Minimize the Mess Winner and Broken Gods Next

Thank you to all who entered the Give Away for Rachel Kratz book, Minimize the Mess: A Mother’s Guide to Simplifying Your Home! I hope you enjoyed either watching or listening to our Hang Out together on the new Simplemama Podcast.  

Congratulations to Laura!

I hope you enjoy Rachel’s book as much as I did and are ready to “Minimize the Mess” around you.

You can find Minimize the Mess: A Mother’s Guide to Simplifying Your Home on Amazon and on Rachel’s blog –

Up next in my growing line of upcoming book reviews is

Broken Gods: Hope, Healing, and the Seven Longings of the Human Heart by Dr. Gregory Popcack.

I had the amazing privilege to Hang Out with Dr. Popcak Monday morning and chat about his book , about our divine longings and about how to allow God to heal our brokenness so we can become the perfect “gods” God originally designed us to be.

I’ll post that Hang Out on the Simplemama YouTube Channel and include an audio file of it on the Simplemama Podcast. I’m also hosting a Give Away with all of that coming up on June 4th so stay tuned, you really, really want to hear and read this one!!

God loves you so much that not only has he made you in his image, but he was born, lived, suffered, died, and rose again so that you might know how much you are worth to him. And if that wasn’t enough, he loves you so much that he wants to make you a god – a being who is perfect and immortal and intimately united to God so that you can spend all of eternity being loved by him. – Dr. Gregory Popcack


My own 20 minutes in Heaven

For #ThankANun day last Tuesday I decided to do more than just fill up social newsfeeds with hashtags and actually do what John Schlimm hoped people would do on that day – aside from buying his book of course. I decided to sit down and write a real thank you card to the “Nuns” who had played such a special role in my spiritual formation in high school.

As I wrote the words of thanks I realized there was no way I could fit everything I would want to tell them on this 4×6 piece of pretty cardstock. These Sisters gave up their lives to promote a deeper devotion to Christ through His beautiful Mother as school teachers.

So I decided I’d hand deliver the note with a freshly pressed copy of  John’s  Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions.

Mother Mary Magdalene was in a meeting when I popped by so I left the note and card with Sr. Cecilia Marie who was still as full of joy and kindness as ever. I asked if we could take a picture together and she was eagerly amused by the notion of being in her first ever “selfie” picture.

Later that day, after a long afternoon and after school pick up time, the phone rang – it was Mother Mary Magdalene!

She’d called to thank me for the card and book but then she stayed on the line and continued to ask how I was, how’s the family, and my husband. It wasn’t just small talk, she really wanted to know. We talked for a good 15 – 20 minutes and the whole time I felt as if I was in my own “20 minutes in Heaven”. It was so wonderful, like catching up with an old friend.

As I listened to her calm and familiar voice, I picked up the undertones of the small still voice of the Spirit. Like in my high school years, He’d chosen her as His messenger of peace and trust.

At some point in the conversation, I don’t know why, but I felt a twinge of longing. Longing for her somewhat cloistered life away from too much technology or other “luxuries” that really just end up detracting. Longing for a consistent and scheduled prayer life. Longing for a clear and direct purpose and mission like they have – teach the Gospel and increase a devotion to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I chuckled a little and admitted this last one to her, “Sister – I mean Mother – sometimes I wish my life had a clearer and more specific purpose like you Sisters do.”

“Oh but, Erika, you are a consecrated woman!” She exclaimed with the typical gusto that earned her the endearing nickname, “Turbo Nun”.

“You are a wife, and a mother!!” She continued on with an infectious zeal.

“What you do for your children, and your husband, is your mission. And, and – by golly – those children are going to grow up to sing God’s praises in ETERNITY one day because of your prayers and love for them.” 

I had to swallow back a few tears as she went on with an enthusiasm that could only be propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As she spoke, I felt as if we were speaking Mother-to-Daughter, she, like my own mom, encouraging me and reminding me of my purpose and abilities.

As I’d listened to her speak of all the details she’s working on for a new Novitiate House and what she hopes for her community and for her “daughters”, I also felt a strong mother-to-mother connection. We understood each other in a way we never could have before. We both knew the amazing responsibility that comes with being a leader of a household. We both knew the joys and struggles of watching and helping those in our charge as they grow and develop into who God created them to be. No doubt, we’d both learned many lessons in trust and letting go along the way.

I’m so glad I had that chance to speak with her like that.  Her words invigorated me and my passion for my vocation – my marriage  and family. I’ll try to carry her zeal and excitement with me throughout the little and big details of my days.


If you’d like to read the book that inspired me to thank these beautiful Sisters which led to that Spirit-imbibed conversation, I suggest you check out John Schlimm’s Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions.  And! There’s still one more day left today for the Giveaway HERE for his book so be sure to enter before 11:59 PM today 5/11.

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Thank You IHM Sisters {And a Book Giveaway!}

In yesterday’s post, I shared a small review of Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions and the Video Hangout conversation about Five Years I had with author John Schlimm.

Today I’m excited to join with Image Catholic Books in offering one GiveAway of John Schlimm’s Five Years in Heaven! There are many ways to enter but only one of the options below is necessary for a chance to win your own.

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I also mentioned John’s #ThankANun campaign going on as a way to encourage others to think of how a “Nun” has been a positive influence in their own lives and take the time to thank them (even if only through our prayers.) Now, when people say “Nun”, they are usually referring to a “Religious Sister”, unless they are cloistered and then it would be more appropriate to say “Nun.” Just saying.

Like John, I was blessed to attend a high school where “Nuns” taught. At the time, their convent was on the high school campus, their apostolate was literally a walk across the parking lot.

I came to love all the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary dearly – well maybe almost all of them ;). I loved their sincerity and kind hearts, I admired their attention to detail and their patience – it couldn’t have been easy working with a bunch of high schoolers with raging hormones and burning passions for life.

Those Sisters were a subtle – yet pivotal – part of my high school years. Through their silent but steady example, I grew to desire what they had. I wanted their Faith and loyalty to Christ. I even went on a Discernment Retreat and spent many hours talking with them through the years. Turns out, through all those times, God was actually using those moments to show me how beautiful the Sacrament of Matrimony is. But that’s a story for another day perhaps.

I remember the soft-spoken voice of Sr. Mary Ann as she brought us deeper into an understanding and appreciation for the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I admired Sr. Veronica Marie’s outward patience as she tried to get a bunch of sophomores excited about the deep symbolic truths hidden inside the Liturgy of the Catholic Mass even though her monotone voice was more like a sweet nap-time lullaby.

It was the time she gave to her students outside of class that I remember the most. She was there for whoever needed it, to listen, kindly offer a few words of advice, but mostly to just listen. And Pray. All those Sisters were – and still are – so good at prayerful listening. A skill I’m still working at refining.

But, out of all the Sisters who taught me and formed me during those High School Years, the two that will forever stand out in my memory are Sr. Mary Magdalene and Sr. Giovanni.

I met Sr. Giovanni my freshman year. I had heard “horror” stories of her from my older brother but my mother insisted she wasn’t all that bad. When I met her, she looked like she was a thousand years old…but she had a certain zeal about her and a hint of mischief. I was never quite sure how to read her. If I thought she smiled at me, I’d smile back, which only brought on a death stare that tore a hole clear through my eyes out the back of my head.

She was incredibly particular about where exactly we were to write our name on the right side of the blue line going down the college-ruled notebook paper. One time, I think I got a slight crease in one of my assignments and I asked my mom to help me iron it for fear I’d get marked down for the slightest wrinkle. The worst thing that could happen is that she’d call me up in front of the whole class and ask me about the wrinkle.

During class-time passing periods, she would get out her cane and hobble through the flood of students hurriedly trying to navigate the over-crowded hallways to get to their lockers and next class in 4.59 minutes. She’d look you right in the eye and point her finger at you and think for a moment. You had to be perfectly still while she decided whether to call you an “Angel” or…scowl at you and dub you a “Not so Angel”…or worse Mud Plus. Don’t even ask about Double Mud Plus.

Aside from how scary she was, I knew deep down she was really more of an “Angel” herself, she just wasn’t going to let all of us kids know it. I grew to really love seeing her passing through the halls, hoping to be one of the lucky ones to catch her twinkling eye and her crooked smile and maybe even the prestigious honor of being dubbed an “Angel”…for that day. Thank you Sr. Giovanni. You were just what I needed that freshman year and I hope you’re up there smiling down at us…maybe still picking out the angels from the not-so-angels. 😉

Sr. Mary Magdalene. Just look at her face and tell me how you couldn’t love her? Sr. Mary Magdalene – now actually Mother Superior Mary Magdalene, was kindly referred to as “Turbo Nun”. For that she was indeed. She was – and still is – full of energy and motion all.the.time. Even when she was irritated with us, she would find a way to smile…even if through clenched teeth. She had a way of getting down on our level and tried to reach us silly sophomores, who thought we knew everything, and meet us where we were. Although she never went into to many details, there were hints that alluded to a not-so-holy past. I think this is what helped her understand us and what helped us relate to her.

Sr. seemed to have only eyes of Faith when she looked at all of us. She always tried to give us the benefit of the doubt. I think there were many who tried to take advantage of that. But if this bothered Sr., she never showed it. I think Sr. truly desired for all of us to share that same excitement and love for Christ and His Church that bubbled up inside her. Her joy was contagious, I wanted what she had.

Sr. Mary Magdalene, thank you. Thank you for sharing your energetic zeal and passion for Christ and the Church. You never gave up on any of us, even if we’d given up on ourselves. You were – and are still – like our Spiritual Cheerleader, constantly cheering us on and encouraging us to keep going, keep searching, keep turning to God to fill that “God-shaped hole in all our hearts”.

I have many precious memories of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I’m truly thankful for their presence in my life and high school years. As an adult, when I run into them at various events in the Diocese or at their Mother House, my heart fills with Joy and Gratitude for all the love they’ve poured out to all of us over all these years through their prayers and presence in our community.

Do you have any special memories with a “Nun”? Take time to Thank God for them today – and if you can, send them a little card of thanksgiving. 

Five Years in Heaven {Book Review VIDEO}

Hey it’s been a little while since I’ve blogged – I’ve been busy reading up a storm and watching a few good movies . We also celebrated our son’s First Communion last weekend so it’s been a lot of fun around here lately!

After applying for a few different book review requests, the water gates opened and I’ve been flooded with books to review and I’m soaking it all up. So be prepared for a flood of book reviews in the next few weeks.

Today, I’ll start with Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions by John Schlimm.

As part of my review, I got to literally “HangOut” with John Schlimm and chat about him and Sr. Augustine and hear more about his experience with her. It was so fun getting to meet him “in person” and we had a great conversation. Watch our time together here and learn more about him and Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions.

Would you ever think a 31-year-old single guy would become great friends with an 87-year-old Benedictine Nun? Probably not – unless God was involved.

Thankfully for John Schlimm, God got very involved and guided John into the ceramic shop of a local Benedictine Monastery where he would meet Sr. Augustine – a simple “old nun” who would forever change his life.

For as long as I live, Sister Augustine will be one of the most extraordinary people I’ll ever know,” John said. “For me, she was a light in the darkness. A mentor. A friend. I know many others feel the same way about the special nuns who have passed through their lives as well.

John and Sr. Augustine in her Ceramic Shop

Five Years in Heaven is a beautiful memoir of how John Schlimm learned about the value of true friendship and trusting in God’s timing – especially when you have no clue when or how He’ll ever answer your prayers for direction. My favorite part about this book is that it showed a positive experience with a Nun and the Catholic Church instead of the usual negative extremes we often hear flayed around in the news.

As part of the release for Five Years in Heaven on Tuesday, May 5, John is inviting everyone to participate in #ThankANunDay May 5. See below for more info and I’ll come back tomorrow with my own ThankANun day post reminiscing about the cool “nuns” in my life and another little surprise to go along so stick around!

On May 5, we’re inviting social media users everywhere to join an unprecedented global movement on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest called Thank A Nun Day.

Thank A Nun Day was inspired by the new spiritual memoir Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions
by John Schlimm. In his book, John recounts the heartwarming story of his five-year friendship with a Catholic nun, Sister Augustine, who even into her nineties helped him discover the true meaning and purpose of his life.

Here are several ways to participate in Thank A Nun Day:
  • Join our Thunderclap:
  • Visit our landing page:ImageCatholicBooks/ThankANun
  • Download the COLOR A NUN pages for kids to share–links to download the pages are at the bottom of this post
  • Start sharing now! Follow @ImageCatholic and @JohnSchlimm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest, and start sharing your pictures and stories about Catholic nuns who have inspired you!
  • Be sure to use the hashtag #ThankANun


(When you purchase Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions through any of the affiliate links in this post, our family receives a cute wittle Amazon Gift Card, thank you!)

Easter Joy & Family Updates {Journal} 2

Time for another life and family update!

Outside my Window: The crazy unpredictable Spring weather is in full swing! Last week there was a day I wore my hoodie in the morning with jeans but by the end of the day I was outside in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s looking like a nice enough week in the high 60’s – 80’s but it wouldn’t be Spring without a few Tornado watches in the forecast starting tomorrow. Hopefully it will just turn into a nice gentle rain shower…

Here’s a beautiful view out my window of our pear trees in full blossom a couple weeks ago:

Wearing: I’ve got my Project 333 Spring Wardrobe picked out and ready! I’ll save that for a separate post. Try to contain your excitement while you wait.

Bringing me Joy: Easter! Alleluia, Christ IS Risen! This year’s Lent and Easter has been different than others, more meaningful, more…authentic. My husband was an RCIA sponsor this year and we’ve never gone through that before. (Well, I was an RCIC teacher for a few kids back in high school but that was a little different.) Going to the classes and re-learning the core foundations of our Faith through fresh eyes enriched our Faith and invigorated love for the Church.

We also re-watched Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism DVD series with our daughter and my husband’s parents and that was amazing. And then, going to all the Holy Week and Easter Triduum together with our catechumen and finally the amazing Easter Vigil was an incredible experience. So with all that, my cup runneth over with joy.


The Two-Year-Old: Still incredibly cute. Yet, his orderliness and independent personality is starting to catch up with the cuteness and overshadow it some days. He’s going through a huge developmental growth spurt, which is exciting and exhausting all at the same time. Going through it three times prior has conditioned me for it but it still wears me out trying to keep up with his curiosity and growing demands.

He’s talking a lot. But I can’t understand him half the time even though he thinks he’s making perfect sense. He’s starting to use the toilet more so that’s exciting! I got him some pull-ups for when we’re out and about so I don’t have to mess with trying to put a diaper back on him while he stands – why is that so hard? And I’m pretty sure he’s done nursing. Which I’m mostly ok with but still a little sad to let that part of our relationship go. He’s so fun to watch as he grows up into his own little person.

Five-Year-Old: He’s growing up so fast too. We received the official letter and he has been accepted into Kindergarten for next school year! He has absolutely loved preschool this year and almost every day he talks about how excited he is for Kindergarten. While walking up to Communion the other day, he turned around and looked up at me and whispered, “I can’t wait to go to Kindergarten all day without you!”

Ouch. At least I don’t need to fret over if he’s ready or not. He has reassured me though that I’ll still have the two-year-old around to keep me company and that I can come visit him at lunch and recess whenever I want to so I don’t get too sad without him. He’s ready to go out and meet the world of school head on. Let’s just pray and hope his teachers are ready for him!

Eight-Year-Old: This has been a big year for him too! He received his first Sacrament of Reconciliation in February and is preparing for his First Communion in May. I’ve noticed a major shift in his behavior and attitude at Mass and in talking about God and the Sacraments. It’s been so cool preparing him for his first Sacraments  while we also went through the RCIA classes.

I went out and got him a suit jacket, a new dress shirt that fits his long arms and a spiffy tie. He was so excited about it he wanted to wear it to for the Easter Vigil because, in his words, “It’s such a special Mass!” He’s been using his creative mind a bit more and helped me make this for Lent –

When I told him I was trying to think of a way to make a cross, he went out into the yard and found a long stick and told me how to assemble it with what we had in the house. It turned out so much better than anything I could have bought or tried to make myself.

Eleven-Year-Old: Lots of growing up too. She really enjoyed getting to stay up late and watch the Catholicism series with us and her grandparents. It’s so cool to see how important her Faith is to her and I’m excited to watch her love for Christ and His Church continue to blossom and grow.

This year she decided to try out for her school’s Battle of the Books team and she made it! She loves reading so I’m glad she’s been able to put all that reading to good use. They had their first “Battle” a couple weeks ago and her team took first place!

Around the House and Garden: I’ve been doing a lot of typical “Spring Cleaning” here lately. I even took all the artificial plants down from above the cabinets and shelves and hosed them down outside. They look brand new again! While I was up there, I even vacuumed away the 10-inch thick layer of dust that had collected after almost 7 years of living here. It will be another 10 – 15 year before I do that again.

I also went out and hacked away all the dead bush branches in our front landscape as it was looking pretty scraggly. I’ve sadly given up on my vegetable garden since I could never seem to get enough to grow and now that we have a dog, if anything did grow, she’d probably eat it before I even saw it. Maybe one day I’ll give it another go but for now I’m glad I know enough people who like to share their garden surplus. (Hint, hint!)

Working On: As if all the above isn’t enough to keep my busy, I’m trying to put my social media knowledge and writing to good use in the parish with the newsletter and other communication efforts as well as helping get a Moms Group going for the parish. I’m really enjoying getting more involved and going out of my way to get to know new people and help them feel welcome and a part of the parish.

I’ve also got a few writing projects and deadlines for my local diocesan paper and with coming up that I’m working on that are exciting and fun, which I’ll tell you about when I can. 😉

Blogging: It was nice to take it a little slower on the blog during Lent but I have a lot of new posts collecting in my mind that will need to get out and give my brain some room to breathe! Oh, and I need to give it a Spring Makeover soon too. Any ideas? Is there anything about my blog design you wish I’d change or other suggestions?

Alright, I’ve met and exceeded my 33-minute writing goal for the day so I’ll do another Reading/Watching Update later.

I hope everyone enjoyed a beautiful Easter Sunday and pray your Easter season will be filled with Joy!

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