Karen, let’s start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m the homeschooling mom of three terrific daughters, ages 15, 13 and 7. We’ve been homeschooling since my oldest entered first grade. I have been extremely blessed to be married to Tom (Atticus on my blog) for 25 years, and we’re both converts to the Catholic faith. Formerly an atheist, I became a Christian just shy of my 30th birthday. I was baptized by an Episcopal priest, but continued my investigation of Christianity. Five years later, I was received into the Catholic Church. Tom became a Catholic five years after that. It’s been quite a journey, to say the least!
What was your journey to becoming a writer — or finding out you’re a writer — like? What did it involve?
Writing has always been a part of me in one way or another. From the time I was young, I kept diaries and wrote stories and plays. I kept endless journals in college — I’ve always thought of writing as the way I make sense of things. I have to work things out on paper. Sometimes, in order to stop a thought from swirling endlessly in my head, I simply have to write it down.
So, I’ve always loved to write, and in my twenties, I made some concerted effort to get published. Nothing came of it, though, and I basically set it aside. (I got too busy trying to find out the meaning of life.) A couple of years after I came into the Catholic Church, when I was on my parish’s RCIA team, I gave witness talks about my conversion. My spiritual director suggested I send my story to New Covenant magazine. Mike Aquilina (the editor of that magazine at the time) bought the story, and after that, I began sending out work to other magazines. Apparently, God’s plan for me did include writing, but not until I was writing about Him.
How does being a writer change your approach to your life? Do you find that you act or do things differently now (or once you called yourself a writer) than you did before?
I don’t think being a writer has changed my approach to life because, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve always felt compelled to write. I’ve always transferred experience and feeling onto paper, though in the past it was done as private journaling and in long letters to friends. I guess that’s the biggest change — now some of those transferred experiences make it onto my blog or into my work. My poor kids! And, I don’t write those long letters to friends anymore, alas.
I have particularly enjoyed your writing about becoming stronger through suffering. Could you share about that, and about how your suffering has led you to where you are today?
I think that it’s mainly and powerfully through suffering that God speaks to us. Christ’s suffering is what helps us to make sense of our own suffering, and our suffering always points us to the Cross. It helps us to see that this “valley of tears” is not our true home, and that our suffering, when united with the suffering of Jesus, has vast and eternal meaning.
C.S. Lewis once said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” That sums it up for me, and it’s certainly been true in my life.
Pleasure (in the blessings and joys of creation) and a newly formed conscience (as I grew in awareness of both Scripture and Sacred Tradition) were certainly huge parts of my conversion, but it has been in my sufferings that I have grown immeasurably closer to God. I suffered through a great deal of unhappiness when I was searching for meaning in life, and I have suffered losses such as miscarriages that felt devastating. But, God has always used every kind of loss to draw me closer to Him. He has always been able to bring growth from my suffering, to show me a new way to view it — to offer a kind of resurrection from every crucifixion.
In your life today, as a Catholic homeschooling wife, mother, and writer, what’s your greatest challenge? How do you overcome it?
I think my greatest challenges are meal planning and keeping up with email.
Just kidding. But, it IS hard to balance everything in life. My faith informs my choices and my scheduling. My vocation as a wife and mother comes first and it follows that, since we’ve chosen homeschooling, school also ranks right up there.
I have to prioritize accordingly. I can’t put my husband, kids and school on hold in order to complete writing work, so I do limit the amount of work I take on. I also have to be very selective about what I say yes to regarding volunteer work. There are a million good causes and things (both volunteering — at the parish level and beyond — and work projects) out there, but I have to keep in mind the best “causes and things” that God has put right in front of me: my husband and family. I handle my “top priorities” best when I stay focused on them. When I keep Tom and the girls at the top of the list, the other things generally fall into place, and it all works out.
Karen, is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d just like to say that although many of us in the blogging world know that the internet can be a temptation to time-wasting, or a way to avoid what’s right in front of us, it can also be an enormous blessing. Internet connections have brought new friendships and much beauty into my life. Thanks so much for the opportunity to “talk” with you this way. I’ve always loved coming here to listen in on “just another day of your Catholic pondering,” so it’s fun to chat with you about these things. Thank you!