Friday, May 28, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: How Do You Live Catholic Culture at Your House?

The final chapter of The Handbook for Catholic Moms is full of great ideas for promoting a Catholic culture in one's home.

This is actually a very timely discussion among my friends.  I'm on an e-group for Catholic moms, and one new Catholic asked how we as moms live out a Catholic culture in our homes.  There were quite a few good answers of doing Mass readings, praying with children, and others ideas to promote a family culture that is Catholic and joyful.

For some reason, the first thing that I remember when I heard the question about making a Catholic culture in the family is praying the Hail Mary when an ambulance passes--I know many families do this.  Some people might consider that "Catholic lite" or only culturally Catholic instead of truly Catholic, but really, helping kids to pray for others and think of people they don't know is helpful.  Once we were in a big city and the kids were non-stop praying Hail Marys, until my husband and I told our children that most of the sirens were police directing traffic, and it was okay to say one Hail Mary for all the intentions and wait until we were back in our small community to resume the practice.

More seriously, the one practice I think is most successful in our family is "the little blessing," something we have done in our family for years.

Many years ago, my husband attended a retreat at a Virginia monastery where the monk leading the retreat suggested parents bless one another and their children with  the sign of the cross each day or night, with the words, "The Lord bless you and keep you."  The monk pointed out that there are times in life when spouses may be angry with each other, or teen children may pull away from physical signs of affection, but the sign of the cross helps bond families with the sign of the Savior.

I can think of many nights when I have been frustrated with one of my children (or my husband!), and they with me, but we still give the little blessing.  The very act of tracing the sign of the cross on the forehead seems to soften the frustration and remind us we do love each other, for both the giver and the receiver.

And now our children bless us, as well.  Often one of the children will bless us three times, saying, "Three for the Trinity."  It has become a sacred time for our family, and it only takes a moment.

I vividly remember the first time my husband told me about "the little blessing," when we were dating, never realizing that all these years later we would still have the "little blessing" for one another and our children, every single night.  Our family spiritual life has changed and grown (and sometimes shrunk) over the years, and devotions have come and gone--I can think of many that have been helpful as times goes by--but "the little blessing" has been a constant.

What are the ways your family lives a Catholic culture?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: Who's Your Favorite Mom Saint and Why?

One great feature of The Handbook for Catholic Moms is a section of favorite saints for moms, where moms and others give suggestions of a Catholic "communion of saints for moms."  I would have to say two of my favorites are St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, and St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

Who are some of your favorite "saints for moms"?  Why?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: How Do You Express Your Creativity?

The Handbook for Catholic Moms has a section about creativity and helping nurture our mind by having creative pursuits that we turn to for both self-improvement and for relaxation.

I find that writing can be very creative for me, but not particularly relaxing (except when I am finished!).   I also enjoy handcrafts such as knitting, and also trying out new recipes.  I found working out and trying several different recipes from the book and website Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, because the recipes are more foolproof than most.  Even with the help of this excellent technique, I still find reliably good bread an elusive goal.  Any suggestions out there for how I can get a loaf of bread to turn out well every single time?

What do you do to nurture your creative side?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Fiction Suggestions?

We interrupt the great discussion of moms and those who love them to seek suggestions for fiction.

June will be "summer fiction month" at the Catholic Post Book Group, and I've got a long list of reviews started of both adult and kids fiction, but I'm looking for more suggestions.  I have a lot of great Catholic authors and Catholic-themed novels, but I'd love some input of some undiscovered authors or books that I can feature here.  I've got both new fiction and classics.

What are some of your favorites?

Just a note: when I say Catholic, I mean that in both senses--Catholic and catholic (as in universal).  Some fiction may not seem Catholic, but can address Catholic themes, or catholic themes.  Know what I mean?  I'll try to expand on that more next month.

Tomorrow, back to more questions about motherhood!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: Family Banker Advice?

The Mind section of The Handbook for Catholic Moms has a chapter on financial stewardship, since many moms are the "family bankers" of their families.  I especially like Catholic financial guru Phil Lenehan's sidebar advice for moms to be good financial stewards for their families.

I thought it would be neat to explore here some good financial advice you practice or received as advice that you like, even if you aren't able to put it into practice.  What's a good way to save or spend money wisely?

Your advice can be serious or light.  

The one I'd like to share is quite light and fun.  We have a Discover Card in our family, and part of the rewards of this is a "Cashback Bonus."  You can the "Cashback"  for cash, a reduction in your credit card bill, or in the form of gift cards with a higher value, say a $45 card for $40 of your "Cashback" money.  Since we don't carry a balance on our credit cards, we don't use the bonus for the credit card bills themselves.  So as a treat, I use our Cashback Bonus to get gift cards for my favorite coffee shop so when I buy coffee "out" when I'm on the run all day or when we are traveling, and it is "free."  I know that it actually isn't free, but there's something nice about having a gift card for something that is a treat.

What's some good and/or fun financial advice from your family? 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: How Do You Show Your Kids Your Real Self?

Lisa Hendey describes the importance of not just being "mom," but also of , and she invites us to reflect on the ways that we can share that "real self" with our children so they know our loves.

I think one way I have shared my real self is my passion for reading.  I love the fact that I have taught each of my children to read, and then introduced them to a world of great books.

We were traveling on Mother's Day this year, and one of my daughters told me that she still wants to give me a day--a transfered Mother's Day of sorts-- when I have no responsibilities except for reading whatever I want.  I can only come downstairs to go out on a run or for meals prepared by others.   I love that she knows my love of reading and wants to help me indulge in that.

What "real self" do you share with your children?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: What Does It Mean to be a "Soul Sister"?

In the "Heart" section of The Handbook for Catholic Moms, there's a chapter on friendship--developing and maintaining healthy, nurturing friendships.  Author Lisa Hendey calls these true friends "soul sisters."

In my life, I feel blessed to have four biological sisters, as well as a few very good "soul sisters." It's true for both my sisters and my "soul sisters" that with busy family life, I can't always be in contact with them as I would like.  Still, I hope all my "sisters" know that I cherish them deeply and pray for them every day.  For the most part, I'm inconsistent about remembering birthdays and other anniversaries, and I've often thought that I wish I had a more consistent way to be in touch with them.  When my parents were alive, my husband's example of always calling his parents on the weekend (and usually other times throughout the week) helped me to make that a weekend habit, and I'm so grateful for that.    I think I need to consider something along those lines for my sisters who are close and my sisters who live far.

What does it mean to you to have or to be a "soul sister?"  How do you nourish authentic friendships?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Handbook for Catholic Moms interviews and discussions

I've discovered two places I love to visit that are also featuring The Handbook for Catholic Moms.

Pat Gohn, the "Among Women" podcaster with an unbelievably smooth voice, interviews Lisa in this podcast.  I have not heard it yet, but I look forward to it as I'm sure it is a great listening to hear those two women talk about the book.

And Catholic writer Kate Wicker of Momopoly also had a Q&A with Lisa and is also discussing The Handbook for Catholic Moms on her new book discussion feature.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Handbook for Catholic Moms Question: What Marriage "Rule" Do You Follow?

In The Handbook for Catholic Moms, Lisa Hendey shares stories and ideas about keeping, from always praying for your spouse to trying to make "date night" possible for parents in different situations.

All the great advice reminded me of a discussion I had once with a group of other married women about "marriage rules."  I'm thinking of things like advice from a parent or older married couple, "Never go to bed angry," or "Always give your spouse the benefit of the doubt."  Sometimes they can seem almost trite  although they are actually quite helpful when put into practice.  Kind of like a "mom-ism".

I would have to say the number one unofficial "marriage rule" at our house is "keep a sense of humor."  Gently laughing at ourselves and the chaos that can be family life can be very connecting!

What marriage rule do you follow, or have you been given, for which you have been grateful?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Handbook for Catholic Moms Offers Kindness, Encouragement for Moms

When I was a new mom, I received much wise counsel from my own mother during many a late-night conversation.  For example, my mom very gently told me (and I’m sure laughed silently at the other end of the phone), that my child would be potty trained before college, and not to focus too much emotional energy in that direction.   

Even with my mom’s great advice, as I get older in my parenting journey, I often wish I could write a letter to myself and time travel it back to the younger-mom me. The letter would tell me things to worry about (and not), as well as things to do differently and things to not change at all.

The chief message of The Handbook for Catholic Moms stresses something I—and many older moms-- would put in this “younger me” letter.  That message is: self-care,--emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually-- is not an indulgence or a weakness, but one of the most important gifts you can give to yourself, and your family.

The Handbook for Catholic Moms is helpfully divided into four sections: heart, mind, body and soul, focusing on the different ways moms can take care of ourselves.  More than anything, though, what shines through the book is Hendey’s kindness and her passion for the Catholic faith.

Some of my favorite nuggets:

*Heart: In the chapter on marriage, Hendey suggests getting out the special wedding album/photos from time to time for kids to see.  This is great tradition to do around an anniversary date, something we do each year at our house.   It sparks great discussions and happy feelings about the event that started each family.

*Mind: Hendey challenges mom to try an activity that stretches you creatively, whether knitting, cooking or writing.   Making time for a creative endeavor can provide dividends in happiness and satisfaction.

*Body: Hendey candidly shares her own treatment for breast cancer, and challenges women to not neglect regular health screenings.

*Soul: I loved the simple but beautiful reflection penned by Hendey’s childhood pastor on praying the Rosary and devotion to Mary. Also not to be missed are the list of saints favorites, for moms, from moms.

Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, church documents, and quotes from the saints.  A great feature are the stories shared from a range of Catholic moms (and those who love them.  There’s everything from Mary Ellen Barrett’s account of facing her son’s autism to podcaster mom Pat Gohn’s three principles for lifelong learning, to Catholic financial guru Phil Lenehan’s call for moms to be good stewards for their families. Each chapter ends with Catholic Internet and other resources for helping moms navigate a particular area, as well as encouraging but not overwhelming, “Mom’s homework.”

I can’t begin to describe how glad I am that “The Handbook for Catholic Moms” is not a parenting book. Like most moms, I’ve read more than my share of parenting books, been in helpful book groups with other parents, had and witnessed heated discussions both online and in real life about “the best way to parent.”

While some of this can be transformative, every family is different and there are many “Catholic” ways to parent.   Fortunately, The Handbook for Catholic Moms steers clear of this by providing solid, both catholic (as in universal) and Catholic (as in centering on our faith) nurturing for moms.

The Handbook for Catholic Moms is a great read and gentle pick-me-up, especially for those women are newer at motherhood, but provides real encouragement and guidance for all us moms out there in the trenches.

You go, moms!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What is Your Favorite Mom-ism?

One of my favorite memories of my mother, who died in late 2008, is her voice pronouncing (sometimes ironically, sometimes not) one of her"mom-isms."  My mom's mom-isms were often malopropisms, though most of the time my mother meant them to be, unlike the character from Sheridan's play, Mrs. Maloprop, who mangled maxims.

My mom's most famous is, "We'll jump off that bridge when we get there."  That is the only form of that particular mom-ism I use, to the point where my younger daughter asked me some years ago, "Mom, why are we going to jump off a bridge?"

Well, I answered, that's kind of an interesting story.  You see, we're not going to actually jump off a bridge, the expression is, "We'll cross that bridge when we to it."  But my mom always said it as "We'll jump off that bridge when we get there," as a kind of joke to help us not worry about a particular situation.

What is your favorite Mom-ism?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Questions and Answers with Lisa Hendey, Author of "The Handbook for Catholic Moms"

Lisa Hendey, author of the Catholic Post Book Group’s May selection, The Handbook for Catholic Moms, is the creator of (, a website focusing on the Catholic faith, Catholic parenting and family life, and Catholic cultural topics. 

She’s host of the popular podcast “Catholic Moments”  (, and also a prolific online writer at Catholic Exchange, Catholic Online, Faith & Family Live!, and many other places.  She also runs a home-based web design business.  She lives in California with her husband and two teenage sons.

I had the privilege of getting to meet and interview Lisa last month while she was in Chicago.   Following are some highlights from our discussion:

Q.  Why did you decide to write The Handbook for Catholic Moms?

One of the big issues for me at and in preparing to write the book was reaching out to the women who were frustrated and burned out and in very emotional situations in fulfilling their vocation as a mom.  I wanted to write something that would be encouraging for my two sisters and my girlfriends, for the moms in my life and those I've encountered through my work on the website.

I look at my own family and see real moms, each living in unique family and employment circumstances, and I want to support them all. We are the Body of Christ in so many different ways, and what I wanted to do with the book was to provide support for any type of mom.  I wanted every mom who picks up the Handbook to feel they have something to take away from their experience of reading it.

The other thing I was definitely not trying to say, "I’m perfect, look what I’m doing". I’m far from it! But I have a sense of optimism about the joy of a Catholic mom's vocation, and I wanted to share that through The Handbook for Catholic Moms.

Q.  What is the main thing you hope women will take from the book?

I want moms to realize that every mom has her own unique journey.  There’s not a cookie cutter for how to be a mom.

There are things in the book that are not realistic for every mom in every point of her life.  I’m not saying, “Do all these things.”  I’m saying, “Moms, let’s take care of ourselves, let’s take care of each other.  If we don’t care for ourselves, we do a disservice to our families.  It's acceptable to take the time and energy to nurture yourself emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually.  By truly caring for ourselves in these ways, we better serve our families, our communities and our Church.”

In a particular way, I want moms to come away from the book with the knowledge that our Church has created all these beautiful tools for us to nurturing ourselves spiritually.  I love sharing encouragement and tips from people who have given real world examples, like how to fit prayer into a mom's busy schedule or how to create a "culture of faith" in our homes.

Q.  One of my favorites elements of the book were the stories of your life and the lives of other moms that can reach out to moms in different situations.  They were very “real” and healthy in helping moms know they are not alone in their struggles.  You share, for instance, about how you weren’t as always accepting of your husband’s faith journey before he converted to Catholicism.

My biggest regret is that I judged myself for that situation, and I judged my husband Greg.  What’s very odd is that the point of his conversion came when I had finally received a little peace about the situation and stepped back from worrying over it so much.  And now I can look back and realize good came from the very situation that had caused me so much stress and anxiety.

I specifically started because of the fact that I felt such a responsibility to pass on my Catholic faith to my sons, and my husband and I were not of the same faith.  I know I wouldn’t have started the website had that not been the hand that I was dealt.  You can look back at the situation and say, "I wish it had been different", but good came from it.  I also have so much respect and admiration for my husband's spiritual journey and the fruit that it has born in his life and in our family's life.

Q. What was your favorite part of writing The Handbook for Catholic Moms?

Honestly, I was so happily surprised by how willing so many people were to share their stories for the book, and how big a community of people got behind the message of encouraging moms in their vocation.

That’s how I was able to write the book through the course of surgery and radiation (for breast cancer), and everything else that was happening in my life -- So many people were praying me through the challenges and helping me to accomplish the project. 

Every day during the process of writing the book, I would announce on and Facebook and other places, “This is what I’m writing about today,” and by the time I got to the library to write I had 10 or 15 stories or quotes or other ideas to be included in the book.  I truly felt as though I had other people walking with me as I wrote.

Q.  Ten years ago when you entered the digital world, how much experience did you have?

Absolutely none!  Our Catholic School principal asked for a volunteer web designer, and I stepped up.  I had no experience whatsoever, but I was given a little training for this.  I realized I loved working on the computer!  That’s strange because I was a French major, and my master’s degree is in human resources.  I’m not a techy person by any means, but when I started it I realized I enjoyed it.  My inherent curiosity and motivation to learn new things  has served me well in ensuing years.

The digital age provides a wonderful means to an important end, which is our joy about sharing the Gospel message.  It makes sense to me that to be an effective apostle, you have to embrace communications where you are.  If that means going to YouTube, we go to YouTube.  My conviction about the message I’m sharing allows me to work through obstacles instead of just giving up.

Q.  What do you like most about the work you do?

I love getting out and interacting with moms.  I love getting to meet, either online or in person, different people who are working to share our faith.  I love going out to parishes.  I love the tech side of it.  That’s really surprising to me as I’ve said because it is not my background.

Q.  What is your vision for and your online work?

Every day I wake up and say, “Okay God, what do you want me to do today?”

I feel so blessed that God has gifted me with this apostolate and that I can serve and glorify Him in this way, through the website and all we are doing.  I am also grateful to realize that God has given me certain abilities and the means to follow His plan for my life.  My "vision" for the future of is to continue to follow His will, to reach out and support Catholic moms in any way that I can, and to be on the forefront of embracing new means of social communications to carry out this mission.

Q.  Where do you see technology taking your ministry in the future?

I love that we can employ the New Media in so many creative and uplifting ways to share our faith.  Podcasting is something that I really love.  At, we’re in the initial phases of an App for the Iphone and the Ipad that will incorporate the podcast, our videos and the blog.  Apps are the next thing for those of us in new media; people don’t necessarily always sit down in front of their computers.  The trend in technology and communications is toward great mobility.  Those of us working in Catholic New Media and evangelization need to learn to format our information in a way that is easily accessible for people in a variety of different ways.

Q.  Is it different to work in New Media than in traditional media?

It’s funny when you write for online audiences, it does change the way that you write.  It’s not so much that you “Twitterize” (or keep it super short) but you tend to write in a more concise way.  When I write for Faith& Family Live blog, I’m tend to write shorter pieces and build more interactivity into my writing.  Online trends and the development of social networking venues like Facebook and Twitter are definitely impacting the way we interact with our audience as writers.  But the importance of the messages, supporting the true teachings of our Catholic Church and expressing our zeal for our faith, remain timeless themes regardless of the technology involved.