan, and the response of faithful people to temptation. I am the father of an adult son and daughter, and it pains me to think of the mistakes my wife and I made in raising our children. We thought we had a clever, well-thought-out solution to the dangers and evils of the world, but instead we were victims of our over estimation of our own perceived abilities and power. In so doing we neglected the saving power and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the intercessory power of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Knowing the evils and temptations of our world, my wife and I sought to shield our children through endless activity. Like many other parents, we got our son involved in hockey and our daughter in dance; our goal was to keep our children busy and thus not give them a chance to get in trouble. However, I now realize that in engaging in a futile attempt to shield our children from battle with the devil we were instead merely failing to equip our children for their inevitable battles with Satan. We attempted a human solution to a spiritual problem, and our human limitations and inadequacies resulted in failure. We failed to fill our children with Christ, and instead left a vacuum too easily exploited by Satan.

In focusing our children on endless activity we created selfish, self-centered children. By failing to involve them in Catholic charitable works we taught them to believe they were the centers of their own universes. We replaced rosaries, adoration and bible study with ice time, games and recitals. We missed Sunday Masses for tournaments and catechism for performances, and we rationalized it by asserting that it was ‘for the best.’ How wrong we were.

Today, both of our children have left the Church. Our daughter is living with a man and has had an abortion; our son has experimented with drugs and regards the Church with contempt and cynicism. Our first priority should have been to pass on the faith and to teach trust in the Lord; instead, we relied on our human intellect and put our faith in schemes of this world.

If I could only go back in time I’d make every Sunday Mass as a family, lead my family in a weekly rosary, take my children to pray in front of an abortion clinic, lead them in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and help them volunteer at a soup kitchen. For despite our best efforts and intentions there still were times my children were alone and lonely, tired and weak, hungry and desirous. I failed to anticipate and prepare my children for those inevitable times of temptation, and the devil had been patiently waiting.

Father, please print my letter in the church paper. If it will serve as a warning to at least one family it may help them to avoid the pain and regret my wife and I have experienced.

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