Alison W Domestic Church Ink Slingers Single Parents Spiritual Growth

When the Kids are Gone: Tips for Single Parents

Being a single mother is stressful. It’s challenging and chaotic. It’s so easy to be stretched too thin and exhausted.

What’s even harder, though, is the time away from them. That was so hard for me and to be honest, for years I dealt with our separations the wrong way. The pain can be intense when we must leave our children due to work or custody sharing and that time is only edifying if it is filled with holy things. The time must be filled with giving yourself to Jesus in some form or another. That can mean solitary prayer or volunteering your time in service to others, but it can’t be idle.   

Idle hands have led me astray more than I care to admit. So I’m going to suggest some things to do when life is crushing you.

  1. Volunteer–find someone somewhere in need of something. Don’t take anything for yourself; just offer it all to Jesus.
  2. Pray–Open your heart to the Holy Spirit and get carried away by grace. Get out your Bible and holy books. Let Jesus speak to you.
  3. Work–Keep busy with things that actually need to be done, whether at work or at home, so you feel like you’ve accomplished something meaningful.
  4. Clean–Yes, this is a job that’s never done, but it can kill time and you will feel better for having done it. 
  5. Reach Out–People around you are hurting and need love. Go visit or call them. Love them.
  6. Enjoy friends–Surround yourself with people who care about you, who make you laugh, and whose company you enjoy. 
  7. Get Outside–Soak in the sun!
  8. Get a hobby–Plant some flowers, learn to paint, join a book club, or learn to swing dance.
  9. Work Out–Throw your energy into taking care of your body, as well as your soul.
  10. Write Lists–Make a list of goals, things to do, things not to do, of what matters. Use the lists to go forward.
  11. Heal Your Heart–It’s a painful place, but feel it. Feel the pain so you can process it and let go. That’s the only way to get the pain out. Cry. Hurt. Forgive the other person. Forgive yourself. 

I encourage everyone in transitional places to cling to the sacraments and to be easy with yourself. Transitional periods of life can take us through a living hell, but you can come out of the fire  stronger and closer to God.  

Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Misty Sacraments Vocations

Five Tips for a Long, Strong Marriage

Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageOn February 28, I will have been married for 18 years to a man who can still make my heart flutter when I look at him. (Except when he leaves his dishes on the couch.) Approaching our 20-year anniversary has made me think about the lessons we’ve learned over the years about marriage. Our relationship isn’t perfect, of course; we’ve even needed counseling a few times to help us navigate difficult issues. But we’ve held onto each other for nearly two decades, through suffering and struggle, so I humbly share our hard-won wisdom for a lasting, edifying, and satisfying marriage. 

  1. Accept that your mission in marriage isn’t to always be happy, but to become HOLY and help each other get to heaven. My husband and I converted together three years into our marriage. We have always been very compatible and our first years together sans children were a lot of fun. But in RCIA, our first priest emphasized that marriage is a partnership designed to help us become the best versions of ourselves. And that more than anything, we’re to help each other get to heaven. This challenged us to hold each other accountable, to encourage each other spiritually, and to see our union as something bigger than our individual selves. This mindset has also helped us weather those “for worse” times, because it framed them as periods of training in forgiveness and virtue, instead of proof that our relationship was failing. 
  2. Get on the same page financially. Almost every couple I know has struggled with differing habits and expectations about finances, including us. My husband grew up in a wealthy family; I grew up impoverished. To say we had different approaches to money would be an understatement. In past generations, frugality and budgeting were passed on to children from parents who understood the value of “home economics.” If you weren’t taught how to be a good steward of your money, learn how BEFORE you get married, and save yourself the wrangling with your spouse over it. For us, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover was a godsend, but Crown Financial Ministries has a good program, too.
  3. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageMake sex a priority and get counseling if it isn’t. Sex is important because it’s how we renew the marriage covenant; it’s a source of great graces for a couple. Sadly, my sexual hangups often caused me to increasingly avoid intimacy, which sent the message to my husband that I didn’t value being with him. I allowed fear–of being used, being rejected, not looking perfect–to keep me from getting closer to him. My fear of being vulnerable became glaring during an especially rough patch and it wasn’t until I worked through my issues in counseling that I learned to treasure the gift of sex. Beyond grace, sex has a subtle but important effect: It helps you don those “rose-colored glasses” that keep the daily, minor irritations of living together from becoming major annoyances that drive you apart. This is one reason premarital sex is dangerous–those “sexy” glasses make the person seem so wonderful that we’re willing to overlook warnings the person isn’t right for us. 
  4. Keep the marriage relationship a priority, even over the kids. A few years ago, an insurance company surveyed 1,000 couples about their communication. The results were shocking: excluding time asleep, couples now average less than four hours together each week, an hour of which is spent in silence in front TV and 40 minutes doing chores together. Nearly 30 percent said they don’t actually talk until the weekend and one in 10 only talk via phone or by email! Thirteen percent even admitted to using Facebook to learn about their spouse’s life. Maybe you think this won’t happen to you, but even the most in-love, committed couples can fall into the trap of being “too tired” from childrearing or “too busy” with work to nurture the marriage. (Ask me how I know this.) Remember: God made marriage the sacrament, not raising kids. You’re not just roommates; you’re lovers, so act like it. And ladies, don’t always expect him to initiate time together, either. Plan a date night every single week and carve it in stone on your calendar; surely, if dental appointments get a time slot, your marriage should. Just as importantly, plan time together at the end of each day. Go to bed 20 minutes early and just lay there holding hands and talk. Trust me on this. 
  5. Five Tips for a Long, Strong MarriageAgree to trust each other’s judgment when it comes to mental illness or needing outside help. Both my husband and I have periodically suffered from depression and anxiety that necessitated medication and/or counseling. We also needed counseling to help us cope with his PTSD. (See, I told you we weren’t perfect.) Most couples wait until they’re on the brink of divorce before they even consider seeking treatment for problems and then, it’s common for one spouse to refuse outside help. The truth is, it’s hard to think clearly when you’re anxious or depressed. And prolonged strife and emotional estrangement can overwhelm you with fear, anger, and hopelessness. My husband and I have been able to repair our relationship before it’s irrevocably damaged because we’ve agreed to trust each the other when one of us says to the other, “I think you’re depressed and may need medication/counseling” or “I think we need a counselor to help us reconnect and better support each other.” You can’t know what life may bring, so agree ahead of time to use whatever tools are necessary to preserve and heal your marriage–even counseling. 


DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}


MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}



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From Loathing to Loving the Rosary

rosary1One of the things I love about Advent and Christmas is the extra emphasis on the Blessed Mother. As a motherless Catholic, it’s been easy to embrace Mary as my own mother and I always love hearing the Scriptures about her this time of year. 

For most of my years as a Catholic, however, I struggled with one of the most traditional Marian devotions–the rosary. A year or so after my baptism, I picked up a pamphlet explaining how to do it, bought myself a lovely rosary at the parish bookshop, and settled down to embrace the devotion that countless saints and the most ardent Catholics in my life insisted was a “must” for anyone wanting to grow in holiness.

Except I hated praying the rosary. I found the whole thing pedantic and boring. My mind would inevitably wander…I could either focus on saying the prayers or meditate on the mysteries, but not both. And I could never get more than a few minutes into a rosary without being interrupted. (I even started getting up an hour before the kids, only to have them inexplicably wake up 10 minutes after I started praying. Can we say spiritual attack?)

So I put it aside for a while, trying again six months later. Yet I just couldn’t “get” the rosary the way I could novenas or litanies. I’d try every year or so, with the same effect. By the time I had been a Catholic for a full decade, I had a genuine, personal love for the Blessed Virgin, but the embrace of her most favored devotion still seemed to elude me. Apparently, the rosary was for those “other” Catholics, but not for me.

Then my 20-year marriage went through its worst trial ever as my husband began to experience severe depression as part of his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He told me he felt emotionally numb; when pressed, he admitted he saw me as nothing more than a really good friend. These are not the words a wife ever wants to hear and I was devastated.

Fortunately, my husband is a humble man and he agreed to get treatment for his conditions. rosaryjpTreatment for PTSD and depression isn’t a quick fix, however, and we both struggled for months in a most profound emotional and spiritual darkness. And there’s nothing like desperation to drive you to any and every devotion that might help.

Years earlier, a devout Catholic woman had told me she’d prayed the 54-day rosary novena for her Baptist husband to convert to the faith. She didn’t tell him she was praying for him; she just prayed and devoted each day’s rosary to his conversion. On Day 53, her husband called from work and casually informed her he’d decided to become Catholic. Today, both husband and wife are Third Order Dominicans and devoted godparents to our fourth child. 

Remembering that story, I decided I had nothing to lose. So for 54 days in a row–I didn’t miss a single day–I slogged through the holy rosary and offered it for my husband’s healing. At first, I hit the same old stumbling blocks as before: boredom, mental distraction, interruptions. But I was desperate enough to persevere this time. By the time I finished the first half of the rosary, I’d prayed it every day for a month and the devotion had been transformed for me. I actually looked forward to praying the rosary each day. I was better able to meditate on the mysteries while praying the Hail Marys, too. If I couldn’t sleep or found myself anxious, I’d start praying the rosary almost reflexively. I began to have beautiful insights about the events of Jesus’ life that I hadn’t had before. 

I finished the entire 54-day novena. Three days later, my husband told me he’d been washing his truck when a strong sense of just how important I was to him flooded his soul. As more time passed, that feeling only grew for him, as he recovered from the depression and began to feel emotionally reconnected to me and our children. His PTSD symptoms also began to abate. For a full year, he hadn’t been able to sleep at night; some nights, he got no more than two hours’ sleep as the severe anxiety kept him wired and awake. A month after I finished the rosary, he was falling asleep on his own and sleeping all night. His recovery was nothing short of miraculous and I credit the Blessed Mother, of course. By God’s grace, our marriage emerged stronger for the trial. 

The crisis in my marriage brought me to my knees and led me to a devotion I was sure wasn’t for me. Now, praying the rosary is simply an act of love that I do for a variety of causes; right now, I’m praying for another family that needs a miracle as much as we did. 

Whether you’re interested in overcoming your own difficulties with the rosary, are interested in praying the 54-day miraculous novena, or just want to make the rosary a regular devotion, I offer two aids: 

  1. A list of tips for praying the rosary that can be found HERE , and
  2. A chart to help you keep up with the 54-day rosary novena HERE.

I welcome any of you who are regular prayers of the rosary to share your tips in the comments section. What works for you, sisters and brothers?



Domestic Church Giveaways Homeschool Ink Slingers Martina

GIVEAWAY: 2015-2016 Catholic Through The Year Printable CALENDAR!

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Hear ye! Hear ye!


Alice Doyle

Kim Barger

Alesha Wozny

Allison Fogarty

Lisa Dryzal

Linda Dell’Uomo Reid

Elyse Oslé Rinehart

Hannah 5/27 4:15 p.m.

Kristi 5/27 11:12 p.m.

Christie Martin 5/28 8:37 p.m.

{Winners, please email with Calendar & Bundle giveaway winner in the subject line and let me know which of the three bundles you would like – homeschool, household management, or blogger. Congratulations!}

Last year Catholic Sistas launched an all-new product to the Catholic planning world–a downloadable and printable calendar for YOU to print. It received such a wonderful response, we are now in year two of offering the academic calendar. I love, love, LOVE mine. I use it every day and it sits to the right of my laptop for easy access to see what’s going on for the day. At $7.50 for the calendar and $3.50 for bundles, you really can’t go wrong. It’s versatile and meets the needs and budgets of many, from those who want to print in black & white and save a few dollars in printing at home, those who want to print in color or who want to spend the extra money and have it printed professionally and bound.

TEN lucky winners will receive a FREE download of the new academic calendar AND their choice of ONE free bundle {homeschool, household management, and Catholic blogger}.



  • New color scheme and designs – a rich coral and deep smokey gray.
  • The rendition of Madonna of the Lilies by friend of Catholic Sistas, Monica Welch of Dovetail Ink.
  • PDFs are fillable using Adobe Acrobat Pro or some other editing program. This is GREAT news for those of you who like to fill in information prior to printing. Perfect for homeschooling mommas! More details and options for those of you without Acrobat Pro will be available in the near future, so stay tuned!
  • Print size is not just limited to 8.5 x 11 – you can print two to a page, making the planner 5.5 x 8.5 and perfect for throwing in your purse or diaper bag.


  • downloadable and printable files to print using your own home printer or take to a printer to have it professionally printed – your choice!
  • available in COLOR or B&W
  • beautiful cover sheet
  • August 2015-July 2016
  • this liturgical planner was created using the standard guidelines of the Church calendar, both the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969 used in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite {the Novus Ordo} and the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and reissued by Pope Bl. John XXIII in 1962 used in the Extraordinary Form {the Traditional Latin Mass – TLM}
  • year at a glance
  • 12 month at-a-glance pages {two-page spread per month for maximum use}
  • weekly planners for each month, giving you plenty of customizable space to meet your family’s needs
  • includes a personal information page
  • contact sheet for friends, family, & acquaintances
  • multiple pages for note taking or doodling
  • and a meaty section on prayer, including verses from Sacred Scripture, quotes from saints, & references pulled from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as a truncated list of common prayers.



  • beautiful cover sheet
  • 36 pages of blank lesson plans waiting for you to get ready for the school year! Verses from Sacred Scripture, quotes from saints, and snippets from the Catechism of the Catholic Church laced throughout.
  • grade sheet printable to use as many times as needed
  • a FREE homeschool conference kit courtesy of our friends at Raising Saints
  • and a report card printable for you to print on card stock, making your homeschool reporting look professional!


  • beautiful cover sheet
  • a re-usable to-do list {which I recommend you laminate} to keep track of what needs to get done throughout the day
  • 12 month of meal calendars, August 2015-July 2016
  • weekly meal planner printable to print as many times as you will use it through the year
  • daily cleaning list {lamination recommended}
  • weekly & monthly cleaning lists {lamination recommended}
  • fall & spring cleaning lists {lamination recommended}
  • 23 day organizing challenge
  • household tips sheet
  • around the house master project list
  • budget list for finances, August 2015-July 2016
  • birthday & anniversary list, by month
  • AND a gift list, with a breakdown to designate Christmas, birthday, or anniversary


  • beautiful cover sheet
  • additional cover sheets for each blogging month
  • goals sheet for each month
  • daily maintenance sheet to keep track of your posts and what you’ve done with social media, did you pray?, etc.
  • brainstorm sheet with room to spread out and jot down ideas, tags, categories, SEO, where to promote, time and supplies needed, and any offshoot post ideas
  • guest post sheet to keep track of details for those who wish to write on your blog
  • sponsor sheet to keep track of ads, $$ coming in, and start/end date for the ads
  • AND a month of posts sheet to jot down all the post titles for the month, as well as recording numbers for all your social media


  • QR codes to different Catholic Sistas posts and articles throughout the weekly calendars
  • the Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman introduction and the examination of conscience sheet we shared through the series for easy reference
  • available in COLOR or B&W!
  • your download will come with instructions to print, including which pages to print on heavier paper, such as the dividers and cover pages, as well as which ones to laminate and paper recommendation to prevent bleed-through AND a print release for your local print shop.


♦ Calendar/Day Planner – $7.50

♦ Bundles will be as low as $3.50/each with purchase of the calendar/day planner


  • Giveaway will run from Tuesday, May 26-Friday, May 29
  • TEN winners will win a full download of the 2015-2016 academic calendar AND their choice of ONE free bundle {homeschool, household management, and Catholic blogger}



This giveaway is EASY PEASY. Just answer the following question in the comments section of THIS post:

“What was the last organizing project you worked on?”

Did you clear out some clutter from the garage? What about under your bed or the perpetual mess of a hallway closet…or is that just me with the toddler who likes to use it as a stowaway fort, pulling clean towels down on a daily basis? Have I said too much? 😉 Share what you’ve done lately, be it small or big, then comment and get entered!


One entry per person, please.

Giveaway will end at 10 p.m. CST on Friday, May 29 {comments will be closed upon deadline}



To see details of a printed planner – I’m still printing mine up, folks – I’ll have new pics of hard copies before the week is over, visit the sample page that has pics from last year’s planner. Have questions? Visit the FAQ page for more details. Also, see our terms of service prior to purchase.

Ink Slingers Marriage Matrimony Mindy Sacraments Spiritual Growth Vocations

Five secrets to a strong marriage

7 marriageRecently, I had the privilege to interview Gil and Sandra Cragen, honored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter as the longest-married couple among nominees in the state of Alaska.

That interview will appear in the Catholic Anchor, Anchorage’s Archdiocesan newspaper, next month. But I thought I’d share some bullet points about their marriage and what has made it so successful.

I know that simply being married 54 years does not equate to a good marriage. Yet, from the moment I entered their home, I felt blessed by their mutual love and warm hospitality. Sitting there eating homemade cookies and sipping lemonade, I not only felt physically but emotionally and spiritually nourished. So, I think these tips are worth sharing. I have also newly committed to praying for and striving for these qualities in my own marriage, and those of my friends and loved ones.

1) Commitment. It sounds silly, since marriage is a commitment, right? But in this day and age, one shouldn’t take for granted that both parties bring a strong commitment to the table. I myself did not understand that marriage is a lifelong commitment when I got married. My husband taught me this through his example, and showed me where the error was in my thought process. A lot of people have an attitude these days of, “I can always leave when things get tough and I’m no longer feeling happy.” I speak from experience.

2) Communication. Wait for the spirit of anger to dissipate, and then find the time and a way to communicate. It doesn’t have to be talking. The key is to prioritize mutual respect and tenderness for one another, as well as patience and compromise. This is probably the biggest challenge in my marriage–not the respect, tenderness, patience and compromise part so much as the time part. Between my husband’s work schedule and raising 9 children, time is often in short supply.

3) Intentionality. Strong families don’t happen by accident. When you think in your mind of what looks like a strong family, what is important to you? Do strong families eat dinner together at the table, for example? Do they read the Bible together? If you are not doing these things you wish you did, start! The time is now. There will never be a better or more right time.

4) Church. Raise your children in the Church. Show up frequently. Go together. Pray together. Practice the faith at home, exercise faith in your lives. Be the example.

5) Love one another. If there’s one thing that was supremely obvious from my time with the Cragens, it is that they dearly love one another. They do it through their tenderness in speech, their patience while conversing, their mutual respect for one another’s viewpoints.

What has worked for you? If you feel you have a particularly strong marriage, we’d love to hear what makes it so. Thanks for sharing!