Tuesday, December 24, 2013

+++A Blessed Christmas To You And Yours! +++


Thank you for all of your support and friendship throughout the year, dear readers! I look forward to sharing it with you in 2014! May you all rejoice in the birth of God's Son!

Love and prayers,
Nancy Carabio Belanger



Friday, December 6, 2013

Catholic Fiction For Kids: So Few Choices!



So many choices! How to choose?


Yesterday we received a package in our mailbox. A very yummy package! The outside of it was labeled "perishable." I wracked my brains: I hadn't ordered anything perishable lately. When we opened it up we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was an early Christmas present from my husband's colleague to our family: a box of assorted chocolates. I grinned. It is the type of thing you never buy for yourself, on your own. Why this is, I don't really know. To receive a box of assorted chocolates is always a special treat.

Of course, I dove right in.  But so many choices! How to choose? Luckily, the box has a handy map printed on the inside cover. Because they all look so similar and you never know what's inside each chocolate, it's quite helpful to have a very specific map to what delightful treats are inside. It actually makes me smile to see an actual map there. I studied all of the types of chocolates on the map: almond cluster, caramel, chocolate butter cream, strawberry cream, peanut butter crunch (those are all gone, by the way). Oh yes, and maple cream. Gone, too.  I love anything maple...must be my close proximity to Canada. It's so great to have an array of lovely things, isn't it? So great to pick and choose from the map of chocolates. So wonderful to be able have choices.

Excuse me while a I pop a cashew cluster in my mouth before continuing on to tell you what really bothers me about being Catholic, and a Catholic mom and writer especially. See, in the children's book world, our children don't have many choices. In fact, hardly any Catholic fiction books at all from which to choose. Go ahead and try it: Go to any Catholic bookstore (or any secular bookstore, for that matter!) and see what you find on the shelves for anyone over the age of seven. That's Catholic. Oh, and make sure it's fiction.

I'll chew on a coconut cream while you do this.

Find anything? Not much there, is there?

But you're moms and dads. You know this already. You've tried in vain to find suitable books for your children, books that are not only wholesome (because those aren't THAT hard to find, especially if you go back a few decades), but are Catholic. And not only Catholic, but passionately Catholic. Not watered-down Catholic, but really and truly Catholic. And written for modern children.

The Protestant publishers know what they are doing, fellow parents. Walk into any of the Christian bookstores you see at the mall and you'll find large sections, with many genres on the shelves for youths, all with Christian themes. Entire series of books! Modern books for modern readers with modern Christian stories.

What do we have on our Catholic shelves? A board book for toddlers to take to Mass. A coloring book about saints. Some teen apologetics books with Q and As. Teen Bibles. Nonfiction stories about saints' lives.  Don't get me wrong; these are all GREAT kinds of books.  We NEED these types of books. We should all have these books for our kids! My husband and I have bought many of them for our kids.  But there's a whole gap in there from about age seven through age thirteen where there is pathetically little. And fiction? Forget it. Pre-teens have, sadly, little to read in terms of Catholic books. Why have we forgotten them? Why have we abandoned them? In the meantime, our Protestant brothers and sisters have so many books from which to choose for their children.

Why are there 737 middle-school-aged titles (it's true, I checked) on a leading Christian bookstore website? Mysteries, thrillers, novels, all sorts of great stories for this age group. I was simply astounded to see the variety and the vast number of books for them. So many choices. How do these parents choose? It's no wonder our children and their parents are buying books from these stores. And yes, I do applaud reading Christian books, but think of what our Catholic children are missing out on! The Communion of Saints, the Sacraments, the Eucharist, the Blessed Mother. And so much more. Think of the richness truly Catholic Christian books could bring to our children. Not to mention that the books found elsewhere that aren't Catholic—as interesting and funny and riveting and Christ-centered as they may be— may have some elements that are not consistent with the tenets of our Faith. This could be very dangerous, in fact, if the young reader is not completely knowledgeable about what we as Catholics believe, and what we don't. A child I know receives a Protestant children's magazine that mentioned God's merciful forgiveness for us when we sin, but of course no mention was made of the beautiful sacrament of Confession. And why would it? It's not a Catholic publication.

I'm frustrated. You as parents are perhaps frustrated. As a writer for this age group, I'm frustrated. So many parents who write to me or meet me at book signings are frustrated. They all say the same thing: "We need more Catholic books for this age group!"  In a world where 38 percent of former Catholics left the Faith before they turned 18 (Georgetown University study), we should all be concerned. Because in that huge gap of years, our children are simply not being fed. This is an alarming statistic. Call it a lack of catechesis, call it hormones, call it what you like, but the bottom line is that seeds grow strongly if the roots are deep. We need to sow those seeds with good reading. We cannot love what we do not know.

Catholic publishers need to take heed. Sometimes I feel like I'm talking to a brick wall getting some Catholics to agree with me, but I persist. The Holy Spirit gives me inspiration and courage to write modern Catholic novels for this age group, who have so little from which to choose. Catholic publishers like Bezalel Books are also going against the grain in an effort to provide truly Catholic books for this forgotten age group.

Having choices, having options is good. I sure wish children's Catholic literature was as wide and as varied as my box of chocolates: so much to choose from, so many different types of candy. I pray that children's Catholic literature can hit the ground running, so that one day we parents will be able to say: "So many choices! How to choose?"

Saturday, November 30, 2013

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




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.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Signing at Celtic Cove Catholic Bookstore

What a special book signing this past Saturday at Celtic Cove Catholic Bookstore in Lake Orion, MI! I was blessed to spend time signing books alongside acclaimed Catholic author Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books. It is such a lovely store, filled with imported Irish gifts, statues, rosaries, jewelry, and of course, so many interesting Catholic books. I wanted to take one of everything home with me, but I did manage to get a little Christmas shopping done before the signing in their well-stocked children's section. Such a gem in quaint, downtown Lake Orion. One of my favorite things? Meeting young readers like the sweet girl below! When you come in to say "hi" and meet me, you really make my day!







Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Gate Is Here!

Holding The Gate in my hands for the first time!





Yesterday was a very special day for me and my family: the official release of The Gate!  I am so excited for boys and girls to discover the characters of Josh and his mentor Pie, for them to see what marvelous plans God has in store for each of them!

Goodreads is hosting a book giveaway (see sidebar, left) and I encourage you to enter to win one of two signed books. Don't wait too long; the contest ends November 30.

Also, for those in the metro Detroit area, I'll be at a special Christmas book signing on Saturday, November 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Celtic Cove and Catholic Bookstore in Lake Orion, MI. Catholic author Cheryl Dickow will be there as well, with her adult fiction books Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, and her latest release, Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome.  Find lovely gifts of faith for your loved ones this Christmas by supporting a local, family-run Catholic store. Celtic Cove has many gifts for all ages, some direct from Ireland.  Small Catholic businesses like these need our support; we hope to see you there!





Friday, October 4, 2013

A Different Type Of Story

It's funny how things happen. God puts a book on a writer's heart and she trusts in the Holy Spirit and does what He asks. Never dreaming it would happen again, she thanks Him for having her write Olivia and the Little Way and goes about the business of living her life. Then one day, God gives her another inspiration, to write a pro-life, pro-modesty sequel to the book, and Olivia's Gift becomes a reality. As teachers, parents, and young readers write her to encourage her to write more Olivia books, she prays on it and wonders what God will have her do next. She takes out a notebook and begins to jot down ideas for a third Olivia book.

Thinking this is where God wants to lead her next, she does what she normally does when a new book idea is born: she prays and wonders about the many book ideas that knock about in her head, competing for space and time. Oh, if only she could write several books at once! But she knows God didn't make her that way; that multitasking is not one of her strong suits.

One day, she and her family visit a priest friend of theirs. As they visit and chat, she tells him of the various book ideas that she has. She tells him she's thinking God wants her to write a third Olivia book, how she wants to continue to reach Catholic youths with her writing.

Father gets a serious, pensive look on his face and tells her something that is burned on her brain, to this very day.

"In Confessions, more and more I'm seeing a pattern."

"A pattern?" she asks.

He nods. "Especially with young people. They feel so sad, like there is no hope for the future."

He leaves it at that.

The author goes to daily Mass to pray about many things, thinking of what the priest had said.  As she waits for Mass to start, she wonders what she can do about it, these young kids who feel alone, who feel that God is far away. How can she help them see that God will never leave them, no matter what pressures they face, no matter what evil surrounds them?

Minutes tick by, and soon it is apparent that the visiting priest is not showing up. Apparently he is from out of town and cannot find the church. She stares at the priest's empty chair up on the altar and the thought suddenly comes to her that this could be the future of her parish, of many parishes: empty chairs, no priests. No one to give the Sacraments to these youths her priest friend mentioned, the precious souls God loves so very much. She is frozen with shock at the thought.

"God, what can I do about it?" she wants to know.

"Go and write," He tells her.

"Write what?" she asks, perplexed. "I don't understand."

She figures it's another Olivia book, but God tells her, "Yes, but not yet. Write this one first."

"I really think it should be an Olivia book," she tells God. "That's what people expect of me."

"Yes, but right now I want The Gate," He tells her.

She is obedient. It takes her two years to write. She prays for the young souls who will read it. She asks her saint friends to pray that this book will reach them. St. Therese, St. John Bosco, and St. Pio are called on day and night for these young souls.

Some people are thrilled her book is about a boy. "That's what we need!" they say.

Others are confused. They want another Olivia book.

"It will come," she promises. "I had to write this one first."

"Why?" they ask.

"It's this feeling I had," she answers. "Experiences that led up to it. A whisper from God in my ear. This one has to come now."

Several people read it before it goes to print.

"I like it a lot. But we wanted Olivia," one says.

"I know," she answers. "And I still do, too. Olivia will be back."

"It's different," another says. "I was expecting Olivia."

The author laughs to herself, thinking So was I.

The Gate, which will go to press next week, God willing, is not an Olivia book. It is different. But sometimes different is okay, is it not? Sometimes authors feel called to write many different things. Maybe one day it will be poetry. Perhaps a screenplay. Who knows? Well, God knows. He always knows.

The author does what He tells her to do, in His own Perfect Timing. She writes a different type of story. It is not about Olivia and it is not about St. Therese. It is funny, it is sad, it is symbolic. It is reverent, it is faithful to Church teaching, it is moral. The character is 13 years old; he's a bit older than Olivia. But it is a wholesome story, a faith-filled story, and you can trust this author with your children.

A reader emails her a note that astounds her. "I LOVE it. I cried, Nancy. This book will save a soul."

The author feels a tear slip down her cheek when she reads this.

God willing, that's all she ever wanted.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On the Feast Day of St. Therese...


...I would like to wish all of my readers a blessed day as we remember "Little Therese," as she preferred to be called, and her mission to love no matter what the cost. She preferred to remain little and childlike as she prayed for priests and other men and women all over the world from her tiny convent cell. How can YOU spread the word today about Therese's Little Way of serving God? For my part, I enjoy talking to students about how they can do this in their own lives by how they treat people, how they pray for others, and how they strive, above all things, to please God in the simplest of things. 

Little Flower of Heaven, pray for us!





Speaking to Catholic school students about the life of St. Therese







Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Finalizing The Gate

As work gets finalized for my new novel, The Gate, every "i" is getting dotted and every "t" is getting crossed...and my editor is making sure I spell everything correctly, that the word "Rosary" is properly capitalized, the novel's continuity is correct (I did write this book over two years!), and everything is as it should be. My graphic designer, the talented Roseann Nieman of Niemanart Graphics, is putting the finishing touches on the front and back covers of the book. Once again, Sandy Casali LewAllen has created the beautiful cover art, as well as an image inside. Squeal! I'm getting excited and can't wait to share the cover with you SOON! 

In the meantime, I have been blessed to have some lovely endorsements from two holy priests who have read and reviewed The Gate, and I'll share those with you here!

From Father Brett Brannen, former vocations director of the Archdiocese of Savannah, GA and the author of To Save a Thousand Souls: A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood:

"A wonderful novel about faith, the pain of growing up, and trying to choose the Good. The Gate reminds us of God's plan for every person, for our happiness and spiritual growth, and how He reveals it in very different ways. Nancy Carabio Belanger takes us on an exciting journey that shows how He sends special people at various times in our lives to help us find our true, God-predetermined vocation." 



Also, from Father Christopher Pietraszko, priest of the Diocese of London, Ontario:


"The book itself is a great promoter of vocations because it doesn't fall into what I might call sentimentalism. Rather, it takes a real-life situation and places Christ right into it. It shows how priests are human, and called to conversion, and how God leads them."




Please pray for this book, dear readers, that it will reach many of the young souls that God loves so very much!

Friday, August 30, 2013

"The Journey Home" With Special Guest Cheryl Dickow




This episode from EWTN's "The Journey Home" from last week will truly be an inspiration to you.  Host Marcus Grodi and guest Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books discuss the Jewish roots of Catholicism, Cheryl's incredible journey as a revert to the Faith and how God gently nudged her to start her own Catholic publishing company. They chat about Catholic fiction and how valuable it can be to help us embrace our Faith. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Coming Fall 2013: The Gate

Dear readers, you have been so patient with me,  and I thank you for that! I can finally say that my new novel for children, The Gate, will be available, God willing, this fall!

This book has been a labor of love for me for almost two years, but God's Most Perfect Timing is just that—and whatever He wants, I want! Right now the book is in the editing stage and is being reviewed by several holy priests and editors. Their suggestions and comments are certainly valuable in making The Gate the very best book it can be! I think I can honestly say that for me this was the most difficult book to write, but I believe it has also been the most spiritually fulfilling.

More information and a picture of the cover will be coming soon, but I wanted to share a little about The Gate.  It is not another Olivia book, as so many of you have been asking. It centers around the life of a 13-year-old boy named Josh, who is entering 8th grade. It is my sincere prayer that this book reaches many young souls—both boys and girls—who will come to understand Christ's loving mercy, as beloved sons and daughters of God. Just as in Olivia and the Little Way and Olivia's Gift, The Gate is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and is a wholesome, entertaining story that can be enjoyed by many ages.

I wish I could share more now, but I will have to wait!

I guess now I should start thinking about writing a third Olivia book!





Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Must-Read Article for Catholics by Cheryl Dickow

Every Catholic should read the article about yoga, by Catholic author and publisher Cheryl Dickow on Catholic Lane. It is entitled "Yoga: What is So Bad About Feeling Good?" She does a brilliant job explaining why yoga is incompatible with Catholic Christian beliefs. It has really angered some people who enjoy the practice and see nothing wrong with yoga for health reasons. I sympathize with those who reap physical benefits from the practice, but I also encourage them to read her article with a prayerful heart.

A few years ago, I might have been one of those people defending yoga (although I can honestly say I would never get angry about it!) But here is the honest truth: I was once a Catholic who practiced yoga. Everyone said I would love it, that it would be the cure to any health issues, would be relaxing and fun. So I bought a purple mat, purchased some introductory lessons, and excitedly went to my first of many classes. I sat on the mat and obediently emptied my mind like the yoga instructor taught us. Physically, it was relaxing. Spiritually...there was an uneasy feeling deep inside I tried to ignore, to push aside. It was very inconvenient to feel this way about yoga, because I was really enjoying it! But the feelings continued to the point that I could not make them stop. 

I realized that God would not have given me these uneasy feelings unless I was meant to learn from them, to find out more. So I began to investigate. For instance, why were we all bowing to each other and saying "Namaste"? Here's what I found, from Yogajournal.com: "The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore,namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."


As a Catholic Christian, this concerned me, First, Christians don't believe in chakra—in the heart or anywhere else. This is a Hindu belief. Second, I was emptying my mind of everything...even God. What happens when you completely empty your mind? Things can get in...bad things and bad spirits. Please, don't ever, ever empty your mind. God must always fill your mind. And third, I was bowing to people, instead of God. I did not realize this or even give permission to do so, but as Cheryl Dickow said so well during her wonderful radio interview this morning on The Son Rise Morning Show With Brian Patrick, some of us don't exactly understand how a cell phone or electricty works, but that does not mean that they are not working. People believe that because they are strong in their faith and don't give permission to bad things to come in, they won't. Well, just because I don't give permission to electricity does not mean that it is not going to work. It is the same with yoga. How do I really know how all of this was all working on my soul? I don't.
My faith tells me about faith in what I cannot see. Think of Jesus present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. We as Catholics believe in the graces that exist in the Eucharist...given freely by God. Just because we cannot see things does not mean they do not exist—good and bad. I am just grateful that God gave me the grace to research what I was actually doing and find out that as a Christian, it had to stop. No matter how good it felt, it simply is incompatible with my Christian beliefs. I sympathize with those who enjoy it, I really do. It is very obvious to me that Cheryl is speaking from the heart and has prayed over this many times. She is certainly not out to destroy what makes people feel good! There are many things out there that make us feel good that are not good for us. I won't go into all of those, because they are very obvious.
So thank you, Cheryl, for being brave enough to bring this subject to light, no matter how difficult it may have been for you to do so. It is certainly not popular to go against society. It is rarely fun, as I have discovered.  It is not popular to be a practicing, faithful Catholic who is teaching Truth. And thank you for not merely pointing out this truth for us, but for also offering a very Catholic alternative for those who like yoga, The Rosary Workout by Peggy Bowes. This workout is good for your body AND your soul!

At first, I tried to think about God, Jesus, the Blessed Mother, and the saints while I practiced yoga. I still felt uneasy. I quit saying "namaste" to others in the class. It was a start, but still the prickly feeling remained. So in the end, I threw away my punch card that had several unused, pre-paid sessions on it. People did not understand, but I do now...and I am so blessed. And guess what?  The prickly feelings vanished.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Leaving Early

One hour.

Can we not sit for one hour?

We go to restaurants and sit longer than one hour.

We go to concerts, plays, movies, lectures, even a coffee shop with our laptops...and we can sit for an hour, easy. We flop on the couch and watch TV for an hour with no problem.

But Mass? Forget it. Too long. Too boring. We've got things to do, places to be, people to see, a dinner or brunch reservation.  Wrap it up, Padre.

Lately I've been attending a parish where this is not done. People do not bolt right after Holy Communion. If they do for important reasons, such as a sick child, or a crying baby, or perhaps they're not feeling well themselves, it is done quietly, reverently. They hate to do it, but it's necessary, so they sit in the back and creep out.  We've all done it in cases like this. We understand that there are times when we have to do this. No one is judging these people. But when it happened last night at my parish, I wasn't prepared for the "mass exodus" that occurred. I had gotten used to people actually staying until the priest gave his final blessing and walked down the aisle.

But at last night's vigil Mass, the people bolted—bolted!—after Holy Communion. When I got back to our pew afterward, entire pews had been emptied. I could not believe how many people had left. It was such a stark difference from ten minutes before. Not every one of these people had a serious reason to leave. Some of them, perhaps...and I am trying to be charitable here. But not all of them, all at the same time. I think it was one of the saddest things I have ever experienced at Holy Mass.  After looking at the empty pews, I unfortunately became distracted, wondering where these people had to be so urgently at 5:55 on a Saturday evening. Dinner?  The movies? Entire families were gone—poof!—in the blink of an eye.

How rude.

The greatest event in humankind had just been recreated and the people could not be bothered to wait until the end. God had just been created on the altar, and people were rushing out to make it to the Outback Steakhouse before the lines got too long.

I remember as a child being squirmy at Mass, like every other boy and girl. We had come back from Holy Communion and I was ready to hit the road.

"Mom," I whispered. "Let's goooo."

My mom leaned over to me and whispered back, "Nancy, we don't leave until after the priest has passed us."

What?! That would take about one more minute for him to walk down the aisle! I couldn't wait that long!

"But whyyyyy?"

"Because," she said simply. "It's not nice. It's not polite. It's rude."

"Mommmmmm," I whined, but it was no use. My mom, dad, my brother, and I weren't going anywhere until after Father had passed us.  Anything else, barring an emergency situation, was just rude. It was rude to Father, it was rude to everyone else, and most of all, it was rude to Jesus.

To leave when the Blessed Sacrament is still exposed, and to leave when we have just been unified with our Lord, is to rip apart His embrace, right in the middle of it. Imagine yourself hugging a loved one, and he or she pulls away abruptly, leaving to do something else. How would you feel? We should consider staying longer after Mass, to pray in Thanksgiving for what we have just received, instead of chomping at the bit to get out of church. We've gotten it all backwards.

Look, we've all been there, myself included. This is why I can write all of this; I've been there! If you're feeling ill, or your child won't stop fussing, of course you have to do what you have to do. However, I can't believe that hordes of people were in this situation at the same exact time last night.  Some years ago, I remember being in the parking lot walking to my car while still consuming the Host. I did it rarely, but when I did, I always felt this strange sensation that it wasn't right. How I could even pray like I was supposed to after receiving Holy Communion when I was busy getting my keys out of my purse and unlocking my car door is beyond me. The Holy Spirit was telling me I wasn't finished being with Jesus. I had rushed our embrace, I had literally shoved Him away from me so I could get out of the parking lot quicker, on to other things.

Now, Deo gratias, I see things differently.

See, in this give-it-to-me-now society, we can't wait. We want things NOW. We cringe when we see the little hourglass or spinning arrow on our computer while we wait for something to load. "This is ridiculous," we complain.   We stand in lines with more than two people ahead of us and turn our heads, looking for another checkout line, sighing heavily. "This is going to take forever! I just wanted to be in and out of here!"

May I suggest that this is sadly the thought process of many on Sunday (and Saturday evening) at Holy Mass? We just wanted to be in and out of here! Check off the box; we've fulfilled our duty for the week. And if that homily goes over, or the watch is telling us that it's been too long, or we're hungry, then we bolt. We have other, more important things to do. Our time is precious. This is such a sacrifice to sit here!

Nothing is too much for us to sacrifice to show our love and appreciation for the Ultimate Sacrifice.




Friday, July 12, 2013

Interview with Cheryl Dickow

Good friend and fellow Catholic author Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books in an inspiring interview with Lisa Hendey of Catholicmom.com about her new fiction book, Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome, the sequel to Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage...and her mission to provide solid Catholic books for all ages. 

"I’m like Noah’s wife in that most of what I do is unknown to everyone but God—but I trust that it is all in service to Him and for the salvation of my soul," Dickow says.

A truly Godly woman!

http://catholicmom.com/2013/07/04/miriam-publishing-and-prayer-a-conversation-with-cheryl-dickow/

Monday, June 10, 2013

Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome

Squeal! 

Catholic author and publisher Cheryl Dickow of Bezalel Books has released the sequel to Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, called Miriam: Repentance and Redemption in Rome (Available at Amazon.com and www.bezalelbooks.com).  I can't wait to make this one of my summer reads. Cheryl is a master storyteller and her books take me away to a peaceful, calming place. I'll review it once I've finished reading it, just as I did for Elizabeth (See that review here). These two books are for adults, but publisher Bezalel Books has a wonderful array of Catholic children's books (The Green Coat is my favorite and should be a part of every young Catholic's library). 


"Cheryl Dickow’s compelling, follow-up fiction book to Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Although each work stands on its own, both are well worth reading and highly recommended.

Fans that have been waiting for Miriam won’t be disappointed. It is marked by Dickow’s skillful ability to weave interesting, valuable faith information into an intriguing work of fiction. It is the sort of book that pulls you in and is difficult to put down. When you get to the end, you are amazed at the journey you’ve just taken—and are ready for another!"



 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi




We've only been to one Eucharistic procession before, so we are really looking forward to attending tomorrow's, which should be lovely! As a little girl, St. Therese used to love walking in them, throwing rose petals at the monstrance. She would rejoice when one of her petals would hit the monstrance! I think every parish should have a Eucharistic procession on the Feast of Corpus Christi. They are so authentically Catholic!

I highly recommend families attend one tomorrow, if possible. Your children will learn so much about the beauty and majesty of this glorious feast! I realize that, sadly, so many parishes don't offer them.  Also, don't forget that our Holy Father Pope Francis has established a worldwide Adoration tomorrow in celebration at 5:00 Rome time.


"Jesus Christ instituted this Sacrament to give us a sign of the great love He has for us and to give us adequate nourishment for our souls."

—St. John Bosco, patron of youth




Friday, May 24, 2013

A Reading Life



Today I would like to welcome to my blog Kelly, a Catholic homeschooling mom of two boys, ages 8 and 5. She has begun the amazing task of starting her own lending library from her home, and can now say she owns about 2,500 books...with more on the way! She writes from Wisconsin, where she is busy creating a cataloging system for her books and hunting down good children's books that she highlights on her blog, http://thebookloversball.blogspot.com/. As she likes to say, "Good children's books can touch anyone."




Even though I watched TV as a kid, I always loved to read. I was a typical 1970s/80s girl who read Nancy Drew, The Boxcar Children, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, and Carolyn Haywood’s Betsy. Regrettably, I also read my fair share of Judy Blume and other then-popular fiction. I also must have read the Little House series, right? But I remember the TV series much more, of course. (It was a total delight when I read the whole series a few years ago with my then five-year-old son. It all seemed brand-new to me. Oh, and if you love the series like I do, be sure to enjoy the audio versions of all of the books done amazingly well by Cherry Jones - unabridged!) I can only guess at the number of hours I spent reading in my bedroom during my childhood. 

In high school, I fell in love with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, both the movie and the book. (I learned early on the power of the movie over the book to leave a lasting visual impression.) In later adult years during a difficult time, I read through all of Austen’s novels. During that same time, I read through the entire Bible - it took me about 18 months. (Please, find a way to do this at least once in your life. You will not regret it!)

When I graduated college, I couldn’t wait to begin reading for enjoyment again. I had taken an English literature class during my last semester and treasured the list the teaching assistant compiled for me (I still have that list somewhere...). My greatest accomplishment off that list was reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, a long but beautifully painful read.

In my 20s, I read whatever struck me - popular fiction with a classic novel thrown in here and there. No doubt, I wasted some good reading time here but I only realized it in hindsight. In my 30s, before children, I discovered an amazing Catholic author named Michael D. O’Brien. His books were absolutely life-changing, the kind of books that live inside of you. Our public library owned them, so I read them all. Even my husband, who is not a big reader, was unable to put Father Elijah down until he finished it. We still talk about that book eight years later. 

When my son arrived, I had already collected a few books for him. I had been waiting so long for the chance to read to my children! I had the requisite Dr. Seuss books along with a few others I had picked up on the sale tables at various bookstores. I wasn’t deliberate about it; I thought any children’s book was good. We utilized the public library heavily. Our family book collection was small - perhaps 50 books total. The public library was so well-stocked that I didn’t feel any urgency to own more than a few books.

When my oldest son was 2 1/2 years old, I began to think ahead about his education. I felt a strong pull to homeschool so I read books and articles for months to learn all I could about it. As I was researching, I began to come across book lists that had been compiled by homeschooling moms. The lists were titled things like, “Top 50 books to read to your child” or “Must-read books.” I couldn’t resist. I love lists! Print, print, print. I used up a lot of paper and a lot of ink. I began to realize that the world of children’s books extended far beyond Dr. Seuss and that there was a quality to these books that was so different from the popular literature I was finding prominently displayed at the public library. I began to utilize the public library’s online hold/request system to track these books down and began to buy copies of our favorites. I soon learned how important books would be in our educational journey, and I discovered Amazon. Our home library began to grow.

Another big change in my reading life occurred about a year ago when I discovered a group of ladies online who are operating (or hoping to operate) homeschool lending libraries out of their homes. Their libraries are comprised largely of older, out-of-print books published during what many call “The Golden Age of Children's Literature,” from 1930-1970. My membership in this group has been another life-changing experience for me and has inspired additional growth in my knowledge and love for good children’s books. Could I open a library like that? I wondered. So before I really knew what I was doing, I began buying large quantities of these good books. I was buying online and going to library and rummage sales. I was working off those wonderful booklists I love so much and also adding books that are favorites of ours, books from the past and some newer books. We had begun reading many of these for history, science and literature and I discovered again that there really is a difference in some of the older books: a beauty in language and understanding of children and a desire to pass on good values even in the midst of darkness and pain. I hated history and science when I was young. These books changed that for me. Good children’s books can touch anyone.

I now have close to 2,500 books in my home library and I am growing that number every month. I still have that dream of opening a homeschool lending library someday - only God knows if it will ever happen. I spend a lot of time and any money that I can trying to rescue these books that are being purged from peoples’ homes and the public library. I feel like I am saving something that is dying in our culture and enriching our lives at the same time. Thankfully, my boys love books. When they are both reading fluently on their own, I hope they will find hours of delight on our bookshelves. In the meantime, I love our read-aloud time. I love that I get to enjoy these wonderful books, too. I plan to read to them until they leave home! And at the end of a busy day, I love the few minutes I have to curl up with one of the many books that are always sitting on my nightstand. (Even though I have many books I want to read, I am re-reading Father Elijah by Michael D. O’Brien. Something about this time in our country compelled me to read it again. I am also reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church; Pope Fiction by Patrick Madrid; and Boys Should Be Boys by Meg Meeker. This is all very heavy/serious reading for me now - I need to add in something lighter!)

***

I used to love watching TV. Every night had its line-up and I ordered my life around that. I suppose VCRs changed that a bit, freeing me up to - gasp! - do something else while my favorite show was on. And then cable made it possible to watch something any time of the day or night. This went on for many years before something began to change. I felt a call to cancel cable. I felt a call to turn off the TV and do something else. I realized that I felt enslaved, like my time was not my own, that I was giving my precious free time to The Box. I began to crave freedom from the TV schedule, the movies, and even the sports. And for me to give up watching sports? You’d have to know me to understand what a big deal it was, and how odd it made me look to my family. Thankfully, my husband was open to it and one day, the TV went dark. We started a tradition of playing games together - we got really good at Cribbage. We started reading. For me, reading had already been a big part of my life once - I was simply reviving it. For him, he was always a reluctant reader so this was something new. 

Fast forward eight years, and two children later. My husband and I do not play Cribbage every night anymore. (!) We don’t read together at night anymore. (!) We have a TV, but it is down in the basement on a cart. We pull it out when we really want to watch something, usually a sporting event.  And I guess I watched all of the presidential debates last fall, though some I watched online. It’s a pain to pull it out and get the antennae positioned right (just slightly better than rabbit ears) so we don’t do it often. I think there’s something to that. Our kids occasionally watch DVDs on my laptop or on our little travel DVD player. And because my husband and I are often so tired when it comes to date night, we regularly watch a movie or old TV show on Netflix. I don’t judge those who enjoy watching TV or have cable. I lived that life for a very long time and do still enjoy a good movie now and then. But for me, nothing can beat a reading life filled with truly good and worthy books. I love my reading life.


Monday, May 20, 2013

How Christlike It Is To Share!






As I write this, the lilacs are in bloom here in Michigan in all different shades of lavender and white. They smell heavenly. They look like purple candy.  I've always loved the smell of lilacs, and every spring when I see and smell them, I am reminded of a story from my childhood.

I was a girl of about eleven or so when my best friend Jenny and I discovered a wooded area near our houses with the largest lilac bushes imaginable. And more than one bush; there were several that were absolutely covered in lilacs from top to bottom. We couldn't believe our luck when we came across them, and in our youthful innocence, decided to bring some home to our mothers as a little present. We tried to snap off a few but realized that we needed scissors of some type. I had remembered seeing some clippers in our garage. We ran back to my house, retrieved the clippers, and hurried back to the bushes, eager to create lovely bouquets for our mothers. It was a beautiful spring day, and upon arriving back at the lilacs, we took in their sweet, floral scent. Happily, we snipped a few clips here and there and headed home with our treasures. My mother put hers in a little bud vase in our bathroom. She was absolutely delighted to receive them. She kept talking about how beautiful they smelled, and wondered where we had gotten them. The flowers made her very happy, which in turn made me very happy.

I told her about the wooded area by our neighborhood. In those days, kids would roam free for hours, so unlike today when parents barely let their children out of their sight for more than a few minutes. We had no cell phones for our parents to keep track of us, and you just sort of knew when dinnertime was, since it was the same time every day, when the sun looked a certain way in the sky. My brother's friend would come home at the sound of a long, sharp whistle his dad would make around 6:00. Whenever you heard that whistle emanating through the streets, you knew it was time for John to go home for dinner. You didn't think anything of it; it was dinnertime at John's house.

Naturally, Jenny and I went back to the lilac bushes when the lilacs in our houses started to wilt after a couple of days, clippers in hand, to snip off a few more branches.

We arrived at the bushes and found ourselves face to face with an angry woman, hands on her hips.

"SO," she said angrily. "You're the ones who have been cutting my lilacs!"

We stood there in shock. I froze, clippers in hand, and glanced at the enormous bushes, so full of lilacs, enough for dozens of little girls to take home to their mothers. We had barely made a dent in the bushes, but apparently she had noticed some missing.

"I didn't know they belonged to anybody," I said, my lip trembling. "We thought they were wild." I was very sensitive and could cry at the drop of a hat. Having this strange woman being angry at us was more than I could take.

"Well, they're not wild; they are MY bushes," she said, "and I don't want anyone clipping them! Now go on home."

Jenny and I walked away, dejected. Apparently we had stolen the lilacs, and we didn't even realize it.

"We stole them," I said, unbelieving it. "I thought they were wild," I repeated.

This was a lot to take in. We were thieves, apparently. Lilac thieves. It was sad after that, because we had no more lilacs to smell in our homes. Neither of us had lilac bushes growing in our yards. Jenny's mother grew swiss chard and zucchini, and my mother grew tomatoes and geraniums. None of those plants had the sweet, intoxicating smell as the lilacs.

Jenny and I both agreed that the lady was really mean for yelling at us like that.

"She has so many!" I wailed to my mom afterward. "What is she going to do with all of those lilacs? She can't possibly use them all!" No more little lilac bouquets for the bud vases. It was so sad.

"Well," my mom said sadly, "if they belong to her, then they belong to her. Nothing you can do about it."

"But she should share!" I said. "Why can't she share them with people? We didn't even cut from the front of the bush; we cut from the back where nobody can even see them!"

It was a tough lesson in sharing—or lack thereof. I was used to generous people in my little world. Family was generous and gave of themselves. Friends were generous as well. Our neighbors were generous, letting us cut through their yards on our way to friends' houses. We were generous with others in return.  But you can't force people to share. Not that I would want to. There's something very wrong with forcing people to share.

To this day, whenever I see lilacs, I am taken back to that spring day when that lady would not share. It was her right not to, of course. They were her lilac bushes. I still think that it would have been nice of her to snip a few for us, in a gesture of springtime goodwill. How we would have remembered that about her!

And what if she would have told us how old the bushes were, how to take care of them, how many varieties of lilacs there are, what kind of birds are attracted to lilac bushes? That would have been such a pleasant memory. And what if she would have said, "You know, I don't mind you girls taking a few, but please ask first, okay?" That would have been such a lovely memory. Instead, I think of her yelling at us to leave. What an opportunity she missed, to have shown compassion.  There are people with so much who give so little. There are also people who have so little who give so much. And then there are the people in between.

I read a story of a chef who recently won a $10,000 prize in a cooking contest. His opponent was trying to win the money so she could visit her beloved dying grandmother in France, to see her one last time. He and his wife had bills to pay, so when he won the prize, he was ecstatic.

"What are you going to do with the prize money?" they asked him.

He smiled and asked for his opponent to come back out on the stage. He offered her enough of his share so that she could buy an airline ticket to see her dying grandmother, which she did gratefully. I was really taken by this show of Christlike compassion. It was a beautiful thing to do.

This is true sharing: sharing when we don't have to, want to, or when it is not expected of us. It is not easy to do; I realize that. It is not easy to follow Christ, to love like He does. After all, He shares everything: He shares and gives us Himself in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

 There are some days we want to keep all of the lilacs, all of the prize money, for ourselves. But what happens when we hoard God's gifts? I always wondered what that woman did with all of those many, many lilacs. I am sure most of them just died off naturally, giving joy to no one else but her.

Yes, had we known the lilac bushes belonged to someone, we would have asked first. You don't just go clipping flowers from people's property.

But it sure would have been nice if that lady would have shared her abundance with us.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Elizabeth—A Holy Land Pilgrimage



Good, Catholic fiction of the modern era is not that easy to come by, so when I picked up Cheryl Dickow's Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage, (Bezalel Books www.Bezalelbooks.com)  I was so excited to finally find a tale I could relate to.  Elizabeth is fast approaching middle age like me (perhaps I'm already there!), and takes a solo trip away from her husband and teenaged kids. Her two-week spiritual respite is in Israel, where Elizabeth discovers more about the Jewish roots of Catholicism. Readers will be drawn in to the story of the friends she meets, the sights and sounds of Jerusalem, and her emotional walk down the Via Dolorosa. I've never been to Israel but I felt like I was there with her, sipping tea, praying, and reflecting calmly and peacefully about what God means to each of us. I felt like I was on a religious retreat with a good friend. Elizabeth returns to her family with a renewed sense of purpose as a woman, a wife, and a mom. For weary moms everywhere, I highly recommend a retreat with Elizabeth!


Friday, April 19, 2013

God Is Hidden In The Priest

"Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption here on earth...What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods...Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest and they will end by worshiping the beasts there..The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you." 

 —St. John Marie Vianney





This video, "Go Forth," was sent to me by Father Mark Thelen, LC, who was ordained this past December and is happily featured here. He is inviting everyone to share this video to anyone and everyone. Enjoy, and don't forget to grab a Kleenex or two. Thank you for answering the call to the Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ, Father Mark and all priests! THANK YOU for giving us Jesus's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. No one else can do it but you.



 

For more information, visit www.whynotpriest.com.

"The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus. When you see a priest, think of our Lord Jesus Christ." 

—St. John Vianney

Monday, April 15, 2013

Restoring The Reverence, Restoring The Sacred




When is the last time you went to a procession on the feast of Corpus Christi? Had a Holy Hour at your parish? Lit a prayer candle in front of a statue? Stood in a nice, long line for Confession? Been to Benediction? Watch this video (in full screen; it looks better!) of a church in Omaha that completely turned around, with the help of a new priest who yearned to restore sacred traditions to his parish. Your heart will soar to see what has happened to a poor parish with declining attendance when a young pastor takes over.

Give people the TRUTH in beauty and in reverence, and they will come. I've seen it happen at a parish near me. We, the folks in the pews, are absolutely STARVING for it. May there be more parishes like this one throughout our country...hundreds and hundreds of them. May God bless this holy priest!

"A glimpse of Heaven" at every Holy Mass! Bring on the incense!




Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/dan-burke/not-boring#ixzz2QYZr4hwN

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Pain Of Missing Holy Mass


I haven't been to Mass in over a week, and boy oh boy am I feeling it. It's like anything else that you do that is good for your body and soul, like eating fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods: When you stop, you feel the negative effects. It's the same with going to Mass.  In my case, we've had illness at our house. Last week I stayed home from daily Mass to tend to my son, who was pretty sick. Then, once he recovered, I fell ill. Oh, the frustration!

And it's Holy Week to boot. The pain of staying away from Mass during Holy Week is especially acute.  As I lie in bed with Kleenex surrounding me and a mug of tea with lemon, I can't help but feel sorry for myself. I haven't had the Eucharist in over a week, and I'm feeling bad. The constant coughing and aching body adds to my frustration. I want to be there! I want to help share in Christ's Passion, and I can't.

The suffering I feel is not just from a silly cold virus which will go away soon enough. It's from missing the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, participating in it and watching the mystery unfold on the altar, receiving Christ's Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It's from missed graces.

I can remember a time I had to be forced to go to Mass. I'll admit it: I thought Mass was boring. BORING, can you imagine? Heaven comes down to earth with each Mass and I was thinking about running to Target for fabric softener. I'd yawn and check my watch, congratulating myself that once the homily was through, it meant we were halfway over. I had things to do, I'd be getting hungry, and I'd be thinking about the errands I had to run that Sunday. And Daily Mass? Forget it; that was for the old ladies who had nothing to do, who fingered their Rosary beads.  Oh yes, this was my thought process at one time several years ago.  I was completely ignorant, but our loving God doesn't push. He doesn't press. He gently invites, because He wants you there so badly, but He loves you too much to force His love on you.

Last year, God gently invited me to start attending daily Mass and in these quiet 45 minutes, I find the peace of God surround me and envelop me. I find that my day starts out so much better for having been there, that I can think clearer, write better, BE better.

So it's painful for me to miss Holy Mass. It hurts. It makes me feel empty. But you know what? In this small way of suffering,  I AM sharing in Christ's Passion.

And I suppose that's really a perfect way to spend Holy Week, come to think of it.




Monday, March 25, 2013

Olivia's Gift Book Review: "A book that every young girl needs to read"

I'd like to share this lovely new review of Olivia's Gift from author Martha A. Cheves. You can find  Martha at http://stirlaughrepeat.blogspot.com/ 

You can read the review here as well:

http://marthaskitchenkorner.blogspot.com/2013/03/olivias-gift-nancy-carabio-belanger.html


Olivia’s Gift  

Review by Martha A. Cheves, author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; Think With Your Taste Buds; A Book and A Dish
“He set before me a book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away from the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers. And so it is in this world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” - St. Therese

Olivia Thomas has loved and cherished her books of her favorite saint St. Therese of Lisieux for a long time now. She follows St. Therese’s ‘little ways’ in everything she does, or at least she tries. But things are about to change for Olivia when her family are invited to spend a whole month at her Aunt and Uncle’s house on the beach. The house is beyond beauty, in Olivia and her friend Hayley’s eyes as they see it, the ocean and the kids that reside around it. The surrounding houses as well as the people inside those houses all have one thing in common – money, and lots of it. That is except for Olivia and her family. In fact, her family may have to really start ‘pinching pennies’ due to her dad being laid off and not really sure when he’ll be called back to work. But for now, they will enjoy a full month of living in a beautiful home by the ocean.

Like St. Therese, Olivia strives to do what’s right. She treats people the way she would like to be treated, shares with everyone and never lies. She’s even started a project of saving her money to sponsor a young girl’s family in Guatemala. But that is all about to change as Olivia and Hayley meet their next door neighbors Brooke and Brandon. Two kids whose family has given them everything they could ever dream of – but love, attention, discipline, rules. They basically do as they please, not caring who nor what is hurt in the process. And meeting these two has put Olivia into a position of shame. Shame that her own family has no money but does have rules that in order to fit in Olivia must lie about owning her Aunt and Uncles home, traveling around the world and being a ‘little rich girl’ that goes to a private school. She must also use the money she has saved for her project to buy things she doesn’t really need just to fit in. But we all know that sooner or later our lies and actions catch up with us. So what does Olivia do to mend her ways? That’s a question you’ll have to find out by reading Olivia’s Gift.

Olivia’s Gift is a book that EVERY young girl needs to read. The positions Olivia and Hayley find themselves in are positions I feel sure they can all relate to. I know I could and I’ve been grown for a long time. These situations never change from generation to generation. They are always there and hopefully Olivia’s Gift is a book that will help young girls understand the ‘whys’ as well as the’ what to dos’ when faced with the decisions Olivia had to face. I highly recommend that every parent with a daughter of reading age present her with a copy of Olivia’s Gift. I also recommend that the parents read it too so they can be there to help their daughter through this hurdle in their life.
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