Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Join Us for the Super Girls and Halos Blog Tour {with a Review and Giveaway}

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.

Welcome visitors new and old.  Today, I am excited to be a part of the Super Girls and Halos Blog Tour, where every day from November 8 through 22, a different Catholic blogger from around the world is sharing thoughts on award-winning author Maria Morera Johnson's thought-provoking new book which explores the Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance, and Fortitude through pairing heroines of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books with inspiring female saints.

Now, if you've been following Training Happy Hearts for any length of time, you're already aware of how much my children and I enjoy learning about and celebrating the saints together.  So, my interest in Super Girls and Halos makes sense. However, if you know me in real life, you also might be aware that I invest little to no time in reading about nor watching pop culture heroines in action, and the closest I ever got to being a true superhero fan was taking my Dad's military hat as a child in the 70's, stuffing my hair into it, and doing Wonder Woman turns with my sisters and the neighborhood girls in our front yard.  (Okay, maybe we had some "bullet-proof" bracelets and a golden lasso, too.) 

But, seriously, science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture have rarely been my thing.  Moreover, the strong feminist push of our culture in recent years - which tends to stray far from the virtues, values, and strengths I believe women are created to embody -repulses me more than it excites me.  Thus, I tend to eschew anything that screams "woman power". So, you might wonder why I would want to read a book where over half the pages delve into analysis of
 Wonder Woman, Rey, Black Window, Scully, Storm, Hermione Granger, Katniss, and Lt. Uhura - fictional heroines whose stories I have rarely, if ever, read or watched and have had zero interest in getting to know.

Truth be told, when I first cracked open Super Girls and Halos, I had no desire to read about these "super girls".  I simply wanted to learn more about Sts. Katherine Drexel, Clare of Assisi, Mary Magdalene, Marguerite d’Youville, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Cunegunde, Mary MacKillop, and Kateri Tekawitha.  I was also interested to see how Maria Morera Johnson would highlight each of these saints as examples of real life individuals who overcame challenges and flaws through embracing Cardinal Virtues.  

Of course, though, because I was reading 
Super Girls and Halos for a review and not simply for my own pleasure and edification, I was honor-bound to read every page of it - even the parts about the fictional heroines I cared little about.  So, I did, and guess what?  Instead of being bored or rolling my eyes as Maria examined each female pop culture character, I found myself drawn in, interested in Maria's enthusiastic analysis of how each fictional heroine exhibited human virtue.

I appreciated how Maria recapped key elements of characterization and storyline so that even those who are not pop culture fans could relate to the super girls she highlighted.  I also loved how Maria wove words from St. John Paul II's apostolic letter, The Dignity and Vocation of Women, into commentary about Wonder Woman, and I discovered a new perspective on Rey, who I had been non-plussed by upon seeing one of the new Star War films when my parents invited our family to it. Likewise, I recalled why I'd liked Scully in the few episodes of the X-Files that I had previously seen and delighted to hear that in later episodes, the Catholic faith actually was brought into the storyline.  I also thought about how, if my children suddenly got into the Avengers, X-men, or Star Trek, I might not cringe and could, instead, now easily point out some virtues in the casts of characters.  Finally, I decided that although I still won't ever encourage my children to read Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, I can find redeeming value in the series should my kids choose to become immersed in them.  Indeed, I found Maria's treatment of modern day super girls
 clever, thought-provoking, and on-point.  

Better still, I loved how Maria paired the fictional super girls with both both well-known and lesser-known saints, highlighting similarities in the virtues between the super girls and saints, while also honing in on a key difference: the fictional heroines overcome obstacles through superpowers or crafted twists in plots and, sometimes, fall to their flaws, while the saints face challenges and move beyond human failings trough God's face.  By operating from a place of virtue, faith, and grace, the saints made difference in their own lives and in the lives of people they touched while living here on earth - and even still through their examples, legacies, and intercession.  They also challenge us to do the same - to seek a virtuous life, to seek god, to seek God! 

As Maria encapsulates each saints path to holiness, we cannot help but to see how God's grace empowered them to live with virtue despite all too human circumstances.  We see how St. Katherine Drexel quietly used her wealth to benefit marginalized Native and African Americans.  We recall how St. Clare of Assisi put her trust in Jesus Christ, thereby saving others.  We recognize how St. Mary Magdalene remained steadfast in love and faith and also shared about the Resurrection. We learn about how St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross came to Jesus and, then, to offer up her suffering with dignity for the Jewish people.  We hear about how St. Cunegrade moved from being an empress who funded churches and monasteries that still stand hundreds of years after being built to spending her final 20 year in prayerful retreat.  We witness how St. Marguerite d'Youville overcame taunting to build a health network that is lauded even today.  We are inspired by how St. Mary MacKillop stood firm even through temporary excommunication and defended her order while changing the face of Catholic education in Australia.  And, we witness how St. Kateri Tekawitha endured wrongs and isolation as she sought to love and serve Jesus.  In short, we discover how each saint responded to circumstances with love and faith, and we are encouraged to emulate them.

Through Maria' the collection of fictional and real heroines that Maria curated in Super Girls and Halos, we are remind that even in our humanness, we are called to be saints.  When we seek the greater good, when we choose what is morally right, when we stand firm through difficulties as we strive for what is good, when we maintain healthy discretion and self-mastery, and when we take time to ask what step toward Jesus can we make today and then do it, we respond to our calls to sainthood.

Whether you're a pop culture aficionado, a saint enthusiast, or someone seeking a fresh look at how to live the Cardinal Virtues, Super Girls and Halos makes a worthwhile read.  Maria:

  • presents strong analysis of fictional characters and saints
  • shares persona anecdotes
  • defines and gives examples of virtues
  • weaves in quotes from fiction
  • highlights portions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  • quotes from popes
  • offers periodic questions for reflection
  • challenges readers to tap into the supernatural powers God grants each one of us so that we may become saints

She makes pop culture and saint stories accessible to modern reader, presenting edifying examples of virtue.

Truly, I believe that Super Girls and Halos is a refreshingly unique take on how to live with truth, justice, and heroic virtue that any adult - or adolescent - can benefit from reading.  In fact, I am going to recommend it to my parish collaborative to use in youth ministry and have also already recommended to a local friend who is involved with a Catholic book club.

Who Doesn't Love a Giveaway?

In conjunction with the blog tour, Allison at Reconciled to You has put together a great giveaway.  You can enter below.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Who is YOUR Supergirl Saint?

I knew nothing about St. Mary MacKillop before reading Super Girls and Halos and found her story intriguing.  To think of bring excommunicated and still standing firm in faith, and, then, eventually becoming a saint.  Wow!  

Who is YOUR SuperGirl Saint? Please share in a comment!

Disclaimer:  I received a FREE copy of this product from Ave Maria Press in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Improve Attention, Concentration, and Memory {A Forebrain Review and Discount Code}

This post contains affiliate links.

What do you get when you combine a simple, fun-to-use design with award winning technology to help people of all ages (3 and up) improve:

  • attention
  • concentration
  • verbal working memory
  • short-term memory

Forbrain from Sound for Life LTD!

If you or your child struggle with
attention difficulties, poor memory, or speech and language issues, then you'll be happy to know that
Forbrain can help.  Simply by speaking normally into the device for one to three daily sessions of 10-20 minutes, depending on your age and needs, you can experience a marked improvement in as little as six to ten weeks.

What Is Forbrain?

If you're an audio-visual learner who likes quick overviews, here's a short video about what Forbrain is and how it works:

If you prefer tried-and-true user comments, then, you may wish to read how my-ten-year old - who was our primary Forbrain user -describes the device:

"Forbrain is a device that you use if you have pronunciation problems, reading problems, spelling problems, or memory problems.  It looks like a microphone headset, but instead of putting pieces on your actual ears, you put them on the bones in front of your ears, so the sound waves can travel through your bones.

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

The headset has a small rectangular box with the place you charge it using a computer, the on and off button, and volume control buttons.  It also has a bendable mic piece for the front with a small cushion on it, which is sensitive.  You want to place that about an inch to the right in front of your mouth.  That's why it is adjustable.

I used Forbrain often.  Sometimes, I used it with my mom or dad when I read to them or did spelling and other lessons.  I also used it alone for read-to-self and speaking randomly into it, because it sounds so cool.  I used it with my brothers and showed my friends it, too. 
Forbrain helps me with my spelling, because when I use it, different sounds feel and sound differently, so I can hear to spell.  I think it helps me a little with reading, too, because, when I use it to read words, I can puzzle them out more easily and can concentrate better.  I haven't yet used it for memory work, but I want to, because it's REALLY FUN and I think it will help me memorize better by having an easier time focusing."

You might also get a kick out of the description my seven-year-old,  - our second most common Forbrain user- offered:
"It is a device that has a microphone and connects to your bones when you speak.  It makes my bones vibrate and rattle.  Some words make my ears pop.  It feels weird.  Good weird.  I like using it for reading on my own and with other people."

So, as you can see, Forbrain is basically a smartly designed microphone headset that uses bone conduction and a dynamic filter to correct the way you hear your own voice, leading to better speech production and increased attention and confidence.  Designed with technology for brain stimulation to help people with speech and language difficultiesForbrain has been helping people with

  • ADD
  • ADHD
  • auditory processing disorder
  • memory difficulties
  • sensory integration challenges
  • speech challenges

It also has helped folks with:

  • articulation
  • learning to read
  • memorization
  • presentation skills
  • singing
  • vocal dynamics

and more, including just having fun reading children's picture books with expression!

If you'd like to learn more about how the Forbrain is designed and why it works, the Forbrain website is chock full of further information and articles about the device, so head on over  to it if you want learn more detailed information.

Why Do We Love Forbrain?

I love things that are simple, effective, and enjoyable, and, in our home, we've found Forbrain to be just that.

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

It sure is simple to take our Forbrain out of its handy, hardcover, padded carrying case and pop it on for a 10-20 minute session of use. 

Doing so for the first time, we were each surprised about how we could truly hear our own voices in a new way and immediately were drawn to pay closer attention to our articulation.  Over time, regular use of the device has been, "a fun thing that helps me improves my language skills" says my daughter.  Of all my children, she is the one that struggles most with reading, processing, etc., so witnessing improvements in her - and improvements made with a smile! - is a delight.

I also appreciate it when a simple-to-use device is backed by science and adaptable for use by a wide variety of ages in multiple settings
Forbrain is just that.  It can be used: 

  • alone when reading aloud, completing pronunciation exercises in native or foreign languages, practicing memory work, preparing speeches or dramatic works, reviewing learned materials, or, even singing.
  • with parents when learning to read, practicing speech and conversation exercises in native or foreign languages, doing homework, etc.
  • with professionals like therapists, teachers, and coaches when completing exercises, activities, and therapies.

 Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Whether your a youngster learning to read, a child in speech therapy, a teen memorizing scripts or speeches,a professional working on your public speaking skills, or someone who could just  grow in attention, concentration, and memory skills, Forbrain can help you enhance language and learning, using your own voice to unlock potential!

Get a Discount Code and Free Shipping


Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

Forbrain typically costs $299, which might seem steep at first.  However, when you consider what many therapy tools cost and what potential the specifically designed Forbrain bone conduction headset has to help you or your child overcome challenges with attention, speech, and memory, the price becomes more reasonable.  Also, right now, the Forbrain website offers FREE SHIPPING, and, if you use our affiliation code 3A4802705 when making your purchase, you can get a 10% discount.

Learn More

Forbrain Sound for Life LTD

In our home, we have been using our Forbrain for a little over a month and are already seeing results.  Other Homeschool Review Crew families, like the ones at Through the Open Window, are in their second year of using the device and testify to its long-term effectiveness with their children with autism or other challengesYou can find reviews from forty-five Homeschool Review Crew families who have used Forbrain by clicking through the banner.

Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

Find Forbrain on social media:

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Answering a Request for St. Angela of Merici Activities

Three weeks ago, a woman who follows this blog asked me in a Facebook group if I might develop some activities about Saint Angela de Merici for her to use at a Junior Catholic Daughters for girls aged 6-18.  Since I knew nothing about St. Angela de Merici before that request was made, I got to work educating myself and, then, spent some time in thought and prayer before formulating the collection of ideas I am sharing here for that woman and for anyone who might wish to learn more about  St. Angela of Merici or to celebrate her feast day, which will come up on January 27.

I hope my ideas help engage the girls at the Junior Catholic Daughters Court and also bless others with learning about St. Angela of Merici, who:

  • was founder of the oldest teaching order for women in the Church.
  • is patron to bodily ills, disabled people, handicapped people, illness, loss of parents, physically challenged people, sick people, and sickness. 
  • was a saint ahead of her time in pioneering education for young women and seeking a way for women to consecrate themselves to God, but not be required to enter a convent, instead "blooming where they were planted".

Learn About St. Angela of Merici

If you know little about St. Angela de Merici, this video from Catholic Online offers you a quick overview of her life:

You might also enjoy this longer video which will take you on a   virtual sightseeing tour while learning about St. Angela of Merici:

Five Activity Stations for Celebrating St. Angela of Merici

As I understand the Junior Catholic Daughters is an organization for girls ages 6-18 that falls under the umbrella of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas who seek to:

...participate in the religious, charitable and educational Apostolates of the Church... in creative and spiritual programs... (embracing) the principle of faith working through love in the promotion of justice, equality and the advancement of human rights and human dignity for all.

Thus, in response to the request I received to formulate activities for a Junior Catholic Daughter court, I aimed to pull together some that tie religion, charity, and education together with St. Angela Merici's life and work, balancing ones that younger girls might enjoy with ones that might offer older girls purpose and reflection.  In doing so, I came up with:

  • Make a Craft to Remind You of St. Angela of Merici's First Vision In the 1490's Angela had a vision of a procession of singing angels and young girls, including her deceased sister, who had not received last rights.  This vision assured her that her sister is safe in heaven with the saints.  In connection with this, make paperclip angels like those found at the Crafty Mummy.  For an extra special touch, tuck a small slip of paper with the Eternal Rest prayer printed onto it into the angel's body.  Consider gifting these to a local funeral home or keep them as a reminder to pray for All Souls.

  • Recall St. Angela of Merici's Second Vision, Helping Girls and Women:  Around 1494, St. Angela of Merici had a second vision of several virgins climbing a ladder to heaven.  This was God's way of showing her that she was to help girls and women.  In memory of this, bring a new or like-new item to be donated to a cause for women and girls - a shelter, a Respect Life charity, or the like.  At your event, set up a ladder with a heavenly blue and white box at its top and climb the ladder to offer your donations.

  • Go on a Blind Walk like St. Angela of Merici:  A "fun fact" about St. Angela Merici is that, in 1524, she was temporarily blinded while on a pilgrimage in Crete. When she was struck blind, her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going on and visited the shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. Then, before going home, while praying before the very same crucifix where she went blind, her sight was restored.  In memory of this, partner up.  In front a crucifix, have your partner put on a blindfold, then, guide your partner that circles back around to the crucifix.  Once here, you become the blind one and have your partner guide you on a trust walk.  After your walks, chat about what it felt like to be blinded, to trust, to guide, to regain sight, etc.  Liken your experience to our dependence on trusting God to guide us. 


  • Create a Tool to Teach:  In 1535, St. Angela founded the Company of St. Ursula which had a mission for educating girls. Create a teaching tool for sharing about St. Ursula and her mission with others.  Using cardstock, scissors, glue sticks, tape, markers, colored pencils, images of St. Angela of Merici, some quotes from her, and a host of decorative items such as stickers, ribbons, etc.,   create a scrapbook page about St. Angela's life.  A pdf of The Life of St. Angela Merici from the Ursuline Sisters website might be helpful to you as would the free St. Angela Merici coloring page from Catholic Playground.

  • Pray at the Feet of Jesus Christ:  St. Angela of Merici once said, "Let your first refuge be at the feet of Jesus Christ." She also had  a miracle happen to her when praying in front of a crucifix.  Modeling after her devotion to praying at Jesus' feet, pray the  Litany of St. Angela of Merici found at Catholic Culture at the foot of a statue of Jesus or at the foot of a crucifix.  Or, choose a much shorter prayer, like the Prayer to St. Angela Merici found at St. Angela Merici Catholic Church.

Saint Angela,
you were not afraid of change.
You did not let stereotypes keep you from serving.
Help us to overcome our fear of change in order to follow God's call and allow others to follow theirs.

Curriculum Connections

I also fell upon some free resources online that could be used for more "academic" pursuits.

  • Copywork or Studied Dictation:  The Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph also offer a brief biography and a 52 week collection of words of wisdom from St. Angela.  The wise words could be ideal for creating copywork, practicing studied dictation, making graphic word art, or decorating scrapbook type pages about St. Angela Mercici.  There is also a 43-page printable of the Saint's writings taken from he book "Commentary on the Writings of Saint Angela Merici" by M. Ignatius Stone, OSU.

  • Picture Study/Art:  There is an iconic image of St. Angela Merici on the Saint Angela Merici Catholic Church website in which a "ladder represents a vision she had of heaven opening and angels traveling between heaven and earth," an arrow symbolizes St. Ursula's martyrdom, and a cluster of "grapes are symbolic of the eucharistic blood of Christ and also of her family's vineyard. Even more it symbolizes the cluster of women she drew together in such a unique and progressive way."  The image could be sued as the basis of a picture study or could inspire an art project where everyone creates their own image of St. Angela using symbolism to represent aspects of her life and work
Online Biographies

These were some of the online resources I drew information from:

I enjoyed learning about St. Angela of Merici and putting this post together to honor the request of a Training Happy Hearts reader.  I pray that my work will bring fruit for her, her Junior Catholic Daughters Court, and for you should you choose to use any of the ideas here.  If you do use them, I'd love to hear how things went.  I'd also welcome you to add your own St. Angela of Merici links and ideas in the comments to benefit others.

If you have requests for ideas about other saints, do let me know.

St. Angela of Merici, pray for us!


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