Wednesday, March 4, 2015

writing wednesdays: the buzz on our book

There aren't too many greater thrills in life than sharing the work of your heart with a friend, especially a friend of the heart.

I'll write more on that soon, but today, I want to call your attention to something else.

Shhh, do you hear that? It's the buzz about our book!

I don't want to give too much away but if you want to get in on the grapevine utterances, I've compiled a little list of the reviews that have come in so far over on Peace Garden Writer today.

What's it like for us, reading the reverberations of the story we've set in motion? You'll find that out too!

Monday, March 2, 2015

meaningful mondays: so much sorrow

I hesitate writing posts like this, and yet by not doing so, by only writing about the joys -- and there are many -- I fear I might somehow miss reaching someone, or come across as unauthentic. There comes a time, and Lent seems fitting for it, to show that along with all of the sunny days and consolations come many heart-piercing moments.

It seems so fitting that my soul sister Ann and I consecrated ourselves to Mother Mary on Our Lady of Sorrows feast day. We hadn't planned it that way, it's just the way it fell, and I knew we couldn't hide from it or wish for a more sunny feast day to land on.

We got our Lady of Sorrows for a reason, and I trusted it; that the reason would bring about a good. Indeed, before then and since that day, many tears have fallen between the two of us.

This weekend, it just sort of gripped me for a while; the pain of being a mother right now, in this age, and in this phase, and with this disposition. I've always felt things deeply. That's the way God made me and most of the time I would never want it differently. The joys, too, are so deep, so euphoric, so bliss-filled. Would I want less?

No, but to offset that, there is the other side of it. Just as deeply as I naturally absorb the joys, even in the small things -- things some might miss -- so, too, do I take in, fully, wholeheartedly, the painful moments.

[Screenshot image of an image I found here.  The caption describes the object as "A wooden carving of the 'Virgin of the Seven Sorrows and Mother of all those who cry', by Spanish artist Francisco Romero Zafra." It is displayed in a church in the Andalusian capital of Seville, southern Spain. Photo by Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters.]

And there have been a lot lately. Oh, nothing like what some have had to contend with. I see how the world is hurting, and all of the horrific things people are going through, and that, too, breaks my heart. But it is relative isn't it, in terms of what we actually feel? We feel the things that touch us directly so much more deeply. That is human nature. That's the way it's supposed to be. And the more deeply we feel those things close to us, I suppose, the more we can begin to sense what others might be going through.

In that way, this soul-piercing existence we live begins to make some sense. We can understand that escaping suffering does not lead us to greater understanding, greater empathy. It leads us to satisfaction, temporary peace, and lack of a need for God.

Do we not see, then? It is in our suffering that we become readied to open up to the suffering of others, and then to reach out when we can to soothe that suffering. The more we can feel Christ's own suffering, the more we will understand what it is He wants us to do, for Him and for those around us.

This suffering won't last forever. It is temporary. The more we are allowed to endure, the more prepared in a way we will be with what happens next, what is required of us, what will lead us to eternal bliss.

There's consolation there, is there not?

And yet...when the sorrow hits, does knowing all this make it any easier? No, not really. At some point we can bear it up well no longer. It is then we surrender, close the door, go into ourselves, and just let the tears flow as they may. This, too, is necessary.

Do a Google search of images for Our Lady of Sorrows to see more of what I'm talking about. Some of those images are so powerful to me, and so helpful. To know that Our Blessed Mother hurt as much as I am hurting right now does bring relief. It helps me to know she knows, and is with me, and will help bring comfort and encouragement. She's been here, but she's also on the other side of it now. Like when we suffer something and then, after working our way through the abyss and experiencing it fully, come out the other side, ready to help others who experience the same.

And that's what this Mary stuff is all about. It is nothing to be troubled over. This is not some kind of Catholic superstition. Mary is real, she is Jesus' mother, and she wants to bring us relief, to provide a safe place to go, to offer her maternal arms as vessel for our tears. She wants to help sop them up and squeeze us and remind us that our tears are bringing us closer to her Son, rather than further away. Is that not the most beautiful thing ever? I find it so.

Somehow, in this messy life I live, this life that has been filled with more tears than I know what to do with, I do have that assurance that God is with me, closer than ever in fact, and that every single one of those droplets of tears that flow, salty and sloppy, from my eyes has a purpose and power that will, in the end, be part of my salvation.

"God can be trusted, even when he is leading us through the deepest darkness. This means that great faith is justified - for Abram, and for us." - Fr. Robert Barron

Q4U: How do you love God in your tears?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

second-chance sundays: 'Fifty Shades', bunco prompt moral dilemma

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Feb. 21, 2015.]

Living Faith: 'Fifty Shades,' bunco prompt moral dilemma

By Roxane B. Salonen

The game of bunco moves fast, with numerous rotations and time for only brief conversations during each round.
I play this brainless but fun dice-rolling game yearly with friends old and new, mostly other mothers in need of reprieve and fellowship.

Our time together this year rolled around just a couple days before Valentine’s Day. I was in a light-hearted mood as we prepared to start another set, and not prepared for what was coming.

“So, who’s all going to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ this weekend?” asked the sweet woman across from me. She and some friends had planned a girls’ night out to see the movie on opening night, and she couldn’t wait.

A million thoughts rushed at me as I sat, frozen, my eyes large and mouth shut. Do I mention that I’m boycotting the movie? The setting didn’t seem right. I couldn’t force out the words.

Thankfully, another mother at our table of four chimed in, saving me by admitting she’d read the book but had been disappointed, and wasn’t at all moved to see the film.

“I think it would be awkward,” she added, naming something hard to articulate, perhaps, but astute nonetheless.

“Ding! Ding!” The bell at the head table indicated it was time to start rolling the dice.
The conversation was over, but far from ended in my mind.

Over the weekend, I continued reflecting on the film, which is breaking records for proceeds and audiences, and began zeroing in on three different factions of people at play.

The first are those, like my bunco friend, who are eagerly devouring the books and film, not fully aware. Caught up in a well-plotted marketing scheme, they’ve missed the deeper implications of a story and series that promotes abuse and a false, dangerous vision of sexuality.

Then there’s the porn industry, which, right now, is happy as a fresh crop of clams. They know they’ve duped the culture; the success of this book and movie is proof. I’m imagining now the top dogs partying in their penthouses, dollar bills showering down like confetti.

And finally, we have those of us who try to discern the culture’s offerings through God’s eyes. As the morally sensitive of the bunch, we’ve seen this coming and grieve the damage that’s been done and has yet to occur because of these tainted messages.

We ache for those who didn’t see it coming, because we did.

“You’re just uptight,” some say. But that’s not it. We’ve either been hurt or know others who have, and we’re incensed. Alert to and troubled by the toxic messages of sexuality gone awry, we want to help educate – for the benefit of others.

My children were very young when I first realized what I was up against. I immediately began arming myself to help my family move through the confusion, but the onslaught had already begun, and grows more insidious every day, some days overwhelmingly so.

Above all, “Fifty Shades” and its explosion points straight to our brokenness as a society, but I’m convinced that if more knew of God’s vision of human sexuality, the momentum for this film would slither away in an instant.

Thankfully, God has given us the means for addressing all the issues that plague our modern society. Included in our ammunition stash are written works that profess and uphold the beauty of sexuality as the gift from God that it is.

They include “Theology of the Body Explained” by Christopher West; “On Human Life” by Pope Paul VI; and even one by our own, the Rev. Matthew St. John of Bethel Church, Fargo, “Crazy Sex: Embracing God’s Best in a World Gone Crazy.”

It’s not too late to discover human sexuality through God’s eyes, a vision that comes with a guarantee of completely satisfying, straight-to-the-soul fulfilling, unabashed bliss.

Friday, February 27, 2015

faith & family fridays: 'Redeemed by Grace' sightings

Seems every time I turn around, another one is turning up.

Here's one of the first sightings of our "Redeemed by Grace" book. It's only been out a little more than a week now but the pre-orders helped get this story flying into the hands of those eager to hear how God moved the heart of one Ramona Trevino and transformed her life. This is Aurora.

I've had the great pleasure of meeting this wonderful woman in person several times now. Aurora heads up the Spanish ministry at Catholic Pro-Life Committee of North Texas, Inc. Speaking of which, Ignatius is putting out a Spanish edition of our book soon, too! We're super excited about that.

Lauren Muzyka and I ran into Aurora at the March for Life last month over by the Eternal World Television Network tent, where we were in line to be interviewed. We got bumped due to lack of time but it was a thrill to be in the midst of the media action all the same.

Oh, and speaking of Lauren, she just received her copies this week!   

She's been waiting patiently for them to arrive, especially given her special role in the project. Along with having introduced me to Ramona, Lauren writes the foreword to our book and, well, it's such a beautiful introduction that we're pretty sure if you're not certain why you're reading "Redeemed by Grace," after absorbing Lauren's lead-in, you'll definitely want to continue!

And then there's Breanna.

She's my Mary Kay lady, along with my occasional accompanist when I cantor at church. Oh yeah, and she's a wife and mother of four adorable kiddos, and just an all-around amazing woman.

I wouldn't want to forget Nancy.

She's a fellow mom of my oldest daughter's classmate and I really enjoy her. Nancy was one of the first people to see my book the day it arrived on my doorstep. I'd brought it into a local Catholic book store to share it with them, and she happened to be there buying some greeting cards. Nancy was so intrigued by the news of our book that she wanted to buy a copy immediately!

Oh, and I can't forget these two.

Shari, left, is a LONG time friend. I'm talking all the way back to kindergarten. Yep! We have known each other since forever ago, and I was so blessed to learn how quickly she ordered the book after finding out it was "out there." She bought it for her mama, Jeanne, and presented it to her, along with a drawing she'd done of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How cool is that?

I don't want to forget this lovely lady, Patti McGuire Armstrong....

She's a fellow Catholic mother of many and writer from my mama's hometown of Bismarck, ND, not to mention a true prayer warrior. We've spent time together on our knees in the cathedral of Bismarck, sending up tandem petitions for our families and sharing the joys and challenges of being Catholic mothers in today's world. She's truly a gift to me for so many reasons.

Those are the visual sightings that have come onto my radar so far. I know there are more and I look forward to sharing images of them as they become available.

By the way, Ignatius Press has developed an author website for Ramona, and you'll find me represented here as well. Make sure to check it out!

Q4U: Would you indulge me by adding a photo of yourself and our book to my collection? You can send it to Thank you kindly!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

writing wednesdays: best part of my week so far

I'm in love. That's all there is to it.

Well, wouldn't you be too if you found out you were an auntie to this little sweetheart??!!

Auntie, not by blood, but by spirit. I can't wait to share more about this honey bunch, but you'll have to go here to find out!

Monday, February 23, 2015

meaningful mondays: a little vase of something fun to come + a soup story

I'm just a little excited about something. Hint: It's green and yellow and warms my heart.

Only I can't say exactly where this will be, or what will come with it. BUT...I think those who have been faithful followers of Peace Garden Mama and Peace Garden Writer, or even just plain old friends with little old me, will be tickled with me over it.

I'll share more about that lovely image soon. But while we're waiting on those sunflowers to simmer...

I have a story about this weekend to share. It all started when I got a note from my friend Laetitia asking if I wanted to get together. It's been hard finding time to sit with friends lately, even though it is one of my all-time favorite activities. But it had been a very long time since I'd seen her. Too long. I cleared my schedule Saturday to make it work.

We'd gone back and forth a few times on plans, and even postponed it from last weekend, when Valentine's Day got in the way. But finally, the time had come. I'd just wrapped up a weekend writing project and was excited to get out and see this sweet friend.

I arrived at the coffee shop right on time, 3:30 p.m. She wasn't there yet, and I hadn't had lunch, so I decided to order a little something. The menu had been expanded to include more food items since my last visit, and I was thrilled to see the Reuben sandwich included. And soup, too. My father loved a hearty Reuben and was also a big fan of all different kinds of soup. I can't help but think of him when I order that combination. And it had been a while since a Reuben had come my way, so  was ready!

At 3:32 I thought I'd better text just to make sure we were on track: "Just got here and ordered lunch. I haven't eaten yet," I typed. Then I thought I'd better make sure we were thinking of the same location, since this coffee shop has two. "25th right?"

"Yes," she replied. Good. Certainly, she'll be here any minute, I thought. "See you soon!" I texted back.

I sat down and checked my email. My food was announced. I collected everything and sat down to enjoy it. I had my back to the door so I kept looking back so I'd catch her eye when she arrived.

Which would be any minute now. Right?

Or not.

I enjoyed each bite of the Reuben and every last drip of soup. I thought of how my Dad used to use ice cubes to cool off my hot soup when I was little and we were eating at one of the many greasy spoon cafes he loved. I was enjoying my time filling up and warming up. But I was alone still. No Laetitia.

I paused. Should I order a drink now? Where could she be? Finally, a text came in. "Are we at 2 different locations???"

Oh no. Oh NO! No wonder she hadn't arrived yet. Now, how did this get mixed up? Weren't we clear?

"25 Dunn," I texted. Then, for clarification, "Are you at Caribou?"

" :) I am at Caribou 25 and 13. Yes."

"Ahhh, that's where things went wrong," I texted back. "I'll head over. I thought you'd said Dunn."
And she had. I confirmed it. But, you know how it goes, right? Two different coffee shops with the same name in the same town in different locations. It's bound to happen every once in a while.

When we finally found each the wrong coffee shop...we laughed for about the first 20 minutes. Before we could do any real updates, Laetitia felt compelled to explain the scenario from her end. We laughed some more, realizing that each of us was waiting for the other at another location, and how mixed up the texts were as we were thinking of two completely different scenarios.

In the end, it didn't matter. We had a cozy conversation there in the wrong coffee place. It was truly lovely, and our little mishap made it even all the more lively and real.

Besides. I think I was meant to savor that soup alone, thinking about my Daddy, just him and me, so that my heart would be even more full and ready by the time Laetitia and I found one another.

Q4U: What's your favorite sandwich and soup combination?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

second-chance sundays: 'agape' brings depth to oft-used word

[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on Feb. 14, 2015.]

Faith Conversations: 'Agape' brings depth to oft-used word, love

By Roxane B. Salonen

FARGO – “Love,” conveyed in millions of heart-shaped sentiments each year this day, can be a many-splendored thing – and one of the most watered-down words around.
“In our culture, love is kind of a fleeting thing at times. We say we love a hamburger, but it’s obviously not the same as a family member or a pet,” says the Rev. Sarah Seibold of Hope Lutheran Church.

While we only have one word for love, she says, the Greeks had multiple, offering a richer understanding of what love is.

So what, then, is love? “God’s word, agape love, gives us a far better understanding of what love is and should be,” she says.

Seibold and several other area pastors have witnessed agape love through both personal experience and in the lives of their flock.


The Rev. Matthew St. John, of Bethel Church, didn’t come to fully appreciate agape love until his mother-in-law, Lila, developed Alzheimer’s disease. As the illness progressed, she and her husband, Thurl, moved in with the St. Johns, and for years the family watched Thurl tenderly care for his bride, who, on the worst days, had become a stranger.

“I watched this unfold right across the hall from us. They were married for 56 years, and her dad told me one time, ‘I will do anything for her. I made a covenant to her, and I will serve her until the day she dies,’ ” St. John says. “It was the sweetest, most precious thing.”

But it was far from easy, which made it all the more special. “That was agape love to me, and it was Jesus portrayed right before my eyes.”

Agape, according to St. John, is about having a preference or regard for someone else by intention. “It’s an ‘other-centered’ dynamic.”

And it’s in contrast to another word sometimes confused with love: lust.

“When you look in our world today and see things like the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ that’s not love. There’s nothing dignifying in that,” he says. “Lust is about what I can get, and love is about what I can give.”

Agape-led awakening

The Rev. David Motta of Calvary United Methodist Church says though he was raised in the faith, in adolescence, he went astray for a time, selling booze to minors and tempting his fate with marijuana. Eventually, he got caught.

“My parents showed me agape love by loving me anyway,” he says. “Not by accepting what I was doing, but by saying, ‘Dave, you’re going to have to face the music with the law, but we’re going to love you even so.’ That meant something to me, and it made the gospel come alive to me.”

Motta says our world is hungry for that kind of love – the kind that isn’t conditional. “It’s not, I love you if you do this, or I love you because you’re pretty, or whatever,” he says. “No, it’s just I love you, period.”

But it must be accompanied by truth, otherwise it becomes hypocrisy, he says. “You can love people, even when they’re wrong.”

His daughter Elise recently went to Washington, D.C., to march at the Capitol in protest of abortion. “As they were marching, it was a wonderful way of responding to people who disagree without compromising,” he says. “ ‘Yes, we’re the pro-life generation, but we’re not going to be mean to people who disagree.’ ”

Recently, when in the presence of someone considering suicide, Motta discovered a new form of agape love, through the simple act of listening.

“Thank God he didn’t succeed, but what do you say?” Motta says. “Words don’t mean a whole lot in those situations, but just showing up, trying to listen a little bit, that’s a powerful expression of agape love.”

Stories abound

Seibold says she’s witnessed agape love through a woman in the community who makes quilts for people who are homebound – without sharing her identity.

“She gets their names, finds out what their need is, and makes a quilt for them,” Seibold says.
“She gives of her time, energy and creativity and expects absolutely nothing in return.”

The act of parenting also demonstrates agape, she says. “You give of your time, sleep, food and money, just to raise another human being, and that’s really a self-giving love, too.”

Sometimes, she says, we even see it on the national scene, such as in the story of former Ravens NFL football player Ma’ake Kemoeatu, who retired so he could give his younger brother his kidney.

“And I think of other stories that touch our hearts. We hear about the school shootings and the teachers who give their lives to protect the kids they teach,” she says. “That’s an extreme example of a self-giving love – the kind that Jesus demonstrates.”

Though each pastor mentions various Scripture passages demonstrating agape love, they all zero in on one in particular, John 3:16, which begins, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.”

“This is how we know what love is,” Motta says. “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other. And it seems here that love is an action. God’s love is doing. It’s a decision to love even when we don’t really think people deserve it.”