1 Jul 2015

Out of My Catholic Mind: a New Address and Other Big Changes!

My Out of My Catholic Mind blog is only a few weeks old, and, already I’ve made some huge changes. After having a BIG blogging idea, I gave my blog a new domain name address, a snazzy new design and lots of extra content. (I added the best of my Sue Elvis Writes blog stories.)

I’d like to thank everyone who gave this blog such an enthusiastic welcome into the blogging world. Thank you for subscribing and following. I hope you’ll join me at the new address -

Out of My Catholic Mind (http://www.outofmycatholicmind.com/)

- so we can continue to share my new blogging adventure!

24 Jun 2015

Wearing My Husband's Eyes

I needed new disposable contact lenses so I grabbed the receipt from the last time I ordered some and headed online. I found a website selling what I wanted, entered all my prescription details very carefully, and double checked them before clicking 'pay now'. Then I waited.

A week or so later, a little package landed in our mailbox. “New lenses!” I cried. “Now I'll see better. The world will look crisper and clearer.”

I inserted the small soft lenses and then looked around. And the world wasn’t crisp and clear at all. It was very blurry, and I couldn’t understand why.

And then it hit me: When ordering the lenses, I’d used my husband Andy’s prescription, not mine. I was wearing his contact lenses. I was looking at the world through his eyes.

Andy was very pleased with my ordering mistake. “New lenses!” he said. “What a surprise!”

I had a surprise this morning. Andy gave me a huge hug before he left for work and said, “Happy Anniversary!”

“It’s not our anniversary,” I sleepily replied.

“Yes, it is.”

“Are you sure? Isn’t it on Friday?”

“We got married on my Dad’s birthday, the 24th June.”

I thought about this for a moment and then said, “You’re right!”

Andy laughed. “This is a first. It’s usually me who forgets our anniversary.” He didn’t seem at all upset by my failure to remember. In fact, he thought it was very funny.

So today is our wedding anniversary. Thirty-two years ago, Andy slipped a gold ring onto my finger, and we became husband and wife, and I thought we’d live happily ever after. But it didn't work out that way. Our life together has contained much more suffering than I ever expected. It's just as well I never knew what was ahead of us. I'd have been too frightened to marry Andy if I'd known about the difficult times we'd have to endure. No, as a young bride, I wanted happiness, not pain. 

And we have been happy. There's no doubt about that. Over the years, we've shared a lot of fun and laughter and special moments. We enjoy our life together immensely. Yes, God sends us many happy days. But He hasn't prevented suffering from touching us. And unexpectedly, this has been a blessing. It has been the trials of life, and not the happy times, which have bonded us together and taught us the true meaning of love.

So Andy and I are about to begin another year together. The adventure continues. There will be more tough times ahead, I'm sure. But that's okay. There will also be a lot more love. 

This morning I had my eyesight tested before ordering yet more contact lenses.

“Your eyes have improved slightly!” said the optometrist.

Improved? I smiled. My eyesight is getting better as I get older, unlike the rest of me which is slowly falling apart. I don't suppose it matters that I'm not as good looking as I used to be. When Andy looks at me, he doesn’t see my flaws. He still thinks I’m as beautiful as the day he married me. 

Why don't I see myself as he does? Is it because Andy can't see properly? Perhaps he needs stronger contact lenses. No. His eyesight is fine. I don't see myself as beautiful because I'm not wearing my husband's eyes.  

Andy looks at me through his eyes of love.

Happy Anniversary, Andy.

11 Jun 2015

Passing the Vet's Pet Owners' Test

Several weeks ago, my daughter Imogen and I took our dog Nora to the vet for her annual check-up.

“I hope the vet thinks we’ve been taking good care of her,” said Imogen.

“Nora looks okay,” I said, glancing over my shoulder at the grinning dog sprawled along the back seat of the car. “We haven’t overfed her so she's not fat.”

“But will she behave? Will she do what’s she’s told? Perhaps we should have spent more time training her.”

We needn’t have worried. We passed the vet’s pet owners' test with full marks. He declared Nora in excellent health and the three of us grinned all the way home.

“It’s just as well the vet has never seen our cats,” said Imogen. “What would he think of us if he saw them?”

We have three cats and they’re a little bit fat. Yes, their stomachs sway below them as they saunter along. We’ve tried restricting their food. We measure it out very carefully. But somehow they never seem to get any thinner. Excess weight isn't their only problem. Two of our fat cats are going bald: They have hairless patches between their eyes and their ears. But the cats are happy. They're okay. Even if they don’t get an annual check-up like the dog.

My children don’t get an annual check-up either. No, there has to be a good reason for me to take them to see the doctor. Unlike years ago.

When I was a much younger and inexperienced mother, I was always rushing off to the medical centre with a child who seemed under the weather. And almost every time, while we were waiting for our turn to see the doctor, a miracle would occur.

“She looked very sick an hour ago,” I’d say to the doctor as he examined a suddenly revived child. Or perhaps I’d made a mistake. Could I have panicked? I suppose doctors are accustomed to new and insecure mothers.

Eventually, I learnt to relax and not run to the doctor every time my children sniffed or coughed or were quiet for more than ten minutes at a time. “You’ll be okay,” I’d say, after a quick examination. “Tomorrow you’ll feel much better.” And sometimes this was true. And sometimes it wasn’t.

One winter, I suddenly realised the cold my son Duncan had had for a week wasn’t actually a cold. I took him to our GP who sent us straight to the hospital. The doctor in the emergency department looked at Duncan, who could hardly keep upright, and said, “He has pneumonia. Why didn’t you seek medical advice sooner?” I turned slightly red and mumbled something like, “I only just noticed he’s so sick. He seemed okay before...”

Only just noticed? I had a baby in my arms. Did the doctor know about my other children? Perhaps he thought I had too many children to pay attention to them all. Sometimes I wondered this myself. Maybe there wasn't enough of me to go around.

Over the years, we had more emergency trips to the hospital with various children. But no one actually died. Except Thomas of course. But that wasn’t my fault. (Was it okay to write those last sentences? I didn't mean to write them. They just floated out of my mind.) Somehow we muddled through those exhausting times when I often failed to keep on top of everything. We survived.

When I began mothering, I had big ideas. I wanted to give my full attention to each of our children. They were going to be brought up perfectly. At least that’s what I’d hoped. It’s just as well, I discovered there’s more important things than perfection because it didn’t work out how I imagined.

I found out that it’s the difficult times, the ones we muddle through, which teach us the most about love.

Anyway, muddles come to an end. It’s really quite calm and civilised around here these days. But there's still lots of love. Except between the cats and the dog.

"Nora!" we yell as we extract a caught cat from the dog's mouth. The frightened cat hisses and lashes out at the dog’s nose before sinking her teeth into her rescuer’s hand. Unintentionally, of course. 

Maybe things aren't so calm and civilised around here after all.

You can also find me on:

My Sue Elvis Writes Facebook page,

5 Jun 2015

Clothed with the Holy Spirit

A few weeks ago, my youngest daughter Gemma-Rose began preparations for her confirmation. She attended classes with the local school children on Saturday afternoons. She chose a patron saint and a sponsor. All that was left to do was find a suitable dress for her to wear to the ceremony.

When Sophie was confirmed we were told the expected dress code would be white dresses for girls and formal wear for boys. So our second youngest daughter wore a beautiful white dress very much like a First Holy Communion dress.

But for Gemma-Rose's confirmation, I knew none of the parish girls planned to wear elaborate white dresses, and so I didn’t insist she wore one either. We thought a new Sunday best dress would be the appropriate choice.

I knew I wouldn’t find anything remotely suitable in our local shops, so I headed online. Surely they’d be lots of dresses to choose from? But after googling many combinations of words such as ‘dress’, ‘girl’s’, 'tweens', ‘formal’, ‘special’, ‘modest’, ‘winter’ and even ‘party’, I began to doubt there was such thing as a special winter dress, available in Gemma-Rose’s size. Eventually, I found a couple of options which weren't perfect but might be acceptable.

After consulting Gemma-Rose, I ordered a black pinafore dress, thinking she could wear a long sleeved white shirt underneath it. I added a white cardigan with sparkly buttons to my order. We thought black tights and ballet flat shoes would complete the outfit.

Even though I knew Gemma-Rose would look very smart in her new clothes, there was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. Was black suitable for a confirmation? Would people criticise our choice?

“Mum, black and white look formal. We wear those colours when we sing with the church choir,” my daughter Imogen reassured me. "And it's not as if we have much choice." Unless, of course, we chose to ignore the custom of our parish and dress Gemma-Rose in an elaborate white gown. Blend in or make a statement? Sometimes children want to feel they belong.

Gemma-Rose, dressed in her new black dress, appeared radiant as the bishop said, “Maximilian Kolbe, be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.” Charlotte, who had her hand on Gemma-Rose’s right shoulder, looked as full of joy as her younger sister.

I will never again have to deliberate over a child’s confirmation clothes. All eight of our children have now been confirmed. Even our son Thomas received this Gift.

Early on the second day of Thomas’ life, a nurse woke me saying, “It doesn’t look like your baby will live much longer.” With a pounding heart, I slipped out of my hospital bed, thrust my feet into my slippers and hurried to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Thomas was hooked up to a life-support system.

I expected to see my husband Andy by Thomas’ side, but he wasn’t there. No one had seen him for some time. Fear gripped me. What if I were alone when Thomas died? Thoughts raced through my mind, but, somehow, one very important one thrust aside all the frightened ones: I wanted Thomas to be confirmed.

The hospital chaplain arrived. A Catholic nurse held my hand as the priest sealed Thomas with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Thomas wasn’t dressed in white for his confirmation. He was wearing only a nappy when his soul was clothed with the Holy Spirit. 

By the time Andy arrived back at the hospital, (he'd left for a short break), Thomas' condition had improved. "I've seen miracles after confirmation," someone told us. Once again, I dared to hope. Maybe our son wouldn't die after all. 

We asked a friend to bring our other children from home to the hospital to meet their brother. Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, hope had once again disappeared. Hellos were quickly followed by goodbyes. There was no miracle. But confirmation had given us the gift of time. 

Thomas died in our arms, with his soul radiant with grace. 

White dress, black dress, nappy? Sometimes all that matters is one’s heart and the Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Imogen made Gemma-Rose's confirmation cake. She decorated it with 12 fruits representing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.

You can also find me on:
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3 Jun 2015

Alone in a Pew

Last night at 7 pm, my husband Andy disappeared out the door with three of our girls, heading off to the weekly church choir practice. As usual, Gemma-Rose and I were left behind at home.

“What shall we do this evening?” Gemma-Rose asked me.

We discussed the options and decided to make mugs of hot chocolate and watch a movie together.

We enjoy our Tuesday mother-daughter time, but one day it will come to an end. You see, Gemma-Rose has ambitions. She wants to join the choir as well. She even wants to be the psalm cantor at Sunday Mass just like big sister Imogen. Yes, when she is a bit older, she will be disappearing out the door on Tuesday evenings too.

Every Sunday at Mass, Gemma-Rose sings the hymns with enthusiasm and enjoyment. She expects me to sing just as enthusiastically. But I don’t. I’m not a singer. If the notes rise too high, I abandon singing altogether. Until my youngest daughter notices.

“We’re up to here,” Gemma-Rose whispers, jabbing her finger at the words in the hymn book. She thinks she's being helpful. 

“I know,” I whisper back. The only way to avoid being watched is to open my mouth and make a sound. So I do. Quietly.

On every first Sunday, the parish choir sings at the 9 am Mass. As our family enters the church, our choir members peel off and head to one side towards the organ. Gemma-Rose and I continue down the centre aisle before slipping into a pew. We sit side-by-side, not taking up much space. 

One day I said, “When Gemma-Rose joins the choir I’ll be sitting in the church by myself.”

“You could join the choir too, Mum,” someone said.

“But I can’t sing,” I protested.

“You don’t need to be able to sing, Mum.”

The ad in our parish bulletin does say:

Choir practice. Tuesday evening. All welcome. No singing ability needed.

“No ‘singing ability needed’ means you don’t need to be able to read music,” I said. “And if you don't have any experience singing in parts, that's okay. But I think the musical director expects you to be able to sing at least a few notes in tune.” Which I can’t.

“You could learn to sing,” suggested Sophie. “Imogen could teach you.”

Imogen already gives Sophie and Gemma-Rose singing lessons. She could give me some as well. But somehow that all sounds a bit frightening.

Fear aside, it would be nice to be able to sing. I could raise my voice with everyone else and not be embarrassed. That might be very enjoyable. And I could take my place, with my family, in the choir. 

Or I could not learn to sing and sit by myself in a pew in the main body of the church.

Of course, I wouldn’t really be sitting by myself. In our parish, no one sits alone in a pew. It’s one of those small and intimate communities where most people know each other, at least by sight. We greet the same people, week after week, smile at each other and feel we belong. 

But, even though I'd be sitting with my fellow parishioners, I wouldn’t be sitting shoulder to shoulder with Gemma-Rose. Her hand wouldn’t reach out for mine as we listen to Father’s homily. She wouldn’t be checking up on me regularly, making sure I was actually singing.

It’s funny how things change. Not so long ago, our family had to squash together to fit into one pew. Between Andy and I there’d be children of all ages. Nowadays our pew is looking a little bare. Some days there’s even enough room left over for other people to share it with us. And once a month on choir Sunday, Gemma-Rose and I sit alone, taking up hardly any space at all.

So shall I learn to sing? Or will I resign myself to one day sitting alone in a pew?

Photos: These were taken before we left for the Easter Vigil Mass. Three of the girls are dressed up in their 'choir black and whites.'

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1 Jun 2015

When We Don't Know What We Should Be Doing

Praying Mantis by Tom Hannigan(CC BY 2.0

I’ve been struggling for months. I’ve been writing and posting and visiting other blogs, keeping up my Facebook page and answering messages. And all the time wondering if this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

I’ve had times when I’ve just wanted to retreat back to my smaller offline world and forget about blogging. And then just as quickly, I’ve had an idea for a post, written it and then felt excited again.

Up and down. Up and down. It’s not a very peaceful state to be in.

Sometimes I cry out, “What am I supposed to be doing?”

I’ve asked my children: “You like writing, Mum. Don’t give up.”

I’d ask my husband, Andy, but I know he'd encourage me to do what I want, whatever I enjoy. 

But what do I want to do? 

Sometimes I wonder if an unsettled feeling means God is telling me this phase of my life is over. He has different things for me to do. If only I'd move on, those new things will present themselves. If I stop writing and spend some time waiting and listening, I might hear my new instructions.

Then again, I wonder if those unsettled feelings are a nudge from the devil rather than God. If they were, I would then have to conclude the devil doesn’t want me to blog because blogging results in good. But whenever I think this, I am led back to the thought that perhaps I’m not actually doing anything worthy of the devil’s attention. But, of course, that would be what he wants me to think, wouldn't it?

These thoughts go around and around my mind. And it’s tiring. I sometimes yearn for my baby and toddler days when, although I often felt exhausted, I knew exactly what God wanted me to do.

Yesterday we arrived at Mass earlier than normal because my daughter Imogen was the cantor and she had to practise singing the psalm with the musical director before Mass began. So I had plenty of time to kneel in front of the altar and chat a little with God.

“What do you want me to do?” I cried as usual.

As I gazed up at the stained glass window above the altar, I wondered why this question feels like such a big deal. I’m healthy and have a happy and blessed life with my family. Why should I feel so churned up inside by such a small thing as whether I should blog or not. It’s not like I’m trying to make a huge life-changing decision. Just be grateful for what you have and buck up, I told myself.

Mass was celebrated. We returned home and someone remarked on how cold it was. I turned on the heater. Andy made coffee. One of the girls toasted some raisin bread. And we settled in the family room to enjoy our morning snack.

“What are you going to do today, Mum? my daughter Sophie asked.

And all of a sudden, I felt excited. “I’m going to write a post for the new blog I’ve been thinking about. How about you make me a blog header?”

So Sophie happily started blog header designing while I spilled some words onto the computer screen. They flowed out easily and minutes later, I had a post.

I’m still feeling excited. Why? I don't really know.

Up and down. Up and down. Up, up, up. I hope I don't return with a thump.

So that's where I'm at. This is where I am. 

I'm here in my brand new space where I can write anything I like about my life, my Catholic life. I'm not sure exactly what I'm going to be writing about. It's all a bit of an adventure. Everyday life? Whatever thoughts happen to come to mind? Or might that be too rambling? What do you think? 

Do you ever find yourself wondering what you should be doing? Or where you are supposed to be?

Image: I wonder if you're wondering what a praying mantis has to do with all this!

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31 May 2015

Out of My Catholic Mind

Around and around my mind:




Oh yes!


Impossible to stop them 

Swirling around and around my mind.

Can they be set loose? 

Out of my mind? 


Thoughts into words. 

Words into stories. 

Stories into posts. 

Ideas flowing out. 

Who knows what will appear? 

Out of my Catholic mind. 


You’re out of your mind. 


How can you think that? 

Do that? 

Say that? 

Write that? 

Out of my mind? 


Do you mind 

If I’m… 

Out of My Catholic Mind?