Friday, November 30, 2012

An Early Christmas Present

Yesterday I got the most wonderful news.  I was informed, via e-mail, that my novel Finding Grace had been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval.

When I filled out the application a couple of months ago, I was far from confident that my book would earn this seal.  I had mentally prepared myself for rejection, knowing that God always knows better than we do what's best for us and trusting in His will for me.  If Finding Grace didn't earn the seal, there was a good reason--and I was determined to accept my disappointment with as much grace as possible...but still, I awaited the decision of the reviewers with a great deal of excitement and hope.  Today, I feel like I've been given an early Christmas present!

One of the big pluses about this award is that now, my book will be showcased in an upcoming issue of Catholic Book News, an on-line newsletter that is mailed out to over 500 Catholic bookstores and libraries in North America.  My publisher warned me back in August that the hard work for an author really begins after his book is published, when he is trying to get the word out to prospective readers.  Having my title included in this newsletter will be incredibly helpful as far as marketing is concerned.

I am truly humbled, and I feel so very blessed.  If there's anything under the tree for me on Christmas morning, that will just be gravy.  I've already gotten the best present I could ask for.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I'm Blessed--and So Are the Irish

Just when I thought my life couldn't be more blessed--when all of my girlhood dreams had been fulfilled (i.e., marriage, motherhood, grandmotherhood), I was fortunate enough to see the thick stack of 8 and 1/2-by-11-inch typed pages that I'd been working on for over 4 years get published and become a real, honest-to-goodness book.  I never believed--although I hoped--that I would ever be able to add the title "author" to the other titles I hold so dear: "Snooks," "Mom/Mumsie," "Grammy/Gra Gra."

God has been so good to me.  I know I don't deserve it; however, I am profoundly grateful.  I am especially grateful for the love and support of my husband and my kids, who always believe in me and are unflagging in their encouragement of any endeavor I undertake.  What would I do without them?

Recently, I had the opportunity to write an article promoting my book on The woman behind this website is Lisa Hendey, a well-known Catholic author, speaker, and blogger--and she is also a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Class of '85.  (She is an Irish football fan extraordinaire, so she has a lot in common with the people I know and love!)  In my travels across the Internet, searching for websites that might be willing to list my book in their suggested reading for young adults, I stumbled upon her name and contacted her.  She invited me to write a guest article, and on November 18, 2012, it was posted on  As I am quite busy today, getting settled in back at home after a 2-week-long trip out west and back--unpacking and shopping and decking my halls with boughs of holly, etc.--I just thought I'd post a link to that article (if you're interested). Click on this title, "Finding Grace: A Novel to Inspire Young People," and it will take you there.

For the article, Hendey suggested that I include a photo.  So I had my hubby snap this one, staged to make me look very author-ish.
It's a little bit nerdy.  I posed as if I was sitting there at my laptop, writing away--with my ever-present cup of coffee by my side.  (It's not TOO nerdy, is it?  Please tell me it's not too nerdy.)

Before I go, I wanted to include a link to a blog article that Lisa Hendey posted recently about Fighting Irish linebacker--and probable Heisman candidate--Manti Te'o, who is beloved by Irish fans everywhere.  Click on the title "Manti's Mission, The Year of Faith & Me" to read it.  It's worth the time, believe me; you will be moved, touched, inspired. (And if you weren't a Notre Dame fan before, you might become one!)

Happy reading!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fightin' Irish Christmas Tree

Yesterday, we took off in the morning from our hotel in Iowa City and stopped--as planned--to have lunch in South Bend with our youngest son.  We picked him up at the Notre Dame campus and took him out to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, a favorite haunt of his.  Afterward, we went to Wal-Mart to stock him up on Gatorade and protein bars and then dropped him off at his dorm.  It was a quick visit, and we'll see him again in just a few short weeks when he comes home for his Christmas break--but it was so wonderful to see our baby!

Before we got back on the road, we stopped in at Notre Dame's awesome Hammes Bookstore, because I'd seen something in their catalog that I wanted to get for my hubby for Christmas and thought it would be a good idea to pick it up and save on the shipping charges.  In the foyer of the bookstore, we were greeted by this lovely sight:
Isn't this Fightin' Irish Christmas Tree simply gorgeous?  I'm not normally a fan of "theme" trees, but I'll make an exception for this one!  (Click on the photo if you'd like to enlarge it...go ahead, click on it.  Trust me, it's totally worth it.)

Seeing the bookstore all decked out for Christmas made me even more anxious to decorate my own house.  Usually, it's all done by now, but we've been away from home since November 17, when we began our westward road trip out to Indiana for the ND v. Wake Forest game...which turned into a road trip all the way out to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with our beloved grandbabies.  We departed from Colorado Springs on Monday morning and made it to Buffalo last night; today, we only have about 9 more hours of driving to go before we're home sweet home again.

So this is what I'll be singing just as soon as I've had my morning coffee tomorrow: "Deck the halls with bows of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la..."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amazing Sights from the Road

Yesterday my husband and I--"Papa" and "Gra Gra," that is--had to say good-bye to our darling little granddaughters and their mom and dad, which was very difficult and sad.  The week we spent with them just flew by, and it was wonderful.

We drove for about 13 hours, from Colorado Springs to Iowa City, where we stopped for the night.  Just after we got on the road in Colorado, we saw a sight I'd never seen before in my life--except in cowboy movies.  As we were driving along, we hit a patch of highway where there were a bunch of large tumbleweeds sweeping across the road.  Before this trip, I really thought tumbleweeds were little more than movie props.  In westerns, they always seem to be tumbling down the dusty main street of the little prairie town when the bad guy and the sheriff face off at either end for a gun duel.  This was the only context in which I'd ever seen them, so how could they be real?  Well, they are real.  And yesterday I saw some.  I didn't get a picture of them, but believe me, I saw some.  And Black Bart wasn't anywhere in sight.

Hours after the tumbleweed sighting, my husband and I pulled off at a huge, somewhat unbelievable truck stop in Nebraska (complete with a shower area for the truckers, restaurants, stores, and even a chapel for Sunday services!), and I saw another amazing sight.  It was something I didn't even think existed anymore.
Remember these?  They're called phone booths.  I thought pay phones were obsolete, because they're not small enough to carry in your pocket and you can't check the Internet with them; but apparently, I was wrong.  And there wasn't just one of these dinosaurs; there was a whole hallway of them, each with its own vintage coin-operated pay phone and a little stool to sit upon.
It was kind of nice to see that pay phones and phone booths are not yet extinct in the good old US of A.

And speaking of dinosaurs, here's another incredible sight from the road yesterday.
That T-Rex looks almost real, doesn't it?  I only wish we'd passed this guy on one of our many car trips with our boys when they were little.  Heck, I wish they'd been with us yesterday.  They're all in their 20's now, except our baby (who will turn 20 in January), and they're still crazy about dinosaurs.

So I learned a few things yesterday.  Tumbleweeds are real.  And driving through Nebraska is like going through a time machine, where phone booths and dinosaurs are not yet extinct.

Today, we make a pit stop in South Bend, IN to have lunch with our baby at Notre Dame, and then we push on to Erie, PA.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Bigfoot!

No time to blog this morning--Lloyd and Harry have to get on the road.  We're headed back home, after an awesome week-long visit with our oldest son, our daughter-in-law, and our 18-month-old twin granddaughters.  We have three full days of driving ahead of us (2,130 miles in all!), so we're trying to get an early start today.

But I wanted to give a quick birthday shout-out to my father--better known to his intimates as "Bigfoot."

Happy Birthday, Dad.  We love you, big guy!  XXOO

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goin' to the 'Ship!

Well, sports fans, yesterday was indeed a great day for the Irish!  If you are a Notre Dame fan, or even just a fan of college football in general, I don't have to tell you that the Fighting Irish defeated USC last night, finishing their regular season with a perfect 12-0 record.  They are solidly ranked #1 in the nation (much to the dismay of ND-haters, like ESPN's Mark May and his ilk), and they're headed to the national championship game in Miami.  The only question now is who their opponent will be, and that will be decided next week when Alabama plays Georgia.

Mark May promised that if the Irish went 12-0, he'd don the leprechaun suit--and last night, he did just that on national television as legendary Notre Dame coach, Lou Holtz, looked on.  He didn't do it with much enthusiasm, but you've got to give May credit for keeping his word.
Now we'll have to see if sports columnist Rick Riley will honor his pledge.  He said that if Notre Dame beat USC last night (which he was absolutely sure they wouldn't), he'd polish all of their golden helmets.

It's been a long time since the Irish have been national champs--since 1988, to be exact, under Holtz--and Notre Dame fans across the US are jubilant, to put it mildly.  Last night after the game, our youngest son sent us a text that read, "Destination: Miami; ETA: January 7."  I guess, since he has a January birthday anyway, we know what we'll be getting him for a gift this year.  And my husband and I have decided to give each other the same gift for Christmas as well.  I think a whole lot of Pearls are busy reserving blocks of hotel rooms and putting in their ticket orders, so things are going to be hopping down there at Sun Life Stadium!

I don't know what else I can say about the amazing season this "team of destiny" has had, except, "WE ARE ND!"  And "WE'RE NUMBER 1!"  And "WE'RE GOIN' TO THE 'SHIP!"

And for all those college football talking heads who've been asking for years, "Is Notre Dame relevant anymore?"...I think now they've got their answer!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I've always had very fine, very straight hair--and envied those gals who have thick masses of glorious natural curls.  As I get older, my fragile hair seems to be falling out at an alarming rate.  I worry that one day, patches of scalp will be visible between the sparse strands (and when that happens, my friends, I intend to buy myself an awesome wig!).

I have been spending time lately with a couple of little girls who have hair very much like their grammy's.  My twin 18-month-old granddaughters have fine, straight, flyaway hair that often sticks up straight when there's a lot of static in the air.  Up until not that long ago, they were essentially bald, and there are still patches of scalp to be spied on their precious little heads.  On top of that, their hair is growing in as little mullets, with extra long strands in the back.  But you know what?  On those two, this redneck hair-do is incredibly cute!
Look at the back of Bonny Babe's adorable little noggin.  On this cute little monkey, the fine straight hair that I bemoan having looks right at home.

I'm not going to complain about my hair anymore.  (My husband will not believe that statement for a second, but at least I'm going to TRY not to complain.)  If hair like mine is good enough for my little darlings, it's good enough for me!

(My title today makes no sense, does it?  I guess I was thinking that, just as my granddaughters were bald not too long ago, I am probably heading in that direction myself!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Table Set with Style, Surrounded with Love

Yesterday, my oldest son and his wife prepared the most delicious Thanksgiving feast.  My son cooked the turkey, put together a cabbage salad, and baked a chocolate Bundt cake topped with peanut butter frosting.  My daughter-in-law made the green bean casserole, her mother's sausage stuffing, an abundance of mashed potatoes (using a Crock Pot recipe that involved chicken broth, sour cream, cream cheese, and a clove of garlic--those spuds were to die for!), and a pumpkin pie.  My only contribution to the meal was the gravy. My husband and I got spoiled rotten--and we loved it.  Everything was magnificent, and there are plenty of leftovers to heat up today!

Before the meal started, I snapped this picture of the dining room table.  I thought it was so incredibly lovely.  My daughter-in-law's transferware dishes (Spode's "Blue Italian") looked so beautiful against the autumn colors of the fabric square she positioned over the white tablecloth.
I love the look of a well-set table.  And when well-loved faces are assembled around it, there's just nothing in the world more beautiful, is there?  

Case in point:

Now THIS is beautiful!  Am I right, or am I right?

Happy Leftovers Day!  And God bless us, every one!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Feeling Blessed

Well, just in case you're wondering--I'm still a blogger (I think); it's just that I've been preoccupied with other activities since we arrived here in Colorado Springs, and I've hardly seen my poor neglected laptop at all.

I have often worried anyway that I'm boring you to tears with my daily "navel gazing" (as a much more polished, professional, well-known, and widely-read blogger I follow would put it; you might want to check out her delightful blog,  So I don't think a couple of days of respite from "String of Pearls" would do anyone any great harm.

But I thought I'd just let you know what we've been up to the last two days, if you're interested.  If you'll recall, on Monday my husband and I were about to set out from Des Moines, on the second leg of our road trip west to spend Thanksgiving with our oldest son, his wife, and our twin granddaughters.

We'd been teased by some of our Pearl relatives, during our weekend at Notre Dame, about whether or not we planned to stop and see some sights along the way--maybe check out the world's largest mud hut or the world's largest ball of twine.  We told them that our plan was to just go full speed ahead, stopping only to fill up the gas tank and answer nature's calls. We were in a hurry to see those granddaughters of ours!  So NO, we would not be doing the Clark and Ellen Griswold tourist routine.  It was point A to point B for us, and that's all there was to it.

I was reminded of a few things as we drove westward from Indiana to Colorado.  I was reminded that we live in a HUGE country, and in spite of fears of the zero population crowd, there are vast areas of uninhabited land that look like this:
I mean, on our trip we would drive for hours and spy nothing but corn fields and farmland and barns and tractors and hay bales and cows and horses.  There was not a strip mall or a Dunkin' Donuts to be found along our route--it was all just wide open spaces as far as the eye could see, in every direction.  We passed a lot of mail boxes at the ends of narrow gated roads, and I couldn't help but wonder: where are all the people?!  And how far do they have to drive just to check the mail?  And where do they shop?  And what happens if we run out of gas out here in the middle of nowhere?!

I was reminded on this trip that I am extraordinarily blessed to live in this country, which is so filled with beautiful landscapes and natural resources--a country with enough farm land in it to feed its own people and then some.

When we'd been on the road about 9 hours or so, we passed a sign that read "Original Pony Express Station," and I oohed and ahhed about that, never expecting my husband to pull off the exit.  This was a detour he never would have taken for himself; but he knows how crazy I am about anything old and historical, so he did it to surprise and please me.  (I've told you many times that that guy is my hero, and this is just one of the million reasons why.)  So in Gothenburg, Nebraska we stopped and saw an honest-to-goodness Pony Express Station, and my husband even donned his cowboy hat and posed in front of it for me.  I can almost imagine him hopping on his trusty steed with a sack of mail strapped to the saddle, and riding through the wilderness to deliver all those hand-written letters. (Remember those?)
After just about exactly 12 hours of traveling, we arrived at our destination Monday night and received the most wonderful welcome--from the two cutest miniature cowgirls west of the Mississippi.  My little Kewpie even said "Gra" without prompting from anyone, and I'll tell you, this grammy was thrilled.  The twins have been saying "Papa" for awhile, but now they're calling me "Gra" or "Gra Gra."
Bonny and Cutie, crawling all over Papa.  
Last year, we spent Thanksgiving with this same beautiful family in Upstate NY, and now that we're with them again on Thanksgiving, it feels like it's become a tradition.  For the second year in a row, my husband and I are playing the part of grateful guests, while our son and his wife play host and hostess and toil away in the kitchen to produce the feast. Last night, my daughter-in-law made green bean salad and a pumpkin pie, and my son made a chocolate Bundt cake with peanut butter frosting.  He carved the cake to resemble a harp, in honor of St. Cecilia (the Patron Saint of Musicians), whose feast day is today.
All I've done so far is peel the potatoes, and today I may be called upon to make the gravy; but the kids are doing the rest of the work.  As much as I always loved cooking the Thanksgiving dinner, I have found that I'm okay with passing the baton on to the next generation.  It is a delight to be a guest here, surrounded by cute toddlers and delectable food and great conversation.

There is NOTHING like family.  And even if you have to drive halfway across the country to be with those you love, it's well worth it!

I am feeling so blessed today, and I hope you are, too.  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Road Trip!

On Friday, I thought that our trip to CO to see our granddaughters and their mommy and daddy for Thanksgiving was off, since my husband had been diagnosed with pneumonia and was told he was not allowed to travel by airplane.  Driving is allowed, though, so we decided to go through with our original plans for a football weekend out at Notre Dame.  So Friday morning as we were driving along, about two hours into our trip, we got to talking...and we decided that since we were already heading westward anyway...and after the 16 hours it took to get to South Bend it would only take another 18 to get out to our son's house in Colorado Springs...why not just keep going?

SO...we're on a road trip to CO!!!  Call us Lloyd and Harry.
We packed for a weekend trip, and we'll be gone more than a week.  But they have a washer and dryer if we need it, and we'll wear the same duds over and over if we have to--it'll be TOTALLY worth it to see our little darlings again.

After we left South Bend yesterday, we went about 6 hours and then stopped for the night in Des Moines, leaving us about 12 more hours on the road today.  The weather is gorgeous--sunny and mild--so with any luck, we'll be pulling into our son's driveway not long after dinnertime tonight.

Today, we're trading in our Nissan for a moped, and then look out CO, here we come!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Busy Day Ahead, Sports Fans!

I've got a busy day ahead, so I don't have a whole lot of time to blog this morning from out here in sunny South Bend, IN.

My husband and I are leaving our hotel room pretty soon to go on a Sam's run with my sister-in-law--to stock up on food and libations for the tailgater we'll be enjoying with two of our sons and a slew of other relatives and friends prior to the Notre Dame v. Wake Forest game. Then after the big parking lot party, I've got a date with this guy.
Don't worry, sports fans.  My husband will be there, too...along with about 80,000 other people.  It's not THAT kind of date.

My day is looking pretty good, if you ask me.  Hope yours is equally swell!

Go Irish!  (Manti Te'o for the Heisman!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chestnuts and Chest X-Rays

Okay, first of all, I have to apologize for giving chestnuts a bad name in yesterday's blog post.  I knew I'd had Jack Frost nip at my nose, and that I'd sung Yuletide carols by a fire; but I couldn't remember ever having roasted chestnuts on an open fire.   Or having tasted a roasted chestnut.  Or having seen one, even.

Don't get me wrong; we're nuts about nuts around our house.  My husband and I eat LOTS of peanuts, cashews, and almonds.  But we never eat chestnuts (or walnuts, or pecans...well, maybe we're not as nuts about nuts as I thought we were).  And I was sure yesterday when I wrote that post that I'd never even laid eyes on this traditional holiday treat mentioned in the opening line of the famous 1946 tune, "The Christmas Song."

So I went on-line to find some images of chestnuts, and I realized that yes, I'd seen them before.

These are chestnuts.  (But then, you probably knew that.)
However, I'm pretty sure that I've only seen unroasted chestnuts, like the ones above, used for decorative purposes, and I don't believe I've ever encountered a roasted one.  Now I'm starting to wonder if my girlhood Christmases were missing something--and I never even knew it!  I am determined to buy some chestnuts this holiday season, and to roast them on an open fire.  And then I'm going to eat some, and after the New Year I'll let you know what I think!
This is how chestnuts look after they've been roasted.  (But then, you probably knew that, too.)
By the way: can anyone out there tell me if they taste good coated in chocolate?

You might be wondering why I'm not posting a picture of the twins' green corduroy Christmas jumpers, the ones I said I was going to have finished by today.  I was making good progress on them Wednesday--but then ended up having to go to the ER with my hubby that night, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia.  He's had a cough for about three weeks, and he's been home sick from work (and he's even been too wiped out to do his daily beloved but behated* P90X work-outs!), so we thought he was battling the flu or something.   But Wednesday afternoon he finally saw his flight surgeon, who listened to his breathing and sent him immediately over to the hospital for tests; and there we learned that if he wasn't such an impressive physical specimen, we might have known a lot sooner than we did how sick he was.  So the good thing about all those years of P90X work-outs is that they made his lungs so strong and fit that when one stopped working, the other did double duty for him and kept him from complete physical collapse.  The bad thing about all those years of P90X work-outs is that the fitness he's achieved from them ended up giving him the illusion that he wasn't really all that ill and didn't need to see a doctor...So, Catch-22.

One unfortunate outcome of the diagnosis is that our flight out to CO to spend Thanksgiving with our oldest son, his wife, and our twin granddaughters is off now.  We had planned to fly out to South Bend for the weekend, and from there, we were going to hop on a flight to CO on Sunday.  The ER doctor told us he thought flying would be no problem--and even said, "Have a good time in CO!"  However, the flight surgeon made the call yesterday that there's to be no airplane travel whatsoever for my guy until he's finished his course of antibiotics and is all healed up, as complications could arise due to the cabin pressure at high altitudes.  He is able to drive, however; so we're planning to take off for South Bend at zero-dark-thirty this morning.  (It's a long car trip--but not nearly as long as a car trip to CO!)  We are so bummed out that we're going to miss having Thanksgiving with that cute little family out west, but at least we can still catch the ND v.Wake Forest game on Saturday and spend some time with son #4, along with his girlfriend, and son #5.

Again, dear readers, sorry for dissing those chestnuts!

The jumpers are about 90% completed now, and I plan to work on the finishing touches when we return from our trip.  I'll post pictures of them early next week, before I mail them out to the girls.

*And I know "behated" isn't really a word--but it ought to be!

And full disclosure: my husband had a CT scan, not a chest x-ray; but that didn't work as well for the title.

And I'm going now!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas Jumpers for the Twins (Again!)

The news will really get you feeling down these days.  I've half a mind (before I lose my mind) to stop watching it altogether, because it's just so incredibly depressing.  And this is no time to be depressed.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner, followed by the MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!  Yes, Christmas is coming!  And just as Winnie the Pooh said you can't be uncheered by a balloon, you just can't be uncheered by Christmas. Everything about it brings the kind of hope and happiness that makes your soul soar--for how can you ever lose heart completely, no matter how dire things seem here on planet earth, when you remember that God sent us a Savior, His Only Begotten Son, to redeem us and open the gates of Heaven for us?

An occasion as momentous as the birthday of Baby Jesus certainly calls for celebration, with Nativity sets and wreaths and and lit-up Christmas trees and presents under the tree and stockings hanging over the fireplace and Christmas cards and Christmas carols and roast beast and red and green M&M's...but not chestnuts roasting by an open fire, thanks anyway.  (Do you know anyone who roasts chestnuts for Christmas?  Or who has even ever eaten a chestnut?)  And one thing Baby Jesus' birthday calls for, as far as this doting grandmother is concerned, is new Christmas dresses  for my little sweetie pies, Bonny and Kewpie.  Or Christmas jumpers, perhaps.

Last year, I made my identical twin granddaughters (who will be 18 months old soon) identical twin Christmas jumpers out of red velveteen that I'd found in my mother-in-law's attic.  If you've read this blog much, you probably know that my dear late mother-in-law, who was a gifted seamstress, rarely met a bolt of fabric that she didn't love and want to take home with her--and she did indeed take most of them home with her.  She was a true fabric fanatic, and she filled her attic with more material than one woman could ever use in one lifetime.  I have inherited some of her prized pieces, and this year I'm making the twins' jumpers out of some lovely green pinwale corduroy from their great-grandma's attic.

Yesterday, my dining room table looked like this, as I set about blocking out all of my worldly cares with the joy of sewing for my darling little girls.
And by the time I finished working on my happiness-inducing project, I had gotten the jumpers about half-way done.
Hopefully, I'll finish them today.  I better, I guess--because tomorrow my husband and I are flying out to South Bend bright and early, to see son #5, son #4 and his girlfriend, and other various and sundry family members; and from there, we'll fly out to CO on Sunday to spend the week at our oldest son's house.  By hook or by crook, I'm going to have two finished Christmas jumpers packed in my suitcase when we leave this house in the morning!

With any luck, I'll be posting a picture of little ready-to-wear twin Christmas jumpers tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Might [P]interest You...

I am not on Pinterest.  To tell you the truth, just keeping up with e-mails, Facebook--and this blog, to boot--is about all I can handle.  I'm still a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to all of this modern, technology-driven "social media."  I'm finally comfortable with the computer skills I've been able to master up to this point, and I'm a bit intimidated about trying anything above and beyond my current limited abilities.  You know what they say: it's tough to teach an old dog (or a dinosaur) new tricks.

I think the Pinterest thing is very [p]interesting, though.  I've viewed a few Pinterest pages, when I found links to them on the home pages of some young bloggers I follow.  But I haven't been tempted to start a Pinterest page myself.

If I did, however, I would definitely pin this photo I found in the November/December 2012 issue of Bliss Victoria magazine on my on-line "bulletin board."  I guess I would pin it under the title "Home Decor," or "Decorating," or "Favorite Things."  Or "Holidays," perhaps.
Doesn't this photo just scream "THANKSGIVING!"?  I love it.  I'm especially crazy about the antique transferware covered vegetable dish.  Most of the transferware I collect is blue and white, and almost all of my pieces are reproductions rather than genuine antiques; I also own some pink and white pieces (and a large green and white pitcher, which I showcased in yesterday's blog post).  But I do love this brown and white covered dish, decorated with a pastoral English scene, because it looks so perfect with autumn/Thanksgiving decor.  I only have one transferware dish in brown and white, which comes out of the cupboard every November to adorn the table on Turkey Day.
There's my sweet little brown and white bowl on the left, with the star of the Thanksgiving dinner pictured in the center.  I break out my pink and white pieces, which have winter scenes on them (such as the lovely bowl pictured here), for Christmas.  The blue and white platter in the background is special to me because it has a Dutch scene on it, which reminds me of a special trip to Amsterdam I was able to take last January with my husband.

Okay, pretend I have a Pinterest page, and you've just looked at a couple of my pins.  Now you can go and check out the real Pinterest pages of your much younger, much hipper friends!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Appreciating Beauty

One of the bloggers I follow has a category called "Beauty" on her "Something Ivory" blogsite, and if you click on that title you can read all the posts she's written that focus on that particular subject: posts about beautiful fashions, beautiful stationery, beautiful home decorating ideas, etc.  Things just seem to stop her in her tracks, simply because they are beautiful.  Today she wrote a post describing a tree in front of her house, and it made me want to go outside and look at our trees!

Seeing the beauty in everyday life--and appreciating the beauty of God's glorious creation--is something we all need to do more often.  We need to "stop and smell the roses," as they say.  There is so much beauty around us, everywhere we look; but sometimes we're too busy and preoccupied to even notice it.

My dear late mother-in-law was the queen of appreciating beauty.  She had impeccable taste and her desire to surround herself with things of grace and loveliness, items expertly crafted with an artist's hand--like Colonial reproduction furnishings in cherry and mahogany, sumptuous linens adorned with cut-work and lace, delicately painted china, sparkling crystal goblets, gleaming brass candlesticks, colorful needlepoint pillows, hand-thrown pottery pieces, lush green plants and colorful blooms, the list goes on and on--was unmatched by anyone I've ever known.  And don't even get me started on her desire to surround herself with the most fabulous Christmas greens and ornaments, Santa and angel figurines, and you-name-it-she-had-it during the holiday season!  That house in which my husband grew up was always a true Christmas wonderland when she was alive.

We all find beauty in different things.  Some of you out there might think that a rustic, farmhouse-type decorating style is more beautiful than the traditional and elegant Colonial-inspired decor favored by my mother-in-law.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle, but the main thing with me is that I'm usually the most taken with beautiful things that are very old. For instance, I think this transferware pitcher (the surviving half of an antique bowl and pitcher set that I bought at an antiques/gift shop downtown) is so beautiful.
The vintage handmade lace place mat underneath it, a family heirloom passed down to me by my mother as a wedding shower gift, is also something that I find very beautiful.  And the antique oak dining table on which these items sit--another cherished hand-me-down from my mom--is one of the most beautiful things in my house.  As for the fall-themed bouquet in the pitcher, which is totally fake--I think that's beautiful, too.  (Hey, I've got a brown thumb--so give me a break!)

I also like to use antique dolls as a decorating element in my home--make that antique-looking dolls.  (The real thing would be prohibitively expensive, I'm afraid.)  Years ago, I took a weekly porcelain doll-making class, and I created some beauties that inhabit the built-in shelves in my living room--like this reproduction of a 19thth century French "Bru."
I find such beauty in this sweet-faced doll, an antique wannabe, and her little trunk filled with doll-sized hats and accessories.  (Some people I know think dolls are rather creepy, with their staring eyes.  What about you?  Love them, or hate them?)

And speaking of beauty...and staring eyes...
Now this is beautiful, isn't it?  These two living dolls, my darling twin granddaughters, are proof of the existence of God, that's all there is to it.  They are two of His most glorious creations, as far as their very objective grammy is concerned.

Sometimes all the ugliness, hate, and suffering in the world can really bring you down.  But when it does, look around you at the things--and people!--in your life that are beautiful, and take heart.  And don't ever take that beauty for granted!

(P.S. My blogging friend, I hope you don't mind that I used your post today as inspiration for this one.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Family That Serves

On this day when we remember and honor our military veterans, I want to give a shout-out to all of those brave souls who have sacrificed so much--some their very lives--to ensure the freedoms we Americans enjoy.  God bless you all.  We owe you a debt of gratitude that we can never really repay.

I am so extremely proud of my own family, on both sides; if you count up all the members who have served or are currently serving, you get a number close to 30.  And among those 30, every branch of our great US military forces--with the exception of the Marine Corps--is represented.

We've had Navy fighter pilots in the past, my husband among them, and we currently have a niece who's a helicopter pilot on deployment in the US Navy.  This beautiful young girl isn't occupying Wall Street; she's occupying a seat in the cockpit of a Navy helicopter.  She's spending 9 months on a boat; but it's an aircraft carrier, not a Carnival Cruise Line party boat.  God bless her, and all those young people like her, for the courageous and selfless choice she's made in order to serve and protect us!
We've had Air Force pilots in the family, too, and Army colonels who've retired with great honors.  One of my brothers-in-law served in the Army's Special Forces.

My oldest son has already deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in his job as an Army officer and helicopter pilot.  One Army officer niece spent months living in a tent village in the mountains of Afghanistan, and another spent a year deployed to Iraq along with her husband, just shortly after the two of them had gotten married.  Two of my sons and several of their cousins are in the Army Reserves, and although they have civilian jobs, they must be ready to deploy when called.  My youngest son and four of his cousins are still in college; they are all on ROTC scholarships and will graduate as officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and as such face the possibility of future deployments to locations where they will be in harm's way.

I am proud to have a family that serves.  I am proud of our military forces.  I am proud of each and every veteran who has sacrificed for my sake.  And I am proud to be an American.

God bless our troops, and God bless the USA.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Best

Well, I didn't get around to blogging yesterday, because I was a tad busy.  I spent all day "Bigfoot-sitting"--that is, hanging out with my dear old dad, who recently had some very serious surgery on his right foot and isn't supposed to do too much standing or walking.

Two things were accomplished: 1) I had a nice one-on-one visit with my father, who was in the mood to reminisce--which included looking through some wonderful old photos of him and my mom when they were courting;
(My mom and dad are on the right; on the left is the couple who fixed them up on their first blind date.
Look at how dressed-up and glamorous everyone is!  You've gotta love the fifties!)
and 2) I was able to give my beautiful mother, who has been his nurse 24/7 for a long time now, some much-needed time off.  She went into town and shopped without worrying about leaving her disabled hubby all by his lonesome, and I think she appreciated the break. When she returned, the three of us had a nice dinner together and watched a little C-Span. If that sounds boring, it really wasn't!  We watched a show where an author comes on to talk about his or her recently published book, and I actually got interested in perhaps purchasing a copy of Thomas West's Vindicating the Founders: Race, Sex, Class and Justice in the Origins of America.  I know that nowadays the Founding Fathers are often portrayed as a bunch of bigoted old white men who ought to be demonized, but West's version of their character and motivations is much different, and his book sounds very compelling...But I digress...

Looking at that old photo of my mom and dad all gussied up for a night on the town, I got to thinking: people really don't dress the way they did back in the day anymore, do they?  All of my fellow old fogies out there, do you remember when there was this concept of putting on your "Sunday best" for church each week? Just as date night fashion--and even workplace fashion--is a lot less dressy these days, 21st century churchgoers are a lot more casual than they used to be.  I would love to see my boys in dress shirts and ties every Sunday for Mass, the way they were in this cherished photo:
(Here are my darling boys in 1998, spiffed up for the Baptism of a cousin--at the very church
where their parents had gotten married in 1980.)
[Sigh...]  I do love my boys.  Whether they're in their Sunday best or not.  Whether they're in white tie or black tie or bow tie (or loud tie, as they are here!), or even if they're wearing no ties at all.  God bless them, every one.

You know, on days like today when I just ramble on in a disjointed manner, I wonder if I'm going to lose you completely.  Sorry about that!  From now on I'll try to come up with cohesive plans for each post, and I'll carefully outline my thoughts, and I'll make sure that I have a point to make.  (Really, I will.)  Until then, I hope you're having a happy and holy Sunday!  And God bless you, every one.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Bacons

Last night, my husband and I had brinner instead of dinner.  If you aren't familiar with that term, it means we had breakfast for dinner.

We decided to cook up some eggs and home fries, but most importantly, the last package of bacon from the "Bacon of the Month Club," which was a birthday/Father's Day gift my husband received from our middle son back in June--a mouthwatering, glorious, fattening-but-we-refuse-to-worry-about-that-part gift if there ever was one.  Words cannot do this bacon justice.  Our son found this amazing gift of amazing bacon through a company called Amazing Clubs.  (He found my "Coffee of the Month Club" gift there, too, and the coffees I've been drinking over the past six months have been equally amazing.)

The bacon we had last night was called "Montego Bay Jamaican Jerk Bacon."  It came with 9 slices in the pound, and when I laid them in the frying pan I thought they looked kind of gross, if I have to be honest.  They looked like they were just thick, solid fat, with very little meat involved, and I wondered if they were going to be a little much, even for a dyed-in-the-wool bacon lover like my guy.
Well, guess what?  They weren't gross at all.  They were crispy and delectable, with just enough of a hint of Jamaican Jerk Sauce flavor to give them a kick.  Oh my goodness, that bacon was amazing!  You really should have had some.  I was only able to eat about a strip and a half, and my hubby had 4, I believe.  So there are still a few slices in the fridge that can be heated up for leftovers today.  Sooo-eeet!

About two weeks ago, I fried up the second-to-last package of Amazing Clubs bacon as part of our after-Mass Sunday brunch.  (I don't know which I love more: brunch or brinner!)  I tell you about this now because my husband has determined that out of all the tasty varieties of bacon that were included in his gift that kept on giving, this one was his favorite. It was called "VooDoo Brand Blackened Louisiana Bacon."

Each piece (there were only 8 of them in the pound!) was so thick and meaty that it looked like a slab of ham.  I mean, get a load of this incredible (dare I use the adjective "amazing" again?) bacon.  It looks like it's going to be delicious even before it's cooked, doesn't it?  I know!  And after...well, it's unbelievable!  If you're a fan of spicy Cajun foods, you would absolutely adore this.

Now that my husband's "Bacon of the Month Club" has expired, breakfast, brunch, and brinner just aren't going to be the same around here anymore!   But it was fun--and delicious--while it lasted.

Before I sign off, I just want to make sure you noticed two of the pigs from my extensive collection.  The black and white wooden one was a gift from a family member.  The Christmas pig is one I actually bought for myself.  I saw him at TJ Maxx and just couldn't resist.  It's like he's so ugly that he's cute, don't you think?  (Or do you think he's just plain ugly?)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Is My Blahhhhg...

I'm feeling a tad "blahhhh" today.  I'm probably too blah to blog, as a matter of fact, and I should just skip it altogether.

I don't know why I feel like this.  Perhaps it's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the wake of the recent presidential election.  Or the continuing stream of uncharitable political-themed posts on my Facebook newsfeed.

Perhaps it's that I woke up to the first snowstorm of the season--but it's not that pristine, sparkly-white blanket of happiness that fills you with the spirit of Christmas.  It's that wet, dreary kind of snow that makes you remember how cold, gray, and endless winters can seem up in our neck of the woods.

Now that I've brought you down into the dark abyss with me (sorry about that), I'm going to attempt to lift myself up out of the doldrums by thinking about my favorite things.  You know, "When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad," and all that jazz. So here, in pictures, are some of my favorite things (and people).
Any list of "favorite things" has to include chocolate--no ifs, ands, or buts.  Here we have peanut butter M&M's on the bottom tier and Rolos on the top. Neither is my favorite chocolate treat (that would have to be solid milk chocolate all the way, baby); but they will certainly suffice in an emergency.  Nothing says "Things can't be all that bad" like a mouthful of chocolate.  Am I right?  This red ceramic candy dish is also one of my favorite things.  And the antique sideboard on which it rests is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in one of my favorite rooms in the house.
I bought this wonderful old sideboard at a second-hand/antiques shop in our little New England town, for a fraction of what a new sideboard would have cost me at a furniture store.  Someone had already given it that distressed red finish, and the moment I laid eyes on it I knew that it was absolutely made for my dining room.

And speaking of favorite things, there's an oval-framed picture of Our Lady above my beloved sideboard--a picture which I picked off a pile of yard sale leftovers at the end of someone's driveway a year or so ago.  There was a sign atop the heap that said "Free," and I snapped that picture right up.  Love it.  It's one of my very favorite things.  And then there's the photo of my oldest son and his bride above the sideboard, too; now there's another favorite thing: family photos. My house is plastered with them, and when I look at them I feel happy.  Hey, this is working: I'm starting to feel less blah now.  So speaking of family pictures, how about this one?
Now that's what I'm talkin' about!  Happiness is filling my heart and soul at this very minute! This picture means so much to me, because this wonderful family of ours is hands down the greatest accomplishment of my life.  God has certainly been good to us thus far! And I look forward to adding new members so that it grows and grows and grows--and it gets so big that we can hardly fit together in a picture anymore.

But no list of favorite things would be complete without mentioning my beautiful marriage (of nearly 32 years, and counting), to my best friend and the love of my life.
The transition is complete: I've gone from blah to huzzah!  How can I ever feel low when my life is filled with so many blessings?  As long as I have my husband and my family, and as long as we all stay firm in our faith in God, from whom all blessings come, everything is going to be okay!

God bless us all...and God bless America!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Our Lady's Immaculate Heart Will Triumph

I woke up this morning thinking about Mary's hope-filled message at Fatima.  She warned that a chastisement was coming if people continued to turn their backs on God; but lest we despair, She gave this promise: "In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph."
I'm sure by now you're familiar with this photo that appeared on the cover of the Wall Street Journal after Hurricane Sandy.  It gave me goose bumps when I saw it.  If this isn't a sign of the Virgin Mary's power to triumph, I don't know what is.  Look at the devastation around Her; and yet She stands, perfectly intact.

There is no use beating one's head against the wall today, for wailing and gnashing of teeth. The only thing we can do is pray.  And there isn't a more powerful prayer than the Rosary. There isn't a more powerful intercessor than Mary, who can intercede on our behalf with Her Beloved Son.  "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!!!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Woo Hoo! I Got My New Countertops!

I finally got my new countertops!  And I'm so very excited!

I'm aware that it's election day, in case you're wondering why in the world today's post is about countertops, of all things.  The presidential election is very much on my mind, and wondering what the outcome is going to be is making me a wreck.  So I thought I'd talk about something as far from politics as home decor.

When the fate of our nation has been decided, perhaps I'll let you know how I feel about the way things turn out after the polls close today.  I shouldn't...but I might not be able to help myself.  But for now, home decor it is!  And in that vein--

What is it about kitchen updates that makes women so deliriously happy?  Men get excited about electronics: big-screen TV's, surround-sound systems, wireless Internets, iGadgets, and such; women get excited about kitchens: cabinets, appliances, cookware, and dishes. And countertops!  Like these:
Maybe I need to provide you with a close-up, so you can get the full effect of my glorious, shiny,
pristine laminate counters that look exactly like real granite but cost approximately half the price.
There we go.

If you are a female and you're reading this, I defy you to tell me I'm wrong about this.  You may even consider yourself a committed feminist ("Why are women defined by sexist stereotypes?" you ask.  "Why does everyone assume that women are the ones who have to cook and clean and do laundry?"); but I bet you get more excited about a new covered casserole dish than your man does.  Or a new front-loading washing machine.  And I'm pretty sure you get a lot more excited than he does at the prospect of new kitchen countertops.
My husband was only excited about our new faux granite laminate countertops insofar as he knew how excited I was about them.  But that's good enough for me.  He was willing to spend the money on them to make me happy in the kitchen.  And I'm so happy!  The cookies I bake may not taste any better just because I have new countertops.  But when I'm working in there, slaving over my hot stove, I like what I see so much more than the tired, worn-out countertops that were original to our 25-year-old house, the ones I'd sponge-painted to look like faux granite in order to get a few more years' wear out of them.  And you know what they say: "When Mom's happy, everybody's happy."  And Mom is most definitely happy!

We weren't planning to get a new kitchen sink, because it seemed like the stainless steel double sink we had was still in pretty good shape.  But our little remodeling project revealed some rust on the underside, so we sprang for a new, shinier and slightly deeper, double sink to go with the new countertops.   My cup overflows!  (Hopefully, my new sink won't.)
I know it's not the snazziest kitchen you ever saw; but it's mine, and I love it!
Life is good here in the Pearl house.  For a long time, I was chugging along just fine with my DIY faux-ny baloney granite countertops; but when I gaze upon these much better-looking replacements, there is a new spring in my step as I putter around in my kitchen!

Thank you, my beloved husband.  You are, as always, my hero!  If I could, I would vote for YOU for President!

(Did you notice the time?  That's not a mistake--it's not even 1:00 a.m. yet as I get ready to publish this post.  On the eve of the 2012 election, I'm sitting here at my laptop, "Sleepless in a Swing State.")

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mimi's "Lemon Chicken"

My husband and I returned yesterday from our trip to Upstate NY to visit with my parents. On Friday, my father underwent surgery on his foot, which I wrote about in Friday's post. He did end up having another toe on his right foot amputated, but he is recovering well and due to be released from the hospital today, or possibly tomorrow.  His spirits are high, considering.  (He didn't get all teary-eyed when he got the news that he only had three toes left on his right foot; he laughed--which struck me as an interesting reaction, but that's my dad.  That's Bigfoot for ya.)

One of the hardest things lately as far as my dad is concerned is that he has little-to-no appetite.  He is very picky about what he will eat, and even if you prepare something that appeals to his discriminating palate, he eats like a bird.  This 6'3", big-boned man, who wears size 13 shoes and XXXL hats (the guy who always loomed large, like a giant, throughout my childhood), now eats less than I do.  A lot less.  And we need to get him eating again and put some meat on those bones of his!

My mother ("Mimi" to her grandkids) is always trying to tempt Bigfoot with new recipes, and when she found this chicken recipe I'm about to share with you, she hit the jackpot.  He loved it so much that she ended up making it all the time--and that's how it got the nickname "Mimi's Lemon Chicken."  There is not a speck of lemon juice or lemon zest, or even lemon pepper, in this recipe; it's just that my mom makes it so often that it's like Deborah Barrone's lemon chicken.  You know, from the TV show "Everybody Loves Raymond"...Remember, Deborah's Italian mother-in-law is the great cook, and Deb isn't...but Deb's got this lemon chicken deal that she makes all the time, and Ray pretends to love it...?

If you don't get the reference, you may not have been as hooked on "Everybody Loves Raymond" as I was at one time.  (It got so bad, with all the re-runs constantly showing on different channels, that one year I decided to give it up for Lent!)  Apparently, my parents were a bit hooked on it, too.

Anyhoo--(yes, this is supposed to be a recipe post, not a novel)--here's Mom/Mimi's recipe for "Lemon Chicken."

I have no strict measurements for this recipe.  It's an "as needed" or "to taste" sort of thing. You'll need:

4 chicken breasts, either thin-cut or pounded so that they're thin
canola oil--about 1/4-1/2 cup
butter--about 2-4 Tbsp. (optional, but recommended!)
potato chips--about 1/2 of a regular-sized bag--crushed
a handful of crushed pretzels (optional)
red pepper flakes--to taste
an egg or two
a couple of splashes of soy sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Crush up the potato chips and pretzels in a bowl.  Add some red pepper flakes, to taste--if you like your foods hot and spicy, add a lot; otherwise, go lightly.  (Note: We didn't have pretzels the first night I decided to try this recipe out, so I skipped those and it worked fine without them.*  I just used more chips.  Also, I used kettle-cooked chips, but I'm sure any kind of potato chip would suffice.)

Beat up the egg with some soy sauce.

Heat up the oil and butter in a large frying pan.  (Note: My mom uses just canola oil, to be healthier.  I need to add butter for taste, because butter makes my husband happy.)

Now dip each breast first in the egg mixture and then in the chip mixture, until coated.  Fry them on one side until browned, then place them in a baking dish--fried side up.  Drizzle the remainder of the oil/butter from the pan into the baking dish.

Bake for 1/2 hour at 350, and this is what you get:
YUMMY!  I tried this recipe about two weeks ago, and I've made it four or five times since it's becoming my "lemon chicken," too!

*My version remains a potato-chips-only affair.  This chicken is so good without the pretzels that my hubby and I decided we don't need them!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Sermon Worth Listening To!

I'm not going to have much time to blog this morning.  My husband and I are meeting up with my mom and three of my siblings in a little while to have breakfast, and then we're heading over to the hospital to visit with my dad, who is recovering from yesterday's surgery. But I wanted to share something with you that you might find interesting and informative--and I believe it's downright critically important that as many people as possible get a chance to see it, with the election only days away.

This is not a political post (I promised I would steer clear of politics, and I'm going to do that); it is a post about FAITH--in particular, about the Catholic Faith and what it teaches about the so-called "controversial" social issues of our day.

Yesterday, my oldest son sent us a link to a video of a Catholic priest's recent sermon--one that is more powerful than any I've ever heard from the pulpit of our local parish church--and I was so blown away that I thought I'd share it.  This sermon includes some interesting history about our country, and about the Catholic Church's role in that history, which you might be unaware of.

If you have 20 minutes to spare, I urge you to view this sermon!

God bless you, and God bless our country!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Prayers for My Dad

If you're reading this today, please say a prayer for my father (better known as "Bigfoot"--and don't even think about calling him "Grandpa"!), who is undergoing surgery on his foot.

Dad had poor circulation in his leg, which led to the development of ulcers that wouldn't heal on the bottom of his right foot.  First came surgery to open up the artery and get the blood flowing again in that leg; but the infection was a stubborn one and ending up spreading to the bone, which resulted in surgery to remove his pinkie toe.  Apparently, the infection is still hanging on, so today he has to have some more bone removed from that foot.

True to form, Dad/Bigfoot is handling this latest setback with his usual aplomb.  Here is the e-mail that he just sent out to us kids, letting us know about his upcoming surgery:

"Exciting news, fans.  This Friday, Nov. 2nd, I enter the hospital (AGAIN!) to have a little more infected bone chopped out of my right foot...I should be discharged Monday the 5th. Before I get home, your mother will have gotten a short course in how to inject penicillin into yours truly's body.  Outside of the foregoing, everything here is dandy!"

My father has never been a complainer, although most people would think he's had plenty of reasons to ask, "Why me?"  His own father died when he was a little boy of six, and he and his sister were raised by their mother, a grandmother, and some young unmarried aunts. Dad never had a male role model around to guide him into manhood; and yet he found his way, marrying the love of his life at 21 and successfully raising five children with her.  He did struggle when those children were all teenagers at the same time, and maybe during those years he didn't always handle things the right way (although does anyone really know what the "right way" is?); but he always loved us.  And without a doubt, he always loved our mother.  You know that famous saying, "The best  thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother"?  Well, he did that for the five of us, in spades.
Great-Bigfoot with my granddaughter Kewpie last Christmas--he had to get right down on the floor with her!
And here he is nuzzling Kewpie's twin, Bonny, while Mom looks on.
My mother, his sweetheart and wife of 56 years, is now his competent, no-nonsense nurse. She takes no guff from him and teases him into laughter, so she's probably the best medicine there is for him.  She will tell you that he can be a crotchety and demanding patient, and I don't doubt her.  But one thing he doesn't do is act like he feels sorry for himself, even though I think a lot of people in his shoes would be feeling very sorry for themselves indeed.

Please keep my poor Daddy-o in your prayers today (and my mother, too--because as much as I love that guy, I know he's a patient who's going to try her patience!).  God willing, this surgical procedure will take care of the problem, once and for all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We're Counting on You, Mom

Today would have been my dear mother-in-law's 80th birthday.  Mom died, very suddenly and quickly, on Holy Saturday in 2009.  She came into this world on the Feast of All Saints and left it the day before Easter, and I don't think that was by accident.

Mom was there, always there--a person who loomed so large in the hearts and minds of so many; then, in the blink of an eye, without any warning at all, she wasn't there anymore. And her death left a huge void in the family she left behind: four daughters and four sons; four daughters-in-law and four sons-in-law; sixteen granddaughters and sixteen grandsons. She did not live to see any of her grandchildren get married, so she's never met the twin great-granddaughters that were born to my son and his wife in 2011.  But we know she's watching over them, and over all of us.  And all I can say is, do your thing, Mom.  Pray us in!  You always seemed to have a direct line to the Big Guy Upstairs when it came to prayer--so we're counting on you.

Not a day goes by that each of Mom's eight children doesn't get the urge to pick up the phone and call her, as most of them did daily while she was alive.  They miss hearing her voice and her laugh; they miss talking  to the one person they knew was always interested in anything they had to report--whether it was exciting news about a special award one of their kids had won at school or merely some tiny bit of minutiae from their daily lives that no one else could possibly care about as much as she did.  It is often said of mothers that they live for their children.  Mom truly did live for her children.

I have been wondering how in the world to do my mother-in-law justice today--a job that's almost impossible for anyone.  Then I thought of the e-mail my husband's cousin (one of Mom's goddaughters, and an exceedingly special person in her own right!) sent to him and all of his siblings the other day.  No one could say it better than she did, so I'm going to reproduce that e-mail here:

"It's Make a Difference Day and...On the week before what would be your Mom's 80th birthday, I have 80 reasons why I loved her!  

1. Her smile; 2. Her warmth; 3-10. [the names of her eight children]; 11. Her singing ability; 12. Her deep and abiding faith in God; 13. Her love of family; 14. Her ability to make you feel like you were the MOST important person in the world; 15. Her laugh; 16. Her humor; 17. Her strength; 18. Her gift of gab; 19. Her Irish heritage that she loved to share; 20. Her stories; 21. Her ability to raise 8 happy, self-reliant, loving children; 22. Her teaching skill--it was innate; 23. Her ability to host a party at a last minute notice; 24. Opening her home to her extended family and friends often; 25. Her genuine interest in others' lives; 26. Her sense of adventure; 27. Her traveling to see her children; 28. Her LOVE of her Grandchildren; 29. Her ability to smooth over the bumps of life; 30. Her LOVE for her daughters- and sons-in-law; 31. Her LOVE for [her husband]; 32. Her sense of fair play; 33. Her ability to make a friend; 34. Her trust; 35. Her loyalty; 36. Her Mothering skills; 37. Her Godmothering skills; 38. Her love of a "good deal"; 39. Her sewing ability; 40. Her smocking ability; 41. Her love of fabric; 42. Her love of beautiful things; 43. Lenox; 44. Hummels; 45. Lladros; 46. Her beautiful linens; 47. Her decorating style; 48. Her selection as Queen at [the College of] St. Rose; 49. Her beautiful wedding gown; 50. Her beautiful calla lilies for her wedding bouquet; 51. Her willingness to share her wedding gown with her daughters; 52. AND her Granddaughters!; 53. Her devotion to Mary; 54. For asking me to place the centerpiece of my wedding flowers in front of Mary; 55. Her devotion to the rosary; 56. Her love of Lake Champlain; 57. Her love of the Adirondacks; 58. Her willingness to unwrap all of the Hershey kisses for your Dad on long trips; 59. Her strength even when your childhood home burned down; 60. Her ability to raise a tight knit family; 61. I wish I could vote for HER for President!; 62. For loving and singing with her brother [his name]; 63. For always knowing the "right" thing to say; 64. For singing Ave Maria at our wedding; 65. For taking on life as it came and celebrating all of the GOOD; 66. For always looking at the cup as half full; 67. Her delight in seeing her children succeed; 68. Her even greater delight in seeing her Grandchildren succeed; 69. For always remembering her roots; 70. For her open acceptance of all of us; 71. Her love of Notre Dame; 72. Her love of the Navy; 73. Her optimistic attitude towards life; 74. Her acceptance of God's plan for her; 75. Her love of movies and a good show; 76. Her remembering special lines and quotes of great movies; 77. Her Irish eyes...especially when they were smiling; 78. Her love of a good drink; 79. Her ability to live a sermon, not just speak about one...; 80. And finally, I love her because she made a huge DIFFERENCE in my life."

If you've never met my mother-in-law before, now you know her.
Mom as the Rose Queen, wearing the exquisite satin gown that would later become her wedding gown.
As my husband remarked upon receiving this e-mail, his cousin never even lived under the same roof with his mother, and yet she knew all this about her beloved aunt/godmother. That is the kind of impact Mom had on the lives of those she touched.  She was some woman.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  We sure do miss you around here!  (And don't forget to keep those prayers coming!)