Sunday, June 30, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 15

It's link-up time!
I'm not going to show you what I wore to church today, because I've already modeled it on this link-up in a previous post.  But I will tell you this about my ensemble: along with my brown cotton sundress and peach-colored cotton shrug, I wore a very, very big smile at the 9:00 a.m. Mass--because my husband and I had one of our boys with us in the pew, for the first Sunday in a long time.  Our baby returned from Paris last night (and he DID get to ride home on the plane his dad was piloting!), and it made me feel so proud and happy that he was there with us this morning.

The last two summers, our son worked at the movie theater, where he had the awesome perk of free movie tickets for himself and a friend, anytime he wanted them.  This summer he's been in France pretty much since he came home from college, so he's had to settle for watching occasional DVD's on his computer and hasn't seen a movie in the theater in ages. He's been dying to see the new Superman movie that came out a few weeks ago, so after we had our post-Mass bacon-and-egg brunch today, we headed out to catch a matinee at his old place of employment.
On the way to the theater, our boy was telling my husband and me that he'd heard people were split about this latest superhero-themed blockbuster: some thought it was fantastic, and others thought it was too over-the-top and didn't like it at all.  Well, after seeing it (in 3-D no less, because all the regular-D showings were sold out, and we didn't feel like coming back later), the three of us all agreed that yes, it's really over-the-top--but in spite of that, we really enjoyed it.  If you're looking for a good escape movie (and you don't mind seeing lots and lots of buildings blown up and destroyed), this might be the movie for you.

We got some really great fashion accessories along with our tickets for Man of Steel, so when we got back from the movie I decided to have my husband take a picture of my boy and me sporting them.
We're just a couple of really cool cats, aren't we?

Here's what we wore to the Sunday afternoon matinee:

My son:
~Long-sleeved polyester Under Armor-type tee (with ND logo and Fisher Hall printed on it): Fisher Hall dorm sales
~UVA lacrosse shorts: a shop in downtown Charlottesville, VA
~Really cool 3-D glasses: Regal Theaters

~Yellow polka-dot cardigan: Spence Knits, from BJ's Wholesale Club
~White cotton tank: Wal-Mart
~Black denim skirt: Larry Levine, from Goodwill ($4.99, on sale for $2.50!)
~Sandals: Clark's, from JC Penney
~Really cool 3-D glasses: Regal Theaters
~Smile: same one I've been wearing since this kid came home last night

I just love my new/old skirt.  It's deceptively full--it would make great square dancing attire, if one was so inclined.
Isn't it fun?  (It kind of reminds me of Superman's cape in the movie poster above.)

I'm thinking I'll be wearing this comfy, swingy, feminine skirt a lot, because I'm hoping to try to join Rosie (at "a blog for my mom") for a pants-free July...although I've tried to make the switch to dresses and skirts only before, and then jeans call out to me with their Siren's song and I'm too weak to ignore it.  So we'll see.   I'll at least try to wear them more than I do now.

But I WILL be wearing this smile for the next few days, I know that.  As for the next heart-wrenching good-bye at the airport on Wednesday morning, when my son will head down south for three weeks of Airborne school, I'm just not going to think about that right now!

For more fashions, check out the gals over at FLAP.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

{simple saturday}: I Knew He Was Comin', So I Baked a Cake!

My youngest son, who has spent the past six weeks in France (doing one of the coolest college internships you could ever imagine) is coming home tonight!  Huzzah, yippee, yay, etc.!  Not only that, but he's riding in the back of the airplane his dad is piloting (oh, the perks of being the son of an airline pilot!).  Actually, I don't know this for a fact yet; if there wasn't any space available on my husband's flight, he may have had to buy a ticket on Air France to ensure he'd make it back home in a timely fashion.

On Thursday, my husband went over there on a working trip and met up with our boy on Friday, just as the six-week gig was coming to a close.  The two of them painted Paris red rouge (they even had beers together--because in France, a 20-year-old is not a boy, but un homme--at a joint called Harry's New York Bar, a favorite watering hole of my dad's from way back in his traveling-for-work years).  They saw some amazing sights together--like the incorrupt body of St. Catherine Laboure, enshrined in the church where Mary appeared to her and gave the humble nun instructions for the creation of the Miraculous Medal.  (When my husband told me about it, my eyes filled with tears...more on that another time, because today my goal is to keep this post short and sweet.)

Now for the sweet.  To me, every celebration must have a cake, so I set out to make my son a French-themed two-layer welcome home cake, with little French toothpick flags adorning the top of it.
Unfortunately, however, after sitting overnight, my decorative icing flourishes began to melt and run off the cake.  My son's name is now unreadable.
And the poor cake looks like it's bleeding...but no worries!  I now proclaim it a French Revolution-themed cake.  It still works!  It's got Les Mis written all over it!

It may not be pretty, but I know it will be simply delicious.

Now go say hi to Iris, because she hosts this simply delightful link-up:

Friday, June 28, 2013

7 QTF: Laundry Room Woes, Both Real {Dwija's} and Imagined {Mine}

I'm kind of late for this, and I actually blogged earlier today...but what the heck.  I'm linking up with the 7 Quick Takes crowd (because I really like hanging out with the cool kids!).
Whenever I go to someone's house where there is a big, organized, Pinterest-worthy room dedicated specifically to the task of doing laundry, I begin to covet my neighbor's house and my neighbor's goods.  (Mea culpa.)  Oh woe is me, I think; for the past twenty-some-odd years (seven years of which I was washing all the uniforms for my boys' high school varsity football team every week, along with my usual family laundry!!), all I've had for a laundry room is one half of the half bath on the first floor of our house, sandwiched between the kitchen and the family room.

Poor me, right?  I've got no long table to fold the clothes on, no drying rack for air-dry items (other than that cheap curtain rod over the washer and dryer that I jerry-rigged myself--so low rent!).  A couple of the floor tiles have cracks in them.  The vanity updating project we started years ago (replacing the laminate drawers and doors with oak) remains only partially finished. How, I ask you, can a person be expected to perform laundry duties for herself, a husband, five boys, and a football team, with only this puny and imperfect space to do it in?

Luckily, I can hide my poor excuse for a laundry room when we have company, just by pulling closed the cloth shower curtain with which we replaced the louvered doors that were original to the house (since the doors didn't leave enough room to actually fit a washer and dryer behind them).
Now you see it, now you don't!  Where did that laundry room go?  It's masquerading as a shower, which is just what you'd expect to find behind a curtain in a bathroom, right?

You may have noticed the critter on the heat register in the bathroom.  That's a squirrel I painted on the wall shortly after we moved in...because I just like painting animals on my walls (doesn't everybody?).  Then about ten years ago, I painted a mouse perched just outside the bathroom/laundry room door.
Trust me, if this was a real mouse (or for that matter, a real squirrel), I wouldn't know how to handle it.

Therefore, when I saw Cari Donaldson's post about Dwija's unthinkable laundry room situation, I really felt for Dwija.  In case you haven't found her blog yet, Dwija is the Catholic blogger responsible for House Unseen, {Life Unscripted}, and she is a living, breathing advertisement for the beauty of the pro-life cause: a mother to five young children, she is currently pregnant with a 6th and has a serious condition called PPROM (Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes), which is life-threatening for her unborn child.  Despite the odds, however, she is rejecting the idea of "terminating the pregnancy," as the pro-choicers so euphemistically call it, and instead hoping for a miracle.  Meanwhile, her laundry room walls and floors are unfinished and potentially dangerous, her washer is leaky, she has no dryer (boy am I spoiled, because I can't imagine life without one!), and she has MICE.  Not whimsical paintings of them on the walls...real ones!  And to top it all off, she is supposed to be taking it easy because of her condition!  (Never have I been more ashamed of thinking my laundry room was sub-par.)

Cari has put together a fundraiser for Dwija, and so far it has raised almost $7,000.  The outpouring of love and generosity has been astounding--a true example of Christian charity in action.  I think the fundraiser officially ends Sunday morning, so if you're interested in donating to this worthy cause, click here for details.

Now I'm going to go into my clean, efficient, blessedly [real] mouse-free, sweet little laundry room and put in a load of whites...and I'm while I'm at it, I'm going to remind myself how lucky I am and say a prayer for Dwija and her baby.

For more Quick Takes (lots more!), head on over to Jen Fulwiler's Conversion Diary.

A Little Help from "Catholic Book News"

I recently received an e-mail from Ellen Gable Hrkach, award-winning Catholic fiction author and president of the Catholic Writers Guild, informing me that because Finding Grace has received the CWG Seal of Approval, it will be one of the titles showcased in the July edition of the Guild's "Catholic Book News."  This publication will be sent out to hundreds of bookstores and libraries, so hopefully it will give my book some much-needed visibility (and maybe even a wee boost in sales, God willing).

I'm sorry I keep using this blog to plug my book...but I think I'm a better blog-to-blog salesman than I would be a door-to-door salesman.  If you choose this moment to click on the X up in the right-hand corner and leave my blog lickety-split, that's certainly a lot less painful for me than having a door slammed in my face!  (Hmmm...I may need to sign up for that Salesmanship 101 class I never got around to taking...)

I've really got to stop with the apologizing.  I never think badly of other bloggers who talk about their book projects on their blogs, so I don't know why I assume you're thinking badly of me.  (Please don't!)  Okay then, here's the "sell sheet" as it will appear in the CWG publication.

Finding Grace by Laura H. Pearl

Category: Religious Fiction, Teen/Young Adult
ISBN:  9781936453115
Formats: Paperback
Pages: 332
Price: $17.99

Available from Amazon and Bezalel Books

Award: Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval

At the age of 13, Grace Kelly (who has been saddled with the name of a world-renowned beauty, but is far from one herself) is inspired by an offhand comment from her father to become a saint. But coming of age and falling deeply in love for the first time in the early 1970's -- in the wake of the 60's "sexual revolution" and the historic Roe v. Wade decision -- presents true challenges for young people who are trying to live chastely. Grace realizes that without the help of God, the Blessed Mother and all the saints in Heaven, navigating  the thorny path to sainthood would be an almost insurmountable task.

"I really enjoyed this Catholic novel by Laura Pearl. It's such a sweet, romantic, entertaining story for teens and adults."
Therese Heckenkamp, author, Past Suspicion and Frozen Footprints
"Author Laura Pearl has done a spectacular job of character development and enmeshing those characters in real life situations."  
Cheryl Dickow, author, Elizabeth, A Holy Land Pilgrimage

"Finding Grace is so beautifully written and so refreshing to read...its themes of faith, family, finding true love, growing up in a fallen world, and having compassion for one another really resonated with me, and Pearl has a true gift of infusing these deeper topics with lightheartedness and humor and well, brought both tears and laughter and is overall a beautiful, moving novel. I highly recommend it."  
Kate Harvey, blogger and co-author, Finger Lakes Feast

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Theme Thursday: Black and White

Nothing tells the story of how much my life has changed since our nest emptied out two years ago (when our youngest son went off to college) than this itty-bitty jar of peanut butter I picked up at the store yesterday.
There it is, in black and white: the story of our downsizing.

For the past thirty-ish years, I've been buying family-sized tubs of p.b., and yet it seemed like we were always running out.  When the boys were little and we'd visit their grandparents, I'd open the cabinet at lunchtime and spy the miniature jar of Jiff and mutter under my breath, "You've got to be kidding!  That's about enough for one meal!  Who buys peanut butter in such small quantities?"  (By the way, Mom and Dad, I get it now.)

Thanks be to God, none of my sons had a peanut allergy, because there were stretches when they lived on peanut butter (well, peanut butter and dare I admit it?--Kraft mac & cheese with hot dogs) during their childhood days.  It was one of the staples of their diet, and in all the years they lived in this house, I never once had to throw out a half-full jar because it had gone past the expiration date.

Well, a few days ago I was going through my pantry, trying to figure out what supplies I'm going to need for this weekend--because my baby is coming home from his six-week internship in Paris!  Yippee!  That boy eats nothing but p.b. & j. on a bagel for breakfast, every morning, without fail; so while I was making sure I had everything he would need, I happened to notice that it was long past the "best if used by" date on the still-half-full vat of peanut butter I'd bought for the troops over Christmas (or maybe last summer?  I really can't remember).  I simply couldn't believe I had to do it...but I threw it out.

Yesterday when I brought home that pathetically small, practically baby-sized jar, it was a sad reminder that there really aren't that many mouths to feed around here most of the time anymore.  My husband and I like peanut butter; but we don't eat it often enough to justify buying it in the enormous containers we needed to have on hand when we were feeding our growing lads back in the day.

Who would have thought that buying a small jar of peanut butter would make me feel so OLD?

(I ended up sounding pretty Eeyore-esque there, but don't feel sorry for me.  If my son doesn't use up that little jar during the three or four days he's home before he leaves for Army Airborne school, I'm going to whip up some peanut butter cookies--and probably eat them all, too--following an awesome three-ingredient recipe I got from my daughter-in-law: 1 c. peanut butter, 1 c. white sugar, 1 egg; bake for 8 min. at 350.  Mmmm-mmmm!!)

Okay now, for more B & W imagery, click on over to Clan Donaldson.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Permanent Records

I never would have started this blog back in 2011 if it wasn't for my daughter-in-law.  A few years earlier (the first time she moved really far away from her folks), she had started one of her own.  She likes to write anyway, so she figured it was a really good way of keeping her family informed about all the new things she was experiencing half a country away.  When I found out about her blog, I started going through her archives and reading all her old posts. What an interesting thing to do!, I thought.  Around the same time, I discovered Ree Drummond's popular "Pioneer Woman" blog through an article in Good Housekeeping.  But other than those two blogs--PW and my girl's--I had literally never read another blog in my life and wouldn't have known where to go to find one.  (A techie/computer geek/normal 21st-century human I am not.)

"If I were younger, I think I might like to blog," I commented offhandedly to my daughter-in-law.

"You should do it!  It's easy," she replied, and then she taught me how to get all set up on eBlogger.  And (get ready for cheesiness), the rest is history. 

Having majored in English in college (and having loved writing papers for my literature courses to a degree that was probably both strange and unhealthy), I thought the writing part would be fun, just for its own sake.  Maybe I could write my blog as a way of keeping a permanent record of many of our family stories and memories, I thought.  It could be a sort of e-scrapbook that my husband or sons could look at any time they wanted to with just the click of a mouse.  Of course, when I started out, I thought it was really too bad that I was an old almost-empty-nester when I wrote my first post, because the finer details of so many of the tales I could have told about being a busy young mother to four boys born within four years, and then a fifth who came along five years later, were becoming hazy, due to my fifty-something brain and my rose-colored glasses.  And having been a stay-at-home mom since 1983, the whole RAISING BOYS thing was all I knew.  If only blogging had existed back in the day, I thought.

But then I realized that there are really no rules here; if I wanted to, I could blog about anything and everything that interested me.  All of my posts didn't have to be about my family (although that is my favorite writing topic).  I could blog about clothes, home decor, or recipes.  I could blog about growing up, and the early years of my romance with my husband, so that my sons could know who we were before we became "Mom" and "Dad."  I could just do random navel gazing, and subject you to a stream-of-consciousness flow of ideas that happened to be flitting through my brain at any moment (sure, anyone would be interested in that...not).  I could blog about art (another favorite topic).  And since I was horrified by the way the Internet was so often used for evil purposes (one of these days I'll tell you what happened when my fourth son, who was about eight or nine at the time, innocently typed in "guinea pig" so that he could learn how to care for his new pet), I could use my little "String of Pearls" to blog about the beautiful and much maligned Catholic Faith.

Switching gears a bit here.  Are any of you old enough to remember "Doogie Howser, MD"? (That TV show was Neil Patrick Harris' big claim to fame many moons before he became the break-out star of "How I Met Your Mother.")  Every episode ended the same way, with Doogie sitting down at his computer and typing up a few thoughts about his day.  Before computers, we would have called this sort of activity "keeping a diary."  If that show was set in the present time, however, Doogie would no doubt be a blogger.

You know what?  I actually did that, too, some years back.  I kept a diary of sorts, saved in my Word documents, and I tried to sit down and write in it, Doogie Howser-style, almost every night.  I did this for a couple of months, and then I lost my perhaps when I was a young mother, I wouldn't have had the requisite drive to blog on any kind of regular basis after all.

Luckily, however, I'm a hard copy sort of girl at heart, because I did print out all of these diary entries, and I put them in plastic sheet protectors in a binder (along with writing, I think I love plastic sheet protectors to a strange and unhealthy degree).  Had I not done so, when the old table top computer I used to write them went kaput I might have lost them forever. Here is part of a poignant entry from April 2001, when our oldest was near the end of his junior year in high school and thinking about college applications, and our youngest was an eight-year-old homebody who was never, ever going to leave us:

"Poor J, he's starting to become aware of the fact that it won't be much longer before S doesn't live at home all the time anymore.  The two of us were in the car one day, and somehow the subject of college came up.  Obviously, J has overheard us talking to S about where he'd like to apply, and I guess it's been on J's mind.  Anyhow, J asked me why people go so far away for college.  I told him not everyone does, and that if he wanted to live at home and go to UNH, that would be fine.  That was reassuring.  ("Yes, that's what I'll do. I don't ever want to live anywhere but in our house.")  With that fear assuaged, I then tried to make him realize that even if S goes to Notre Dame, he'll come home on vacations and he'll still stay close to our family.  A light bulb went on:  "You mean he's going to SLEEP there?"  I guess it was the first time he really understood what going away to college means, that you don't come home every night to sleep.

It was heart-breaking.  He didn't cry, he did something that in a way is even harder to see; he turned his head away from me and tried to get his face under control, fighting tears like a little man.  J does this a lot.  He rarely cries, but he gets this face that is on the verge, fighting mightily--like a dam holding back the flood--and the most you see is a little moistness in his eyes.  I had all I could do not to cry myself (the subject of S going away is hard enough for me without seeing how devastating it is for J).

A few days later, his [second grade teacher] showed me what he'd written in his journal, and it went something like this: "In a year and a half, my brother S is going to go to college and I'm going to miss him a lot.  Then the next year, my brother D is going to go to college and I'm going to miss him, too."  I think he put in the part about D because a few days after our talk in the car about S, the boys were joking about who was going to get to move into S and D's room when S left, and D was saying we should keep S's part of the room as a shrine (so that he could have his own room).  So we were saying that M would probably move in, and then the next year when D went, we would have to decide what the room situation would be. J was just quietly taking this all in, smiling like everyone else, because it was a funny conversation--a pre-Rosary talk, of course.  But all the time he must have been realizing that once S goes, it won't be long before the others go, too.  This poor little guy, it's going to be so hard for him to watch them go, one by one, and then to be the only one at home from 8th grade on."

Just thinking of that sad little incident in the car, and that sad little second grade journal entry, makes me feel verklempt--all these years later.

But you know, that boy who promised he would never live anywhere but in our house went off to Notre Dame, just like his older brothers did.  And instead of spending the summer between his sophomore and junior years here at home, he's been living it up in Paris!  He left his mama looking like this at the airport almost six weeks ago.
Unfortunately, I'm not as good at getting myself under control as he was when he was only eight!

But after a good, hearty crying jag, I got it together and felt truly happy that he'd been given this extraordinary opportunity.  A paid summer internship in France!  It doesn't get much better than that.  I mean, here he is at Notre Dame (the one in Paris, not the one in South Bend).
And my husband was even able to bid Paris trips this month, so he was able to do a little sight-seeing with our boy over there just a few days ago... 
...and my baby will finally be back home on Saturday.  Huzzah!

He leaves again a few days after that, however, to go down South to Army Airborne School...but I'm trying really hard not to think about that right now, and not to hold it against him after his long-ago vow to be with us always...

Wow, that post got long.  If you're still reading this, sorry about that!  

Ahh, blogging really is the bomb, isn't it?  (Are the kids still saying that?)  It can even be used to make the world a better place (for an example of this, check out the "Operation Laundry Room Recovery" icon on the right side of this page).

But I really better sign off now.  I'll see you demain...probablement.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blogging Humor

I saw the funniest on-line cartoon about blogging the other day.  (Also the UN-funniest, because it's a pretty sad commentary on what Internet social media has done to redefine the term "friendship" and the way we interact with one another.)  Unfortunately, this cartoon was sort of covered over with all these blurbs about copyrights and such, so it didn't look good enough to copy here. But here's the gist: A little boy is looking up at his mom, holding a laptop under his arm and saying, "Bobby's outside with his laptop.  Can I go outside and blog with him?"

Hilarious?  Or pathetic?

I am a blogger.  I blog.  But I do realize that blogging is an activity that lends itself to joke-making--and if you're a blogger, you'd better have a sense of humor and some pretty tough skin.

(Watch out for them typos!  They'll kill you every time.)
Ummm....I'm considering quitting the blog world and getting a real life!  I probably won't, though, because I'm just enjoying the whole process too much these days, and I'm "meeting" the nicest women bloggers.  They write about topics that are near and dear to my heart, and they inspire me.  

If only we could meet face-to-face with our laptops...and blog together.   [Insert smiley face emoticon here.]

Monday, June 24, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, Volume 14

Well, after a couple of weeks away from this fun and faith-filled fashion link-up, I decided to show you what I wore Sunday (yesterday, that is).  So once again, I'm linking up with the gals over at Fine Linen and Purple for another episode of WIWS.

For Mass yesterday, I wore a Dress Barn polka-dot dress that I've had forever (almost) and already modeled for this link-up (in this post back in March).  It's the comfiest dress in the world, made out of a stretchy knit that is perfect for traveling.  You can pluck it from your jam-packed suitcase and put it right on without giving a thought to finding an ironing board, because it just doesn't wrinkle.  (With all my travels these days to visit my kids and grandkids, it's exactly the sort of dress I need.)
I thought I'd jazz this dress up and change the look of it completely by pairing it with a Kelly green cotton shrug, which was a bargain ($10.99!) I found at BJ's Wholesale Club. (Strangely enough, the same place where I go to buy food staples in Army-feeding-sized packages is where I seem to find a lot of my wardrobe pieces these days.)  I'm also wearing a favorite pair of black patent "leather" ballet flats from Payless (old news--you don't need to see those again), my vintage Snap-it Beads pearl necklace, with four beads removed so that it would be just the right length for the neckline of this dress (I've shown you those before--remember?), and a lace chapel veil that I stitched up on my Kenmore sewing machine after I left my favorite black veil (ordered from a great site called "Veils by Lily") in a hotel room or on an airplane, I'm not sure which, on one of my many aforementioned trips.

Okay, now tell me: on Sunday, what were you wearin'?  Or more importantly, what were you drinkin'? (Did you notice my cup?)

Well, after Mass my husband and I stopped by Dunkin' Donuts on our way back home.  Not that we ALWAYS do this, you understand; but Dunkin' Donuts just happens to be VERY CLOSE to our parish church...and we both love donuts, and I love you know what I was drinkin'.  Happiness in a Styrofoam cup, that's what--my standard order. Cream?  Yes! Sugar?  Yes!...And make it a large, please!

If you're interested in a more serious fashion show, head over to FLAP.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Want to Be Little

I'm feeling a little emptied out today, and my well of ideas for blog posts feels like it has run pretty dry. Sometimes I think I should take a few weeks off and get rejuvenated, and then come back with all sorts of interesting anecdotes and profound insights for you (as if I could!); but I know that if I did that my husband would go through major withdrawals.  He is my #1 reader and cheerleader--my #1 everything--and I really don't like to let him down.  So I'm going the lazy route today, because after all, Sunday is meant to be a day of rest: I'm giving you a re-run and simply recycling "Spiritual Childhood," a post that first appeared on this blog a little over a year ago.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Spiritual Childhood

Sometimes, the most beautiful things come into our house buried in the piles of what would otherwise have to be labeled "junk mail."  For instance, we recently got some cards from a Missouri group called the Association of the Miraculous Medal, and one of them had this darling painting by Donald Ruessler on the cover.
St. Therese of Lisieux taught the "Little Way of Spiritual Childhood," saying that the way to Heaven is easier when one remains humble and small--when one keeps his soul in a state of childlike innocence, with a child's boundless capacity for love and joy.  When I saw this piece of artwork, I thought immediately of St. Therese the "Little Flower" and her "Little Way."  There is nothing so pleasing in the eyes of God than the simplicity, purity, and innocence of a young child, like the angelic little girl depicted here--for as Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14).  It is said that God always listens to our prayers, especially the prayers of children.  I love the way this painting perfectly illustrates that idea.

I am drawn to this piece of artwork not only because of the little blond angel (a reminder to me of my angelic twin granddaughters), but because of the Miraculous Medal on the bottom left, with both the front and back view shown.  I have been wearing a Miraculous Medal for many years now, strengthened by the knowledge that Our Lady Herself promised to give graces to those who wear it with confidence.  I could use all the graces I can get, so I'll continue to wear my medal until the day I die, and to pray the words engraved on its front: "O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee."

In the meantime, I need to work on becoming more childlike with each passing that the older my body gets, the younger my soul will become.  Because I think the perfect scenario would be to leave this world just the way I came into it, as small and helpless as a newborn baby.
As much as I do desire the kind of littleness St. Therese espoused, I often struggle with wanting to be more than I am...with wanting to be more well-liked...with wanting to be more well thought of in the eyes of the world.  I want to embrace my littleness fully, without longing for bigger and better things.  I want to love God with the purity of a small child and remember that I must strive to be pleasing in HIS eyes only.  I'm glad I re-posted this today, because I needed it as a reminder that I still have such a very long way to go to achieve my goal of Spiritual Childhood.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Generous Blogging Friends

I wasn't going to post anything today.  I was going to give you all (or y'all, for you Southerners out there) a bit of a break.

But this morning when I was scrolling through the list of blogs I read daily (this blog roll shows up on my Blogger Dashboard page, where I go to write new posts or edit old ones), I was surprised to see a picture of a copy of Finding Grace included in a picture collage next to the text of today's post on "Footprints on My Heart."

When I clicked on there to read the post, I found out that my young blogging friend Sarah Therese has begun to read my book.  I am both touched and terrified.  Whenever I know that someone is reading it, I get a bit nervous.  That's one thing about having a published book that was difficult for me: once it was "out there," it was open to criticism and bad reviews, and I had to brace myself for soul-crushing rejection (hyperbole, anyone?).  I was pretty much sick to my stomach for about three weeks after it was released in August of 2012, and then with the help and support of my husband, I began to relax.  I kept reminding myself that it was okay if no one in the entire world liked it; I had honestly written it first and foremost in an effort to give glory to God; secondly as a gift to my kids and grandkids; and thirdly in hopes of inspiring just one young person to fight the good fight in this new topsy-turvy world of ours, where right is wrong and wrong is right.   And to be honest, I never truly thought it would get published anyway, and that was okay with me as long as the aforementioned people gave it the thumb's up.

So far, readers have been very kind.  Another generous blogging friend, Erica over at "Boys, Books, and Balls," read it recently and gave it this mention and this kind endorsement.

It seems strange that I have blogging friends that I will never actually meet, but I do feel a special kinship with these women.  I had no idea, before I started participating in blog link-ups not too long ago, what a rich and vibrant world of Catholic blogging was going on out there on the Internet, and I never even knew about it.  Most of the blogs I read are written by women much younger than I am; many of them are raising small children and are right in the heart of their child-bearing years.  Many of them homeschool and have very large families--not just by today's standards, but by the standards of the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Most practice NFP, and no matter how big their families are already, they are delighted to welcome another baby made in God's image and likeness.  Erin from Australia, one of the bloggers with whom I've had many "conversations" over the past months, has just announced that she is expecting her 10th child, due around Christmas--and her oldest child will be 20 when the new babe arrives!

Truly, I feel fortunate to have discovered this vibrant and uplifting world of Catholic blogging, a world filled to the brim with family values and faith--just when I thought the world was going to you-know-where in a hand basket.  It's a world where one can find a comfortable kinship with other Catholics, when so often these days it seems as if we're expected to apologize for believing in and following the tenets of our beautiful Faith.

Thanks to all of you Catholic blogging women out there who have given my morale a tremendous boost.  And thanks, Sarah Therese, for plugging my book on your lovely blog.  I can't wait to hear what you think of it...or can I?  (LOL, as they say.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday, Volume 18: The Faces of God's Children

Back in 1999, the nun who was the principal at our sons' Catholic grade school asked me to paint some artwork on the hallway walls of the basement level of the building, where the kindergarten classrooms, nurse's office, library, and several storage rooms were located. The theme was to be "multi-culturalism" (which at the time I didn't realize had a bit of an agenda associated with it), and I decided to paint children of all different colors from all over the world, with the words "Be one another..." and "We are all children of God...all precious in His sight... all beautiful..." written beneath them.  I was only able to paint two of the images full-length, facing each other from either side of the end of the hallway. Here's my youngest son (when he was a WHOLE LOT SHORTER than he is today) standing next to one of these almost life-sized children, shortly after I'd finished the job and put my paints and brushes away.
Just beyond where my son is standing in this picture, there were wooden cubbies for the students' coats, boots, and backpacks on the bottom half of the walls on either side, so for the rest of the children, I painted only faces--surrounded by glittering golden stars--floating above those.  

Recently, I was made aware that since the school has grown and changed (and the pre-K and kindergarten rooms are no longer located along this basement hallway), there are plans to paint over the images I so painstakingly applied to the walls, during quiet after-school hours in 3- and 4-hour sessions.  These faces of God's children will no longer go with the decor that is planned for this area of the school, which will include trophy cases and framed memorabilia from its 100 years of serving the area's Catholic families.  Therefore, I thought I'd better go and get some pictures of my babies before they're gone for good, hidden away forever under a fresh coat of paint.

Lest you think my little break from this 7QTF link-up made me forget how it works, I do have some takes, and they are nothing if not quick.  Today I'm sharing 7 of my favorite images from this art project, one that was a complete labor of love for a school that was like a second home to my boys for many years.  These will be the quickest takes I've ever posted!

I was going to try to end this with something clever (clever-ish?), like "And there's my little rogues' gallery."  Then I looked up "rogues' gallery," because I wasn't exactly sure what it meant and didn't want to use it in the wrong context.  Well, it's a term used to describe a police collection of pictures of criminals and suspects. So...I really don't think these sweet children deserve to be called that...and I'll just wrap this up by saying head on over to Jen's!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Theme Thursday: Water

I just had to link up with Cari at Clan Donaldson today, because the theme this week is so apropos.  I've got water on the brain.

My husband grew up in a house on a lake, in northern New York.  We just came back from a visit up there with two of my husband's sisters and their broods, and I snapped a couple of pictures the other day as I was sipping my first cup of coffee in the a.m.  The morning sun was shining on the water, making it sparkle like diamonds.  That's what my late mother-in-law used to say, as she sat in her comfy stuffed chair in the kitchen, staring out at the view: "The lake is diamonds."

It's astonishingly beautiful, isn't it?  Is it any wonder that my husband and his seven siblings gravitate to their childhood abode every summer with their families in tow, to be together again in such heavenly surroundings?

To this day, my hubby could sit and stare at the water for hours on end, mesmerized.  The view right out behind his childhood home is his favorite on earth--and as an airline pilot who's been flying hither and yon for a quarter of a century (to breathtakingly beautiful spots, both foreign and domestic), trust me, he's seen a lot of terrific views.  Give him a Diet Mt. Dew or a beer (depending on the hour of day) and a deck chair to sit in, and he could be happy for hours on end, just sitting on the deck of his parents' house, gazing at the water.

When my mother-in-law died in 2009 (six years after we lost my father-in-law), my husband and his siblings decided to keep the house and share it equally, rather than sell it and split up the proceeds, and they formed an LLC to manage its upkeep.  This year, a new sea wall was built in order to shore up the bank, because they were losing so much real estate to erosion.  Atop the sea wall is a gigantic patio like you've never seen before: I believe my husband could land one of his 767's on it.  I can only imagine the fun we're going to have sitting on that patio when the whole gang is there (which will happen around the 4th of July). We have a big gang.  It's a gang that needs a big patio.

It's not just the water that brings us all together in that place; it's the shared family memories that have been made there--not just for my husband's generation, but for our boys and their many Pearl cousins.

Yes, it's really family that makes this spot special.  But the fact that it's by the water doesn't hurt one bit.

Now swim on over to Cari's.  The water's fine!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Best Guy

Here is a picture of my then boyfriend/future husband and me on June 19, 1974, when we'd been "going together" for almost a year.
That night, we did something a little out of character: we got all gussied up (that's a floor-length dress I'm wearing, a hand-me-down from an aunt) and went on a fancy double-date with some friends of ours.  Normally, our dates went a little more like this: put on a nice peasant blouse and jeans (me) and a clean t-shirt and jeans (him) and meet up with the gang at the Strand or DQ.  But that night, in celebration of my boyfriend's 16th birthday, we pulled out all the stops and had a nice dinner at our favorite grown-up restaurant out by the lake (the same restaurant where he was a bus boy every summer during high school).  It was a formal affair, my friends.  It is still one of my favorite high school memories.

That guy was just the BEST BOYFRIEND EVER.  As a dreamy-eyed teenager I wrote a love poem about him--about the boy who would become the man who would become my husband.  This poem was packed away in a box, along with my disintegrating scrapbooks and other priceless bits of my girlhood memorabilia, for over 30 years.  At the time that box of treasures was unearthed (around Christmastime 2010), I had in my possession only one surviving high school scrapbook and wondered what had ever happened to all the others I knew I'd lovingly put together.  When I went through that musty box, I couldn't believe the plethora of long-forgotten souvenirs of my youth it contained.  Not just my missing scrapbooks, but many other goodies, including a poorly written (but heartfelt) ode to my boyfriend.

I know you're probably dying to hear this poetic masterpiece from without further ado, I give you "To the Special One":

Many boys are handsome,
Of this I have no doubt.
But who could be as beautiful
As you, both in and out?

Many boys are funny,
I admit that this is true.
But who can bring such gentle mirth?
I know it's only you!

Many boys are kind, of course,
This isn't hard to guess.
But only you alone possess
That caring thoughtfulness.

Many boys are talented,
But none so much as you.
God blessed you with abilities
In all you say and do.

The great thing about blogging is that if you're laughing at me (because I'm not a poet and I don't know it), at least I can't see or hear you.

But those feelings I had for my husband back then--and I knew deep down he was the only one for me, even at 16--have only gotten stronger and stronger over the going-on-33 years of our marriage.  So on his birthday, maybe we should get all gussied up again, go out to some fancy restaurant, and celebrate the fact that we've been so incredibly blessed to be able to grow up together. Hopefully we'll get to grow old(er) together, too!

Happy Birthday to my best guy (my boyfriend forever), with love from the luckiest girl who ever lived.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Bar is Open!

We have a bar area in our "man cave"/sports room.  It wasn't planned, but came about with the help of a little serendipity.

A few years ago when I was out on a walk in a neighborhood near ours, I saw a nicked-up 70's-era pine bar (a cast-off, no doubt, from someone's college frat boy days) at the end of a driveway, with a sign on it that said $10.  I stopped walking, pulled my cell phone out of my super cool fanny pack (yes, I live simultaneously in modern times and the Stone Age), and called my husband right then and there.  Good husband that he is, he drove over--stat!-- in our fire engine red 15-seater Dodge Ram van to pick it up.  We brought it back to the house and were pleased to see that with a little wiping down and a shiny new coat of varnish on the counter, it was as good as new.  Originally, I thought we might pass it on to one of our sons, who was getting ready to move into his first apartment.  But we liked that very manly pine bar so much, and it looked so at home in our very manly sports room, that it was a total case of finder's keepers.

That may be the best $10 we ever spent.
The three vintage-style bar stools we bought to go with it, however, were a tad pricier at $40 apiece.  They're wonderful, though--and I really think they deserve a close-up.
These stools are proof that you can find absolutely anything on-line.  They don't even brew Pearl beer anymore, but there are sites like this one where you can pick up all sorts of Pearl beer paraphernalia.  If you're a fan of beer-themed home decor (like we Pearls are), fear not: the Internets probably have just what you're looking for.

Okay, the bar's closed now.  Commence partying elsewhere!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

{simple saturday}: Boys and Trucks

What makes little boys happy?  Big trucks!!
This picture of my two young nephews watching the work going on in the back yard of their grandparents' house yesterday, from their front row balcony seats on the deck, pretty much tells the whole story.  Words are simply unnecessary.

I love boys.  And they love trucks.  And that is all.

Join Iris for more simple thoughts on this glorious Saturday morning.