Friday, August 31, 2012

On Top of the World

It's amazing how much less I feel like blogging when I'm staying with my fifteen-month-old twin granddaughters--and their wonderful parents, of course.  It's hard to get motivated to sit down and write when there are so many fun things going on, so many cute shenanigans to watch (and then a nice lie-down with a book seems like such a glorious option when the wee ones go down for their nap!).

Before I have my siesta, though, I thought I'd take a minute to post a picture I took this morning while we were hiking on a trail called "Siamese Twins" in a breathtakingly beautiful park out here in Colorado Springs called the "Garden of the Gods."  The rugged landscape in this park, which looked to me like something out of my cowboy-wannabe husband's favorite movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is absolutely breathtaking.  When we finished our climb to the summit of our trail, we could see Pike's Peak in the distance.  The twins were real troopers on this outing, and they seemed to love looking at all the beautiful scenery from up high--Kewpie in a backpack carrier on her daddy's back, and Bonny on Grammy's.  As you can see from the picture, Kewpie was feeling on top of the world.
What a grand day this has been already!  I could go on and on about that wonderful hike.  But with a stunning photograph like this to tell the story, no words are really necessary!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Little Miss Peek-a-Boo

My twin granddaughters are, as you might guess, not only the cutest pair of fifteen-month-old little girls you've ever laid your eyes on, but also quite the little geniuses.  And they're very funny, too, each in her own inimitable way.

Bonny, for instance, is the queen of peek-a-boo, stopping in her tracks a hundred times a day to cover her face with her hands so that you'll say, "Where's Bonny?  Oh, Bonny, where are you?  Where's Bonny?  Where did she go?"  She's really good at hiding herself, too, so that you would hardly know she was there; and when she wants to be, she's very patient about waiting to reveal herself.  Here she is, hiding from Grammy this morning:

Ignore the little blue eyes peeking out at you between those pleasingly plump little fingers.  She is not there.  She is invisible until she removes her hands and gives you a smile that involves every inch of her precious face: squinted-up eyes, a scrunchy button nose, round rosy cheeks, and a mouthful of perfect baby teeth!  Then, and only then, can you see this little munchkin.  And then she'll toddle off to read her books for awhile, or to climb on one of the big, colorful, soft climbing blocks in her playroom...until the game starts up again.  It might be thirty seconds later, or it might be twenty minutes.  But you will be playing again soon, never fear.

But who can resist a game where the object is to finally see this cute little face smiling at you?
Don't answer that question.  It was rhetorical.

(I wish these photos were clearer; but I was trying to capture moments as my granddaughters toddled around the basement playroom.  They were moving targets, and I don't think my iPhone had time to focus before I snapped them!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surrounded by Mountains...of Cuteness

I arrived in Colorado last night, in one piece--despite all of my pre-flight jitters.

I am now surrounded by mountain views (really, you should see the magnificent view right out my son and his wife's back door!), but more importantly, by cuteness.  Cuteness squared.

There isn't going to be much time for blogging today.  The girls are napping, and my body is still on East Coast time--so I'm thinking Grammy might want to catch a nap, too.  But before I do, I wanted to at least post this adorable picture of the twins, taken this morning down in the truly awesome romper room in the basement of their new house.
That's Bonny up front on the left, with Kewpie right behind her.
I was so happy to get this shot because Bonny has been mugging for the camera for awhile now, but Kewpie used to put on a serious "what the heck are you doing, Grammy?" face every time I pointed my camera (or my iPhone) at her.  I love her great, big smile in this picture!

I tell you, folks, it was worth the trip to see these two cuties again!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rocky Mountain High, Here I Come!

Well, today I take off for Colorado, the new home of my oldest son, his wife, and my adorable twin granddaughters.  They just made a cross-country move from Alabama (oh, the joys of military life!), and this will be the third home this young couple has shared since they got married in December of 2009.  Thank goodness they will be able to stay put out there in the Rockies for at least another two years, during which time, hopefully, Papa and I will be able to get out there for a ski vacation (or two...or three).

That cute little family just moved into their house last week, and the movers have dropped off their belongings.  They've gotten a lot of the boxes unpacked, but there's still work to do--and who better to help them do it than Grammy, the empty-nester who misses having children to take care of and can also fly on the airline for which her husband works, free of charge?  True, I fly on stand-by status and can only get on a flight when there are unclaimed seats; but if you're willing to endure being bumped (I am), and you don't mind hanging out in the airport waiting for the next open flight to come along (I don't--especially since that delays the terrifying part: the flying), then you can't beat the deal I've got.  Without this convenient little perk afforded by my husband's job, I would not have been able to see my darling little Bonny* (the older of the twins) and Cutie* (the younger one, by two minutes) nearly as often as I have in the almost fifteen months they've been on this earth.  Forget the fact that I like flying about as much as I like having a root canal...Actually, I fell asleep in the chair when I had a root canal, but I can almost never relax enough to sleep when I'm in an airplane seat, so never mind that analogy.  What I meant to say was that as tough as it is for me to subject myself to my debilitating fear of take-offs and landings, I'm going to keep on doing it, because the alternative--missing out on seeing those little beauties--is even more fear-inducing!
"Rocky Mountain high, Colorado..."  (Remember this guy?)

You know, this trip is going to be a big first for me.  In my whole life, I've never been west of Indiana or Wisconsin--whichever of those two Midwestern states is further west (geography has never been my strong suit).  And the idea of flying into the Rockies...yikes!  I'm not imagining myself sitting happily in my seat, 30,000 feet above the ground (!!), with that upbeat John Denver tune from yesteryear playing in my head.  I'm imagining plane crashes in snow-capped mountains, and packs of wolves hunting down the crash survivors.  (Oh, not really.  However, if you are a white-knuckle flyer like me, one movie you shouldn't see is a nail-biter called The Grey, starring Liam Neeson.)  But I've got to force myself to think beyond the flight to what's waiting for me at the other end: those two little munchkins who really DO make me feel like I'm on a high, every time I'm around them.

*If you are new to this blog, these are my granddaughters' aliases, used to keep their real names private. Cutie is also sometimes called Kewpie, because she has a Kewpie doll smile.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Man Cave Heaven

Well, it's official: my husband's man cave is completed and ready for its close-up.

This sports-themed room has been completely functional and super-comfortable for several years now; my guy has his cushy leather rocker-recliner in it, positioned for TV viewing (and there's a leather sectional for the rest of us), along with his pull-up/chin-up apparatus, his weights, a bar with three retro bar stools in front of it that have the "Pearl Beer" logo on them, and of course, a Hi-Def flat screen TV with surround sound and all the other requisite bells and whistles.

The only problem has been this: my husband has felt for a long time now that for a man cave as big as this one (after all, it used to be a two-car garage before he converted it into our "new room" about eight years ago), the TV set in it was just a tad on the smallish side. I mean, the TV we've had in there for the past couple of years was no slouch--it was a 42-inch flat screen; but the room is so enormous that it was really crying out for something just a bit bigger--say, maybe an 80-inch flat screen.  Unfortunately, some time ago when my husband measured the TV nook area of his man cave, he realized that there actually wasn't enough space for anything larger than a 70-inch.  So a plan was made: as soon as we paid off our house (which will be in a matter of months now), our first purchase would be a 70-inch flat screen TV for the new room/man cave.

For the past few years, that's been my man's mantra: when the house gets paid off, we get a 70-inch TV; when the house gets paid off, we get a 70-inch TV...  But we're just months away now...and football season is upon us...and it seems silly to go through a whole season of watching games on a puny little screen, when we were planning to purchase a bigger one pretty soon anyway...

So we did it: we bought our new TV several months ahead of schedule, and yesterday, our second oldest son (who was here with his girlfriend for dinner) helped his dad get it hung up on the wall.  And...[drum roll]...TA DA!  Here it is!  (Is this the most beautiful thing your eyes have ever seen, or what?)
My husband, gazing at the new love of his life.  (Reading glasses off, 3-D glasses on!
Football never looked so good!)
I know I'm going to enjoy the newer, way bigger TV, too.  But I'm mostly happy that we have it because I know how happy it makes my husband.  He's not a man who owns (or wants to own) a lot of expensive toys.  This is the one dream item he's been wishing for, and he's been waiting patiently until we could best afford it. And now that it's here, he's in heaven in his man cave!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Book's Patron Saints

Right as I was finishing up the exhausting process of making sure that the final galley of my manuscript was as ready for publication as humanly possible, some very precious articles found their way into my hands.  If you do read my book Finding Grace, which is a novel aimed primarily at impressionable teens and young adults, you will see that Saint Therese of Lisieux ("The Little Flower," as she is called) and Saint Catherine Laboure (the humble nun who is responsible for having Miraculous Medals struck, at Our Lady's special request) both play a big part in the story.  My protagonist, a young girl named Grace Kelly, is inspired by an offhand remark from her father to become a saint, and so she begins to read about the lives of the saints for inspiration and guidance.  One of her favorites--mine, too--is Saint Therese, for this dear saint and Doctor of the Church speaks of the "Little Way of Spiritual Childhood"; she teaches us about the "Little Way" to holiness, which means that each of us, no matter how small we may seem, can hope to be a saint.  Grace also wears a Miraculous Medal constantly in the book  (in fact, there is a picture of this medal on the front cover), and therefore she has a special affinity for Saint Catherine Laboure.

So many things that happened during the course of writing this book and right afterwards seem like more than mere coincidences.  I finished writing the 32nd and final chapter of Finding Grace on December 1, 2011, after laboring on it for four and a half years.  The very next day, December 2, I was able to accompany my husband on one of his trips to Europe, for the first time in the 15 years he'd been flying internationally for his airline.  And where do you think this trip was headed?  To Nice, on the breathtaking French Riviera.  So on our second day of sightseeing, we took a train ride over to nearby Monaco to visit the old stomping grounds of who else but Grace Kelly, the Hollywood actress cum princess--and my main character's namesake!

Finding Grace also has a section that deals with the Holocaust.  In January of 2012, I was able to travel with my husband to Europe on a second trip, this time to Amsterdam...and while we were there, we took a tour of the Anne Frank House, which was a truly affecting experience.  I couldn't believe that the first two times I ever rode in the back of a plane that my husband was piloting overseas, these destinations with so much meaning for me, because of how they tied in with the book I'd just finished, were the ones I was lucky enough to visit.

Those two experiences got to me, but not nearly as much as something that took place in late July, just about the time the book was ready to go to print, at my family's 2nd Annual Camping Palooza.  During the weekend reunion with my mother's family, there were some special items set out on a table--some of my late maternal grandmother's paintings, some jewelry and other valuables, old letters and photos--that my mother and her only other living sibling wanted to pass on to the next generation in our family.  So my siblings and cousins and I were encouraged to look over all the stuff and see if there was anything we wanted to take. My eyes fell on a dingy-looking little off-white hinged jewelry box, and I absentmindedly opened it up.  I couldn't believe what I found inside.  Sitting there on faded turquoise velvet were two very small, round, ornately-decorated glass-topped cases (tarnished and obviously quite old) with tiny relics inside them. Inside one of the cases, a small strip of paper had this typed on it: "S. Teres. a Ies."  "That must be a relic of Saint Therese of Lisieux!!", I thought.  The other had a strip of paper that read, "Ste C. Laboure"--and not only that, it came with an official Church document (dated 1955, with a signature and a raised seal) identifying the tiny bone fragments in the case as "sacris Reliquiis Sanctae Catharinae Laboure" (in Latin: sacred relics of Saint Catherine Laboure) and further describing them as "ex ossibus" (from the bones).
The holy saints' relics, sitting atop a pre-publication galley of my manuscript.

A close-up of the relics.
Oh my gosh, was I thrilled...and filled with utter disbelief.  Imagine finding these priceless treasures so soon after finishing a book that was very much dedicated to these two very saints!  My mother said that I could have both tiny reliquaries, and I brought them home, filled with awe and excitement.  When I told my publisher about the precious relics of Saint Therese and Saint Catherine Laboure that had somehow come my way, out of the blue, she said that clearly they should be considered the patron saints of my book.  If they are, I have some powerful helpers in my corner!

I definitely need their assistance these days as I struggle with feelings of both elation and terror, now that a lifelong dream of mine has actually been realized and my book is out there, open to scrutiny and criticism. I find myself sending up this silent entreaty: "Saint Therese of Lisieux and Saint Catherine Laboure, PRAY FOR ME!"

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saint Catherine of Bologna, Patron of Artists

After spending the past five days showing you some terrific (and just a bit off-the-wall) artwork created by my #4 son when he was a teenager, I thought I would devote today's post to a Patron Saint of Artists, Catherine of Bologna.  She herself was quite a talented artist, as you can see from this lovely painting that is attributed to her, an icon of the Madonna and Child.
So many saints come from the ranks of rich and powerful families, but they turn their backs on material wealth and devote their lives to doing God's work.  Catherine of Bologna was just such an individual.  Born Catherine d'Vigri in 1413 in Bologna, Italy, she came from an aristocratic family.  She was raised at the court of the Marquis Nicholas IV, Duke of Ferrara, because her father was his ambassador.  Catherine could have lived a very privileged life, but instead became a cloistered nun and together with three other women of Ferrara founded a monastery of the Order of Poor Clares.  She later returned to her native Bologna and became the abbess of a monastery of the same Order, where she lived until her early death at 49.  Her body remains incorrupt; it is on display behind glass, seated upright and dressed in her religious habit, at the Chapel of the Poor Clares in Bologna.

I am always profoundly amazed, inspired, and impressed by people such as Saint Catherine of Bologna--people who could have chosen easy, pampered lives and instead chose to take a much more difficult path.  It is no wonder that such self-sacrifice is rewarded with a crown in Heaven!

If you are an artist, and you're struggling with a piece that just isn't turning out the way you want it to, you can always try praying to this holy Patron Saint of Artists.  Isn't it nice to know that you have an unseen helper who is only a prayer away?

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Crazy Creatures Week," Day Five

Well, to end "Crazy Creatures Week," I saved the best drawing for last (it's the best of the bunch in my opinion, anyway).  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the MINOTAUR!  Feast your eyes on this bad boy, because it's a keeper.
This is one of a series of minotaur drawings that my son did back in high school, and they are outstanding.  (I have almost enough of them, each drawn striking a different pose, to do a "Minotaur Week"!)  My other four boys are great fans of this son's minotaurs.  They are super-jacked and so incredibly well-drawn.

Just as my son looked to ancient Greek and Roman mythology for the inspiration to create his own rendition of Cerberus (featured on Wednesday of this "Crazy Creatures Week"), he found his inspiration for this vicious and powerful monster, who was--in the words of the Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"--in Greek mythology.

The minotaur was said to be the offspring of a bull and Queen Pasiphae, wife of King Minos of Crete, which explains the fact that he was a creature with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man.  The minotaur lived in the center of a huge labyrinth, or maze, on the island of Crete.  And apparently, King Minos loved this monster--which I don't quite understand, given the fact that he was the product of the queen's disturbing act of infidelity.  Maybe the king was fond of the minotaur because he was so effective at guarding the labyrinth on Crete (that is, until he was slain by the Greek hero Theseus).

Just like all of my son's other crazy creatures, this minotaur obviously spent lots of time at the gym.  And I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had the P90X DVD collection back at the labyrinth as well.

Okay, that's it; "Crazy Creatures Week" comes to an end today.  I hope you've enjoyed this peek at the artistic genius of my #4 son.  It's too bad that it's so hard to make a living as an artist, because I think a talent like his ought to be shared with a wide audience!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Crazy Creatures Week," Day Four

I have no words for this one.  I can't explain it, the way I could yesterday's drawing of the mythological three-headed hound called Cerberus.  As far as I know, my #4 son is the only person in the universe who knew this crazy creature existed before he set pencil to paper about nine or ten years ago and brought it to life.

So all I can say is...drink it in.
Look it over carefully and notice all the incredible detail that went into creating this, serpent/dinosaur/bodybuilder/ninja/medieval warrior, or whatever the heck it is.  Like I said, just drink it in--and be duly impressed by the artistic talent of my highly imaginative boy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Crazy Creatures Week," Day Three

Okay, for the mid-week installment of this exciting five-day extravaganza called "Crazy Creatures Week," I'm going to show you a drawing my #4 son did of a creature that isn't the product of his own creative juices, at least as far as the creature itself goes.  He drew today's featured creature without tracing or copying the work of any other artist, that's true; but the inspiration for it didn't come out of his very own head, the way most of the others I'm posting this week did.  The star of today's show is that famous mythological three-headed hound known as Cerberus, and here is my boy's interpretation of this fearsome beast (rendered in pencil at age 15).
In Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus was always on the job as the loyal watchdog who guarded the gates that granted access and exit to the Underworld (also known as Hades).  With this scary-looking guy guarding the gates, it was a pretty sure thing that no one who ever crossed the river Styx would be able to escape back to the other side.  Not in one piece, anyway.

Cerberus rears its ugly heads in many works of ancient Greek and Roman literature, and also in works of both ancient and modern art.  He is said to be the offspring of Echidna, a hybrid half-man and half-serpent, and Typhon, a fire-breathing giant feared even by the powerful gods themselves.  He can be depicted with anywhere from two to 100 heads, but he is shown most often with three; some claim that these heads represent the past, the present, and the future, respectively, while others say they represent birth, youth, and old age

One thing the mythology experts agree upon, however, is that each of Cerberus' heads has an appetite for one thing, and one thing only: live meat.  YIKES!  You wouldn't want to mess with Cerberus, that's for sure!  And I think my talented son has captured the essence of Hades' intimidating watchdog with his usual skill and imagination.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Crazy Creatures Week," Day Two

Okay, have you recovered from the awesomeness of yesterday's "Crazy Creature" offering yet?  Because today, I have one for you with a decidedly patriotic air about it.

We have many people in our family who have served, or are currently serving, in the Armed Forces of the U.S. (in every branch--Army, Navy, and Air Force), so I thought I'd show you my son's slightly out-there take on that iconic American symbol, the bald eagle:
Well, okay.  This isn't exactly a bald eagle, is it?  But there is a certain eagle-like quality to this drawing, you must admit; it depicts a sort of jacked-up, uber-muscular version of the national bird of our proud the front, anyway.  However, the back legs on this creature look sort of like those of a chicken don't they?  And curiously, the hind end is reminiscent of--what, a horse, maybe?  Or a wolf?  Although that tail doesn't really look like a horse's or a wolf's tail, now that I think of it.  But there are fur-covered haunches on this eagle-creature, the haunches of some sort of mammal or other...and the wings are a bit too small for flight, making it appear that they're just decorative in this case.  So is this thing a bird, or isn't it?

Okay, what is going on here?  Has anyone out there ever seen--even in a video game, where crazy alien creatures run amok--a creature that even remotely resembles this one?  Can anyone come up with a name for a being such as this?

One thing for sure is that my fourth-born son, who produced this sketch when he was about 15 (and probably whipped it off in under five minutes), really does have some amazing skills when it comes to drawing, doesn't he?

And there's more to come!  Three more days of "Crazy Creatures Week" to look forward to!  Stay tuned.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Crazy Creatures Week," Day One

As promised in yesterday's post, today is the first day of "Crazy Creatures Week"!   As I said, my #4 son has quite a lot of artistic talent, and during his youth, he employed much of his creative energy drawing strange--you might say strangely magnificent--creatures that look like some kind of cross between dinosaurs, animals, aliens, and monsters.

Here is one that I think is very interesting.
Most of my son's crazy creatures have very defined musculature--they're very jacked, as the kids these days say.  This one is no exception.  It also has bat's wings, a dinosaur's head (with a very oddly-shaped bony protrusion on it), and a dog-like body, but with hoofed feet.

I have no explanation for this.  I don't believe I've ever seen anything else like it.

All I know is that it is extremely well-drawn--incredibly detailed, with expert shading--and  it showcases an unusual talent.  All you had to do was give this boy a piece of paper and a sharpened pencil, and you never knew what you were going to get.

Are you sufficiently intrigued?  I hope so!  Stay tuned for another episode of "Crazy Creatures Week," coming tomorrow to a computer near you!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Get Ready for "Crazy Creatures Week"!

It's obvious that my five boys are no longer living under this roof (we had our youngest son here all summer, but he's back at Notre Dame now, beginning his sophomore year)...because I forgot all about the fact that last week was "Shark Week" on the Discovery channel!!  Yikes, that was a big week around here, once upon a time, and I let it slip by without even noticing.  Life has been sort of busy lately, but c'mon!  It was "Shark Week," for crying out loud!

In June of 2011, I did a "T-Rex Week" (which is in the archives under "art"), showcasing T-Rex drawings by all of my sons--one each for five days straight--as a sort of homage to the "Shark Week" phenomenon.  I've decided that the coming week is going to be "Crazy Creatures Week" here at "String of Pearls," and I will post a drawing each day, from Monday through Friday, rendered by my #4 son when he was a good bit younger.  He came up with these bizarre monster/alien creatures (which sprung to life right out of his head, via his fertile imagination), and I put a whole slew of them away for safekeeping, because I thought they showed a unique and inimitable artistic talent.

So be ready for it.  It's going to be a winner, I promise you.  You will be amazed, entertained...and possibly disturbed!  These are creatures like none you've ever seen before!   (Except perhaps in movies about alien invasions.)

As a little teaser to show you what's in store, I give you these two samples:
(Hey, this one is sort of a shark!  I feel better now about missing "Shark Week.")

(Notice the helpful "6 ft." measurement, so that you can tell how big the creatures would
 be next to the average man.)
Keep in mind that these two drawings were done when my son was about 11 or 12, without the incredible amount of detail that he began to add to his works.  The ones I'll post starting tomorrow were done a few years later, when he was about 15--and they're going to knock your socks off!

Okay, then, "Crazy Creatures Week," starting tomorrow.  Don't miss it, the way I missed "Shark Week"!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Why I Wrote Finding Grace

Yesterday, I said I would post a Word document I typed up some months ago that gives all the reasons I felt compelled to write a novel aimed primarily at impressionable teenage readers (with some cross-over appeal for adult readers, I believe...I hope!).  Here is that document, in its entirety, as I sent it to a publisher last spring, along with my finished manuscript:

By Laura Pearl

Ø      I’ve always been an avid reader, but have lately become disillusioned by the fact that nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a novel with a love story in it that doesn’t include at least one graphically-detailed (blush-inducing) scene involving a sexual situation.  And in modern literature, it’s almost impossible to find a couple who decide to “wait” until they get married.  I wanted to write a book that shows that the Catholic Church’s teachings on pre-marital sex are not only good for one’s immortal soul, but also just make sense and make life simpler and happier.
Ø      I have also become aware in recent years that it is extremely rare to find a novel where religion in general, and the Catholic Faith in particular, isn’t treated in a disparaging way—and I wanted to counteract that with a positive depiction of fun, happy Catholic families.  The families I created are full of basically good, but very normal, flawed human beings.  (Imagine that: Catholics as normal people!)  I tried to tell their stories using humor when possible, and to make them the kind of people with whom readers—even non-Catholic ones—could connect.  And through my main character, Grace (who begins to read about the lives of the saints to improve her faith life), I included some information about saints who used to be well-known by young Catholics, but are rarely spoken of anymore, even in the classrooms of today’s parochial schools.
Ø      Remembering how much I was affected by some of the books of my youth, I have been worrying that today’s young people (young girls especially, as they can get so carried away with “romance”) are being assaulted from every side by the idea that there really isn’t anything wrong with pre-marital sex, contraception, and even abortion.  We appear to be living in a morals-neutral society these days; by the time my ten-month-old twin granddaughters are impressionable teenage readers, I shudder to think what kind of books will be targeted at them.  I wanted to write a book that deals with those controversial issues of our day and ultimately shows that the answer to life’s most difficult questions is to live according to the teachings of the Church.  And I hope I was able to accomplish this without sounding preachy.  That was my goal, anyway.
Ø      I also wanted to show that—contrary to the beliefs of many people that the Catholic Church is repressive, dour, and unforgiving—people can make mistakes, even big ones, and they can find forgiveness and healing (they can find grace) through the One True Faith.
Ø      I have dreamed, since I was a young girl, of writing just one novel in my lifetime.  I majored in English at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, but never really did any writing once I’d turned in my last paper and gotten my degree.  I got married in 1980 shortly after graduation and gave birth to the first of my five sons in 1983.  I put all of my energies into being a wife and mother (and a volunteer at my boys’ Catholic grade school), with no regrets.  My husband and I homeschooled our youngest son for five years, from 2002 to 2007.  At the end of the summer of 2007, just before he entered the local Catholic high school, I finally got inspired to accomplish my lifelong goal and began work on Finding Grace.  I spent the next four and a half years writing and re-writing this book, making countless revisions.  Although I realize there’s a big difference between writing a book and getting it published, I’m proud of this effort and hope you’ll give it a chance.
So that pretty much tells you what I hoped to accomplish with this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed the writing process over the almost five years that I worked on it.  The fact that it has actually been published is still a bit surreal, however.  I dreamed it might be an actual book one day, instead of just a stack of typed-up 8 and 1/2 by 11 inch pages; but I never really believed it.  Seeing it sitting there on an end table in my living room--a real bound book that is ready to be picked up and flipped through--is just something that's going to take me a little while to get used to!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A New Generation, and Hope for the Future

(Click on photo to enlarge; trust me, it's worth it!)
This is a photo that was taken Saturday at the wedding of my niece.  In it are 30 of the 32 Pearl first cousins (including the bride); the only two missing are one niece who is a Navy helicopter pilot currently on deployment overseas and a nephew who had to be out at Notre Dame that day for his Navy ROTC freshman orientation.

As of Saturday, four of the first cousins are now married; the groom, my daughter-in-law, and another niece's husband are in this picture along with the 30 first cousins (but unfortunately, the husband of one of my other nieces couldn't be there--again, due to military obligations, this time with the Army).

I can see years of weddings stretching before us, as all of these kids find their perfect mates and begin their families.  My son and his wife already have 14-month-old twin daughters and hope to add to their family soon.  It is because of them, because of my children and their children, that I wanted to write my book.  It is because of this generation of first cousins--not just my five boys, but all of my nieces and nephews and their future children--that I wanted to write my book.  These young people have inherited a world that people of my generation could never have imagined.  When we watched "The Dick Van Dyke Show" back in the late 60's, Rob and Laura Petrie slept separately, in twin beds. Even though they were married, it would have been scandalous at that time to show them sharing a bed.  That might have been a tad over-the-top; but what a difference from today, when unmarried characters on T.V. shows and in books and movies routinely hop into the sack together.  Rarely do our young people get the message that the best thing to do--the best way to ensure happiness as a married person--is to wait until you find your one true love and are joined before God in matrimony.  It's an old-fashioned notion in our 21st century world, I know; but I think it's as true today as it was back in my youth, when people weren't afraid to espouse a belief in a distinct line between right and wrong behavior.

Anyway, worrying about what types of books would be targeted at the generation to come--at the little ones who will be brought into the world because of this beautiful group of young people gathered by the lake to celebrate the wedding of their cousin, and others out there like them--was one of my main motivators to begin the writing process.  In fact, some months ago, I typed up a page called "Why I Wrote Finding Grace," which I attached to the letter that I sent last spring to a traditional Catholic publishing house along with my completed manuscript.  I got a rejection from that publisher, but luckily found Bezalel Books and was able to publish my novel through them.  I'm going to add "Why I Wrote Finding Grace" to this post.  It will give you a pretty good idea of what my goal was in writing this book.

Actually, this post is long enough already, so I'll save that for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Plug for My Book

I'm going to shamelessly use this blog today to plug my book, a novel titled Finding Grace, which was published recently by Bezalel Books and is currently available in paperback ($17.99 plus shipping & handling) and on Kindle ($9.99) through  The link is
(Front and back cover--click or double-click to enlarge.)
I am also offering the book to family and friends at a discounted price: $15.99, signed and with s&h included in the price.  If you're interested, contact me via e-mail at

Almost exactly five years ago, on August 2, 2007, I started work on this novel, finishing the final chapter on December 1, 2011.  I was at daily Mass with my husband that long-ago morning, thinking about the fact that in a matter of weeks, my youngest son was going to be starting high school and I was going to have a lot more free time than I'd ever had since I first became a mother in 1983.  I decided that I would use the years my baby was in high school to fulfill a dream I'd had since I was a young girl: I was going to write a novel.  I knew that I wanted it to involve a love story, and that I wanted to inspire young adult readers with it.  I knew that I wanted it to have Catholic characters and show the beauty of the Faith, but without being preachy.  I knew that I wanted it to be unabashedly pro-family, pro-chastity, and pro-life, but that it should balance the serious messages with humor and a great deal of compassion for the flaws and foibles of humans trying to live good lives in a confusing world.

I just didn't know how to start.  So I prayed, and I prayed hard.

My prayer was that if I was meant to write a book, that if it would be for the good of my own soul and for the greater glory of God, He would guide me so that I could figure out how to begin such a daunting task.  That very day (during Mass, in fact--where my mind wandered, unfortunately), a main character, her family, and her love interest began to take shape, along with a vague outline for a story; and I went home and furiously typed up 20 pages of notes.  The first chapter, with a conversation between the main character and her father, practically wrote itself.  And I was off.

Over the years, I was often distracted and didn't produce pages as quickly as I could have.  For instance, I found it hard to sit at my desk for hours on end when all the boys were home from college on their summer breaks.  I think one summer, I only got one chapter out of the 32 written, since I was just enjoying having my family about me and didn't want to spend all of my time on my computer.  Then my mother went through a serious illness, and that was followed by the sudden death of my mother-in-law.  There were times, such as those, when I simply couldn't write.  But other times, I wrote for six or eight hours at a stretch and the chapters just kept on coming.  I started out giving myself a one-year deadline (as Bugs Bunny would say, "Ha ha, it is to laugh"), which stretched to two years, then three...and then finally, I decided I would just finish when I finished.  I am a manic re-writer, and every chapter went through about 15 drafts before I thought it was good enough, then would get little tweaks and fixes--a process that continued almost until the day I gave the publisher my approval for the final galley of the manuscript.  But truly, over the years I was working on it, I had trouble even believing that the book would be published at all; so I allowed myself to enjoy the writing process, thinking that maybe I would just run off copies to hand down to my kids and grandkids.

Then, just as I was about finished with the final chapter of Finding Grace, I came across an article about a wonderful Catholic publishing house called Bezalel Books, where I was able to self-publish my novel and see a lifelong dream come true.  I go on the Amazon website and there it is--and I have to pinch myself or I'd think I was dreaming!

So today's blog post is basically an advertisement for my book.  It's just a lousy commercial.  Do you feel like you've been had--like Ralphie in the movie A Christmas Story, when he used his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring for the first time and the secret message was "Drink more Ovaltine"?  If so, sorry about that...but buy Finding Grace!  :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I've been a bad blogger!

I have been duly chastened for neglecting my blog--by my youngest sister, who is one of my most loyal followers.  She was on an RV camping trip with her husband and some friends over the weekend, and she made a daily trek to the WiFi area of the campgrounds to check her Facebook and e-mails and to see if I'd posted anything new...and she was a little miffed at me for being such a slacker.  Okay, I admit it: I've been a bad blogger.  A bad, bad blogger.  I should go to the corner and think about what I've done, like the poor little sweetie in this painting.  (It's titled "In Disgrace," and it's by one of my all-time favorite illustrators, Besse Pease Gutmann.)
I love this painting!  That little girl's body, with those cute little arms and legs, reminds me of my 14-month-old identical twin granddaughters, who were here last week for the wedding/Pearl family reunion but left on Sunday at the stroke of midnight--so that they could sleep during the car trip to NYC, where they were due to catch a flight with their mommy and daddy early Monday morning.  They are currently on their way westward to their new home in Colorado.  (And now, try to guess where Grammy is headed in the not-too-distant future...)

Life has been unbelievably busy lately around these parts.  If you read my last few posts, you know that I've been staying at my husband's childhood home along with an enormous group of family members.  On Saturday, my niece got married--and all eight of the Pearl siblings (my husband is #2 out of the eight), their spouses, and most of their children, along with an assortment of dogs, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc., were living on top of each other in the family homestead and the house next door, which belongs to my husband's older sister.  Out of the 32 first cousins who were brought into this world by the eight Pearl sibs, 30 were able to make it.  Only two who had military commitments--a niece on Navy deployment and a nephew at his freshman Navy ROTC orientation at Notre Dame--were missing.  It was one big (really big) happy family around here.

Getting that many members of the family together at the same time is quite a feat!  And it creates a lot of garbage that needs to be taken to the dump!  And it generates a lot of dirty laundry (mostly towels) that must be washed and folded and put away!  My husband and I, who have the luxury of living relatively close-by and didn't have to pack up in a hurry on the Sunday or Monday following the festivities to catch a flight or drive cross-country like most of the rest of the clan, have been slowly getting things back in order before we take off for home this morning.  But we don't mind at all.  It's given us a chance to enjoy the lake for just a little bit longer before we head back to the nest--which is empty once again, now that our youngest son is already settled back at college.

Where does the time go, anyway?  During the wedding there was a wonderful slide show, and seeing all those old photographs of the bride when she was just a wee thing, surrounded by all of her little Pearl cousins (including my sons, who are grown men now)...well, it just broke me up.  I was sitting there at the wedding reception weeping--but they were happy tears.  We all have such great memories, and so many of them are tied in with this house by the lake--the house where my husband grew up and where our sons spent many lazy summer days forging incredibly strong bonds with their cousins.

I'm rambling here (sorry about that--I'm just so tired!), so I'd better end this.  But am I out of the doghouse now, baby sister?  Am I forgiven?  Can I come out of the corner, or am I still in disgrace?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Witnessing the Sacrament of Matrimony

Is there anything more joyous than being invited to the wedding of a dear family member or friend?  And being asked to witness the joining of two young people in the Sacrament of Matrimony?  To be one of the chosen few who are there as they officially begin their new life together?  (Baptisms rank right up there, of course.  And Holy Orders...well, the sacraments are all so very beautiful that each in its own way is indescribably special.)

But today, my husband and I, along with all five of our sons, a daughter-in-law, two granddaughters, and three girlfriends--not to mention the whole extended Pearl family (other than the two who cannot be here due to their military obligations)--will be gathered together to celebrate the marriage of our niece.  Right now, the family homestead and the house next door, which is owned by my husband's older sister, have a total of 60 people and 7 dogs staying in them!  (Yes, 60 people and 7 dogs--you heard that right.)  To say things are hectic around here is the understatement of the century.

In spite of all the chaos, we are all filled with joy for our beloved niece and her wonderful husband-to-be.  Please keep them in your prayers on their special day!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Can you tell I love this guy?

Not long after I posted my blog on Monday the 6th, I ran across this snapshot of my husband and me (which I keep tucked in the mirror of my jewelry box lid), taken in 1986 when I was heavily pregnant with son #3.  I remember the event: a cook-out with a bunch of other young officers from my husband's Navy squadron--most of them sporting the requisite Naval aviator's mustache--and their wives, where all the guys decided to come dressed in a uniform of Hawaiian shorts and knee-high tube socks.  How madcap were those Naval aviators?  But I think my husband looks so cute in this photo--although I think he would look great even if he was dressed in a potato sack.  (Can you tell I love this guy?)
I was immediately struck by the fact that we are in similar positions here to those from the 1975 photo I posted of us on Monday.  My man is sitting on the left, looking up at me with that handsome mug of his; and I am standing on the right, showing you my best side (that is, the back of my head!).  You've gotta love the razor-sharp clarity of those Instamatic shots we snapped back in the day, huh?  And also those curious orange spots that have popped up on this picture (from age, perhaps?).  What I wouldn't give to have had a 21st century-style digital camera to better record such moments from our youth!

I've decided that this snapshot goes perfectly with Monday's post about the eventful day this man first asked me to be his girlfriend, when we were just a couple of crazy 15-year-old kids.  Commemorating the 39th anniversary of that event has made me very, very nostalgic the past few days, thinking about our younger years!

Meanwhile, the latest Pearl reunion is in full swing, so I must go...

(I decided to be very efficient and wrote some posts ahead of time to save in "Drafts," because I knew I was going to be having too much fun this week to sit down and blog daily.  I actually wrote this post on Monday afternoon, to save for today.  And all I had to do was push the "Publish" button!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The "Older Four"

Yesterday, I posted a sketch I did in college of the "younger four" children in my husband's family.  I did it as a Christmas gift for my late beloved mother-in-law, when I was still just the girl who was dating her oldest son.  Mom was always the gentlest of critics when it came to my artwork, and she fiercely supported me in my artistic efforts, no matter how amateurish they were.

She was, as one of my sisters-in-law put it, a "brutally honest" person, however; so when she opened that gift on Christmas, she said, "This is nice, but now you need to do a sketch of the older four to go with it."  Nuts, I hadn't been expecting that reaction.  But guess what she got for Mother's Day that year?

I don't think this sketch of the "older four" is as good (and I use the term loosely) as the other one, because at least I had a photo to use as a reference when I was trying to draw the younger Pearl kids.  This one came completely out of my head, and it shows.
Anyway, this drawing was not made with a whole lot of skill, but it was definitely made with a whole lot of love.  I wanted to please the woman who, within three years of receiving this drawing as a gift from me, would become my mother-in-law.  And after all the time I'd spent around her during the years I'd been dating her son, I should have known when I gave her that first sketch that she wasn't going to be satisfied unless all eight of her kids were accounted for!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The "Younger Four"

A little later today, my youngest son and I will be on our way to VT to pick up my pilot husband (who is on his way back from a trip) at the Burlington airport.  From there, the three of us will travel via ferry across Lake Champlain to the old Pearl family homestead in Upstate NY, for a fun-filled week of visiting with Pearl relatives...and celebrating the wedding of our sweet niece over the weekend.  All four of our other children, along with our oldest son's wife and twin daughters and our middle three sons' girlfriends, are going to be there.  It is such a rarity these days for my husband and me to have all of our kids with us, as spread out as we've become, so we're really looking forward to it!

All eight of the Pearl siblings will be there, too, with their spouses and all of their children (except one nephew who will be out at Notre Dame for a Navy ROTC orientation, and one niece who is a deployed Navy helicopter pilot).  That means that my husband's "two families"--the "older four" and the "younger four"--will all be together.  It should be a blast!

My husband is one of eight children.  The "older four," a girl followed by three boys, were very close in age; then there was an almost four-year gap before the "younger four"--three girls followed by a boy--came along, also close in age.  There are only thirteen years separating #1 and #8, and any gap that existed while they were growing up has closed completely, leaving the eight of them the best of friends--friends who live for the time they get to spend together.

When I was in college, I did a sketch of the younger four Pearl siblings as a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law.  While it really isn't very good, technically speaking, it does give you an idea of the blue-eyed, freckle-faced, jutty-chinned cuteness--not to mention the bubbly personalities--of these four extremely special people.
It's hard to believe, but these kids are all grown up now (the little boy holding the blankie was three when I met him 39 years ago!), and between them, they have 15 children!  And all of those children will be in NY when we get there!

We are part of a family that cherishes family--a family that adores not just babies, but toddlers and youngsters and 'tweens and teens, too, and welcomes each new addition to the ranks with complete joy.  The more, the merrier!

How great is this upcoming week going to be?!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

The 39th Anniversary of "Will You Go with Me?"

It was 39 years ago today, on August 6, 1973, that the boy of my dreams--the nicest, smartest, handsomest, most all-around wonderful boy in the universe--stood with me in the pouring rain near the football field where our school played its Friday night games and asked, "Will you go with me?"  (Going with someone was the early 70's terminology for going steady, at least in our neck of the woods.)

I have very few photos of that boy and me from our high school years, since I had not yet become a fanatical shutterbug--and besides, I wasn't very comfortable having my picture taken.  (Also, it seems that back in the pre-digital, pre-cell phone, pre-Facebook era, people didn't take nearly as many pictures as they do nowadays.)  I don't even know who snapped this shot of us when we were juniors, chatting in homeroom after school (with my husband's best buddy looking on).  But wow, just take a gander at that boyfriend of mine! Unfortunately, there's a chair leg in the way, hiding part of his face; even so, it's obvious that he's a heartthrob of the highest order.  Really, be still my heart!
He wondered if I would go with him?  Are you kidding?  I would have gone with him anywhere!  And I did!

I went with him through high school, and then through college (even though he was out in South Bend, IN at Notre Dame, and I was in Worcester, MA at Holy Cross).  I married him in 1980, seven and a half years after we officially became boyfriend-girlfriend, and I went him to Corpus Christi, TX and then on to Beeville, TX (that hotbed of exciting activity!), where he graduated from Naval flight training, got his aviator's wings, and became a dad for the first time when our oldest son was born in 1983.  I went with him to Jacksonville, FL, where he was an A-7 pilot, deployed on a four-month cruise, transitioned to the F-18 fighter jet, became an F-18 flight instructor, and gave me three more sons between 1985 and 1988. Then I went with him to the suburbs of Chicago when he began his second career as a commercial airline pilot flying out of O'Hare Airport.  And finally, I went east with him when he changed hubs and began flying out of Logan Airport in Boston.  He flies out of JFK in NYC now, commuting out of Logan.  But we won't be going anywhere else.  He gave me a permanent home here in southern NH--a beautiful four-bedroom Colonial in which we have been settled for about 22 years now.  And in 1993 he gave me a fifth (and last) son.

Going with this boy I fell in love with, this man I married almost 32 years ago--and with whom I raised five fine sons, who are the lights of both our lives--has been quite a ride, one I wouldn't trade for all the tea in China.  And to think, it all started on a rainy night 39 years ago, when the cutest 15-year-old boy this 15-year-old girl had ever seen asked her to go [steady] with him.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Mass is Still the Mass...

This is the inside of the church in Prague that is the home of the miraculous Infant of Prague statue.  My husband, who flew an airplane filled with passengers over to that European city a few days ago, took this picture with his iPhone.  Isn't this Catholic church simply magnificent?
I am in the process of getting ready to attend a 9:00 Mass, and I find myself wishing that I was going to be having the experience in surroundings like this--sitting in the midst of the kind of beauty that lifts my soul and makes me feel almost as if I'm in Heaven--instead of at our lovely, but far less grand, nearby parish church.

But it doesn't matter what the building looks like.  The Mass is still the Mass, and being there in the pew on Sunday--commemorating the Lord's great sacrifice for all mankind; receiving the Blessed Sacrament (the very Body and Blood of Christ!) and all the graces it offers us; giving that one hour of our time to God every week--is the important thing.

God bless you on this glorious Sunday!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Visit to the Infant of Prague

Yesterday, I spent the day in a small town New England, per usual--while my husband, the world traveler extraordinaire, walked the streets of Prague in the Czech Republic.  He took lots of pictures on his iPhone, and through the wizardry of cloud technology, they were automatically transferred to my iPhone.  It was neat to be able to see what he was seeing all those thousands of miles away, without having to wait until he got home to show me--sights like the busy "walking streets" of Prague, the incredible Old-World architecture that abounds in that city, and the inside of some magnificent churches.  My husband, a commercial airline pilot who has been flying internationally for about the past 15 years, has seen most of the great cities of Europe, but he never used to take photos while he was at work.  But having an iPhone makes being a shutterbug ever so much easier, doesn't it?  You have this great camera at your fingertips at all times, so if the spirit moves you, you can just snap away.

Speaking of spirits being moved, many of the pictures my hubby took yesterday were of one of the churches he visited, the church in which the Infant of Prague statue is located.  I would love to have the opportunity to be in the presence of that statue someday!   Here is a picture he took that I thought was just beautiful.
It was hard for him to get a clear shot, because the ornate golden embellishments surrounding the Infant of Prague on this side altar were gleaming so brightly that it made most of the photos he took come out a little fuzzy.  But can you see the statue there, garbed in blue and white, framed by all that brilliant gold?  That is the actual Infant of Prague statue, the one that is known for its miraculous powers.

I would love to do a whole blog on the history of this statue today, but I'm going to wait.  My husband purchased a DVD about it while he was over there, and I'd like to watch it and learn all I can before I tackle a post like that.  After looking at all the pictures he took, including some showing the different outfits the statue has worn during different liturgical seasons of the year, one thing I do realize is that I'm going to have to fashion a better robe for my own Infant of Prague statue, the TLC-needy one I rescued from the back of a church and blogged about on 11/20/11 and 12/9/11.  The robe I made just doesn't do Him justice!
I love how breathtakingly beautiful the Catholic churches are in the cities of Europe.  Such beauty, rendered to honor God, moves my spirit immensely.

Friday, August 3, 2012

W.C. Fields, Children, and Animals

In Hollywood, there is an old adage--a chestnut of wisdom that is attributed to the great comedian W.C. Fields--that goes: "Never work with children or animals."  The reason for this, I presume, is that both child actors and animal actors are much harder to control and have a good deal more trouble following directions than adult actors do.  Or perhaps Fields said it as an acknowledgement of the fact that once there is a child and/or an animal in any scene, no viewer will be able to look at anything else on the screen.  No viewer with a heart, that is.  Those little rascals tend to be scene-stealers, that's it in a nutshell.
Children and animals steal the show because they have this tendency to be, um...shall we say, incredibly CUTE.  SWEET.  PRECIOUS.  ADORABLE.  (Totes adorbs, even.) Especially very small children, babies if you will.  And a baby with a chubby little body, naked in a bathtub--oh boy, if you're acting in a scene with that child, I hate to tell you this, but no one is going to notice you one bit.  I don't care how gorgeous/handsome/hilarious/Oscar-worthy an actor you are, that baby will be the star of the show.  Add a puppy to the mix--a puppy kissing said chubby baby on his edible little cheek, as in the illustration above--and it's all over.  Those two will steal everyone's complete attention, and any adult/human actor in the scene will be relegated to the job of extra.

If you're old enough to have been a fan of the T.V. show Full House, tell me, when one of the tiny, mousy-voiced Olsen twins was onscreen, did you ever even notice Uncle Joey?  I don't think so.  Or if you saw the movie Marley & Me, could you take your eyes away from that lovable Golden Retriever, even to look at Owen Wilson or Jennifer Aniston?  Doubt it.

I don't think the inimitable W.C. Fields had any trouble stealing a scene, however, even away from the most delightful child or puppy dog.  He was quite a character himself, larger than life, with both a voice and a face that would be hard to ignore.  He is one of my father's heroes, and you really do have to love a guy who gave this reason for choosing a career in show business: "If I can make them laugh and through that laughter make this old world seem just a little brighter, then I am satisfied."

(I realize I should have found a photo from a T.V. show or movie to go with this post.  But I thought this vintage Good Housekeeping cover was such a great illustration of the scene-stealing capabilities of children and animals!  And check out that article title on the bottom right of the cover: Fields might fit into that very category!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bucket Lists

Years ago, there was a Morgan Freeman-Jack Nicholson movie called The Bucket List, about two older gentlemen with limited time to live setting out to do everything they'd ever dreamed of doing before it was too late.  Lots of people make themselves "bucket lists."  And they usually have things on them like "run a marathon" (and though I admire marathon runners enormously, that item will never find its way onto any list of mine!), or "climb Mt. Everest" (come on, really, why would anyone in his right mind want to do that?).
For most of my life, I've had a very short bucket list, with very few "must do" items on it to check off.  All I ever really wanted out of life were two things: 1., to get married; and 2., to become a mother.  God answered both of those prayers when I got married to my high school sweetheart, the love of my life--the boy I started dating at 15, the man I married at 22--in 1980 and then we were blessed with five baby boys between 1983 and 1993.  Those babies are all grown up now; they're sweet, loving, smart, handsome, funny, talented, successful young men (and yes, I may be a bit biased; but no, I'm not exaggerating).

For the longest time, those two things were the only items on my list.  Check...and check!  But as my boys got older and I began to see a future with daughters-in-law and grandchildren in it, I added a new "must do" experience to my list, something I wanted almost as badly as I'd wanted to become a mother: to become a grandmother.  Again, God answered my prayer--with gusto!--when our oldest son and his wife welcomed twin baby girls into the world in 2011.  Check!  [Sigh.]  Life was good; life was very, very good for this wife/mother/grammy.

Those three items were the big ones, the trifecta; there was only ever one other thing I hoped to accomplish in my lifetime, a crazy little pipe dream that I figured would never be fulfilled: I hoped one day to write and publish a novel.  Now, as I look forward to the upcoming release of Finding Grace, I realize that my life has surpassed any and all of the dreams I had for it.  I feel like the luckiest woman alive.  If I live to see the rest of my sons as happily married as my first son is, and to meet some more darling grandchildren, my cup--which already runneth over--will be refilled a hundredfold.

I don't care that I'm only in my fifties and might have (God willing) a couple of decades more on this earth to get things done.  I'm not going to add things like "travel to India," "become fluent in three foreign languages," "ride in a hot air balloon" (if you made me do that, I would feel like I was in some kind of horror film!), "go bungee jumping" (AAAARRRRGGGG! Isn't the horror film over yet?), or "swim with dolphins" (hmmm...I must admit that's one thing I wouldn't mind having the opportunity to do).

Actually, I just thought of something else I wouldn't mind having the opportunity to do: "travel to Rome with my husband."  I'm not going to write it on a bucket list or anything, however.  If I ever get to do that, it will just be gravy, the icing on the cake, the cherry on top--it will just be one of those oft-used food references.
What about you?  What's on your bucket list?  (If climbing Mt. Everest is on there, I commend you--and please disregard what I said earlier.  I'm just an indoorsy person with a fear of heights.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hiya, Dollface!

Just so you know, with that title I did not mean to sound like a politically incorrect gangster from a 1930's or 40's black and white Hollywood movie.  I just wanted to say hello--and introduce you--to a petite amie of mine, a beauty I created in my porcelain doll-making class back in the mid-1990's.  I chose a mold from an antique doll that was created by a French company called Bru (or Bru Jne & Cie)* to make her exquisite face and arms; then I constructed her soft body out of faux leather, muslin cloth, and stuffing (although a true 19th century Bru doll's body would have been made of real leather, with nothing faux about it).  I added glass eyes and a wig, and then I proceeded to garb this little sweetie in a dress fashioned with a collar made from a scrap of antique lace-embellished cotton.  Isn't she just tres, tres belle?
I'm a little weird about dolls.  I love, love, love them.  It's ironic, isn't it, that someone like myself would give birth to only male children?  That I would have no one with whom to share this obsession?  But fear not, there are others out there like me, adult women who have never outgrown their childhood fascination with dolls.  My doll-making class was populated with such women.  My across-the-street neighbor had a mother who was similarly afflicted, and she is the one who gave me the black straw hat that my Bru doll is sporting here (as well as the antique doll purse in her hand, another old maroon lace-trimmed velvet doll hat, two other little purses, some old leather doll shoes...this trunk is filled with treasures that this kind woman passed on to me).

What's so wonderful is that now, I have been blessed with not one, but two little girls with whom I might one day share this passion for dolls--my identical twin granddaughters, who turned one in June.  I no longer have to be embarrassed by the fact that I have five all-grown-up, tall, strapping sons (and no daughters), and yet my living room shelves are filled with dollfaces such as this one.  Hey, they aren't just for me anymore; they're for my granddaughters, too!

*If you are interested in learning more about Bru dolls, you can go to: