Thursday, November 24, 2016

Looking for Catholic Christmas gift ideas, from Catholic sellers? Here ya go!

All right! On Facebook a while back, I asked for and received links from Catholic vendors and artists, in anticipation of Christmas! The items/stores/shops by Catholic vendors are listed below, to make it easier to buy Catholic gifts for our loved ones while helping to support Catholic sellers at the same time. Enjoy "browsing," and feel free to add your own Catholic link in the comment section.

Personally, I think my book, Raising Chaste Catholic Men: Practical Advice, Mom to Mom, is a great gift idea, heh heh! Any young Catholic mom (or dad!) will benefit from the fun but substantive conversation inside.

Also, to make the gift more special, I am happy to sign and personalize a copy for you or your loved ones. In that case, you would buy it straight from me (don't purchase it online); simply email me at, and I will let you know how to make that happen!


A great family (or parish!) gift idea is Bishop Barron's DVD/Blu-Ray set, The Pivotal Players

I have watched every one of the profiles (St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton, and Michelangelo), and I can tell you that the riches you will mine from these mini-documentaries are worth every penny. Consider buying a set for your own family, splitting it between families who can share it, or gifting a set to your parish or Catholic school. Truly uplifting, spiritually edifying. 

For the children, I love the Shining Light Dolls so much! My grandchildren adore them, and I have it on good authority that Santa Claus (and Grandma and Grandpa) will be bringing them a few more this year. I just now realized they have books that go along with the dolls, too! 

Aren't these adorable? You know who they are! And there are many more to choose from, and new ones always on the way!

I love Becky's book, The Little Flower, and anything else on the Peanut Butter & Grace site. 

And I haven't seen this one in person, but I'm getting it for my own kids today, because it looks so good, and so instructive:  The Great Adventure Storybook. Looks like a fabulous way to teach the kids salvation history! 

For yourself, to become a better apologist in the New Year, day by day, I recommend Jimmy Akin's 
A Daily Defense: 365 Days ( plus one) to Becoming a Better Apologist.

Another great book -- a parenting book with a refreshing twist -- is Dr. Ray Guarendi's
Advice Worth Ignoring: How Tuning Out the Experts Can Make You a Better Parent. Doesn't the title alone make you relax and feel better about your parenting?? I am here to tell you after eight kids and 25 years of being a mom, he is really on to something! Save younger parents the trouble, and get them this book now.

For excellent Advent ideas, check out Holy Heroes site (which is always chock full of good stuff, in every season).

Newly added: I just got this lovely book in my hands, Graceful Living: Meditations to Help You Grow Closer to God Day by Day, and I think it's a great gift idea for your mom or your grandma (or your best friend). Aesthetically beautiful, small, hardback -- daily meditations prompted by Scripture and saint quotes. Check it out:

Now, on to the list of vendors and shops and items that my Facebook friends suggested. I will simply link them, in no particular order, and you can browse through. Isn't it fun? Catholic Christmas shopping from the comfort of your chair:

Travel With T (Catholic travel agent)

TelosArt (including liturgical calendars)

Peter's Square (dozens of Catholic vendors)

Zazick Designs (Lego rosaries)

Johnson Architecture (custom watercolor paintings)

Saintly Silver (saint softies)

Super Saints (quizzing cards)

Prayer Impressions (rubber stamps)

Faith and Fabric (quilt patterns)

Saint Benedict Medal (clothing/accessories)

Mazzoni's Handmade Shop (including mosaics)

Petite Fleur Studio (peg dolls)

Rodan + Fields (skin care)
Rodan + Fields (a second Catholic friend)

Caritas Press Catholic Books (for adults and children)

Brita Baby Boutique (creative diaper bouquets)

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and may God bless us with a fruitful Advent!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A couple of housekeeping notes...


I did it!

I began a book club on Facebook primarily for the purpose of holding myself accountable for finishing a book. And it worked! I finished Evelyn Waugh's Helena ahead of schedule, and I had a blast with the folks who joined me!

And since the next book on the schedule is one that regular readers have heard me rave about, I'm now letting my blog readers know about the book club, in case any of you want to join in.

The book we will begin in December, great for Advent, is Fr. Wilfred Stinissen's book, Into Your Hands, Father: Abandoning Ourselves to the God Who Loves Uswhich I wrote about here and here.

The Little Catholic Bubble Book Club is private, but if you request to join (you must have a Facebook page), I'll ascertain your non-trollness and let you in. This book is life-changing; if you've ever wanted to read it, now's the time.


I'm working on my next book, which will give voice to the (now-adult) children of divorce. If that's you, I want to hear from you, primarily so those adults contemplating divorce today might have the perspective of the children -- things that adult children of divorce have rarely been able to say, for fear of hurting their parents or being dismissed.

If you are an adult child of divorce who would like your voice heard, please answer the following questions and send your responses to, with the subject DIVORCE. All answers will be confidential, unless you let me know that you are comfortable with your first name being used.

Please answer any/all of the questions you feel comfortable answering. I will not know until the compilation of the book how much or how many of your answers will be included.

I am not worried about style; I am grateful for your heartfelt, thoughtful answers, even off-the-cuff. This is not a scientific survey, as you will quickly see. Here ya go:

1. Basic info: Are you male or female, and please give your age at the time of your parents’ separation and/or divorce and the age you are today. Are you married? Do you have children? (Give your name if you want to be identified.)

2. Were your parents Catholic? Married in the Church? Received subsequent annulment? Remarried? 

3. If you wish to remain anonymous, please tell us why.

4. A very broad question, but what affect has your parents’ divorce had on you? 

5. What is the difference between how you felt about the divorce as a child and how you feel about it as an adult?

6.  Has your parents’ divorce affected your own marriage or view of marriage?

7.  What do you want to say to people who say that “children are resilient” and “kids are happy when their parents are happy” and “kids of divorce will be just fine and will go on to live successful lives”?  (Note: I know that many kids of divorce do go on to live happy, healthy lives and have good marriages. So, rest assured the book won’t be about how “wrecked” you all are; we can’t gloss over the pain and consequences, though, even if kids of divorce have gone on to live lives of virtue and goodness.)

8. What would you want to say directly to your parents about the divorce and how it affected your life then and now? Would you advise them to do things differently, and if so, what? (For the record, one or more young divorced parent has told me that adult children of divorce only want to speak to me because of “unconscious revenge” against their parents, and that they simply have not “forgiven” their parents, which is the only way to heal. Thoughts on that?) 

9. What do you most want adults in our society to know about how divorce affects the children?

10. What role has your faith (if you have a faith) played in your healing?

11. What would you want to say to any children facing their parents‘ divorce today? What would you want to say to those parents now considering divorce (absent cases of danger and abuse where separation is necessary)? 

12. Any other thoughts you have or anything you’d like to share that I have missed, please feel free to include. I want all your thoughts! 

When I asked for participants on Facebook, I was overwhelmed. I had at least a hundred willing people by the end of two days. Since that time, have received about 35 responses from that group. Many of the original group have let me know that attempting to answer has been too painful/emotional/difficult, and they have not been able to follow through. That's why I am taking my appeal to the blog, to get a bigger pool of participants, so that you all have a bigger voice.

If you decide to answer the questions, please have them back to me by the end of the year. Better yet, by mid-December. I truly appreciate it. By January, I have to go forward and assemble the responses.

Please note, again: Your answers do not have to be polished or well-articulated. I am fine with your stream-of-consciousness responses, and I will fix any grammar/syntax issues.

And just a heads-up: In a day or two, I hope to have a post up (God willing!) that links to many great Christmas ideas from Catholic vendors, authors, crafters, etc. So, hold off on your online shopping until you see what your fellow Catholics are selling!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! And to my fellow Mayflower descendants -- mine are John Howland (The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland's Good Fortune), and Elizabeth Tilley -- let's be extra thankful that we even exist!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Why I am so political

It could be that I'm writing this post for my children, because it is their history, and it might as well be written down.

In case you've ever wondered why I am so political, I can only offer that it's in my blood.  I have always been a political animal, and I live with another political animal, my husband. In fact, it's how we met.

I grew up in a Republican household as a proud patriot and a fiscal and social conservative. I am the younger daughter of an Arab immigrant/Navy veteran/doctor father and a Protestant-turned-Catholic/nurse mother who was raised poor in small-town Ohio.

I have voted in every election since I was eighteen, and in 1985 I went off to Boston College as a conservative Republican. Nothing could sway me, even liberal Massachusetts and the university's Jesuit influence. I was rooting for Robert Bork's confirmation in 1987 and was outraged that the left derailed that good and brilliant man. I voted for George Herbert Walker Bush (and had a Bush/Quayle placard on my dorm wall) when he ran against the Massachusetts governor, Michael Dukakis.

I have also always been pro-life. I was raised to believe that abortion is wrong, but the truth of it was hammered home to me while spending a lazy afternoon browsing through my mom's well-stocked bookshelves one day.  My 10- or 11-year-old self came across a full-color booklet called "Handbook on Abortion," which included several pages of photos of aborted children from the earliest stages. I was rightly horrified, and concluded then that such an obvious evil should never be legal. (This was in the first few years after Roe v. Wade sullied our land.)

At Boston College I studied English, but politics and Washington, DC (the city where my own parents met) was calling to me. So, while most of my friends went on study-abroad programs during junior year, I became the first English major at BC to be accepted into the Washington Semester Program at American University. There were a few concentrations to choose from, and I chose Foreign Policy.

A big part of the program was completing an internship. I had an interest in journalism, so I interviewed and got the job at a now-defunct national TV news station, Independent News Network (INN). I helped to edit news stories and raw feed, and I occasionally went on assignments, sometimes with a camera crew, but always with my trusty notebook and pen (there were no Smart phones or tablets then).

Some of the highlights for a 20-year-old girl: I sat in on the Oliver North trial, I covered press conferences for Dick Gephardt and Al Gore (it was 1988, a presidential election year, and they were running -- and dropping out), I said hello to Vice President George H.W. Bush in the lobby of INN offices (he would go on to win the presidency that year), and I ran into Senator Teddy Kennedy on the sidewalk near the Capitol (he gave me the creeps).

I understood clearly that I and another intern were the only conservatives in the newsroom. I'm pretty sure I kept that on the down-low, but my memory is hazy. I do remember that my boss and the lead male reporter both hit on me, subtly and overtly, but I just chalked it up to "dirty old men" and didn't give it much of a thought. In fact, I probably haven't thought about it in a quarter century.

It was fun taking a camera crew into the White House Press Room and then heading out to the South Lawn of the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, where President Reagan gave a speech to the egg-gatherers for the last time in his presidency. Emmanuel Lewis was the celebrity entertainment that day.

Here I am with my camera crew that day. I'm on the right. In the skirt. 
(My apologies to the nameless camera lady for showcasing her in those heinous 
parachute stone-washed jeans that I am sure she has since disavowed.)

The White House Easter Egg Roll took place on April 4, 1988. How do I remember the date so precisely? Well, it was the very day that I officially began to date my future husband! I had just turned 21 the previous week.

Yep, a handsome Jewish guy named Dean Miller was on the Washington Semester Program that spring as well, a political science major at Emory University in Atlanta who also was entrenched in the political scene, but on the opposite side of the aisle. When I met Dean (who was in the American Politics concentration), he was a diehard liberal, pro-"choice" Democrat.

Dean's first real foray into the political world was as a teenager in Las Vegas, when he canvassed neighborhoods door-to-door on behalf of candidate Harry Reid, who was running for his second term as a United States Congressman. (Let's just say that Dean is, ahem, no longer a fan of Harry Reid.)

When he went off to college, Dean interned at the Carter Presidential Center, which is located on the campus of Emory University. There are many good stories from his days at the Carter Center, but that's for another day. 

Dean with President Jimmy Carter

When Dean arrived in Washington junior year for the exchange semester, he got an internship on the Hill with Democrat Senator Wyche Fowler of Georgia.

When Dean and I met, we obviously did not agree on politics; as we began to fall in love, we tolerated a lot of what the other had to say.

Except when it came to abortion.

I remember sitting with Dean in my dorm room (in a building that was was formerly a Catholic convent, by the way!), listening to him recount the recent talks his American Politics group had attended, one at Planned Parenthood and another at National Right to Life. He was complaining about the pro-lifers, saying that they were "a bunch of nuts" and "loonies" (if I remember that correctly). I reminded him that I was staunchly pro-life, and I told him that his words were offensive to me personally. He walked back his words a bit.

It amuses us both, looking back, as we consider that Dean is now 100% pro-life, sits on the board of our local crisis pregnancy center, and often leads his children at our bishop's rosary in front of local abortion clinics. It's fun to see what God can do, isn't it?

By the time we were married a couple of years later, politics were still a huge part of our lives and discussions, and although Dean was still a Democrat, he was starting to let go of some of his liberal leanings.

During the 1992 presidential election, I was uninspired by President Bush (the elder) and not so convinced about third-party candidate Ross Perot, and so I personally did something unthinkable: I registered as a Democrat and voted for Bill Clinton for President of the United States. Dean voted for him as well. I was "inspired" by his wife Hillary's "advocacy for children" (I had a baby by then), and I convinced myself that her pro-abortion views could be ignored because of how much she "helped" born children. (I know, I know. But it gives me insight into others who use the same arguments today.)

Dean knew within one day of voting for Bill Clinton that he had made a huge mistake. I was more optimistic for a few months, but by the time Clinton gave his first State of the Union address, I was filled with regret. I re-registered as a Republican and never looked back. Within a couple of years, Dean registered as an Independent, and by 1997, he was a registered Republican.

Although still registered Republicans, Dean and I have long been disgusted with the establishment Republican Party, and consider ourselves "conservative" more than any other political label.

Dean's career path has kept him in the mix of politics. His first job was for a non-profit taxpayer watchdog group, and then he worked in state government for a long time (Arizona Department of Commerce, Arizona Corporation Commission) before moving to the private sector of consulting and lobbying. He helped to draft and pass many bills within the Arizona Legislature during those early years, has worked with countless politicians and private businesses on regulatory issues, and knows a lot about the process and the people.

Meanwhile, my public writing began in 1994 when I became an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic, and my co-writer Kim Manning and I discussed and dissected politics as a matter of course. In fact, it was the exercise of writing about truth and goodness through a political lens that brought Kim to Catholicism and me to a full embrace of Church teaching and practice.

As you can see, there is a deep history and love of politics in the Miller home, and a passion for the direction of our beloved country. So when folks suggest that I become less political, I can honestly say that I don't see that happening. And, I wouldn't want it any other way.

Our Catholic Faith encourages and even obligates us to be engaged in the public square, and so long as I am not transgressing the moral law or the laws of our Church while doing so, I am happy to oblige.

God bless America! It is a privilege to live in this still-great land.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

And it's over. And it's beginning.

Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

What a night. Unexpected. I have so much to say, but I'm exhausted, as I suspect we all are!

For now, I will just say that we have bought some time. There is a blessed reprieve for crisis pregnancy centers, for religious liberty, for the courts around the nation, for the beleaguered middle-class.

Let us pray for Donald Trump. Let us pray that the Republicans, who hold not only the presidency but also the House and Senate, will not squander the trust and opportunity that the people have given them.

For today, I am just so very happy, so very relieved.

Please, please, let us pray!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Some final reflections on the election

In light of the fact that several Catholics (yes, Catholics) have recently, repeatedly, and definitively informed me there is "no threat" to our religious liberty or conscience rights in America by the Democrats, I thought I'd repost Why Trump Will Get My Vote. Just hours after I posted it on October 4th, it became the most popular piece on this blog, ever. And it didn't slow down for weeks.

The points are still valid as we approach the final hours of the most horrid election in my lifetime, and as you read it again or for the first time, here's one more specific to keep in mind:

Of the 13 appellate/circuit courts in America, four were considered "liberal" when Obama came to power (including the notorious 9th Circuit), and nine were considered "conservative" (i.e., less likely to infringe upon the basic rights of life, marriage, and religious liberty/conscience). Today, after eight years of Democrat appointees, those numbers have been reversed. There are now nine left-leaning circuit courts, and only four that lean conservative. We are rightly concerned with the Supreme Court, but many thousands more cases are adjudicated in the lower courts. Dear Catholics, think long and hard about the future of our religious liberty before you cast a vote to put the Democrats in charge of our land.

Here's the post that made the rounds:

I believe that retention of religious liberty is the most pressing political issue we face, as that is the natural right we are most rapidly (illegitimately) losing. Whenever I quote Pope Benedict's words to the concerned US bishops, that we Americans face a "grave threat" to religious freedom here at home, those on the "Catholic left" instantly dismiss me and inform me that it is actually I and other Catholic Trump-voters who are "the biggest threat to religious liberty" -- to foreign Muslims.

What I try to explain to these politically left-leaning Catholics goes something like this:

"At this moment, though, it is your own brothers and sisters in Christ, both Catholic and Protestant, who are being legally persecuted. Right now. This moment. In America. And with a revamped Democratic Party platform that promises much more of it. That is the immediate fire, the one I'd like to try to put out. So you can speculate about non-citizen Muslims based on a hypothetical, but meanwhile your fellow Christians are already afoul of the law thanks to Democrats and their core beliefs and legislation. Your co-religionists, including moms and pops and Little Sisters, are the legal "discriminators" today, fighting our government in the courts, losing their businesses and livelihoods, shuttering long-standing charitable agencies -- in this nation, now. That means something to me. Does that mean anything at all to you?"

The answer always comes back, No.

It means nothing to them.

Because they deny it's happening at all. "There is no threat to Christians' religious liberty and conscience rights from the Democrats." Nothing to see here, move along.

It makes me wonder: If the Democrats do get into power and make good on their Party Platform promises to double-down on the legal persecution of Christians who wish to refrain from participating in gravely sinful events or activities, will our left-leaning Catholic friends finally stand up for us when we begin to go to jail?

Or will they continue to say, as they do now, that it's our own fault for "not following the law," and that we "need to learn to get along in an increasingly diverse (read: post-Christian/secular) society."

I have my suspicions. But personally, I hope we can keep the Democrats out of power for at least a few more years so that I don't have to find out the answer anytime soon.

Lord, have mercy on the crazy experiment called America. The way things have been going, we surely don't deserve Your mercy, but we will take whatever cross you allow us, and we will be sanctified by it. 

And for any anxious readers, just remember that whichever way the election goes, Jesus is bigger.