Sunday, December 27, 2009

Have You Said Thank You Yet?

Not what we give, but what we share, for the Gift without the Giver is bare.
~James Russell Lowell, author

Very, very tired tonight. Went a-visiting to beat the storm today :). But before it got too late, I wanted to post a short message about Christmas. Father’s homily on Christmas Day was about the gift of Jesus and while I’ve thought about this in passing in previous years, this year it really struck home.

The reason for the season (as so many church billboards remind us this time of year) is Jesus. It’s His birthday we celebrate by giving each other gifts. But what gifts do we give to Jesus? Imagine a birthday party where the guest of honor was neglected or even ignored, while all the guests spent weeks and weeks shopping for gifts for each other. Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it?

Take that one step further and imagine a party where all the guests (except the guest of honor) received a gift from the host, and nobody stopped to say thank you.

Jesus was God’s gift to us, and through Him, the gift of everlasting life. I hope during this Christmas season (because now it truly is the Christmas season, all twelve days of it :)) we all take time out to think about what that means to us, and, at the very least, say thank you.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night :). Stay safe and warm if snow is headed your way, or already there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Helping the Homeless, Part Two

Stewardship is often defined as everything we do
after we say, “I believe.”
Function: noun
1: the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
2: the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
• We are God’s; ALL of our being belongs to God, our bodies, minds, and spirits
• All of our time, talents, and treasures are from God, for God, and the property of God
• We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.
— Winston Churchill
• No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave. — Calvin Coolidge

We are just passing through this world and are given and entrusted with Time, Talent, and Treasure to use for God’s glory and our good.

Last week my email box was flooded with emails about blizzards and frigid temperatures and people shoveling their cars out from under mountains of snow, and I couldn’t help but wonder about the homeless who live in their cars or worse in this type of weather. What does it say about us as a society that we spend hours upon hours shopping for gifts half of us don’t need or want, just because the media tells us to, while we let people sleep in cars and cardboard boxes and on city sidewalks?

Call me a Scrooge if you want—I don’t decorate or bake or go to Christmas parties, and this year I probably won’t even send out Christmas cards--but over 90,000 people are homeless in Los Angeles alone. One friend wrote of hundreds of people living in cardboard boxes along riverbanks in Colorado because the shelters are all full, in temperatures that dipped to 26 degrees below last week. These are families with men, women and children. Another mentioned seeing people sleeping in the streets in Philadelphia, a phenomenon that is repeated nightly in cities all across the nation.

Yesterday, I had my post all written, then accidentally deleted it. By then an hour and a half had passed, and I was hungry. So I went to my refrigerator and just stood there, staring at all the food in it and being grateful that I had so many choices when there are so many who have none. Being grateful that I was in a warm and dry home of my own while the wind blew and the rain poured. I can’t even begin to imagine the desolation the homeless must feel.

I then went to Mass, to give thanks for all that I’ve been given, put a check for the church’s food pantry in the collection plate, and although I was not hungry, agreed to go to lunch with a friend simply because I could.

I wanted to do so being aware of the blessing that was, to be able to walk into a restaurant and order whatever I wanted. We sat there for hours, talking and catching up on our lives. We would have closed the place down, had it been a different type of establishment. But for those few hours we were dry and warm and full, unlike so many others in our country, and for that I was grateful.

I want to ask you here to take a moment and think about the blessings you’ve been given, and find a way to share those blessings in this time of hardship for so many. Find out where your local homeless shelters are, make a pot of soup or a casserole or a few dozen extra Christmas cookies and drop them off on your way out shopping or to that Christmas party or concert. Take the money you would spend on a gift that a friend or relative doesn’t want or need, and donate it to your local food pantry. Drop a few dollars into the can outside the store and offer the Salvation Army bellringer a warm hello and a smile. Don’t avoid eye contact and pretend he or she isn’t there. Dig those old Christmas trees and ornaments you don’t use any more out of the attic or basement and donate them to someplace that could use a little Christmas cheer.

Go through your closets and collect your old coats and hats and gloves and blankets and drop them off at the nearest church or distribution center. They’re everywhere, if you just look. Take your children’s old books and toys to a community shelter for the kids there to read and play with. Take some time out of your frenzied Christmas preparations to volunteer at a community shelter and give the regular workers a break from the exhaustion that comes from serving others. Remember the reason for the season.

There are so many ways to help, just using what we already have on hand. And don’t forget to pray. Prayer costs nothing, but goes a long, long way.

Time, talent, and treasure. There is power in numbers. If everyone who can afford to did just a little, think of how much nicer a Christmas it could be for all of us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Author, Mona Risk

Today's guest is friend and fellow Rose Mona Risk, who is celebrating the release of her latest novel, Prescription for Trust. I met Mona in Florida this past January, and what a delightful woman she is. I plan to go back some day and watch the sunset from her balcony. Until then, however, I'll have to settle for being whisked off to exotic places and spending time with the stubborn and strong-willed characters in her books. She also has a wonderful blog. Welcome, Mona, and here's wishing you many happy sales.
Thank you, Liana, it's a pleasure to be here. I'm Mona Risk, and I write sweet and spicy medical romances in the genre of ER and Grey’s Anatomy—stories that will make you smile, laugh, and cry.

In BABIES IN THE BARGAIN, a pediatric resident ignores her strict schedule to help a playboy doctor deal with a newborn, after a tragic accident transforms her colleague into a dedicated father to his orphaned nephew.

Rx For Trust is the story of two psychiatrists with conflicting theories on how to treat their patients and tame their own emotions. My readers often ask: Are you a doctor? Not exactly, my friends. Let’s say that I am a self-proclaimed medical student trying hard to learn the professional jargon, in order to stage-direct my protagonists as they perform their medical procedures.

Puzzled, my readers frown: So what about research? Where do you find the medical cases, diagnosis, treatment or surgeries? I rely on real doctors. My daughter is a neonatologist and my sister a psychiatrist. Unfortunately they never have enough time to answer my endless questions. But I am persistent.

My daughter explained her resuscitation procedure several times. I consider myself an intelligent person but for the life of me I could not imagine how my daughter would have the courage to introduce an endo-trach-something that looks like a wire into the throat of a two-pound infant. And I didn’t comprehend the half-a-line long words she used while talking at an eighty-mile-an-hour speed.

Running out of time and patience at my continuous questioning, my daughter gave me a CD and a booklet. “Here, Mom, watch this video. Read the booklet, and if you have more questions, let me know.”

When I watched the video, I understood how the resuscitation procedure was done, and I also realized how those delicate hands manipulating the ETT (endtrotracheal tube) were saving babies’ lives. I was in awe and had tears in my eyes. That’s what my daughter was doing for a living---saving babies’ lives. I was able to write the procedure. Later on, she read my manuscript and changed my resuscitation scene into such an unsavory dry report I almost gagged and re-edited it again to make it more palatable.

For my next book, Rx FOR TRUST, I had to transform myself into a credible psychiatrist. I begged my sister for help. She refused to talk about her cases and gave me a lecture about patient confidentiality.

Did I mention I was persistent? My sister came back to me with two big volumes of psychiatric cases. “Here, read.these, and if you have more questions, let me know.”

Yeah, I heard that before, but my jaw dropped. Was she expecting me to read two big books of psychiatry?

Apparently, she was serious. And I read the two books. Honestly, I enjoyed the reading and couldn’t believe there was so many nut cases in the world. I chose the lighter ones, those that could be funny in a romance. Later on my sister reviewed my manuscript and made the medical scenes look “more professional." I immediately changed them back into “more readable."

As you can see, it’s not easy to transform a writer into a doctor, but it’s possible with hard work and perseverance.

Rx For Trust is based on a real case. Successful physician and loving mother, Dr. Olivia Crane is used to treating victims of domestic violence and has no problem listening to the most complicated cases of abuse, but deep down, Olivia fiercely believes youthful mistakes should be kept secret and skeletons are better left in closets.

Olivia doesn’t want to remember the past, doesn’t want to talk about it and carefully hides it from her daughter and from the man she loves. She has buried her ugly past and convinced herself she’s forgotten it.

Because of her inner fears, she refuses to face her past experience and deal with her problem. In fact, she is so terrified about the past catching up to destroy her daughter’s peace of mind, that one little lie leads to another, and another,… until the past catches up with her.

Unfortunately, Dr. Luc George, the French psychiatrist who loves her, detests secrets and has a professional tendency to dig into people's minds.

Rx FOR TRUST, the first book in the Doctor’s Orders series, was released December 4 by The Wild Rose Press. The story’s theme revolves around a famous saying by Walter Scott:
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

Contest Awards: First Place in Central Ohio Ignite the Flame; Second Place in Heart of Denver, The Molly; Third Place in FTHRW Golden Gateway.


“Fine.” He raised both hands in a conciliatory gesture. “But I am stunned by this situation. Help me understand you. We dated for a year. I loved you. Why did you not trust me?”

Loved. He used the past tense. Even if his love had survived for ten years, she’d killed it with her confession. The sadness underlying his question went straight to her heart. She dropped back into her chair, rubbing her forehead to lessen the tension.

Why did he have to linger over the painful past?

Luc touched her hand and enfolded it in his large one. “Olivia, you are a psychiatrist. You know you can’t bury your past forever. Not when you have a teenage daughter. At some point, you will have to deal with it. Can you please tell me why you hid your daughter from me?”

“Why can’t you understand?” She snatched her hand from his and exhaled, wishing she had a magic formula to erase her bitter past. “When I was a student, I was still hiding her from everybody at med school.” Resting her head against the back of the chair, she closed her eyes. “I told you I was terrified for her safety. Melissa is unfortunately the mirror image of her father. I was afraid that he’d find out he has a daughter and hurt us both.”

“Did he ever threaten you?”

Olivia blinked and struggled to suppress her bitterness. Threaten was putting it mildly. “He told me to ‘get rid of it’ when I said I was pregnant. And he got upset when I protested.”

“How upset?” Luc punched the palm of his left hand with his fist.

Feeling her control slipping under his scrutiny, she turned her head.

“Did he hit you?”

She didn’t answer. But he must have read the humiliating truth in her eyes.

“Mon Dieu. I wish I had known. I would have killed this monster. Is that the reason you turned away from me?”

She bit her lip, loathe to tell him how much she’d cried after he left. “Listen, we dated on and off during that year, but you were going back to France, and I wanted to concentrate on my career. Why would we start a long-distance relationship? Besides, I couldn’t trust anyone. Any man after...” Shaking her head, she averted her gaze. Luc was far too perceptive. “I was too frightened.”

“And you still are. You sacrificed a lot because of your inner fear. Don’t you think you need help, Dr. Crane? You need to learn to trust people again.”

“I’m fine now. When Melissa started high school, I introduced her to my boss and colleagues. I’m very proud of her.” She stood to signify the end of this conversation that had drained her.

Damn it. She didn’t need a shrink. After sampling his kisses last night, she roused to a surprising reality. She wanted him again. She wanted her French lover who lavished her with pleasure and tenderness during steamy nights.

His eyes narrowed, Luc crossed his arms over his chest. “But you still have not told your daughter the truth.” The archetypal psychiatrist, he followed the same line of questions.

Irritation flickered through her, and she struggled not to shout at him. “That’s not your problem.” The minute she’d confided in him, he tried to impose his views. “You see why I couldn’t tell you my secret? I didn’t want anyone interfering and destroying my daughter’s peace of mind.”

Mona Risk writes romantic suspense for Cerridwen Press: TO LOVE A HERO and FRENCH PERIL And medical romance in the genre of ER and Grey's Anatomy for The Wild Rose Press: BABIES IN THE BARGAIN and Rx FOR TRUST. All books are available at

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Colors of Thanksgiving

We praise you, O Lord, for all your works are wonderful.
We praise you, O Lord, forever is your love.

The colors of Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving I went to church, to give thanks for the many blessings in my life, and was treated to a wonderful program that tied in the colors of our life to the liturgy. Afterward, I asked Sister Mary Rose if she'd written it, and I could have a copy to share here.

To explain, she had someone process down the aisle with an object representing each of the following colors, colors that matched the programs we were handed as we entered the worship space. Those objects were:

A Green Plant
A Yellow Basket
An Orange Pumpkin
Red Apples
A Brown Floral Arrangement
A Blue Votive Candle
White Mums
Purple Grapes

What follows are the words that accompanied these symbolic objects. I hope you'll take the time to reflect on them, and will get as much out of them as I did.
Today’s Liturgy is both a HOLIDAY and a HOLY DAY. For people throughout our land,
today traditionally marks the day on which we, as a nation, pause to give thanks for the bounty of the earth.

Those of us who have gathered in THIS sacred this moment in time...are also gathered to give thanks for the gifts that come to us from the goodness of God.

In the spring, GREEN symbolizes breaking from the shackles of winter. At this time of year, it represents bounty...and hope...and the promise of victory of life over death.

YELLOW conveys energy and warmth...and is the symbol of light and purity. It speaks of youth...and happiness...and harvest...and hospitality.

Symbolic of endurance and strength, ORANGE is the color of fire and flame...and represents the red of passion, tempered by the yellow of wisdom.

Signifying spiritual awakening, RED testifies to the joy of life and love.

BROWN represents the earth and the humility of those who work the land. It reminds us that God is connected to the common things in life...and so are we.

Inspiring us with insight and freedom, BLUE symbolizes honesty and integrity and reliability. We have also come to associate this color with loyalty and enduring commitment.

WHITE calls to mind all that is pure, and innocent...and for this reason, it is often associated with the newness of life.

PURPLE brings to mind valor and bravery. Used by royalty, nobility and the church, PURPLE enhances many celebrations of rich ceremony and deep penitence.

And then, after Mass, these blessings were bestowed.

Upon you, whose program covers are YELLOW and ORANGE: I ask God to bless you with the grace you need to bring light to a darkened part of God’s world, filling it with understanding, and renewing it with an energy that will bring others to Jesus, the true Light.

Upon you, whose program covers are GREEN and BROWN: I ask God to give you the gifts that will nurture life and hope in others. May you stay rooted in the values of the Gospel and be always grateful for the common and the ordinary things of life.

Upon you, whose program covers are RED and BLUE: I ask God to make you strong in your commitment to live in imitation of Christ. May your love extend to those most in need of your compassion and care.

Upon you, whose program covers are WHITE and PURPLE: I ask God to bless you with new life as you face today...and every God’s chosen people. May you rejoice in the blessings God has shown you, and become instruments of goodness and peace.

My cover was blue, and I extend my love and blessings to you, as we progress through Advent and into the busiest and one of the most holiest times of the year, Christmas.